The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

Sometimes I feel all alone in this big old house full of men. It’s five-on-one here, with me being the only female in a house full of males. A husband, four sons, and me, the wife and mom, speaking a language all my own. How frequent it is that I speak sentences full of words no one understands.

Or so it seems.

Family at Nebraska City

Perhaps I do provide too many details when I share fun news. “Our friends had their baby!” I say, following up my announcement with the size, weight, details, details, details, and details that we all most certainly care about very much! I finally come up for air, and they all give an appreciative nod and a “cool” or a “nice” before zoning back into whatever it was they were doing before I started my speech.

Sometimes it seems like they aren’t listening. Sometimes it seems like they don’t care.

I know better though. They hear. And they definitely care. They just aren’t as interested as I am in the color of the darling bow the baby wore on her head on the way home from the hospital (multi-colored with flowers, thanks for asking).

My boys and I shop together, but I’m alone at the rack with cute sweaters and adorable tops. We have a blast anyway, meeting back up and high-fiving over the clearance deals we’ve all found. We laugh together about the weird shorts that are still on the rack for so many obvious reasons, but wonder together if we should actually buy them for Asa because if anyone could pull off such ridiculous looking apparel and make it look cool, it would be him.

Hangers in the clothing store.

The fun I have with my household of men truly takes my breath away, even while there are times I long for any one of them to get excited with me about how great it would be if we actually put all the shoes in the closet where they belong. The fact that no one but me can see the pile of books on the steps that needs to be carried upstairs blows my mind. How do they walk over and around them twelve times but never once see them and pick them up to take them to the place they need to go? I do not understand this.

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But I’ve learned that the fact that they don’t always see doesn’t mean that they don’t care. And just because their faces don’t light up over the news of a new baby or the sight of a clean kitchen doesn’t mean they aren’t excited or appreciative.

As their mom, I will continue to share too many details, because I can’t help it and after all, someone needs to prepare them to hear all the details and words their wives will some day share with them every day, am I right? My arms will flail and my eyes will light up and my voice will show ridiculous inflection as I tell about the exciting deal I found on strawberries and a new recipe I’m excited to try as a result, even though they will only shrug after hearing my details and simply say, “Cool. Can we have some?”

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But then there will be the day when the basket that holds the rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom becomes empty and I will look up to see my 15-year old son get a full package out of storage, open it, and fill the basket just like I have been doing for years. He wasn’t asked to do this chore. I didn’t even know he knew my system. But there he is. Filling baskets with toilet paper.

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These are actual baskets in our actual bathroom,
filled with actual toilet paper by an actual teenage boy. 

Apparently, they do see. They do notice. They do care.

My eyes light up over this! I gush with appreciation, using many words and flailing arms to express my thanks! He responds with a wordless shrug, because after all, it’s just toilet paper.

No, Son. It’s more than that. Here, let me tell you in detail why this is means so much to me…

The Teenage Boy and the Toilet Paper

Dear Teenage Girls (From the Mom of Four Teenage Boys)

Dear Teenage Girls,

I think you all know how much I love spending time with you. I’m the only one of “our kind” at my house, so any time I’m with one or more of you and we can talk about sparkly things like toenail polish, cute dresses, and all of our feeeeeelings, I find it so refreshing and fun. You girl people are so neat. I can’t wait until the day four of you are my daughters-in-law. Truly, we will have so much fun together.

I wouldn’t trade my life with a houseful of men for anything in the entire world, and I cherish my life for exactly what it is. This leads me to share my mom-thoughts with you, from a “mother of boys” perspective.

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I want to assure you of what we do intentionally at our house.

First and foremost, we are teaching our boys about their need for Jesus and inviting them to seek Him alongside us. Because of that, we are working to train our boys to respect you, to treat you with care, and to show you every kindness. There aren’t any other females in our house, so whether they know it or not, our boys get to practice all these skills on me, their mom.

It melts my heart every time my boys open a door for me. (Having four sons and a husband, it is a fact that I have not had to open a door for myself in so many years that I don’t even remember how to do this task.)

My sons have learned to allow me to walk in ahead of them, to tell me “thank you” when I’ve done something for them (all day long, thank you very much), and to listen to me when I’m going into far greater detail and using many more words than they might prefer. They’ve learned to hug me when I’m teary-eyed, to let me talk when I want to share something God put on my heart, and to carry all the heavy stuff. (I have zero to prove about how “I can do everything a man can do.” I absolutely can’t, plus I’m often too busy doing so many of the less-heavy-but-equally-needed jobs around here. So can the gentlemen get the luggage and carry the boxes and open the jars? Yes, they most certainly can.)

Also, my men clear and rinse their own dishes after every meal and always, and always put the toilet seat down. Unfortunately, they still do not see all their stuff laying around on the living room table and floor and think to carry it to their room at the end of the day. I’ve done everything I can – their wives must take it from here.

This might all seem like physical training (dishes, luggage, doors), but I believe what our sons are learning is that you, darling girl, deserve to be cared for, honored, respected, and loved.

Do my boys sometimes say or do something inappropriate, crude, or disrespectful? Of course. So do I. I guess it runs in the family, or maybe it just shows that no matter how noble our efforts, each of us is human and needs a Savior.

So, assuming that you, as a teenage girl, are also seeking Jesus, I want to encourage you to never compromise your Godly desires. That respect you want from others? Show that very same level of respect to yourself and to everyone around you – guys and gals alike. When respect meets respect, a relationship becomes un-pressured, fun, and all around great.

I know what you’re thinking. But, not to worry. This isn’t the part of the letter where I say, “Therefore, this is how I think you should dress and how you should carry yourself and how you should sit and…”

No. Because I’m absolutely sure that if you desire God’s greatness in your life and in your relationships, you’ve already set a high standard for yourself in all these areas. You and I know that being a Godly person isn’t about following all the rules. Words like “dress modestly” and “act appropriately” land precariously all over a wide spectrum depending on each person’s perspective and experiences. Yes (for the love of my teenage, Jesus-seeking sons) do both. But do them with a pure heart motive because you are choosing God’s best, not because the purity rules dictate such behavior.

Rules get us nowhere, but a heart’s conviction and desire to put others before ourselves and to seek God’s Truth in all things – well, that will change everything about how you and I see life as we strive for Kingdom living.

So, Girls. I’ll continue to do my part in raising (hopeful) future husbands, fathers, men of God. You do your part in seeking His goodness in every area of your life as a (hopeful) future wife, mother, woman of God.

At all times, keep the Truth in mind about who you are. Hold tight to your “list.” I know you’ve got one. It’s the list of everything you want in a guy. I had one too. About the time I thought my list was too unrealistic – like there wasn’t a guy on the planet that would meet all my expectations – I finally met him. Then he exceeded my expectations and he even wanted to marry me. God is faithful – to me and to you. Never forget this.

Above all, seek Jesus and trust His promises. Treat others as you want to be treated – from the cute guy in Bible class to the elderly lady at the grocery store.

Teenage girls, you are dear to me. I am on your team, in your corner, and cheering you on with more love and longing in my heart than you might be able to imagine.

Seek Jesus, choose goodness, and keep on being adorable. You are cherished.

With love ,

Laura, mother of teenage boys

Dear Teenage Girls

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The Easy and Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

I continue to be shocked at how much busier life is now that three out of four of our boys are teenagers (and our youngest is a pre-teen). I didn’t know it was possible to actually get busier. After all – life was busy enough already.

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Five minutes ago they were babies. 

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Here’s our family with my brother’s family about a month ago.
See all the tall blond boys men? Those are my babies.

There were a few years post baby stage and pre teenage stage when life was busy but not so overwhelming. Then about two years ago the just try and keep up stage hit when our third son turned teenager. (At that time our boys were senior, freshman, 7th grader, and 4th grader). 

I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong as somehow, I was no longer getting as much done as I used to. Why – with the boys being more independent than ever – do they seem to need me more than they used to? Why do I seem to have more interruptions when I’m at my desk trying to write or work on other business responsibilities? Why I am so behind on everything all the time? Why can’t my house stay clean (or actually get clean in the first place)?

I mean, I haven’t had to take anyone potty for years. The boys get themselves up in the morning, get themselves ready for bed at night, and do a good portion of their school work on their own. They can all cook, do laundry, clean the kitchen, and do a dozens of chores around the house and yard.

I thought life would be much easier once we hit this stage. I remember looking at moms of teenagers back when my kids were all little and I would think, “Oh that will be so nice when the kids are older and can do things for themselves. She must have so much freedom now!”

And that very mom would look at me with all my littles and say, “Oh it was so nice when they were all little. I miss those calm days.”

What was she – crazy??? Yes, moms of teenagers must be crazy, I decided. They’ve forgotten what it’s like to have little ones and I will never, ever say that to a young mom when I grow older.

Now here I am. Older. 

I understand what the older mom meant now. I still vow to never tell a young mom that “she has it easy” as she runs and chases and wipes and hugs and kisses and corrects and runs and chases and wipes…” What a young mom does all day is hard. It’s great and it’s amazing and it’s precious – but it’s hard. So there, young mom. You amaze me. You go, girl! You love those babies!! You are fantastic and if I could, I would take over all the wiping and holding for a few hours so you could all take a nap and go to the store by yourself.

But alas. I’m so busy with my big, independent children that I can’t possibly follow through with this offer. I know it sounds weird. Life got easier as the kids got older, but then it got harder again as I started raising teenagers. Let me break it all down.

The Easy and Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

The Easy Parts of Raising Teenagers

Loving them

If you think you love your kids when they are little, just wait until you see God at work in them when they are older. They get bigger and so does your love for them. This is for real. It is nothing short of amazing to watch their talents develop, to listen to them share their experiences, and to be a part of their victories. You know how you look at your child and feel such intense love that your breath catches mid-inhale? That happens more and more when they’re older. For some reason, my eyes tear up more often too. It’s a love thing and I can’t help it.

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Our third son Elias, teen #3 at our house, playing soccer last fall

Enjoying their help

I rarely clean a toilet or run the vacuum. My kids are the full-time dishwasher loaders and unloaders. I haven’t folded or put away one clothing item for any of my sons for five years. To think – I used to do most of the household tasks by myself while I was nursing a baby and potty training a toddler and everything else. It’s exhausting to think about (so again I salute you young moms). I love that the boys are so capable of helping so much.

Going places without them

I can run to the store by myself and nobody even blinks. I get home from the store and don’t have to unload a single bag because I holler at the boys and they come do it. I can say, “I’m heading out for XYZ – have your Math and English finished by the time I get back and also load the dishwasher” – and they do (usually).

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Our fourth son, Malachi (second from the right),
hanging out with buddies at a recent church event

Going places with them

My kids dress themselves, tie their own shoes, gather all their belongings, fill their own water bottles, climb into the car by themselves, and buckle their own seat-belts. Whatever needs to be loaded into the van: they load it. After more than a decade of diaper bags, diaper blow outs, car seats, and sippy cups – I don’t take for granted that we can all be out the door and in the van in one minute flat.

Hanging out with them.

My kids are FUN!!!!! We enjoy grown up conversation, grown up humor, grown up prayer time, grown up Bible discussions, grown up music, and grown up teamwork (serving together). My kids make me laugh all the time. Teenagers are incredibly fun.

The Hard Parts of Raising Teenagers

Keeping up with them

Our teens have chosen (with our blessing) to be very involved in many activities. They are leaders in our church youth group and therefore highly involved with activities several times each week. They participate in sports. They referee soccer (for pay). They attend several weeks of church camp during the summer either as a counselor or as a camper. They take part in home-school activities. Two of our kids take piano lessons and one of them takes guitar lessons.

There’s the ACT to prepare for, spending 50 hours with them behind the wheel so they can earn their driver’s license, and filling out high school transcripts. Their school work is intense and takes much longer than it used to. Our high-schoolers take college classes.

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Justus, our second son, just before the Homeschool Prom 2016

Our kids have so many great opportunities they have to pick and choose and say “no” to some. In the meantime we are their biggest support, cheerleaders, taxi service, and consultants. They need a lot of consulting, “Mom, what do you think I should…” “Will it work if J and F come over and we…” “Can you come listen to my…” “I’m not sure how to word this email…”

They don’t need me to wipe their noses anymore. Instead they need me to help them fill out applications, meet deadlines, decide when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” proofread a paper, order something online, make major decisions. Their needs are weightier, their questions are bigger, and I’ve found that if one boy doesn’t need me another one does – all day long. I consider this a great honor, you can be sure. I love that they need me. I love being a part of all that they are a part of. But keeping up? Just whatever about that pile of clothes on my bedroom chair that never gets hung up. Maybe I’ll get to it after Malachi graduates.

Getting to bed at a decent time

These kids. They stay up late. Often their evening activities find us stumbling in the door at way past my brain dead time. Most nights I’m zonked and they’re still going strong. Gone are the days we’d put the boys to bed then have a little time to ourselves. Which leads me to…

Carving out time with Matt

It has become hard for Matt and me to find alone time together. We have to make this a priority or we will go for way too long without having an actual conversation. (“Can you drive him to guitar lessons or do you need me to?” doesn’t count.) This blindsided me as again, I assumed I’d have more time with Matt as the kids got older.

So we’re prayerful and intentional about making time for each other, asking God to provide since logistically we can’t seem to figure it out.

Helping them navigate relationships

Since all my kids are of the male variety, they tend to be a little quieter with the details of their relationships. Still, there’s no doubt that what our boys work through with their friends and with those of the female variety are by far different and in many ways much more difficult than the “Bobby won’t let me play with him” issues of their little boy years.

Our job as parents is challenged by questions like how much do we say? and should we step in and offer advice or let them work it out? Prayer plays a huge role here as we seek the Spirit’s leading on when to talk, when to keep quiet – and if we are to speak, what we are to say. As the Spirit leads, we offer guidance, share our own experiences, and continually pray for our boys to be open to God’s work and protection in their relationships.

Seeing them struggle

Not every experience our boys has is a ray of sunshine. There have been times where confidence was shattered, tests were failed, they do or say things that is more selfish than godly, the list goes on.

As delightful as it is to watch God grow them into talented, strong, incredibly amazing young men – we also see their weak spots. It was hard to deal with their weaknesses when they were little – but they only showed up in little ways then (not that I call a tantrum at the grocery store little – oy!). Now that they are big – so are their struggles – personally, spiritually, and emotionally. I always thought I could help them “grow out of” their weaknesses. (Yes, my plan was to raise perfect children.)

Indeed, they have grown and conquered in many areas. But just like I still struggle with sin and always will – our grown up boys struggle with sin and always will. We continue striving toward godliness in every area. But we’re not going to launch perfect robotic offspring who are completely prepared to conquer the world and who will never face trials or mess up. We’re raising children who need a Savior and must seek Him constantly.

It’s been important for me to remember God’s truths: He is victorious, He is protector, He is provider, He has plans prepared in advance for all of us, He is Lord.

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Our oldest, Asa, back row, right side, 6’4″ blond – singing in the York College Concert Choir

Letting them go

While this is a challenge, this one is actually beautiful and rewarding. Our oldest son has almost completed his first year away from home and we are watching him thrive and struggle and love life and limp along and be amazing all at the same time. He is teenager turning adult and he’s showing us that letting go is not so sad but rather triumphant.

No Matter What Stage

Our strength comes from the Lord. Our wisdom comes from the Lord. Our words, our actions, our decisions – everything we do must be couched in prayer and offered in humility. God leads and provides everything we need for every stage of parenting.

Perhaps this is the best truth I’ve learned after being a mom for almost 19 years: I can’t do this without Jesus and I don’t have to. From baby to adult – He is Lord of our home.

What stage are you in currently? What do you find to be the easiest parts and hardest parts of parenting your kids right now?

 

A Day in the Life ~ Homeschooling Older Kids and Teenagers

Many have requested that I share what life is like for our family now that our kids are older. What is our homeschool routine? How is it that as the kids got older and more independent, Mom actually got busier? What does a day in our life look like?

Today, I took pictures and notes all day long. I’ve documented our Wednesday as best I can. Why today? I chose today because I finally remembered the post request this morning and decided to started taking pictures (and you thought I was so organized). You’ll notice that most of the pictures don’t include the kids. It’s a teenage thing and I respect it. I now present to you over 20 {mostly} kidless pictures.

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After all, what could be more fun than looking at a picture of our overflowing compost bucket??

First I’ll fill you in on who we are – then I’ll share the specifics of our life today:

Matt and I are self-employed. I’m a writer-blogger (hi!); Matt runs a variety of businesses from snow removal/lawn care to rental property management to handyman/construction. Every work day is different for us based on the current deadlines and to-do lists. We tag-team the needs of the kids and needs of the household.

Our boys are now 18, 15 (almost 16), 14, and 11.

Asa (18) is a college freshman, living on campus at our local Christian college and juggling a very full academic and social life. Justus (15) is a high school sophomore; Elias (14) is an eighth grader; Malachi (11) is a fifth grader. So in summary, we have one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary. (And I question why I can’t keep up.)

Family Christmas Pic

For me, today began as it usually does with a cup of coffee and my Bible. I got up later than I meant to (whatever though, I needed sleep) – so that cut into my quiet time as Matt got the boys moving for the day.

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The boys are typical teenagers, which means the first thing they like to do in the morning is grab their ipods from the living room table to see what they missed while they were sleeping. Sometimes I hate ipods and want to run them over with my car (like when the boys are so zoned into them they don’t hear me telling them to load the dishwasher or that the house is on fire). But this is our culture and this is how they keep up with their people and make plans, so I try to be okay with this (while still setting boundaries). After a few minutes, ipods stayed in the living room as the boys headed to the kitchen to find breakfast.

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Everyone warmed up their own leftover French toast or pancakes and grabbed applesauce and/or blueberries. Matt read to us from the book of Romans as we ate. Today we ate in a hurry because Justus and Malachi had to be at their piano lessons at 9:00.

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Teeth brushed, the two boys packed their piano books along with some school work so that while one boy was having his lesson, the other boy could read or do English. In the meantime, Elias tried to sneak back onto his ipod (as I pictured it being crushed under the van tire) and then got scooted upstairs to do his English lesson. Then, since he was the only boy home, he got on the computer to do his Algebra.

I used the quiet time to start writing this post, then shopped online to order Justus’ birthday presents and made a grocery list off Pricematcherz.com.

Matt took his truck to have the tires worked on, and they finished just in time for him to pick up the boys from piano. Good thing since I was still in my jammies. ;)

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Once home, Justus went straight back to the school computer to work on his music. Malachi and Elias started playing soccer in the living room. (It’s winter. I don’t own knick-knacks. THEY WERE GETTING ALONG. Carry on, boys.)

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What? Don’t you have a soccer goal by your front door?

I sent Elias in to empty half the dishwasher. Malachi played the piano for a while, then I sent him off to do his reading. Elias and Malachi began working on a video project together, while still getting along. Justus was working on Geometry on the computer. I finished tweaking an article to send into our local newspaper (I write a weekly column) and suddenly needed food. It was only 11:00, but I am always hungry for lunch earlier than anyone else. (I eat an earlier breakfast, plus I’m more of a five-meals-a-day kind of eater.)

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I warmed up Taco Soup (working on a recipe for you!) and got out guacamole, carrots, and clementines.

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Around noon, everyone else was hungry too, so they dug in. They chose kiwi instead of clementines. While they ate, I read aloud from our latest missionary book.

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Lunch over, I had to head to Walmart to get ink for my computer so I could get a printed curriculum in the mail. I grabbed some price-match items while I was there, then ran to pick up Malachi’s buddy to hang out for the afternoon. While I was out, Justus completed his Physics and did some English and History reading. Elias read English and Science. Malachi completed his math assignment.

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Once I got home, Justus finished cleaning out the dishwasher, Malachi loaded it with dirty dishes, and the rest of us put groceries away.

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At 1:55 Matt, Elias, Malachi, and his friend headed out the door for an indoor soccer session. On the way, they dropped Justus off at the college campus for the 2:00 MWF Psychology class he’s taking. (You can read here about how we get dual high school and college credits for our kids.) I settled in for exactly 45 minutes of quiet work time before I needed to leave to pick Justus up from his class.

