Archives

Do You Wanna Have a Baby?

I’ve been hearing daily reprises of FROZEN songs ever since the movie hit the theater last fall. My kids love it and have memorized most of the songs by heart and can even play a couple of them on the piano.

My personal favorite is “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” which I’ve been singing for months — but with homemade lyrics. You can listen below (or scroll down for the words, if you want to sing along):

Do you wanna have a baby?
So cute and cuddly and small
Then we could kiss his little nose
And count his tiny toes
And watch him learn to crawl
A baby is a blessing
From above
You’ll love him, and so will I
Do you wanna have a baby?
I know you’d love to make a baby!
C’mon… let’s try.

Do you wanna have a baby?
So fresh and innocent and new
I bet her skin will be as soft as silk
I’ll feed her mother’s milk
And listen to her coo
I wanna hear her heartbeat
Deep within my womb
Grow stronger as days go by
(Lub dub lub dub lub dub)

Do you wanna have a baby?
With chubby cheeks and downy head
I’ll sing him lullabies and hug him tight
And rock him every night
Then tuck him into bed.
I wanna be a mother
It’s ingrained in me:
What I was meant to do.
Do you wanna have a baby?

Of course, the song makes better sense if you’ve already seen the movie. If you haven't, I’d highly recommend doing so. (Incidentally, the Happy Home Fairy is even giving away a copy on her blog this week. You can sign up for the giveaway by following this link.)

Do You Wanna Have a Baby | Frozen parody music video

Lessons Learned from a Two-Year-Old

In celebration of my son David’s birthday today, I wanted share a couple of my favorite stories from his childhood (and important lessons learned along the way). Enjoy!


Our baby boy!Anybody who has ever given birth knows that a having a baby can turn your life upside-down; however, after experiencing this phenomenon twelve times over, I can testify that some babies turn it upside-downer than others.

Some babies cry and are colicky and sleep just as little as possible throughout those first weeks and months and years of life.

We’ve had several of those (although they eventually grew out of it and were definitely worth the trouble — in fact, we saw one of our crankiest, most inconsolable babies blossom into one of our most caring, compassionate adults).

Other babies are all smiles and sunshine and seldom complain about anything. We’ve been blessed with a couple of those, too (and are glad to report they did not grow out of it, but are still just as pleasant as ever).

Our third born is a prime example. David was as easy a baby as any mother could hope to have. He was quiet, happy, and content all the time. If he got bumped or startled or scared, his eyes would get as big as saucers, but he wouldn’t utter a sound. Even when he woke up hungry, he’d coo rather than cry.

David slept all night from the day he came home from the hospital (which means I got to sleep, too). He slept the better part of most days, as well. He basically slept around-the-clock for twenty-four months solid.

But then he turned two and stopped sleeping altogether.

Suddenly, my incredibly easy baby was wide-awake, insatiably curious, and into everything! He lived in constant motion, but was still extremely quiet (translation: he was sneaky), which meant I had to watch him. Every. Second.
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails... that's what little boys are made of!
A few days after his birthday, I made the mistake of bending over to pull a weed while David was playing with his older siblings in our backyard. By the time I stood back up, he’d clambered over our fence, dashed down the alley, and climbed into our neighbor’s yard to pet their dog. Of course, I was only a few steps behind him, but that is beside the point.

The real question is, what’s a two-year-old doing scaling fences in the first place?

That was a game changer for which I was woefully unprepared.

The following month, David discovered that by climbing onto the workbench, he could reach (and operate) the switch to our automatic garage door opener. One bright Saturday morning,his Daddy heard a cry for help and, upon investigating, found our toddler hanging by his fingertips from the ceiling of the garage! He had apparently caught a ride up on the moving door, but was uncertain how to get back down.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, sometimes LIFE can feel a little like that. Know what I mean?

Have you ever wondered, like I sometimes do, O what’ve I gotten myself into now? Have you ever felt like you’re barely hanging on by tooth or by nail? Do you desperately cling to an old way of doing things, a way that no longer makes sense, because you’re afraid of what might happen if you let go? Are you hoping against hope that someone will happen along who can help?

Maybe that’s why God allows us to get into such predicaments in the first place — because it makes us so acutely aware of our need for Him, our need for wisdom, our need for balance.

And that’s a good thing, for we must recognize a need before we can ever hope to meet it (or, in twelve-step lingo, we must admit there is a problem before we can find a solution).

My two-year-old’s response to the garage door incident is a reasonable response for adults, as well. Whenever life leaves us hanging by our fingertips, we must remember to:

  • Cry out for help
  • Be willing to let go
  • Learn from past mistakes
  • Avoid the things that throw us off-balance in the future

Our tireless toddler is now six-foot seven, out of the nest, and in his second year of dental school (mothers of energetic two-year-olds, be encouraged: this stage will pass, all too soon). In all those interim years, we never had to rescue that son from the ceiling of the garage again (from other heights, perhaps, but never again from that one). He learned his lesson well.

