Hope for When Your Marriage is in a Hard Season

I almost didn’t write this post.

When I was asked to be a part of this blog series, Reclaiming Hope and Joy In Your Marriage, I waited until the last possible moment to join.

I was so honored to be asked to join this great group of Christian bloggers.  And while I loved the idea of being part of a group of Christian women encouraging other women, I knew that writing about marriage would be especially personal and vulnerable.  

We tend to imagine while we struggle at times in our marriage, that it is so much easier for other Christians, but we can see from the divorce rate among Christians that likely isn’t true.

I will soon celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary.   I have a good marriage, but like all folks that have been married a good minute we have weathered hard seasons in our relationship. When you’re in the midst of a difficult season, it can be hard to see that you’ll ever get to the other side of it. Now,  I’m so glad and thankful that when we were going through a hard season, we didn’t give up.  

Here are four things that can help you find hope when your marriage is in a hard season:

Continue reading at Hope Joy in Christ 


How Our Family Navigated Through the Teenage Dating Years

In a recent post I wrote about using the tween years to prepare for the teen years, I explained that waiting to date until an age that is older than what most consider “normal”,  was what we decided was best for our family.  I explain in the original post how that line of thinking came about. After that post I was asked to give more detail about how that looked in our family.

I was asked:

1)  What conclusions I drew from reading the resources I listed

2) What boundaries we had set that were firm

3) What we allowed with guidance

I listed some reasons we thought waiting to date until older in the first post.  If you haven’t read that post you will want to as I won’t repeat it all here and all the resources that influenced our decisions are listed there.

After reading quite a few books, here are some of the conclusions we came to that influenced our dating guidelines.

In addition to the other reasons already stated, we felt like dating is best used strictly for the purpose of finding a spouse, not for having fun.  Our teens had active social lives, but not one on one dates. They did attend prom at our homeschool group with dates, but dating one on one wasn’t the norm.

We encouraged outings in groups and mostly avoiding being alone with the opposite sex for an extended period of time.  There wasn’t a strict rule of never being alone, but they mostly stayed in a group.  It didn’t have to be a large group, this wasn’t a strict thing…the purpose was avoiding romantic relationships, avoiding awkward situations, avoiding unnecessary heartbreak.  Not having to deal with those issues gave them more time and energy for focusing on what we felt more important for this time in their life, their relationship with God, family, good friends, and of course, school 🙂

 We began planting seeds in the tween and early teen years for them to begin making a mental list of exactly what they were looking for in a marriage partner.  Some things on the list are essential: being a Christian, wanting similar things in family life, some basic compatibility issues.  Then listing other things that are nice to have but not absolutely essential.

At 16, you aren’t ready to get married, so if you develop feelings for someone you will likely have a loooong time to date before you are ready to be married.  That just makes it harder to remain physically pure in your relationship until marriage.  If our teens had developed serious feelings for someone, we would have tried to prolong group settings as long as possible until they were closer to an age to really consider getting married.  Unlike many other parents though, I didn’t feel strongly that our kids had to complete college before marriage, but they needed to be able to support themselves financially.

We didn’t set an exact age, but we hoped we could avoid our teens dating until near the end of high school or beginning of college.  

We advised our teens to never go on a date with someone who wasn’t the kind of person you wanted to marry. This doesn’t mean you know IF you want to marry them, just that from what you know about them, you haven’t ruled it out.  At whatever point you know they aren’t a serious candidate, end the dating relationship.  That might be one date, a few or 6 months, but at whatever point you know the two of you aren’t a good match for marriage, STOP dating them.  

Even once they begin to date we thought it was best if they didn’t spend all or almost all of their time alone as a couple. This would be more likely to form emotional attachments more quickly and bring greater temptations.  Once Jordan was dating (she was 18), she did go on “alone” dates and spent time getting to know her dates on her own, but they also spent a LOT of time with our family.  She and Josh (her husband now) also spent time with his family.  She, and we, felt there were advantages to both, making it easier to have serious conversations you’re less likely to have with others around and spending time with both families.

Boundaries We Set That Were Firm

This category will be small.  There weren’t a lot of boundaries that were firm. We were so fortunate that our kids came to see the wisdom of the ways that we advised them.

We wouldn’t have let them date before 16 if they had wanted to.  IF they had dated at that age everything I’m going to tell you about what dating looked like would have been different.

Jordan was 18 and an adult when she dated.  She could have been living away from home at that age.  We took all that into consideration.

We didn’t have a set curfew that was inflexible.  We always knew where our teens were, dating or not. They kept in touch by texting.  (Evan hasn’t dated while he has lived at home.)  Sometimes they were out very late.  I always knew who they were with and what they were doing.

Jay had to work and I was at home so I waited up or dozed on the couch.  I was as exhausted when my kids were teens as I was when they were babies.  If they had broken our trust…..this scenario all would have changed.  They didn’t.  

I will probably open myself up to some criticism here, but Jordan and Josh would fall asleep on the couch early watching a movie and sometimes we would go to bed and leave them there. When they woke up they would talk or watch tv until the wee hours.  Our bedroom door opens to the living room.  At any moment we could (and did) come out of our room directly into the living room.  They were adults.   They got up early for work during the week and couldn’t stay awake when the movie would start.  If we had enforced that he had to go home they would have had little time together.

They didn’t ever stay at either of our homes alone (a few minutes here and there when everyone was coming and going) and that was by their choice as well as well as our recommendation.

The key ingredient here is that Jordan was a believer and she wanted her actions in all areas of life to be pleasing to God.  That’s really what we’re always hoping for as parents isn’t it?  Knowing this, and knowing her personal convictions for purity, in all areas not just physical, enabled us to be more flexible than we might have otherwise been.

It was always our prayer that our kids would one day transfer their respect for our authority over them to God, who is an authority over us as parents too.   I told my kids many times throughout their life that although we had authority over them, that there was a higher authority than their parents.  I always reminded them that I would answer to God for how I parented them and that I took that very seriously.  Over time they came to really respect that.  I feel sure they’ll use that one day with their kids when they have to say no 🙂

What We Allowed With Guidance

When any kid leaves for a date, they COULD tell you anything and in most cases you wouldn’t know if they weren’t truthful.

Because Jordan set standards for herself that we could respect, what we offered Jordan mostly was recommendations.  If she had behaved in a way that went against our conscience as parents answering to God, we would have had to do things differently.

