Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Grumpy As a Family

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Such a Grumpy Family

Is your family grumpy too much?

Today Liz Millay from Simple Life Messy Life joins us to give us 10 ways to stop feeling like a grumpy family–and start feeling like a happy family again, even in the midst of school!

School has begun once again and whether your kids are hopping on the big yellow bus or sitting down for math lessons at the kitchen table, one thing is for sure – gone are the lazy days of summer. Life is about to get busy!

I know for our family, when our schedules are full and we aren’t able to spend as much time together, we start to feel disconnected. We are more liable to get cranky at each other and we start to feel just plain “off.”

So, how do you stay connected as a family when your days are filled with activities taking you every which way?

If you don’t want to be a grumpy family, you have to be intentional.

Don’t get me wrong, being intentional about connecting as a family isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated either!

Here are ten simple ways to stay connected as a family. Don’t go crazy trying to do all ten (that wouldn’t be very simple after all!), but pick a few and find what works for you!

1. Have at least one night a week where everyone is home

Especially as your kids get older, it is really easy to have somewhere to be every night of the week. And while some seasons of life will be busier than others by necessity, try to keep at least one night a week where everyone is home together.

On these nights the pace of life can slow down a little. Family members can play, talk, and just spend time together unhurried. These times of rest are so important.

2. Cook a meal together

One of the simplest ways to find time to connect as a family is to combine it with something you already have to do anyway. Since you have to eat, why not have a night when the family makes dinner together?

You could try spitting the meal responsibilities (boys make the main dish, girls make the sides), do a little Chopped Challenge, or tackle a new recipe together. Even the littlest helpers can get involved!

3. Eat dinner around the table

Even if you aren’t able to cook the meal together, there are so many benefits to eating together! You can read more about the benefits of the family dinner table here, but just some of them are: less tension in the house, more talking among family members, and healthier eating all around.

For extra fun or a special evening, put out a table cloth and light a candle (even if you’re just eating pizza!). Put away the phones and make dinnertime a relaxing part of the evening.

4. Turn off the electronics

Speaking of putting away your phones, try putting some limits on all electronic devices. The TV, phone, iPad – being connected to them makes it really hard to be connected to each other!

This past year for Lent, one of the things we decided to do was to not turn the TV on until after our son went to bed. It was such a simple thing, but you wouldn’t imagine the different it made in the atmosphere of our family. You can read more about our experience here.

5. Go for a walk 

Another thing we did along with our no TV rule was to go for a walk almost every evening. Now, you might not be able to go for a family walk every evening, but I highly recommend doing it when you can!

It could be as simple as a quick walk around the block or a bigger adventure such as going on a hike at a nearby trail. Either way, there is something about the fresh air and getting your blood pumping that puts everyone in a good mood. Getting out of the house and away from distractions is also a great time to chat and catch up on life.

6. Play a game

Another fun way to spend some time together as a family is to play a game. This could be a card or board game (we like to play Uno with our three year old!) or something more active like shooting baskets or playing catch. You could even play video games together if that’s more your style! It doesn’t matter as much what the activity is, but that you are doing it side-by-side, connecting with each other and building memories.

7. Exercise together 

Getting in some exercise is something that most people have on their to-do list. One way to increase the odds of it actually happening (and have more fun doing it) is to get the whole family to join in!

My husband and I have been trying to do a short yoga video every night and often our three year old son joins in. It makes it a little more crazy – but also a lot more fun! Plus, he gets to see us exercising and we get to build a healthy habit as a family.

8. Sneak in some end of the night pillow talk

Pillow talk isn’t just for husbands and wives! That quiet moment, with a dim room all snuggled in bed is a great time to connect with your kids. Ask them about their favorite part of the day, read a book, or just get in some extra hugs and kisses.

9. Family devotional 

Sometimes it is easy to think of physical, social, and mental ways to connect, but forget that it is important to connect on a spiritual level too. A family devotional time doesn’t have to be complicated either. You can pair it with dinner or sneak it in at bed time, or even do it at breakfast if you are one of those crazy morning people!

If you need some ideas for family devotions try reading through a book of the Bible (or a story Bible for the little ones) and signing a favorite worship song. There are also lots of great devotional books out there to choose from!

