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Care Packages for Our College Kids

I was delighted when my friend Angie emailed me and some other mothers of freshmen college students, and suggested we get together to make care packages for our kids.

Each mom would bring one item and a note of encouragement for each student. Angie would pick up Priority Mail boxes at the Post Office and we’d get together for coffee to put the packages together assembly-line style. What a great idea!

It was a wonderful time!  Here’s what it looked like:

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These were my contribution.  I gave the girls fancy bobby pins, note cards, and a Butter Finger, and the boys got fake eyebrows (it was the week before Halloween) and Milk Duds.

collegecare-3I put them in cute bags I found at Target, with little notes attached. On the  girls’ notes I wrote  the Scripture, “The Lord your God is with you,” (Zephaniah 3:17), and on the boys’ notes I wrote Proverbs 15:13, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful”–keep smiling!

collegecare-4We lined up the boxes and everyone dropped their items in each. Here is Jane putting in her contributions.

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It was a lot of fun!

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Susan brought fun and fuzzy socks.

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We took time to pray together for our kids and sent the boxes off with love and blessings.

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Everyone took their own boxes to put in the mail.

I hope our kids realize how blessed they are to have such a wonderful community of moms supporting them!

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After the Launch: Finding Your New Normal

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It’s September—back to school month! But, for moms of college students, particularly freshmen (or moms whose kids have joined the military), “back-to-school” has a different spin on it. Instead of seeing their children off to high school in the morning and anticipating their return at the end of the day, a lot of moms in my circle of friends (myself included) are right now saying “good-bye” to their kids for what might be months on end.

          It’s exciting for the kids—who are off on a new adventure, and the start of the rest of their life. But it doesn’t always seem as exciting for Mom and Dad, who are left with an empty spot at the dinner table and a person missing from their household. I have heard from a lot of moms in particular lately who are really struggling with this.

          My husband is the youngest of six children, and I remember my late mother-in-law having a tough time when he left for Marine Corps boot camp at age 18. In his haste, he forgot some record albums, leaving them scattered on the floor by the stereo, and a pair of his shoes in the middle of the family room floor. I think she left them there for at least three months! Bless her heart; she wasn’t quite ready to admit her nest was really empty.

          I have launched four of my five children (most recently Tim, who is a freshman at Washington State University this year), so I understand this! I thought about my mother-in-law when it took me a couple of weeks after he left to go into Tim’s room and change the sheets on his bed, clean out his clutter, and make the room neat enough to use as a guest room when the occasion arises. I could relate a bit to how she must have felt, especially considering that Doug was her last to leave the nest.

          There are a lot of ways we moms can react to our emptying nest. We can celebrate the season and grow joyfully into our new role as parents of adult children, or we can mourn the loss of the old season and try to hang on to the little people our children used to be—and to our role as their mommies. I see women go both ways.

          Having a child leave home can produce feelings of sadness in both dads and moms, but it’s generally moms who feel it most. More often than not (and I realize there are exceptions) it is mothers who are the front line nurturers. Whether we work outside the home or not, we still tend to be the primary day-to-day caregivers in the first 18 years. Because of this, we are the ones who often experience the strongest sense of loss.

          In Parenting for the Launch (to be released late October), I share some things moms can do to help navigate (and enjoy!) this “new normal.” Here are a few of them:

  • Find some positives about the new situation and actively take advantage of them. Do you now have an empty bedroom you can redecorate and turn into another kind of useful space? Do you have more time in your schedule now that you can use to go back to school, start or resurrect a career, or volunteer?
  • Build new friendships or renew old ones. The ability to spend more time with friends is a great benefit of your transition from full-time parent to parent-with-kids-launched.
  • Spend some more time with your husband (when was the last time you went on a real date?)  
  • DON’T inundate your child with calls, texts, or Facebook messages. And, don’t let yourself feel the loss all over again if your child fails to reply as frequently as he or she once did to your calls or texts. DO schedule regular phone or Skype calls (decide these in advance). Treat his or her time with respect, as you would any other adult in your life.
  • Revisit, or maybe learn for the first time, the power of prayer. When you are no longer the one caring for, reminding, protecting, and encouraging your now-adult child on a daily basis, you can entrust them to the hands of One who can. I believe prayer is the biggest and best thing we can do for our kids … to put them daily before God and ask for His love, wisdom, direction, and protection over their lives.

          I tell Hillary, our youngest, how great it’s going to be for her this year as an only child, because now she will have her parents’ undivided attention, to focus on her every need (and every move). So, why does she run screaming from the room when I tell her that? 

