Proof in the Pudding … or Cake


Last week, I had a phone interview with Tracy at Real Simple Magazine who is putting together an article on kids and entitlement for their December issue.

I so enjoy getting to meet new people and talk about life – even when over the phone. And, it’s been crazy the amount of new folks whose paths I’ve crossed due to Cleaning House. Sometimes the venue can be a bit heady, like Real Simple. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t a teensy bit excited and in slight disbelief when I received her inquiry. But, regardless the outlet, we’re all just people. Tracy, like me, is a mom who loves her kids. All the readers, or viewers or listeners, are people who either care about the kids they’re raising or about the societal environment in which we all live.

People. Who matter. Who have purpose. Who belong. … People- much of the reason we so desperately search to find and race after “the answer” for life to go well with us and those we dearly love.

So as Tracy & I chatted, we discussed issues, we talked strategy, … then she asked me, “So, how has your experiment to get entitlement out of your house changed your home?”

I knew it was coming, because that question always does. It’s the question that tempts me to think there actually exists a quick fix solution. Yes – if I get rid of that entitlement mentality, THEN we’re good to go, we’ve succeeded.

As if there’s an answer.

And as she asked it, my mind raced to even that morning when I woke to find a cereal bowl from the night before in the kitchen sink. It was a bowl that a late night kid had dutifully put in the sink – because technically speaking, he did clean up after himself. But it was in the sink. Less than 18 inches from the dishwasher. And in the bowl were Rice Krispie remnants, stuck like glue since the bowl had been only minimally rinsed.

And as I looked at that bowl, I got frustrated, maybe a little angry. And I went down the mental road of wondering, sure you (kid) did the job, but how hard would it have been to do it right? Rinsed the bowl. Put it in the dishwasher. Thought about the person coming behind you that will have to finish the task. And I grumbled, leaning into the temptation to make my job as a mother about the tasks. Which is nothing more than a HUGE waste of time.

So, when Tracy asked that question, It took some effort to pry my thoughts from our home’s inadequacies to find examples of how it actually has changed. Because I know it has, but that bowl didn’t offer much proof. I began my answer with the truth, “We’re just a regular house like everyone else,” then I proceeded to share specifics of so much good mixed in with reality.

But, little did I know that the rest of my day would be living out loud the answer to her question. Because in the midst, I sometimes forget to see.

The day happened to be Barton’s birthday. And true to my Go-to-Girl’s M.O., she did everything herself. She wanted to. She had actually been trained to. (See also: Task 8 “The Entertainers: Party Planning and Hospitality … and 1 Down, 3 to Go)

She baked her own cake (pictured above) from a scratch recipe she wrote after she cleaned the entire kitchen. She came up with her guest list, her theme, her activity – all with her friends and each of their unique personalities in mind. Leading up to her day, I kept asking what she would like to do, “Movie? Dinner? Archery?…” Only to her response,”Mom, I’ve got it covered.”

Which she did. At one point, when we were headed out the door to gather the rest of the makings for her party, including parting gifts, she stopped and turned back. “Wait,” she told me, “I have to grab my wallet.”

“What do you need your wallet for?” I asked.

“So I can buy party favors,” she matter-of-factly responded.

“Sweetheart, I’ll pay for those.” It’s in moments like those that I wonder if I’ve gone too far. But, of course I remember the cereal bowl and assure myself it’s okay.

For her party, Barton put together a scavenger hunt in the mall. She came up with a list of things each “team” had to find or do and capture in pics on their phones. She calculated the time it would take, coordinated drop-offs and pick-ups all of which included plenty of time for just plain chatting – a teenage girl’s favorite past-time.

And, despite my ridiculous urges to step in and do it for her (yes, more than once she had to tell me to stop), she did it all and it came off without a hitch pretty much for free.

Later that evening, after everyone had gone, I told Barton about my interview. “You know, one of the questions asked centered on how things have changed. … I had to think about it and wondered a little if we have changed.” And I looked at her, “Too bad my interview wasn’t tomorrow. I could have told her all about you. How you did all of this – yourself. … What can I say… you’re amazing.”

She loved her friends so well. She tested and rested in her abilities, sought help when she needed and basked in all the goodness. And I was reminded why letting/forcing your kids to test their wings is worth it. Because among other things,

  • Kids can do more than they or we think they can
  • They want to do it. (More than one of the party goers said, “I’m doing this for my birthday!!”)
  • It provides hands-on, natural/not forced other-centeredness

At the end of the day… it’s about love. And about people. Am I loving my kids well – even when loving looks like making them load the dishwasher again, and again, and again. Even when loving my kids looks like a reminder that their sister likes her clothes put away in “these” drawers. Especially when loving my kids reminds them that people are on the other side of each and every task they encounter – people who need to be loved and accepted as much as they do.

Because if we can get to the people side, the task takes a back seat where it belongs.

Thanks for asking the question, Tracy … sometimes in the moment I forget to look up and see. And, thanks for walking the road with me.


Screen Saver – Guest Post by Margie Sims

This must be the week of guest posts (I have one I intended to post on Wed, but am pushing until next week – apparently I too am in lazy-summer mode. :) Anyway…  I just love what my friend Margie Sims sent me recently and I have to share. Margie is a writer, blogger and mom of ten (!!) with unique perspective to comment on life from every angle.

Her post came as if on cue. I thought about Margie’s screen saver when I was chatting with Kerby Anderson last week on his terrific program, Point of View. He referenced new research showing that people “preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts.” Crazy … but true. It’s hard to think we so desperately want to avoid mental idleness that we would opt for physical pain over moments of nothingness.

But, as noted in a super interesting NYT article on the topic, researchers have also found:

Idle mental processing encourages creativity and solutions because imagining your problem when you aren’t in it is not the same as reality,” said Jonathan Smallwood, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of York, in England. “Using your imagination means you are in fact rethinking the problem in a novel way.”

Benefits of a quiet mind don’t stop there. The articles and research barely mention the fact that being still is a critical component in one’s spiritual life. The Lord God himself said through the prophet Isaiah, “Be still and know that I am God.” Do you want to know God? … Looks like “still” plays a role.

So – engaging in and training the ability to be mentally idle is important. But how can we do that in our busy, activity-obsessed, 100% mentally occupied society?

Marci’s post prompted me to consider the gift she’s giving her kids, and herself, by screen-saving. It might be challenging and tiny bit whine-infested, but seems worth it in the end. What do you think?

Thanks, Marci for sharing … and thanks for walking the road with me.




Outside.  It’s how I grew up.

As far as I remember, in fact, my mother never had to make me go out and play.  Not once.  Instead, she had to make me come in.

Is it just me, or has anyone else had to make their kids play outside this summer?

Here’s the scenario at my house.  Twice a week I enforce a screen-free day.  No computer, TV or video games.  Zip. Zero. Nada.

Some of the kids have severe withdrawals, others barely miss it–but it is agony for most of us.

“I have just been sitting on my bed for over an hour.”

“Can I log into my Facebook–only for a minute?”

“I need to check the status on something I ordered.”

No. No.  And No.  No screens means no screens.

Two weeks of summer down, ten more to go.

I realize it is more challenging at our house.  Hope is two and a half and, thankfully, still takes a solid nap. This means we are home for that chunk of the day, and they have to be quiet.  (I relish the quiet, but some of my kids don’t share my sentiment.)

Boredom is good for kids, really. It makes them self reliant.  On screen free days this week,  for instance, mine have rip-sticked, played Uno and Bananagrams, thrown the Frisbee and produced some home-made art work.  And now ten year old Dorothy is even writing a play.

“Made it through another screenless nap time,” 13 year old Cory declared this week, throwing his arms up in victory.  Makes a mother proud.

The spell of the screen is a sad, sickening trend in this culture.  Kids miss so much.  And though summer’s not what it use to be, I refuse to surrender.  To borrow a brilliant term I recently learned, I am going to Mom-Up.

I am the screen saver,  determined to save my kids from the screen.  Won’t you join me?

“…a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Proverbs 29:15b

Margie Sims is a writer and speaker. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she survives life’s hurricanes by keeping the faith and the funny in life with ten kids. Follow her blog at

Special Perspective – guest post by Gini Florer

Today, I’m so thrilled to share something written by my friend Gini Florer. She’s been such a sweet encouragement to me and to pretty much anyone who knows her.

Ten years ago Sunday, Gini & John’s road took a detour, in the most wonderful and uplifting way – adjectives that at the moment were a bit hidden behind a veil of unexpected. As this couple held a new baby in their arms, they began a journey down a road that didn’t quite look like what they imagined. But who knew, that in the midst of different, joy and happiness and contentment would come with a special life.

Gini, knowing my beef with comparison and interest in contentment, told me I could share with you the following update she posted to her Caring Bridge yesterday. I hope her words encourage you in whatever place you might be – whether you have a kid who’s normal is a bit different (btw, everyone’s is) or whether you’re just tired of trying to measure up.

Thanks for pointing us to consider perspective, Gini!

… and thanks for walking the road with me.


Today my “special” turns 10. I coined the name for him before The Lego Movie came out because he truly is “the special”.

Life is funny. John Lawson seems to have accomplished more by being able to do less. The world wants faster; he is slower. The world wants giant leaps; he takes small steps. But, oh, is he an inspiration to so many. In so few words he conveys such a great message – a message of joy, a message of perseverance, a message of triumph, a message of hope.  And in his simplicity, he has a direct line to the One who created him – of that I am sure.

Is John Lawson more the way we are supposed to be: totally dependent, totally trusting, totally free to be who he is without care of what others think about him? Maybe.

Consider these gems – at what age do we start the comparisons that can steal our joy if we are not careful? My answers for John Lawson don’t fit in the box (and it is in my nature to love boxes!):

  • “When did John Lawson take his first step?” 3 Years Old
  • “First Word?” 4 Years Old
  • “Potty-Trained?” 8 Years Old
  • “Move to a Big-Boy Bed?” 10 Years Old (1 week ago today!)

John Lawson’s life has changed my perspective, taken me out of my box. Maybe that was part of his purpose.  We will see clearly one day – all the questions answered.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. 1 Corinthians 13:12

And John Lawson will be made new – or maybe we will be made new. Whatever the case we will all be whole.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. Revelation 21:4

We all have a purpose – even if not in the eyes of the world.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. Romans 8:28

God smiles, I think, when He turns the ways of the world upside down. It is what He came in flesh to do.

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord”. Isaiah 55:8

Thankful that He cared enough to turn mine upside down 10 years ago today with the birth of our “ordinary miracle”…Watch and see what He has done:

Detour Driving

Change - Blue Button

Sometimes life happens and the road on which you were so happily traveling takes a detour.

Detours, in the form of change, are part of life. And the way we handle them has a huge affect on our outlook. We can either be miserable, frustrated and complainy… or we can make the detour a high-road excursion. Unwanted change doesn’t have to land us in a ditch.

On Tuesday, Fury stepped on a bee. He screamed and wailed so loud, one of the neighbor kids told me yesterday, “Yeah, I heard him from my front yard.” (Embarrassing.) Fury is actually a pretty tough kid. But, that bee nailed him right in the tender spot on the bottom of your foot; and the sting just kept coming.

I quickly removed the stinger and put a baking soda paste on the spot to calm it down. We tried to distract him with a game of Mexican Trains. And all seemed well. In fact he was quick to join some friends at Little Ninja Gym, our new favorite Staycation outing, soon after.

But, later that night, in the middle of the night, when he stood next to my bed begging for help with the pain, I knew the road might be a little different than a simple sting. And, by the end of the next day, it was clear we needed to visit the doctor. Not only was he having an allergic reaction, he had an infection. Thankfully, we have access to great medical care. The kid is on antibiotics and will surely be on the mend soon.

Still, the incident has sort of ruined his plans for this and next week since he can barely walk, let alone run and play. So, he’s on a bit of a detour. Of course, I hope he will use the time to finish Summer Reading. (doubtful)  But, he’s bummed. And though he just might be insufferable by next week, he’s meeting it head on, hopping around with very little complaining – despite the pain and plan changes.

On the flip side, yesterday afternoon I was with another one of my children, who has also been dished a plate of change. This kid is facing a school year that will look almost 100% different than what he hoped for and expected his Senior year to be. A couple of our kids attend a small school where they enjoy the pleasure of close relationships with their teachers. So, in May when change, in the form of faculty departures, was announced – one of mine took it especially hard.

On the positive side – I’m moved that a kid could share such deep and meaningful relationships with teachers. On the reality side – what can you say … but welcome to life. Life changes. Get over it and embrace the new. So I said the latter and added a lecture. Isn’t that part of the mom job?! Life lecture? … Probably not, but I do it anyway… and wonder if anyone is listening.

After acknowledging his sadness and unmet expectations, I told him it’s time to move on. Accepting unexpected circumstances is part of life.

“There are a few things in life that are certain,” I told him as we sat outside Chipotle. “One of them is change. Some of it’s good and brings with it a load of happiness. Some of it is challenging and not quite what we expect or hope. But, you are not a victim. It happens to everybody, every day.”

Then I add what I really hope he could hear, “You get to choose your response. And… the way you handle change will be a determining factor in your happiness.”

I think it really is.

Detours occur. Change is inevitable. My perspective, my attitude and my response are key. I can choose frustration, anger, disappointment and wallow. OR I can meet change head on, treat the symptoms, get help if needed, accept what I can’t change … and hop around until my foot returns to normal … aware that I might have to get used to a new normal.

One thing is for certain, worry and anguish don’t offer much in the help category. I was reminded of this last night as Jon & I enjoyed one of our favorite movies. The main character, contemplating a crisis, quoted from Baz Luhrmann’s song, “Sunscreen”. The entire lyrics, based on a commencement speech by Mary Schmich, are worth the read, but here’s the quote:

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind.

Change is harder for some than others. For all of us, it’s fertile training ground for trust.

Thanks for walking the road with me.



Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen song and “video” – made in the early 1990′s, it was a chart-topping hit in the U.S. and Europe.