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Kids in the Pew

In the weeks and months to come, we as a worldwide church body will be sifting through the aftermath of this COVID-19 pandemic and working through strategies for recharging our church life onsite.  As a Children’s Pastor, what is top of mind for me is how we minister to the smallest members of our church body as they begin to return to our church building.

As I have watched many conversations between pastors and leaders in different places, the issue of what to do with the children is a great concern for many.  For some, welcoming children and their families back into the building will mean that you have made the decision to have children with their parents in the pew rather than in a separate Children’s Ministry area.

If this is new for your church, you may be wondering how a service will look when children are in the room for the entire time.  

I am a Children’s Pastor at Woodvale Pentecostal Church in Ottawa, Ontario, and a number of years ago we made the decision as a church that we wanted parents to have more opportunity in church services to mentor their children in worship.  We decided that the first Sunday of every month would be an intergenerational service.  We call this our “Unite Service”.  In this service our school-age children stay in the service for the entire morning.

We have learned some things along the way that may help you as you sort through how to do church with kids.  Here are a few things that may help you to make a plan to welcome children into your Sunday services.

1. Embrace the silly.

Children do not have long attention spans.  They “whisper” loudly.  Their feet stick out straight in the pews so they sometimes kick the back of your seat.  They munch crackers noisily and leave crumbs.  They stand backwards in their seats and stare you in the face.  Surprise, surprise, they are not like adults.  

Have grace for the silly things.  Make a little more space in the pew and learn to laugh.  

When I picture Jesus with the children, I picture them tugging on His beard while He held their sticky hands.  The Son of God made space for little children and chastised those who did not think He should be bothered with them.  

So, turn around and give the noisy kid and their parent a smile.   Both are adjusting.

2. Explain sacraments, traditions and other forms of worship.

In our church we have intentionally included baptism and communion into our Unite Services so that the children can observe these sacraments and participate.  We ask parents to take responsibility for deciding if their child is ready to partake in communion, and encourage them to explain it to their children.

As a result, parents do not always get a quiet, solemn moment in communion.  It means that communion time is sometimes spent explaining what’s happening and repeatedly asking them to not stick the communion cup on the end of their tongue.   That’s okay.  Remember that the same Jesus who asked us to remember Him at communion is the Jesus who dearly valued children.  He will understand if parents are explaining it as they go.   The act of passing this form of remembrance on to your children is also a solemn and holy act of worship. 

As a parent who now has one adult child, I can tell you from experience that in the blink of an eye that little impressionable child will be grown and parents will have many Sundays of quiet reflection.

At Woodvale we believe that a child’s relationship with Christ is a real relationship, and that Christ has a mission for every one of His followers, no matter how young or old they are.  We choose in our church to allow children to be baptized, as long as they are at the age of being able to fully understand and articulate (without coaching), the step that they are taking.

Paul encouraged young Timothy in this way, 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

In many cases, those of us who are older can be greatly impacted by the faithfulness and the example of children.  

3. Don’t distract them – engage them.

I teach children in our church that a church service is not a time for you to just turn backwards in the pew and color.  I tell them that they are meant to worship and participate.  We teach children right from the moment they are born by what we do and what we allow them to do.

Children are going to be silly and wiggly during the sermon and should not be expected to sit and be perfectly quiet all the time.  However, the church service is the time to teach about and model participation in corporate worship and listening to the Word.  Children do not need to be distracted.  They need to be engaged.

Children are going to fidget and that’s okay.  Give them something that they can use to follow along and engage in the service.  Many churches provide resources for children to “keep them busy”.  However, our goal in having kids in the service is to be intentional about mentoring them.  We need to teach them how to engage with the service, rather than having them distracted and “quieted down” with an electronic device or unrelated activity.  Any tools that you provide should be interactive and cause the child to have to pay attention.  One example of an activity that we have provided for kids during a sermon time is to listen for how many times the pastor says a certain word and to make a mark on their paper each time.

Give them interesting tools to get them engaged with the corporate worship experience and they will learn that they are a part of the church body and that God has something to say to them as well and in their language.

4.  Make room for them to serve. (They have gifts too.) 

Remember that children are also filled with the Holy Spirit.  He can speak loudly through their ministry within the body of Christ.  Invite children to participate.

At Woodvale we assume children into the service.  We don’t make a big deal or talk about how cute they are.  We also do not make our Unite Services a children’s service.  We simply invite children to take their rightful place.  They join the worship team, they step to the mic to read scripture, they assist the ushers, and they lead in prayer.   At one of our evening prayer meetings, a little 4 year-old girl came up to the pastor at the front and tapped him, interrupting his talk.  She simply told him that we needed to pray for children in our community.  He handed her the mic and allowed her to lead the congregation of largely adults in prayer.  She was comfortable asking to do that, because she had been taught that she was not too young to do so and that her voice was also welcome.

When given the space to serve, children take these acts of service very seriously and see it as their own worship to God.   We want them from a very early age to learn that they have a place in service and in leadership.

Children have it in them to want to serve God and to lead in their own way.  The adults in their lives have to make room for them to express their service to God and to allow them to be unrefined and learning as they do.

5. Empower parents.

Before my husband and I had children, we were welcome to eat at any restaurant.  We could sit and pretend to be dignified, talk about adult-y things and eat in peace.  Neither of us stood on our chairs or shot things out of straws at the other.  It was peaceful.

When our children were little, we had to choose carefully where we could eat based on whether or not the restaurant tolerated shenanigans.   There were just some restaurants that we could not visit with them.  The ones we did visit were okay with more cleanup, were brighter, and offered things for them.

Church is no different.  Parents will choose a church sometimes solely based on how much the church tolerates shenanigans.  They can see immediately whether we have the heart of Jesus by how we welcome their child. 

Tell parents right off the bat that their child is welcome, that you have ways to engage them, and that they are free to speak to their child to redirect them and teach them without judgement.

6. Finally, change how you see children.

When Jesus rebuked the disciples for holding children back from Him, He admonished them that “the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”  Jesus did not view children as an inconvenience, but held them up as an example of how we as believers ought to approach Him. 

We as adults need to see children through the eyes of Christ and embrace the things that Jesus valued in them.   See a child in your services as a sign of life and growth.  See them as a follower of Christ now, not a future prospect.  See them as valuable and necessary in the Body of Christ.

In our church we teach our adults the “Ten Feet Tall Rule”, which says that, “Children should be loved, valued, honored and treated with respect.  They should always leave our building feeling ten feet tall.”  Lets create an environment in our churches where children feel valued.

