Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Teach Your Child to Look Fear in the Eye - Day 24

When's the last time you felt the metallic taste of fear in your mouth?  Are you achingly familiar with the feeling of putting one heavy foot in front of the other when every step is painful?  If you're an adult I think I can predict with 99% certainty that you just had memories come flooding.  Dealing with fear and pain are important markers of adulthood that define our character and chart our courses.

Yet, we're too timid as parents, to teach these skills, head-on, to our children.  It's a well-intention-ed omission, but a dangerous one.  As we spend our energy creating magical childhood memories inside a bubble free of fear and pain we set our kids up for it to hit them like a speeding semi they didn't see coming as they're skipping across the street to the ice cream truck.
 That is not the welcome to adult-hood any of us mean to craft for our children.  We want kids who know what it takes to lock their knees, grit their teeth and rub some dirt on it.  
We want kids who can see deep enough into life to know there are times when it's worth it to choose to walk through a hurricane, even if injury is inevitable.  We want them strong and still standing on the other side.

Teaching our kids how to stand with quaking knees when it hurts to not run away, demands that we figure this thing out ourselves.  If we're honest, many of us realize that we've never forced our gut instinct out of "FLEE" mode when we sense pain or feel fearful.  Our knee-jerk reaction is that if it might hurt, it should be avoided.

Let me tell you this, Mommas.  Letting your modus operandi remain "AVOID PAIN" will not lead you to a pain-free life.  As you burn precious energy trying to avoid pain you'll back into pain you didn't see and wallow through it instead of walking through pain to a goal you chose.  Life is painful people.  That's the truth.  It's time to get over being upset by that, grow up, and start living strong.

I remember that idea dawning on me when I was 16.  The thought that choosing to do something that I knew ahead of time would hurt was mind-bending.  It came during a phone call with my parents.  Me in tears in the everglades of Florida just before heading off to Germany on a summer-long missions/construction trip, them deciding to peel the bubble back and give me a backbone instead of protection.  My girlfriend and I had signed up for this missions trip seeing the adventure part much more clearly than the excruciating hardness.

Now I  can read the look on my parents' faces as they waved goodbye to their suburban, private-schooled, middle-class girl dressed in her Limited clothes.  Their guts were feeling what mine wasn't yet....the tremor of pain ahead.  They chose to let me go.  And then, when I called home in tears after 2 weeks of tent-living, swamp-bathing, body-numbing boot camp, wondering if I could make it any longer, they chose to tell me I could.  Their words took me by the shoulders and turned me back to face the goal on the other side of the fear and pain.  They didn't sugar-coat anything.  They agreed that it would be hard and warned me that it might actually get harder when we arrived in Germany.  Then they held up reminders of who I wanted to be and promised that the goal was worth whatever pain it would take to get there.  They had confidence that I could bear up under whatever fear and pain I would face throughout the rest of the summer, and that I would come home a different, stronger girl.  Through the phone line, they smacked me on the butt and said, "Sure it's gonna hurt.  But you can outlast it.....and you should!"  

It didn't take the whole summer to make me a different person.  I walked away from that phone into a candle-light commissioning service where I used my own two feet to choose walk into my fear and accept whatever pain might accompany the mission God had for my summer.  Suddenly I felt a world of possibilities open up for me like the expanse of the night sky.  If avoiding pain and paying attention to fear were removed from my decision-making process, possibilities felt limitless.

It's a powerful thing to not be afraid of pain.  You can suddenly consider things that a pursuit of comfort would discount at the starting gate.  You can have adventures and feel the rush of overcoming.  Big dreams God puts in your heart can make your eyes widen with anticipation rather than causing your belly to clench with worry.

It really all comes down to how much we trust God to be big and in charge, doesn't it?  He says that He took the fear and sting out of death for us.  Do we believe it?  We act like it?  Do we live like Christ's death on the cross really was perfect love that cast out fear?  If pain and fear came as a result of the sin in the garden, and Jesus came to redeem us from that awfulness and buy us back, then His children should be fighting back instead of cowering.

One of my favorite Mom Mantras is, "You can do anything for (insert period of time!" I started saying it during the trips we take with our high school group.  We value teaching kids to test their limits and do hard things enough that we take semi-yearly trips with them that we actually call "stress trips."  We hike and backpack and canoe and portage with the purpose of helping high schoolers push themselves and discover that their limits aren't where they thought they were.  Most of our teens take one of these trips with us.....but I never graduate, so I just keep taking them.  As we pull into base camp each time, I usually whisper "You can do anything for a week." That mantra has power and truth for almost every challenge you or your child face.  Most challenges are temporary and it helps to remind yourself that you can do whatever it takes for a period of time.

We can raise strong adults by giving our kids chances to test their strength when they're little and the stakes are low!  They're never too small to find some metal in their backbones.  Look for ways to challenge them to do things that make them afraid and take some risks while you're holding their hand.

Let the goal of being strong and brave be the only reason for some of the things you do with your kids.  It's a worthy goal all on it's own.

Help them try the monkey bars that fascinate but scare them.  Yes they might fall, they might skin their knee but so what?

Require your kids to take one bite of new foods that gross them out.  You won't die from one bite of anything. (Well, except poison, but I wouldn't consider that a food!)  If people somewhere in the world eat this and even like it, my kids and I can survive one bite even if it makes us gag.  Give your kids plenty of chances to learn that they'll survive doing things that they don't want to do!

Ride the roller coaster with your kid even if they're afraid.  One time.  They don't have to love it or become an addict - they need to know that they can handle 2 minutes of fear and come out on the other end alive.

And don't sugarcoat life to trick them into not worrying.  Getting a cavity filled might hurt, so what?  It takes less than an hour and it's not going to kill you.  That's what your child needs to hear from you.  They need to know the truth - you might feel pain in the next hour, but it's only an hour, you've got what it takes to deal with it well and you won't be alone.  It's ok to cry, but it's not ok to avoid painful things that are good for you.  Bravery comes with tears streaming down it's face.  Let's be brave.

Keep your eyes peeled, Mommas, for things you can do, hand in hand, to practice dealing with fear and pain.  It is not your job to give them a pain-free childhood.  That would handicap them.  It is your job to help them practice being people who can stand straight and look fear in the eye, rub some dirt on the wound and go on, because their goals matter more than the pain.

You are your child's guide to life.  You are teaching them how to make decision, what to value and what to shy away from.  Let's raise a generation who is strong....who knows that fear is not to be respected but managed.....who aren't willing to let anything turn them away from God's grand plans for them!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best Gift You Can Give Your Child - Day 23

The deer in the headlights look?  That was me when the doctor told me baby #2 was on the way.  Don't get me wrong!  I wanted baby #2, desperately, but baby #1 was only 8 months old!  My master plan included a bit more breathing space between the two.

