Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Fathers Day

My dad used to get a big kick out of embarrassing me.  I think it is because I was his easiest child to embarrass. 

One of his favorite stories is the time that my middle school BFF, Carly, and I went to the mall. 

Together, we were “too cool” for our own good.  Walking around the mall ON. OUR. OWN. 

So there we were, two awesomely cool middle school girls, walking around the mall when we heard a voice…

“Girls!  Hey Girls!”

Carly stopped, “Oh my gosh.  Is that your Dad?”

We frantically began to look around. 

“I’m right here girls!  It’s me!”

There he was on the lower level of the mall.  We were upstairs.  He was frantically waving.  And yelling.

I could not believe he was yelling for us during our “we are too cool to be with our parents” time at the mall! 

Quickly, we walked off, trying to pretend that the screaming father below was not taunting calling us.

Till he began using our names.

“Girls!  Carly.  Mary.  It’s your

Dad!  Girls.  Wait for me.”

We wanted to die.

But we didn’t.  Instead, we dashed into a store and hid.  Hoping that no one from school had seen us.

I think it is one of my father’s favorite memories of embarrassing his children.

Well, that one and Hunk Alert”.   But THAT is a different story.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. 

You are my best Dad ever!



Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Freedoms List

When we began the idea of giving our children “Freedoms” for each birthday, we started brainstorming a master list to choose from.

This is important for 2 main reasons:

1.  You don’t get a certain freedom at a certain age, with few exceptions.  At 10, all of our kids will get the freedom to begin to have their own “nice possessions” that they are in charge of.  At 16, I hope they all get freedom of the car.  At 18, they will all get freedom of themselves.  Beyond that, it is based on the individual child and areas of responsibility that we observe in their lives.

2.  We purposefully hold off on things that we might not care about INTENTIONALLY building the importance of the freedoms.  For example, I could really care less about my kids choosing their hair style or even dying their hair, but I will purposefully hold off on allowing them to dye it or get a “dramatic cut” until they earn the freedom.  This makes it more special when you do earn it!

That being said, the following is my list of freedoms in no particular order:

1. Freedom of a phone.  It would be their very own “dumb phone”.  That’s right.  No one is getting a smart phone without the freedom of the internet and that ain’t happening any time soon in this house.  I do consider this one for 12-14 years old.  My daughter is pretty responsible now and carries a purse quite often, so I have thought about the phone as an option.  Gift idea:  uh….the phone….and maybe paying for the service for a certain amount of time.

2.  Freedom of your bedroom.  Decorate how you want.  Hang what you want.  Clean it when you want. That last one is KEY here.  No more telling them to clean their room.  That means that this particular freedom is going to be a hard earn for some kids.  In fact, the pastor’s wife who shared this with me said one of her children never earned this while living in their home.  Tough with my boys who share a room….hmmmm….  Gift idea:  Loft bed.  Ikea gift card.  Movie poster.

3.  Freedom of your hair.  Chop it.  Shave it.  Dye it.  Whateva’.  I see this one around 13-16 years old.  Depending on the boy, this might be a big deal to them too as they could grow it long, which they won’t be allowed to do under my control.  Gift idea:  trip to the salon or funky hair dye.

4.  Freedom of your music.  Listen to what you want.  UGH.  Since I have a collection of rap music from my high school days, I am sure I am in for it with this one.  Yes, I can still sing some Snoop Dogg.  Gift idea:  iPod.  iTunes gift card.

5.  Freedom of your clothing.  Crop tops.  Short skirt.  Crazy colors.  Oh my.  This one opens so many doors.  I consider this between 14-18.  Gift idea:  favorite clothing store shopping spree.  Maybe a pair of shoes or a coat they are dying to have.

6.  Freedom of make-up.  The freedom to wear as much as you want.  Grab that blue eye shadow and have at it, kid!  Gift idea:  makeover with some lessons on how NOT to overuse that blue!  Make up kit.

7.  Freedom of the internet.  Not sure if and when we will do this.  It is something we debate as we want our kids to learn what is “out there” and to become responsible in this area of internet searching, use and time limits.  We recognize that they will take over this area of their lives at some point, so we want time for mistakes at home.  I can’t imagine we would do this before 17.  Once they earned this, then they could have a “screen” in their bedroom for the first time and we would remove “screen time” restrictions. Gift idea:  tablet or laptop.

8.  Freedom of money.  Spend it how you would like.  Of course, my child wouldn’t be allowed to buy anything that is against our family rules.  But if you typically have a tithing or saving percentage that you enforce, this would be the time to let it go.  Gift idea:  Cash!

