Category: Better living and Parenting

Family Mission Statements Rock – Part 4

Congratulations on creating your family mission statement! However, for it to translate into a family culture, you must now use it. Here are some ideas to engage with your family mission statement in meaningful ways.

Ideas to Engage with Your Family Mission Statement

1. Recite it daily. Determine a time when your family is generally together consistently. Our family says our mission statement just before bed because that’s when daddy is almost always there with us. When your mission statement is memorized and reviewed daily, it will begin to come to mind when you need it most, for example, during a teaching or a disciplining moment. Lines of our family mission statement often come when I feel tempted to speak or act in ways that are contrary to the specific culture we’re trying to nurture in our home.

2. Use it to help make big decisions. Is your choice in line with the objectives of your mission statement?

3. Use it to help regain focus and realignment with the things that matter most to your family.

4. Use it to guide your family’s educational plan. The specific values that your mission statement mentions, such as money management, entrepreneurialism, freedom, honesty, or service, can all inform your educational opportunities, ideas, and materials.

5. Have fun with it. Have your children create artwork or collages that reflect your final mission statement. Display this art in a prominent place in your home. Develop a family cheer, motto, flag, or t-shirt inspired by your mission statement.

6. Develop a family VISION. A family Vision is essentially the why of your family mission in story form. Your family Vision is what motivates each family member to care about doing the things that the family mission statement describes. Mary Ann Johnson beautifully illustrates the power of a family Vision and how to use it most effectively in her fabulous book Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your Children in Five Minutes or Less.

To create your family Vision, start with the backdrop of a family tradition, like Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or something that holds a powerful sense of connection and meaning for your family. Close your eyes and, in your mind, see your family engaging in that tradition 20 years from now. What will it smell like, sound like, what will the tastes be? Who will be there, and what will they be doing? How will it feel to be together, and how will people be treating each other? Develop a story with as many details as possible, just as if you were creating a bedtime story for a child. Develop this story so that it describes why the accomplishment of the family mission statement is so significant; it will be what allows this story to come to pass 20 years from now.

Share this story with your family and allow them to add more details that are meaningful to them. Then let this story to become part of your family story. Tell it often; driving in the car, at bedtime when someone is sad or struggling, etc. The more you tell the story, the more they will care about the mission statement, and the more the words of the mission statement will be written on the hearts of your children.

Using your mission statement and telling its story is what turns words on paper into your home culture. Doing this will help you lay the foundation for a great life.

  • You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE
  • You can access Part 2 and Assignment 2 HERE 
  • You can access Part 3 and Assignment 3 HERE

Do you know someone with kids? They need this!

You can raise amazing children. I promise!

As I was raising our children, I made many mistakes. I was not gentle enough. I was a yeller. Sometimes I did not listen. I could be stern.

On my birthday this year, my children told me how much they loved our family and me. They reminded me how much their friends loved coming to our home. I have even heard from some of those friends, how much our family and our home meant to them. I was astonished, grateful, and heartened.

What My Kids Said

Here are some of their comments, paraphrased. I’m not sharing them so you think well of me but because I want to make a point about imperfect parenting.

“Mom, you are so wise and self-governed. I am grateful to you. Our friends wanted to come over for dinner and play because of the security you offered in our space.” Jenny

“Mom, I want you to feel super loved. I wouldn’t choose anyone else for my mother.” Marie

“You’re an amazing woman. The things you have accomplished are truly wonderful. I’m so proud to say you’re my mom.” Seth

Last night I was thinking about you quite a bit. I was thinking about our growing up. We had a lot of struggles and a bunch of kids. We kids never saw anything or understood how hard that was. Now we are adults, and we know it. And then you took in all the neighbor kids as well. It’s just amazing. I appreciate what you did. You and dad were amazing, big time. Look what amazing kids we all are. It’s from you guys.” Andrew

“I get to talk to a lot of my friends about their families because they struggle and aren’t connected. I have a hard time relating. We are connected, and I’m grateful we have such an amazing family. We do love and care about each other. We don’t take that for granted.” Jodie

Some of these comments came with tears as well as smiles. I was blown away!

