Here’s a flash fiction piece I wrote awhile back. I thought you all, in the throws of Intentional Parenting, might like a little something lighter…and sweet.
Aubrey twisted around on the couch, tucked her feet under her legs, and stared out the window at the rain. She sighed deeply, in the way she imagined characters in books sighing.
The couch bounced an inch closer to the window before Aubrey finished her next breath. It was Zadie, plopping down with a sigh of her own. Aubrey kept her eyes trained out the window. Mom and Dad were right to choose opposite ends of the alphabet for our names, Aubrey thought. We are as different as A is from Z. Even our sighs are different.Continue reading “How to Hug a Lightning Bolt (flash fiction)”→
So I did something crazy. I caught a ride to a writers' conference with a
complete stranger. Okay, I knew her on-line, but I'd never actually met her
before. The four-hour (each way) trip passed in minutes as we talked about
anything and everything. At some point, she told me about her family's
Friday night traditions; I knew she needed to share their story with you! So
please welcome Stephanie Pavlantos, now my actual face-to-face
writer-friend, to Intentional Parenting. Read more about her at the end.
Three children under three. That was my world. My husband worked long hours at our family restaurant, making me feel like a single mom.
When I went to the doctor for swollen lymph nodes, pain all over my body, and a sore throat, she said, “You have mono, but we rarely see that in women your age, are you under a lot of stress?”
“Ha! Does having three children under three years old count?” I asked.
I had two-and-a-half year old preemie twins (boy and girl) and a one-year-old son. My oldest son, who has cerebral palsy and was just learning to walk, needed a lot of extra attention, including therapy, not to mention extra daily help.
I needed to make life as simple as I could.
Like all children, mine wanted to have fun and be entertained. But I was only one person, and taking them out by myself was not only nerve-racking (hence, the mono) but also expensive.
Matthew had physical and occupational therapy every Friday morning. During the summer, the local Children’s Hospital had a really inexpensive outdoor lunch for the outpatient children and their parents. It wasn’t the most nutritious, but it was easy! We got a drink, chips, and a hot dog at the hospital’s playground, and my kids loved it. I thought, I can do this. So, at different times of the month I would pack up their lunches, put each in their own little lunch bag, and take everyone to the park. They played, they ate, they had fun, and it cost me very little.
Another tradition involved Fridays. After physical and occupational therapy every Friday, the first thing we did was go to the library for books and movies. These were going to last them all week, so they could each get two movies and as many books as they could carry, or, um, I could carry. From there, we went to the local drug store where they could each pick one of the discounted snacks to eat later. When we got home, they popped in the first movie while I straightened up my house. Dinner was always pizza. My youngest is almost twenty-one now, and he still wants pizza on Friday night. “It’s a tradition,” he says.
We all watched an age appropriate movie while enjoying our pizza. Then, all three kids went to the twins’ bedroom and watched the next movie on another TV while eating their special snack. That’s when I finally got to sit and watch something I wanted to. My twenty-two year old daughter recently told me this is a favorite memory. She enjoyed the routine and looked forward to it each week.
We have done many other things with our kids over the years—big and small trips. But sometimes it’s the little, inexpensive things which bring us together and let our children know we want to be with them. This is what they remember.
Does your family share some simple but special habits? Do your older kids remember a childhood pattern you thought was insignificant? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below!
Stephanie Pavlantos is passionate about getting people into God’s Word, where they can discover God’s love for them, their identity in Christ, and healing for the wounds of this life, while forgiving those who caused their pain. She has been a Bible study teacher and speaker for over fifteen years. Stephanie’s work-in-progress, a Bible study called Yeshua, God’s Son, our Treasure: A Quest through the Book of Hebrews, recently won an award at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
Stephanie and her husband, Mike, have been married for 26 years and have three college students: Matthew, Alexandria, and Michael. Stephanie also loves animals. Her brood currently includes has two dogs, four ducks, three goats, and many chickens.
I love hearing from parents who are further along the parenting path. This
month, Carol Roper reflects on how Christmas has changed through the years.