I was in love with being a Mom, and I was super in love with my precious man-cub, Riley.  He made me a Momma and I felt like I was living my dream!  He and I had spent the last 8 months talking and singing, taking daily walks through the neighborhood, learning about each other and finding out that we were great together.  Mom and baby boy - we were rockin' it.

We found out that another little man-cub was on the way, a brother.  Dreams of little boy world with brothers exploring life together ousted my worries.  While my belly grew, so did another fierce love for a yet un-met sidekick.  He was born and he was amazing.

Then we came home, the hub-up died down, and I realized how life had changed.  We were back at square one.  I felt the creeping tension of trying to split myself between two loves and I became afraid.  I was afraid that I could never be enough, that being something for two meant I couldn't be everything for one.  I cried for Riley as I realized he would start to hear me say, "Just a minute...."  I cried because I wasn't all his anymore.  He'll probably roll his eyes when he reads this.  And he's horrifying would it be for Riley, as an almost 20 year old man right now, to have Momma still thinking she's his whole world??!!  That's not the way it's supposed to end up and it's clear to me today.  But it's so easy for our baby-induced emotions to make us forget that a successful letting go process begins on Day 1.

And then I cried for Trevor.  I cried because I was crying about having him.  What kind of mom cries like this with a precious new baby in her arms?  I cried because he would never get to have me all to himself like his brother had.  What kind of unfair world would he grow up in?

This was the blubbering, postpartum mess that answered the phone when my friend Diane, then mother of 4 now mother of 8, called.  The highlights of our conversation went something like this:

Diane:  "Hey Lori!  Congratulations on the baby!  How's it going having two at home?"

Me:  "Gooood...."sniff, sniff....cry....."What have I done?  I love Trevor so much but feel like I'm ripping off Riley by adding another baby and dividing my attention!"  Emotionally wrought sob, sob, sob....

Diane:  putting on her no-nonsense voice "You stop right there.  This baby is a precious gift from God.  You're going to be fine.  Stop crying. There IS enough of you to go around.  This baby isn't just a gift to you, he's a gift to the whole family.  God knows what He's doing.  Now get up and go love those babies, and never doubt that,

"The best gift you can ever give your child
is a sibling!"

She said it with such certainty that I couldn't help but believe it!  I went through the rest of that day with my shoulders a little straighter and a smile on my face.

A decade later a funeral solidified my certainty that Diane was right.  The service celebrated a woman who had spent a long life investing in her family.  When she died her 8 children were all grown and far into their adult lives....most with children, some with grandchildren.  There were close to 100 people gathered to cry together, laugh together, remember together and just be together....celebrating a life and the fact that it made them all family.  What a fabulous place to be when someone dear to you has died - thick in the middle of a big group of people who have such important things in common with you.  Stronger than the many things that made them different was the one thing that made them the same....a last name that carried a legacy.  I'm sure that none of them were  stressed out over how many pairs of new shoes they had as a child or how many gifts there were under the Christmas tree while they were growing up.

 Out there in the cemetery, it was obvious to me that they were full of something vastly more valuable.....

It's pretty clear to anyone looking at my life today that I haven't stopped believing Diane's advice.  When you're done reading scroll back up to that picture of us at the top.  When Scott and I are gone from the middle of that group, it will still be a group.  They will be left with some pretty important things....each other.  And that gives me a new, better reason to cry!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spiritual Napping - Day 22

If you have babies, toddlers or preschoolers you are thick in the middle of the most physically demanding season of motherhood.  If you have school-age kids and teenagers you are feeling exhausted from the mind-bending discussions and emotional needs of your season.  Moms of littlies are longing for the days they don't have tie everyone's shoes and wipe everyone's butts.  Moms of biggies are somewhat startled to find out that what they're facing is every bit as draining as the physical work was.

I have magical advice from my Mom that I want to pass on to you.

Sometimes it's the most spiritual thing you can do.

It sounds simple, but I'm a Mom, so I know it's not.  There are a million things that conspire against you getting and break and anything close to enough sleep.  Napping requires  engaging in a two-front battle against circumstances and guilt.  You either have to temporarily ignore needs or miraculously get enough ahead of them to carve out some minutes.  If you are brave enough to do one of those things, you might lay down, close your eyes and then be kept wide awake by guilt.....the feeling that you don't deserve this break.

You're wrong.  Let me tell you again:

Taking a NAP might be the 
most spiritual thing 
you can do right now!

Here's why.

Taking a nap resets you emotionally.   We've all had the experience of waking up to find out that the "big deal" evaporated out of the thing that had us tied in knots.  When you're stressed out and feeling like you just might snap, taking a nap IS NOT avoidance, it's a smart way to step back and evaluate whether your emotions are telling you the truth.  Something that really needs to be dealt with will still be waiting when you wake up....and you'll have the energy to handle it without losing your grip and doing and saying things you'll regret.  

Taking a nap also resets you physically.  You are tired!  Dealing with life effectively takes energy.  You can only "gut through" so much before you hit a wall that will take you down for the count.  It's not good for you to get to that point....if you won't do it for yourself you need to know that it's not good for your husband or kids for you to get worn down to that point either.  It's time for us to be humble enough to admit that our bodies have limits and not pretend that we can be Wonder Woman.  

Taking a nap resets you mentally.  Dots that should connect easily in your brain, just don't when you're tired.  It takes monumental effort to reason out simple problems.  That's why train conductors, airplane pilots and semi drivers have limits of how long they are allowed to work before they sleep.  The stakes are too high for them to make a wrong decision or even to make a right decision too slowly.  The stakes are just as high for you.  

Taking naps resets you spiritually too, and this is essential.  When you sleep, you provide margin between the daily-ness of your life and your dreams and goals.  The in-between moments when you are drifting off or slowing waking up are often times that God uses to speak to you.  It's time when your soul and brain connect in a way that is deeper than normal and help you remember who you want to be.  

Don't forgo these moments because you feel guilty or think taking a nap makes you weak.  That's a lie of the devil.  I'm not kidding.  The enemy wants you depleted.  He wants you making the most important decisions of your life on an empty tank.  He wants you unsure and emotional.  He wants you to set the pattern in front of your kids of trying to bite off more than you can chew and then wallow in feeling of failure.  The. Devil. Wants. You. Tired.

Don't stand for it sweet Mommas.  Fight back.  Fill your well so you have something to draw from.  