Here’s a picture of David today (along with his colicky-turned-compassionate sister/classmate Bethany, who is equally amazing):

So proud of these kids...

The Bible teaches that “the beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom,” (Proverbs 1:7) and that if any of us lack wisdom, we should “ask of God, who gives generously to all, without finding fault, and it will be given.” (James 1:5)

Prayer should be our first response to any problem, for God is the ultimate source of every solution.

Isn’t it a comfort to realize that, just as my sweet little David called for his Daddy so many years ago, we can cry out to our Heavenly Father, who stands at the ready to rescue us, to take care of us, to plant our feet back on solid ground?

15 Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living

The Unexpected Benefits of Big Family Living | Loving Life at HomeI love children and have wanted a bunch of them for as long as I can remember.

Not surprisingly, this fact significantly narrowed the field of potential marriage partners back when I was in college.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” an interested classmate might venture.

“That depends,” I’d answer matter-of-factly. “How many kids do you plan to have when you get married?”

Subtlety has never my strong suit.

This line of questioning quickly scared off most would-be suitors, but I didn’t want to risk falling in love with someone who didn’t share my desire for a big family.

So I held out… and my patience eventually paid off. Mr. Right finally showed up a few weeks before graduation.

Not only was he interested (in me!), but he gave the desired response to all of my questions — and didn’t seem intimidated by my asking them.

The rest, as they say, is history: I married him 16 months later, got pregnant two weeks into our honeymoon, and spent the following quarter of a century either pregnant or nursing (or both).

Life as the mother of many has been every bit as blissful as I imagined. Sure, there have been lots of unexpected challenges, but there have also been plenty of unanticipated rewards. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Expanded Options
  2. There are so many beautiful names with wonderful meanings out there, it’s difficult to narrow down the list of favorites and pick only one. Having a big family completely solves that quandary – you can use them all! (Or in our case, almost all — we’re still hoping for a Hannah).

  3. Boredom Busters
  4. There is never a dull moment in a home filled with children, and there is always somebody to play with. Neighbors and schoolmates will come and go, but siblings are friends you can keep for life.

  5. Conversation Starters
  6. Big families invite all sorts of inquiries: “Are all these kids yours?” “Don’t you know what causes that?” “Are you going to have any more?” “Do I need to buy you a TV?” In our experience, most of the people asking such questions aren’t trying to be rude — they’re genuinely curious — so we answer as graciously and amicably as we possibly can. What a great way to meet people!

  7. Group Discounts
  8. A really big family can qualify for discounted group admission rates without even trying. And do we ever get our money’s worth on those annual zoo and museum memberships — especially the ones that offer reciprocal benefits at sister sites!

  9. A Deeper Admiration
  10. The love and affection I felt for my husband as a spouse, great though it was, increased manifold when he became the father of my children. I still enjoy watching him teach and train and interact with our preschoolers, adolescents, teens, and adult children, but there is something so specially endearing about the way he cuddles and cootchy-coos our babies, it makes me glad that for so long we’ve had one in the house to draw that tenderness out of him.

  11. Household Help
  12. A wise man once observed, “Many hands make light labor.” He was right. Of course, many hands make bigger messes to begin with, but when everyone pitches in to help clean up, household chores are knocked out in short order, and kids learn responsibility and other important life skills from an early age.

  13. No PMS
  14. Between pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can literally go for years without having a monthly cycle. I’m not gonna lie — that has really been nice.

  15. Pick Your Sport
  16. Depending on the size of your family, you can field your own basketball team. Or volleyball. Or baseball. Or soccer. The physical exercise does a body good, and the games give ample opportunity to practice good sportsmanship among other players who are held to the same standard.

  17. Social Security
  18. Contrary to what “Zero Population Growth” proponents will tell you, demographic declines are causing deeply troubling problems for societies worldwide, which is why many countries (Germany, Japan, and Austrailia, to name just a few) are now actually paying people to procreate. Big families are simply ahead of the curve.

  19. Youthful Beauty
  20. While pregnancy keeps you looking young (think thick, glossy hair and glowing complexion), the children themselves keep you feeling young. It’s a wonderful thing to see the world through the eyes of a child, so filled with awe and excitement over each new discovery. Their energy, enthusiasm, and laughter are infectious.

  21. One Less Excuse
  22. Being open to pregnancy allows couples to enjoy intimacy as God intended. No frantic search for a misplaced diaphragm. No mad dash to the drugstore when you run out of condoms. No having to compensate for the fact that the Pill completely decimates a woman’s libido. Just blessed spontaneity (although regularly scheduling time for said spontaneity is highly recommended).

  23. No Sour Milk
  24. In a house full of kids (especially teenaged boys), food seldom lasts long enough to go bad. That’s a plus! You can buy in bulk without fear of spoilage. And as an added bonus, dinner conversation never drags with so many different personalities contributing to it.

  25. Built-In Babysitters
  26. Our kids absolutely love babies and are always clamoring to hold our newest addition. As a result, they can all handle infants very comfortably and capably — experience that will come in handy someday when they start having kids of their own. As an added bonus, our big guys have discovered that nothing attracts attention from the opposite sex more effectively than toting around a new baby brother or sister (otherwise known as a “chick magnet”).