If you're one who likes the holidays to stay the same, these may be just
the words you need to hear/read. Make sure to learn more about Carol and
connect with her at the end of the post!
I remember so many of my kids’ firsts. Their first birthdays, haircuts and sleepovers. First days of school, first friends and first dates. One of the most anticipated occasions, however, was their first Christmas.
My husband and I were married eight years before our oldest was born, so I was ready to celebrate the wonder and excitement of the season in a new way. I have to admit, though, it was a bit of a letdown. Six-month-olds don’t really get into Christmas. They’d rather chew on wrapping paper than open all those new toys.
As for my second-born, we were a little more practical and got him an exersaucer for his big gift. But when we set him in it, he promptly threw up and spiked a high fever. That wasn’t the dream Christmas I’d envisioned either.
But since then we’ve had many great Christmas holidays—it’s still my favorite season.
I’ve always loved to play Christmas music during the evenings in December. I remember when my daughter, Elise, was only two and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” came on the radio. I’d crank up the music and we’d laugh and dance wildly across our little den. I can still see those big curls bouncing around her little cherub face. To this day, when we hear that song, we’ll look at each other and grin.
There were the annual Christmas card pictures I had to cajole my son, Jacob, into posing for. The magic reindeer dust we’d sprinkle on the lawn on Christmas Eve to make sure Santa would find us. And the holiday baking that always made such a mess but brought lots of smiles.
As they got older I realized I needed to make Christmas more Christ-centered so I began a new tradition that included three gifts for each family member to represent the gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense and myrrh. This new tradition brought more depth to our Christmas morning, reminding us of the reason we celebrate.
This year will be our newest and most difficult first as a family: the first Christmas since not just one, but both of our children, have moved out—less than six months apart.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… –Ecclesiastes 3:1
My son married a wonderful young woman last July and my daughter built her own house. My husband and I are suddenly empty-nesters. Grappling with what that means for us is something I really hadn’t spent much time pondering. In the back of my mind I knew it was coming but didn’t think it would arrive so quickly.
I’m not sure what to expect this year. Elise says she’ll spend Christmas Eve night in her old room, so she’ll be here Christmas morning. But Jacob and his bride will be visiting her family, so we’ll see them later in the day. Marriage means sharing our children with their spouse’s family.
No. Christmas morning won’t be the same.
But I’m determined to be intentional about adding new traditions to our growing family—ones that will stir the hearts of my children and, hopefully someday, grandchildren. My goal is to always have our home be a place of respite, love and joy. A place where Christ and family are cherished and celebrated. I’ll just have to be a little more creative in implementing these traditions, remembering they’ll look a little different from here on out. But different doesn’t have to mean bad. After all, we’ve gained another daughter.
Don’t be afraid to change.
You may lose something good but you may gain something better.
How have you prepared yourself for the holiday season after your kids leave home? Are there any new traditions you’ve added that your kids (or you and your husband) appreciate? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Carol Roper is a designer/draftsman and writer who freelances from her home in South Carolina. Her articles have appeared in Guideposts Magazine, Guideposts.org, American Daily Herald and ChristianDevotions.us. She and her husband, John, live on a farm where they enjoy hosting friends and family around bonfires and watching sunsets from their front porch. Visit her at www.carolroper.org, where she encourages women to build strong, godly homes one story at a time.
You don't have to meet someone in person to respect and appreciate them.
Leigh Ann is a wise and thoughtful parent who lives with purpose, like
Intentional Parenting should be done. I've benefited from her thoughts many
times, and I know you will here. I'm so glad to welcome her here today. Be
sure to connect with her using the links at the bottom.
I leaned against the wall of the clothing store changing area and worked to stay upright and attentive. My older daughters had an “urgent” need for new jeans, so I had promised a quick shopping trip after an already long school day and several hours of ball practice.
The week had been a flurry of practices, out-of-town ballgames, and church youth activities—the typical whirlwind of (dis)organized chaos.
