Archives for February 2014

Ways to help a new mom

Our first baby

Our first baby was born during my last semester of college.  I had to go back to school when she was just ten days old.  I was able to bring her to class with me, so it wasn’t all that bad.  But that first morning, as I was trying to shower and get ready to go, all she wanted to do was nurse.  Finally, in tears I called my mom asking her to come help me get ready to go.  She did.  And finally I made it out the door to class.

Whether a couple adds to their family by birth or adoption, there’s always an adjustment period, a time when the family needs to find their way  to a new normal.  During that time, those of us who care about them are often eager to help out.  But what are some of the best ways to do it? I’ll share some ideas that I think are helpful, and I hope that you also will comment below and share what others did that you found most helpful when you were adding new children to your family.

1. VISIT GRACIOUSLY.  Wait awhile before visiting and keep visits very short.  Even if you tell a momma not to clean up the house or get dressed, having company very soon after a new child’s arrival can be stressful and tiring.  Bonus points if you stick a load of laundry in and do a few dishes before you leave.

2. FEED THE FAMILY.  Bring food in disposable containers.  If you’re not sure of your cooking abilities, Pizza Hut gift certificates are awesome.  Do check for food allergies and family preferences. Bonus points if you add a stack of paper plates to relieve the family of dish duty for a few days.

3.  OFFER TAXI SERVICE.  If you have a comfortable relationship with the other children in the family, offer to run them to sports practices, pick them up after school, or take them to the park for an hour or two.  Bonus points if you ask the new parents what they need at the grocery store while you’re coming to their house anyway.

AmandaAscher4. ENCOURAGE HER TO COCOON.  As much as you love visiting with your new-momma friend, she may not have the energy to be out and about visiting and running errands for awhile.  Especially in the case of a difficult delivery, or a newly adopted baby, it will probably benefit everyone to stick really close to home for awhile.  Later will be soon enough to rejoin the larger world and be social again.  Be the kind of friend who encourages and respects that time of quiet.

What did friends and family do that most helped after you added to your family?

Movie ticket winners are…

…commenter #6 Melanie and commenter #23 Jillyan.  I will get those movie passes headed your way, ladies!

Free movie tickets!

Son Of God movieThis seems to be a month of giveaways! The winner of the book The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle is commenter #12  Tracy Stanley.  Tracy, send me your address and I will get your copy headed in your direction.

Today I’ve got a new giveaway–  four vouchers  to go see a new movie that comes out this weekend.  It is called ‘Son of God‘  and the vouchers can be redeemed to use in any theater as long as it is showing. Here’s what the Dove Foundation had to say about the movie.

I’m always a little leery of movie presentations of faith– often producers use their creative license pretty liberally.  But  John and I are looking forward to taking our teens to check this one out for ourselves.  If nothing else, it is a great springboard and opportunity to talk with others about our faith. And the musical score was done by Hans Zimmer, one of my husband’s favorite composers.  (He’s a big fan of dramatic orchestral musical numbers.) Here’s the official movie trailer so you can get a feel for it.

I am going to give away these tickets in pairs, so that two families will have the chance to see this movie more affordably — or free, depending on the size of your family.  To enter the drawing, comment below and tell me about a movie you enjoyed recently.  I’ll choose a winner on Thursday, so get commenting!  🙂

Because these vouchers are e-vouchers, if the winner replies quickly, I might even be able to get them to you in time to see the movie this weekend– if I can find time in the midst of the Refresh conference anyway.

Speaking of which, if you’re in the Seattle area and are interested in attending Refresh (a conference for adoptive and foster families) online registration is closed, but you can still show up on Friday and register in person.  There are lots of good speakers, including Deborah Gray (she wrote Attaching in Adoption) and Milan and Kay Yerkovich (authors of How We Love).  I’m excited to be team-leading a couple sessions with two awesome mommas.  Lisa Qualls of One Thankful Mom and I are doing a talk on having faith in hard times, and Jen Summers (a fellow mom of ten!) and I are talking about large family logistics.  Should be fun!

Calm mom: be what you want to see

Calm Mom

One of the hardest things in the world to do as a parent is to keep from ‘going there’ along with your kids when they’re losing it big time and spilling their frustration all over you.  Maybe your two year old is flailing on the kitchen floor because you won’t give him a cookie before dinner, or your 9 year old is stomping around mad over having to set the dinner table, or your 16 year old wants to go to the mall when he’s got mountains of homework. Here we are, doing our best to parent wisely, and there they are, spitting mad and sure we’re just being mean.  It can be pretty darned tempting to lose your cool right alongside your kid, can’t it?

Back when all my kids were preschoolers, I fondly imagined having loads of patience by the time my kids were teens.  What I didn’t realize is that often the teen years can be more frustrating than the teeny ones, and with my houseful of teens and preteens, drama happens on a daily– ok, sometimes hourly — basis. Decisions are bigger. Hormones are everywhere.  (Four girls live here, after all–okay, 5 counting me.)  By their teen years, kids have a pretty good idea of where mom’s buttons are.  So when they’re mad, they often try to get you to join them there in frustration-land.  Maybe not all teens do that, but some of mine sure do.  Maybe some of yours too?

Two books by Daniel Seigel have been a hugely helpful to me in moving past gritted-teeth frustration toward something that looks and feels more like real grace. I mentioned them to you last year:  Parenting from the Inside Out and The Whole-Brain Child.  I’m still benefiting from reading those books and better understanding (everyone’s) brain function.  To look at a person who’s losing his cool and to be able to remind myself– “Oh, he’s/she’s dysregulated right now.” — well, it has just been huge.

Because here’s the thing: no amount of logic is going to touch a really upset person at that moment. That kid is going to need to be heard and soothed before I will have much success steering him towards right behavior.  It’s not about sanctioning rudeness– it’s about accepting where they are and sometimes being willing to wait to talk about what behavior is okay and what isn’t. Everyone returns to calm more quickly when they feel heard instead of squelched. And kids with very intense personalities, loss issues, or trauma backgrounds are going to need a whole lot more time and help getting to calm before successful correction and redirection can happen.

For me, a big part of the equation has been getting better at recognizing when I myself am following my kid down into dysregulation. You know, that place when your heart speeds up and there’s tension in your chest and you can practically feel the steam hissing out of your ears? When I go there, whether or not I manage to fake calm, I’m rarely especially wise or kind.  That of course does nothing to help my kids toward calm.   On the other hand, when I AM able to model calm (have you heard of mirror neurons?) I can avoid fueling the fire and often can help him find his way back to calm a little sooner as well.

Calm Mom:  be what you want to see in your childSO–what kinds of things can help us BE the calm that we wish to SEE in our children?

  • Remember in the midst of the interaction to ask children about their feelings and reply with empathy.  Let them vent a bit.  Yes, even if they’ve been rude. Once calm has returned is plenty soon enough to talk about any inappropriate behavior that happened while they were angry.
  • Hang onto your compassion.  Try to remember how it felt to be a kid, and out of control of so many things in life.  Try to guess what’s most frustrating for your child about this moment.
  • Ask yourself honestly if this is a big problem or a small one. Hang onto your perspective.  Many things that feel big in the moment will not matter a week or a month  or a year from now.
  • Take a deep breath and (if your child is somewhere safe) step away for a few moments.  Grab a cup of tea if you have time.  Remember that in most cases it’s okay not to resolve the entire problem right then.  Just do what it takes to get people moving back toward calm.
  • Call or text a friend who understands and is willing to listen to you complain for a bit.  I think every mama would benefit from having a texting buddy for those hard moments– a true friend who understands you can feel terribly frustrated with your child while also still loving him greatly.  (Come to think of it, almost all moms should understand that, right?  Haven’t we all been there?)
  • Pray for your child. Remind yourself that God has a plan for his future, that He is growing him each day amid the challenges. Then remind yourself of five things you love about this kid.  He’s worth every ounce of effort and hassle, isn’t he?
  • Finally, don’t forget to give yourself grace in the middle of this messy work.  We all lose our cool sometimes.  And one of the hard but beautiful things about motherhood is that tomorrow and the next day and the next we’ll get many more chances to jump in and try again.  Be blessed, momma, and remember you’ve got Jesus right there beside you on this journey.

Because you NEED an antelope

me with Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle at dotMomI discovered blogs way back in 2006, and since then have found lots of good ones.  But only a handful have remained steady favorites, and Melanie Shankle’s blog Big Mama is one I’ll read as long as she’s game to write it. Her sense of humor is priceless–in my next life, I want to be as funny as she is.  I had the fun of traveling to the Dominican Republic with her on behalf of Compassion International several years ago, and also attended a dotMom conference where she and fellow blogger Sophie Hudson (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet) spoke. (I begged this photo with them at the end of that conference.)

Anyway, Melanie’s SECOND book was just released:   The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life.  It’s a delightful story of married life that I think a lot of us can relate to, even as we’re chuckling over some of the funny moments. I read it in two days and loved it.  My husband is currently reading it, which is a testimony to how funny it is– he rarely reads the same books I do.  Several of our teens have read and enjoyed bits of it too. SO!  I am delighted that I get to give away a copy of this fun book to one of YOU!

All you have to do is comment below and tell me the funniest or most shocking or most controversial item that you or your husband brought home, to the dismay of your partner.  For John and me I think it would have to be a plush recliner that we found next to a dumpster at the nursing home where I worked, and brought home as newlyweds.  One of us (OK, it was me) naively thought a good scrubbing with baking soda would get it smelling like roses.  Ah, notsomuch.  Let’s just say that chairs residing next to nursing-home dumpsters are there for a good reason.

So what was it for you? Tell us your stories.  And by all means, if you have more than one funny story, comment twice and share both stories for two entries.  You can have another entry by tweeting or sharing this contest on facebook, and commenting yet again.  I’ll announce a winner on Monday!

my (un)Valentine’s weekend


It’s funny how you get used to all the rhythms that are peaceful in your home, and begin to take them for granted.  It’s much easier to focus on the hard parts of living in relationship.  Any marriage, no matter how happy, consists of two souls with different needs and wishes and sometimes widely varying ways of seeing this big world.   It can be easy to focus solely on the squeaky spots, the places that lack harmony, to feel frustrated that even after years of living together it can be hard to see the world through another’s eyes.