It’s easy to remember all the things you didn’t do that you wish you had done. It is easy to remember all the wretched things you did that you wish you hadn’t done. It’s hard to know what your children are going to take away from the experience of being part of your family. Often, as I have discovered, it’s better than you think.

Raising a Family Can Be the Best and Worst of Times

I have said that raising my family was “the best of times; it was the worst of times.” These words from the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities describe how I felt perfectly. In fact, in 1996, at the height of our family problems, that is what I wrote under our family photo.

I remember the fun we had: breakfast on the tailgate of our old pickup truck at the park, quiet conversations while weeding in the early dawn hours. We canned together, read as a family, and ate dinner, and talked. We had fun at bath time, during nighttime cuddles, and while sitting together at church. These were memorable and satisfyingly ordinary days. These were the best of times.

I also have seared on my mind the struggles we shared as a family of nine—a husband who traveled for a living, drug abuse, premarital sex and a child born out of wedlock, thoughts of suicide, failure in school, smoking, alcoholism, lack of belief in one’s value as a person, quitting school, abandoning church, a mother who yelled, managing feelings of despair, and coming to terms with same-sex attraction. These were the worst of times.

That is why I have shared some of my birthday messages with you. If our family can experience what we did, and still come out so well, then so can yours.

You won’t, and, frankly, can’t do everything right. Your children will struggle as they grow. You’ll struggle to do all that’s required in your chosen vocation as a parent. You will fall short and make mistakes. It is part of the process of being human, of being in a family.

Perfect isn’t what makes good parents and families. Those who stay the course, even when they’re not doing as well as it could be done, they are the amazing parents that will raise amazing children. I promise!

Success doesn’t require perfect. Let someone else know this truth!

Family Mission Statement – Part 3

 

In preparation for writing your family mission statement:

• You’ve considered what’s been holding you back
• You’ve let excuses go or come up with strategies to overcome any real roadblocks
• You’ve been doing creative work on your own – “What do I want my family to do or know” list.

Now it’s time for everyone else to get involved. The next steps will likely be more effective if you take the time to do them over a few days or weeks. Don’t try to do it all at once. The idea is to keep the “fun” flowing.

I. Getting Creative Together
Start your family mission statement experience by getting the creative juices flowing. Before you jump into the writing portion, spend some time getting your family engaged with the idea of what a family mission statement is and what it contains. Use activities that allow everyone to privately consider what they think should be part of the family culture, and how they want it to feel in their family. Here are some ideas to get ideas flowing and help everyone feel involved.

A. The Core Values Box
Core values are simply people, activities, beliefs, skills, or things that matter most to us. Core values range from concepts like love and acceptance to material things like a home. Other examples are things like caring for animals, honesty, entrepreneurialism, freedom, wise money management, or education, etc.

As a family, decorate a Core Values box and put it in a prominent location in your home, like your dining table. You could design it like a collage with pictures that identify things your family values, or everyone can take a side to decorate however they wish. The idea is to get everyone engaged with the Core Values box.

During your activity and throughout the week, everyone will put core value ideas in the box as the ideas come to them. Then during your mission statement development activity, you will open this box and use the ideas inside to create your first draft.

B. Core Values Collages
Gather magazines and other materials to be used to create collages. Pictures could be printed from the internet. Each person will make their own collage. Use words and images which depict how they want the family to feel and the core values that should become part of the family’s culture. Hang the pictures up in a prominent area so you can ponder them through the week.

During your mission statement development activity, give everyone some time to describe the meaning of the items on their collage. Have someone writing down all of the ideas that are shared which will help you create your first draft.

C. Core Values Artwork
If you have younger children, it might be more useful to create drawings or paintings that help your children describe their feelings about their family. Again, put these pictures in an area that will allow them to be seen, and ask your children often to explain the things they have drawn.

II. Getting Deeper Together
You’ve taken the time to get some creativity flowing. Your family members have begun to engage with the idea of how they want their family to feel. You have considered the elements of family culture that are important to your family. Now it’s time to start asking the right questions to help deepen the articulation of the things that your family values.

