Encouragement For The Week


"A Failure of Imagination"-A Must Read Essay

This is a rich, incredible essay on life and it's sanctity by Sarah Clarkson.  I don't think I've ever read anything as powerful-every paragraph-as this one.

"I am convicted, as I encounter the Planned Parenthood debacle, that one of the best ways I can affirm and defend the value of the unborn child is to create a narrative in my action and words that affirms my belief that children are a gift from God. I hope that these undercover videos will provoke, not just outrage and anger, but a renewed commitment to lives, homes, and creative works that celebrate children, make room for them, affirm their value not just as infants but at every stage of growth. I hope that we embrace anew the hard and beautiful work of raising, training, educating, watching, and caring for the children in our lives with love, grace, and verve. And I hope that we learn to invite those who have never tasted the beauty of childhood into the stories we create."
Sarah Clarkson


Toddlers Tips Introduction

I am going to do a little series here and there this year on a handful of toddler tips and tricks I've learned along the way.  I owe much of this learning to my mother and mother-in-law who have taught me in so many ways how to love this stage, sharing their education, experience, and their tips. Their love of children, at all ages, has been a gift to me, and I am forever grateful.

I adore toddlers.  I know that many parents feel that they have to "survive" toddlerhood and we've all heard the "terrible two's" phrase hundreds of times.  But I think toddlers are the funniest, cutest, cuddliest, most irresistible little guys ever and I've always said, it will be a sad day for me with no toddler in the house.

That is not to say raising a toddler is a breeze.  It requires quick thinking, an art really, a skill to handle this wondrous stage of development.  There are times when toddler behavior is frustrating, we all have had bad days, when we just don't have a drop of patience left.  I've had plenty of those days also.  This is such an important time in a child's life.  They are growing and changing so quickly, too quickly for themselves.

It is most certainly a stage in parenting that requires more energy from us. They place a huge amount of trust in us, their parents, and we must try to understand their little minds, but also be a leader to them.  If not, we confuse them, and make them miserable and ourselves miserable in the process. The thing is-it's easy now when they are little, believe it or not. They trust us, adore us, and we have total control over their lifestyle, their environment and their schedule.

If we are willing to learn about what is going on in their brains and bodies, and adapt our lifestyle as much as we can, we can have toddlers who are generally happy, joyful children.


Coming Home-Miranda's Story


God’s provision for the hearts desire of His daughters is as luxurious as it is sufficient. His interest in meeting our deepest needs is intimate, specific and perfect.

I should begin by saying that I was certain I never wanted to be a stay at home parent. Never wanted to own a minivan and never thought I would have three children in three years. Three boys, one Honda Odyssey and the second anniversary of my vocation as full time mother reveals how wonderful it is to be wrong. When I survey the landscape of my life at this moment and consider my days spent with my sons, I am humbled by the satisfaction I feel even in the midst of rampant chaos, diapers, trains, messes and superheroes.

Maybe it is in the ‘nevers’ that God reveals His creativity and also His gentle hand. He rarely forces us to move, but waits patiently as He authors change in our lives, softly nudging us in the right direction. The truth is I had a completely wrong and probably immature vision of what it meant to be at home and this vision was colored by fear. Specifically, I was afraid that I would become unimportant or invisible or one dimensional or worse – that my children would know I wasn’t satisfied being with them and wanted more. What if it wasn’t really ‘different’ when they are your own kids? What if some women are just made to yearn for motherhood and home life and I wasn’t built like that?

The reality of having my first two children 14 months apart and working full time was absolute madness. Pumping before work to ensure the baby had enough to get him through eight hours of daycare and then again four times daily in my office, hiding from the glass door separating my modesty with the outside world. If either boy fell ill, the catastrophic ripple effect caring for them had on my business schedule seemed like the end of the earth. The ridiculous image of my evenings with my boys makes me shake my head and laugh in near disbelief. Perched on our kitchen stool, I would hold the pump to myself with one hand, balance the baby on my knees with a bottle held to his mouth by my chin, and periodically chuck bananas chunks onto my toddlers neighboring highchair tray. Roughly 90 minutes a day was all I had to cherish them in and this time was filled with dinner, bath and bed, then it was off to answer endless emails, plan events and travel. I could never savor any moment with them because each minute was a task and segue to the next to-do on my list.