So I sighed. And I leaned.
The changing area was empty (other moms fortunate enough to be home starting dinner) so the girls grabbed adjacent rooms. I closed my eyes and waited for the fashion show.
Until I heard a giggle. I looked, and there they were—just beneath the changing room curtains—three beautiful pairs of feet.
Three pairs. Three dressing room stalls. Three places in life.
Tiny baby feet—well, not so tiny. Six years old, mesmerized by her own reflection. Dancing to piped-in music. Thrilled to be a part of what her big sisters were doing. Bright-eyed and eager to follow bigger footsteps.
Middle-sized feet—stretching, yearning to slip into jeans perhaps “too old” or “too big.” Coming into her own. A girlish beauty with one foot in the teen years, one in childhood. A pair of feet on the threshold of possibility.
Almost-grown feet—stylish and trendy. Lovely, feminine, approaching womanhood, but still so much a girl. Feet that “must have” this or that. Always longing for something new, only to discard it a moment later.
Three pairs of feet. Different, but the same. A three-dimensional picture of the glorious spectrum of childhood. Innocent, hopeful, budding. Dreaming of possibilities, of a future.
Imagining life in the next dressing room.
As I waited for my daughters to model their favorite finds, I paused to take in the now gold-hued moment. My heart reached out to God: Please, Lord, let me remember this day. May this image be engraved on my heart and mind, a reminder to be thankful, and to pray for the girls individually and often. May I never be impatient with their life-seasons or push them into the next dressing room. Help me to nurture them where they are, in this time. Thank you, Father, for slowing my frantic pace and opening my eyes.
In the blur of the everyday, we need to stop and simply be. To open our physical and spiritual eyes and see what is before us. To gather priceless snapshots in time and tuck them away for another—quieter—day.
To be still, breathe, and be thankful. To live Psalm 90:12—Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
This day, this moment is a rare treasure. How will we breathe it in?
I love those historical markers you see along the roads. They’re embossed metal, with print so small you could never read it from the car, even if you weren’t zooming past. Some stand beside busy thoroughfares, but some are on quiet streets or by scenic overlooks. We stop if we can. (I guess we’re history nerds.)
Our plates were full. We had said the blessing, and our forks were busy. We were talking about our day, like we usually did around the dinner table, when my seven-year-old dropped an F-bomb in the middle of her sentence.
I swallowed my steamed broccoli without chewing.
The look on her face told me she knew she’d done something…questionable. “Hey sweetie, where’d you hear that word?”
As if she didn’t know!
I made myself say it as casually as possible.
She answered just as casually, “At school.”
Of course. (I could probably have guessed which child said it, but we won’t go into that here.) I glanced at our four-year-old, then back to the older child. “Do you know what it means?”
“Not really. Is it a bad word, like the s-word?” (By which, she meant stupid.)
Um, yes! We talked about the definition for a few minutes, treading lightly toward the level of detail her young mind needed. Then someone changed the subject—thankfully.
We could have shut her down, scolded her for saying such a terrible word, and refused to discuss it. But what good would that do? We would have created something dangerous, something worth trying again.
Instead, we demystified it. We made it not-a-big-deal by explaining the word and why we didn’t use it.
Before you start busting out Bible verses on me, let me assure you this is where we always end up:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. –Ephesians 4:29
That little girl is fifteen now. She’s learning to drive.
In the intervening eight years, we’ve had several other inappropriate and/or disgusting conversations at the dinner table, in the car, and on the couch. We’ll probably have more in the next few years, too. At least I hope we do.
Here’s why we chose to parent this way and what I want my kids to know.
My children can ask me anything, and they won’t get in trouble for asking it. I want to be their source of information because I speak from a Christ-centered worldview in an unchristlike world. That’s means sometimes we say words I would never voice on my own and talk about topics I’d rather not discuss. They will discuss these things with someone. Better that it’s me than their peers or the internet.