If you have toddlers, try checking out my Play Through The Bible series!

10. Pray 

This goes along with having a family devotional time, but it is so important that I thought it deserved its own separate point! Definitely include prayer both during your devotional time and throughout your day as a family. But, even on top of that, don’t forget to pray for your family.

Pray for your family members individually, and also pray for your family as a whole. Pray for relationships among each other, for your marriage, for siblings, and for the love of Christ to shine in through your family.

Looking for more simple and fun ideas of activities to do together as a family? I have a FREE gift for you! Click here to get family fun cards – 36 printable cards with simple activities for you to do on family night or anytime! 

lizLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not looking for ways to teach God’s truth to her three year old you’ll find her reading, cooking, writing, or enjoying the outdoors. Liz Blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

I Want to Learn to Take Better Pictures!

I live in a family where my lack of photography skills is a frequent source of amusement.

Katie, my YouTube daughter, has Instagram all figured out. She can line up a photo with great composition, take it on her iPhone, edit it like crazy, and create a lovely memory.

Katie Instagram

Katie Instagram 2

Keith, my husband, has mastered his DSL (is that EVEN the right term? I don’t even know. That’s how bad I am) camera and takes awesome pictures of birds (we enjoy bird watching together, though he’s way more into it than me. I just like walking in nature).

Blue Jay


And then there’s me.

Here’s one I took this weekend where I was trying to be artistic, but the lighting isn’t quite right.


I’m in the middle of two huge photo projects: the first is that I want to get good at Instagram over the summer. I enjoy photos; I just can’t figure it all out. But I’m going to have fun trying! The other is that Katie is taking ALL of our old family photo albums and scanning the pictures. I want to digitize everything.

But as I’m going through all the old photos, I see so many that could have been better. And for my daughter’s wedding in July, I want to be ready! I just didn’t document the kids’ early years that well. Thankfully the girls have documented their teen years just fine on their own, but I’d like to start capturing memories that have the right feel a little bit better. And I want to make sure that I can always FIND those photos again, too!

So I am launching myself into the Ultimate Digital Photography Bundle that starts today–for one week only! I got a hold of the books early–last Friday–just to take a look, and I’m absolutely loving it. There are three tiers, depending on what type of photographer you are: Beginner, Intermediate, and Professional.

Like most of you, I’m just a beginner. But the beginner ebooks and ecourses are so much fun.

There are books on composition (like what goes into making a good photo, and where everything should be), lighting, exposure, depth, and so much more. There are ecourses for your Nikon camera and ecourses for your Canon camera (we have a Canon. I think. That’s how bad I am).

One of the things I think is so cool is this ecourse on Metadata:


It helps you learn how to insert code into the actual raw photo file so that you always know who is in the photo, where it was taken, the date it was taken, and the subject. That way if you’re ever trying to find “all photos of Johnny when he was 3”, you can just search for it. It teaches you what keywords to use and what to do with them. I’m so excited about that because of my project to organize all of my photos from forever!

And here’s another one that my daughters are really excited about: iPhone Only Photography.

iPhone Only Photography

It shows you how to use your iPhone to take amazing pictures, and then what editing software to use to make them even better. It’s a really long book–200 pages–so it’s a major course in and of itself. I’m working my way slowly through it, and by the end of the week I hope to show you an updated landscape photo with the sun peeking through the trees–like the one above–that’s so much better! Taken just with my iPhone, of course.

There’s also a great resource on how to capture those unexpected memories, which every mom is going to want. Those lovely pics of your kids laughing, or even having a meltdown, are irreplaceable. I wish I had more of them–but you can!


Then my husband is so excited to work through the ones on shadow and light to figure out how to use his camera better.

Seriously–there is so much for everyone. And it’s such a great deal!

Click here to see the full range of ebooks and training courses included in The Ultimate Photography Bundle (Beginner’s Edition).

There’s even better news! Everything in the bundle has a combined total value of $555, but for this week only, The Ultimate Bundles Team is selling the entire bundle for just $37 – a discount of more than 90%! What’s more, they’re also throwing in a FREE copy of FX Photo Studio Pro software from MacPhun (which provides stunning filters and photography effects) worth $29.99!