Everyone was back home by 3:15. I spent a silly amount of time on the phone tracking down a package that hadn’t been delivered. The boys found snacks to eat. Elias and Justus did their Spanish lessons on the computer. Malachi hung out with his friend. I closed my office door to write this post. :)

I checked on the boys a while later and found the door to the back room closed up tight. Why?? Usually it’s open a crack, but when it’s closed like this, it usually means “I’m recording so don’t walk in until I’m done or you’ll ruin everything!”

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What are the boys working on in there? Well, Justus and Elias currently have four big music/video projects they are working on with their church friends. Our church is hosting a Youth Rally coming up in February, and videos are a must; plus the boys need to complete some videos for LTC – a leadership event coming up in April. They’ve spent hours the past few weeks (some on their own and some with as many from the youth group who can help out) writing lyrics and scripts, creating beats and tunes, recording voices, videoing the action, and editing their work to put it all together. I can’t tell you how much I love them doing this.

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I snuck into the room later to take a picture of what is our “recording studio”/school-computer room/Matt’s office/guest room. The boys invested in that fancy microphone you see there, and Matt and I got them the mic stand and pop filter for Christmas.

The rest of the afternoon passed with me hiding in my office trying to get some work done. I hollered out at one point for each boy to scrub four potatoes for dinner. I came out of my office around 5:00 and made a big pot of Potato Soup. I had the boys work together on sides of sweet peppers, olives, raspberries, and pickles.

We headed out the door at 6:20 for Wednesday evening Bible study. At 8:15 we were back home, joined by a young couple who is getting married this March. Matt and I visited with them (pre-marital counseling/mentoring) until around 10:15. During that time the boys were sent upstairs to fold and put away the huge laundry pile. Once they finished that, they hung out in the back room and watched netflix until 10:00 when we headed them up to bed.

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Now it is 10:54 and I am wrapping this up and calling it a day. Thursdays usually require a little less running around compared to Wednesdays, though the two middle boys have basketball practice tomorrow night. Never a dull moment.

So how was your day? Have you found your schedule changing as your kids get older?

Asa’s First Few Days in Ecuador

I mentioned a few days ago that our oldest son, Asa, is in Ecuador on a mission trip right now. It’s been fun to check our church Facebook page to see updates of the group’s work in Ecuador. Here are some pictures I grabbed to share…

This is the entire group of teens and sponsors. Asa is on the back row in a purple shirt.

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The first day, the men all worked to clear out brush and debris. Here’s Asa all decked out in work gear and eye protection, using what appears to be a machete. :)

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They seem to be quite proud of their work:

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Ah yes, now this is what I’m used to seeing:

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I loved seeing this next picture. Two of the girls are loving on some Ecuador children. If you look in the background, you’ll see Asa playing soccer with other kids. This was one of the activities he was really looking forward to doing while he was there. It was fun to see him in the midst of futbol with Ecuador children!

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If you care to pray for Asa and this group while they serve in Ecuador, we appreciate it. It’s great to see God at work in the lives of our teens!

Gratituesday: Christmas Time is Here!

Here’s what I’m learning:  It doesn’t matter that they’re all growing up. It doesn’t matter that they are all boys who are no longer interested in making cute Christmas crafts. It doesn’t matter that there won’t be shiny new blocks or tricycles under the Christmas tree anymore. Even without little ones, there’s still something magical about the Christmas season.

I love Christmas with my family during this fun new season we’re in that involves voices changing, acquiring drivers licenses, and growing taller than the Christmas tree.  But hah!  I figured out how to beat the system:  I got a taller tree this year. Seven feet five inches, so there. :)

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Having teens and pre-teens simply means that our Christmas season can be even more meaningful. It means that we can play games around the fireplace that all six of us now enjoy.  It means that the boys themselves are coming up with ways to serve others that involve little or no help from me. It means there won’t be many more years of Christmases like these at our house before boys start leaving home but I refuse to think of that (if I can help it).

I’m so excited that Christmas time is here and that my family is enjoying celebrating it together. Let the family traditions and time of making memories begin!

Now your turn. Share what you’re thankful for!  Leave a comment on this post letting us know how God is working in your life. If you’ve written a blog post about what you’re thankful for, leave the link in the comments so we can visit your blog to read about it. We love sharing and reading about God’s blessings!

Gratituesday: Godly Mentors

I’ve spent many of my 15,840+ days on this earth having no clue what to do, making mistakes, and learning as I go. 

As a teenager, I muddled my way through each day, trying to figure out who in the world I was. (Thank you, God, that I never have to be a seventh grader again.) 

I began college with vigor, only to be met with the shocking realization that as a young adult, I needed to claim my own faith, keep up with my own laundry, study my heart out, and make my own doctor appointments.

When I first got married, I excitedly poured my heart into making a home, while serving my new husband many burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and underdone, doughy pancakes.

When our oldest son was born, I found myself totally in love with my newborn who quickly turned into a toddler. But I wore a “deer in the headlights” look for much of the time. Changing a diaper was easy enough, but where was the handbook on how to properly get a stubborn three year old to obey without having a melt-down in the middle of aisle nine? (Take your pick on who was having the melt-down…me or the three year old.)

In a few short years, three more baby boys were added to our family.  I now had to learn to manage sibling squabbles, synchronize nap schedules, and deal with having too few hands to keep up with active little boys who didn’t care to sit quietly in a church pew.  

There were wiggly teeth and ER visits for stitches. There were illnesses. There was death. There was pain and grieving. There were job changes. There was confusion.  There were new adventures. There was more blessing than we could have ever dreamed or imagined.

And now? Now there are teenagers and preteens and a closet full of soccer cleats, work gloves, and basketballs. There are savings accounts, algebra lessons, odd jobs, hobbies, overloaded schedules, learner’s permits, and cute girls. Right around the corner there will be transcripts, scholarship applications, senior pictures, and ACT scores. 

Somehow I did make it through those uncertain baby and preschool years. This gives me hope that somehow, I will also make it through these deep voice changing, independent, cut-the-apron-string years too, even though I often feel utterly incompetent.

As unprepared as I sometimes feel, I take comfort knowing that I’ve never had to do any of this alone. Obviously God has been my ultimate guide, and Matt is a solid rock of a teammate. But what I’ve appreciated more than words can express are the women God has put in my life to walk me through each stage. Women who have “been there, done that”. Women who care. Women who don’t mind that I ask thirteen to three hundred questions. Women who love me for who I am and empower me to be what God has called me to be.

I’m not alone. And neither are you. There’s nothing new under the sun, and nothing you or I are going through hasn’t already been dealt with by someone else. Thank you, God, for wise mentors and for friends who offer encouragement.

Now if I can just refrain from purposely giving my boys bad hair cuts in an effort to ward off the cute girls.  I kid.  (I think.)

Share how God is working in your life on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for! Please read through the Gratituesday Guidelines so that you understand what kinds of posts you can link up to share here. Posts that are linked but do not fit our Gratituesday theme will be deleted.

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Gratituesday: Eye to Eye

I promise you he wasn’t this tall two weeks ago. Close, but not quite.

It hit me a few days ago that something was different when I’d have conversations with Asa, our oldest son who just turned 14. And then I figured it out. I am looking him directly in the eye when we talk now. He’s done it. He’s caught up to me. And if he keeps going at this rate, we won’t be seeing eye to eye for long. Instead, I’ll be getting a neck ache when we visit because I’ll be looking up to meet his eyes.

He’s pretty proud of this accomplishment and who can blame him?

I’d just like to restate what I said last year when Asa turned 13 (you know, back when he was shorter than me). Having a teenager is a joy.  It is not all gloom and doom like so many people warned us about. I will admit that I’ve been taken aback by all the new territory we’re venturing through – all the new parts of life that include having a teenager (you know, like the “girls think my son is cute” part). Good gravy. I try to have an “Oh isn’t she sweet” attitude, but typically I tend to have more of a mother bear snarly, “Back off Sistah!” thing going on. He is only 14, ya know. Good gravy.

There is much we need to help guide him through, and as tough as the diaper years were, sometimes I’d like to run back to that time because even though I wasn’t getting any sleep, at least I felt more in control of the decisions our kids needed to make. Asa will be a high school freshman this fall. I feel a weight of responsibility as we are on our last few years of raising our son to be a godly man. I feel inadequate as we begin to figure out the moments to let go, while at the same time, offering guidance and what I hope is wisdom as he becomes more independent.