Go take a nap!
It might be the most spiritual thing you can do today!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Trick that Makes It Easy to Say Yes! - Day 21

Every time I sign my name I remember a life lesson I learned in a 3rd grade classroom.  When I was in high school I used one of my electives to help out in the elementary.
 The teacher had previously taught in the high school and been one of my favorites so I knew I would like working with her.  I remember her at the chalkboard, demonstrating proper cursive techniques.  She taught them how to touch the bottom line with their letters and put the proper curl on the first capital.  And then at the end of the word she taught them, and me about life.  Mrs. Gregson finished the last letter, touched the bottom line properly and then swooped her chalk up to end the word with a flourish and these words,

"Even in cursive writing, you are deciding what kind of person you want to be.  Do you want to be a positive, UP kind of person?  Then slide that pencil up and end your word with a positive motion!  Don't end your words going down when you could go up and be positive!!"

The same is true of us, Moms.  We have a choice with our words, a choice of making them positive or negative.  I realize how easy it is to get our defaults set to "NO!" and feel that word forming on our lips even before we've heard the whole question.  Makes perfect sense when you've had to answer questions like, "Can we gel the dog's hair?"  "Can I put my brother in this massive tractor tire and roll him down the hill?"  "Do you want to see how high I can bounce the guinea pig on the trampoline?"  What Mom isn't trained to default to "No" with questions like that?  

There are so many things I know that we have to say "no" to for the safety of our kids and the safety of the whole as a whole.  I'm trying to think before I say "no" these days though, and only say it if there's no way to say "yes."  I have an upswing at the end of my signature, I want to have an upswing in my Mom-ming too!

Even when we have to say "no" we have a choice about how we say it.  I've found a little trick that makes it easy-peasy to say "yes" more often and keep a smile on your face.

Have you heard the term, "There's two sides to every coin?"  Well there are also two sides to every instruction you give your children.  You can state the same information in the negative or in the positive.  Practice this:

Instead of:
"No, you may not go outside."
"Yes, you may go outside as soon as nap-time is done!"

Instead of:
"No, you can't have that candy."
"Yes!  Let's have that candy for dessert after we eat our healthy lunch!"

Instead of:
"No, you may not smear the mashed potatoes on your face!"
"Yes, you can smear something on your face, let's try this lotion!"

Instead of:
"No, you can't wear your pajamas to church."
"Yes those pajamas look super comfy.  Let's lay them here on your bed so they're ready for you when you get home!"

Get the idea?  Amp up your creative juices and find ways to turn your "no's" into "yes's!"  You and your toddler will both smile more, I promise!  

"Yes's" just feel better, on the lips and on the ears.  I've heard this magical phenomenon described as the "Yes Spiral" in marriage advice, but it works the same with our kids.  Each time we say "no" the emotional spiral gets smaller and smaller and the feelings tighter and tighter.  The opposite happens when we say "yes" to each other.  Our emotions open up and the spiral gets wider and wider.  The wider it gets the easier it feels for both people in the relationship to say spontaneous "Yes's!"

Be a "Yes Momma" today!  You want to be a positive person who's raising positive people!  Let's practice adding a flourish to our lives instead of the angry eyebrows of a default "No."  Your "Yes" can be the upswing on the signature of your life, something that leaves your kids smiling as they scamper off to obey!

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Friday, October 24, 2014

FAIR is Just the Place You get Elephant Ears - Day 20

Big family life has taught me a lot as a mom.  Some of the adjustments being responsible for 8 backpacks, 20 feet, and 10 heads of hair (well, 9 really ;)) have been bothersome.  Prime example is the beast I'm forced to drive.  It's been called the party bus...and other less flattering names.  Don't get me wrong, I really love what happens inside of's super fun to have room for the whole basketball team and I love road trips with my family all together in one vehicle.  But there's no way around the fact that's it's big and it's ugly.  Part of the deal when we bought it was that the purchase would have to include a really fabulous pair of boots for me, the driver, to off-set the ugly factor of my new wheels.  I like my boots, but the van's still just a evil by-product of having a big family.

Other necessary adjustments have made me a more focused mom and more certain of the essentials.  That is a blessing straight from God.   One of these has been a re-definition of  Fair.  Whether we speak it out loud or not, each of is forced by our kids to make daily determinations of how "fair" works in our families.  Lots of us fight a niggling sensation that we're giving someone a raw deal or worry that the label "Unfair" might rightly apply to us.  Horror - a mom's worst fear!

The word "fair" nearly paralyzed the fun, gracious part of me when I went from 2 kids to 4.  Suddenly my wallet and energy were often unable to say "yes" to as many things as I had before.  In obedience to the golden rule of  Fair my "no's" started multiplying.  "No, we can't get ice cream because I don't have enough money in my wallet for all of us."  "No, you can't get that awesome shirt on clearance because they don't have them in everybody's sizes."  No, we shouldn't rent that movie tonight because everyone isn't home and they might feel left out."   "No, I can't buy you basketball shoes because I can't buy everyone new shoes today."  The "no's" can go on forever and stop every shred of fun in our house as we pursue the Fairness Phantom.  That definition of "fairness" also makes you irrational.

One day, while my mouth was beginning to form one of those "no's" lightning struck my brain.

What if "fair" doesn't really mean even but instead means everybody getting what they need when they need it?

A new dawn of "yes's" began to open up to me as I imagined letting specific, individual needs and opportunities drive my answers instead of the overwhelming force of keeping track of turns and statistics. Our family life was re-born when we decided that "fair" in our family means that needs are met when they arise and resources are available.

It's revolutionary I tell you.  I've found that I can be a fun mom with a limited wallet and energy.  I've started to look forward to moments when I'm alone with one or two children and can unexpectedly pull through the drive through to offer them something that would be off limits when we're a big group.  There's delicious freedom in handing over what I've got rather than using my energy to parcel and divide.  And there's a beauty in a specific child being able to receive it all sometimes.

There's power in the redefinition of fair for the kids on each side of the "yes."  The child who receives learns to feel the warmth of blessing and practice gratefulness.  They also have opportunities to learn what it is to be a gracious receiver in the presence of someone else who is not receiving.   The child who waits and watches a brother receive can find satisfaction in knowing that their needs will be met as they come in the same way.

It's a fact of life we should be teaching our children, that "fairness" isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Fairness expressed in a quest for identical even-ness didn't work in communist Russia and it doesn't work in our families.  It's time our kids find out that FAIR is just a place to get really awesome elephant ears.  When we learn to be honest about our resources and intentional about applying those resources to each individual need, we teach our kids important life lessons.  And we also find ourselves in line for elephant ears more often!

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Traditions Are Your Trademark - Day 19

We celebrated a birthday at our house today.  This was the 83rd time our family has pulled out the birthday candles and Happy Birthday sign to make a big deal about one of our kids.  I'm not joking people.  I counted them up and that's how many birthdays we've had here.