Gather your family together for a question and answer activity. You can have each member write down their answers or have an open discussion with someone assigned as a scribe to capture each person’s ideas.

Below is a list of various questions. Choose the ones that best fit your family or make up your own. If you have very young children, make sure your questions are age-appropriate.

Questions to consider when developing a family mission statement

1. What makes you happy? What are those things in life that put a smile on your face and get you through your difficult days?
2. What makes us fulfilled? What are those things in life that bring us the most satisfaction and leave us with a feeling of completeness?
3. What do we want for ourselves and our family? What are our hopes, dreams, and aspirations, not only for our family but for ourselves as well?
4. What is most important to you about your family?
5. What are your collective goals?
6. When do you feel most connected?
7. How would you like to relate to one another?
8. Describe your family’s strengths.
9. Describe your family in 5 years, 10 years, or 15 years.
10. What do you value? (For example, relationships, faith, independence, wealth, hard work, generosity)

Want more question examples?

1. We are at our best when _______?
2. We are at our worst when________?
3. What do we love to do together?
4. As a family, what can we better do to help each other?
5. As a family, what can we contribute to others, or how can we help others outside our family?
6. Are there things we should be doing or changing as a family, even though we’ve dismissed such thoughts many times? What are these things?
7. Imagine a party celebrating our family 20 years from now. What do we want people to say about our family honestly? People view our family as:
8. What one emotion would we like most to fill our home?
9. What are the principles that operate in our family? (Such as trust, honesty, kindness, service, etc.)
10. Let’s think of balance as a state of fulfillment and renewal in each of the four dimensions: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. What are the most important things we can do, in each of these areas, to have the most significant positive impact and help us achieve a sense of balance?
Physical:
Spiritual:
Mental:
Social/Emotional:
11. Imagine its ten years in the future. Envision where we want each member of our family to be. What have we accomplished; how do we see ourselves? Who will you be in 10 years?

III. Getting it Down Together
Finally, it’s time to start organizing your ideas into a concrete form. Don’t allow this family activity to breakdown over “word-smithing” details. Later you will assign someone, usually mom or dad, the job of designing the final draft to bring back to the family for approval.

The easiest way to begin getting your family mission statement down is to choose a design formula that feels right for your family. Mom and dad should choose the formula before this activity begins. Although there are many different forms that mission statements can take, here are three basic forms you could choose from.

FORMULA #1
Gather together all of the core values you’ve identified as a family. Decrease these by two, then decrease by two again until you have one final core value. Keep track of your last 4-6 subsequent core values and then insert them into the formula below.

To (insert Central Core Value here) by (insert three to five Subsequent Core Values here).

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

FORMULA #2
To…. (Do something)
In such a way that….. (Quality of action)
So that…. (We gain these results or benefits)

EXAMPLE
Our Family Mission
To realize our dreams, goals, and aspirations as a family and as individuals in a way that stretches our intellect, enriches our Christian faith, strengthens our character, and enriches our family life. So that we are fulfilled, happy, confident, and always close.

FORMULA #3
Just create a big list of the things that matter to you. Use words such as “are” and “is” rather than terms that suggest “will be.”

EXAMPLE
The Olsen Family Mission Statement
· We love and obey God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
· We celebrate our family’s faith, heritage, and traditions.
· We show our love for one another in word and deed; we pray for each other; we are courteous, caring,    positive, supportive, and considerate.
· We live a healthy lifestyle and maintain order and cleanliness in the home.
· We raise up children in the way they should go, making learning together an integral part of daily life with books and enriching experiences.
· We optimize the competing forces in our lives for good: health, wealth, aesthetics, rest, exercise,                recreation, work, skills, and knowledge.
· We enjoy life today and live it fully; we accept the wonderful gifts from God: forgiveness of sins and eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son.
· We are wise in the way we use our time, talents, and money; we establish good habits, help others, and teach them the truth of God’s salvation.
· We contribute something of worth to the community; maintain the environment, mankind’s institutions,  and religious, political, cultural, social, and individual freedoms, all to glorify God.

Our family felt most connected to the Big List. 

Here is our family mission statement.