Although she knew we were right, I’m sure Jordan sometimes got tired of being reminded of certain things.  Like being cautious about being alone in situations that were likely to be a great temptation that could cause regret.  She continued to hear it anyway, cause that’s what parents do.  

What dating looked like in our family didn’t look like it does for most of the world, neither did it look exactly like the excellent books I read and recommended in my first post.  I read those books and we prayed for God to guide us.

I hope as you’re thinking and praying over what dating should look like in your home, you won’t be too quick to think it should look exactly like anyone else’s experience.  You’re working with YOUR child’s temperament, with YOUR child’s spiritual maturity and each child truly does require something so different from us as parents.  My 3 kids are night and day different in many respects.

I’m confident that God can and will guide you to the right decisions for YOUR family.  I’m praying that will be so.

Wishing you the best as you navigate your way through dating.   I hope you have less gray hair at the end of it than I do 🙂

Till next week,



Spring: A Time of Beauty, Scheduling Chaos and Evaluating Commitments

There is so much that I love about spring!  Spring is a favorite season of many, with good reason.  Everything comes back to life.  Beautiful blooms.  Sweet scents in the air.  Birds are singin’ and kittens are born.  For a brief time here in way-south-Alabama, it is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors before the blistering heat of summer.

I love to sit outside.  Just sit.  With a cup of coffee or something cold to drink and just have a moment to listen to the birds and think.

I have learned that when I don’t have time to just “think my own thoughts” as I used to say to my older kids when I needed them to skedaddle (leave) for a minute, I feel anxious and stressed.

While I love so many things about spring, it is one of the busiest times in our year.  And too busy is something I really dislike.

When my older two were at home and we were homeschooling I would find myself constantly evaluating our level of activity.   There is such a fine line between fun-busy and crazy-busy.  I read this book a couple of years ago, “The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.”   If you find yourself in the place of having a tough time finding the balance between fun and crazy, I highly recommend it.  While it contains some things we already know, I found the book to be very helpful.  It helped me to see through some of the reasons I say yes when I should say no.  I plan to re-read it this summer.

I struggle with disappointing anyone by telling them no.  I really find it hard to tell Jessie no when she wants to do it all.  I struggle too with feeling confident about what God would have me do.

I find that the rest of the year I teeter on the edge here and there and then SPRING.  Spring points out that I really have already been at my maximum all year and that any additions to our schedule make me unable to be my best at things I really care about.  

Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else.  Be sure your yes is worth the less.  -Lisa TerKeurst, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands

Baseball starts at just the time when I plant a small garden and the yard starts to need attention.  We have a ball game every Saturday.  Weddings and graduations.  All good things.   But so many good things that all the mamas I know are like me, overwhelmed and stretched thin.

I know many other moms whose kids are involved in the same activities we are feel the same.  Just trying to make it till next weekend.  This coming week, we have our last Miracle league baseball game, banquet,  our last swim practice, and we just had our last gymnastics practice.  Our State Special Olympics where Jessie will compete in gymnastics on Saturday and then it all stops for the summer.  

Jessie has summer morning camps planned but there will be a month of breathing room before that begins.  I desperately need the breathing room.

All year I make a mental list of things I want to accomplish in the summer.  Cleaning out closets and drawers, going through clothes, baseboards.   Yeah, other than a swipe with the broom or vacuum I don’t actually wipe baseboards the rest of the year.  If ya’ll manage to do that, you probably do a better job of managing your commitments 🙂  I am looking forward to re-painting several rooms this summer (I hope!) and spending some time relaxing by the pool.  I want to let Jessie have friends over, something I don’t do when she has so many other activities on our schedule.

It is just so hard to decide which things I’m supposed to let go of.  They are all good things!  But I have been praying and have decided to let go of a commitment I have had for a long time.  I have also decided not to say yes to anything new for just a bit.  I have a hard time sticking to that.  It’s not for forever.  But I need a good deep breath of not feeling so pressed, so scheduled.

I’m saying no to some things so I can say yes to others.

There are people God has put on my heart to be more available to.  I’m making room.

If like me, you have decisions to make about where you commit your time here’s a link to quotes from The Best Yes for further inspiration.  Here’s a link to The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

I hope that even if you’re feeling stressed, you’re drinking in all the beauty of spring.

Till next week friends,


Should you be friends with your teen? I disagree with the current popular advice. Hear me out?

A couple of times within the last few months I’ve seen blog posts about how we should dare to be parents, rather than trying to be friends with our teens.  Do we really have to choose one or the other?   I don’t think it has to be that way.  Some parents feel that they can only be friends with their children once they were grown. 

If we aren’t friends with them as teenagers, will they want to be our friends when they are grown?  I’m not sure.

Will you hear me out for just a minute?

I think not everyone is defining “friend” in the same way.  I am not talking about being the “cool parent” that allows them to do whatever they want and can’t tell them no.  Umm, nobody would have ever accused me of that. I’m not talking about the emotionally unhealthy/overly needy parent that can’t set boundaries because they can’t bear for their child to be angry with them.  I mean, clearly, that wouldn’t be good for them.  

Our teens are in this precarious place where they need us more than they’re willing to acknowledge.  Parenting them is like this dance where they sometimes move in close and then they pull away a little and then move in close again.   Our teens need the protection of our boundaries and they also need grace.  They must be required to show us respect but they desperately want ours too, even if they don’t show it.  They need us to show them love even when they behave in a way that is unlovely.  We won’t do any of that perfectly, but our parental love for them enables us to keep their long term best interests at heart.

Teenagers are still figuring out who they want to be.  Their friends, no matter how mature they are for their age, aren’t their best role models.  They’re still learning too.  In addition to what they don’t yet know, they too are riding the emotional roller coaster that adolescence seems to bring. 

I believe teens NEED us to be their friend as well as their parent.  They need to know that not only do we love them, but we enjoy their company.  We respect them.  We like to be with them.  We find them interesting.  And I think it is 100% possible to be able to be both parent and friend IF you take some precautions.  

We need to be their best friend, but we can’t need them too much to be ours.  I enjoyed the friendship of both my teenagers tremendously.  There were also times that I had to be emotionally okay with them being upset with me about something.  I was able to do this because I wanted their friendship, for their good and mine, but I didn’t need it in an unhealthy way.  As a mature, emotionally healthy adult I wasn’t willing to sacrifice their long term good for their temporary happiness.  