Jesus said in Matthew 18:5 that whenever we welcome a little child in His name, we welcome Him.  Let that be your guiding principle when it comes to bringing children into your services.  

When you welcome children, you roll out the red carpet for the presence of Jesus.




There is a wise saying in Proverbs 22:15:

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” 

Folly.  Lots and lots of folly.

Children tend to suck you into the vortex of their folly.  Before you know it, you are saying things and doing things that you never thought you would ever say or do.  I decided one day last year to start recording the weird things I kept hearing myself say to my kids.  People keep telling me that I should write them down somewhere, or write a book.

Well, I have no time to write a book, on account of all that folly.  However, here’s a summary of my hashtag #thingsisaidtomykidstoday to date, just in case you’re interested.

  • You cannot declare your own snow day.
  • The lady on the $20 is not the Money Gramma.
  • Why is there a pile of laundry UNDER the laundry hamper?
  • Arguing with me over Petra lyrics is NOT a good idea for you.
  • Me: K… why is your window open in the middle of winter?
    K: “Cause it’s too hot in my room.
    Me: Then turn off your heater.
    K: Then I’ll be too cold.”
    Me: “Then close your window.
    K: Then it’s TOO HOT!
    Me: …?
  • So what’s it like to have to walk around all day and be responsible for so much handsome?
  • You’re so handsome I can’t even stand it.
  • Me: Hey, K. What’s wrong?
    K: Nothing.
    Me: Then why are you making that face? You tired?
    K: No.
    Me: Then what’s wrong??
    K: I’M JUST TIRED!!!
  • Yitto: “Mawm, I’m a better scarer than you.
    Me: No way. I’m the best scarer that has ever been EVAH.
    Yitto: Nope. I’m the best at scaring.
    Me: Wanna make this interesting???
  • The lady on the $20 is not the Money Gramma.
  • No more turning the thermostat up to 90.
  • Why do your feet smell like Cheetos?
  • I don’t care if Toby Mac shook your hand. You have to wash your hands for breakfast.
  • “Mawm, watch dis.” – flips bottle, doesn’t land it
    “Wait…” – flips bottle. Doesn’t land it.
    “Wait…” – flips bottle. Doesn’t land it.
    “Wait…” —
    Ten minutes later lands it.
    Me: “You’re amazing at bottle-flipping.”
  • There was a crayon in the dishwasher. All is lost. My life is over.
  • Skittles are not for using in slingshots.
  • Maybe Spongebob’s pants are not square and just his butt is square.
  • I don’t think you can actually buy bullet-proof underwear at Walmart.
  • There’s a nerf bullet in my shoe.
  • It’s time to stop using the word “vomit” in every sentence.
    I mean it. Stop talking about “vomit”… It’s making ME want to vomit.
    Yes, I know you just made me say “vomit”.
  • I think I’d have to choose Spiderman over the Flash. You know, because I like parkour.
  • Head up. Shoulders back. Strong woman.
  • If a boy throws you a football, don’t worry about your nails. Always catch it and run.
  • Just because your name is Daniel, that doesn’t mean I’m getting you white Vans.
    And “damn” IS a swear word.
  • I know his tooth is loose but you are not allowed to hit him in the face to “help it come out”.
  • I can’t do the moonwalk right now. I have sore knees.
  • No, you can’t make diamonds from boiling rocks.
    So… no boiling rocks in my kettle.

    HEY!!! Are you boiling rocks in my kettle?!?
  • Come back and drink that milk. That’s a full day’s work for a cow.
  • That shirt is dirty, and no, there is no difference between natural dirty and regular dirty. It’s just dirty. Take it off.
  • You are not using my hair dryer to dry your koala.
  • You don’t need to bring your duvet down for breakfast. That’s what robes are for.
  • You can’t go to school with the knees ripped out of your track pants.
  • You can’t get on the bus in bare feet.
  • Are you wearing the pants, shirt and hoodie that your brother wore yesterday?
  • If only you guys would just bring spoons home from school.
  • Are you seriously making a paper airplane while the bus is waiting?
  • No pushing kids out of their seats on the bus.
  • I said put on a SWEATSHIRT, not a SWEATY shirt. Go put that back in the laundry, Mr. Jokey.
  • You need to put some pants on before you go to school. That’s just a general rule.
  • You’re just hugging me so I’ll make you a smoothie for breakfast.
  • Everything about what you are doing right now is horribly wrong.
  • And speaking of zombies, stop biting my hand.
  • I’m pretty sure that if you have a child of your own, Coca Cola is not a good name.
  • Just because you yell, ‘YOLO!!’, it doesn’t give you the right to run through the house in your underwear.
  • I’m bustin’ you outta school, Bud. There’s a happy meal in the van.
  • There will absolutely not be knife-throwing.
  • We’re not going to do a knife-throwing game. Use Nerfs with your target.
  • Ninjas should always wear underwear.
  • The ninjas need to stop killing me now cause I’m making supper.
  • Why, oh why is there always spaghetti stuck to my sock today?
  • Can anyone tell me why there’s a dirty sock on the dining room table?
  • Take the communion cup off your tongue.
  • Screaming, “Jesus, take the wheel!!” at 8,000 decibels should only happen if you’re about to have an accident.
  • Please stop stabbing me with a samurai sword. It’s starting to get annoying.

Motherhood has turned me into a very strange woman indeed.  I never really know what odd sentence might fly out of my mouth.  Somehow, it doesn’t seem odd at the moment.

And that’s what kids do.  They take the ordinary moments and throw in a huge amount of silly.  If we open our hearts to them, they make us silly too.  And that’s a Good thing.

Everything is Awesome.

Teaching Every Child That There’s Always Room for Improvement

I spent the lion’s share of last Saturday watching little boys play baseball.  I’ve become a sports mom, whether I like it or not.  I have my folding lawn chair, my sunscreen and bug spray always in the car, because I can be found on any given evening sitting on the sidelines of a sports field, swatting flies and yelling encouragement.

I sat next to two very loud and vocal mothers, who had comments for every single child that stepped up to the plate.  They were probably the most encouraging people I had ever heard.  They seemed to be having a contest between them to see who could yell the most compliments.  The little boys were noticing their words, and were likely buoyed by their encouragement.

I’ve noticed this summer more than I have before, that parents yell a lot of compliments.  All the time.  For everything.  The favourite compliment for our kids seems to be, “Awesome job, buddy!”

The word, “awesome” is ubiquitous in our parental vocabulary.

“Awesome swing, bud!”

“That was an awesome throw!”

