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Monday, December 5, 2016

Changes in the New Year

I started Parenting With a Smile in May, 2011. I posted almost 300 posts over those five-and-a-half years. This was my first blog, and I wrote with trepidation and insecurity.

But something happened along the way. I started finding my voice and writing like me, not trying to impress or sound better or worse than I really am. I enjoyed putting my heart on the white space and sharing myself with you.

I was in the last phases of parenting at the time this blog began, having only one child out of three still living at home. She was a teenager and I was able to see parenting through rosier glasses than perhaps I had with the older two. Just knowing something is coming to an end often makes it sweeter. So it was with my parenting days.

And so it is with this blog. All three of my children are now out on their own and doing well. If you haven't followed this blog regularly, you can read Releasing the Last Baby Bird here about letting that last child go.  I'm thankful for the people my children have become. I'm thankful I've had this place to write my heart about parenting.

But now it's time for me to launch into a new world of empty nesting. But my life is so much more than that. With all the kids gone, the whole world is at my feet waiting to be explored without someone hanging on my leg. This Parenting With a Smile blog will be out here in the blogosphere for you to access, but there won't be new content posted on it.

Instead, I'm starting a new blog. In fact, I've already started it.  It won't be Parenting With a Smile, but more of a generic Life With a Smile, if you will. The website is still under construction (by my awesome son, Tyler) but I've already started posting on my new blog. The only way you can access it right now is through following me on Facebook, where I share every post on my author page. So if you don't want to miss a single post, please look me up at Linda McQuinn Carlblom, Author, on Facebook and like my author page. Once the site is up and running, you'll be able to subscribe and have the posts drop right into your inbox as they're published. I'll let you know when that happens.

Thank you so much for reading and following my posts here at Parenting With a Smile. I'd write them even if you didn't read and follow, but it's so much more rewarding to know someone is actually at the other end, and even commenting on them.from time to time.  I hope to see you at my new site.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Releasing the Last Baby Bird

It's official. I'm an emotional hot mess today.

I’m in the last weeks of having a child, however adult, living under my roof. My oldest child is almost thirty-four years old, and these last thirty-four years of mothering have been the sweetest work I've ever done, but they're quickly coming to an end. Oh, I know, once a mother, always a mother, but it won't be the same not having a child living under my roof.

Ashley "sewing" at Grandma's house.
My youngest child, Ashley, is preparing to leave our safe, happy nest in mid-August. She will move to Washington state and live in a 1976 Ford Chateau RV that we're working hard to renovate. My husband and I will drive her, her RV, and her car to Washington, then fly home without her.

Me and my girl
I just finished recovering the cushions for Ashley's little RV couch today. The stress level is a bit high right now due to her tight finances, my August first book deadline, and pressing church responsibilities that also need to be done by the first of August. Add to that the work that needs to be finished on her RV and our regular life responsibilities and, well, let's say we're all wound a little tight.  
Ashley and me at Sea World Tide Pool
As I worked on that last cushion—the corner cushion that has given me fits for the last two weeks—the tears came. I don't want her to go! But go she must, for that's what we've tried to prepare her, and ourselves, for since she was born that December evening nearly twenty-one years ago.
Ashley, 9 mo. old
She is capable, confident, and so very personable. The world will be blessed to have her outside of our warm cocoon, and will enjoy the joy and energy she brings into it. She's been independent since she could walk and has had a mind of her own even before that. She uses it well, and her decisions are thoughtful and right. Her heart is big and holds so much love that she willingly shares with others. When she was in elementary school she wouldn't leave until she'd hugged every teacher, whether they were hers or not. That's who she is and how she operates.
Silly face on the first day of school
She is a sunbeam and our home won't be nearly as bright without her. She isn't always cheerful, but who is? She can make me laugh until tears stream down my cheeks. And vice versa. She has been my coffee buddy, my fellow thrifter, my pedicure partner, and my teacher when it came to loving animals.
High school graduation
Celebrating getting her driver's license
She'll always be my daughter, but I'd be a fool to think things will ever be the same, even when she comes back to visit. For once a child crosses the threshold of independent living, there's no going back to the way things were.
18th birthday
So go, little bird, with our love, our blessing, our deepest prayers for your success, happiness, personal and spiritual growth. May you find all your heart longs for and may the world treat you gently. Remember how very loved you are and that our door and our hearts are always open to you. When you fly back, you'll be a different person, as will we. But we'll always love you unconditionally, no matter where you are.
At a AZ Diamondbacks game
Ashley as Rose the Fairy at the AZ Renaissance Fair, 2016

Use your gifts. Love God and live out your faith every day. Stay close to His side and you'll always be at home.