Ten days before I was to return to work after my second son was born, my heart caught in my throat as I considered the approaching date. It was out of nowhere as though all of a sudden I realized I would have to again part with this small one I had just met. With my first, I was so caught up in the learning of parenting and balancing work and daycare and pumping that I didn’t have to feel the separation. I ignored the feeling this time around, passing it off as cold feet, but in the months that followed even my coworkers could tell I wasn’t really myself anymore. 40 plus hours in office, night programs, travel and so much email to devour me every night. My oldest would come home calling me by the daycare providers name and though she was dear, she simply wasn’t me. One night at swim lessons, my husband and son in the pool, I watched two women chatting on a nearby bench and felt a foreign emotion – envy. They were stay at home moms and I envied what they had – time. I couldn’t fathom having a third child – a hope of ours – when I could barely spend time with the two we had. I was losing heart. No one ever says when they’re old that they’re so glad they had less children and spent more time at the office. Was this really the story I wanted to live?   

Every ‘coming home’ story entwines itself with a ‘staying put’ story. Our God is the ultimate multi-tasker working revision and refinement in the hearts of all family members impacted by a mother’s decision to spend her days raising tiny humans. Mine is no exception.  Months passed before I sat my husband down and said, “I can’t do this anymore. Please could we consider a part time option?” I’ll never forget the look in his eyes – fear. He spoke to me with a tone of ‘how could you do this to us’ in his voice solely because his desire to provide everything our family needs is so strong. We both had felt that dual income and having a life outside children was best and now I was standing on the edge of the boat, making a jump to swim for shore, and changing everything. This completely rocked the foundation of our family structure. Months of talks, prayers, and tears revealed that there would be no part time option. And this gave way to the most intimate of moments in our marriage. He looked me in the eye and said one the bravest things he may ever speak, “I want to give you what you want. I’m just scared.” My strong man, my superhero, shaken to his core as God called my heart to come home and beckoned him to stay his course, man his post and be the sole provider for our family. My respect for him deepened beyond measure that night as it has for all men and women who uphold the needs of their families with their time, talents and energy. 

I left my office on June 3rd, 2013, and standing there on the front steps, every cell in my body felt deep freedom. Finally, how I spent the minutes of my life would match my heart’s priorities.

These two years at home have been many things: rewarding, desperately painful, satisfying, deeply lonely, refining and adventurous. Building relationships with my children, carving out a rhythm that nourishes, defining us as a family and myself as a mother are all journeys in their own right. Yet even at its worst, God steadied my heart and not once did I consider coming home a mistake. When my third son was born in 2014, something was noticeably missing: a ticking clock. This was the first time a new person was welcomed to our family and the deadline of work’s hostile takeover wasn’t a threat.

We possess a brilliant brevity in our souls – this short burst of time God has given us to dwell and thrive on this earth. Owen, Graeme and Colin, and their daddy, William, have my heart and my days. And now I have new ‘nevers.’ I never question the value of my presence in their lives. I never wonder if anyone else could care for them better. I never think my time could be better spent elsewhere. I am home. My Father granted my hearts desire beyond my asking.  

- Miranda Warder


Encouragement For The Week


What We Are Reading

A rhyming book (I love rhyming books) about the school bus and the animals boarding it.  Janey loves this book (as did Patrick, Andrew and Mattew-thanks mom!), I read it again and again to her.

I am reading this book chapter by chapter to Patrick (7) before bed.  It is survival story of a young boy left to fend for himself, and he encounters many adventures and problems along the way.  The chapters are short, and the story moves quickly, which is perfect to hold attention.  And the cover is scary, which counts for everything.

Andrew (11) is reading this book-a book that my older kids enjoyed also when they were his age. This is how he described it, "A group of people, orphans and runaways, saw an ad to pass a few very difficult tests.  Then they have a choice to go on a secret mission if they pass."


Guard Your Time

I am republishing this as most of us are sending our children off to school and going to parent meetings and facing sign-up sheet-just a little reminder!

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader. The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to do...it's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra commitments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today. 


Extraordinary Days

In these two weeks:
Matt started sophomore year
Andrew and Patrick will begin first and sixth
Janey celebrates her third birthday (can you believe it?)
Andrew celebrates his twelfth
we drop Abbey off for her first year at college
Isaac drives himself to his last year of college.

I am tired from an intense summer and must pull this all off.