“Awesome cut, man!”

I watched as kid after kid got told that their effort was awesome, amazing, great or some other equal superlative.

I started to realize that children don’t really know what awesome is, because everything is awesome.  They have no sense of working toward awesomeness.

There was one boy in particular that had a ball lobbed to him rainbow-style over his head.  He chopped at the ball tomahawk-style and nearly fell over.  Had he not flailed about as he did, he would have been hit in the head with the ball.  The pitcher was told, “Good pitch, buddy!”.  As the little batter collected himself, he was told, “GREAT CUT!  THAT’S THE WAY TO SWING!!”

I’m no baseball expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s definitely not the way to swing.

So how does that little boy know when he has made the right swing?  After all, all of his swings are awesome.

Children today, the Generation Z kids, are being raised by Generation X, who are dedicated to ensuring that their children have everything and are involved in everything.  They teach their children that no one is above anyone, and that you are awesome just for being you.

That’s true, of course, because as a creation of God, we are all awesome.  We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are all beautiful, and we all are talented at something.

But not all of us can bat.

My children have a gazillion medals at home.  They’ve only been in our family for four years, yet I already find myself searching Pinterest for ways to display trophies and medals.  There have been seasons where one of them will have not scored at all, been on a team that has never won a game, and yet they have taken home a trophy or medal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for encouraging kids.  It’s my life calling, actually.  However, encouraging kids is not just saying what’s good, but letting them know in a positive way the places where improvements can be made.  If everything is awesome, then how do we ever know when we have really achieved anything great?  Where is the goal to attain?  How do we ever have something to reach for if we are always already there?

Further, how does a child know to respect someone who is in authority over them (like I dunno, say, God, for instance) if they are constantly told that they are the best, that the awesome one is them.

The reality of life is that we are all a work in progress.  The truth about life is that when you are an adult, nobody is going to give you a promotion in your job just because you pulled your butt into work most days and barely got things done.  You are not going to be truly awesome at anything when you don’t work hard.  Very few of us inherit riches.  Most of us have to work for it.  Not everyone gets the girl.  Sometimes there will be a guy who worked harder to impress her.

Sometimes we have to work hard, fail, be told we’ve failed, and be encouraged to do better.

After all, failure is not really failure.  It’s something that helps us do better.  The place of failure is where we re-evaluate whether or not this effort is worthwhile for us, and decide from there to do better.

Perhaps when a little kid swings wildly at a rogue ball, they should be told, “You can do it, buddy!  Eye on that ball, keep your elbow up, don’t swing at everything!”  That’s the kind of encouragement that a little boy or girl needs… to be told through our words that we are there with them, we see them, and they can constantly be working to improve their swing.

You’re Such a Great Mom

A lot of people tell me that I am “such a great Mom”.

Most of the people who say that have never seen me in action. They see the “Pastor Shelley” part of my life, where I am whisking kids into church, all dressed up and happy to be there.   They see the act of becoming InstaMom and assume that I am amazing.

What they don’t see is InstaMom at home.

At home, I am completely out of control most of the time. I have 80 things on my to-do list, and most of them are shoved over to the “to-do tomorrow” list by the end of the day. I am NOT an excellent mother. I do NOT have it all together most of the time. When I do have it all together, I forget where I put it.

Never has the “out of control” nature of my life been more obvious than a couple weeks ago. It was a regular school day, and we had sent everyone smartly off to school with all of their doo-dads and stuff that were needed, lunches packed and all of that. I was hurrying to get dressed to get to work because I had a meeting with my friend Julie, who is our Preschool Department Director. She was coming from quite a distance from her home to meet with me, with two of her daycare kids in tow, so they could play at the church while we had a meeting together. Not an easy task for her, so I wanted to honor her time.

Then I got a phone call from my eldest, saying she had left her science project at home, and she needed me to bring it to school. Normally we don’t ferry forgotten things to school, lest kids get lazy thinking their parents will always bail them out. However, this project was special (the stereotypical solar system project complete with painted Styrofoam balls) and my daughter had not been reminded by her mother to bring it, so I had pity on her.

So I thought to myself, I have time to go to the school and quickly drop off the project, then get to my meeting on time. On the way there, I realize that my phone has been left in my office the night before, but I pass it off as no big thing, since I will be there in a few minutes anyways.

I get to the school office, and the admin assistant tells me to “just go on down to her class”. That was odd. Normally there’s a procedure for going to the class, and you are never encouraged to just go to the door with something. I shrugged it off as her being all-too familiar with my husband and me, and headed off to the classroom. On the way there, I see my son, Daryn, twirling around in circles aimlessly, alone in the middle of the hallway. I stare at him in disbelief for a moment. “Where is this boy’s teacher?” I think to myself. I was going to grab him, march him back to his class and demand to know why he was unsupervised during class time.

Then his eyes caught mine. Perhaps it was the “mother glare” that he felt burning into the back of his head. He ran toward me, nearly bowling me over with his Velcro-hug. “I KNEW you would come!!” he squealed.

And there’s where it hit me.

Today was open house.

I stink at mothering.

I am horrible.

My poor boy has been waiting in the hallway for me to arrive. What if I had not been at the school to deliver a project? What if he had stood in the hallway all morning looking for his Mom? That moment would have been filed in the annals of badmotherdom for eternity.

But it wasn’t. I had been given a gift.

So I ran with it.

“Do you wanna see my work??” he asked, pulling me by the hand into his classroom.

“Of COURSE!!” I squealed, a little too excitedly. All the while I’m thinking, “I gotta get to my meeting and there’s no phone in sight.”

He ushered me proudly into the class, ensuring that everyone there saw that he was bringing in his mother. We sllloooowwwwllly walked around the room, carefully and methodically reading every word of every project. I am way too preoccupied with my lateness for a meeting to really have a good look at it. And he’s going through it very slowly.

Then it hits me. I have two other children. They are also going to want a visit to their classroom. I do a little quick math and think, if I can get 2 minutes in each of the other two classes, I can make it to my meeting about 4-5 minutes late. No big deal.

So, I hug him and excuse myself from his classroom so that I can get to my littlest boy’s class across the hall.

When I get there, I realize how awful of a mother I am. There in this bustling Kindergarten classroom is every parent of every child in the class, all busily engaged in activity centers. At one of the centers is my boy, standing alone, sorting out cards with a sad look on his face.   I walk up to him and say, “And what are these cards you’re sorting, Mister?” He whirls around, and gives me a huge hug.