The Palmer Family Mission Statement
The Joyful Palmers are a Team! Yeah!
We love, create, and protect family time, both one-one and everyone together.
We talk about our needs, thoughts, and feelings, and we carefully listen to each other.
We treat each other with respect, patience, and kindness.
We speak and act in a way that allows the Spirit to be with us.
We nurture, support, and celebrate each other’s ambitions, dreams, and missions.
We are always honest and do the right thing even when no one is looking.
We courageously commit to public virtue.
We know that God loves us, and we are wonderful and amazing!
We build our knowledge, skills, and attitudes of self-reliance and freedom.
We make everything around us better and more beautiful.
We build others up through service, sharing, and love.
We protect our home, and the Spirit dwells here.
We learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Love is our compass and our anchor.

IV. The Final Draft
Don’t try to make the final draft as a family. It has the potential of creating too much contention. Once you’ve got the core ideas down, give someone the task of editing and making it sound good. Then it can be brought back to the family for the final unveiling.

Assignment #3: Decide which activities to use to prime your family’s creativity, which questions you will ask, and the form that you want your mission statement to take. Then determine your timeline. As you develop your plan, give special attention to making these activities fun and memorable. Include food, or outings, or whatever will make the events unique for your family.

You can find Part 1 of the series HERE. You can find part 2 of the series HERE.

Please share your family’s mission statement here in the comments section of this blog post. Your example will help other families as they work to create their own family mission statements.

Family Mission Statements ROCK – Part 2

 

For many of you, developing a family mission statement may have been on your “to-do” list for a long time, but you have never gotten around to it. Or, maybe the idea is new and a bit daunting.

Here are some sabotaging beliefs and myths that real people have said about mission statement development.

1. “My children are too young to get involved yet.” Or, as one mom put it, “I don’t want my four-year-old influencing our mission statement.”

Even though children might not be able to articulate it, it matters a lot how their family “feels” to them. The family is a child’s world, and they can, even at very young ages, make valuable contributions to the discussion of what matters to the family.

If children are too young to participate, it’s never too early to begin consciously creating the culture of your home through the development of a family mission statement. Their contribution might merely be participating in the daily reciting of the mission statement.

In our home, we have a disabled, non-verbal four-year-old, a very busy two-year-old, and a five-month-old. Our children were too young to have participated in the actual development of our family mission statement. But they very actively participate in the daily reciting of our mission statement. Our two-year-old loves to say the first line, “The Joyful Palmers are a team! Yeah!” Our disabled daughter engages with a huge smile, and the five-month-old soaks in the feeling of it all.

When children are a little older, they can contribute by drawing their ideas of what matters to the family and how they would like the family to feel.

2. My children are too old. I don’t think my children would accept it.

Older children may very well reject something that might challenge the current family status quo or come down from the “powers that be.” Working with older children requires that we pay special attention to “doing the dance” of inspiring.

Primarily, a family mission statement should never come down as an edict from parents. No matter how fabulous your mission statement might sound, it must be created as a family to have any real investment by everybody.

Consider engaging your older youth and young adults in a way that gives an air of anticipation and excitement to the development of this statement. Be prepared to invest in this process. For example, consider taking a unique family retreat, or maybe your children would respond with some private, preparatory, one-on-one talking.

Never create it yourself and then announce it to the family as the new thing. Make it fun; involve food and activities that your family enjoys.

3. I’m not creative enough.

Mission statements don’t require creativity; they require truth.

4. A mission statement must be short; we can’t fit all that’s important to us in a brief statement.

Here’s an example of a family mission statement that is not short.

Habits of Our Home
We obey the Lord Jesus Christ.
We love, honor, and pray for each other.
We tell the truth.
We consider one another’s interests ahead of our own.
We do not hurt each other with unkind words or deeds.
We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
When someone is sad, we comfort him.
When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
When we have something beautiful to share, we share it.
We take good care of everything God has given us.
We do not create unnecessary work for others.
When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
When we open something, we close it.
When we turn something on, we turn it off.
When we don’t know what to do, we ask.
When we take something out, we put it away.
When we make a mess, we clean it up.
We arrive on time.
We do what we say.
We finish what we start.
We say please and thank you.
When we go out, we act as if we are in this house.
When necessary, we accept discipline and instruction.