I was a kid/teenager once, too. I know all the filthy language, all the rude gestures, and most of the dirty jokes. They can’t shock or offend me. (Okay, sometimes these days, my oldest child explains slang terms to me. I’m okay with that.) Therefore, I’ve already made the choice not to talk this way, and I have good reasons, which I will gladly share.
Language becomes offensive in how we use it, not in the combination of letters. The F-word, the B-word, and the S-word have a history. They actually meant something in the past, but our culture has corrupted them. Other aspects of culture are corrupted as well. We can step back and talk about those things with our children, recognizing what glorifies God and what doesn’t, or we can create barriers to their understanding.
In the end, whether it’s bad words or dirty jokes, our standard is biblical. When we (and our children) know why certain words are off-limits, we can all make better choices about the language we use. When we make good choices about language, we’re already making good choices about our thoughts, and we’re on our way to making good choices about our actions.
Everyone knows Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games and Tris Prior of the Divergent series. YA fiction (especially dystopian fiction) abounds with strong female protagonists. But beyond Nancy Drew, such fictional role models are harder to find for the younger set. We scoured libraries and book stores trying to satiate my daughter’s appetite for good books with great girls in the lead. Her standards were high (still are), but we unearthed some awesome series!
Here are five amazing, fictional girls whose names are now embedded in our family conversations. We enthusiastically recommend these heroines to anyone who will listen.
The Ruby Redfort series, by Lauren Child (of Charlie and Lola fame), packs the punch of James Bond with the quick wit of Lisa Simpson. Unbeknownst to her parents, Ruby becomes a spy, implementing all the best spy gadgets (even the ones she wasn’t supposed to take from headquarters) and repeatedly saving the world while just managing to get her homework done on time. Outlandish enough to make you wonder if it could be true, Ruby’s adventures leave her readers feeling confident and wide-eyed.
If your middle-grade reader loves adventure, intrigue, outlandish contraptions, and problem-solving, introduce her to Ruby Redfort!
Kirsten Miller has assembled a group of bad-girl geniuses to protect New York City from below. They’re called the Irregulars. No challenge is too big, no mystery too enigmatic, and no risk too dangerous for these amazing girls! Teamwork doesn’t come easy to this bunch, but they learn to combine their skills to solve mysteries they couldn’t conquer independently. (Why no photo? These books were checked out when we went to the library.)
If your child is ready for more sophisticated stories but not quite up to YA yet, introduce her to Kiki’s band of brilliant misfits who will inspire her own curiosity and courage.
Sophie St. Pierre in Red Blazer Girls
Michael Beil draws on his experience as a math teacher in a private school to create three friends who attend a private school where, not surprisingly, the uniform includes a red blazer. They’re just trying to help a neighbor when they find themselves following lots of brainy clues and working out geometry puzzles to solve an old mystery. All the while, they’re also dealing with homework, crushes, and typical middle-school drama.
If you just know your young reader would like Nancy Drew (if only she could get past the now-archaic pacing and silly situations), pick up The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour and challenge her to solve the mystery before Sophie.
Princess Annie in Wide Awake Princess
E.D. Baker has created an anti-princess—a heroine who counters every stereotype of a “good” princess. The younger sister of Sleeping Beauty, Annie is immune to magic and can’t imagine waiting on any prince to come and rescue her. Instead, she repeatedly rescues her big sister and the prince! These books offer a fun, modern twist on well-known fairy tales—one where quick thinking and courage count for more than physical appearance and charm (the feminine kind or the magic kind).
If your early middle-grade reader enjoys the fantastical elements of fairy tales but finds herself frustrated by the classic princess’ inability to help herself, hand her The Wide-Awake Princess.
Emma Hawthorne in The Mother-Daughter Book Club
In this cute series, Heather Vogel Frederick throws four dissimilar sixth-grade girls together against their wills when their mothers decide to form a book club for them. They can’t imagine talking to each other at school, but when they share Little Women, they discover they may have more in common than they expected.
Each book in the series follows the girls through another year of school and another classic work of fiction (including Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë). Frederick integrates her love of classic literature with the standard problems of middle and high schoolers to create sweet friendships and many laughs.