  27. Best Foot Forward
  28. Not only do children help refine their parents’ character qualities, but they polish one another, as well. Siblings have a way of knocking off one another’s rough edges, so they’re less likely to make fools of themselves in public. Corny jokes and lame pranks can be tested (then reworked as needed or altogether abandoned) at home, where the stakes are lower and the audience more forgiving.

  29. Empty Nest Postponed
  30. When you are blessed with many children, you don’t have to give up all your favorite things about one stage of life to enjoy all the great things about the next. You’ll still have little ones at home to cuddle even after first ones move away. That’s a happy distraction during what would otherwise be a bittersweet time. Also, studies show that the older a couple is when their last child leaves home, the more likely their marriage will survive the transition.

I could go on (and on and on), but I’ll stop there. What are your favorite things about having children? Do you plan to have any more? Don’t you know what causes that? Do I need to buy you a TV?

Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe

After I published my popular “Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe” printable, several readers requested a similar prayer guide for wives. I made one, and my husband published it on his blog last year. Recently a reader suggested I do a “Praying for Your Children from Head to Toe” guide, which I agreed was an excellent idea. So here it is. May you and your children both be blessed!

Pray for Your Children from Head to Toe | free printable from Loving Life at Home

[Click image to print a black & white copy of this guide.]

Pray for Their Mind:

Pray that your children would earnestly seek wisdom and understanding; that they would value knowledge and discernment; and that their thoughts would stay centered on the truth of God’s Word. (Proverbs 2:1-6; Proverbs 3:21; James 1:5; Psalm 119:97)

Pray for Their Eyes:

Ask God to guard your children’s eyes and protect their innocence. Pray that they would focus their attention on doing what is right. (Romans 16:19; Proverbs 4:25)

Pray for Their Ears:

Pray that your children would be quick to hear and that they would incline their ears to listen to instruction. (James 1:19; Isaiah 55:3; Proverbs 8:32-34)

Pray for Their Mouth:

Ask God to keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking lies. Pray that all their words would be pleasing to Him and edifying to others. (Psalm 34:13; Psalm 19:14)

Pray for Their Heart:

Ask God to give your children a happy, cheerful heart. Pray that they’d come to faith early and would trust easily and completely in Him. (Proverbs 15:13; Psalm 28:7)

Pray for Their Hands:

Pray that they would be diligent in their work and that their hands would not be idle, but that God would bless, confirm, and establish the work of their hands. (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Ecclesiastes 11:6; Proverbs 10:4-5)

Pray for Their Legs:

Pray that your children would not walk in step with the wicked nor stand in the way of sinners, but that they’d find wise and godly companions along life’s journey. (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 13:20)

Pray for Their Feet:

Ask God to direct their steps, to help them stand fast, and to protect them from stumbling. (Psalm 17:5; Psalm 37:23-24; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 119:133)

A Mother’s Job Description

A Mother's Job Description - 4 Habits that Will Help You Raise Happy Children| Loving Life at HomeIt’s really something we all should be doing. But when I came across this verse in my Bible reading a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me that 1 Thessalonians 5:14 provides a particularly apt job description for mothers:

“We urge you [to] admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Doesn’t that about sum it up? Aren’t these the very things that God calls and expects a mother to do each and every day?

  1. Admonish the unruly

    Children of all ages can act a little headstrong and ill-behaved from time to time. When they do, a mother should stand ready to admonish them — not out of anger or irritation or exasperation, but out of love, always keeping her children’s best interest at heart. She must correct, counsel, and caution them against continuing in that vein. To do otherwise is to be guilty of negligence.

    “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)

  2. Encourage the fainthearted

    Growing up is hard work, and children need a lot of motivation and morale-boosting. As a mother, we should be our child’s first and best cheerleader, offering a healthy balance of enthusiasm and empathy. We should view every day as a new opportunity to invest in our children’s inner lives and to inspire them to greatness.

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

  3. Help the weak

    Women are nurturers by nature. Helping the weak is what we do. This is especially evident when it comes to mothering. But we must be mindful to help in a way that doesn’t perpetuate weakness, but builds strength. Our goal is not to raise big children, but mature, responsible adults. We help our kids best when we teach them to help themselves and empower them to help others.

    “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)

  4. Be patient with everyone

    Be patient. With everyone. Did you notice the exception clause? Neither did I. The Bible doesn’t say we should be patient with everyone except the toddler who’s pitching a fit or the teen who’s copping an attitude or the son who’s begging to play on the computer after you’ve already told him “no” ten times. Neither is impatience excused if we’re dog-tired or running late or stressed out or stuck in traffic. No, our goal — even when admonishing the unruly (see #1) — is to maintain patience at all times, toward all people, in all circumstances. Period.