I will admit I think it is easier to be friends with your teen if you’re a homeschooling family.  It gives you more time with your kids than what they have with their friends.  Even if they have a very active social life as mine did, they still spend much more of their time with you.  They spend many more hours at home with you than if they went to school 7+ hours per day.

When my children were younger I heard my friend, Christy Keyton, that I really respected speak at our  local homeschool meeting.  Her oldest children were several years older than mine.  She talked about how one of the blessings of homeschooling through the high school years was the joy of having that time with her teenagers and how she felt it gave her better opportunity to have good relationships with them that she was thankful for.  Now that my older two are grown I look back and feel exactly the same way.  Hearing her speak gave me hope that I would have the same relationship with my teens.  I hope this gives you hope and encouragement too.

I have good and sweet relationships with both of my now young adult (22 and 21) children.  I enjoy their company and most of the time think they enjoy mine 🙂  Even when Jordan and Evan were teenagers I feel that we were able to have a friendship.  The boundaries were a little different then, but it was a genuine friendship that changed and grew as they got older.

When I looked up the definition of friend online Merriam Webster says: one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.  By this definition of friend, I can’t see why we can’t be a friend to our teens.

I have always found Dr. James Dobson to be a trusted resource for Christian parents who want not only philosophical advice, but everyday, practical advice.  This is an excellent article by Dr. James Dobson about parenting teens.  I remembered when I read it, the story he shared from his own life.   He tells how when he was starting to head in a rebellious direction his father made a very costly personal and professional move to be home and more available during this time in his son’s life.  He says, “During these years we hunted and fished together and bonded for a lifetime…. I was moving in the wrong direction, and they pulled me back from the cliff. ” He shared this story in  Bringing Up Boys (a resource I highly recommend for understanding how our sons think).

What I experienced with my teens is that in their youth, their immaturity, they might be angry with me or their dad for a few hours or a day when we made a decision they didn’t like but they could never stay mad at us.  My son, who is pretty strong willed (to his benefit now but…) would want to stay mad at me, but he simply couldn’t.  The reason he couldn’t is because in his heart he knew we never said no, “just because”.  When he had some time for his disappointment to wane or his anger to cool, he was always able to see more clearly that we always made choices that we strongly believed to be in his best interests.  He might not like our decision, but he accepted it better because he understood that.

After I wrote and before I edited this post, I listened to this “Hey Love” podcast which brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.  There is no guarantee that if we do everything we know to do, that our children will respond in the way we hope.  If you’re in a place where your relationship isn’t what you wished for with your child or teen, you should listen to this podcast where two different moms share how God is restoring their relationships with their daughters after much heartbreak.  It isn’t always within our timing, but God can and often does redeem and restore what might seem unlikely or impossible.

Every teen is a unique individual.  They each require something different of us in parenting them.  They are bound to sometimes drive us crazy.  Unlike their young friends though, as their parent and friend we are capable of putting their long term best interest at heart.

One last link to leave you with a last word of encouragement.  In the words of Sarah Mae, Mother On.  I just love this so much.

Hope your day is beautiful, friend.



“The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.”

We feel like we have adjusted pretty well now to Jordan being married and not living at home.  Jessie, although it was a gradual process, has adjusted to sleeping alone, and I sleep with her once a week.  I had wondered if we would ever get to that point.  But, we did.  It’s all starting to feel pretty normal.

We are used to not seeing Jordan every single day.   We have adjusted to our new normal with her.  It is a joy having Josh as part of our family and we enjoy the time tremendously that we spend with the both of them.  Always when we think of them, we are thankful for the sweet and godly husband that Josh is to Jordan.  And we laugh at how they complement each other.  Josh is a lot like Jay in many ways.  And Jordan is a lot like me.  And all that is just pretty funny to observe 🙂

They are in the process of buying a house.  We enjoy giggling over their negotiations of paint colors and who will wash the dishes and remember what all that was like.

When we think of Jordan now we don’t suddenly and instantly feel sad that she isn’t living here.  Excitement for them in all the little adventures that are part of being a newly married couple are what we think of now.

“The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.” I googled that quote when it came to mind.  I didn’t remember the words being lyrics from a song (by Tracy Lawrence, Time Marches On) that the quote was attributed to, but how true those words are.

It seems that every time we get used to how things are, things change again.  That’s been true for every season of mothering till now, and I reckon it will just continue to be.

This week Evan started working out of town.  He has been working for an industrial construction company for a couple of months at a job site that was about 45 minutes from home.  He didn’t know exactly when till the very last day at that job, but we had known that soon that job would end and he would be working at a new site out of town.  Sunday he left for his first week of work at the new job about 3 hours away.  He will, other than coming home on weekends, be there at least until August when he plans to start back to school.

I had been trying to plan a trip to Tennessee to visit with a friend for a week.  Because it was uncertain when Evan would leave I postponed my trip.  I wanted to be here when he packed and prepared for his first week away.  I know, he’s 20.  Even though he’s 20, he appreciated that I helped him as he made checklists, packed, and we talked through everything to be sure he didn’t forgotten important.  He’s three hours away so he couldn’t just run back home if he needed something.

Jessie’s precious swim coach (that I love dearly and feel very motherly toward) has always said of me, “You’re just such a mom.”  Yep.  Always knew I wanted to be a mom.  Love being a mom.  And no matter how big those younguns get, I will just keep mama-ing them.   What it looks like changes, but I will always be mama-ing them.

This week what that looked like was a huge bowl of spaghetti, taped down with packing tape, so when turned on its side for the 3 hour ride, it wouldn’t spill out in his new grown up lunch box 🙂  We had a wedding shower after church on the day he was leaving, so the sauce was made the night before, the noodles quickly after church and then we raced back in at the last minute to double check his list and see our boy off.  He can’t leave for lunch, so he has to take his lunch every day.  He said he wouldn’t mind taking the same thing every day; he was really happy his mama made his lunch for all week.  Last night when his dad and I called him, he said when he unpacked he realized what a ton of spaghetti it was, more than he had thought when we had packed and taped the bowl.  We decided he could share some with his roommate.

