Category Archives: Family Ties

only girl

Recently we had some friends over for an impromptu pizza dinner after soccer games were finished for the day. Our combo of kids resulted in an 8 boys:1 girl ratio. The solo girl told her mother on the way home, “the mom is the only girl in their house.” Oh, so very true! During her visit I enjoyed digging out some “girl stuff” from my play therapy toy stash. I invited her to play with my collection of Lego Friends I’ve received from my boys during their Legos-for-every-occasion phase that lasted persistently for years. I listened to her little girl chatter, noting the lack of crash-bang-argh sound effects that typically accompany boy play at our house. I watched as she fidgeted with her long, tousled hair as she told me stories with vibrant animation. She was enamored with our baby turtle, Pipsqueak. She had so many words and was so willing to share.Salsa

Just as our young visitor had the realization that I was the only girl in my house, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve become accustomed to how my sons dole out their words at a slowly measured rate as if they need to conserve their syllables to last the remainder of the day. I’ve noticed how they interact playfully with me and show affection in boyish ways that don’t require stringing all those nouns and verbs together. Much of their communication is through touch and sound.

I’ve got one boy who is my Leaner. As he’s grown taller than me, he’s developed a lean-in stance when he drapes over me for a hug. He stands very still but is so fully present that it seeps into my heart like a soft rain soaks deeply into the ground. Often he will hum softly as his breathing slows and I feel the man-child weight of him pressing onto my shoulders. He releases with a big sigh and we’re both a little more centered somehow.

morning hugAnother son has developed his technique of the hold-and-squeeze. He comes in for a “typical” hug then holds me tight, waiting for an off-beat amount of precious seconds to do a double-squeeze that sometimes takes my breath away. Occasionally I’ll get a few mini-squeezes in before he loosens his hold on me. I can sense the melody of his mood in how he prolongs the hug or stays only for a brief skirmish. Sometimes we’ll finalize with a rhythmic tap-tap of our fingers, drumming onto each other’s backs without saying a word–yet also saying so much. This seems like a foreshadowing of the letting-go process we face when he leaves for college in a heartbeat.

contented boy

My last one I can still tuck under my chin when he dives all-in, often leading with his head and wrapping around me with all of his limbs. I often wonder how many limbs he has because they are EVERYwhere! A lot of swaying and giggles accompany this hugfest, especially if he gets a firm headrub or backscratch out of the deal. He lingers longer if a variety of wiggly movement is sustained in this light-hearted encounter, reminding me that his primary Love Language is Physical Touch. Squirmy love is his forte; I have adapted my reflexes accordingly.

mandevilla bloomSo, yes, I am the only girl in this house, but I’ve learned to communicate “boyspeak” as I’ve grown along with them. They can out-talk me about sports, outrun me in 5k races, and definitely out-eat me at any given meal…yet they can’t outgrow the mommy-son bonds weaved ever so tightly during all these leaning, squeezing, squirmy moments.


“Behold, children are a gift from the Lord… His reward.” Psalm 127:3


“Mother’s day” has passed yet each of us mommas can harvest these little snatches of our child’s affection however they may come. It may be braiding your daughter’s hair for the umpteenth time or gritting your teeth through those first driving lessons. A wink, a nudge, a crayon drawing, a morning grunt or an after-school story…cherish these tokens of your child’s unique interaction with you. We’ve got 50 weeks until the next round of “direct” appreciation the card-makers will remind everyone about. In the meantime, soak up the ordinary love today, my friends.

Side-by-Side

mom tackleWhen your kids are little, they are all over you. Literally. A human jungle gym…they climb, writhe, wriggle and squirm all over, covering you with earthy hugs and sticky kisses. They share every single teeny tiny detail of their days even though you were right there navigating it all. They start conversations voluntarily with you.all.the.time.

I remember one of my preschool-aged sons asking me, “Mommy, do you like khaki socks? I like khaki socks.” I responded to his random question and he fired off another one without skipping a beat, “Mommy, do you like blue socks? I like blue socks.” I will spare you the details of this lengthy conversation and remain grateful that he didn’t have full knowledge of a 64-color crayola box at that tender age. Yet I hold dear the memory of that conversation because he was trying to connect with me, exploring things we might both like that mashed us together in his little mind. He wanted us to share every daily experience and talk about it over and over and over again.

When kids start school, all that sharing is spread out among more people…teachers, buddies, and neighborhood friends. You still get a good dose of after-school details, though, and you get conversation starters cued by art projects and smiley-face stamped papers they bring home.