I spent the day doing things I always do, fulfilling the Florida family birthday traditions.  It's funny how solid these things become over do something once or twice and before you know it, it's risen out of the mist as a full-fledged tradition.  You know it has become a tradition when it's absence produces a guttural cry of outrage from your children!  It usually sounds something like this, "But we aaalwwayys do it!!"

It's funny how many traditions spring up on their own and become something tangible before you realize they're a thing.  Another curiosity about traditions is that their existence isn't based on meaning or content.  The dictionary definition of tradition only requires a thing to be handed-down, feel customary or characteristic of a group of people or be a thing that is long-established.  Something, no matter how silly or innocuous, can quickly gain tradition power just by being repeated.

I used to feel bound and locked into more "shoulds" and "duties" whenever a new tradition took shape out of the mist.  "Oh great!"  I thought.  "Another thing that's going to be expected of me....another way I can fail.  Just. Great!'  Not a very sparkly Momma attitude.  The amount of self-talk I have to sometimes do to work myself into "Fun Mom" mode can be epic.

Traditions have a back side though, my friends....a secret power built in to even the most mundane and silliest of them.

Traditions are your family's trademark, your brand. 

The things you do over and over hand down to your children a sense of belonging to something that is a real thing.  It helps them know who they are and have something to be proud of...or lovingly roll their eyes at.

Learning to embrace those traditions we stumbled into through the back door has created some of our best moments.  It's made us become:

The Floridas - the family who.....
  • heads to McDonald's for ice cream cones after every choir concert, no matter how late it is on a school night.
  • grills up a pile of grilled cheese and grilled peanut butter sandwiches Every. Single. Sunday. Night for whoever happens to be in or near our house.
  • yells "Hot-diggety-dog" whenever we drive past a house decked out for Christmas in lights and decorations.
  • buys a new piece for our Christmas Nativity scene each year so it grows and grows like my Momma's did.
  • turns the football game on every Sunday afternoon whether someone's watching it or not because that's what Sunday afternoons should sound like.
  • hangs streamers across the birthday kid's bedroom door 
  • let's their kids run barefoot out to the road and back every time we get a big snow just to prove their toughness.
  • feeds their toddlers Popsicles in the bathtub.
  • recites "Highs & Lows" from the day at dinner.
  • huddles under the Christmas tree before Daddy cuts the rope holding the branches together so we can all enjoy the rush of cold air that was caught in inside.

Learn to harness the power of traditions in your family!  They make you who you are and give your family a trademark.....they're handles your kids use to get a firm grip on who they are.  When you stumble upon something fun, ride that horse to death!  Do it every year and make it one of your things.....especially if it's easy and/or cheap!  And include your kids' friends in the fun.  Nothing feels more cozy than to add one more and hear your kid explain, "This is how we always do it."

Maybe you're the family who always heads to the beach on the last day of school to celebrate the fist day of summer - relish that car full of sand!

Maybe you're the mom with the blue afro and painted face on the middle school bleachers cheering for you son - rock it out Mom and make your son blush!

Maybe you're the family who has a crab leg dinner every Christmas with the grandparents - do your bibs and butter with gusto!

Maybe you're the family who sings a particular song at the top of your lungs to mark the beginning or a road trip - sing till you're hoarse, baby!

Live you trademark!  Be who your family is!  Don't make your kids wait for big holidays and well-planned events to feel that intimate, homey feeling of being us.  Let your kids feel the celebration as often as you can.  Next time one of your kids says, "But we always do that!"  it's time for a fist pump!  Make it happen if you can and mark it down as a new tradition, a newly discovered facet of your particular family trademark!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Funeral - Day 18

Some people might think it's morbid to think about your own funeral...but it's not.  It's actually smart.  One of the 7 habits of highly effective people that Stephen Covey talks about is to "Begin with the End in Mind."  I want to be highly effective.  What's more the end than your own funeral?

I remember being at my Great-Grandma's funeral not too long after I became a Mom.  Her name was Minnie Merrow and she lived a long life.  She had outlived just about all of her contemporaries.  Most of the people at her funeral were family....children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.  It was a big room and it was full.  There were a lot of people there who I didn't even know but each were connected to my great-grandma.

I only have a few memories of my grandma Minnie.....she always kept chocolate chip cookies in her chest freezer that she would let us eat all icy cold.  But you had to hurry picking one out, you might not get one if you dawdled.  She also had a grape arbor that produced sour grapes that would pop in your mouth....but picking grapes was another time to not mess around at Great-Grandma's house.  My Great-Grandma had not had an easy life.  She had 8 children in a time when life was physically hard labor.  She lost a son to a tragic accident.  She worked hard her whole life...and based on the pictures I've seen and stories I've heard, she struggled to be happy.  Yet her life had a profound positive impact on my life.

She raised a daughter who raised a daughter who raised me.  Through that chain of women rocking babies and making their own decisions about how to love Jesus and chase joy, came my life.  My Great-Grandma and my Grandma struggled to figure joy and sweetness into life.  My mom did the hard work to became a chain-breaker and gave me the gift of starting my own journey unencumbered.

I thought a lot about Grandma Minnie's life as I looked around the room that day at all the other people who were connected to her.  I wondered at the links in our different chains that all began with her.  Minnie made choices about how to live and who to love.  Those choices either made it easier or harder for the next generation to make their own healthy choices.  Whatever her struggles had been, she chose to hand down the links of serving Jesus and being committed to her family.  The things my Grandma passed on to my Mom weren't all rainbows and fairies either....Grandma struggled in many of the same ways as her Mom.  She made choices and tried to make adjustments to her own story.  My mom cried, "Enough!" and determined that every last ounce of her energy would be spent on fighting the patterns of depression and  sharpness that had been handed down.  Yet, even within that broken pattern, the chain of loving Jesus and holding tightly to family had been preserved.  Grandma Minnie got a few, bedrock things, right.

I'm making plans now for the day of my own funeral.  I want you all to sing songs that talk about what an awesome God I served and make your heart swell with gratitude to Him.  I hope you'll give more money to God's work than to the florist in honor of me.  If it doesn't happen till I'm good and old you'll probably all be smiling a lot...talking about how great it is that I finally got to go to heaven just like I'd been wanting.  If it happens sooner than that, there might be a few more tears as you struggle through trusting God's plan.

But either way, I hope you laugh a lot when you talk about me.  I hope there are plenty of stories that you can easily remember that push a smile through the tears.  Let's be honest....I hope my sense of style is mentioned in a positive light and someone remembers a few of my great hair days.  I've gotta admit that there have been times  when I'm posing for pictures and I hope it'll be a good one for the funeral reel.  I have my shallow moments.  Mostly, though, I hope you are able to honestly say that you remember a lot of the really big things, that by God's grace, I got right.