Jordan and Josh came over to see Evan off too.  When we walked him to his car, he let me hug him longer than usual and kiss him multiple times.  He doesn’t need me in the same ways he used to, but I can tell he’s still glad his mama loves him so much.

He will be 21 tomorrow.  The first birthday that he’s ever been away.  We will celebrate when he comes home this weekend.

His dog, Stella, that usually sleeps with him is sleeping in our room.  It just feels odd not to put her in his room when I go to bed.  It feels odd to make just enough coffee for Jay, and not Evan, when I set the pot at night.  And, it feels odd not to be planning suppers that include enough for him to take for lunch. It isn’t like he was here all day every day, but the knowing he isn’t coming home every night is just odd and a little sad.

I have plenty to keep me busy and keep me from thinking TOO much about it all.  One of the dogs got in something stinky so I had to bathe them both. Then change my shirt cause big honkin’ Stella, reaching over her to bathe gets you soaking wet.  And the mama kitty with the baby kitties and the other cat that has seizures.  And ALL Jessie’s activities.  A farewell party for the above mentioned much loved swim coach that is moving.  And happy things like planting some new flowers I bought.  And watching them grow.  Life is still good, it’s just different again.

The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.  So we adjust and learn a new normal.  Again 🙂

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

The day my husband brought home FIVE NEWBORN kittens.

Jay called me at 5:30 from work.  I was standing at the stove.  It was Wednesday and in 30 minutes I needed to be at church to teach a group of teens.  I had two eyes going on the stove, still finishing supper and needing to get dressed.  I was on another call and had to click over to answer his.  Are you getting the picture of the level of frantic activity that always seems to be the case when you’re trying to get out the door to church?

I could hear the anxiety in his voice.  He was at work and heading home.  He told me he had climbed under a loading dock to get to these 5 newborn, only days old kittens that he could hear incessantly meowing.  His co-workers helped him raise the hydraulic portion of the loading dock and brace it for him to crawl under.  He said he had prayed, “Lord if its my day to go, please make it fast.”

It was going to freeze that night and they were laying directly on the concrete.  He didn’t see a mama anywhere around and couldn’t leave them there.  I told him I needed to head out to church.  He said, “I need you.  You can’t go to church.  Someone else will have to teach the class.  I need your help.  You need to help me figure out how to get these kittens fed.”  We are members of a small church.  My friend, who is the backup teacher,  was sick with a migraine.  Everyone already has their own responsibilities, so it can be hard to find a last minute backup.  I would only miss if I had to.  I had to.

Jay put some paper in a box he found in the office and brought the kittens home.  They had quieted for the ride home but one of them, the one we nicknamed The Big Mouth, started yeowing as soon as the box got still. I had called Kitty Kottage and done some online research while he was driving home.  Following their instructions, he ran to Fred’s for some kitten replacement milk and we fed them a little with a medicine syringe.  They seemed healthy but they were making a lot of noise and we couldn’t know how long it had been since they had eaten.

In our panic we forgot to heat the milk that first time.  Oops.  That could be one of the factors as to why it was such a challenge to get some down them.  As soon as we finished feeding the babies, he raced off to Pet Smart for bottles and a bigger can of milk.

That night I fed those babies every 2-3 hours and was so hoping they wouldn’t die.  I had been told the chances of all of them surviving at  this young age weren’t great.

Like in my baby nursing days, at each feeding I would get my supplies all ready and set up within easy reach.  A drink, the warmed bottle, tissue to use to stimulate them to potty after they eat.  I learned some new facts about how all that works that I hadn’t considered before.  And, the tv remote if they stopped yeowing enough for me to hear the tv.

Let’s back up a bit.  We have one female cat that recently started having seizures and takes medicine for that 2 x a day.  When she has a seizure sometimes she has a potty accident.  We have two dogs.  One is incredibly anxious and annoying (Boo) and a Doberman that I love dearly (Stella) who has a sensitive stomach and randomly throws up.  I AM ALLERGIC TO CATS AND DOGS 🙂  I’m constantly washing the blankets the dogs lay on and trying to keep all of them off of things that will bother me the most.  I take allergy nose spray and Claritin to survive.  A cat that Jay loved dearly (a solid black sweet lap cat named Charlie) died a year ago and we had agreed that between allergies and the vet bills we wouldn’t take on anymore animals.

Just that week Jay had cancelled an appointment that would cost $50 thinking it just wasn’t the best time to spend the money.  Guess how much it cost to get all the supplies for the babies?  $50.   And he didn’t begrudge them that.

In situations like these, you see who people are.  And who my husband is, is a person who couldn’t leave those babies to die.  He puts on a tough exterior, but he’s pretty much mush.   He kept apologizing about the extra work they were causing me because I had said I would get up with them through the night since he had to work the next day.   At my age I don’t bounce back as quick when I miss sleep, but there was something good for my soul in that experience during the time that I took care of those babies.

The babies had a hard time learning to take the milk from the bottle.  2 of them began to fight a little less and learned to suck the bottle.  Three of the babies, strangely it was the three that had orange on them, which made it easy to remember who had eaten well, fought me the whole time at each feeding as I struggled to get the milk in them.

All the yeowing made Jessie and Stella extremely anxious. Jessie put her headphones on.  Stella, until I finally let her sniff one of the babies in my hand, sat on the couch her whole body shaking and her teeth chattering.  That added to my stress level too.  When I put Jessie to bed, she sleeps with her door open and a loud box fan, I didn’t think she could hear them.  She recently got a cell phone.  She texted me from bed, “Please make it stop.”  That would have been funny if it wasn’t so late.   Sigh.

Kitty Kottage was on the lookout for us a mama that could nurse the kittens.  I posted on facebook about Jay rescuing the kittens and what was going on and my friend, Kristina,  responded that she had a mama kitty that had birthed her babies outside and that something had gotten her kittens.  The mama kitty had been looking for them and crying for 3 days.  She still had milk.

Kristina brought “Precious” over right away.  We were hopeful but knew it might or might not work.  As soon as she saw and heard the babies she jumped in the basket with them and began to lick them.  Cleaning them and stimulating them to do what they needed to do (pee).  I was thankful she was taking over that job!  They needed a little help latching on.  The one that had the most trouble with the bottle had trouble latching onto her too.  Precious immediately acted as though these were her missing babies.  It was the sweetest thing to watch.