All is redeemed, I think to myself. No harm, no foul. I’ll explain to him that I can’t stay really long, but if he can show me all of his work in a couple of minutes, that would be great.

Yeah, right.

He says, “Great, Mommy! I have a checklist!!”

He has a checklist. For every center. We start going around to all of the centers, and he performs an activity while I watch and then he checks it off. The first one is writing our ABC’s. My son doesn’t write quickly. There are 9 other stations.

I am thinking that Julie is already composing her resignation e-mail in her mind.

Just then, I was rescued. “It’s time for our EGG DROP!!” announces the teacher, “Let’s all go outside!” I smile in relief. “WITH OUR PARENTS!” she adds.

Aw, stink.

The little guy grabs me by the hand and proudly marches me into the lineup. “Dis is my Mom,” he announces to everyone nearby. As we are walking outside, a mom turns to me and says, “I just LOVE these things, don’t you???” I wanted to punch her in the nose and I wasn’t sure why.

One little girl, who obviously had incredible deductive skills, looks up at me and asks, “Are YOU Daniel’s mom?”

“Yes, I am,” I proudly answer.

“That’s so cool.” (Like I was a fairy godmother or something.)

We march out to the backyard of the school and wait for the egg drop. Daniel asks, “Can you stay until my egg gets dropped?” Apparently the Physics teacher had challenged each class to construct an apparatus that would protect their class egg from shattering when it is dropped from the roof of the school.   I think to myself, how long could it take? All he has to do is drop them from the roof. Then I can go.

Who knew a Physics teacher would have a speech? Who knew that the Kindergarten class would be the second-to-last to have their egg dropped? I waited patiently, going over in my mind who I could possibly approach to be our next Preschool Director.

Finally, the Kindergarten Class egg was dropped. The Jello-and-shredded-paper-filled apparatus worked like a charm, and we all cheered. Daniel reached up to give me a kiss, and said, “Thanks for coming, Mommy.”

I headed off around the back of the crowd, hoping to make a quick exit out to the parking lot and to the van. I could still possibly get to work and intercept Julie as she stormed across the parking lot, daycare kids in tow.

Then I saw Kaitlyn. She jumped on me in the way that an 11-year-old does, and announced to her friends that I was here. “Hi, Kaitlyn’s Mom!” one of her friends yelled.

“Can you come see my artwork?” she asked.

“OF COURSE I CAN!!” I said, trying not to sound panicked.

She ushered me off to her classroom, where there were paintings all around the room. Each child had painted the same scene, but hers was, in my mind, the most beautiful. She showed me a few things and then we left.

I dashed off to the school office and called work, then I ran to the van and squealed out of the parking lot. I was a half an hour late for my meeting now.

When I got to work, there was Julie, smiling at me from the Preschool room. Her little ones were playing happily, and she just waved off my lateness. I told her my whole story of the morning, and she just laughed. Then we had our meeting.

After she was gone, I sat at my desk and held my head in my hands. What was I doing here? I should be at home. If I were a stay-at-home Mom I would have remembered this. The kids and their projects and open-house days would be a priority for me. Instead, they are an inconvenience.

Right then and there I made a choice. No, I didn’t choose to become a stay-at-home mother. How I wish I could, since I believe it’s a high calling and a beautiful and challenging occupation. But God has not called me to do that right now, and I don’t know why.

So right then and there I drew my line in the sand. Next time, meetings get cancelled. Next time, I will make sure that open house is circled on the calendar and highlighted in orange. I will take the morning off work and be there as soon as the school doors open. I will drink in the beauty of every pencil etching, every little drawing, and every gooey project.

We pastors like to think that all of our work is eternal. After all, it’s God’s work.  I have come to realize that God’s work is not just the things I do for the hundreds of kids at church. The number one priority that I have as a Pastor is to pastor the three little ones at home.   What will it profit me if I raise up an incredible Children’s Ministry and lose my own children in the process?

I am also going to stop beating myself up about the “great mom” thing and put things in perspective. I am a great Mom. I am just bad at remembering open house.

My friend Julie forgave me for being late. She’s a great Mom too.







Today a woman at Ikea offered me her kid.

Just like that.

“You wanna little girl?” she asked, as she restrained her squirmy, crying 2 year-old daughter from grabbing potato chips from a bin.

“Sure. I’ll take her,” I said.

“You wouldn’t want her,” she insisted.

“Sure I would. She’s AWESOME!” I said.

But the Mom wasn’t accepting my offer to back up from what she was saying. “Not today,” she insisted again.

“Well,” I said, trying to sound like a seasoned mother. (After all, I was at least 10 years her senior.) “They are only two for one year.”

“Thank God,” she said. “You can have her.”

With that, she scooped the little treasure up in her arms, threw her onto her hip and hobbled to a table while she balanced both treasure and food at once, all the while kicking a stroller in front of her.

The little girl turned her head back to me and said, “Hi!” in a chirpy way that only a devious little rotter can do once she’s totally exasperated her mother.

I smiled at her and waved, but my heart was sad.

I wasn’t sad for the Mom, who obviously had had enough of the craziness of her day with a toddler. All mothers have been there at one point or another, and we’ve all expressed our frustrations when we probably shouldn’t have.

I was sad for the little brown-haired girl.

The problem was that the words being spoken to me, a complete stranger, were all said in front of the little girl, who obviously comprehended it all as she stood inquisitively, head-tilted to the side, as she stared up at her mother.

Really? Give her away? Why would you speak that over your child?

She had no idea who she was talking to. Instamom was angry. Had she not been pulled away by her family, I would have given a speech.

See, I have a little girl too. She’s 11 and she’s awesome. Anyone who has an 11 year-old knows that not everyone in her life is going to remind her of her awesomeness.   Rather, they will pick out every flaw, whether real or perceived, and point it out to her.

That’s where her parents come in. There are enough people in the world to remind our daughters of their challenges. There are enough people who will speak death into them. There are enough people who will make them feel unaccepted and unwanted.

We are the life-givers. We are the ones who remind them of who they were meant to be, that God has a plan, and that He created them to be their awesome selves.

I didn’t get to have my daughter at 2 ½. I got to be her mother when she was 8 ½. She was way past the crazy toddler stage and the “terrible twos”. She was a big grown-up girl, and she already had her world view and her view of herself formed in her head and heart. So we are on a journey with her, and we are reminding her all the time of how talented, beautiful, funny and amazing she is. We remind her of how God has a plan for her life and that she is our chosen daughter.

We have pictures of her as a baby and toddler, which were lovingly compiled by her biological grandmother.   Sometimes I like to look at those pictures of a time in her life that I never got to see. Sometimes I can’t.

