Category: parenting

Mom: Still the Best Title

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d share this with you all. I bet some of you moms can relate.

Our kids need us in so many ways, even if they act like they don’t. While this post was inspired by my daughter, who suffers from juvenile arthritis, it’s certainly is applicable to all of our kids.

When my daughter was 15, she was struck with a particularly debilitating flare up of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She ended up spending seven weeks in a rehabilitation hospital. I was a single mom at the time. Our days cycled through early morning hospital visits, school and work for my son and me (all-day physical and occupational therapy for my daughter), grabbing a frozen meal made in bulk by our wonderful church group and heading to the hospital to eat said frozen meal, do homework (my son) and work (me) while visiting with my daughter. Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat. Our personal Groundhog Day for seven weeks.

Sitting next to your child’s hospital bed will give you time to think. My daughter was fifteen, but she still wanted her mom with her. So I spent as much time as my job, and my son’s needs, allowed. And while I was sitting next to her, holding her hand, encouraging her through the pain of physical therapy, comforting her, or letting her beat me at mancala, I was struck by how much she just needed me to be mom. She had people to help her to deal with her disability, but no one but me could be her mom.

As a single mom then, much of my time was consumed by being the provider for my kids, putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on the table. I spent hours each day making sure everything at work was functioning properly so books and Bibles got published on time. Much of what I had wanted to accomplish with my life and my time had to be set aside for the time being. And I was reminded of the importance of that when I ran across this quote by GK Chesterton.

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. (What’s Wrong with the World, quoted in Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge, Nelson Books)

The last two lines are my favorite because, especially when my children were small, I was everything to them. I am still their world, and the import of that can be staggering. I am continually grateful that I was able to stay at home with them when they were small. And now that they are older, they still need me greatly. Though instead of wiping noses and tying shoes, I’m helping with homework and making sure chores are done. And sitting by my daughter’s hospital bed while she learns to walk again. No matter how much your teens may act like they don’t need you, no one can take your place.

I have many titles: small business owner, editor, church member, friend. But the one that means the most is simply mom.

Shadows holding hands

Survival Skills for Moms, Part 3

BY JENNIFER VANDER KLIPP

Our first two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) discussed getting and cooking food, activities that take up a large part of our over-stretched calendars and budgets. But today we’re talking about you.

As moms, we’re so busy taking care of our families that we routinely put ourselves last on the list. And that’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout. So here are three areas you need to nurture if you want to avoid that.

Time for yourself

I hear you saying, “What’s that? I never have that.” True. You have to make time for yourself. Get out your calendar and block off time for yourself. Whether it’s to do a hobby you love, work out, read, or just be where no one is calling your name. You cannot serve your family out of an empty well. You have got to take time to refill your well.

Time with your spouse

For those of you who are married, I you have to have time alone with your spouse. Regular date nights will feed your marriage. Someday all those little birds will fly the nest. It would be nice to still know the person you’re married to when it’s just the two of you.

Dates don’t have to be expensive. A cup of coffee, an ice cream, a walk all count as dates. What matters is that the two of you have time to connect. A strong marriage reassures your children and gives them comfort and security.

Time with God

Being a mom to boys is exhausting and difficult, fun and crazy. They are quite different creatures from girls. Being a mom to girls brings its own challenges with emotions and identity. We need to regularly go to God with our hopes, fears, dreams, and questions. He is their Maker. He gave them to us. And He loves them more than we do. Let Him refresh your soul and guide you in raising your children.

Hopefully, you’ve found a few useful ideas to try out during this series. Raising young men and women is an adventure, and we need all the help we can get from each other!

 

 

 

Cutting green onions

Survival Skills for Moms, Part 2

BY JENNIFER VANDER KLIPP

What’s for dinner?

Has that become a curse word in your house? In Part 1 we talked about grocery shopping, something that’s a huge part of our schedules as moms of teens. But once you get the food, you have to do something with it. You have to prepare it, cook it, and actually make meals out of it.

Trying to figure out what to have for dinner at four o’clock is a recipe for frustration and fast food. I know for me, when I don’t know what to cook and don’t have the energy or think about it, my default is to order out. If you’re trying to save money (kids are so expensive!) then that can be a budget buster. Thinking ahead about meals and doing some planning will save your sanity and budget. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me.

Plan in advance

Planning and cooking in advance is one of the best solutions. Several places like, Emeals, have prepared menu plans you can purchase. Most are fairly inexpensive, have options for specialized diets and family size, and give you a grocery list. You’ll more than save what you spend on these plans by not running out for fast food because there’s nothing to eat.

When you choose one of these plans, look for sample menus. You’ll want the recipes to be easy to make without a lot of ingredients. They shouldn’t take too much time (generally under 30 minutes). The meals should generally fit into your family members’ tastes. And there should be a good variety so you don’t get bored.

What I like about having a weekly menu with recipes is that I post them on the refrigerator. Everyone knows what’s for dinner. And I can even get my children to start helping prep dinner because they know right where to look for all of the information. This also works if your husband gets home before you (or generally does the cooking) or if you have someone helping out in your house. Everyone can be on the same page.