I can’t help but think, what a magnificent creator that makes creation to work the way that it does.  And how perfect this mama and these babies were for each other.  My first thought was it was a match made in heaven.

It was a sweet experience to feed those babies when they had no mama.  It felt good to be able to give them life-sustaining milk, even when they didn’t think I was doing them any favors.  How 2 took to it and 3 struggled made me think of my own breastfeeding trials.  Out of three only one was successful and I had tried everything I was coached to do.  Two of my three were lazy nursers.  Jessie, maybe because of the Down syndrome causing low muscle tone, but certainly, mainly because of her heart defect that caused her to need open heart surgery at 3 months old.  My boy, who was serious about his groceries from the beginning, was the only one I was able to nurse.  What a sweet time that was.

I am grateful for the mama kitty who is taking such good care of these babies that are now hers.  I am grateful for a husband who can’t turn his back when he knows the choice is life and death for some needy, yeowing kitty babies.  I am grateful for a God who is creator and sustainer of all things.  I am thankful 3 of these babies are already claimed for future homes 🙂  Who else needs one?

Count your blessings today and everyday.  Even when we are going through serious and difficult things, there are blessings to be found. Thank God for them.

I hope you have a beautiful day!

*I am NOT referring to the kitten adventure when I speak of serious and difficult things, just that even in the most difficult of all possible situations, there are blessings to be found.  I will never forget reading that Corrie ten Boom was thankful for fleas when she was in a concentration camp.  It kept the guards from coming in the building and she was able to read and share the Bible (that she had snuck in)  with other women in the room.  I praise God for those fleas and for Corrie ten Boom sharing her amazing faith.

As a Mother Trust Your Gut {part2} When Mothering a Teenage Boy

Mothering a boy was so different than mothering a girl.

We called him our “Little Man” when we would talk to or about him in my tummy.  Evan was the only one of my babies I was successfully able to breastfeed.  I loved how he looked pure drunk after I nursed him.  As a baby and toddler he was so deliciously squeezable.  He had the sweetest, softest baby cheeks.  And then one day when he was four those baby cheeks were gone and his skin felt like a big boy’s.  I had known that was coming, and yet I hated that sign of his growing up.  At four, with such devotion in his eyes he stated that he wanted to marry me when he grew up.  And, when told he couldn’t, he said we could just sneak and do it.  A mother never forgets those precious moments.

It’s such a good thing that all these sweet and precious times come before we parent teenagers.  When we are looking at that tall as me boy-man, and are perplexed by him, its good that we can recall the sweetness of days past.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed the teen years with both of my now adult children so much.  There were, of course, specific areas  and times of difficulty with each one.  That’s just a part of growing up and figuring out who you really want to be.  I loved that they were old enough for us to enjoy many of the same things.  Each stage of parenting has its own unique challenges, but I look back on so many good memories from those teen years.

When Evan was 12-15, there was a definite boy-becoming-a-man struggle going on within.  I’m always studying faces, noticing every change in expression, and I would see so much cross his boy-man face within seconds.  At this age boys are no longer little boys.  But they aren’t men either.   Feeling on the inside more and more like a man (and looking like one too!), expected to obey and be respectful, when you really want to be a man, the boss of yourself.  I could literally see all that play across Evan’s face.

If you have a son and  haven’t read James Dobson’s Bringing up Boys I highly recommend it.  As a female, it helped me to understand my boy better. So much of the way men think is foreign to me.  Can I get an Amen? This was definitely a helpful resource.

I homeschooled Jordan and Evan from the beginning through high school.   It didn’t seem uncommon to me at first for Evan to progress academically a little slower than Jordan, because that’s fairly common for boys.  And, I was pretty sure that she was a little ahead for her age. By middle elementary though, it was clear to me that Evan was having some areas of struggle. Math was especially hard for him.  It reminded me of the way I’d seen my younger brother struggle in school and I hated it for him.

I feel confident to say now, even though Evan has never been tested, that he has ADD.  And maybe some other particular learning difficulty, of that I’m not sure.  When Evan was 15 and had for as long as we could remember struggled with waking up in the mornings, and seemed excessively sleepy at times, we scheduled him for a sleep study.  I wasn’t sure if he was anything but lazy honestly, which I now feel a little guilty about.

Evan was diagnosed with some long word that basically means he is excessively sleepy.  He didn’t have sleep apnea, but when they did a nap study (Multiple Sleep Latency Test), after they had watched him get a good night’s sleep, he was able to go to sleep every 2 hours and entered REM sleep at least 2-3 of the short naps, which is extremely unusual.  They prescribed him Adderall to help him be able to be alert and function well.  We had considered for a long time whether to have Evan tested for ADD and had he not gotten this diagnosis and prescription, we had planned to follow through with ADD testing.  For several years we had been weighing the risks and rewards of ADD medication and this diagnosis let us know he probably really did need the medication.  We managed till high school without it, which I have often thought if he were in school rather than homeschooled we might not have.

There were SO many times in Evan’s homeschooling high school years when I felt so unsure how hard to push him.  I found it hard to tell when he was genuinely having a difficult time and when he was procrastinating because he dreaded how hard it might be.    I’m sure that sometimes he got off light when he shouldn’t and sometimes I pushed hard when he was really struggling.

I remember feeling pretty desperate to be able to tell the difference and to know the right thing to do.  Although I’m sure the decision really wasn’t as black and white as this, it sometimes felt like choosing between him being college ready, or choosing to preserve the relationship between us.  What if I was too easy on him and he wouldn’t be prepared for college?  What if in my fear I pushed him too hard, wanting his best, but he really was already giving it?  How would it make him feel about himself if he was doing his best and I was always pushing for more? With each choice, what would the cost be if I was wrong?

I most of all wanted Evan to be a person that loved God and obeyed him.  I wanted him to be a godly and good man, but I also wanted him to be able to make a living and provide for a family. The weight of what was at stake felt so heavy.  There was a war going on inside of me many times as I stood in his room, talking and fussing and trying to decide just how hard to push or what standard (academically) to hold him to.

And then sometimes my sweet strong boy-man would start to cry and I would know that the struggle was real.  That he was frustrated with himself.  He doesn’t cry so easily.

Supporting his sister at her Special Olympic Gymnastics meet.

I couldn’t know how it was all going to work out.  But, I chose to preserve the relationship. I pointed out to Evan the qualities that I enjoyed and admired in him, and there are many.  Evan was and is one of the funniest people I know.  Even as a teen he was very analytical in his thinking, good at reading people (I like to think he gets that from his mama), good at understanding how things work and is a great real life problem solver. He is a person who is always thinking about things and evaluating them.  He is the best big brother ever.   I let Evan know that if he never went to college, that I knew he was smart and gifted by God in so many important ways.  I let him know that I wanted him to do HIS very best and that if he did that, no matter the outcome, it would be good enough for me.

All those years of struggle I was praying.  Sometimes those prayers were just, “Help me to know the right thing to do!” in the moment.   When I would experience a moment of clarity I would think, “Is that God? Is that just me?”  I can look back now and say the mothering instincts God gave me didn’t lead me wrong.  So often, amidst the feelings of desperation, there was just this slight tugging of my heart in the right direction.

Are you a scared mama right now who is afraid of making a mistake?  I think one reason it’s so hard is because we realize we only get one shot at this parenting thing.  The stakes are high. No do-overs.   Pray.  And then listen. The right choice may be one that only feels ever so slightly better to you than your other options.  I realized back then that I was tempted  sometimes to respond in certain ways because of how my choices might be perceived by others.  Even when you’re afraid that your choice could make you look foolish before others, listen to your gut.

Evan did go to college.  He had to work really hard, but work hard he did.  He took a remedial math class and then completed College Algebra with an A!  He completed the requirements for his Associates degree with a 3.71 GPA!  He isn’t sure yet what he wants to major in so he’s taking off a couple of semesters and working.  He has worked the whole time he has gone to college.  He got a couple of scholarships and has paid the rest of his own tuition.  He saved $5,000 down payment for a car and is working full time (industrial construction currently), with the plan to pay off his car in less than a year and save money for tuition.  I couldn’t be more proud of him.

I am 150% certain that I didn’t make every right decision, but I have no big regrets.  I cherish the sweet relationship I have with this young man that is my son.  I can’t imagine having not been his mother.  I would have missed out on so much .  And, even if academically things had gone another direction, I know I would still be so thankful to have chosen the relationship over academic goals.  I love and enjoy this boy so much.  I thank God for him and the joy and laughter he brings to my life.

Pray mama, and just keep on keepin’ on until you can look back and see how God has guided you through.

He’s 20, but I remember when he wanted to marry me.

PS.  This post was written with Evan’s permission and blessing.

If you missed part one of As a Mother, Trust Your Gut you can read it here













As A Mother, Trust Your Gut

My oldest is 22, so  I’ve been at this mothering thing for a good while now. Like with everything else in life, I have continued to develop and learn as a mother.  But, I honestly believe that one of the most important ingredients for good mothering is with you from the first time you hold your baby.  Although I had read about parenting, had worked with children and babysat a plenty, I realize that it was when I held Jordan for the first time, everything in my world changed.  I had been reading books about pregnancy and babies, trying to be prepared to be a mother. I had loved her before then, certainly, but without a doubt, there was a certain undefinable something more than love that flooded me when I saw her, before she was even placed in my arms.

Having been a mother a while now, if I could offer only one piece of advice to a younger mother, it would be to trust those “gut feelings” that can’t always be explained.  I feel certain that over the course of the years of my mothering, God has been at work in ways that can only be explained as “mother’s intuition”,  or “my gut”.  That feeling, that little feeling, that something is or isn’t right.  Trust it.  Trust it, even when that feeling is only a little stronger than all the other competing feelings.  Trust it, even when it goes against the popular and possibly even good advice.  And, trust it, even when it goes against the advice you get from family or friends.  You are the mother that God gave to this particular child.  Trust that He knew what He was doing.

I wasn’t a strong Christian when Jordan was born.  It was when Evan was a baby that I began to grow closer in my relationship with God. I know that even as an immature Christian, I had those mothering instincts.  I now see those instincts as being a gift given to all mothers from an all knowing, wise, and loving creator AND amplified in the life of a believing mother by the presence of a living and active Holy Spirit within us to guide.

I am always amazed when I ponder creation.  I am always pointed to a loving and omniscient creator.  When I went through some years of questioning everything about God, it was one of the things that he used to bring me back.  Even when I wondered about God’s presence in my life, it always seemed (to me) to require more faith to believe the earth and everything in it, came to be by any means other than an all knowing God.

There isn’t a person alive that always gets it right, that is a perfect parent.  But, I have learned to listen to that little voice inside.  Sometimes, whatever the parenting dilemma, there isn’t a perfect solution, but we have to choose the way that leaves us feeling the most at peace. There have been many occasions through the years that I didn’t feel 100% confident of the direction we were choosing, but I learned to find that direction that felt maybe only a little more right, but more right than the other choices before me.  As praying, believing mamas, when we rely on Him He leads us, sometimes in little ways that we can only see more clearly much later.

All moms experience doubt about the right course of action sometimes.  Even just a normal day at home is filled with many decisions to be made.  I can think of situations in each of my children’s lives, that looking back, feel like “defining moments”.  I/we didn’t get everything perfect, but I have no big regrets, because I always listened to that feeling that felt “the most right” even if only by a little bit.

My three children are very different from each other.  They have required such different things from me as a mother.  With each of them, I can think of instances when I had those gut feelings that lead me in right directions, that I sometimes wasn’t all that certain of at the time.  For today, I will give you an example from the early days when Jordan was a baby.  But first, a little background for you to have a bit of an idea where we were starting from…..

Our journey to having a baby included two miscarriages, 2 infertility related surgeries, some other infertility related procedures, and I had taken Clomid for a little over a year.  I was 28 when I became pregnant and 29 when I had Jordan.  I had wanted a baby for longer than the time we had been trying to have one and I was SO looking forward to being a mother.  From the beginning, Jordan was not an easy baby.  I had difficulty breastfeeding, which was heartbreaking for me.  I grieved for weeks over the loss of having so desired that experience with her, when finally, after trying all we knew and she didn’t gain weight, we started feeding her formula.

We went straight from breastfeeding issues to “colic”.   AKA crying all the time.  Worse at certain times of the day.  To this day, I have yet to think I’ve heard a story of colic lasting as long as hers.  After a few months, our pediatrician said “colic” that lasts past a certain time period is then considered to be irritable bowel syndrome.  There’s a whole ‘nother  long blog post that could be made of all that and mama instincts and learning as you go. With #2,  I learned quicker and he was allergy tested when he was 9 months old 🙂

Jordan never slept well as a baby, and honestly, other than a VERY brief period, didn’t sleep through the night many times till she was 7.  Even when she no longer got out of the bed, she would tell me about the times that she woke up and looked at the clock and what time (s) it had been.  When she was a baby and toddler we got a LOT of advice related to sleeping.  When she was a few months old we decided to try the “let them cry ” to sleep.  She cried for an hour and a half .  And I did too.  She then snubbed for HOURS as I held her next to me and she slept. I felt confused and a sadness that didn’t go away when she stopped crying.  I could cry now really, just thinking about that time period and how confusing it all was.  I knew after that night we would never go with that method again.  It just wasn’t for us.  It wasn’t that the advice was bad.  It has worked well for a lot of people. But, it wasn’t right for us.

See, we had spent the first couple of weeks sleeping in the recliner, with her on my chest, because she couldn’t stay asleep laying flat in bed.  Then, we moved to my bed with her laying on my chest with me propped high on pillows.  No matter what I did, she never slept very soundly.  Eventually, she lay propped on my arm beside me pulled real close, her little tummy right against me.  I would be half asleep and I would jiggle and pat her every time she woke or began to wiggle.  I learned to do the jiggling pretty much in my sleep 🙂 There were real reasons she couldn’t sleep well, whether anyone else believed it or not, and for us, “self-soothing” wasn’t going to happen.  Twenty two years ago co-sleeping wasn’t such an accepted or popular thing, but my gut said not to let her cry alone and it was the right decision FOR US.  I am not passing judgement on anyone who successfully does differently.  I’m just saying my gut said it wasn’t right for us, and it wasn’t.

This was just the beginning of parenting for us. It can be pretty intimidating, cause we know we only get one shot at raising these kids well.  Remembering how I struggled in those early years, I love any opportunity to encourage younger mothers to trust their own instincts.  There were certainly more situations ahead where the right decision didn’t seem clear.  The adventure continued 🙂 The longer I mothered, the more I learned to trust those instincts, even if I learned it by making a mistake.

Stay tuned for part 2 of As a mother, trust your gut.


Why I Don’t Blog Only About Down Syndrome

When I decided to start this blog I knew that I would want to blog about Down syndrome, but I also knew that I didn’t want my blog to be ONLY about Down syndrome. In my first blog post on this blog, I told how I have a love of home.  I enjoy so much all that goes into making our house a home.  I want to share DIY projects and some other of my favorite things.  Like I wrote about here, Down syndrome doesn’t consume our thoughts as much as it did in the early days.  Certainly, Down syndrome ranks high among topics I think about, study up on and care about.  But, I have one child with Down syndrome and two “typical” (if there is such a thing!) children. If you have a child with a disability, you’ve certainly heard of the poem, “Welcome to Holland,” by Emily Perl Kingsley.  If you aren’t familiar with it, you can read it here.  In the poem, the author equates having a child with a disability to arriving in Holland when you had prepared for and boarded a flight to Italy.

Having been to Italy twice (Jordan and Evan) and then arriving in Holland (Jessie, who has Down syndrome), I feel like quite the world traveler. Even my two trips to Italy were quite different from each other.  Each child requires something very different from you as a parent.  I had been to Italy twice already when my flight landed in Holland.

My first trip to Italy landed me with a daughter.  A daughter who fits the “first child” profile.  She learned to read when she was four. A bit of a perfectionist, self motivated.  We homeschooled, and as a teen, if we were busy and she got behind she would work on the weekend (without prompting) to catch up.  In competitive gymnastics she perfected her already present self discipline.  She is driven to achieve whatever she sets her mind to.  She completed PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) school and recently got married. Once she got her first “real” job as a PTA, she saved half ($10,000) for a down payment on a $20,000 car and then set the goal to pay the rest off in a year, and did it! Jordan is 22 now, and we have seen that Italy is great!

This photo is very representative of their playful relationship.  Like I hoped for when they were little (and fighting), they’ve grown up into great friends.

Then, off to Italy again. The sights we saw were different this trip.  A boy this time.  All boy.  Ball was a favorite word when he was little.  He wanted to marry me when he was 4. When he cried after a fall off a bike ramp (at 8 or 9) we knew to take him to the ER for an xray.  He wasn’t as quick to learn to read as his older sister.  He struggled in school.  We felt pretty sure he had ADD, now, he feels sure he does too.  He was diagnosed with a sleep disorder as a teen.  As a teen there was the normal struggle as he found his way, feeling pulled between his desire to be a man worthy of respect, and his disdain at being bossed around by his mother.  He has been working and paying his own way in college.  He is so patient with his little sister, always. Evan is now 20, a strong, smart, compassionate, loyal, frugal :), young man worthy of our respect.  Our second trip to Italy we saw different sights and again, found Italy to be great!

He’s my only boy.  Love him so much.

Ah,  we arrived in Holland when Jordan was 7 and Evan, 5.    I think the fact that we had already been travelling a while kept us from being quite so lost when we found ourselves there.  It was frightening at first, but God had been preparing me to accept what He knew was coming.  Right away, although it was scary to have arrived unexpectedly, we could see that there was beauty to be found in Holland.  We found our way around and now can’t imagine how our lives would be different if we had gone back to Italy again.  After the initial fear of being lost, and trying to figure out where we were and how to acclimate ourselves we decided to embrace and appreciate that we were in a new place, with beauty of its own.  Sweet Jessie.  Soft and squeezy.  Funny.  A picky eater.  She loves to be understood when she speaks, but that requires more effort on our part. She has our same sense of humor.  Loves to watch wrestling.  Always keeping her calendar, anticipating the next activity or social event.  So tender hearted.  She can’t bear for us to be upset with her. She loves being a part of her “team”.  Swim team, baseball team, gymnastics team.  Holland is full of beautiful places, places that we feel richer to have experienced.

I have always said to each of my kids, “I’m so glad God gave you to me.”  I say it to Jessie often when I tuck her in at night.  And it’s so very true.  He makes no mistakes.