She had big blue eyes, chubby cheeks and a gorgeous smile. There are pictures of her laughing, hugging little brothers and playing at the park. Those pictures remind me of how many things I didn’t get to experience with her. There are memories of friends, teachers, caregivers, toys, blankies, first tooth, first steps and first friends I will never know. I will never know how she smelled when she came out of the bathtub or get to catch her when she tried to take her first steps. There are so many milestones that I will never get to share with her.

See, she was only 2 for one year. I would give anything to have been there to experience it, but I wasn’t.   In God’s plan, we came together as a family years later, and we’re okay with that. It is what it is, and that was God’s choice for us.

I’m still a rookie mom, but one huge thing I have learned is how quickly kids grow up. Three years of parenting has gone by in a flash and we wonder where the time went.

Someday that crazy little toddler will be gone, and it happens before you know it.  So don’t miss it,  Mommy. Celebrate your milestones, laugh at the silliness, correct stuff that needs correcting, but enjoy what you have and celebrate it while you have it.  Someday she will be much older and your words, more than anyone else’s, will be the ones that echo in her heart.  She will be a woman.

And it happens in a blink.

Confessions of a Guilty Mom

I feel guilty most of the time.

I had been forewarned about the guilt before I became a Mom. I had heard it referred to among mothers in those “mom conversations” that I always semi-ignored at parties before we had kids. Then I became the “Insta-Mom”, and now I feel guilty about something most of the time.  For instance, here’s a rough idea of how my mornings go:

I sleep in a few extra minutes and the whole morning routine gets thrown off.  I feel guilty about that.  I pack the kids’ lunches that I’m pretty sure have skipped a food group or two, and feel bad about it. I really should feed them better. I’m sure the teachers sit in their staff lounge at the school and talk about how the Good children are malnourished at home.

Then my boys get dressed and I notice that the knees have been obliterated from all of their pants. I kick myself and tell myself that I need to learn to sew better or remember to get them to change out of their good pants before playing mini-sticks on the carpet. 

I send the boys to brush their teeth.  I think to myself that the dentist said they needed to brush more.  I remind myself to do better with reminding them about it, because at this rate they will all be wearing dentures by the time they’re 16. 

After about 10 minutes of rushing around looking for things that belong in backpacks, I realize that there is way too much giggling upstairs in the bathroom.  When I go up to investigate, there has been no tooth-brushing over the last 10 minutes, but instead there has been a whole lot of posing in front of the mirror comparing muscles and making weird faces.  Then I lose it and yell.  I immediately feel guilty about the yelling.  But they had it coming… or did they?  I’m not sure… yeah… I shouldn’t yell… yelling is wrong.  Guilt.

Finally everyone is ready and we hurry out to the bus. I finally get to sit down to relax on the couch for a moment at 7:30 a.m. My ears are ringing and I hold my head and watch as my guiltless husband is singing as he gets ready to go out the door to work. He has been rushing around all morning too, getting himself ready and helping with the kids.  But he is happy.  I feel guilty for being angry that he is not feeling guilty about anything.

Then I look around and realize that the breakfast dishes have to be done. I feel guilty for lying down and get back up to do them quickly before going to work. While clearing the dishes I realize that I have forgotten someone’s homework pouch on the table. I think a bad word in my mind and then feel guilty about the homework and the bad word all at once.

And that’s how I start my day – going to work feeling guilt… even guilt about going to work.

I have guilt about just about everything Mom-related. I feel guilty that I don’t cook meals that are low-fat. I bake chocolate chip cookies and then feel bad that they are made with a cup of butter. According to the mommy magazines I am killing everyone slowly.

I am usually late getting my Christmas decorations up and feel guilty as I talk to a friend who, on the 1st of December, announces that she has just “one more little gift to buy” and feel sorry for everything Christmas-related.  I also feel guilty for wanting to punch her in the face. And now I feel guilty for having just typed that and that it was true.

Lately I’ve been keenly aware of how guilty I feel. I am not sure why I am so hard on myself. I’m trying to figure it out as I type, maybe as some sort of self-diagnostic therapy.  One of the most effective tools of the enemy of our souls is to make us beat ourselves up with guilt.  I think guilt is about choosing to listen to our own accusations of ourselves, which are constantly on repeat in our heads. Ask yourself, “How am I doing as a parent?” If you listen closely, you will begin to hear the self-deprecating statements that you are repeating to yourself. 

Just for full disclosure, here are some things I have been saying over and over to myself.  Perhaps you can hear them in your own head. 

1. “You are not good enough.”

Good enough for whom?  If there’s one thing that I have learned in my relationship with Christ, it’s that He will stick with me no matter what I do, and no matter what I fail to “get right”.  He always desires for me to do the best I can, but always approves of me. 

Then there’s my husband.  When I think about it, my husband loves me unconditionally. He has proven over and over that he is sticking with me even when I don’t get it right. He keeps telling me to relax and to not take everything so seriously. So I think I’m good enough for him.

Then there are the kids.  The kids don’t notice most of what is not done perfectly.  They step over piles of clothes, wipe their faces in their shirts, and sneeze all over the computer keyboard.  They genuinely don’t care about the mess.  They care more about spending time with Mommy.

… So perhaps the person I can’t please is me.

2.  “Your house is messy.” 

What does messy mean?  Who defines messy?  If there’s anything my daughter has taught me, it’s that one girl’s messy is another girl’s creative space. There is no standard of tidy that we all have to live up to, other than the ones that we adopt as our own… which brings me to my next point of guilt:

3.  “Your mother had more than twice as many kids and her house was twice as clean.”

And there it is. The mother of all mother-guilt. I compare myself to my own mother. It’s the one guilt statement that dogs me every day, because my mother was excellent at being a mother.  But I have to put my mother in perspective.  After all, Mom has superpowers, not the least of which is freakish amounts of energy. Seriously. You could waterski behind my mother.  

Aside from that, when I look back at my mother’s mothering, I see a high standard for tidy and clean, but that’s not what makes me still miss my mother when I’m sick (even though I’m 44 years old).  It is her care for all of us, her silly songs, her homework help, her life lessons, her presence at home, her hugs, her advice, and the way that she loved us that makes her a great Mom.  “All of that other stuff can wait,” she said in a recent phone conversation where I was looking for advice on managing the house, “They are only little for a while.” 

4. “You are damaging your kids.”