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

While these four principles sound simple enough, it’s a challenge to live by them consistently, isn’t it? Yet the latter part of this passage provides a clue as to how we might do so. It bids us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

This, I believe, is the secret to success in parenting (or any other endeavor): Stay positive and stay on your knees. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. That is key.

So what sort of things would you add to the list on a mother’s job description? Did any of those requirements throw you for a loop when you first became a mother?

A Letter to My Father

A Letter to My FatherTomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing.

I remember dreaming that Daddy died several years before he actually did. The dream came long before the cancer diagnosis, before his health began to deteriorate, back when he was still in the prime of life, while he was still here.

But the dream shook me up. In my dream, my father died suddenly. I woke up crying, missing him terribly, stricken by grief, and filled with remorse over all the unspoken things I should have said, would have said, if only I had another chance.

How relieved I was to realize it was only a dream and there was still time to say what was in my heart.

So I crawled out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, bleary-eyed but grateful that my dad was still in the land of the living, and scrambled around for a pen and some stationery to write a few words of gratitude to my father while I still had opportunity to do so.

This is the letter I sent him the following day:

Dear Daddy,

So many things that I’ve taken for granted for so long come crashing through my consciousness sometimes when I talk to someone whose past experiences have been so different from my own. That was definitely the case when I asked a friend this week whether he had any fond memories of his father, and he faltered with “we used to wrestle, which was fun.” We sat in silence as he searched his mind for anything else, and all the while my mind was absolutely flooded by all my precious memories of you.

How grateful I am for every one of them!

I was reminded of how you searched through the sand until you found my lost birthstone ring; how you waved from the sidelines as I marched in a school parade; how you taught me about negotiation (even with retail stores) when you bargained with the manager for a better price on all those lap desks I used to paint; how you’d bounce and flop me around in your lap in that old Lazy Boy recliner (I can still see the room spinning upside down in my mind) and pull pennies out from behind my ears or make my hair ribbons disappear in your fist or remove splinters from my fingers and toes; how you’d spend what seemed like hours making and checking addition drills for me on that terrific yellow legal pad (I still love legal pads) and would give me logic problems to do in my head on long trips or would test my night vision on far-off roadsigns; how you and Mother would let me swing between your arms on the walk home from open house at my grade school; how you’d surprise us with chocolate milk and donuts from the shop on the corner or surprise Mother with a dozen Tyler roses you bought off a street vendor for a quarter (one of my favorite memories, as she always seemed so pleased); how you’d feed us ice cream cones for breakfast (unbeknownst to Mom) and claim it was the same basic thing as cereal with milk; how you’d fit a crib mattress into the backseat of the Plymouth for trips to Oklahoma or an occasional drive-in movie; how you made me the coolest art box (with the ingenious paint palette and built-in easel) when I decided I wanted to be an artist like Aunt Loura; how you accompanied us to church every Sunday and didn’t leave it to mother to take us like the fathers of so many of our friends did; how you even noticed that my makeup was caked on too thick and threatened to pull me out of the choir loft and personally scrub it off my face if I ever wore it so heavy again; how you went to bat for me with my eighth grade English teacher when she counted off for my spelling the plural of chimney as requested, rather than the singular as was in the spelling book; how you let us clean that dirty iron scrollwork on a house you were painting (and though it was hard work, and I may have grumbled at the time – did I? – it was a wonderful feeling to be able to help you); how you’d discuss with me – I thought you talked to me just like an adult rather than a child – such awe-inspiring topics as the universe, eternity, astronomy, theology and philosophy; how you would brag on me to the family on Mema’s front porch when you thought I was out of earshot and wouldn’t hear (or did you realize I was eavesdropping from the front room?); how your blue eyes would twinkle and you’d wink at mother whenever you teased me; how you walked past the dollar-bill-on-a-string a dozen times on April Fools’ Day without ever stopping to pick it up (which annoyed me at the time, but strikes me as funny now); how you and Mother would host the church youth at our house long before Kimberly and I were old enough for youth group (as well as during and after) and how you also had homemade ice cream ready and waiting for a party (be a celebration or consolation) after cheerleading tryouts in six grade; how you always encouraged me in every endeavor and taught me not to be afraid to attempt new things and told me I could do anything I set my mind to; how you’d rescue me whenever my car broke down or ran out of gas, and would beat the bushes for me if I were ever late for curfew (which I’m sure was much more difficult before the advent of cell phones);how you loved me, and taught me, and led me, and encouraged me, and built me up from the day I was born, even until now.

I just hope and pray that my own children will have as much good and as little bad to remember about me when they are grown and gone, and will have as inexhaustible supply a fond childhood memories as I do! I don’t tell you often enough, but I love you with all my heart –

Your appreciative daughter,
Jennifer

As I read back over this letter, I’m struck by the fact that my sweetest memories are often the simplest ones. My father didn’t need to buy expensive gifts or take me on grand vacations to make my childhood wonderful. It was the little things, the every day kindnesses, that spoke loudest to my heart and assured me of his love.

My daddy wasn’t perfect. No daddy is. He seemed pretty par at the time, although the intervening years have convinced me he was extraordinary in ways my child-brain couldn’t appreciate.

Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a father like mine. If you are one of the favored few, thank God. And if you’re father’s still alive, then by all means thank him, too.

But even if you weren’t blessed with my kind of father, you can bless your own children with my father’s brand of parenting.

You can do it by pouring yourself into them. Give them generous helpings of your time, your attention, your patience, and your love.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes. None of us are perfect. But it’s the little things — the approving smiles, the candid discussions, the interest you take in what interests them, the time you spend together — that make all the difference.

What are you doing today that your child will remember fondly tomorrow?

Then Comes Baby in a Baby Carriage

Children Produce AdultsPeter DeVries once said, “The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.”

I think both processes are important, but have nonetheless found his point to be true. Having children does tend to mature us faster and better than we might expect to mature without them.

When my husband and I first married, the prevailing wisdom of the time was that a couple should wait five or six years before starting a family. They should get on their feet, perhaps buy a house, and certainly take time to get to know one another before bringing a baby into the picture.

Life didn’t work out that way for us.

God overruled any half-hearted attempts we considered making to prevent pregnancy (which were essentially none at all), and I conceived just two short weeks into our honeymoon.

Thus began our true metamorphoses into adults.

My husband and I were both firstborn, and we both had the stubborn, selfish, self-centered personality so often associated with that birth order. Thankfully, children have a way of working such things out of a parent. Of knocking off the rough edges. Of teaching us to put another ahead of ourselves. (The fact that we still struggle with selfishness at all — even after twelve children — is an indication of just how bad the problem was to begin with).

We have found that having children, having a lot of them, and having them early has been good for our mindset. It has caused us to look at the world differently, giving us a heightened awareness of danger and a fierce desire to protect our little ones from any and every threat, be it physical, spiritual or philosophical in nature. It has shifted our focus away from self.

first-time-father

From the moment I first found out I was expecting, motherhood has compelled me to consider carefully the foods I eat, the hours I sleep, the words I speak, the books I read, and the company I keep. It has forced me to think through where to store cleaning supplies, sharp objects, fragile heirlooms, and photo albums. It’s helped me remember to take my vitamins. It has kept me on my knees in prayer.

I-never-knewHaving babies has been good for my marriage, as well as my mindset. Not only has being a parent changed the way I look at the world, but it has changed the way I look at my husband.

I never knew how much I love him, until I saw how much he loves them.

As newlyweds, we were told that we should get to know one another before having a baby. In reality, having a baby allowed us to get to know each other in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the baby.

Watching my husband kiss and cuddle and coo over our firstborn simply melted my heart. (He has done this with every one of our babies, to the same effect).

Hearing him spontaneously break into song — usually some silly rhyme or nonsensical verse he composes on the spot, such as “Oh, my smokin’ goodness, this little baby is a toodness” — has never failed to bring a smile to my face or to theirs.

I’ve enjoyed watching him teach our children to tie their laces and scramble eggs and ride a bike and swing a bat and start a lawnmower and drive a car.

I’ve admired his clear instruction, his boundless energy, his patience, and his sense of humor.

I’ve watched my husband keep vigil over a sick child, have marked the concern in his eyes, have heard him pray earnestly on their behalf. When at 23 months, our first son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he spent a week at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and Doug never left his side.

My husband works tirelessly, gives lavishly, and loves wholeheartedly. He walks in integrity (Prov. 20:7), and his wife and children are blessed because of it. He chooses to do the right thing and to do it faithfully, even when his motives are misunderstood and his sacrifices unappreciated.

Watching the way Doug parents, seeing the tender care with which he leads our family, has filled my heart to overflowing with a deep, abiding love and appreciation for the magnificent man I married.

And so, on Father’s Day (and the day after, and the day after), I want to honor the father of my children and to thank him for his willingness to be a father twelve times over (or more, should God so bless).

Thank you, Doug Flanders. I love you dearly. It’s been great growing up together.

What Spiders Know that Moms Forget

What Spiders Know That Moms ForgetMoms are amazing. They birth babies. They make milk. They keep their household humming.

But spiders are pretty savvy, too. They spin silk. They weave webs. They provide for public pest control.

I’m not saying spiders are smarter than moms, but many mothers — myself included — could learn a few things from spiders in general and from one spider in particular: Charlotte A. Cavatica, the extraordinary and especial friend of Wilbur the Pig.

  1. Life is Full of Changes
  2. The sooner we accept this fact, the better. Seasons change. Circumstances change. Friends come and go. We grow older. Children leave home. Time passes. There is no stopping it.

    Charlotte lived her life to the fullest, savoring the small pleasures each day presented. She chose to be grateful for what she had instead of resentful over what she lacked. Shouldn’t we do the same?

    “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

  3. The Work Never Ends
  4. A spider doesn’t build one web and expect it to last forever. She knows her work must be done and redone (sort of like laundry and housecleaning), and she labors at it without complaint.

    This is the nature of both life and work: both call for much repetition. Grumbling about that fact does not make the tasks any easier.