Click here to buy The Ultimate Digital Photography Bundle (Beginner’s Edition) for just $37.

The next generation is going to be all about photography. Our lives will be documented on social media, and we have the ability to really capture amazing photos that will last for generations. Technologically, this is such an exciting time to be alive because anyone can master this stuff! And the equipment is so much cheaper than it ever has been.

The bundle sale ends June 29 at midnight EST, so don’t wait to pick it up!

I’m going to try to work through some of the assignments in the iPhone Only Photography book over the week, and keep you updated. I hope you like my progress! And if you want to join me, just click here.

Remember, there’s also a bundle for Intermediate photographers, with lots more on lighting and black and white photography, and for professional photographers. When you buy one of the bigger bundles, you get all the resources in the lower bundles as well. So when you buy the intermediate bundle, you also get all the ebooks, courses, and bonuses in the beginner bundle.

No blurriness, no exposure nightmares, no bad angles. Just perfect, happy memories!

Top 10 Things Great Parents Do

Most moms are consumed with the question, “Am I a good enough parent?”

Today, for Top 10 Tuesday, Lindsey Bell joins us to talk about how to be a great parent–and how great parents aren’t perfect parents!

Top Ten Things Great Parents DO

Ever felt like a terrible parent?

Yeah, me too.

Earlier this week, it wasn’t even 10 AM and I had already lost my temper with my son over something that—in the grand scheme of things—really didn’t matter.

As I sat in my bedroom and beat myself up over my mistakes, the Lord gently reminded me that great parents aren’t those who never make mistakes.

A bad day doesn’t make us a bad parent.

That afternoon, while my sweet son took his nap, I started thinking about what does make a great parent.

Here are 10 things great parents have in common.

1. Great parents grant forgiveness easily and ask for forgiveness often.

As much as we’d like to believe we’re not going to mess up and yell at our kids or make any mistakes as parents, we all know that’s not reality.

We are human, so we’re going to mess up. Our kids are human too, so they’re going to make mistakes.

Great parents build homes where forgiveness is asked for and given often.

2. Great parents let their kids make mistakes.

Instead of rushing in to make sure their children never fail, great parents allow their kids to make mistakes while they’re in the safety of home.

It’s much better to make little mistakes now (when a loving parent will be there to help them pick up the pieces and work through the disappointment) than to make big mistakes later on.

So the question is, is it safe to make a mistake in your home?

3. Great parents give their kids things money can’t buy.

We all know money doesn’t buy happiness, and yet we often live like it does.

Instead of giving your child “things,” give him something money can’t buy. Give him your time. Give him unconditional love. Help him fall in love with a Savior.

There’s nothing wrong with providing your child with physical blessings, but there are some things money can’t buy. Great parents focus on these types of things!

4. Great parents practice what they preach.

Kids will do what you DO, not what you SAY you do. Great parents model the behavior they want to see in their children. They live with integrity.

5. Great parents teach their children about money.

Many teenagers don’t know how to write a check or balance a checkbook. They don’t know how to live on a budget. They can use a credit card without any problem, but don’t yet realize how debt could affect their future.

Great parents teach their children how to save, how to give, and how to spend wisely within their means.

6. Great parents discipline in love.

They recognize their role in their child’s life. It’s not to be a best friend or to be a drill sergeant. A parent’s role is to guide his or her children and train them toward maturity. This can only happen with loving discipline.

7. Great parents tell their kids they love them, no matter what.

Our kids won’t always behave in a way that makes us happy, but they should always know they are loved. Great parents make sure their kids know they are loved even when their behavior is poor.

8. Great parents love their child’s father/mother.

One of the greatest things you can do for your child is to love that child’s father or mother.

It’s so easy after we have kids to stop investing in our marriages. We’re exhausted. At the end of a long day at work or at home, we’re spent and don’t want to have another person to care for.

The investment is worth it, though, both for your sake and for your child’s sake.

*In some instances, as Sheila has written about in the past, like when abuse is present, loving that person doesn’t mean you stay with them. If this is your situation, you need to know that loving that person doesn’t mean you allow him to abuse you. Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do is create some boundaries to keep yourself and your family safe.