Really, what damages kids is far deeper than whether we choose to feed them quinoa or white rice.  Granted, those things are important to think through, but we can be completely obsessed about their physical diet or how many skills they are learning, and miss that they are spiritually malnourished, not to mention completely bereft of love and personal attention.

I am praying daily that the things I get wrong will be overshadowed by the things I get right… that overall my kids will come out unscathed. There will be things that they will look back on and say that they wouldn’t do it the same way, and I will have to live with that. 

5.  “Your kids are going to grow up and only remember your messy house.”

Actually, when I think of it, they don’t notice that the house is messy now. It’s highly unlikely that they will remember it years from now. They don’t tend to see anything that goes beyond two feet in front of them.  They think the house is fun and happy and that everything they need is right there. (Mostly because everything really is right there – on the floor… Not put away.)

I am most comfortable in my house when it’s tidy and in order but my kids are most comfortable in my house when my husband and I are happy and loving on them and providing lots of security. That, for them, has nothing to do with tidy.

6.  “Other mothers do it far better than you.”

There is always that one mother that gets it all right. You know her.  She is the one whose kid arrives on time for everything. Her kids have healthy “litterless” lunches packed in environmentally-friendly containers. She wears Lululemon outfits that match and legitimately fit her and don’t have spit-up on the shoulders. She runs. She arrives at the bus stop on time, with a Starbucks cup in her hand and a smile on her robust face that is accenting her newly-coiffed hair.  Her kids always get points at church for memorizing their Bible verses.  She runs. Did I mention that she runs?

Yeah, you know her.

Now, right here’s where you think that I’m going to make some judgment on that woman to say something like, “You don’t know what her dirty secrets are.” Or “You don’t know that secretly her house or her relationships are a mess.”

Nope. Not going to say that.  Truth is, there will always be that woman out there. Some women genuinely get things right. Some women are naturally skilled at domestic things and manage to have excellent relationships at the same time. There aren’t many of them, but they are out there. 

The other truth is, I am me and I am not her. I have been given what I have been given and that is all. So I have to work it, do my best and ask God if He thinks I’m doing well. After all, He’s the measuring stick.


So there you have it.  I’ve confessed to the voices that I am listening to in my own head, and talked myself out of all of them.

So today I am going to try putting other messages on repeat:

“I am a good mom.”

“I am doing well.”

“I am strong.”

“God approves of me.”

“I am getting better at this.”

“I have been blessed.”


…you get the idea. 

Going All-In


As a child, brothers are the bane of your existence.  At times it can seem like they exist for the sole purpose of making you crazy.  I grew up with  4 brothers.  I would joke sometimes that that was four too many.

One day when I was about 5 years old, my second-oldest brother, Rick, convinced me it would be fun if he lay on the floor on his back with his feet up and I should sit on his feet while he catapulted me through the air across the room.  “It’ll be fun,” he said.  Seemed legit to me.

Well, he was right.  It was fun for the one and a half seconds that I was in flight.  When I hit the ground I slid across the shag carpet and into some furniture.  My brother thought that that was really cool.  “You went really far,” he said.  I had scabs on my elbows from that incident that were the size of hamburger patties.

Brothers aren’t usually the voice of reason.  So it really takes you off-guard when they actually have something legitimately profound to say.

When we were making the decision to adopt, it was a no-brainer.  We had decided before we were married that we would like to have one biological child and that we would adopt a child, so our hearts were open to adoption right from the start.  As our married life went on, we began to come to terms with the fact that I was not able to carry the babies to term.  So, we knew that if we wanted to be parents, adoption was the only route that we could take.

We went through the adoption paperwork and interview process that took quite some time, and had finally gotten to the end of it.  We had an appointment in two days to turn in the last little piece of information that was needed, when we received a life-changing call from our social worker.  I answered the phone and she told me that she had received a file that she thought would be interesting for us.  I figured that she had finally found a baby or toddler for us.  Instead, she asked me if we would consider three children.

“Did you say three children?” I asked, “because I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”

I thanked her and told her that we would think about it.  In my mind I thought that only a crazy person would think of doing such a thing.  After all, that’s triple the food, triple the money, triple the heartache, triple the homework, triple the laundry… triple trouble.  I told her I would talk to Clive about it.

“That’s really cool,” he said, “Did you tell her we’d consider it??  I knew deep in my heart that I was in deep trouble.  My husband wanted us to adopt three kids.

It took me a long time to make the decision.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I thought of all the reasons why this would be really, really hard.  I thought of the things we would have to sacrifice, and selfishly, of the potential that three hurting children could have to make my life extremely miserable.

After talking to a few people close to me, I was no further ahead.  Some of them advised me that I would be getting in over my head, and some advised me that I could do it.  When I talked to God I was not happy with what he was telling me, so I pretended that I couldn’t hear Him at all.

Then I called my brother in Mexico.

I’m not sure why I decided to ask him for advice, because I already knew what he would say.

Currently, Rick and his wife, Lisa, are caring for orphans in Mexico at “Casa Possibilidades” in Linares.  They had gone from Canada to Mexico on a mission trip, and when they saw the need there, they were profoundly affected by it.  They returned home, but left their hearts behind with the orphans.  A while later they packed up their family, sold their house and took their boys and whatever they could back to Mexico.

I talked with them for a while about it, going over some of the fears I had, and Rick said something that changed my life.

“When it comes to things like this, you gotta give your whole self to it.  You gotta go all-in.”

Well, that was it.  I got off the phone and when I hung up the Lord spoke to me clearly. He said, “I’ve never asked you to give your whole life to something before.”

And that was that.  I called Clive and said, “I’m ready.  Let’s do it.”

One of the things that keeps people from adopting is the fear that they will not be able to handle the problems that the kids bring with them.  When you look at it in perspective, does any parent really know what they are going to face with their kids?  And SO WHAT if there are big problems?  Someone has to do it.  Someone has to be the one to step up and say that they will solve the orphan problem.  Someone has to be the one to parent the difficult kids.  Might as well be you.

As a Christian, we don’t get the excuse that it might be hard or uncomfortable.  Jesus is all about making us do uncomfortable things.   Scripture tells us that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.  It’s when we are living outside of our capability and relying totally on His power at work in us, that we can do the most unimaginable things.

Coming Out of the Gaither Closet – Why Music at Home Matters


I am a person who can listen to just about any type of music and find value in it.   I am a person who always likes to know what is trending, what is popular, what is new and how it affects what I do.  I love understanding popular culture.

But there is this other side of me that likes to hang on to the old.  It is a part of me that is rooted in something that is old-fashioned and, to some, outdated.  So here is my confession…

For years I have been a closet Gaither-listener.  There.  I said it.