Then your kids have the audacity to grow more. All of a sudden mini-adults are sparking out of them as they navigate the world of middle school and high school. Their minds are extremely busy places and they are doing a lot of internal processing. All of this chaotic brain activity shorts out their verbal processing and those sweet little childish conversations become more like staccato grunts and groans. I have boys, so plenty of bodily noises accompany their one or two-word responses. Although I’ve become quite adept at reading facial expressions and body postures, my mommy-brain is still curious about their experiences in those boys walking with backpacksbusy school hallways and classrooms. I still like to hear in their own words what impacted them in the course of an ordinary day.

I’ve embraced the subtle strategy of the Side-by-Side conversation. Most often this occurs in the car as we are driving to an activity or returning home. After an initial greeting and brief run-down of “how was your day?” type conversation, a natural lull fills the car.  I try to wait patiently while my son decompresses in his own way. Sometimes it’s through music; sometimes it’s a snack. Gradually some wordy tidbits start to fall out. I try to not scoop them up too hastily, but allow them to linger between us…because sometimes those few phrases turn into an avalanche of words. Suddenly I’m hearing a funny story about a new friend or how a teacher brings day-old bakery goodies to class, endearing him to this mass of hungry adolescents.

bedhead boys together on couchDuring this season of March Madness, I join my son on the couch and absorb a litany of sports statistics of his favorite teams. I’ve learned to ask specific questions about a few key players so I have a storyline to follow-up on each game. Sitting side-by-side, my son overlooks my lack of “fervor” at his level and seems to appreciate my tentative participation in his world of sports. We are training together in this new language of ours, connecting through the excitement of buzzer beaters, the disappointments of tough losses, and the shared eye-rolling at inane remarks offered by the color commentator.

These side-by-side moments are indirect and nonthreatening. With our eyes focused ahead on the road or a basketball game, our bodies are little more relaxed and the words come out a little more freely. We are aligned in a mutual activity. Somewhere in the midst of the drive or the time-outs in the game, I pick up nuggets about social interactions that would not have been shared directly in a face-to-face Q & A. I savor these and add them to my mommy collection of these brief moments that weave into the fabric of their childhood.


“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:19


I’ve learned that by coming alongside my boys in whatever they are doing or simply making myself present in their spaces, that something beautiful begins to unfold. A few words are batted between us. Sometimes I lob them too far and they miss their target entirely. Sometimes I come too close and they are returned with a solid shot. Timing is delicate. We tiptoe around, exploring neutral territory or trying a humorous diversion. Awkward moments are all too frequent, but we keep trying, side-by-side, because there’s a lot more than khaki socks out there, folks…but at least it’s a place to start.Tacosaurus socks

My Most Treasured Layer: Prayer

bear and kite

A Prayer for My Family: Dear Lord, thank you for making us family. Please ingrain in me Your Love Language and Fruits on a daily basis. Fill me with Patience, Kindness, Purity and so on.  I commit my husband’s work to You, Lord,  and may Your plans be established throughout his life. (Proverbs 16:3) May we both trust You with our whole hearts, and lean not on our own understanding. Make our paths straight, Lord Jesus. And Lord, I pray that our greatest joy be to hear that all of our children walk in Your Truth!! (3 John 4)

 

winter carnation

When I’ve had a full-plate day complete with joy, laughter, accomplishment, but also disgusting tasks, disappointments and weariness, I realize these are the normal days of life. I’m thankful for full days that keep coming. I find triumph and failure daily. I walk with the Lord, but can easily go skipping down side-trails before returning to the path. At night, when it all finally calms down and the pace halts, I quiet myself and finish the day with prayer. I reflect on the day with all its ups and downs. I am never perfect in a day, but its okay; I don’t climb that pedestal anymore. I just try to please my Heavenly Father’s heart. He tells me, “You will never fail.” Oh, but I feel so inadequate so often! So I pray…

This is what Prayer is for me:

A safe harbor, an instant hot-line, a lasting legacy, a quiet to the restless.                                        

This is my Prayer layer:

I start my day with a “hello” to the Lord and His Holy Spirit. Sometimes that’s called Quiet Time. I relish those moments, but they are hard in a busy household. They most often are a quick glance at a scripture off of my phone, but that is an opening prayer-layer to my day.

After watching the movie, War Room, I wrote out some “prayer strategies” that I taped in my closet to remind me to pray. They are simple in nature, but have turned out to be very powerful tools for my days.

I add another layer on the drive to school with my boys, we pray the Armor of God over our family before we separate for the day. We rotate and all take turns praying this prayer out loud over our family as we drive down the road.

armor

–Do not let a day pass that you don’t put on the custom-designed armor the Lord has fashioned just for you.

I send up snippets of prayer interwoven throughout my day for whoever the Lord places on my heart. Nothing is happenstance; if a person comes to mind, then pray for them. God loves detailing. And the layers continue…

On days that open to it, I pray for future events in my children’s lives; like new friendships formed, pressures and stressors that may arise; prayers of future layers of God-infused living. I pray for eternal things for my family.