5. A mission statement needs to be long.

Here is an example of a short and sweet family mission statement.

Our Family Mission
To encourage others to become like Christ through loving relationships,
healthy lifestyles, and stimulating experiences.

6. I’m not sure we need a family mission statement. We seem to be doing just fine without one.

That’s a fair evaluation if “just fine” is your standard.

Assignment #2: What roadblocks, if any, have been keeping your family from creating your family mission statement? Are these roadblocks real or excuses? If they are real, write them down. Now begin considering solutions to these roadblocks. If you need help, reach out to your spouse or a friend to help you start seeing opportunities and solutions.

You can access Part 1 and Assignment 1 HERE. 

Do you have a Family Mission Statement? We would love to know how you did it. Please comment. Do you have a friend who needs this?

There is NO Perfect in Parenting!

Perfect is NOT reality, especially in Parenting!

I had two daughters who had babies last year – one in June and one in Dec. One daughter suffered from postpartum anxiety, not to be confused with the blues or even depression. It was excruciating. Just functioning was a challenge. Besides the new baby, she had one preschooler and one grade-schooler.

Despite her struggles with health and energy, I saw her remember what her kids needed to do to be ready for school. I watched her get them to their events and lessons. I saw her force herself to school with her new baby to participate in a classroom party with her daughter.

My other daughter has tweens, teens, and grade-schoolers. She was up multiple times a night. But one morning bright and early I witnessed this: she was in the kids’ rooms getting them up, reminding them of what they needed for the day, giving cautions about getting to work on time and bringing instruments home after orchestra so they could practice. It was all in her head, and despite her baby fatigue, she was letting it out at the right time, with the right tone. There is no getting around it,

MOTHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY’RE STRUGGLING.

 

My sons-in-law also experienced the addition of new babies into their families. One is in the last stages of genetic blindness and was ill at the time of the birth. However, he donned a mask and was by his wife’s side, not just during the delivery but until his wife came home a day later, even though fluorescent light burns his eyes. Then he returned, mask in hand because the baby had a severe bilirubin issue. His eyes burned as he endured hours of blue light. I watched him get up at night to feed his son, diaper, and cuddle him.

The other dad had a two-plus hour compute every day into the city. He left work early so he could get home sooner. When he got back, the load shifted from his wife’s shoulders to his own. He made food, played Candyland, fed the dogs, tucked kids in bed, and comforted his wife. There is no getting around it,

FATHERS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THE LOAD IS HEAVY.

 

Neither of these couples is doing it perfectly. There are down days, moments of resentment, and checking out. BUT they get up daily and do it again because they love each other and their families. There is no way around it,

PARENTS ARE AMAZING EVEN WHEN THEY AREN’T PERFECT!!

Know a parent struggling because they aren’t perfect. Share. : )

Family Mission Statements Rock!

 

Sometimes, as a parent, we’re handed opportunities for self-evaluation on a silver platter. I was given such a dish the other day when I caught my two-year-old son marching around the living room chanting, “Stop that! Now I have to take that away. Stop that! Now I have to take that away.” Good grief! I’m happy to contrast that little ditty with something he was muttering in my ear a few nights ago as I was putting him to sleep. “Daddy loves you; daddy loves you; daddy loves you.”

It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how innocent my son is in his learning, how he soaks up everything that happens around him. In those two little exchanges, my son confirmed to me how important it is that I do not take the obligation lightly, I have as a parent to lay a right and solid foundation for him to build the rest of his life on.

It’s important to remember that children learn more by what we are and the environment and feelings that surround them than through what we are trying to teach through activities. If this is true, ask yourself, “how do we, as a family, consciously develop who we are and the environment and feelings that make up our home? What are we doing to consciously articulate the development of our family?”

A family mission statement is this articulation.

A family mission statement becomes part of our family cannon and the inspiration of our family culture. In other words, it’s what helps us consciously design the environment and feelings in our home that directly influence the development of our children. A Family Mission Statement breathes life into or inspires our family culture.