If you would love for your child to read the classics but she’s not interested, let Emma and her friends whet your daughter’s appetite while they also show her that people who are different can learn to care about each other.
This week, I'm pleased to introduce you to Jann Martin. On her own blog,
Jann recently did a series of posts on The 5 Love Languages for Children. I
asked her over here today to summarize all her work and study (in less than
1000 words--no small task). If you haven't read the book, this will be a
good introduction. If you have, it's still a great reminder (one that I
needed!). Find out more about Jann at the end of this post.
It’s important to teach our children all of The Five Love Languages of Children. This will help them become more rounded adults and care for others around them. It may be difficult for them at first to learn how to reach out to others, but it’s very important that as they grow they learn more about how others feel and act. This will teach them not to be selfish and self-centered, but to care for and about others.
It will take time to figure out your child’s love language. When they are infants we use all of the languages with them. They are very self-centered and can’t tell us the best way to reach out to them. As they grow we will learn what responses work the best. Try to be aware of what words and actions work best in different situations.
Be honest with your children as you talk with them and reprimand them. Don’t, however, tell them what, how, and why you are saying and doing different things. This can lead to the child manipulating you to get what they want.
Describing the “Languages”
Physical touch – Touch in each stage of life is different. For infants and toddlers, it’s easy to give a lot of touch and loving cuddles. Both boys and girls need all of the love and comforting touches they can get.
When the children become school-age it’s important to send them off to school with hugs. This can give them a positive start to their day. There is so much new for them at school that they need that little extra reassurance before they head out for the day. The hug at the end of the day can be just as important, especially if they have had a challenging day.
Next, we come to the pre-teen and teen kids. This can be challenging. They want to break away, yet they still want their full support system to be there for them. Girls especially need reassurance and hugs from their dads to give them a healthy look at men as they grow older.
Words of affirmation – Encouraging our children with words of affirmation gives them the courage they need to grow up to be strong adults. What they learn with these types of lessons gives them the basis for treating others as they would like to be treated as well.
Quality time – We can turn any time with our children into quality time. Take advantage of a long ride. Ask a few questions or share something from your past. Your children will love to hear stories about how you met your husband or wife.
Plan quality time with each of your children. It could be a day alone with them. Go shopping, or to a movie, then their favorite restaurant for a meal. Another example could be reading together. If they can read, have them read their favorite book or a few chapters to you.
Gifts – For some children receiving gifts is very important. They look forward to their parents returning from vacations and business trips. They can’t wait to see what new thing they will receive. However, parents need to be mindful of making sure their child’s other love language needs are met.
We need to be careful not to use gifts as payments for chores or a bribe to stay busy so you can accomplish a task. These types of gifts make a child feel unloved and that receiving the gift is only if they do what is asked of them.
They also may want to make and give gifts to those around them. This can be family, friends, or teachers.
Acts of service – We want our children to grow up wanting to help others. If this is their love language, it’s easy for them to reach out to loved ones. They can do a chore, make a meal, or take them to a place where they can help others. We want to teach them to reach out to those in need around them without expecting something in return. Jesus showed this gift of love over and over throughout his ministry.
Discerning Your Child’s Primary “Language”
As your child grows, keep a mental record of how they express their love to you. Do they tell you they love you? Are they asking for attention, or how they did on a project? Then their love language would be Words of affirmation.
When they are relating to others and want to take something to friends, family, or teachers, they are showing the language of Gifts. It gives them pleasure to see others happy to receive something from them.
Is your child complaining that you are too busy? Is your time being split with another child or you have work to do around the house because you work away from home and are trying to get everything done? What and how often they are asking for or complaining about will help you see their love language may be Quality Time.
Is Physical touch something that is very important in your relationship with your child? They may enjoy lots of hugs, sitting close, or even being tickled. Any form of touch can be felt as an expression of love for them.