Weight lifted.

There is something that happens to me when I listen to “Gaither” music.  If you don’t know what I am referring to, it’s the style of music that you would find on any of Bill Gaither’s Videos, the old-time hymns and the Southern gospel music that was so popular many years ago.

I am sitting at my computer now, listening to them sing in multiple-part harmony, “Whaaaaat a Lovely Name, the Name of Jeeeesuuuuus…”  As I sit and listen to the melody sweetly waft around the room, beautiful memories of times past come flooding back.

They are memories of sitting next to my big sister as she played the piano after supper, singing while the older kids and my Dad played their instruments.

Each melody brings to mind my Dad tapping the steering wheel of the station wagon, whistling along while we sat in the back and harmonized to the old 8-tracks.

They are memories of an old church where we would sing from our old hymnbooks, some of which we had proudly emblazoned with our names engraved right on the front.  They are memories of harmonizing with my brother as we made a recording for our church’s radio program.

They are memories of people who are no longer here, who are pulled from a place in time and called back to mind, carrying with them great memories of a better time.

These are memories of a time when I didn’t have all the cares I have now.  It was a time when people didn’t come to me to solve their problems.  I didn’t pay bills, I didn’t wonder how to manage my home.  It was a time when life was about play and fun and music.  People didn’t seem to get cancer, people didn’t seem to go bankrupt, and churches didn’t have conflict.  It was a time when families stayed together.

Sure, those things happened then too, but at least I wasn’t painfully aware of all of life’s cares back then.  I was safely surrounded by love, fun, care, and of course, music.

So, I sit and listen to the familiar tunes singing sweetly in my ear, and I remember the 10 year old me, playing and singing and not caring.  Sometimes I feel like I’m underlining and bolding my age by admitting that I know all of those old songs word for word, that they make me feel so comforted when I listen to them.

But I’m proud of that old music.  It will always be a part of me and it will always transport me back to that old time.  It will remind me always of the person that I am underneath it all.

I have been left with music that speaks of faith, of joy through struggle, and of an eternal hope.  Someday my children will hear a certain song and be reminded of their dear old mother and father, who are gone to Glory.  What is the music that we are leaving behind?  Some of it will be Gaither music, and some of it will be loud and heavy and flashy.  Either way, I pray that it is music that always reminds them of when they were 8, 5 and 3 and life was simple, and God’s love wafted through our house through music.

Charlie Brown’s Mother – Why Kids Don’t Hear Us Anymore


“I KNOW I can hear myself talking.  I am SURE that I am speaking English.  AND, I can see you RIGHT THERE!”

That was the one-way conversation I was having the other day with my 7 year old.

Have you ever felt that frustration of talking to kids who are just not hearing anything you are saying?  Many parents, teachers, and Children’s Ministry leaders feel that frustration every day.  “WHY are they not listening to me?”

I have been thinking a lot about why my own kids and the kids I minister to outside of my home aren’t appearing to hear me, and I have come to a conclusion.  It’s my belief that children are slowly tuning us all out.

Dr. Kevin Leman jokingly says that children nowadays are “unionized”.   I believe him.  There is very little that I witness with my children at home that I don’t see in the general kid population.  In general, kids are slowly tuning all of us adults out.

But why?

Well, I have made a few observations that are gleaned from my own introspection and my observation of those around me who are attempting to communicate with kids.  Here’s why the kids don’t hear us anymore.

1.  We yack too much. 

Most of what children hear throughout their day is a series of commands, one after the other.  After a while, it all sounds like noise to them.   Here’s what we need:

Less ordering, more engaging.   If the orders and commands are coming too fast and too furious, they begin to sound like droning machinery.

For example, if you are trying to get your little boy to get ready to go to the park, here’s what you could say:   “Okay Dylan, we are going to the park in a few minutes.  What do you think we need to bring with us?”  It works way better than, “DYLLLAAAAAHHHNNN!!! LET’S GOOO!! Get your coat!!  Where’s your hat?  Get your shoes!!  Where’s your sand bucket! Go to the bathroom!”

Dylan needs to be engaged in a conversation instead of just being barked at.  After all, Dylan is a little human who just lost you after “coat”.

Less commands, more conversation.  Sometimes we need to give the commands once clearly, and that’s all.  We need to allow the mistake to be made, and the consequence should be swift and immediate, and true to our word.  Instead we often just keep yelling out the commands without any corrective action.  Soon they just become a bunch of things with no meaning rather than words that should snap a kid to attention.

Less talking, more listening.   I find that people in general have poor conversation skills.  There is way too much talking and feeding our own need to be heard, and way too little listening to the person with whom you are conversing.

We need to sit and listen to children more.  We need some moments of real conversation that don’t involve us barking out orders.   What are they thinking about?  What have they done today?  Why are they doing that thing that you don’t want them to do?  Perhaps if you take the moment to allow them to give their perspective, they may have something remarkable to say, and they may perceive you as someone that is interesting to chat with, making you also interesting to listen to.

2.  We are annoyingly loud.

A lot of the time, when we talk to children we address them as if we are preaching at a tent meeting to 600 people without a microphone.  We don’t always need to be at top level.  Sometimes we need to tone it down a smidge… okay a lot.

If we are giving commands to children, they should not be made to feel as if they are lining up to be sent to the stockade.    When we are communicating a message, it’s important to use different tones of voice.  There is no need to constantly yell at kids.  One of my good friends is a school teacher, and she is able to snap a large group of kids into listening mode with a very quiet and calm voice, because they are now intrigued by what she is saying in such quiet tones.

So, in short, tone it down.  Goodness, with all that noise, I’d tune you out too.

3.  We are boring.

Sometimes we as adults need to get ourselves a sense of humour.  To that humour we need to add imagination.  To that imagination we need to add creativity.  Trying to imagine what would happen if aliens landed on the front lawn is not a useless exercise.  It’s a moment to allow a child’s sense of silliness and wonder to rub off on you.  To a child, that’s meaningful conversation.  So try not to be so boring.  Do something silly, for goodness sake.   Silliness engages children, and an engaged child is a listening child.

When I watched Charlie Brown as a kid, I remember thinking that the mother had nothing interesting to add to the real important story that was happening closer to ground level.  Her words were, “Wah-wah, wah-wah…” and totally undecipherable.  Whatever she was saying was not relevant.  It’s funny in the cartoon because it’s so true.