          (Don’t worry; I’m just kidding, Hill.) 🙂

How have you handled “the launch?” What has been your experience? Please share your stories and encouragement; there are other moms who would like to hear from you!

Join the Parenting for the Launch “Launch Team”

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In late October, LifeSmart Publishing will be releasing its new book, Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, co-authored by Dennis Trittin and myself. This work is in response to the plea from parents, business leaders, and educators for better-prepared and responsible young leaders. We need your help to make this cause a reality!

 

That’s why we’re inviting our friends, family, and influential leaders to join us in creating a special “Launch Team” for this book. This will be a group of people who are willing to take on the role of ambassadors and help us get the word out about our mission and book.

 

Team Member Benefits

 

As a Launch Team member you will get:

 

  1. A free, electronic PDF review copy of the book manuscript in advance of the publication date.
  2. Exclusive communication with us and the other team members in a Private Facebook Group
  3. A special THANK YOU on our website with link to your blog or website
  4. A limited time 25%-off discount on your order(s) of Parenting for the Launch and What I Wish I Knew at 18 products
  5. A free signed copy of the book after the launch
  6. The intrinsic reward of knowing that you’re investing in stronger parenting and a better-prepared younger generation.

 

 

Team Member Requirements

 

As a member of the Parenting for the Launch /Launch Team you:

 

  • Write a brief book review on Amazon and/or other e-tailers (Barnes & Noble, etc.)
  • “Like” our FB page, sign up for our email newsletter, and follow us on Twitter
  • Help spread the word about the book to your existing sphere of influence and beyond. (Think Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, direct emails, placing requests at your local book store, etc.)
  • Share ideas and brainstorm additional ways we might further expose the book to an even greater audience. All ideas are welcome!

 

That’s it!

 

Team Member Sign-Up

 

Please let us know if you are interested in being part of our Launch Team. You can let us know by sending us a direct message via Facebook or emailing at arlynjlawrence@gmail.com. Thank you in advance for your consideration, support, and ambassadorship!

 

 

 

Coming Soon! Parenting for the Launch

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It’s been two and a half years since the release of What I Wish I Knew at 18 and, oh what an amazing time it’s been! We could never have envisioned the success and impact it has had. We have been humbled and awed as the book and its accompanying course have made their way into homes, schools, mentor programs, and around the world.

           

One of the surprising responses to What I Wish I Knew at 18 has been the resounding plea from parents, educators, businesses, mentor and faith organizations, and at-risk youth programs: Please write a book for parents!

           

Here’s why. Colleges and employers report that an alarming percentage of today’s high school graduates are ill equipped to handle the pressures and responsibilities of the real world. As our world is becoming more competitive, kids are often lacking the personal skills and qualities to succeed. The economic climate and job market are especially challenging these days, not to mention the cultural climate that offers innumerable distractions and potential de-railers that most of us never experienced (or even imagined!).

 

Many parents describe feeling isolated, ill-equipped and under-prepared, with kids who don’t appear be listening during this crucial time of life. They are anxious about their children leaving home and their relationships are often strained. At a time when parents want to become closer to their teens, they feel like they’re being pushed away in favor of other voices. These questions fill their thoughts:

 

1.     Have we covered the bases?

2.     How will our relationship change?

3.     Are they ready?

4.     Are we ready???

           

I collaborated on this project with Dennis (author of What I Wish I Knew at 18)  because we firmly believe agree that young adults today need more than head knowledge. They need a solid, comprehensive leadership foundation that will support them and enable them to make key decisions in these crucial years and beyond. This includes having a purposeful life perspective, solid character, strong personal disciplines, the ability to develop healthy relationships, career smarts, financial management skills, and the capacity to overcome adversity.

           

We believe, along with our spouses, that the first place this training needs to happen is in the home. Parents have a unique role in preparing their children for a successful launch to the real world. And, while there are many excellent parenting books out there, many focus on behavior and discipline without offering the complete picture of life readiness. 

 

So that’s why we put our heads (and computers) together to write Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. We hope it will inspire, equip, and encourage other parents with proven principles and innovative strategies to confidently navigate the later teen years, particularly in that strategic period leading up to the “launch.”

             

Parenting for the Launch is expected to be released in late October, 2013. Please help us grow our circle by “liking” our FB page and following us on Twitter! Help us spread the word by joining our Launch Team and sharing Parenting for the Launch with your friends, family, and associates. And if you’re not already on our email newsletter, you can sign up here.

You can pre-order Parenting for the Launch by clicking on this link:
http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/03217.htm

 

 

 

 

Relationship Status: Married and Dating

The night before last I babysat my brand-new granddaughter for the first time. What a treat. A whole evening to snuggle her, all to myself.

Just last week my daughter rolled her eyes at me and said, “Mom, why are you so into her?”

Oh please. (People warned me it would be love at first sight, but you really don’t know till you experience it just how hard and how quickly a grandchild can grab your heart.)

But I digress.

Speaking of heart-grabbing, though, the REASON I got to babysit Willa was that Heather and Jacob were going out on their FIRST DATE. Well, obviously, not their FIRST first date.  What I mean is, their first date post-baby (three weeks).  I joked with them on their way out the door, “You’re probably going to sit across the table from each other and wonder what you talked about before you had a baby.”

I was so glad they did that, though. Hats off to them. I’m glad they’ve picked up on the important truth that DATING YOUR SPOUSE IS SO IMPORTANT, whether your kids are newborns, teenagers, or adults.

Where do we find time?  We MAKE time. My life is as crazy as yours is. Really, most people’s lives are, aren’t they? A whirlwind of work, appointments, kids and their activities, household chores and responsibilities—not to mention church and community volunteering, time with friends and extended family,  and more!

But come on, folks, there are NO EXCUSES.

Romance (and all intimacy, really) starts with simply connecting relationally. It’s something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. It won’t just happen (or stay hot) on its own. You’ve got to work at it.

I totally agree with what I recently read from relationship expert Michelle Weiner-Davis, who cites kids as being a major reason for romantic disconnect in a marriage. “As a culture, we have become very child-focused and parents feel like they need to spend all their free time with their kids,” she explains, “but parents should spend time with one another for their kids. If they don’t spend time with one another, they’re not bonding or building [on their] friendship.”

Michelle says that, as a practicing marriage counselor, she is often able to cut to the root of the problem in the couples she counsels by asking one simple question: “When was the last time you went on a date?”

Now, let me point out that a “date” is not going to your kids’ soccer game together, attending church together, doing your yard work at the same time, or lying in bed watching TV. A date is doing something you both enjoy together, without any distractions, that allows you the opportunity to reconnect with each other and re-affirm what drew you together in the first place.

Doug and I are coming up on our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. When I tell people that (for example, it came up at the doctor’s office just yesterday), I always get comments. “Wow, you don’t hear that much these days.” Or “Good for you; that’s amazing.”

I don’t know that it’s so amazing; I wish it were the status quo! But while Doug and I certainly haven’t done everything right along the way, there is one thing we’ve prioritized that I think has been a consistent source of relational “glue” in our relationship. (I call it glue because it helps us stick together. 🙂 )

We have always made time to get out by ourselves, even when our five kids were small and we were struggling to make ends meet on a single income. They may have been cheap dates during some of those years, but we figured out how to make it work. And at least once a year, we’ve gone away together, just the two of us. We leaned on Grandma and Grandpa. We traded babysitting with friends. And when the older kids were old enough to watch the younger kids, we left them alone and prayed they wouldn’t kill each other. (Just kidding.)

Do you need creative ideas?  Go get an ice cream cone and go for a walk on the waterfront (we can do that in our town). Dinner and a movie (you should definitely include the dinner part because if it’s just a movie you won’t talk). A hike. A ball game. A concert. A museum or art gallery. A car race or sports event.  You know yourselves and what you like (and what each other likes).

Doug and me at a baseball game last weekend

The activity is not as important as the time spent together alone, applying a little relational glue.  It will help you maintain your identity as a couple, not two individuals living in the same house and rushing madly through life at the same time, with the same scenery, but never connecting in a meaningful way.

I think our families, our communities, and the next generation as a whole would be a whole lot better off if more of us paid attention to our coupleness.  I can’t fix the world, but I can work on me, and so can you.

So, when’s the last time YOU dated YOUR spouse?  If it’s been a while, will you schedule it into your calendar and make it happen? And if you and your spouse are regular daters, please share your best ideas with the rest of us.

What’s your favorite date with your spouse?

No Worst Case Scenario

Granted, I’m an optimist. I like my life, as well as my eggs, “sunny side up.” Pollyanna was one of my favorite movies of all time (I even named one of my daughters after the actress who played the main character, Hayley Mills).

That being said, even if I weren’t an optimist, I would still believe this: With God, there is no worst case scenario.

I was reminded of that just this week, facing a medical situation. Thankfully, the combination of my swollen lymph nodes and bottomed-out iron levels did NOT equal something cancerous.  But they could have. And yes, a couple moments of fear did cross my mind before the hematologist ruled that out and pronounced me simply, profoundly anemic. IV iron infusion, here I come …

Being confronted with fear (i.e., getting my boat rocked) once in a while is probably a good thing. It sure shows me where my trust is, anyway. It reminds me that fear says, “What if?” whereas faith says, “So what!” I want to be a woman of faith. Not flippant faith, but sound, solid faith that knows the facts and looks past them to a truer reality: Faith says that God is bigger than anything life, the world, or the devil can throw my way.

You might think I’m being overly simplistic and maybe I am a bit. But if my life belongs to God, if I’m really trusting Him in the driver’s seat, then I can trust that He will direct. He will provide. He will make the crooked ways straight and the broken things whole.  It’s what He does. He’s a compassionate, powerful, redemptive Father who always comes to His children’s rescue (Psalm 103:8-14). Maybe not always in the ways I would like Him to. But He always shows up!

And in the meantime, I  believe Jesus’ promises: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world … I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (John 16:33; Luke 10:19). I am with you. I have given you authority to overcome. Nothing will harm you.

I’m not being a Pollyanna when I say I don’t believe anyone should live held down by fear, anxiety, hopeless, sorrow, or panic: What if? What if? What if???

If IF happens, He will still be there.  He will still be good. He will still provide, direct, redeem, and restore.  It’s who He is. It’s what He does. And I’m so very, very glad about that.

“There are eight hundred happy texts, did you know that? If God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must have wanted us to do it.” ~Pollyanna

 

Birthday Bashes for Our Grown-up Kids

It was Hayley’s 20th birthday last weekend. So, we braved the avalanches threatening Snoqualmie Pass and headed over the mountains to visit Tyler and Lexi and Hayley and Spencer, to celebrate.  Hayley and Spencer drove over from Pullman and had a much nicer drive than we did.  Ours looked like this. In fact, we barely made it through; they closed the pass right after we crossed, for avalanche control.  Whew!

Ironically, just four short weeks ago we did the same thing for Tyler’s birthday: We braved the pass and met up with Tyler and Lexi and Lexi’s family in Roslyn, WA, which is half-way between their house and ours.  And I kid you not, there was at least four feet of snow. Heather, five and half months pregnant, was not anticipating the snow and was wearing a raincoat and suede boots with heels. 

Four out of our five kids, celebrating Ty’s 25th birthday at Village Pizza in Roslyn. Not much to choose from in Roslyn. Good thing they serve great pizza. 🙂

Back to Hayley’s birthday. First thing on the celebratory schedule was birthday breakfast.     Bacon, eggs, and BIG HUGE FLUFFY Belgian waffles.

As for birthday activities, Hayley has come a long way from princess parties. This is not particularly how I would like to spend my birthday. But it was what Hayley wanted to do: shoot her brother’s guns!  So she and her Dad and Tyler and Spencer went and did that, and Lexi and I stayed home and planned a baby shower.


Now I’m going to show you how to make Pesto Salmon Packets, which was Hayley’s request for her birthday dinner.  I had to send a Facebook message to Claire Hammond in England to ask her how to make them.  (Thanks, Claire!) It was Hayley’s favorite meal when she was in the U.K.:

1. Start with a pile of green beans on a square of aluminum foil. Salt and pepper them.


2. Place a piece of delicious fresh salmon on top of the green beans. (Portion size for one person)

3. Place a dollop of pesto on top of the salmon. Get Mom in the photo, just for the photo record. Mom is not in many family photos. She is usually on the other side of the camera.

4. To ensure quality control, bring in an inspector to approve the generosity of the pesto dollops.  Very important. Hayley makes sure I get enough on each one.

4. Fold in the corners of the foil to make a packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for around 30 minutes. (Some of the larger pieces of salmon needed an extra five minutes.)  Unwrap, slip onto a plate, and serve with white rice. Num! No wonder Hayley loved it. (Claire made it for me when I was in the U.K. in November and I loved it, too.) Super easy.

Finally, the birthday cake. Or, in this case, CAKES, plural.  Lexi made Molten Lava (chocolate) cakes in little ramekins, served hot with vanilla ice cream.  AMAZING.  We licked the platter(s) clean. Pretty much.

We stayed an extra night in Ephrata because the trip there was so arduous; who wanted to turn around and drive back over the pass in THOSE CONDITIONS the very  next day?! Heather said she was sure glad she wasn’t with us on this trip!  It was a little disconcerting. But no avalanche warnings on Monday, so home we went, jiggedy-jig, having accomplished our second snowy over-the-mountain-to-show-our-kids-how-much-we-love-them birthday expedition. (Which we do. Love them, I mean.)

Who said kids’ birthdays parties got easier the older they get?

NOT!!! 🙂