But the good.  It’s right there all around me too.  If only I would remember to see it and savor it and breathe it in.

Over the weekend my husband took our teens to snow camp, which left me home alone with our two youngest girls on Valentine’s Day.  The girls and I look forward to this weekend each year almost as much as the folks who actually get to go someplace.  We’ve turned it into a girls’ weekend, where we stay up late and sleep in the living room and watch movies and paint our nails and play games and go on little outings that we rarely make time to do during the rest of the year. Oh, we had a good time!

But this year, maybe because of the Valentine’s-Day-that-wasn’t, I also felt the absence of my husband much more keenly.  It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was something not quite right because he wasn’t there.  The fire in the wood stove went out over and over, all weekend long. We forgot to feed the cows in the evening until it was nearly dark. No firewood magically appeared on the hearth when we needed it. I woke in the middle of the night realizing I’d forgotten to lock up the house, then scurried barefoot to lock everything up, pushing back a hint of the dread I felt as a child when walking through the dark night to the bathroom alone.

Each little moment of unbalance reminded me how much I take for granted.  How much my husband nurtures and cares for me, quietly and automatically, simply because he savors his role as my lover and protector. There have been moments where I resent his protectiveness, crankily ‘reading’ it to mean that he thinks I am not competent.  But this weekend of missing him made me see it clearer.  He serves me in these little ways because he cherishes me, plain and simple.  He wants me to move through life with warmth and safety and comfort and ease.

That’s all it is.

And yet it is so much.

Toward wise and loving parenting


How to be a calm parent– We all struggle with calm at times.  Here are some ways to keep your cool when parenting is challenging.

The control factor— Why kids who’ve experienced loss can have some major control issues, and how parents can support and encourage instead of feeding into fear.

What to do about tattling? Here’s how one experienced momma keeps communication open, encourages honesty and confessions, and helps maintain relationships between siblings

Goals vs. Systems  I’ve realized lately as a parent that focusing on parenting to the best of our ability instead of constantly evaluating our kids for results is a happier emotional space in which to live.  Parenting is a LONG job, after all, and maturity takes time. This (non-parenting) piece speaks to some of the benefits of this mindset.

Square pegs, round holes, and loving your child–  This is a lovely piece about the joy and peace to be found in loving your child just as he is.


Bonus:  Two Frugal Reads

Saving money when you think you’re already frugal

Personal finance and class welfare


PS– Don’t forget to enter my Maxwell House giveaway and the $1000 Giveaway from Suave.  Somebody’s gotta win and it might as well be you!  🙂

This is amazing grace



This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You’d lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King of Glory

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

true love

true love

Of Chaos and Coffee

Coffee in the morning One of the things about having lots of kids is that you’re always trying to control the chaos one way or another. Sometimes that means putting multiple kids in the same activity to save driving, or doing fewer activities overall. Other times you triple a cookie recipe while you’ve already got a mess in the kitchen, or nix a messy snack and instead suggest one that is easier to clean up.

Recently it dawned on me that years of parenting many little ones left me in the habit of saying ‘no’ more often than is necessary in my current life. My youngest is 9, and I’ve got lots of capable teens, all of whom can wash dishes and do all sorts of other useful things, and some of whom can even drive each other places. That makes for a little more margin in our lives. I’m on a campaign this year to say yes to my kids more often. Sure, there are still limits. But ‘yes’ is definitely flying off my lips more often.

One of the example of this is hot drinks in the morning. For years I saved cocoa, tea, and coffee in the morning for sledding and snow days just to save on hassle and mess, but these days when kids ask for coffee or tea in the morning, my answer is a happy yes. The kids enjoy the extra pampering and so do I. This month, thanks to some freebies from Maxwell House International, we are enjoying cafe style coffee along with our tea and cocoa. This mildly sweet coffee is mellow enough that I’ll even let my 9- and 11-year-old daughters make half a cup in the morning. I also occasionally add a spoonful to my Ethiopian coffee for a bit of a different flavor. My kids really like the French Vanilla, but I prefer the Vanilla Nut myself. Swiss Mocha and Hazelnut are a couple of other options. You can see them all here.

Did you know that not only can you enjoy Maxwell House International as a cafe style coffee beverage for a flavorful and creamy coffee experience, but you can also add a few spoonfuls instead of creamer, to bring some romance to your coffee? In honor of Valentine’s Day, Maxwell House International wants you to try it. It’s delicious!

International Cafe

 Click here to get a sample (or a coupon) while they last. For additional fun, you can comment below, tell me which Maxwell House International flavor you would like to try. There are so many–including French Vanilla, Vanilla Nut, Hazelnut, Suisse Mocha, Vanilla Caramel, Café Vienna. You’ll be entered automatically in a random drawing for a $100 Visa gift card.



Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner  will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 2/12/14 – 3/24/13.

Be sure to visit the Maxwell House International Page on where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win!