Are you relational with your children? Do you take the time to make yourself familiar with their culture (and they do have one).  Sometimes we can’t help but be perceived as irrelevant.  After all, we’re old.  However, it’s always fun to throw your kids for a loop when you actually know what Moshi Monsters are, or that One Direction is not just something written on a road sign.  Take the time to be an integral part of the story that is happening closer to ground level.

4.  We are disrespectful.

Yes, I said that.  WE are disrespectful.  We want our children to be respectful to us while we model disrespect to them.

Picture this:  Your spouse is sitting at the computer, reading a really good blog post about something that interests them.  Then you come charging into the room and demand, “Get off the computer!  I’m ready to go!”   Your spouse would have some choice words for you right at that moment.

It seems ridiculous to use that approach on our spouse, but then we use that approach on children all the time.  The difference with kids is that they know that there are consequences for speaking back to their parents in those moments, so their only defense is to tune you out and ignore you.

It’s not okay to treat kids with disrespect.  Let’s respect their privacy.  Let’s respect their personal space.  Let’s respect their feelings.  Let’s respect their need to play.  If we constantly model a disrespectful tone to our children, we can’t complain later when the same words come back in our direction like a boomerang.

I’ve heard many parents say that their kids have “selective hearing”.  In a way, I guess we all do.  We all tune out what is annoying, what is redundant, what is repetitive, what is rude, and what is too hard to understand.  But we do tune in the people who take the time to involve us, relate to us, and meet us where we are, because that is real conversation.

No-Sweat School Mornings

I do mornings.

For years until I was 42, I used to say that I was not a morning person.  I didn’t like getting up early, and I detested having to be coherent for any reason before 9:00.  I liked getting out of bed and just making it to work when required, and waking myself up gradually… say, by 11:00.

All of that changed when children entered the picture.  Two out of the three of them are morning people.  The youngest, in particular, is a lively hop-out-of-bed type of person who cannot understand why everyone else does not share his zest for all things morning.  Immediately upon his arrival in our home, he began to wake us no later than 6:00 a.m., bright eyed and bushy-tailed, banging loudly on our bedroom door.

So now I do mornings.

School mornings were a particular issue for me.  Being “The Insta-Mom”, I was thrown into the craziness of school mornings like a piece of meat to a pack of wild dogs.  It nearly ate me up.  I couldn’t seem to figure out which days I needed to pack what, how much lunch to give them, and what “currency” I need to use to coax each one to do what is needed.

So I now think I may have it figured out.

I’ve realized that the key to a good school morning is being ready the night before.  So, with the help of “The Get Yourself Organized Project” by Kathi Lipp,  I’ve come up with a list of things that I do on school nights to be ready for the morning. Perhaps it might be of help to you as you look forward to the back to school season:

1.  Set your alarm early so that you can beat the early kid to the punch.  It makes me feel immediately in control when I’m the one doing the waking.

2. Dump the nastiness out of the backpacks.  Do this either outside or over a garbage can.   Heaven only knows what might slither or ooze out.

3. Go through the kids’ agendas or homework to see what is to be done for the next day.  Then you have grounds to say, “AHA! Yes you DO have homework, you little stinker!” when they claim that the teacher never mentions homework.

4. Pack lunches (if the kid is older, make them do this). If it is something that just can’t be made the night before, do as much of the prep as possible.  It’s much better for the child’s nutrition if the lunch is not completely packed by a zombie mother.

5. Make the kids pick out their clothes.  It will avoid the bedroom looking like the back room of a fashion show the next morning.

6. Charge your cell phones and other electronic devices.  Put them where you can find them without having to use a “find-my-iPhone-because-I’m-braindead” app.

7. Defrost or at least plan out tomorrow night’s supper.  Kids can’t live on chicken fingers, even though they are quite happy to do so.

8. Put breakfast bowls and cereal or whatever on the table.  If a kid is big enough, you may be able to hang on to a few more minutes of zombie state while they fix their own breakfast.

9. Fill up water bottles.  Make sure that they are tucked in something outside the bag.  We have ruined many agendas and permission slips by putting them inside.  None of them are leakproof and they all end up upside-down in the backpack.

10. Set reminders.  I set reminders on my iPhone of anything that is needed for the morning that I might possibly forget.  I also tie random things to doorknobs in case I forgot step 6.

11. Find your keys.  Preferably get into the habit of hanging them or placing them in the same place every day.  Nothing worse than being totally ready and then spending 20 minutes looking for keys.

12. Empty the dishwasher.  I know it sounds out of place on this list, but it will make you feel so much better if you can throw breakfast dishes quickly into the dishwasher to get them out of the way so that you don’t feel like crying when you get home later.

13. Fill up your gas tank.  All of your saved time goes out the window if you have to stop and get gas on the way to work.

14. Shut off the computer about an hour before bedtime. (I still haven’t mastered this.  I’m typing this at 12:14 a.m.)  Apparently the light from your computer will trigger stuff in your brain that will do something or other to keep you awake.  (I really absorb scientific information like a sponge.)

15.  Go to bed at a sensible time.  I have a good friend who used to say to her sons, “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.”  I would say for a mother of three, nothing good happens after 10.  After that, you should be ten-toes-up in bed, halfway to La-La-Land.  Don’t lie there and watch the news either.  Nobody wants to go to bed dreaming they being attacked by angry demonstrators or in the middle of a drug bust.

16.  Match up mittens.  We have a bin in our front entrance that is like a singles bar for mittens… each mitten is in there trying to find its mate.  To alleviate this problem, just buy many of the same mittens so that there’s always a matching pair.  (Also check up the sleeves of the jacket they wore the day before.  You might find the rogue mitten there. )  There have been many mornings when I have dragged myself back into the house after putting the kids on the bus, only to have to gather up the contents of the mitten bin, which has been dumped out onto the floor in desperation.

17. Make sure boots and other winter stuff are dry and have not been used to add detail to a snowman in the front yard.

18. Remind your kids about how smart they are.  Hopefully they will fall back on that when they have an opportunity to make a dumb choice the next day.

19. Read the Bible to the kids. Make sure that the last thing they hear about is how much God loves them.

20. Finally, pray with them. Let them finish the day talking to the One who made the day happen in the first place. It puts everything else in perspective.

After you have checked all of these off your list, my best advice is to expect the wildcards.  Children like to throw wrenches into your perfectly-planned mornings.  They like to tell you as you are running to catch the bus that they have a major project due, or they need to bring gym clothes for a sports day.  You must take those things in stride and expect the unexpected.

If the children make it to school with their lunch and fully clothed, then the rest is gravy.  Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your day.