For some the Act of Service is very important. They are always looking for a way to help or do something for someone. They don’t want to be paid or recognized, the act of doing is reward enough for them.
I hope you learned something new to help you with Intentional Parenting. Which “language” is most challenging for you to demonstrate with your children? Have any fun thoughts or memories on how to show love to your child in the way they best understand? Leave Jann and me a comment below!
Jann W. Martin is a wife, mother of two girls, and Nina to four grandchildren. She is also an author, teacher, speaker and blogger. Her dream is to captivate the hearts of children, by writing stories that teach them of the Bible through the eyes of a child. Catch up with Jann on any of these platforms:
This girl! I just love her honest perspective and practical attitude.
I met Jenifer at a writers conference last May, and I immediately wanted her
to share here on Intentional Parenting. It took almost a year but here she
is! I'm sure you'll be blessed by her words...and maybe you'll think about
your own stinky trash can a little differently in the future. You can read
more about Jenifer at the bottom.
A few months ago I walked into the house and the smell hit me. It was overwhelming. The trash HAD to go!
I had been in the house all day and I didn’t smell it, but when I left and came back it was overwhelming. I didn’t realize how bad it had become.
I’m proud to welcome Meredith Mills to Intentional Parenting today! She has
some great ideas to help us maintain and/or improve our family mealtime.
You can read more about Meredith and get in touch with her at the bottom of
“I’m glad we eat together as a family,” said my pre-teen daughter as she served up a second helping. Her comment warmed my heart. I, too, love our shared moments around the table.
Sometimes they’re rushed as we squeeze in a meal before Wednesday night AWANA or some other obligation. But most often, our dinners are times of sweet fellowship as we experience life together.
Mealtimes provide a regular opportunity for us to touch base and talk about what’s going on in our everyday lives. Relationships blossom as we listen to each other’s hearts and respond with acceptance and love.
As parents, we equip ourselves to provide protection for our kids when we discuss interactions with friends, observe attitudes, and listen to what’s important to them.
Here are some practical tips for creating memorable mealtimes:
We are less distracted and more people-focused when our devices are turned off or stowed away from the table. Our family has a designated “phone basket” for use during meals.
Keep it relaxed
Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance around the dinner table. This is a fabulous time to discuss issues important to our family and model respect as each person explains his or her opinion. When God’s Word and His grace are central, these discussions can build up the faith of those gathered there.
The internet abounds with “conversation starters” – questions we can ask to get the proverbial ball rolling. (We recently bought a pack of napkins which had discussion questions printed on each napkin!) The best questions require more than yes or no answers. They probe deeply into hearts, souls and imaginations; they strengthen the friendships we share.
Make room for fun
Our kids love to tell their newest jokes and riddles during dinner. Sometimes we also craft impromptu stories around the table. One person starts out the story and sets the scene, then “passes the baton” to the next person, who adds his or her own ideas to the plot. It’s our family’s version of a choose-your-own adventure story.
Model healthy habits
From portion control and eating our veggies, to providing an example of good listening skills, mealtimes enable us to model habits our kids need to lead healthy lives.
Find your own rhythm
For many families, busy evening schedules prevent daily dinners at home. However, this doesn’t make meals together impossible. Through prayer and some creativity, each of us can find a routine that works for our family. Here are some ideas to think through:
Is it possible to shift dinner to later in the evening, allowing everyone time to get home?
Could you pick one night of the week as “family dinner night” and protect it like any other appointment on your calendar?
What about Saturday morning breakfast or Sunday lunch together?
Prioritizing mealtime togetherness is a priceless gift we can give to our families. It takes intentionality, wisdom, and creativity, as well as some boundary-setting with our schedules, but the benefits certainly outweigh the effort.
How do you make room for family meals? What’s your favorite activity around the table? Please share some “best practices” in the comments below. We’d all love to hear from you.
Meredith Mills is a wife and mother to three inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving kids. She loves finding Jesus in the everyday and is passionate about helping others experience Him, too. She blogs at www.DazzledByTheSon.wordpress.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter.