It was a joy and a privilege for me to serve as developmental editor with Jeff Kemp (Family Life Vice President and former NFL Quarterback) in the writing of his book, Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials into Triumphs, which will be released March 24th by Bethany House Publishers. It is available at your local bookstore, bethanyhouse.com or by calling 1-800-877-2665. Click the link below the book image to go to my InspiraLit site to read more!
I’m pretty excited that, despite what’s going on in the rest of country weather-wise, spring is already in the air in the NW and I can think about my garden. We are in a new house this year with a little over an acre to start filling with color and nummy edibles.
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed … this property is pretty much a blank canvas and there are SO MANY blackberry bushes to contend with! Basically the previous owner sculpted out a lawn (thank you very much on that part at least), but did very little in the way of thinning out the perimeter bushes and brambles or planting anything with color.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pouring over gardening books, making plans, thinking about what plants and flowers I want, where to put the veggies, where to put the roses, etc. That’s a great way to pass the final grey, rainy, dreary days of NW winter and hurry on the arrival of spring. But the past several days of sunny weather (hooray!) have enabled me to get out there and get my hands dirty and really start figuring out what I want to do. My regular daily work often tends to be kind of cerebral and I’m behind a computer a lot, so gardening is my therapy … it gets me into the fresh air, working with my hands, and thinking about color and flower and plants instead of words and ideas and books. I really need that.
I think if I create a series of small gardens instead of thinking about the whole yard at once, it will be less overwhelming. So at this point I’m going to focus on three areas and go from there. Below is a BEFORE pic of the one I’m starting on first; it will be exciting to see how it looks come summer!
Oh, and here’s something cool (at least I thought it was). I just learned you can test your soil ph with a simple home test. Scoop out soil from several spots around the yard and put a few tablespoons of it in bowls (test one section at a time because you may have different ph levels in different parts of your yard). To one bowl of dirt, add 1/2 cup of vinegar. If it foams, your soil is alkaline. If nothing happens, add a little water to the second bowl, then add 1/2 cup of baking soda. If it foams, your soil is acidic. If nothing happens to either, your soil is neutral! Of course this doesn’t give you a specific number, but for my purposes this was good enough to tell me what I need to add to the soil or what plants will do well in that spot (or not).
Here’s the promise of things to come … really looking forward to spring. I am thankful the previous owners at least planted one daffodil and some pink hyacinths to greet me this month! 🙂
If I said it’s been a busy summer, that would be the understatement of the year. We’ve been “launching” pretty much non-stop since May, starting with a graduation …
Hayley’s Graduation from WSU with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education
(L-R: Darian (Tim’s girlfriend), Tim, Hillary, Spencer (Hayley’s then-fiancee), Doug, Me, Tyler, and Lexi (Tyler’s wife)
Followed by a wedding …
Hayley and Spencer, July 5th, 2014
And then a move to a new house just a week later!
Moving Day, July 12th, 2014. Yes, we must be crazy.
Then we sent Hillary off to the Bahamas on a Mission Trip with our church youth group:
Leaving Seattle, August 4th, 2014
L-R: Nikki, Hillary, Dani Rose
And no sooner did we welcome Hillary home then it was time to launch Tim off, back to WSU for his sophomore year:
Family Night to celebrate Hillary’s homecoming and Tim’s departure with BBQ and croquet, August 16th
As the parents of five kids (very busy kids, I might add!), Doug and I think one the best things we can do for them is to not only prepare them for the launch, but also to provide a “landing pad.” They come and go, off to school and back, around the world and back, getting married and still coming home often for encouragement (or babysitting, or a home cooked meal from Mom!).
The other important thing we realize we need to do as the parents of five busy kids is to take time for US! Which is why, after a crazy busy summer of much launching and landing, we are doing a little launch of our own. Mom and Dad are taking a vacation. All by themselves. Now fancy that. 🙂
Note: This article of mine was published on FoxNews.com.
Graduation season is here and excitement is everywhere! Neighborhoods are being marked by balloons in school colors indicating “the party is here,” and each weekend in June streets are lined with the cars of well wishers making the rounds at open houses.
But what happens after the diplomas are handed out and the celebrations are done? Can parents breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief? Not so fast.
Many onlookers believe that most high school graduates are not fully prepared for “the real world.” A Google search on “preparing teens for graduation” would have us believe the focus should be on transcripts, GPAs, college admission requirements, work and community service experiences, and job applications. But with college graduation rates lagging and employers complaining how woefully underprepared young people are for the demands of the workplace, we have to question whether we’re missing the forest for the trees in preparing teens for adulthood.
It’s a time of high anxiety, for sure—both for parents and teens. Teens are experiencing the stress of losing their comfortable support systems, their friends are taking off in different directions, and they’re feeling the impending pressures and responsibilities of adulthood. Parents are asking questions like,” Have I taught them everything they need to know? Will they make good decisions? How will our relationship change? Are they ready for independence?” That’s a lot of stress—for everyone!
Realistically, parents can’t squeeze 18 years of “what might we have missed?” into the last six weeks before the launch. However, with some strategic effort, they can make vital last-minute deposits of wisdom and encouragement, and position their graduates for success in their new environments:
- Talk with teens about the changes they will experience and some successful strategies for navigating them, particularly coping and relational skills.
- Help them plan ahead for ways to meet new people and reassure them that it takes time and trust to build new friendships. What are their “must haves” in a true friend? The most common derailer for young people after the launch is loneliness, whether they are on a college campus or living at home while their friends go off to college.
- Teach them time management and organization strategies. All too soon they’ll be managing their own schedules with loads of distractions. Equip them for this challenge.
- Point out that they’ll have to earn the right to be heard, respected, and granted privileges; they’re not “entitled” to any of that. Encourage them to apply their best efforts in every arena and be a standout in terms of character, teamwork, and work ethic.
- Build an enduring relationship that will transition from parent-child to adult-young adult. Carefully monitor your “relationship capital” with your teen. (Do you have a positive or negative balance in your “account?”) Time your delicate conversations strategically when they’re willingly engaged.
- Discuss communication expectations for after they leave home. If your young adult will be away at college, how often will you expect to hear from each other and under what circumstances? If he/she will still be living at home, what will be the new, more “adult” boundaries and expectations now that he/she is no longer a high school student? Being realistic and respectful on both sides is the key.
- Consider a weekly meeting at a coffee shop (neutral territory) to discuss the upcoming transition. Go through a book together that can help raise pertinent questions and guide your conversations, such as What I Wish I Knew at 18 by Dennis Trittin (LifeSmart Publishing). Third party voices are especially powerful at this time.
- If you haven’t already, begin to incrementally release control by allowing more decision-making freedom and holding back on correcting, reminding, and overly “helping.” This is the time for you to move from driver to passenger seat in your teen’s life.
- Speak positively about your expectation of their success and your unwavering belief in them. Avoid too much talk of “losing my baby” or anticipating out loud the tremendous sense of loss you will feel; this can erode their confidence and lead to feelings of guilt over leaving home.
- Celebrate a rite of passage to mark the transition between childhood and adulthood, such as a simple ceremony, special gift, or letter of affirmation. We aren’t always good about this in American culture, but it can help tremendously in terms of empowering young adults and releasing them with blessing and confidence into the next season of their lives.
Importantly, seek to understand your graduate’s feelings about the impending changes he or she will be experiencing, often alternating between anticipation and apprehension. Don’t take it personally if they want to spend more time with friends before they head off to their destination. They may vacillate between wanting to cling to the last moments of childhood, and wanting to rush headlong into the “freedom” of adulthood.
Give them space either way. There will be plenty of opportunities for dialogue in “real time” as they encounter the pressures and responsibilities of adult life. This last summer at home, if navigated strategically, can pave the way for those future conversations as parents build a strong relational foundation with their young adult. That’s a win for everyone!
When my kids were little, when I felt overwhelmed and pressured I would go into the bathroom and lock the door, just to be alone. As they pounded on the door, demanding to know why I was taking SO LONG, I would offer the excuse, “Mommy just has an upset tummy …” (small totally understandable white lie, right?).
It’s been a lot of years since then but the need to be alone once in a while persists. But the bathroom as a location for a personal retreat just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂
Even though I am legitimately a people person, “alone” is where I do my best thinking, praying, reflecting, producing, and reprogramming. And boy, did I need it this month! So earlier this week I took myself on a little personal retreat (thank you to my husband and daughter who were so gracious to get along just fine without me for a few days!).
We have access to a condo at Mt. Hood, Oregon, a three-hour drive from our home. It was me, my computer, a few books and magazines, and a knitting project for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter. Long walks in the woods. A trip to the snow. Three days with no appointments with anyone other than God. It was glorious.
This was the path to the river, right outside my doorstep:
I sure don’t have these moments on a daily basis! The refreshment to the soul is priceless. I took smooth stones from the river, wrote my kids’ names on them with Sharpie marker, and brought them home to keep in a dish on my desk for little prayer reminders and a memento of my retreat.
I drove a half-hour to the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood where I parked myself at what was obviously an anointed desk near the window (See top picture above; I can’t believe I caught this image with just my phone!) to work and look out at the snow. I took work with me because part of my purpose was to FOCUS … and to get some traction on a few editing projects I was struggling to stay on top of at home. It was SO MUCH MORE PLEASANT in this inspiring environment!
It was surprising to me, how productive I was, and yet how refreshed and re-invigorated, on my little “working personal retreat.” I did the things “I” wanted to do. Not having the TV on (as it often is in my house when the family is around) was peace to my nerves. Spending some time in prayer, talking with God about my family, my work, and some friends who are going through hard times. Listening to classical music and working on a knitting project or perusing cooking magazines and planning my holiday baking and menus. Swimming laps in the cold air at the end of each day, in a heated pool with steam rising into the dark autumn sky. Wow, I actually liked spending time with … me!
The last day of my retreat I received an email in my inbox from a friend whose blog that day just happened to be why we need personal retreats from time to time! It’s well-worth a read. And, if prayer is what you want to focus on, on your own retreat, my friend Cynthia Bezek has written a book called Come Away with Me that will help you do it. She has certainly been an inspiration to me in that department.
I am home again and back to reality, feeling on top of things and much refreshed. I think I’m much better for my little “time out,” and I hope my family agrees!
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).
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?
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?