There is another essential element that a family mission statement brings to the table. I’ve interviewed several families who said, “I’m not sure how much we need a mission statement. It seems that the culture of our family is pretty good. We don’t have a formal, articulated mission statement, but we talk about the things that might be in a statement a lot.”

This is a model that works for many families. However, consider the specific model you’re using to train your children in developing, managing, and leading their own families.

For these parents I interviewed, they were clear on the things they were teaching regularly to their children, which were influencing their family culture. But, are they also teaching their children how to do that in their own homes? Are their children even aware that there is a model to follow? Are they aware of the idea of culture, it’s purposeful creation, and the impact it has on the family?

A Family Mission Statement is not only an articulation of your family’s development; it’s also a specific model of training for good family development, management, and leadership.

Through the course of the next few blog posts, I’ll be taking you through several exercises to help your family create your own inspiring family mission statement.

Assignment #1: Begin by evaluating your family’s current culture. Consider the daily environment and feelings in your home. Talk to your spouse about it. Are your family environment, feelings, and culture such that they will inspire your children’s growth and character? Now, try a brainstorming exercise by asking yourself: what are the core things I want my child to do or know? Put your list somewhere so that you can add to it when things come to your mind.

A Family Mission Statement Matters. Please share with those you care about. 

The Afternoon Occupation Jar – BRILLIANT!

A friend has been talking with me about her efforts to organize her family and teach her sons. We’ve had conversations, each ending with something to ponder. The goal is to come up with an experiment.

Something weighing heavily on her mind was how to find the time to expose her sons to different hobbies and occupations. She is a mom who works full time from home, helping a small hospital. Since the pandemic, her workload has increased from 30 hours a week to sometimes 80. It won’t be forever, but for now, it is a load.

Trying to find the time to engage with her boys isn’t the only reason she’s concerned about showing them the world of possibilities. She is a true-crime buff. She told me that she has seen a pattern emerge over the years. Many of these crimes happen in small towns and other out of the way places. The perpetrators all say they were bored and didn’t have anything to do, and they were drinking. WHAT!

No Matter Where You Live There Are Things to Learn and Do

That is the question she has been asking herself. No matter where you live, there are things to learn and do – go fishing, learn the names of trees and plants, learn to roller skate, collect rocks and minerals, start a group for kids to teach them a skill, read to others in a nursing home, etc.

Even in small towns, the list could be endless. So, what is the problem? My friend has concluded, after watching these shows for years, that often the perpetrators don’t know they have options, they didn’t learn to explore possibilities.

One of the things she wants to do as a parent is to expose her sons to lots of new and exciting things. How to consistently do that is the problem. We talked about many options, and she pondered them, and yes, came up with an experiment. The system she developed was brilliant, and it may be just what you need too.

Afternoon Occupations

She got a jar, painted it, and labeled it ‘Afternoon Occupations.’ It’s filled with popsicle sticks that mom marked with activities that the boys can do themselves. That is important because these afternoon occupations take place while she’s working.

Here is how it works. The boys choose a stick and engage in the activity. They only get to choose one stick, and then they must give it a good college try, even if they think they don’t like it. After a good attempt, they are free to play with something else that they want. The goal is to help them learn how to fill and manage their time with good things and do it independently.

Mom has put things the boys will need on two shelves of a bookcase. If it isn’t there, then it is in a place the boys can access. Legos are on the Lego table, and the puzzles have a home.

Sample Occupations

Here are some of the items written on the sticks –
• Simple crafts
• Music
• Playdough
• Make a card
• Water play
• Audiobook
• Stretching and other simple exercises
• Draw on the sidewalk
• Make an obstacle course
• Watercolors
• Origami
• Puzzles

As the days go by, she plans to pay attention to which sticks are winners and which aren’t as successful. She will remove the unsuccessful activities and add new sticks as she comes up with new ideas. She is figuring out what they genuinely do themselves and what will take more help. It is a process of winnowing out.

When you’re busy, it isn’t always enough to say, “Go play.” Giving kids a jumping-off point can be immensely helpful. And remember, the goal is not to keep the kids out of your hair while you do whatever your project or work is, it’s to help them learn to fill and manage their time independently.