    “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” – Colossians 3:23

  5. Calm Begets Calm
  6. When Wilbur first learned that he was destined for Zuckerman’s dinner table, he went immediately and understandably berserk. His hysterics might have worked the entire farmyard into a frenzy had Charlotte’s coolheaded composure not diffused the situation. Her confident reassurances helped soothe the pig’s nerves and settle him down.

    That’s the sort of woman I want to be: not one who is easily agitated or upset, but one whose presence calms and comforts everyone around me.

    “Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.”
    – Michael Caine

  7. Worrying Won’t Solve Anything
  8. Worrying may be many mothers’ modus operandi, but it accomplishes nothing except to make yourself and everyone around you miserable. And to what end? “Which of you, by worrying, can add a single moment to your life?” (Luke 12:25)

    Charlotte told Wilbur — just as Jesus tells us — to STOP worrying. She would save him; he needn’t fret or despair. She suggested Wilbur attend instead to matters over which he exercised some measure of control: he should eat well, chew slowly, get plenty of sleep, and keep fit (all very good advice, indeed).

    She assured him it would all work out. She would find a solution. He could sleep in peace. And to the degree Wilbur was able to trust her promises, he was able to rest undisturbed.

    “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” – Philippians 4:6

  9. Patience Is a Virtue
  10. Charlotte was no slacker. She was a meticulous craftsman, versatile and industrious. She knew how to work.

    But she also knew how to wait. She didn’t expect immediate results or instant gratification. Even after her web was spun and her trap was set, she realized it might be awhile before some stray bug became ensnared in it. But she was content to wait. She was patient.

    She tackled Wilbur’s problem in that same methodical, unhurried manner. She thought about it. She mulled it over. She gave it careful consideration. She slept on it. She hung upside down, so her blood would go to her brain, and patiently waited for an idea to come. She fully expected a solution would eventually occur to her. And in time, it did.

    We live in a culture that worships speed. We want everything, and we want it now. But faster is not necessarily better. Those things we gain instantly and with little effort are seldom as satisfying as those for which we must work and wait.

    Waiting builds patience. Patience is good. And the most important things in life take time.

    “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” – John Quincy Adams

  11. Mind What Matters Most
  12. Like other spiders, Charlotte could spin silk with five times the tensile strength of steel (pound for pound). With it, she constructed webs that were absolute marvels of engineering. With the webs, she fought against all manner of menaces to society: pesky flies, disease-spreading mosquitoes, and various other annoying insects.

    But unlike other spiders, Charlotte was also a good speller. She wrote words that attracted the attention of folks far and wide. The messages she worked into her webs were photographed and publicized in headline news. And the entire ploy allowed her to strategically and single-handedly save the life of her endangered friend.

    Yet in Charlotte’s estimation, all these other accomplishments paled in comparison to the importance of giving life to the next generation. She recognized that soft, white, inconspicuous egg sac for what it truly was — her most lasting achievement, her greatest work, her magnum opus.

    And here again, Charlotte was right on target.

    “Many people want to leave a better world for their children. I’m trying to leave better children for my world.” – Carlos Slim

I had hoped to publish this post on Mother’s Day, but I was too busy mothering to finish it in time. Instead of writing,I was taking family bike rides, cheering at basketball games, bandaging boo-boos, and tutoring math. I was folding laundry, preparing meals, sweeping floors, and shopping for groceries. I was reading stories, giving baths, rubbing backs, and singing lullabies. And I was spending alone-time with my husband, in hopes of maybe even conceiving again!

In other words, I was doing all those things mothers do that normally go unnoticed: Things that seldom make national headlines or attract public attention. Stuff that — unless I photograph, tweet, or update my status — won’t get liked on Facebook or pinned on Pinterest.

These tasks, taken individually, appear rather ordinary and mundane. But cumulatively, they amount to my most important work of all.

And doesn’t that job deserve to be done with my whole heart?

Best Breastfeeding Practices for New Moms

Best Breastfeeding Practices for New Moms
My littlest one celebrated her third birthday today, and it has me feeling a bit nostalgic. Although she weaned over a year ago (and is such a big girl now!), I’m over at our family website today sharing some of my favorite things to do while breastfeeding a baby. I hope you’ll come visit me there!

25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children

25 Ways to Raise Confident, Capable ChildrenThe fourth of our twelve children will be leaving the nest in another couple of months, and it has my husband and me reexamining the job we have done (thus far) raising our children.

Of course, we’ve made lots of mistakes (that’s another post for another day), but by the abundant grace of God (and by following the great example that our own parents modeled for us), there are many things we’ve done right — things we want to make sure we continue to do as we train up the remaining eight children still under our care.

And so I offer you “25 Ways to Raise Capable, Confident Children.” These are in no particular order, beyond the first, which should be our starting point in every endeavor:

  1. Pray without Ceasing:
    Parenting is one of the most demanding (and most rewarding) jobs any of us will ever do. As such, it requires an extra measure of wisdom from above, as well as strength, endurance, and consistency. Pray for yourself, but pray also for and with your children. The best parenting practices in the world will fall flat apart from God’s blessing. Pray that He will soften your children’s heart, that He’ll give them a teachable spirit, that He’ll begin this work early, and that He’ll be faithful to complete it, as He promises in His word. (Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  2. Clearly Define the Rules:
    Make sure your children know what you expect of them, then oblige them to obey cheerfully and completely. Well-established and consistently-enforced boundaries are both a protection and a comfort. Do not allow children to disregard the rules without consequence, or to speak to parents (or anyone else) in a disrespectful manner. Bad behavior should be penalized and good behavior should be rewarded. (Ephesians 6:1)
  3. Teach Them to Listen:
    Everything in life comes more easily to a child who knows how to pay attention. Fortunately, listening is a skill which can be practiced from infancy — train your baby to track your voice as you call his name from one side then the other, play “Simon Says” with your toddler, insist that your energetic grade-schooler stand still and make eye contact when you are giving him instructions, call your teen by name and use a key phrase (such as, “Listen to my words…”) to communicate the fact that what you are about to say is important and should be taken to heart. (Proverbs 4:1)
  4. Bid Them Be Happy:
    Cultivate contentment in your children, and you will all live happily ever after. No whining allowed! If you make certain your child’s whining is never rewarded, he will cease to do it. Conversely, when you give in to whining, you reward and reinforce the very behavior that drives most of us crazy and thereby encourage your kids to whine all the more. Of course, it should go without saying that we need to maintain a happy, positive attitude ourselves. The irony of an enraged parent screaming at a child, “Why can’t you just be happy?” is not lost, even on very small children.(Philippians 2:14)
  5. Nurture Your Marriage:
    One of the most important things a father can do for his children is to love their mother, and vice versa. If you are married, do all that you can to invest in and safeguard that relationship. Let your children know that you are 100% committed to making sure your marriage lasts. Kids who are given cause to doubt that fact spend a lot of emotional and psychological energy worrying that their parents may divorce (then feeling somehow responsible when they do). This can completely undermine a child’s sense of stability and security and will often sidetrack the normal development of confidence and competency in multiple areas. (Mark 10:7-9)
  6. Show Them You Care:
    Dr. Anthony Witham once said, “Children spell love T-I-M-E,” and it is true. Spend time with your kids, individually (use errands as an opportunity for one-on-one time) and as a group. Get excited about the things that excite or fascinate them. Take delight in their company, and let them see that delight in you eyes and your smile and your manner. Children need quality and quantity time, so give them plenty of both. There is no substitute for your intentional, fully-invested presence in the life of your child. (Isaiah 49:15)
  7. Put Them to Work:
    Assign household chores. Give them real and increasing responsibility from as young an age as possible. Kids who do chores grow up to be more successful than those who don’t. One of the most important lessons you can teach your child is to work hard and to take pleasure in a job well done. (Colossians 3:23)
  8. Enjoy Them at Play:
    Regularly enter into your child’s world of play. Take pleasure in relaxing with your children, especially after they’ve spent time working alongside you. Get up a rousing game of catch or tag or Spoons or Scrabble. Shoot hoops in the driveway or toss a frisbee at the park. Work a puzzle together. Teach your child how to play chess or bridge or dominoes. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
  9. Encourage Them to Try New Things:
    Expose your children to as broad a range of experience as you are able: music, sports, travel, missions, charity, social and cultural events, etc. This will furnish them with a more well-rounded view of the world and will hopefully make it easier for them to find their place in it. Give them the freedom and the tools to pursue the things that pique their interest. Let them know that by God’s grace, they can do anything they set their minds to. (Philippians 4:13)
  10. Point Them to Scripture:
    Let the Word of God permeate, influence, and inform every facet of family life. Read the Word of God to your children. Teach it to them diligently. Memorize it as a family. This is something that comes especially easy to children, so take advantage of that fact! Hide God’s Word in your heart. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, Psalm 119:11)
  11. Protect Them from Harm:
    Vigilantly guard your kids against harmful influences, as well as physical threats. This is fairly easy when they are little, while you still enjoy complete control over their schedules, you pick all their friends for them, and they have not yet discovered a way around those child-proof locks (a skill some kids acquire at an exasperatingly young age). This task becomes more challenging, though no less important, as children grow older and begin to make most choices themselves. Even then, parents should be aware of the company their children keep, the movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the websites they frequent — not for the purpose of micro-managing or being legalistic (that plan will backfire, for sure), but in order to discuss freely and frankly any potential hazards of which parents are aware. (Ezekiel 33:6, Proverbs 4:14-15)
  12. Help Them Stay Healthy:
    Work to establish good habits in the areas of diet, sleep, exercise, and hygiene. Feed your children square meals, and if you want to nourish their souls as well as their bodies, preserve the family dinner hour. Use it as an opportunity to discuss and dissect the day’s events, both within your family circle and in the world at large. Teens whose families eat dinner together at least five times per week are far less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other risky behavior. They also tend to eat more fruit and vegetables then children in families who do not consistently dine together.
  13. Give Them Good Manners:
    Common courtesy and respect are no longer as common as they ought to be. Teach your children to say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” “you’re welcome,” “yes, ma’m,” and “no, sir.” Well-behaved kids are such a novelty these days. Good manners make a young person stand out in a crowd in a more memorable way than the wildest tattoo or body piercing can ever do. (1 Timothy 4:12)
  14. Read Them Great Books:
    Read well-written and beautifully illustrated picture books aloud to your children when they are little, yes, but continue to read engaging novels, inspiring biographies, and thought-provoking non-fiction aloud, even after they grow too big for your lap. Children are never too old to be read to, so choose well and discuss at length. Sharing books together this way is the surest way to foster in your kids a lifetime love for reading, which itself opens whole new worlds of knowledge and experience to them. Thanks to public libraries, this is a practice even the poorest of families can afford.
  15. Equip Them to Lead:
    Stress the importance of integrity, humility, self-discipline, and willingness to stand alone. Model servant-leadership, and challenge them to follow Christ’s example, who came not to be served, but to serve. Encourage them to take initiative and do things that need to be done without being asked. (Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:3-8)
  16. Treat Them with Understanding:
    Kids are people, too! Be patient with your children and treat them with kindness. Do not be unnecessarily harsh with them, and be quick to forgive when they repent of wrongdoing. Be sympathetic. Try to remember what it was like to be in their shoes.(Ephesians 6:4, Ephesians 4:32)
  17. Turn Off the TV:
    Set reasonable limits on screen time of any sort, including but not limited to television, computers, smart phones, tablets, and video games. It would probably be both unrealistic and impractical to attempt to eliminate all electronic media usage from our homes, but any child who spends 53 hours a week staring at a screen could probably find something more productive to do with much of that time. (Psalm 90:12)
  18. Inspire Good Sportsmanship:
    Teach them to lose with grace and to win with humility, conscious that their natural talents and abilities are gifts from above. Stress the importance of always playing fairly and if you must err, err in favor of your opponent. Better to lose the game than to be thought a cheater. (Philippians 2:15)
  19. Lead Them by Example:
    Model for your children the character and behavior you wish them to exhibit, but do not pretend to be perfect (or expect your children to be). Be honest about personal flaws and quick to admit mistakes, apologizing and asking your children’s forgiveness when you wrong them. (1 John 1:8-10)
  20. Train Them to Think:
    Education is more than regurgitating facts; our kids must also learn to reason and to think through things on their own. We can ask questions of them to help the process along (Socratic method), but we must not shy away from their asking questions of us, as well. Anticipate, encourage, and answer their inquiries in a way that is intellectually honest, morally upright, scientifically accurate, and neither defensive nor overly-dramatic. And for those questions for which we have no good answer? Admit you don’t know, then pray about the matter and search for a solution together. (Jeremiah 33:3)
  21. Grant Them Some Space:
    Beginning with letting your two-year-old choose what she wants to wear, allow your children to make their own decisions whenever possible, and be supportive of their choices. You can offer your kids guidance and encouragement without smothering and micromanaging them. But be forewarned: Their thoughts, tastes, and values may not always line up with yours 100%, which is okay. They are individuals and are entitled to have their own hopes and dreams and opinions. Parents can reserve the right to overrule younger children whenever they deem it necessary, but as your kids grow, look for ways they can express their individuality in a manner that is acceptable to both of you. (Romans 14:5)
  22. Bless Your Children:
    Let your sons and daughters know that you are proud of them. Don’t get so focused on correcting your children when they do wrong that you forget to praise them when they do right. Our kids never outgrow the need for approval and affirmation, so give it freely. (Genesis 27:34)
  23. Don’t Overreact:
    Whether your toddler takes a spill while learning to walk or your grade-schooler makes a C on his spelling test or your teenager makes a wrong turn while learning to drive, swallow your fears. Remember that we ALL have mishaps and we ALL make mistakes — surely this one is not the end of the world. Don’t be negligent and reckless, but don’t be hovering and over-protective either. Keep calm and carry on! Take failures in stride and don’t give in to worrying.(Philippians 4:6)
  24. Entrust Them to God:
    Instill in your children a clear vision of what they can accomplish for God’s glory. Do your best to give them an eternal perspective. Pass them the baton. Our kids are in His hands: only by His grace do any of our efforts succeed.
  25. Let Them Grow Up:
    Our ultimate goal is not to raise oversized children, but to raise mature, responsible adults. This will not happen overnight. Neither can you expect to cling tightly until the day your child turns 18 (or 21 or 30), and then let go all at once. It is a gradual process, like the letting out of kite string. Keep a firm hold on the end while they are younger, yes, but be willing to spool out the thread smoothly and steadily as needed. (Proverbs 22:6, Luke 16:10)
  26. So that’s my list. Is there anything you would add? Leave off? What types of things have you found most helpful in raising capable, confident children?