A friend asked me earlier this month how I feel about dropping Abbey off, and honestly, I'm emotional, but it seems in this house (and moms of large families please does it seem this way to you?) everything happens all at once.  (Remember when I gave birth to Janey the night we dropped Isaac off at college the first time, which happened to be Andrew's birthday?) I want to savor the moments, I don't want to live always thinking of that "next thing" I have to do, but sometimes I do have to check off my list, and move on to the next event.

I told this friend that I feel like it's all a blur sometimes. I have a hard time really contemplating any of it at this pace, and I am hesitant about feeling too emotional when faced with each transition. Really, I am afraid I would just cry straight for weeks at how fast my children are growing up and leaving this house and that would be bad on my sinuses if not a little emotionally disturbing for the children. It would also inhibit me from moving to the next need down the line.

I was feeling guilty about that-that blurry feeling, that on-to-the-next-thing mentality-and then I had a revelation:

God knows what is best for me.

As much as I wish I had more time to dwell on this event and that emotion, I need to accept that I am not a bystander, I am the conductor, the hostess, the producer-yes, in these roles one can enjoy one's work, and have wonderful moments, but they have a duty and an obligation to fill that weighs heavy.

I realized in a split second that God knows what is best for me-he knows that I need to move forward, to not dwell, to keep my hands and heart and mind busy, which is why He gave me these six children, and many chores and responsibilities when there are big life changes.

It does and will continue perhaps to happen all at once around here, maybe that is the nature of having a big family and this is His way of protecting me from myself and deep emotion.  It will fly by, this life of mine, but I am here in the thick of it. When I realized this, I felt the pressure lift off and began to feel calmer, and stronger, and filled with gratitude for this incredible role I have been assigned. He has given me the work I need to move forward, and He supplies me with the strength to handle it all.


Encouragement For The Week


A Good Book

I haven't been a great reader this summer, in spite of my big intentions, but I am so glad I didn't return this book before I read it. It was excellent and made me see some things in a different light.  I love when books do that.

Bloodroot is a story of three generations, a cycle of poverty and abuse and mental illness, but also love and magic and salvation set in Appalachia.  It is seeing a way of life behind the eyes of those living it-the humanity, the beauty, the sense of knowing nothing different but needing love to fill holes in the heart.    

Amy Greene in an interview said this, "I also thought about the possibility of hopelessness as a kind of legacy, generation after generation accepting destitution as their lot in life because it’s all they’ve ever known. But while history and the passage of time do play important roles in this story, the familial bond of the characters mattered more to me. It transcends the changing world around them--the landscape changes, their circumstances change, people move in and out of their lives. But their blood ties are permanent."

The story is easy to read-excellent storytelling that flows, and the content is not-sometimes heartbreaking, but it has closure and a beautiful ending.  


The Pediatrician's Office

I have been in my pediatrician's office three times in the last two weeks for back-to-school physicals. I try to avoid that place like the plague-because it seems that usually someone comes home carrying the plague!

This last appointment I had a chance to talk to my pediatrician more than the usual in-and out visit.  I admire him-he is near retirement age, has three children of his own, and has spent a long long time in pediatrics (frankly I think pediatricians are underpaid and overworked and almost always dedicated and passionate about what they do.)

I asked him if he thought he had seen any changes or issues in parenting in the last four decades he has been working.  He looked at me and said, "I can't even begin to tell you how different things are." He looked and sounded so frustrated and honestly, sad.  He said the number one concern he has right now is social media.  He says he sees so many kids with anxiety and depression and he sees it is linked to the overuse of technology and social media-too much screen time, not enough face to face interaction with parents and peers. He told me he hates it all, and it's ruining our children.  "They need to get out from behind the screens and go outside and play. They need to learn social skills and how to talk to people in person."  And he said in the end parenting is the key factor. Parents being in charge, being the ones that take it away and set limits, and admitted at the same time he doesn't envy us for having this complicated and time-consuming duty on our plate, because I sure know it is.

He also said, "And don't even get me started on the school system."  So I didn't, but boy would I love to hear more about that.