9. Great parents teach their children about loving service.

The happiest people are not those who have it all, but those who have learned to invest in others.

Great parents teach their children the value of serving others. They teach them that true happiness isn’t found in things but in living with purpose.

10. Great parents are fully present.

They don’t allow their work, their hobbies, their phones, their computers or their televisions to become more important to them than their child. There’s a time for these things, but there’s also a time to put them away.

Great parents work hard to find that balance.

I’d love to hear from you. What other tips would you add to this list?

17648166-18785009-thumbnailSearching for Sanity: 52 Insights from Parents of the Bible (Christian Living Bible Study)Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at her blog, twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.


What Could You Do with 750 Hours a Year?

What could you do instead with the time that you waste?

I’m back from Colorado! Yay! Had a wonderful trip, but being away from my family for 8 days was long.

Today I want to share with you a few highlights from the blog, but before I do that, I want to follow-up on Monday’s post about time wasters by asking you this question:

What would you do if you had 750 hours?

Do We Waste Too Much Time?We were talking on Monday about how most of us in the West spend an inordinate amount of time on what are essentially time wasters–activities that don’t add to our relationships, our faith, our skill levels, or even, in many cases, our enjoyment of life. We may want to relax and watch TV, but afterwards we still feel unsettled because we haven’t done anything meaningful.

The comments on that post were great, but I felt like there was still something unsaid. And so let’s look a little further.

Let’s assume that you are spending roughly two hours a day on things with no redeeming value. Let’s assume it’s browsing Pinterest, or watching TV, or playing video games. On its own, you can likely justify that time. After all, if you’re working during the other hours, what does it really matter if you want to relax and escape for a while?

Once you do the math, though, you see that that time adds up.

If you’re wasting two hours a day, you’re roughly wasting 15 hours a week (let’s use 15; it’s a rounder number than 14). And over the course of a year, subtracting two weeks for Christmas and vacation, that’s 750 hours.

That’s a lot of time.

What could you do with 750 hours?

You could likely:

  • Start that part-time business
  • Exercise, get toned up and get down to that target weight
  • Completely organize and streamline your home
  • Invest in your friendships by visiting/talking with some friends every week
  • Have people in for dinner
  • Volunteer for that cause that’s been on your heart

Now let’s take the long-term view and multiply that 750 hours over a few years. Then what could you do?

  • Get your degree online (my daughters took university courses online. At 15 hours a week, you could finish a Bachelor’s degree from home in 6 years)
  • Write your novel/book

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceOr how about this: Malcolm Gladwell said in his book The Tipping Point that to get truly proficient at something you need 10,000 hours of practice. That’s maybe 10-12 years. Then you could:

  • Master an instrument
  • Become an artist
  • Start designing your own knitting/sewing patterns
  • Learn photography inside and out
  • Learn blogging and social media as a business (it’s taken me about 8 years of constant work to get proficient)

Wow! That time really adds up.

So next time you’re wondering about wasting time, ask yourself this: it may not seem like it matters if I waste this two hours, but if you take the long term view, is playing these video games more important than writing my novel? Than getting my degree? Than exercising and getting in shape? Than learning the piano like I’ve always wanted to?

All of us have dreams and goals for our lives. But we aren’t going to accomplish those things without time, and that time is not suddenly going to magically appear.

If you’re waiting for “one day” when you have time, one day will never come.

Many of us are in busy stages of our lives with babies and toddlers when starting something new may not be feasible. But look at those charts on Monday’s post again and ask yourself: am I spending time where it matters? Or am I putting a lot into time wasters? And if it’s the latter, then you do have time–right now–for goals that are important. The time is there. It’s just your choice how you use it.

That’s how I began to write–in little bites when the kids were toddlers. I turned off the TV and turned on my computer instead. And my life is so much better.

I once heard someone say that if Satan can’t make us bad he’ll make us busy.

That’s what he’s done in our culture where we entertain ourselves to death. We’re so busy with things that don’t matter that we’re not investing our time. Think about what our communities, churches, and families would be like if we took that 750 hours and spent it on important things. I get goosebumps.

What will you do?

What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum This Week?

Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?HandleMoney#1 on the Blog: Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet
#1 on Facebook: Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?
#1 on Pinterest: Teaching Kids to Handle Money
#1 on Twitter: 9 FUN tips to make SEX great for you, too!


Want to See Pics of My Trip to Colorado?

Here’s my Girl Talk in Greeley, Colorado, and here’s my talk in Green River, Wyoming.

What I wish I could convey in pictures is how gorgeous it was driving through the mountains and the ranches, but my iPhone didn’t do it justice.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back to my real life and start planning my daughter’s wedding! She’s coming home for the long weekend (it’s a long weekend up here in Canada), and we’ll be making all the gifts for her bridesmaids together, just her and I. My husband is taking her fiance on a father-son canoe trip with our church this weekend so they can get better acquainted, and my younger daughter is off to camp. So it’s just Becca and me getting reacquainted!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, too.


Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

Funny Apologies from Kids: A Note, Flowers, and a Laugh

Most of us as parents have had funny apologies from kids.

I have a friend named Bruce who is hilarious himself. He’s always posting on Facebook. I featured him in a column a while ago on dating your spouse. My daughter used to baby-sit for him.

And everyone in our small town knows him because his Facebook posts are often hilarious. So when I saw this last week, I couldn’t stop laughing.

His 6-year-old daughter apparently figured out how to purchase things from iTunes on his account, and she purchased something called “the doll house”. This was AFTER she’d already been reprimanded for purchasing credits for Pet Store. So she presented her mother with this:

Funny Kid Apologies

“I cant controle my Body.”

There’s wisdom in that 6-year-old!

I love it. Kids have so little impulse control, and as parents one of the things we need to teach them is to own up when they do something wrong. My friends made her make restitution and write this apology note, and she obviously “got” it.

While kids have little impulse control, though, they can have very sensitive consciences.

I remember when Katie, my youngest, was 6, and we walked into a craft store looking for something. In a basket on the floor of the store were tons of tiny paper flowers that are used to glue onto wreaths. Katie took one look at them and thought, “wedding bouquets for Barbies!”

So she reached down and grabbed them all and stuffed them in her boots.

I had no idea.

That night, about 45 minutes after we put the girls to bed, she came clutching her blankie and crying into my room and climbed up onto my lap. “I stole something,” she told me. And she presented me with 6 little flower bouquets.

The next day, first thing, we drove to the store and returned them and Katie handed over the little cash she had in her piggy bank.

That night, she came into my room again, crying harder this time. “I didn’t give you all of them!” she said. “I still have more!”

And she showed me about 30 other bouquets. I seriously don’t know how she got them all in her boots.

We took those ones back, too, and as far as I know, she’s never stolen anything again.

We had good talks, we prayed together, and she apologized.

And she’s totally walking with God now! (Seriously: watch her videos!)

We should let children experience guilt

Seriously. If a small child is feeling guilty for sin, don’t try to diminish it by saying, “oh, that’s okay.” The total value of all of those paper flowers was maybe $5. It would have been easy to say, “thank you for telling me, it’s okay.” But don’t. The Holy Spirit is teaching your child to listen to His voice. Don’t short circuit the lesson!

Teach them to apologize. Teach them to make restitution. And then teach them that there is total forgiveness when they confess and they’re honest.

Those are actually precious memories to me, and I still laugh. And I’m sure Bruce and his wife will keep that photo so that they can use it at their daughter’s wedding.

Kids are funny when they apologize. But learning to listen to your conscience is a lesson that is no laughing matter at all.

Now let me know: how do you handle it when your child needs to apologize? Has your child ever stolen anything? Tell us in the comments!

Something a Screen Can’t Do: Hug Your Child

Today guest author Arlene Pellicane, author of the new book Growing Up Social, shares what this generation is beginning to lose–physical touch. Let’s wake up to our children, the gifts that they are, and be present with them. Hug your child today!

Hug your childSamantha is a fifth-grader whose family recently moved to a new community.  “It’s been hard this year, moving and having to make new friends,” said Samantha.  When she was asked if she ever felt as if her parents didn’t love her because they took her away from her old town, she said, “Oh no, I know they love me, because they always give me lots of extra hugs and kisses.