Fly well, baby bird, fly well.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Church at the Nursing Home

Rollin and I went to church on a Thursday afternoon in Minnesota with his 93-year-old dad at his assisted living home. Folding chairs lined the activity room and about fifteen gray-headed people congregated there. Walkers parked along the perimeter of the meeting place.

The kind-hearted preacher spoke with conviction about the peace and joy Jesus gives. His voice rose above the confused murmuring of some of the attendees.

"Sweet hour of prayer," one woman said loudly, over and over. Occasionally, she'd throw in a "Jesus loves me this I know." Another lady had trouble finding just the right place to sit. Rollin helped her to a seat, front and center. She seemed to be pleased with it. At first it was annoying, trying to hear the man up front over the interruptions, but God was there, waiting to interrupt my own annoyance with His grace.

Soon, communion emblems were offered. The pastor tenderly served each one individually at their seats. Some couldn't take their own piece of bread, dropping it on the floor. The pastor decided maybe he should  hand each one their piece. He did the same with the cup. As he went around, he suggested we sing the children's song, "Jesus Loves Me." Old, wobbly voices joined in song and my eyes filled with tears. To be in the company of such saints moved me. It didn't matter that they were confused, unable to make sense of what to do with the bread and tiny cups they'd been handed.

"Sweet hour of prayer,"  she said again, louder than was appropriate. But from the overflow of her heart, it came. Worship in its truest, purest form.

Then the pastor went around to collect the empty cups. "Would you like to drink that?" he gently asked the first woman. No, she shook her head. But then she drank it, and placed the plastic cup on the tray he offered. The same happened with the old man in a wheelchair.

Now my own heart overflowed. To be in the presence of these saints was an honor I'll not soon forget. I hope when my mind is foggy, the thing that rises to the top is worship and praise to the One who has loved and sustained me my whole life.

The old folks' memories are gone, but God sees their hearts, past the place of confusion, past the inappropriateness of their behavior, to who they are because of Jesus. Jesus loves them, this they know. Loves them, died for them, will come for them. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to Raise a Child Who Helps

This week I'm posting some of my most popular posts while I'm preparing for and going on a week's vacation. I hope you enjoy them--again! This one was originally posted April 12, 2012.

We've all seen them, kids who clear their plates from the table and take them to the sink without complaint. Children who take out the trash without being told. Kids who genuinely seem to enjoy helping. How does that happen? A freak of nature? Here are a few tips to train your child to help.

  1. Begin when your child is a toddler. When she's taking the silverware out of the dishwasher as fast as you can load them in, compliment her. "Thank you for helping! Can you put the silverware back in the dishwasher (or drawer) for me?" Show her where it goes. Helping becomes a fun game.
  2. Give kids a voice in their chores. Write down the things that need to be done. Divide the list by the number of people who will be helping. Then let them take turns choosing the items they'd like to do. So, for example, you have four people in your family old enough to help. Divide your list of 20 items by four. Each person will do five chores. Have the youngest choose one item from the list first. Then the next youngest does the same and so on until all items on the list are crossed off. Obviously, not all chores will go on this list since you don't want a five-year-old mowing the lawn.
  3. Take time to teach them how to do a job. It's easy to say, "it's faster to just do it myself." Of course it is. But it doesn't help your child learn or feel valued. Accept the fact that for a few years, things won't get done as quickly as they might if you did them yourself.
  4. Celebrate after chores are done. Give positive feedback or gentle correction if something needs more attention. "The bathroom you cleaned looks terrific! Oops! Looks like you might have forgotten to clean the mirror. As soon as you do that, you'll be done!" To celebrate, choose a movie to watch together, go get an ice cream, take a bike ride, or call Grandma.
  5. Give age appropriate jobs. Nothing is more discouraging than always failing at something. So make sure your kids succeed far more than they fail. For a list of age appropriate jobs for kids, click here.
  6. Work together on some jobs. Sometimes a big job like cleaning a room is just too overwhelming. Help them do it if they seem to need a hand. And break big jobs down into small steps like make your bed, pick up your clothes, etc.
  7. For very young kids, make a list using pictures. Instead of just listing clean your room, give them specific directions like 'pick up your toys' and draw a picture of a teddy bear so they'll know what that list item says. My kids loved having a list to work from that they could actually "read." 
  8. Show appreciation. This is a biggie. When a child helps in some way, whether asked to or not, thank them. Let them know you noticed and that their contribution is appreciated.
Raising kids to be helpful doesn't come easy. It takes consistency, patience, and guidance. But I remember one day working in the kitchen with my ten-year-old daughter and realizing that her help was really helping, not hindering, my progress. All those years of letting her work beside me were finally paying off. And it was worth it!