So at the end of this crazy-busy day, even if I feel depleted, exhausted, stressed or strained, my heart can find peace in the reminder that God sweetly keeps all prayers  close to His heart. Keep praying, never ceasing, when you feel like it or when you don’t, do it anyway. He listens and He moves through our lives. These prayers, layer our very lives. They affect our family; they impact future things, and it is a gift to us to be able to pray.

Prayer: A most precious and treasured layer.

 Be still and know that I Am God.” Psalm 46:10

Love

valentine sign“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.” I Corinthians 13:13

During this season of valentine flutter, remember that God loves you. He created you to be the unique person you are. He created those around you to be unique individuals as well. Sometimes we may grate on each others’ nerves, but we strive to Love Anyway.

block heart

Circumstances may not be what we would like in our relationships. Our journeys may be a little bumpy at times. We can make the first gesture of Love: an act, a word, a touch, a simple note… Start small and keep your eyes open for those chances to Love Big.

glitter love
Time pressure is real and we may struggle to communicate our love to others because Impatience and Hurry get in the way. Slowing down to share a sweet moment matters. Remember, LOVE WINS. Every time.

boy with donut

As parents, we pour into our children’s lives day in and day out. Sometimes we have to pause, take our partner’s hand, and focus on one another to recognize what we cherish between us. A little love note today is just a bonus.

it only takes a moment

Wherever you may be, you can love strong.

Whoever you are with, you can love well.

Whatever you may face, you can love hopefully.

 

There’s a lot of chaos and clutter in the world, but today we can focus simply on LOVE.

the greatest of these is love

Love big

As parents we often do little things each day to show our children our love. We pick up after them. We make their favorite meal. We offer spontaneous hugs. We carpool. We share a story and snack after school. We pick up after them again.

Some days we have to love BIG…to show up for our kids on their turf…doing their thing, not ours

Gold Rush day

–dressing up with them for a special school event (hoping you don’t have to make any extra stops along the way because you feel a little silly being the only cowgirl at the grocery store)

–being a parent volunteer for the zoo field trip on a rainy day and receiving some high-energy kiddos in your small group because the teacher “knows you can handle it”

–getting into the passenger seat that first time your oldest gets his permit, thinking of how those hands were the little ones you held each day not so very long ago, guiding him across the streetnew driver

–going on a family “date” with your son’s new girlfriend, navigating the awkwardness-all-round as graciously as possible

–trying to be a good sport when you’re picked out of the crowd at the annual scout banquet by the guest speaker who proceeds to blindfold you and have you put your hand in a box. When the crowd screams wildly, you peek to see that your hand is IN a box of ROACHES! Not kidding. Let’s just say that the “friendly Bug Lady” is NOT on my Christmas card list.

Yeah, some moments we LOVE BIG. We take risks and wade through tricky situations, knowing that these are all moments our children are tucking into their hearts to treasure now and later. They may laugh at us, but inside they are thrilled that we loved them BIG enough to set aside our own insecurities for their special moment.


“There is no fear in love.” I John 4:18


Dare to LOVE BIG.

Love bumps

snow pile on momAs a mom to all boys, I’m used to Love Bumps…squeezes, shoulder taps, pokes, and more recently lifts over their shoulders as they have grown in stature. Boys show affectionate in all kind of bumpy ways. I’ve developed some good reflexes and tolerance for these unique gestures of affection.

 

This week I noticed I have some physical “evidence” of Love Bumps from my head to my feet. Literally.

I helped my mom move and got a busted lip from a floor lamp landing on my face. Ouch! I’ve been sporting a bruised and scratched lip all week, but really it’s just another type of Love Bump received by helping out a loved one.

I’ve got a few Love Bumps and Scratches from doing various household chores for my family, loving them through dishwashing, meal preparation and putting away endless groceries that come in nefarious packages that leave multiple paper cuts when you finally succeed in opening them.

A couple of purplish bruises on my shins are fading from some recent mother-son basketball shootouts that got a little rambunctious.

boys wrestling

I stepped out of the shower this morning and found a greenish bruise on my foot — another Love Bump, which I figured out was from a heavy lid my hubby dropped and bounced off my foot last night when he was unloading the dishwasher for me, a colorful echo of him showing love through action.

These outward signs of Love Bumps are a reminder of the ways we love others by lending a helping hand. Some of our other Love Bumps are less visible; we may be bruised in spirit. We may be weary prayer warriors lifting up the same prayers over and over, trusting for a positive shift in a situation or healing in a tense relationship.

If we are in the nitty gritty of life with each other, we are going to sustain Love Bumps from time to time. These incidents give us a shared story and a connection that we may not otherwise have.

So, march on and steady yourself for your next Love Bump.

(Watch out for those trickster lamps though!)

“Dear children, let us not LOVE with words or speech

but with ACTIONS and in TRUTH.” I John 3:18