Like many children, Samantha’s love language is physical touch*; those touches make her feel secure and let her know that mom and dad love her.  The language of touch isn’t confined to a hug or a kiss but includes any kind of physical contact.  Even when you are busy, you can often gently touch your child on her back, arm, or shoulder.  Although this love language is very easy to express, studies indicate that many parents touch their children only when it is necessary:  when they are dressing or undressing them, putting them in the car, or carrying them to bed.  It seems that many parents are unaware of how much their children need to be touched and how easily they can use this means to keep their children’s emotional tanks filled with love.

A man named Bob has two children in elementary school and one in preschool.  When the two older kids were younger, Bob would often put them in his lap and read them a bedtime story.  Reading together builds a sense of oneness, a sense of love for kids.  But life got busier and nowadays, the older kids read on their own and his youngest daughter Lisa, four, is used to reading children’s books on an e-reader.  Bob rarely puts Lisa on his lap to read Goodnight Moon.  She sits by herself on the couch reading with her device.

An electronic reader may save space, trees, and be convenient, but using one with kids short circuits something important – physical touch between a parent and child.

Sure a parent can put a child on his lap and read an e-reader or play a video game together on a tablet.  But typically, when a child is engaged with a screen, he or she is not touching a parent.  He’s not being held in a lap.  He’s not sitting close enough to touch mom or dad’s leg.  When family members get used to engaging with screens, they lose the physical touch dynamic which should be a normal dynamic in a healthy family.

If your child’s primary love language is touch, you will know it.  They will be jumping on you, poking you, and constantly trying to sit beside you.  I believe my youngest daughter Lucy, age 4, has physical touch as her primary love language because she always wants to sit next me and one of her favorite words is “Huggie!”  She tells me every day to scratch her back, and the first thing she does in the morning is come in my room for her hug.

When you put your arm around your child, wrestle, or give him a high-five, you’re communicating your love and interest in being together.

Physical touch communicates love in a powerful way to all children, not just young children.  Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, your child still has a strong need for physical touch.  A hug given as he leaves each morning may be the difference between emotional security and insecurity throughout the day.  A hug when he returns home may determine whether he has a good evening or makes a rambunctious effort to get your attention.  Older boys tend to be responsive to more vigorous contact such as wrestling, playful hitting, bear hugs, high fives, and the like.  Girls like this type of physical touch also, but they like the softer touches of hugs and holding hands.

Screens can’t do any of these things, no matter how advanced they are.

Children need loving physical affection from a parent in order to thrive.  So the next time you and your child are in a room together, put your device down and hug your child.  No app can do that; only you can.

*Read Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The Five Love Languages to find out more about the love languages.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven WorldAdapted from Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Arlene Pellicane and Gary Chapman. If you’ve ever felt like screens are taking over your family, or as if your children are losing the ability to have real-life relationships, you need to read Growing Up Social today! Reclaim your family. Don’t sacrifice it to a screen!

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpgArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She has been featured on the Today Show, Family Life Today, K-LOVE, and The Better Show.  She lives in San Diego with her husband James and three children.  Visit Arlene at for free family resources including a monthly Happy Home podcast.



10 Ways to Banish the Stay-at-Home Mom Blues

Stay at Home Mom Blues

Are the Stay-at-Home Mom Blues inevitable?

I have always been a stay at home mom, but if you judge by the comments of many, I have the personality of a pea. If you’re a stay at home parent, you know what I mean. People constantly remark, “I don’t know how you do it. I would go stir crazy if I had to stay home with my kids.” I wonder if people who say that realize how insulting it can sound? The inference is that I am some sort of mutant sub-species that requires far less intellectual stimulation than normal, and can survive for days on end with the praise from Barney—”I love you, you love me”.

It’s time to challenge this notion that staying home with your kids is akin to a prison sentence with an awfully whiny jailer.

Certainly it can be tremendously difficult, draining and exhausting, especially since you usually walk around with banana mash on your jeans and spit up on your sweatshirt. But that’s not the whole story.

Many parents choose to work for a host of different reasons, and only you know what is right for your family. I know that for many, much as you may long to, staying home isn’t financially feasible. I don’t mean to leave you out of today’s post, but I do want to share with my readers who are at home how to make sure it doesn’t get overwhelming.