I hope my husband remembers being loved fiercely and bravely.  I hope he feels like I never had eyes for anyone or anything but him and that I would follow him to the ends of the earth on any adventure God sent our way.  I hope he feels like we lived life together and I smiled a lot.  I hope he thinks I was smart and strong.

 I hope my children remember a Mom who was incredibly in love with them and irrationally optimistic about them.  I hope they remember lots of time that they had my ears and my eyes.  I also hope they felt challenged and pushed by me to be reckless about their trust in Jesus.  I hope they saw me step out onto the water to follow Jesus enough to know that it can be done....and be thirsty to try it themselves.  I hope they feel deep in their bones that being their Mom was one the of the best things I had ever done.

I hope my parents are able to talk about a daughter who was a pleasure....that my life felt buoyant to them rather than something that dragged them down.  I hope they can sense how strong the wings were that they were able grow into me.  I hope they're confident that I really, really liked being their daughter.  And I hope my sis can truthfully say I was her best friend.  I hope she can laugh at the cat-fights of childhood knowing that what we grew into as adults was pretty awesome.  I hope she feels like her and I were more on the same page about the big important stuff in life than any other friend she's got.

I hope I have friends who can say we went deep, really deep.  I hope they say that I was more than fluff and being my friend was both challenging and comforting at the same time.  I hope there are a  bunch of women who can talk all night about inside jokes and tearful moments that they shared with me.  And I hope they all can sit around with some great coffee in their mugs while they're talking.

And I also hope that there are a lot of people at my funeral who didn't really know me well, but came because they knew about me.  I hope that they saw my life and were able to connect the dots and know the really important things about me....that I love Jesus and I love people.  I hope those things are obvious about me.

After those things are spoken, and God's Word is preached, my plan for you all is to finish up your time together singing a rocking version of "Soon and Very Soon We are Going to See the King"   to remind yourself about what, and who, this is all about.

I'm thinking about that day, thinking about all the people who will be holding a chain that started from one of my links, like I'm holding my Grandma Minnie's....and I'm thinking about what I want to leave them.  Because whatever I'm leaving them, I'm leaving today...and tomorrow....and the next day.
I'm writing my eulogy into the lives of people. 

I'm giving either cause for laughter or awkward silence in my ordinary moments.

I'm heading to sleep now friends.....looks like I've got a lot of work to do in the morning!  Got a funeral to get ready for....and so do you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Books That Won't Disappoint- Day 17

Early on in this series I might have said that nobody but you can be an expert on your kids.  That's true.  But just because you don't have A LOT of time to read, doesn't mean that you shouldn't read at all.  And if you are going to read, I certainly don't want you to waste your precious minutes on books that are ho-hum.

Let me present to you my list of
  "If You Have Time To Read, These Won't Disappoint!"
books.  These are the books that have taught me something that has stayed deep inside of me and have changed how I do my  Mom-ming.

1.   Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
I read this book for the first time 20 years ago when I was pregnant for my first and have gone back to it many times.  It's bedrock.  Tedd Tripp very clearly points your heart toward the real goal of parenting....the hearst of your children.  He talks about Control vs. The Goal.  Is our parenting a quest to control behavior that annoys us or are we trying to mold the heart of our child.  This was a incremental shift in my mind-set that has landed me in a much better place 20 years later than I would have on my own.  

This book about fathers and daughters is so awesome that I was going to add it to the list all by itself but when I went to grab the link I found that Dr. Meeker has written a new book about Mothers & Sons too!  WooHoo!  I'm placing my order for that one today!  If you haven't read Dr. Meeker before or heard her on the radio, you need to add her to all of your lists.  If only she lived in Grand Rapids so we could be friends!  She gives advice from her years as a pediatrician.  Her advice is practical, deeply thought out and will challenge you to do first things first. Just read everything she's written, please!  You'll be glad you did.

3.   How to Be a Healthy Family by Jim Burns
This book did more than any other than the Bible to help us begin family habits when our kids were little that really helped us thrive....or sometimes just keep our heads above water!  This isn't a book about how to discipline or parent.  It's more about the bigger, broader decisions you make that chart the direction of your family.  How much time should we be at home together?  How should we make decisions about the kids' needs.  How should we connect as husband and wife.  Super practical and helpful advice in this book.  Jim Burns and his wife have been in youth ministry for decades, so they know what they're talking about when they give advice about finding the right balance between family, ministry and work.  Read this!!

4.   Love & Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay & Charles Fay
Parenting help can't get more practical than Love & Logic advice, this book feels like a field handbook.  Do you ever wish someone would just tell you what to say....Word. For. Word?  This book will!!  I repeat things I learned from this book like mantras.  My favorite is this one:  "I love you too much to argue!"  Said with a sweet smile this phrase has the power to stop a debate with a preschooler on a dime....they just don't know what to do with it!  If you buy this book I guarantee it will be dog-earred before your kids are grown, and then you'll be getting it back out when your grandkids come over.

5.   Babywise by Gary Ezzo
I know there is a great debate among infant parents about demand feeding vs. scheduling.  I'm not going to tell you that the way you're leaning is wrong....I'm just going to share my experience.  I thought I was going to die 6 weeks in with my firstborn.....eating all the time, couldn't predict when he'd be happy or fussy....him crying, me crying...not a pretty first 6 weeks.  A friend recommended this book, we adjusted to a schedule of feeding, awake time and then sleep time....and in 4 days I had a happy baby that was routinely sleeping 7-9 hours a night.  That would have been cool enough on it's own....BUT THEN THE SAME THING HAPPENED WITH 5 MORE BABIES!!  I started each of my newborns on this type of schedule from day 1....adjusting it to my own style and life circumstances....and always had infants that slept 8 hours every night before they were 6 weeks old....and that included a set of twins.  I'm not saying it's the only right way to parent a newborn, but if you're inclined toward having a schedule, check this book out.  Sure was a Godsend for us!

6.   Children Are Wet Cement by Annie Ortlund
This book was required reading for me in college as an elementary teaching student.  Reading it will be encouraging and practical.  You will be glad that you are a mom.

7.   Raising Great Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
Everything these two guys write changes me, they're psychologist who know what they're talking about.  This book is about using grace and truth skillfully and in proper amounts to encourage 6 character traits in your children than will help them become great adults.  It will encourage you to know what is a non-negotiable and what is something that you can overlook in your child.  You will gain confidence to know that you aren't missing the important things for the immediate inside the pages of this book.

8.   How to Really Love your Child by Dr. Ross Campbell
This is another book I was introduced to in college and it is a classic!  We want more than anything for our children to have a deep confidence that they are loved by us.  It scares us to think that all the effort we put into loving them might not actually produce the feeling of "being loved" inside our children's hearts.  Dr. Campbell breaks down the emotional needs of children in this book and teaches parents the way to connect our love to their hearts.