Earlier in the waiting room I had picked up a popular parenting magazine (one I used to read when my older children were little).  I paged through it and then realized I was disheartened or strongly disagreed with about half the content and put it down in disgust.  From $500 strollers and other must-haves, to celebrity interviews and their replies (bold print intended),, to the wishy-washy articles on parenting with terrible advice from "experts". "Guilt-free, whatever feels good and makes YOU happy sort of parenting" leaves out an important subject-the actual baby, child and teen.. There is always a study from some psychologist or psychiatrist to back it up. The truth is sometimes those crucial developmental needs (that play a huge part in growing whole, healthy, happy children who turn into whole, healthy, happy adults) don't match up at all with our lifestyle-but leave it to a magazine (that I recognize is designed to appeal to everyone always) to find creative ways around ever just supporting the fact that the core of effective loving parenting is about sacrifice, duty, obligation, unselfishness, and plain old common sense, wrapped in love shown with time, attention and strong discipleship from parents.  Apparently that message doesn't sell well on the market.

I would like more interviews that speak to a pediatrician (like mine) who has practiced for forty years, or the kind, gentle retired teacher that taught at my children's school for just as long.  I've had conversations with them and other seasoned professionals-professionals who have spent long days with children and their parents-the real experts-and learned more in two minutes about what kids need and want and are and are not getting today-why they know we are seeing more than ever before many struggling children diagnosed with disorders, difficulties or are just troubled.  Again, I don't think it's a message that sells well either.

I feel that sometimes children are thrown under the bus so parents can be let off the hook-behavior that should be abnormal is now deemed normal, unavoidable and no fault of our own. "They are just born that way", or "kids will be kids."  Yes, every child has his or her own personality, struggles and strengths, and will for a lifetime, but when these are recognized by an attached parent, and nurtured and shaped in a loving family environment, and an infant and toddler's crucial developmental needs are met this way (which takes the hard things I mentioned earlier) we give our children the best chance to reach their full potential as adults whatever that might be.  For sure it's a long road, and has it ups and downs, and when the teen years come in to play there are so many circumstances beyond our control. The best we can give them are grown-up parents who are present, a close family life, strong faith, and that ever so important strong foundation in the early years, and that will help our children find their way in life, amidst life's obstacles that will occur.

I know that at times this role as mother is draining, and time-consuming and sometimes bewildering, and truthfully downright scary in this culture. It requires so much giving of one's self and one's time. Trust me I'm raising all different ages and stages and every single one has its challenges, its worries, its frustrations-but I've learned there is no quick-fix technique, no parental substitute, there is nothing that can be purchased, and no permission rightly granted to take the easy way out, that will ever come close to equaling the hard work that is required by us.


Encouragement For The Week


Another Find and A Few Great Deals

Last weekend we went on a bike ride and came upon a small garage sale and found the best deal yet! Two real American Girl dolls for $5 each! Samantha and Kit!

Janey of course, doll lover that she is, gravitated right for them. I thought for sure they couldn't be real American Girl dolls-who would sell those? But they were! I couldn't hand over my money fast enough and the lady who sold them to me said her grown daughters would be so happy that they were in the hands of a little girl who would appreciate them.

Samantha has frizzy hair and loose legs (I will probably have to get her restrung?) and Kit (who I've always wanted) is in great shape. Both have a few small holes in their fabric torsos where a dumb dog bit them-I am going to stitch them up when I have a moment.

No pain, no gain?

Thanks to a tip from a kind mom, I was told if I soak Samantha's hair in diluted fabric softener overnight it will help cure her frizzies.  It worked pretty well.  I came up with that fancy contraption above one afternoon. The funny thing is not one kid (all boys) who used this bathroom asked, "Mom why is there a doll in a bucket upside down on the counter with hair soaking in water?" I honestly don't even think they noticed.

My mom and I got to laughing so hard-here I am with 1,000 things to do and I am playing with a doll's hair. After I rinsed her up, I used some bobby pins and rolled her hair into curls and set her in the sun to dry.  Because you know, I have nothing else to do.  I am feeling a bit insane-it must be some sort of coping technique.

She seems so much happier to me without frizzies. Aren't we all?

I also wanted to share that I was on Amazon this week (shopping for two birthdays coming up) and wanted to tell you about a few of our favorite toys that I noticed were almost half off for some back-to-school special. The prices were so great!

(all the Zoobs are on sale right now-we have the car designer Zoob set also and the boys love it.)
My kids still play with this-it has earned five stars on Amazon.

But I do have to admit, it's so fun to buy girl toys once again.
Have a great weekend!