If you’ve read my introductory post, here, then you know the first part of my life wasn’t the same home life that my kids have experienced.  I’ve heard Dr. Phil say, “It is what it is”.  Whatever it is, it is what it is.  I think we are always better off to deal with whatever the truth is, rather than wishing it were different.  It is a waste of time, precious, precious, time to linger wondering what if. There is always something to be grateful for, and we needlessly trade joy and peace when we fail to trust in the God that knew every day ordained for us before we were born.  (Psalm 139:16)

So, do you see why I don’t only blog about Down syndrome?  In addition to my trip to Holland, I’ve also been to Italy twice.  Amidst those travels, we’ve built a home life in a small town with a couple of dogs, a cat, a pool, with a garden that I love in the back yard.  I’ve shared my home and taken those trips with the ones I love best.  What a journey it has been and continues to be.



Down Syndrome Doesn’t Rule Our Lives Anymore

I still remember every single thing about all the worries and fears I had when Jessie was a newborn. Thankfully, most of the things I was concerned with then, aren’t ongoing concerns for me now. I can hardly believe that she’s 15 now.

I wrote this letter when Jessie was 3, for our local Down syndrome group (F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) to be used in informational packets for new parents of a child with Down syndrome.  I can remember so very clearly those first moments, the first days in the hospital.  Watching intently, worriedly, for signs of heart trouble or intestinal blockage.

I remember being concerned for how Down syndrome was going to affect my older (then 5 and 7) children.  Since my prior knowledge of DS was zero, I genuinely didn’t know if Jessie would feed herself (silly, I know now) or if we would be more confined to home, impacting Jordan and Evan’s ability to participate in their activities.  As I began to learn about Down syndrome, some of my worst long term fears were quickly put to rest.

Although Jessie did indeed have 2 heart defects (VSD and ASD) and had open heart surgery at 3 months old, her heart has been completely healthy since then.  She has had some Down syndrome related health issues, and has a lesser immune system than the average person, but she doesn’t have anything serious going on healthwise.  For that we are very, very thankful.

I do realize that our everyday is affected by Down syndrome; but I don’t worry about Down syndrome all that much anymore.  We have made adjustments that I don’t even think about much.

Jessie is on a swim team and takes gymnastics, both of which are Special Olympic sports.  She plays Miracle League baseball. She is in a weekly special needs ballet and tap dance class. She attends a couple of morning day-time camps in the summer. She bowls, attends dances and went to the Prom last year.

When my other kids were 15, it wasn’t Special Olympics, but I was driving them to all kinds of activities too.  The difference, is when they turned 16, they started driving themselves and I will continue to taxi Jessie.  Being Jessie’s chauffeur gives me lots of opportunities to socialize with other moms whose kids have special needs, and that’s a really good thing.

Jessie and big brother, Evan, at this year’s Special Olympics Track and Field Day.

Thankfully, I have a husband that has always prioritized, and been willing to make the necessary sacrifices for me to be home with the kids. Jessie benefits greatly from the physical and social activities, so I’m glad I’m able to be available to let her participate.  Jay had hoped (before DS was in the equation) that I would one day return to work.  One day several years ago I remember he looked at me and said, “You’re not ever going back to work, are you?”  No, honey, I hope not. Our family needs for me to make a part time income.  It is our hope now that this little blog, will, in time produce a part time income for our family.

My girl and me on the balcony of our fabulous hotel in Orlando, FL, when we attended the NDSC (National Down Syndrome Congress) conference this year.  She and Jay enjoyed chillin’ at the hotel and pool while I attended classes.
Sometimes, she is just a TYPICAL TEENAGER 🙂

From newborn to 6 years old or so, Jessie had ALL the therapies.  Scheduling in all the PT, OT and speech while we had (and homeschooled!) two other kids, that DID rule our lives for a season.  Last year Jessie had physical therapy for a few months and we may pick that up again from time to time.  She has more significant balance issues than I see in most kids with DS.  Even so, now my “big kids” as I called them for the longest time, now my “grown” kids, are doing their own things so it doesn’t seem such a big deal when Jessie needs something like that.

There were some difficult times in those early years.  Sometimes other children didn’t accept Jessie and sometimes new goals just seemed so hard to achieve.  They were a mix of unbelievable blessing and sometimes momentary heartbreak.

Jessie has the sweetest relationship with both her siblings.  She is good for them and they are good to and good for her.  I couldn’t wish for anything better.  I can’t even begin to imagine who any of us would have been without having Jessie as part of our family.  In good ways and hard ways, she has helped grow each of us into the people God intended for us to be.

Jessie grows more and more independent as time goes on.  We are always working toward some type of goal of either personal independence or on housekeeping chores that she needs to know how to do.  I posted about chores and routines we’re working on here.  I know that she will continue to do more and more for herself.  Even so, I think its most likely that she will always live with us.  I am really okay with that.  There is such focus in the Down syndrome community right now for people with Down syndrome to live independently (as in not with their families) that I don’t completely understand.  From what I have seen, most of those with DS that live separately from their families, they need and receive support–it just comes from other adults–not from their family.  Unless it becomes important to Jessie to be independent from us, I don’t know why we would want other people to be her support system rather than those of us who know and love her best.  That’s a deep and controversial subject 🙂  I homeschooled my typical children till they graduated high school.  So, it’s probably not surprising I feel that way.

All of those things above, they don’t seem all that worrisome to me.  Many things about our every day life are impacted by the fact that Jessie has Down syndrome, it just doesn’t seem like such a huge deal most of the time anymore.  We are in a “sweet spot”. There are situations that occur that are temporarily upsetting, but for the most part our lives just go on, making the necessary accommodations and keepin’ on keepin’ on.  It’s a good life we have.

Jessie loves that her dad is assistant coach for her baseball team. He hams it up and acts a fool and I love him even more for it.

The worry that continues to rock my world and causes me to pray often is worrying about Jessie if something happens to Jay and me.  I think about that a lot.  I struggle with living in a place of unhealthy fear. I know for sure that her siblings would take good care of her, but they aren’t her parents.  I don’t want that responsibility for them, or the loss of her parents for her.  That is the one thing where she is concerned that I have to continually recommit to God.  I could drive myself pretty crazy with that one.  Jay says that would be a short ride 🙂

Down syndrome affects every cell in Jessie’s body.  That for sure changes some things.  We make accommodations.  We make adjustments. But on most days Down syndrome is just kinda normal to us now.  It doesn’t rule our world anymore.