9.   Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo, Susan Goodwyn & Doug Abrams 
The whole idea of teaching your not-yet-verbal baby to do baby versions of sign language is brilliant.  Our babies' understanding vocabulary develops much faster than their speaking vocabulary does and so they spend time in a no-man's land of wanting to express needs and desires without having the ability to do so.  Enter - WHINING!!!  Giving little hands the ability to say "thank you" "more" and "please" is an incredibly powerful proactive way to stop whining before you have to discipline it!  And if you keep going and teach them more words, it's super fun to have conversations with your little person before they can form the words!  

10.  God's Design for Sex Series by Stan & Brenna Jones
I mentioned this series in an earlier post about turning your preschoolers into great teenagers.  The brilliance of these books is that they don't leave the "sex talk" for one awkward moment with your preteen.  The first book, The Story of Me, is meant to be read to kids ages 3-5.  It's a very age appropriate discussion of where babies come from that introduces topics that you'll unpack  in more detail over the next few years.  There are 4 books total - the first two are storybooks and the last two are chapter books.  If you finish these with your kids, you will have covered EVERYTHING you need to cover with them by the time they are teenagers.  I can't promise that you won't have awkward moments along the way, but you will have created an environment where your kids know it's no big deal to talk about sex.  (You might need to turn your face deeper into the book every now and then to hide the crazy giggles when they come....or just give in to them and act like a junior higher every now and then...that might gain you more points with your kids than acting all grown-uppy!!) You will have also been the one to tell them stuff instead of the kids on the bus or the'll be their source.  Important stuff.

Head on over the libaray and start requesting these books - or text your mother and tell her you've got your Christmas list ready!  Enjoy - you'll be wiser and more encouraged when you're done!

Monday, October 20, 2014

You are Enough - Day 16

There are so many days when you feel like a fraud.  If you're like me, you rolled out of that hospital with your first baby in your arms, half looking over your shoulder expecting someone to come take him and tell you that you aren't qualified.  I mean, you're barely an adult.....only have had a little practice playing house before a baby appeared, shattering all your certainties.  You have shining moments that you pray God will let be the memories cemented into your kids' brains, but they're overshadowed every day by your uncertainty and mis-steps.

This is a serious job.  You feel the weight of eternal souls entrusted to your care and development.  You've seen Judge Judy's courtroom enough times to know that getting it wrong can get ugly.  The last thing you want is someone carrying your last name around in the future, like a banner of your parenting skills, while they're acting like a brat and being irresponsible.  You don't want it for you, and you certainly don't want it for them.  But getting from point A to point B seemed like a much more straight line before you were holding an actual person with your last name in your arms.

You're giving this everything you've got.  You pray with more urgency than you ever have before.  And you've leaned in to do some deep work in your soul, knowing that you don't have a choice about putting it off any longer.  You are giving pieces of yourself that you didn't know existed.  You're finding that your well isn't as deep as you thought it was.  Disappointment and fear want to have their way with you because now you know you you're not enough for your precious child.

I get it.  I've felt that panic-laced catch in my throat and  I've talked myself down off that ledge more than once.   But I've also found an antidote to the fear....the secret sauce....the magic bean....the THING that will help you feel like enough, actually BE enough!  Sharing it with you makes me giddy....I am beyond confident that it can change everything about your mothering...if you just believe it.  So lean in, listen close, take this one lesson deeper into your soul than any other.

YOU are enough for TODAY,
because God CHOSE you for today,
& He is enough EVERYDAY.

I am convinced that the answer to all of life's challenges is really just one - a bigger, more accurate understanding of who God is - that's it - it answers everything, even the big question of how to be a good-enough Mother.  It's a simple formula really, like algebra or computer coding.

 IF this, THEN this.

IF God is the giver of life, THEN He gave this life to me.
IF God always does what is right, THEN making me this child's Mom wasn't an accident.
IF God has a good plan for my child's life, THEN I must be a part of that goodness.
IF God designed the family, THEN He must be using it for His purposes.
IF God is always working, THEN He must be doing something in my child's life.
IF God powerful, THEN my failures aren't big enough to thwart His plans.

THIS is the secret friends - your little is always ENOUGH when it's put into God's capable hands.  You give your best, you pray, you become more than you've been before....and then you rest....and watch God do what God does.

There was a great crowd following Jesus and His disciples one day.  They were thrill-seekers, people who just wanted to see a show.  But they were also just people at dinner-time, people who were hungry.  Jesus saw their needs and cared.  He also saw needs in His disciples hearts and cared about those.  To meet both needs, Jesus asked His disciples where they thought they should buy dinner for the crowd.  Phillip answered right away because the answer was obvious!  None of them had enough to feed this many people, the needs were too great!  "Impossible!" was Phillip's answer.  But then Andrew spoke up.

You see, Andrew had been watching Jesus.  He knew that sometimes things that shouldn't add up, did when Jesus was involved.  And so Andrew ignored the obvious in favor of miraculous potential.

There was a boy in the crowd who's Momma had packed him a lunch.  Andrew led this boy to Jesus with his lunch open and said, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, 
but how far will they go among so many?"

That's all Jesus was waiting for....a paltry offering and the question...."Can you meet the needs I see with this, even though it's not enough??"  

Jesus had the people all sit down and began breaking the food, giving thanks and passing it out.  He didn't stop until, "....they had all had enough to eat."  Jesus didn't just give them a snack to tide them over, He satisfied them....with an offering that was totally insufficient until it was in Jesus' hands.

You have loaves and fishes in your hands right now.  You have to decide what to do with them.  The end of the story is up to you.  Will you cry over those loaves and fishes because it's so painfully obvious there isn't enough to go around?  Will you hunch over and protect the little you have, fearful that it will get used up and you'll be left empty?  Or will you walk up to Jesus, holding your tiny treasure in outstretched arms.  Will your panic turn to adrenaline as you hand it to Him knowing that He WILL make it ENOUGH.  Will you live freely and be a Mom who can smile because you've found a rock-solid place to put your confidence?

Give your best today.  It will not match the needs before you and you will feel inadequate.  Good.  That's the right place to be because it's the place God most often does His loaves & fishes things.  He gave you those children, with those needs and He made your inadequate heart.  He has a plan and it will not be thwarted.  Just offer up what you have and get ready.  You're going to need baskets to gather up the leftovers of God's goodness and you're going to need to have an answer ready that points to the goodness of God when people ask you what just happened!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pajama Days - Day 15

If you have only preschoolers, there's something you don't yet know about life with kids.  I'm going to let you in on a way to savor and enjoy your time with little people that most people don't figure out until they're seeing it in the rear view mirror.  Right now, without the school schedule calling the shots, you have a beautiful window of freedom.  I'm calling back to you from the future telling you to seize this gift that you don't even know you have....and wring every last drop of goodness out of it!

Yesterday I felt kinda yucky.  It was a rare day with nothing on the calendar that would make me leave my house, so I deemed it a pajama day.  I slept late, lounged on the couch with coffee in my pajama pants, took a mid-day shower and got dressed in a clean pair of pajama pants.  It reminded me of some of the magical pajama days with my preschoolers.

They kids knew what the declaration of A Pajama Day was a day to  celebrate being home.  

The flagship of our fun was staying in our pajamas from morning till night.  It felt cozy and it almost sneaky to make our goal relaxing and enjoying our day when the rest of the world was having a regular work day.  We filled our days up with baking, snuggling and playing.....all the fun things I talked about here.

You need to do this often.  You need to understand that soon opportunities will fill your calendar and you will be the mom who spends a lot of time doing things and driving to those things.  They will be opportunities that you love and places that you want to go, but the date and time will often be set by someone else.  You will suddenly have a schedule and outside expectations that were absent before.  The time to "do nothing" will have to be scheduled and protected.  So enjoy and exploit the empty calendar days you have NOW.

And then, when your kids do go to school, or you begin your self-imposed home schooling schedule, understand this:  You are in charge of even that schedule.  You call the shots for your kids and decide what you deem important enough to have a slot in the calendar.  There may be times that you decide a family event is more important than a day of school.  Don't feel guilty, you're just living by priorities.  There may even be days when you just feel like your school age child needs to stay home and sleep, that they need a day off.  Make the decision, keep them home, declare it a pajama day.

The easiest time to have long periods of uninterrupted time with your kids is now.  As the days go by more and more things will make that complicated.  Making up a day of elementary school work is a blip on the screen compared to how much work it will take your middle or high schooler to make up for a day off.  Their work load and outside expectations will continue to increase far beyond where they are now.

Right now, with your preschoolers, you have an unparalleled level of freedom to choose to do nothing!  Do it!  And do it often.  It's precious and it's golden.  Resist the urge to fill up every day with stuff when they're little.  Play dates are great and an outing to the children's museum can be a fun way to spend a day.  But a well-enjoyed pajama day is a fabulous memory carry with you into your old age....and a low key day without rushing is a great gift to give your kids.

Holy Diaper Changing - Day 14

My husband is a really great guy.  He's washing dishes right now so I can write this for you.  One of the super great things about him is how much he loves babies.   If there were no constraints on our time, money or energy.....we would have our own TV show and way more than 8 kids living in this house.  Did I tell you he loves babies??!

When he visits you at the hospital and asks to hold your fresh-from-heaven's not to be polite or because that's what pastors do when they visit.  He holds that baby because he loves the way it feels in his arms.  And then he comes home and tells me about how great your baby is.  The only thing he loves more than holding your babies, is holding OUR babies. 

A constant refrain in our home has been, "Let's have one more baby....our kids are so great....who wouldn't want to do this one more time?"  Depending on my current state of overwhelmedness I would either roll my eyes, laugh and talk about how great our kids are, or wistfully dream about the next baby.  My overwhelmed meter remained unusually high for a couple years in a row after our 5th baby was born....not because of any extra naughtiness of the kids so much as just from the sheer physical work of having 5 kids that young.  I just couldn't think beyond how tired I was.

Until one day.

He said, "Hey, what do you think about having another baby."  I opened my mouth for my usual response and realized there wasn't any reason to say "no" forming on my lips this time.

"Curious," I thought.  "Where'd that come from?"

My inner explorations revealed a couple recently turned corners in my life.  I once again had energy in reserve, I wasn't running on empty.  Even just having the energy to consider beginning a new endeavor told me something about where I was emotionally.  The other turned corner was my age....40 was looming on the horizon.  I had always felt like time was unlimited and there would be infinite future chances to answer "yes" to Scott's question.  Suddenly that felt different to me and I realized that there would be one decision that would be the last decision...the final  chance to say "yes" and do it again.

We felt crazy planning our 6th baby.  My sister called it lavish.  She was right.

We were blessed with Ginger Leigh Florida.  You can read her story here.

It had been 5 years since our last baby.....5 years since those tiny baby clothes, middle of the night feedings, diapers diapers and more diapers.  Having a baby with older kids at home unexpectedly multiplied the awesomeness of bringing her home.  And then everybody went back to work and school...and it was just me at home with Ginger.

She was a great baby and I really enjoyed every moment with her.  But she demanded every moment.  I don't know how it happened, since this was my 6th baby, but I was surprised by how much TIME it took every day to care for a baby!  Somehow my pregnancy brain had deluded me into thinking that with  just a baby (pshaw) at home during the days I would have all kinds of extra time to start new projects and accomplish new things.  I actually had a stack of grad school catalogs on the coffee table still, thinking that I could probably take online classes while the baby was napping.

A couple of weeks after Ginger's birth I got a phone call.  It was one of those moments that shifted my perspective in a profound and permanent way.

My friend and I chatted about our kids and the new baby.  After a few minutes of small talk she asked me how it was going having a baby was I feeling about my days?  And I started to complain.  I told her that I felt like I could get NOTHING done!  I had so many goals and plans and was frustrated that all I could manage to get done before the school kids got home was a shower, feed the baby, diaper the baby, feed the baby again and diaper her again.   I'm sure that I couched my complaints in words about how great Ginger was, because I was really in love with her.

My friend had older children who were friends with my boys and also an adopted Chinese daughter who had been home for a couple of years.  Her response spoke deeply to me.

"Oh are doing such important work.  Every diaper you change, every bath you give.....every little thing you do is huge!  It's's teaching her to love."

Those words gave such meaning to my days and settled my soul for my new season with a newborn.  It was like she had peeled back a layer of life to expose for me the purpose behind God's design of a Momma caring for her tiny baby.  Each time I bathed her and smoothed lotion on her sweet baby skin I was teaching her about loving touch.  Every diaper that needed to be changed proved to her that I would take care of her needs.  When I fed Ginger her little soul was also fed with security and confidence that I would always be there.  Her forever self was forming the ability to love and be loved through all the small things that we were doing together each day.  Seeing moments this way made me realize what a big thing we were doing with our small days.

I'm so thankful for that phone call and for the words my friends spoke.  I threw the grad school catalogs away and gave myself permission to pare my "to do" list down to the really important thing.....caring for my baby.  And I was satisfied.

So Mommas, as you bring that little baby home so fresh from the hospital, look deeply into their eyes and see their biggest need.  See past the diaper changes and the feedings, see beyond the laundry and the sleepless nights. Soak up the long evenings with a fussy baby who can't be happy anywhere but your arms knowing that you are settling something deep in their souls with your attention and care. 

 Your baby's insides are wet cement that are being pressed and imprinted, little by little, with your care and attention.  The impressions you are making will harden into a firm understanding of what love feels like that they will carry forever.

You are doing important work Every.  Single.  Day.  
It is deep work.  
It is life-changing work.  
Never underestimate the power of a "to-do" list that contains only diapers, feedings....and if you're lucky, a shower.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Vitamin - Day 13

Here's a little Friday vitamin for your Momma souls.  I see what you do, day after day......they see, and their little hearts feel it.  It makes you tired because it's hard, important work.  Take a nap today, you've earned it.

Doesn't that make you so happy that you're doing what you're doing?

Cabin Fever - Day 12

Anyone starting to feel the tell-tale signs that come along with the cooler temperatures....the ache in your bones, the niggling in the back of your brain, the growing sensation that you might have to scream soon?  Dr. Lori can diagnose your's the early stages of a very common preschool Mom malady....

cabin fever


:  extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time

If you're not feeling it yet, file this RX for future use.  And don't think you're off the hook, you southern moms.....hurricanes are coming and the flu germ is no respecter of persons.  If you aren't feeling the symptoms, chances are good that one of your little people will come down with cabin fever and if you don't deal with it quickly, it'll spread like wildfire.  Moms everywhere need to be ready for an outbreak.

I've learned two most effective treatments for cabin fever  from Pa Ingalls.   Remember the year they got snowed in at Christmas and Mr. Edwards braved the blizzard to bring gifts?  After he thawed out Mr. Edwards told stories and then they ended the night dancing to Pa's fiddle.

"Laughter and sweat are two great cures to cabin fever."

I've got a few ideas to get your cabin fever medicine cabinet would be awesome if you-all added your own ideas in the comment section below!

1.  Grumpy Old Troll - This is the Smith family version of the Tickling Game.  Dad or Mom hides around a corner or behind the couch on their hands and knees, growling and snorting.  In theory, the kids' goal is to run past the Grumpy Old Troll without getting caught....but really, everybody wants to get caught and tickled by the Troll.  The Troll tickles until a sibling comes to the rescue or you fear someone will wet their pants and ruin the fun.  Running and giggling...can't beat that.

2. Active Games - Two games to put on the gift idea list for Grandma are Cranium Hullabaloo and Elefun.  Both of these games get little bodies moving and provide reasons to laugh.

3. Popcicles in the Bathtub - When I started doing this with my kids they thought I was the funnest mom around.....really I was just trying to contain the drippy messiness of popcicles into a place easy to clean.  This became a ritual over a decade known to many a Florida kid babysitter.  Don't put my kid in a bathtub without a popcicle close by....or they'll feel like you ripped them off!   

4.  Playdough - Every Christmas stocking should have a fresh batch of playdough so that you can let your kids spend a whole morning at the table with rolling pins, forks, butter knives and cookie cutters.  Soaking up that smell is one of the rites of passage of childhood.  (My favorite time to say "yes" to playdough is right before I was planning to sweep anyway!)

5.  Dining Room Chair Train - And then while you are sweeping and mopping, make a big deal about setting up all the chairs you move out of the room into a train for the kids to play on while you work.  They can bring all their favorite stuffed animals with them as they travel the world.

6.  Sock Surfing - That clean floor is shiny and just begging for some sock surfing.  Those fuzzy slipper socks are the best for this!  You can have all kinds of contests....farthest slide, fanciest slide, backwards slide....whatever.  Just watch out for any forehead height counter corners....a trip to the ER for stitches takes a lot of the fun out of an afternoon of sock surfing!

7.  Homemade Zoo - My kids grew up in the years of Beanie Babies.  Those things seemed to multiply in dark corners and there were more of them every morning when we woke up.  My kids redeemed the Beanie Baby craze in my eyes by making up the brilliant activity of playing zoo.  The animals got set up in "cages" or "habitats" all around the house.....under a coffee table, sticking out of the couch cushions, wherever.... and then got cared for by my little zoo keepers.  They fed them, exercised them, took them to the doctor and just let their imagination run.

8.  Hot Wheels Tracks - You don't have to be a preschool boy to appreciate the appeal of Hot Wheels.  Spare change you can find in your couch can buy you a few cars that can be played with alone on the kitchen floor or with the help of a Hot Wheels track.  Putting that car through a loop-d-loop can be exciting for a much longer time than you would think.  And the motorized tracks that send the cars blazing around the course are mesmerizing!

9.  Exercise -  Yoga and Zumba are the hip ways for moms to work out today, but in my day it was Billy Blanks and the famous Tae Bo workouts.  On rainy, cooped up days, I'd pop a tape in the VCR and the boys and I threw jabs and punches all morning long.

10.  Dance - You don't have to confine your dance parties to kids music and scheduled moments.  Rock it out whenever the mood hits....and use the opportunity to introduce your little people to some classic music from your day.  My kids all have learned at least one poorly interpreted move from the Thriller routine and watched their Dad do the Worm across the kitchen's just part of being a Florida.  And sing together.  Loudly.  Whether you know the words or not.  Gestures and hand motions are always a plus. Nobody's too young to dance.....or be caught on video for future family fun moments!

11.  Make Cookies - This is another good thing to think of the morning you're planning to clean floors while the kids are napping....helps you not twitch as they're spilling half of the sugar across the floor as they "do it themselves."  Baking is the ultimate feel-good experience if you can un-grit your teeth and forget about the mess.  It makes the house smell yummy and just feels good.

12.  Doing Dishes - Push a chair up the kitchen sink, strip the kid down to his diaper or undies, fill the sink with warm water and tupperware and give him a sponge.  They will stand there for-ever....and the floor underneath them will be mopped clean when you finish!

13.  Dora - Stop beating yourself up about turning on the tv every once and a while....and don't always feel like it has to be educational.  If it makes your toddler belly laugh, it's as worthy as Little Einsteins in my book.  Check out some of the old slap-stick cartoons on youtube like Tom & Jerry or Looney Tunes!  I bet you could still find VHS tapes of the original Veggie Tales in your church library too!  I've taken some great naps snuggled up on the couch with a warm little person on a rainy day while they laughed to their favorite episode.

You don't need a lot of space or a lot of money to cure cabin fever, Mommas.  There's fun to be had within your 4 small walls and with whatever energy you have to offer.  You just need to embrace the mess that comes along with fun.....knowing that naptime is a'comin......

Now it's your turn.....what cures for cabin fever do you have to share with your fellow sufferers??