9.  Freedom of accessories.  Scarves.  Shoes.  Jewelry.  Time to have some fun and accessorize!  Gift idea:  Jewelry.  Gift card to store with accessories.  New shoes.  (You can see what we did)

10.  Freedom of a nice object that is YOURS.  This is the first time that my kids get the freedom to own an “expensive” personal object and to have the responsibility of caring for it.  Gift idea:  We bought our daughter a digital camera.  A brand new bicycle was the idea of the originator of this list.  Tablet.  Video Camera.  Basically whatever fits your child.

11.  Freedom of the car.  Access to drive the car.  AND to own one.  (not saying mom and dad have to purchase that)  Gift idea:  Car keys on a cute (or manly) keychain.  Maybe a car if you have the funds!

12.  Freedom of the house.  Time to be allowed to stay home alone.  We missed out on this one as MD law allowed 8 year olds to stay home alone, so we started this one ages ago.  But if you held off on this one, it is a great idea from a 10-13 year old!  Gift idea:  Keys to the house.  A night alone with a bag of treats and a rental movie. 

13.  Freedom of your bedtime.  This does not mean you are free to choose when you have to be in your room, but you are free to choose when you would like to turn off your light and go to sleep.  Maybe it includes a later “time to go up to your room” as well.  Gift ideas:  book light.  alarm clock.  a stack of late night books.  (clearly, I am at a loss on this one)

14.  Freedom of food.  This one walks a bit of a tightrope between respect for the home you live in (as in, eating the dinner you were made) and allowing the freedom of food.  Overall, this would mean that you don’t need permission to grab some food.  No one will watch over your shoulder as you pack your lunch.  You could eat what you wanted….maybe even drink soda….that you can buy yourself since Mommy doesn’t.  (*wink)  In our house, I would probably see this as permission to make your own breakfast and lunch choices without comment/input from me.  They could also choose their own snacks when they were hungry.  I see this one for older kids who are pretty responsible about eating fairly healthy.  Maybe ages 14+  Gift idea:  case of soda.  ice cream.  bag of chips.  and of course, a ton of fruit!

15.  Freedom of media (not internet).  Pick your books.  TV shows.  Movies.  Gift idea:  Movie passes.  Kindle gift card. 

16.  Freedom of your purity.  This one was passed on as an idea to me from the pastor and his wife.  They took each of their children away on a Passport to Purity Weekend when they turned 13.  At this time, they were given a symbol (necklace) that represented their purity to be given to their spouse.  They were given the “freedom of their purity” as well – a recognition that it was ultimately up to them to protect it.  I am not sure if we’ll do this one or how we would.  I am not about to give the freedom of that choice to a 13 year old, though it is true that ultimately it is their choice.  So this one is shelved for now in our house.  Gift ideas:  physical representation of your time away and discussion.

17.  Freedom of yourself.  This is the “given” at 18.  You are now your own adult and a “roommate” in our home.  Please respect us as roommates and we will do the same. Gift ideas:  their share of the electric bill?  (wink)

I would love any thoughts or ideas that you have out there.  This is so very adaptable to any family and any child.  If you can think of other potential freedoms, please pass them on!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Freedom of Accessories

After beginning our “Freedom Box” tradition when K turned 10, we were ready to come up with her next freedom at the age of 11.

We decided to allow her the “Freedom to Accessorize”.  This includes choosing her earrings, scarves, shoes (heels!), and other accessories.

Before giving this freedom, we had to ask ourselves a few important questions:  Were we OK with dangling earrings?  double ear piercings?  nose rings?  belly button rings?  heeled shoes?

All of these things fall under accessories and we had to consider the “worst case” scenarios because we couldn’t take back the freedom when she turned 16 or 17 and started considering some of these other things….even at 13 or 14.

We decided to go ahead with it!  We were going to be just fine regardless of what “worst case” might come along.

We gave her a letter explaining how proud we were of her.  We told her how impressed we were with her creative jewelry making all year.  Then we explained the new area of her life that she is allowed to control:  accessories!


Every year, our desire is to purchase a gift that is representative of the freedom.  If she didn’t already have her ears pierced, this would have been the perfect time.  Instead, we purchased her a keepsake necklace with her name and birthstone.



Then I took her to Cameron Village to my favorite jewelry store: Hand Picked.  She was allowed to pick out her own pair of earrings from the store.  Then we grabbed some dinner at “The Flying Biscuit”. 

Here she is in her pretty new dangly earrings.