Cooking in advance

Another one of my favorite cooking survival skills is cooking in advance. Pinterest has tons of recipes. I love the Occasional Cook by Cyndy Salzmann, but there are other resources. This may seem overwhelming at first but the rewards far outweigh the work. There’s something very satisfying about a freezer full of meals that only need to be pulled out and warmed up. It’s also great if you want to deliver a meal to a sick friend or someone with a new baby. You have meals already made and ready to go.

I eased into this. I started by making 7 meals, then 14, and finally 21. 21 meals aren’t that much more work than 7, and it’s so worth the effort.

My game plan usually looks like this. I find a day or two when I can shop and cook. I shop on day one, first looking at what I already have in the freezer, then hitting Costco because the large quantities will work really well in this situation. Finally, I go to my local grocery store. Back at home, I put on whatever needs to cook for a long time: stock, marinara sauce, meat.

The next day I follow the plan to start making the meals. While you’re out shopping, buy something for yourself for lunch. You’re not going to want to make a lunch in the middle of cooking.

Finally, I type up a list of the meals I made, the cooking and prep instructions for each meal, and any side dishes that go with them. I print this out and put it on the freezer or fridge. Then I can cross off each meal as we eat it, and I have a great idea of what I have left

When I do this, I make twenty-one meals in about seven hours. It’s tiring, but satisfying to be able to pull something out of the freezer and not have to cook for a month. Try doing it with a friend to make it more fun.

Use your slow cooker

This seems almost too simple to list, but I know I overlook it a lot. In the winter time it’s great to have something warm and yummy for dinner. But in the summer it can also be great if you don’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen. Pinterest, of course, has a ton of Crock Pot recipes. Many subscription meal plans include regular slow cooker meals.

Make your own meal plan

Another great option is to pick the top 15 or so meals that your family enjoys and you eat regularly. You can write out a standard shopping list based on those ingredients and then rotate through those meals every few weeks. This works great if you have picky eaters that only like a few things.

Get your kids to help

Sometimes it hardly seems worth the effort when you can just do it faster yourself. Your kids might not want to help. Or they may find that they really like cooking. Either way, you’re teaching your children valuable skills. Being able to make even a simple meal will make their diet—when they are on their own—consist of something beyond cereal, PopTarts, and pizza.

Plus, boys are more likely to talk when they are doing an activity. There’s a good chance you’ll learn more about their lives if you can get them to help in the kitchen. When my stepchildren come over for dinner, I leave the kitchen so they can have time cooking—and talking—with their dad.

We continue with one more part to this series on survival skills with the ultimate survival skill: time for yourself!

 

Note—I do not receive any compensation from any of the companies listed or linked to here. I’m just a mom sharing with other moms what has worked for me.

 

The Power of Words

by Jennifer Vander Klipp

It may seem like a long time ago (if you look at how big—and dare I say, smelly—your teen’s feet have gotten compared to those kissable baby toes) that your teenager was a toddler, but I bet you remember what his first word was. Sometimes it’s mama or dada or the dog’s name or a favorite toy or food. But we eagerly awaited that first word. Even my autistic son, who often considers words unnecessary, still communicated to us.

And if your son had an older sister, you might have discovered like we did that she often spoke for her brother and told us what he needed. However it happened, we valued that communication with our children.

When our children are young we spend a lot of time telling them what to do and what not to do. It’s not surprising that many toddlers’ first word is No! They hear it all the time!

As our boys grow into teenagers and young men, our words need to change to reflect this growth. Our words need to be less about directing and more about coaching. Less about what to do and more about how to do it.

Proverbs 18:21 tell us the power of life and death is in the tongue. I think we as parents know this in an intellectual way, but unless we’re intentional about it, our day-to-day words may not reflect this value.

Considering teen boys don’t converse in much more than grunts, here are three tips that can help you connect with your boys in a way that reflects their growing independence.

  1. Praise what makes them unique

With four boys in the house, it’s easy to lump them all together. But God made each one of them uniquely and with a purpose. I try to notice and acknowledge these differences by saying things like: “That’s cool! I never would have thought of doing that. I love how your mind works.” Or I name a specific attribute about them that I appreciate. On occasion that has opened the door to further conversation about something that boy is really interested in or how he came to that conclusion. Even if no great conversational moment happens, their eyes light up and their shoulders straighten when someone notices them as a unique individual.

  1. Use activity to communicate

My youngest stepson isn’t as athletically inclined as his older brothers, but he loves to play basketball. So my husband takes every opportunity to shoot hoops with him. Far more words flow during a game of Horse than they would while sitting around the dinner table. Throw a ball around, work on a house project, wash the car…boys are far more likely to talk when they are physically engaged.

  1. Ask their input

As parents, we get in the habit of telling our kids what they’re going to do and what’s going to happen. But as our kids get older, it’s good to find opportunities to let them make choices. Things like what movie to get, what to have for dinner (with their help making it!), a family activity, or a vacation spot. You always have ultimate veto power, but I find the kids come up with things far simpler and down to earth than I would have thought. Teaching them that their voice and opinions matter and have value (even if you don’t end up using their suggestion) lays the foundation for making good decisions when they are out on their own.

Speak life into your boys. Encourage them. Praise their uniqueness. Challenge them to find their God-given passion. There aren’t too many more years until our opportunities to influence them on a day-to-day basis will be gone. But our words will have a lasting impact on them.

Even if all we get is a grunt in return.

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