You never know when one of the sticks could become a hobby that they can do alone for an hour or two on the weekend!

This is a fun one. Why not share? : )

With Kids, Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew!!

Keep It Simple

I know about this and I work to keep things simple. However, being at home for an extended period of time has been wreaking havoc on my brain. : )

The other day I decided to help the grands, all four of them, make cookies. Now that isn’t a big deal except, I decided to let each one make their own kind. And let’s not forget that Maggie is special needs and must have constant help to participate.

I know, I was out of my mind! : ) I asked Don to help. I reasoned that he could help the two boys, one 12 and one 6. The 12-year-old wouldn’t need much help. I would help the girls, one 10 and one 14, with special needs. The 10-year-old is creative and fairly independent. That should work out alright.

NOT! Don couldn’t manage two at a time and was totally involved with the six-year-old. That left me with three. As for the twelve-year-old, I discovered that when it comes to cooking, he needed a lot of help. And as far as the 10-year-old goes, she couldn’t read my cursive. Of course, her recipe card was in my cursive. Sigh. It was like trying to wrangle chickens. You’ve never done that. Well, trust me, it’s tiring!! And here is another thing. I am perfectly aware that expectations can do a good project in. I teach that. I am an expert.

BUT I forgot my own advice.

Here is what I thought. Each one will be able to measure the ingredients. All but Ben will be able to cream the sugar and shortening, no problem. Then they will cook their cookies, we will eat some and each will clean up their spot on the table. WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!

Here is how it went. No one knew that you had to pack shortening or brown sugar into the cups and had to be shown. No one could cream the sugar and shortening without significant help. They struggled to even find the correct measuring cup. After one pan of cookies, they were done and had flown the coop, so to speak. As for gathering them back to clean up, GET REAL!

I have to say, that I remained CALM while I was working with the kids. During the baking, I felt myself begin to slip. That is when I should have STOPPED, thought it out, and packaged a ton of dough in plastic wrap and utilized the freezer. But when we are brain-fried we stop thinking. LOL

It took me three hours to cook and put all those cookies away and I had two ovens going. We began at 1:30. The kids were done in by 2:30. I finished at 5:30. Then I was grumpy the rest of the evening. Fortunately, I live in a different part of the house and they never even knew. Poor Don, he lives with me!

When we work with children there are ways to keep it happy for us, as well as them. There are ways to remain energetic to the end and spend the evening cheerful. That is useful because unlike me, you do live in the same house with your kids.

Five Tips For Happy Times With Kids

1. Remember that kids are process-driven. They like the process of whatever the activity is and when that part is done, they are done. They are not concerned with the outcome – in other words baking the cookies or cleaning up, for that matter.
2. Watch your expectations. Link your satisfaction to your ability to enjoy what is even when it falls short of your expectations.
3. Mentally prepare for a mess. There will be one. There is NO way around it!
4. If you keep things simple you will manage better. Only make one batch of cookies at a time, not four!
5. Think through the time needed for the whole project so you don’t find yourself giving more than you planned. The present example is perfect – making cookies from 1:30 to 5:30. To long!

Working with children is so rewarding if we manage our adult way of thinking, have realistic expectations, keep it simple and stay present.

I appreciate it when you share and so do your friends. Thank you!

The HARDEST thing to choose!

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

“As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. ‘I love it,’ he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.’

That doesn’t have anything to do with it,’ he replied. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged…it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away… Just for this time in my life.” – Well Built: Inspiring Stories from the Boardroom to the Frontline By Bob Buck

I enjoyed reading this short story because it highlights an important law of success –

it happens in our minds first.

The other day Don did something that ruffled my feathers! I felt the anger well up and the inner pout come out. As I stood at the sink fuming, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could be angry and let Don know it or I could flush what was bothering me and just be happy. I decided to let it go and just be happy.

It wasn’t easy. That negative emotion wanted to run around and around in my brain replaying whatever it was that was upsetting me. I had to find a way to shove it out for good. I choose to be grateful. I began thinking up a list in my mind of all the things that I like about Don, all the fun and pleasant memories that I have of the two of us. Guess what, the negative feeling dissipated and I felt happy.