Since then, she also picked wedge heel sandals as her Easter shoes!  Yep, she is working her new freedom this year!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Freedom and Responsibility

“We saw so many parents fighting battles with their grown children [college age] about things that shouldn’t be a fight anymore.   Their kids were fighting to grow up, while the parents were battling to keep the control.  We wanted to prevent that in our home.  We wanted to prepare ourselves and our kids for their journey into adulthood.  We wanted to help them grow up with our encouragement and blessing, not with battles.”

At least that is basic gist of what the local pastor’s wife communicated to me.  And I was intrigued.  I had done enough work with kids, both in public school and church youth groups, to know that what she said was true.

I had also done enough reading [out of personal interest because I taught middle school] about the teenage years to know that I wanted to allow my children to grow up.  In time.  With my blessing, support, and encouragement as well.

So we adopted her plan.  And made it our own. 

Her family gave each child a “Freedom Box” on their birthday, beginning at the age of 10.  The box contained their new “freedom” based on the responsibility and growth they had shown in an area of their lives.  The parents would write them a note of encouragement that explained the freedom they had been given.

Freedoms could include:  Freedom of music;  Freedom of money;  Freedom of your bedroom;  Freedom of driving (age 16);  Freedom of food;  Freedom of hair;  Freedom of clothing;  Freedom of bedtime/curfew…

Once a child was given the freedom of a certain area of their lives, it was theirs.  They got to make the rules from then on.

Only a few freedoms were guaranteed at a certain age.  Every child got a bicycle at age 10, a car key at 16, and the freedom of themselves at 18.   The rest of the freedoms were given based on responsibility and growth seen in an area of a child’s life.

The Freedom Box was a way for parents to slowly release control while preparing both parents and children for the eventual release of full control.    Freedoms were given as blessings and not battles.

We loved the idea and decided to adapt it to our own family.  We began when K (now 11) turned 10.

Our guaranteed freedom at the age of 10 is not a bike.  We decided to make it the FIRST time our children would receive a nice/expensive object to call their own.  They would get to make the rules about it and take care of it.  We would be completely hands off.

This means that we don’t give them nice/expensive objects as their own before they are 10.  We have a family iPad, computer, video camera, and camera that they can use.  But we reserve the right of ownership of these devices for children over 10.  It is one of those blessings of growing up!

We kicked off the “Freedom to take care of a nice object” at K’s birthday.  Here she is turning 10, reading the letter that we wrote her. 


Then we presented her with her gift:  a brand new digital camera.  This was a HUGE deal!


We told her that it was hers to take care of.  It is the FIRST gift that we told her that she didn’t have to share with anyone AND we recommended that she not let anyone use it who couldn’t afford to replace it.  (Yes, I have borrowed it for trips before)  We also suggested that she order a case for it with her money, and she immediately did that!

It has been almost 2 years since K earned this freedom/responsibility.  Her camera is still working well for her.  She keeps it charged and takes it on trips.  She continued to be responsible in this area, so we bought her a kindle for Christmas in 2013.

It is our desire that we are communicating  respect for her as a person and  joy and excitement about this decade of “growing up”.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

To My Children on Mother’s Day

Dear Children,

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. 

It is considered a day for you to thank me.  And you will.  Gifts, cards, and thank-you’s will be created and delivered with eager hearts.  I will enjoy every minute of your outpouring of love.

But in this moment, on Mother’s Day Eve if you will, I want to thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you for the privilege and honor of being your mother.  I get to spend each of my mornings, afternoons, and evenings with 4 of the most awesome people on the planet – YOU!

Thank you for inviting me into your world.  I spend my days witnessing the beauty of your minds.  You never cease to amaze me with your ideas, questions, creations, and thought.  I am so grateful that you invite me in to your games, your ponderings, and your dreams.

Thank you for the giggles.  For the giggles, the belly laughs, and the hysterically funny moments that we have every day.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t laugh.  Truly.  Because of each of you, I get to laugh EVERY DAY!  I can’t think of many jobs in the world that offer laughter as a daily guarantee in the job description!  The things you say, the way you say them, and the random observations and comments keep me on my toes and a smile on my face.


Thank you for your snuggles and hugs.  When you were babies, your snuggles were the most peaceful part of my life.  Just holding your precious body in my arms would bring a peace and contentment that nothing else in this world can offer.  These days, you no longer fit in my arms, but the snuggles are still there.  Most mornings I wake up with one of you laying in my bed.  I admit that it doesn’t bother me in the least.  I enjoy the quiet morning talks and gentle, loving snuggles.  And there isn’t much sweeter than a random hug followed by an, “I love you Mommy!”


