Mom Tip: Always Say the 2nd Thing

December 18, 2014





There was a week where I felt like every single sentence I said started in one of these ways.

Between the toddler, the almost walking baby and the two older kids I feel like a lot of my job right now is to keep order and maybe even create some real peace!

Having come from a business background it seems simple to give a command with a specific follow up.

“Don’t hit your sister. Let’s practice being kind with our hands.”

It’s really a no-brainer and is both polite and guiding. Except it doesn’t work.

It appears that every time I start a sentence with a negative directive I’m automatically ignored. When the person keeping the peace gets ignored peace becomes harder to keep!

Additionally, when every sentence directed at my kids begins with a negative assumption, I’ve already lost. I spend the day feeling negative, empty and frustrated.

By now the older two know the house rules and the consequences for not following them. Even my 3 year old is well aware of what she can and can’t do. As our kids grow out of the baby stage we need to grow with them. How and what we say to them needs to change.

So I decided to try an experiment with my kids who are 7, 5 and almost 3. What if I dropped the negative assumption and just started with my follow up?

“Norah, let’s practice being gentle with our hands.”

3 things happened…

1. I am more prone to acknowledge the child by name instead of giving a general decree to “quit” “stop” “no”. Because I am thinking about what I’m saying I am also more aware of which child I am speaking to. In turn they become more aware of me.

2. I am automatically assuming a positive position. By giving a command that requires a next step I am assuming that they know the household rules. I am acknowledging that they are part of the family system and that I believe they can handle that role.

3. I am giving the child a choice. Kids are kids and at this stage are exploring their independence. By providing them with a suggestion instead of a negative command, I am challenging them to make a choice. If I believe they know the rules then I believe they know how to follow them. Saying something like “let’s practice being gentle with our hands” gives my daughter the chance to stop her own behavior and redirect herself. She has the opportunity to choose self control and obedience.

The kids seem to like this system and respond to it so much better. They are demonstrating they know the rules and redirecting themselves.When needed, I am also able to administer consequences from a place of true correction and not just frustration. I am also feeling less like a school marm with a ruler and more like a parent training her children.

We want our kids to know the rules and follow them. That means we have to provide opportunities for them to practice the things we have taught them from infancy.

There-in lies the key. This doesn’t work if the boundaries and expectations of the home have not been established and/or understood. If you haven’t done that yet – do it! Figure out what your house rules are, how you expect them to be followed and then make sure your kids understand them.

When your family is all on the same page, spare yourself the grief of saying “No!” “Don’t” and “Stop!” all the time. Skip the command and go straight to the second thing – the follow up.

Give your kids the chance and challenge to be the gracious, obedient people they are growing into!

Often I’m talking to other moms and mention a tip or trick we’ve tried or are trying. I’ve decided to keep a running list here on the blog. I’m hoping on Thursdays to offer a “Mom Tip”! Maybe one of them will inspire something positive in your own home.


Lying on the Kitchen Floor…

December 15, 2014


A friend was going to come over and a few days later a group of girlfriends was headed over. While cleaning the kitchen, the bathroom and putting away toys I was feeling quite motivated. I really was getting a lot done.

“Why can’t I be this motivated all the time?” I thought. “Why don’t I get this organized when my family needs me to? Why do friends and strangers motivate me more than the family I declare that I so deeply love?” I wandered in and out of that question all day. “I thought I was past the need for outside approval and was satisfied with being uniquely created and living that out?”

Friends, when you raise 4 small kids with a husband who travels it is easy to go down these rabbit holes. Most of the time I dismiss them but this one seemed to be going somewhere. Here’s what I learned…

Yesterday, Tomorrow

When I think about picking up the house for my friends I am focused on what is coming. When I think about picking up the house for my family I am focused on what has already been.

I’m a hostess type, sort of. When I was growing up we had an open door policy of sorts. People were always welcome, even if it was a little crowded or a little inconvenient. Some of my best memories surround those moments so we’ve carried a similar tradition into our own family. Friends coming over is one of the things I look forward to the most in my chaotic weeks. I don’t mind the tidying up at all because I am looking forward to what is coming.

When I walk around the house, step on yet another Lego, spot another pile of discarded dress up clothes and see small stacks of books everywhere except the bookshelf all I can think of is the mess the kids have left behind. Left behind. The housework I do for my family often makes me feel left behind. My kids already had fun and left me behind. My husband went to work and left me behind. My friends have gone back to work life and passion projects and have left me behind.

In hindsight, it is a little irrational. My daughter set up this sweet tea party and invited me, she only left it behind when her sister asked her if she would help her get dressed up too. My husband is heartbroken to leave me with all these responsibilities each time he has to travel. While some of my friends are back working and engaging in amazing side projects, so am I!