As we parent our families there is plenty to stress us especially during these trying days of Covid-19 and social distancing. Children aren’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, systems and tools don’t always work the way we want them to, sad things happen, bad things happen, relationships can turn bumpy, our family culture is often a poignant mirror of all the work we need to do. Despite all this we can choose to be happy. The truth is that happiness is an attitude. It’s not something created by outside circumstances, but instead is completely within our control.

Here are a few techniques

to help you choose happy when you’re tempted to choose something else.

1. Be grateful – This tops my list. It works every time. When I am feeling really put out or downtrodden, if I begin thinking about all the wonderful parts of my life, I just can’t help but perk right up. If you need to, write a list. Seeing it in black and white helps.
2. Take care of yourself – What are some of the small things in life that make you feel good? Do one daily. Take a short walk, write for a few minutes in your journal, have a short meditation, watch the sunset, hug a child. For me, it is a hot shower just before bed every day. I love it! Whatever reminds you that you are a human being and not a human doing will improve your outlook on life.
3. Be creative – Creativity and self-expression generate happiness. Schedule some creative time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes of writing, painting, baking, or sewing.
4. Move – Move a little every day to stay happy. It releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
5. Read and listen to inspirational material – It helps to be reminded of positive thoughts and positive attitudes. Read in your spiritual cannon or get a small book of positive, inspirational thoughts and keep it by your desk. Read one or two thoughts each day. Every morning I have a private devotional. I have a short list of songs that move my heart. I choose one to listen to every morning, then I pray. I read a few verses in my spiritual cannon. It makes a difference!
7. Contribute – Serve others. Think about the needs of others. Make a difference. It boosts your self-esteem, your gratitude, and feeling of well-being.
8. Be in nature – Nature rejuvenates and restores the human spirit. Give yourself the gift of visiting it frequently. Take a walk or just sit in the sun in your back yard and rest for a few minutes! : )

No matter how many wonderful things you do to create a positive, happy, satisfied life, you could still end up in unhappy stressed situations. Ultimately, happiness, gratitude, and a feeling of satisfaction is a choice.

Know someone who needs some

‘happy’? Please share.

Dogs or Kids, Life is a Challenge!

I have a friend who has a tiny poodle named Isadore. When I last visited her, she complained that he is spoiled rotten. He wants to be held all the time. She said Isadore drips water from his chin when he drinks and so the floor is always a mess. She sighed in exasperation.

I have another friend who had two small, fluffy, white dogs. One is over ten and one is just a year old. The one-year-old constantly badgered the older dog who wanted nothing to do with romping and wrestling. My friend felt that she needed to provide a playmate for the one-year-old. She bought a third small, white, fluffy dog. This one is a puppy just a few weeks old.

I was at her home last week and she said, “Two was OK. But now I need a third hand. I just can’t keep up with them all.” Later she was telling me that the one-year-old was very jealous of the new puppy. She related how weary she gets by the end of the day making sure the puppy is safe while the one-year-old dog gets accustomed to the new family member. And housebreaking the puppy, we aren’t even going to talk about that stress! She complained that now that there are three dogs there is a lot more mess, toys, noise, and chaos.

Doesn’t that sound like your life?

Recently my daughter had a baby. When Clark was just weeks old her daughter, who is seven, came and sat on her lap. “Mom, I’m feeling sad. I liked being the youngest.”

Matilda had slept on a small bed in her parents’ room since she was born. Now she’s in a regular bed, in a room with her sister. Clark is in a crib in the parents’ bedroom. I watched as her parents tried to deal with the situation. They were finding it a bit of a challenge. To help with the transition my son-in-law slept on the floor by her bed for a week!

You see, it doesn’t matter if we have a family of dogs or children. Filling needs which constantly change is a challenge. Getting everything done is a challenge. Managing the needs of everyone we’re responsible for is a challenge. Life is a challenge.

But take it from me, having people or animals you love in your life is worth the work. So, smile. Laugh. Find moments of joy. Despite the challenges, savor it. Life with your family is brief and tender.

Know someone who is struggling?

Please share.