Well now, look at me getting all weepy. It’s just that, he’s my first baby, you know? And we see eye to eye, can you believe it? Thankfully, we still see eye to eye about spiritual matters too. I pray constantly that Asa will continue to grow in his walk of faith.

God is good to walk this journey with us. I’m thankful that He can protect Asa with a more powerful stronghold than I ever could.  I’m thankful that God saw fit to give Matt and me the opportunity to raise this teenager. Bless Asa’s heart, we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re practicing on him before we raise three more teens in just a few years.  But God is faithful and promises to make up for our weaknesses. Yes, even in parenting.

Especially in parenting.

God is good. 

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday? Write about it on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for!

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Gratituesday: Houseful of Teenagers

It all started over the weekend when I ran into a friend at the Home School Conference. She’s one of the moms of some boys on Asa’s basketball team. We were talking about how the boys missed each other since basketball season had ended in early March. One thing led to another, and we figured out a time to get her boys over to hang out with Asa.

And then that one thing led to another, and we decided to call more boys on the basketball team. 

And to make a long story short…there are seven teenage boys in my house right now.

Since Monday night and Tuesday were the days that worked best for everyone, we all just decided to cram Tuesday’s school work into Monday and Wednesday (ah, the beauty of home schooling!) so that Tuesday can be a big day for hanging out and shooting hoops. 

Three lasagnas and four loaves of bread later, I’d say these boys are having a pretty good time…

Seven teenage boys might seem a little intimidating…but I promise you that even I am having a wonderful time. These have GOT to be the most polite boys on the earth. I love them.  Our younger boys love them.  Their mothers should be proud.

We’ll be having pancakes in the morning. I’m trying to decide how many times I should quadruple this recipe to fill them all. (How’s that for a gluten-filled sentence in the middle of our Gluten Free Recipe Parade week!?)  :)

What a blessing for my son to have friends like this in his life. Bring on the hollow legs!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday? Write about it on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for!

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please copy and paste the following sentence into your post! Thanks!


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Chatting With Lisa Whelchel (about raising teenagers)

Yesterday I shared what Lisa Whelchel had to say about raising little ones. Her kids are all grown up now (her youngest just graduated), and because I really wanted to know for my own sake (and for yours too of course), I decided to ask her about raising teens.

Me:

Our oldest son just became a teenager. We’re enjoying this “new season of life” as we learn to raise a teen and also feel like we have no idea what we’re doing (much like we didn’t have any idea what we were doing when we started raising babies!). You had three teenagers all at once. What were some of the joys and challenges you faced as you raised your teens, and what advice might you give to parents on this journey?

Lisa:

As your kids become teenagers, you really have to start loosening the grip you have…you can’t control them like you did with they were seven and eight years old. It’s natural for them to try to separate themselves from you and experiment with life as they figure out who they are. 

This is hard because as a parent, you see the bigger picture and you want to protect them from heartache. But over-protecting can stifle what they are learning. You need to be open handed. You need to tell yourself, “I have been the parent, I have taught them well. Now I need to trust God to let them use what I’ve taught them as they grow into adulthood.”

Me: 

Tell me a little bit about your kids now that they are young adults. What are some of the great qualities you see in them – what do you love about your kids? 

Lisa:

I’ll start with my youngest, Clancy. I really just enjoy talking to her. We love to have coffee together in the mornings and just talk. She’s just wonderful and I just enjoy her so much.

Haven is my older daughter. I admire her so much. She is amazing at seeing the big picture. She plans margins in her life, which shows wisdom beyond her years. 

Tucker was the hardest to raise, yet he’s who I’ve learned the most from and I respect him so much. He’s honest about everything and not a pretender. I had a hard time with that as he was growing up because that could sometimes come across in him as “not being a good boy”. I’m glad I didn’t snuff that out of him. He’s creative…not a rule follower.

I love how although I am the parent, I am able to learn so much from my kids.

Laura’s (very few) follow-up thoughts (as I have only been the parent of a teenager for approximately 39 days):

I am really beginning to understand the idea of “loosening the grip” as I’m watching Asa naturally work his way toward more independence. Matt and I feel like our biggest job now is to walk alongside and guide him as he grows into adulthood

That, and pray for God to guide us as we walk a path we’ve never walked before. ;)