It’s all about perspective and mine needs a reality check. But, I can be try to be present with a balanced perspective with all the positivity in the world and still be left wanting. Perspective alone isn’t enough to keep me going.

One Time, All the Time

One time graciousness is easy, repetitious graciousness is hard. I can make a meal for a friend with a new baby and it is relatively easy. Making three meals a day, every day of the week for my family, that takes a lot more effort. Watching a friends child for a couple hours is relatively easy. Refereeing my own children for six straight days by myself is a much bigger task.

Graciousness transforms into grace when sacrifice is required. I sacrifice very little when I do a singular favor or task. I sacrifice greatly when I go back and do the same task over and over and over.

Grace, we are back here at grace. I start thinking about my own life, the people who love me so deeply, the faith that claims me so clearly. Those people, that Jesus, the repetitive acts of forgiveness and love over the same shortcomings again and again and again.

I mentally see myself face first on my kitchen floor. Shock. Awe. Submission. Thankfulness. Grace.

There are people on this side of heaven that love me like that. My kids who after the end of a long day still hug me at bedtime and remind me I was the favorite part of their day. My husband who still loves me when I’ve been stubborn and self centered, again. My friends who bake cookies with me and laugh with me and cry with me, even if I don’t always do those things perfectly for them.

Jesus. Who died, for me. Who loves, me. Who gifts life, to me.

It’s almost too much to take.

Tonite I’ll do the 3 loads of laundry, sweep the floor yet again and think on these things. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the magic formula to motivational housework and it all begins with grace…


Someone is always crying. And it’s okay.

December 1, 2014


With 4 littles running around, a crazy work schedule for my husband and a desire to be involved in so many good things (which I have greatly curbed in these years of littles) I am asked a lot “How do you do it?”

Ha, yeah, that’s me laughing. I’d like to know which part you think I’m doing because most days, I feel like it’s a success if everyone is just making it!

Feeding the family? Yeah, we are on a meal plan and my husband does 90% of the prep.

Keeping the house? Pft! I’m a minimalist by preference but also out of necessity! My house looks kept because there just isn’t a lot there.

Managing the laundry? Ummmmm…maybe there are currently 3 loads of towels piled in the basement…or maybe not…but there most definitely is.

Crying…we survive these years because someone is always crying.

As I try and throw the taco fixings together the baby is crawling at my feet, the toddler is coloring at the table, and the 5 year old is crying because the 7 year old is a better reader than she is.

As I desperately attempt to get the kid toys from the living room back to the bedrooms my 7 year old is helping, the 5 year old is sorting, the toddler is crying because she can’t find the pink monkey and the baby is finally napping after crying for the last hour.

As I look through the last 2 piles of wash the baby chews on a burp cloth, the toddler jumps in the clean piles of clothes, the 5 year old picks out her favorite pink things to hang up and the 7 year old is crying because he needs his favorite black basketball shorts right now even though practice isn’t for another hour.

Someone is always crying. And its okay.

It’s okay for my 5 year old to realize she’s just a beginner. It is okay to be a beginner!

It’s okay for my toddler to be a little attached to a toy her cousin just gave her. Our niece just started babysitting for us and it is endearing that she leaves things for our kids when she comes. I love that this relationship is blossoming.

It’s okay for my son to cry a little as he begins to assume small responsibility for his own activities and feel that small weight. As he makes it through the stress of this small thing and finds that it is not the end of the world, I pray he sees hope and starts to tackle bigger things with bravery.

Someone is always crying. And it’s okay.

The tears in this house are a sign of humanity and growth. They signify emotional, physical and developmental milestones. They remind us of our own shortcomings and the call on each family member to help and encourage each other.

They remind us of our hearts and souls. We need the grace of our tears to remind us we are human and imperfect. We are flawed and frustrated. We are simple and soulful. And we can’t do it alone.

How do I do it?

Someone is always crying. And I’ve decided it’s okay.

It is in the small, daily tears that I find the life and work of motherhood to be about the eternal hearts of these children.

Someone is always crying. And it’s okay.


Linking up today with Unforced Rhythms


Grace In It All

November 24, 2014


As I sat down to write this I stared at the screen for a moment. What am I even doing?

You see, every Monday my friend Kelli does a link up called Unforced Rhythms. When she started doing it I made it my personal goal to stop and think once a week about my life. The good, the bad, the funny. The ugly, the spiritual, the redeemed.

Two weeks ago I was done. It had been such a busy week. I was tired, my husband was leaving for another week of work away, my kids were at their wits end, we had done too much.

Fast forward to today and I’m wondering how to spend my hours. My husband is home, my kids are rested from a slow weekend, the calendar is wide open.

Lately I’ve been struggling with things that I thought I had worked through. I’m having trouble keeping my commitment to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I went back on my commitment to cut down on my technology use so I can be more present. I’ve been missing big things and dwelling on small things.

None of the struggles are huge. Independently of each other they seem like rather small goals that are “good things to work on.” Collectively, they have me spiraling out of control.

Every Monday Kelli’s heart for Unforced Rhythms of Grace comes to mind, I have it bookmarked…

The phrase comes from the dead center of one of my favorite Bible passages of all time. The words Jesus himself spoke in Matthew 11 (verses 28-30):

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

On more than one occasion, these poetic words have breathed life into my weary, burned out, religious experience. They have been a refuge and a place of peace. A resurrection, even. They have led me to the Rock that is higher than I and reminded me of who he really is, not just who they may say he is. These have been centering words. Words that help me hope again.

Some weeks I have easily seen the rhythm I am in and the grace that both precede it and follow it. In saying it out loud here I hope to encourage and help others see their own grace.

Some weeks are like today. The rhythm is off. I bring nothing to the table, I have no insight or words of strength. Yet, the grace remains.

I’m yielding. I’m giving in. Grace reminds me that in my struggles and failures, in my sadness and discontent, in my pride and frustration, I am still loved.

In acknowledging this gracious love and finally yielding to it, I am able to turn around and love others. My husband, my kids, my friends. This week my extended family, my sons teachers, my neighbors.

What is your rhythm today?

If your rhythm is forced and exhausting can I remind you that you are loved. You have been called. You can never do enough to save the world but you can be always enough to love someone near you.

If your rhythm is sweet and beautiful can I remind you to be an encouragement. You are in a place of joy and peace. Invite someone in.

I think on these things every Monday, yet today I may be seeing this unforced rhythm of grace for the very first time.

Grace in it all. Happy Thanksgiving.


Linking up today with Unforced Rhythms


The Life Right in Front of Us

November 20, 2014

Coffee date

So I’ve been a bit bah-humbug lately.

It’s cold here. The weather report said “17 degrees, feels like -10”.

Sure, it could be the weather but that didn’t seem to be it.

For several days I thought about what felt like a “winter funk”. I am usually super excited for Thanksgiving , Christmas and New Years. I am that annoying friend that sees past all the potential seasonal drama and really embraces it fully and loves every moment.

I was in the car with my kids at school pickup waiting in the subzero wind and I figured it out.

Sad. I was sad. Everyone is just too busy.

Before Halloween there were Christmas decorations out at our local stores. Before Thanksgiving the radio station is playing Christmas music. Before the first snowflakes my kids are asking about Christmas gifts.

STOP. Just stop.

This is not a rant about a ‘war on Christmas’ or the freezing weather or even my own poor attitude. This is about being too busy to live the life right in front of us.

What makes this season so beautiful and joyful for me is the element of stopping and slowing. Of enjoying these once in a lifetime moments.

Yes, we have once in a lifetime moments every day but, in this season of one holiday followed by another, unique opportunities come more often.

This year, I feel like everyone around me is running towards Christmas, as if it were the finish line, and ignoring everything else. This is possibly a gross overstatement but I’m talking feelings here folks.

Our family gets busy too. Basketball practice, dance practice, Christmas Pageant rehearsal, random school breaks and the everyday work of life.

In these days it is easier to see life as a task list. Go here, do this, plan for this.  We measure our days by how much we accomplished, how prepared we were, how we gracefully navigated complicated situations because we constructed 3 back up plans, none of which we used . We pat ourselves on the back for finishing the to do list and being one step ahead.

We are too busy because we have bought into the lie that at some point we will do enough to be enough. We can’t, we won’t. Life is not about all this doing.

STOP. Please.  I’ll stop with you.

There are always 3 weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, enjoy your fall traditions. There will always be 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to buy gifts, make time to be thankful. There is still a full week between Christmas and New Years, rest with your family and hold off on the resolutions.

Thankful tablecloths and carols. Family reunions and food. Holiday cards and faith. Celebrate. Have fun. Make time. Find those things that remind you of who you are instead of what you have to do.

There were “things to do” long before you and there will be “things to do” long after you. Work, planning, preparation will always exist but there is only one you.

Stop. Breathe. Live.


Ugly Grace

November 17, 2014


Ugly. Right now I’m in a season of ugly. Not to worry, my self image is completely in tact, it’s the rest of me that’s ugly.

My words are ugly. I’m harsh. Sure I can mask it as “being direct” or “speaking the truth” or “guiding my children” but really, it’s just harsh.

My actions are ugly. They are controlling. Of course I have called them “efficient” and “structured” but really, I’m just trying to be in charge.

My thoughts are ugly. Judgmental would be more precise. Under the label of “my opinion” and “the right way to do things” it almost appears nonchalant or worse yet, helpful.

“Feel the slip and the grip of grace again.”

How did I get here? How did I so quickly lose my grip on grace? Again.

I wish I could say it was all the recent long days with my son or the too busy week home with my husband or that it’s just this season of having little kids constantly at my feet.

It’s not.

Grace, the kind we extend to each other, it’s a choice. Yet, it comes from a place beyond ourselves.

Grace comes from the heart but not just any heart, it comes from the heart that is soft and tender.

How did I get here? I let me heart start to harden. I bought into a selfish view of life where I was the main character. I began to see myself as a victim of circumstance instead of a person created and equipped. It was easier to choose giving up over giving in.

Grace. I have felt it slipping and yet slowly, as I see my heart and life for what it really is, I feel its grip all over again.

To my friends, please forgive me, you are a welcome grace and dearly loved even if my words and actions have seemed otherwise.

To my children, my being the mom is not a license to be harsh, I’m sorry.

To my husband, thank you for being grace, especially when I am not.

Right now I’m in a season of ugly and yet I feel the grip of grace.

Hope amidst the hopelessness, this is grace defined.


Linking up with Unforced Rhythms


In Defense of “Mom Voice”

November 10, 2014

Summer Joy


I did it, again. That voice I never knew I had came out and gave a short, direct command to one of my children. All the kids turned quiet and off went the child to do as asked.

Mom Voice. If you have a child who speaks in full sentences, you know what I’m talking about. That direct, commanding, clear voice that comes from the back of your throat.

It isn’t always pretty.

After this particular incident I felt a bit annoyed.

I had hosted our moms Bible Study just earlier that day. Here we are spending time in Advent talking about peace and I am breaking out intense mom voice with a child not hours later.

Practice what you preach they say.

The child completed the task and even apologized without being prompted. We hugged and laughed and moved on, but I couldn’t shake it. That feeling. That question of why.

Why couldn’t I just speak to my children like I do every other human being? Is mom voice wrong?

I thought about this for days. If I needed to apologize to my child, I wanted to do so sooner than later. While I don’t think I have this all figured out, here it is:

Mom Voice is okay.

Before you run off and call me unkind and lacking in gentleness, hear me out.

Why can’t I speak to my children like I do every other human being?

Because every other human being is not my child. Parent child relationships are deeply unique. Parenting is not like having a roommate and choosing someone whose personality you enjoy. It’s not like choosing a friend who may have the same hobbies and interests as you. Parenting doesn’t come with a lease or exit strategy. There is no choice. The children that are given to us come exactly as they are. Love overcomes the lack of choices in personality and interest, that same deep love also makes each parent passionately connected to that child.

Because every other human being is not a child. Children are just that, children. They are not adults in small bodies. They are still learning and growing. They still need guidance and care.

Most of the other people in my life are adults, they were already kids. They know about consequences and respect. They understand themselves and both the brokenness and amazingness that is human nature.

Speaking to our children exactly as I do 90% of the other people in my life doesn’t make sense. They don’t have the vocabulary or frame of reference to learn and grow and change in that way.

We have to meet our kids where they are on their own journey, not where we are on our journey.

This is where Mom Voice is okay. There’s something about that “tone” that comes out when you have exhausted all your options. It is a unique call to your child that says “Hey, this is a moment of training, guiding, testing. You are up for the challenge. I believe, I know you can do this. Go. Do. You can.”

Mom Voice, while always a bit shocking when I hear it, is a vote of confidence. At least it can be.

Here is the thing. In our flawed existence as moms sometimes we cross the line. We let mom voice get the best of us. Our vote of confidence becomes a tool of destruction.

I’ve done it. Have you…

…Ever used Mom Voice out of anger

…Ever used Mom Voice because you were just tired

…Ever used Mom Voice in a moment of impatience

…Ever combined Mom Voice with unkind words

…Ever used Mom Voice as a threat instead of a guide

Like most good things, Mom Voice does have an ugly side. Used well, it gets things done in a clarifying and appropriate fashion. Used in haste or for our own self-interest, it hurts our kids’ hearts.

While kids are not adults, they are human beings. As parents, we are the people in their lives that should be speaking kind, loving and gentle words.

In the midst of educating these future minds our vote of confidence should sound more like a strong symphony and less like a death metal concert. Our directions should be clear but gracious, strong but kind, influential but wise.

Today, I declare I am for Mom Voice.

Mom, you were given your Mom Voice for a reason. How are you going to use it?


“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” The Message, Ephesians 4


Linking up with Unforced Rhythms…



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