How do you get your children to help? How do you instill in them a good work ethic? What special tips would you add to this list?


Monday, July 4, 2016

Why I Love the United States of America

This post is reblogged from Doing Life Together and was written by my friend, Andrea Huelsenbeck.
As the two-hundred-fortieth birthday of our country approaches, it’s appropriate to consider what it means to be an American. Personally, I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States, proud to be a part of what it stands for.
  1. Freedom. Our constitutional form of government empowers citizens to actively participate in self-determination. The Bill of Rights ensures our individual civil liberties. But where there is great freedom, there is also great responsibility. Apathy is not an option. Our freedom is vulnerable, and we must be ever vigilant to retain it. Spend your vote wisely, and support the men and women who serve to defend us.1024px-Declaration_independence
  2. The American Dream. We believe that through hard work, every person can become successful and prosper. In this century, the media and politicians challenge that belief, but the fact remains that the United States enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world. Seriously. If you earn $25,000 a year, you are in the wealthiest 10% of the world. Don’t believe me? Check this 2013 Gallup poll, this article from Investopedia, and the website Global Rich List.
  3. Naturalization Hesitation
    Newly sworn U.S. citizens celebrate at a July 4, 2012, ceremony in Portsmouth, N.H., from
  4. Compassion. As blessed as we are, it is only right to share with those less fortunate. After World War II, the U.S. did something unprecedented—through the Marshall Plan, we contributed $13 billion (that would be about $130 billion in 2016 dollars) to help rebuild Western Europe’s economy (including vanquished Germany, our sworn enemy). In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which sends American volunteers overseas to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. In 2015, the US distributed an estimated $8 billion world-wide in international disaster relief and refugee assistance (see report, p.11). In addition, hundreds of thousands of American individuals contribute to religious and private charities that also respond to catastrophes, development, and other needs abroad.
  5. The Melting Pot. Drawn by hope for a better life, people pour into our country from around the world. I, myself, am a beneficiary of the American immigration policy. My parents entered the United States from Germany in March, 1952, after applying and being screened (to be sure they weren't undesirables, like Nazis or a war crimes perpetrators). My parents proudly became citizens five years later. Immigration has helped our country grow in human resources. However, there is an official process that should be followed (though it needs to be made less unwieldy). No one should be allowed to sneak into our country.
  6. America the Beautiful. Bookended by oceans, bounded by Canada and Mexico, with Alaska extending into the Arctic Circle and Hawaii smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, the United States covers three million, eight hundred six thousand square miles and spans nine time zones. Its landscape includes glaciers and tropical paradises, mountains, valleys, and prairies, rivers, lakes, and deserts. Its astounding diversity and natural wonders inspire delight, surprise, and humility. Who wouldn’t want to live here?
Lanikai_beach,_Oahu_Hawaii by Vlachos

Kansas prairie
golden-gate-bridge-3Whitmore Canyon
    America, America, God shed His grace on Thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
    —Katharine Lee Bates

    Do you love your country? Why? Please share in the comments below.

    Friday, July 1, 2016

    5 Ways to Teach Kindness to Your Kids

    This week I'm posting some of my most popular posts while I'm preparing for and going on a week's vacation. I hope you enjoy them--again! This one was originally posted April 10, 2012.

    Children being kind to each other. Brothers and sisters helping one another. A child comforting another child when he's hurt. All are wonderful sights. But how does a child become kind and compassionate?

    By being taught and witnessing it in the lives of the people he loves. When a child is treated kindly, he learns to respond the same way to others. The same goes for compassion. Here are a few ideas of how you can teach kindness to your kids.

    1. When you hear a child crying in the store, don't get annoyed. Tell your child, "It sounds like someone feels sad." This acknowledges the noise, yet links it to an emotion. It makes you and your child feel bad for the sad child instead of yourself.

    2. Take your children with you when you visit someone in the hospital. Let them hear the things you say to the patient and see how you gently touch them. Include them in the conversation.

    3. When you see a homeless person, stop and give them something. We sometimes make a stop at the dollar store and pick up a few items of food, chapstick, bottled water, combs, etc. and go back to give it to the person. Talking to someone who's different than you takes away some of the mystery and fear of them. When children see and hear a homeless person's surprised and grateful response it impacts them deeply. The needy person's smile will remain in your child's mind long after the actual encounter.

    4. Before your child has a friend over, remind her to play things the friend would like to play, to let the friend go first, and to treat the friend as the special guest he or she is.

    5. Allow a child to help any way he can. This includes providing comfort to others of any age. Compliment their kindness.

    Children can be taught kindness just as we teach them anything else in life. As always, the best teacher is your example, so be consistently kind to others and to your child. Speak gently and be kind through your actions and attitude.

    What things have you done to teach your kids to be kind? In what ways have you seen your child being kind or compassionate?


    Wednesday, June 29, 2016

    Disciplining Children With Non-Verbal Cues

    This week I'm posting some of my most popular posts while I'm preparing for and going on a week's vacation. I hope you enjoy them--again! This one was originally posted July 17, 2012.

    Ever feel like you're talking to a brick wall when it comes to disciplining your kids? Seem like nothing you say is heard or obeyed? Maybe it's time to come up with a different discipline strategy. If you're tired of talking and having to say the same things repeatedly, why not try silent discipline?

    Start disciplining with nonverbal cues. Sit down with your children and talk honestly with them. Tell them you aren't happy with how the disciplining has been going. Own up to the fact that you may not have been as respectful to them as you should have been, if that's the case. Never mind that they may have been disrespectful to you, too. Apologize and ask their forgiveness. Tell them you're willing to try a different way of discipline if they'll be responsive to it. Explain that you'll use nonverbal cues when you need them to do something differently. Let them help you decide what the cues will be. Here are a few suggestions:

    Nonverbal Cue                                                    Translation
    Hand on child's arm                                               You're talking back, please stop
    Shaking head                                                         No. That's unacceptable.
    Index finger pointing up.                                         Please wait. I'll be right with you.
    Hand on heart.                                                       I love you.
    Thumbs up                                                            You're doing great!
    Hand up                                                                 Stop
    Index finger to lips                                                  Quiet

    It may be that your child might like to have some nonverbal cues to use for you, too, such as:

    Hand on your arm when you're talking to someone     I need to say something.
    Finger twirling in the air                                               I have to go to the bathroom.
    Tug on his ear                                                             I'm bored/I'm ready to go.
    Hand cupped behind ear                                             I didn't hear you.

    Of course, many parents use standard American Sign Language with their children, too, and find it to be useful, especially for nonverbal children. Using cues ratchets down tension. It keeps parents and kids from yelling at each other and it bonds you because you have a secret code no one else knows. There's power in a loving touch. It conveys so much more than spoken words. Nonverbal cues work beautifully with some, but not all, children. So if you're frustrated with verbal communication with your kids, try it! Even a slight diversion from the norm is a nice break for everyone and it may make your usual form of communication easier to hear if you return to it.

    Do you use nonverbal communication or discipline with your children? What are your cues and how do they work?