Now let’s be honest about motherhood, there are times that aren’t picture perfect.  Many times.  There are times of exhaustion, sickness, frustration and anxiety.  This is true.  There are arguments, harsh words, and stumbling through life together.

But that is why I thank you for your forgiveness.  I have made mistakes as your mother, and there is no doubt that I will make more.  You are with me everyday, so you see my selfishness, anger, laziness, and sin.  But you forgive me and continue to give love in return.  Thank you.  I will have to continue to ask your forgiveness regularly and I thank you so dearly for it.

Thank you for helping me develop into a better me. I don’t think you will quite understand this one for a long time to come.  But hear this:  You have not stolen “my” time or “my” identity as a person.  Sure, I don’t have time for some hobbies I used to have.  (Sorry C, your baby album remains empty)  But the person I am today is because of you.  Living with you, raising you, and participating in your lives has taught me and shaped me in a way that life never did before.  I am a less judging, more compassionate, more patient,  and less “busy” person today than I was in the past.  You have helped shape my priorities, my personality, and my faith into a stronger version of what was, and I have no doubt that you will each continue to do so.

Thank you for the moments that can’t be captured by words.  Moments of sheer joy, fascination, love, surprise, and faith.  They are treasures to me every day.


The beauty of it all is that it is considered part of my “job” to take you to museums, walk the greenway paths, splash in the pool, cuddle up to a good movie, and have interesting discussions about myths that we think should be “busted”.  Apparently my particular motherhood job also includes quite a bit of reading good books while eating muffies at Panera.  

And yes, my “job” has some rough moments.  Some days we are burdened with appointments, family illness, boring tasks, and math.  (smile)  So on those days and in those moments, I thank you for your patience.  I thank you for being with me and living out the mundane moments of life together.  We may not always live it perfectly, but we live it together and I can think of no better way to spend my mundane.

Raising you.  Parenting you.  Being with you.  It is not my job. It is my JOY.

So on this Mother’s Day Eve I thank you for the privilege of being your mom.  I look forward to decades upon decades of laughter, joy, forgiveness, and special moments together.



Saturday, April 26, 2014

A moment for snail mail: Mother’s Day

Years ago…

Ok, maybe almost a decade ago, I was a regular sender of snail mail.  Birthdays and anniversaries were the main occasions I would write up a card and ship it out. 

I was OVERLY organized about this. 

In fact, my grandmother received her birthday card on October 29 even though I was in the hospital after having a baby on October 28.  (I mailed it in the AM before I went into labor)

Gema’s birthday in 2002 might be the last birthday card that I sent on time.  Or at all.  Ever again.

Motherhood threw off my overly organized methods of life card sending.

I had to admit to myself that the card thing was over.  I just couldn’t keep up with cards every month.   It’s hard enough writing on facebook walls these days!

1-IMG_3248But I missed sending cards!  I missed taking the time to write a note of encouragement to folks who were important to me. 

Finally, I came up with a “once a year” card that I could attempt to keep up with.


Every year I purchase a ton of Mothers Day cards and send them to various friends and family members. 

I send some love to:

1.  The actual moms in my life – my mom, mother in law, grandmoms.  It’s a perfect time to let them know how much I appreciate them.

2.  Friends (who are moms) that have supported me in my journey of life during the year.  This particular year has been a very emotional and difficult one for me at times and I have really needed folks who stood by me when I had little to offer.  It’s a moment to recognize how much I appreciate them AND what amazing moms I think that they are in addition to being great friends.

3.  Women (also moms) that I have encountered who inspire me or supported me even if we weren’t “close friends”.  In the past, this has included wonderful women such as  fellow bloggers or women at church.  It’s been a nice way to thank the people that God used in my life, even if just for a brief time period or in a practical way.

4.  New moms.  I like to think through the women in my life who had their first baby during the year.  Its such fun to send them a card on their first mother’s day and to encourage them on their journey.

5. A mom who needs encouragement.  Maybe a mom has come across your path who needs to reminded of what a great job she is doing.  Let her know you have noticed.  Go for it!

I love to write a note of encouragement in each card.  It’s been a great way for me to reflect on the wonderful women God has placed in my life. 

(NOTE:  There are wonderful men and women who aren’t moms in my life.  I take the time to send them notes on other days.)

Maybe it’s a tradition you might enjoy adopting in some fashion.  If so, this is a great time to hit the dollar store for some cards!

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  I Thes. 5:11


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