Special Things

I found these blank paperback books in the dollar section of Target and couldn't resist.  They have three different sizes (each pack is $3) and I am saving them for Janey because if she is anything like I was as a little girl (and the way Abbey was) she will love to make her own little stories.

I can't tell you how long I have had these trays, but boy do we use them.  I came home one busy morning from shopping with Abbey for dorm supplies to find that Andrew and his friend from next door had fixed lunch for themselves and the younger kids. I could have cried tears of joy.

An alley find!  When walking one day I found this sweet chair set out by the garbage-this is about a week after I found this:

Isn't it gorgeous?  All worn in the right places and buttery smooth.  Again out by the alley in the garbage.  I walked all the way home with both of them each time, what choice did I have?

I am planning on starting a little series on toddlers.  Because I love love love this age and while I am in the thick of it, I want to write down all the tips and tricks I have learned and have been passed down to me by my mother mentors to truly treasure and enjoy and appreciate (and survive:) this wonderful time of growth and development and adorableness.   

But for right now-August!  How I love August.  
But it's busier here in August than in any other month.
August makes December look like nothing.
I desperately need to get my act together because I have three birthdays to celebrate, two kids to send off to college, one an anxious (and excited daughter) I will be sending off for the first year at a huge university (I will be packing a jumbo box of tissues).  I have three other school start dates, supplies to buy, three busy sports schedules, and a house and calendar and to-do list that must support it all.


Our Babies, Our Bodies, and Life Itself

Last week I was in turmoil after hearing of the Planned Parenthood scandal.  I vacillated between disbelief, anger, despair, and a deep deep sadness filled my soul.  I read too much.  I watched the videos and read the full transcripts.  I read some pro-choice rebuttals and many more essays and news pieces from those who felt the same as I.  I read political pieces from both sides.  I have read that there are more shocking undercover videos on the way.

Fellow women, who have we become?  How have we been driven to this point, where we are destroying and then offering up our baby's body parts in the name of anything?  Have we done this to each other?  I know what is contested is the "selling". Politicians are debating or turning their heads, lawmakers are threatening or denying, newspaper writers are reporting or not. If we are selling or giving away our destroyed baby's body parts for use in a lab, if a law is being broken or not, that argument is a deterrent for something much much worse

How in the name of all that is good, have we been convinced to deny the incredible gift of our sexuality-that incredible energy we posses in our bodies-to grow human life, and then to degrade it with abortion?  We are smarter than this, we are the powerful caretakers of humanity, and we have let others-a culture that uses women as sexual objects, men and women who want the act of sex but not the creation of human life from our bodies, a society that calls our ability to make human life inconvenient, environmentally irresponsible, a financial strain, and not worthy of further relationship-lead us to a culture of death-the death of a piece of us, and the death of our offspring.

And we are being cruel to each other.

I feel so much for my fellow women who have had an abortion-they say 1 in 4 now. When I watched those videos and read the transcribed words, I felt many emotions, but didn't realize until days later that I had been brought back to the times when I have lost babies before they were born also, through miscarriage-I have seen heartbeats and little legs and arms and beautiful dancing and jumping, and then had to mourn when all that stopped.  It is a terrible loss of life that stays with each of us forever.

The joking, the cavalier disrespect for these little babies, and their mothers, the way the people in these videos made them sound like a cog in a business machine, a way to be negotiated and managed and discarded and sent out the door as quickly as possible-to keep living their lives like nothing happened, or worse in a waste receptacle, or in a petri dish being bartered upon and picked apart organ by organ, and then a cooler in pieces being transported to a lab-it is pure degradation.

It is degrading to women and our intelligence and our power that we must treasure and respect and demand that others do the same.  It is degrading to our unique precious children-each one who deserves to live.  It is degrading to our fellow women who cry each day over a negative pregnancy test, and have to witness the gift of life being destroyed in minutes, while they wait year after year after desperate year on adoption waiting lists.

We must be kind to each other.

We must understand that women have been lied to, and are being lied to.  We must understand that many many women are desperate, embarrassed, frightened, or woefully misinformed about how their bodies work.  That many women who viewed those powerful truth telling videos, are mourning all over again.  That they deserve forgiveness and compassion and they must believe that they were victims of a movement and a culture that doesn't respect them, their sexuality or their children.

And we who know the truth must work to change all those things-with love.


Encouragement For The Week