And so today, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 Ways to Beat the Stay at Home Mom Blues.

Top Ten Tuesday: Banishing the Stay at Home Mom Blues1. Think Outings, not Hibernation

We go about stay at home parenting all wrong. We start by buying tons of equipment (ExerSaucers, swing sets, trampolines) to ensure that we never have to leave the house. But what happens if we’re home alone all the time? Our kids may go stir crazy and whine, cry and vomit. Then we cry. Probably we whine, too. And if we’re pregnant, we definitely vomit. So let’s take a step back and approach this stay at home thing differently.

Instead of spending all day cooped up with the kids, plan for a daily outing, if possible. When my kids were little, we went out every single day. We went to the library. We went to a playgroup. We walked to a nearby park. We went to the museum (it was free on Thursday mornings).

The benefit was that the kids had fun, but they were tired out, and then they would nap better for me later. And if we were out, I could focus completely on them, so when we got home, it was easier to get them to give me time to myself.

2. Enforce Quiet Time

We count the minutes until we can put a child down for a nap. We rejoice when more than one child manages to nap at the same time. Sometimes we even grab a nap, too, wondering how long it will last.

And then an older child stops napping, and it all falls apart.

When a 3-year-old stops napping, enforce quiet time. Have them stay in their room for half an hour with a book or a toy, and let this be “quiet play” time. That gives you some time to yourself, and helps them get some rest (and thus not get so whiny).

3. Get Adult Stimulation

We aren’t meant to do motherhood alone, and you need adult conversation. Take your kids to a playgroup, or organize one yourself. Join the local YMCA or another fitness club that offers baby-sitting. Best of all, join a women’s Bible study or a MOPS group. Just make sure you do something at least once a week that gets you talking with adults.

And talk to your hubby at night, too! Share the burden with him, don’t just retreat to a screen and hand the kids over to him because now it’s his turn to bond with baby. It’s tempting to want to just watch a movie or collapse at the end of the day, but do try to spend some time talking. You need that connection, and he does, too.

4. Start a Hobby

Adult stimulation isn’t all we need; we also need intellectual stimulation–something that gives our brain a creative outlet. Did you love knitting when you were a child? Start knitting again, even if it’s only at night when the kids can’t get to the yarn. Start crocheting. Start painting. You don’t have to do it all the time, but if you have a hobby to research and plan and dream about, it helps.

5. Learn Something

And now it’s time to grow! Learning keeps life fresh. So pick a topic this year that you want to master. Maybe it’s more in-depth Bible knowledge (Kay Arthur or Beth Moore studies are great for that). Maybe it’s nutrition. Maybe it’s cooking. Maybe it’s investing. Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s building a blog! Choose something that you’ve always wanted to know more about, and jump in! Research on the computer, start with small projects, and try. You can do it in 20 minute spurts while children play, or take an hour on the weekend that’s “your time”. One new blogger I know goes to Starbucks every Saturday morning while her husband watches the kids.

6. Give Yourself a Sense of Accomplishment

At work we get praise for finishing something. At home we get whines and piles of laundry that never get folded. If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something, volunteer. Meet your neighbours and see if you can lend a hand to some older people or other struggling parents. Invite people over for coffee. They won’t mind the mess nearly as much as you think they will! And the more connection you have with your community, the more you’ll realize the difference you can make in people’s lives.

7. Get Organized

I love schedules, and kids thrive on schedules, but I always found that as soon as I figured out a schedule that worked, the kids would change it again. Their sleep patterns would change, or their eating patterns would change, and it was all up in the air again. I know that this is difficult. But as much as possible, create a schedule for your week. Know when you will go where. Go grocery shopping the same day each week. Go to the library on the same day. Try to keep naptime to the same time. When kids know what to expect, and you know what to expect, there’s far less whining.

8. Clean Everyday

Don’t let the house get out of control, because that’s just depressing. I remember visiting a friend’s home when my kids were 2 and 5 and being amazed at how clean it was. She had kids the same age as mine, but her home was spotless. Then I realized that the kids were in day care from 7-5, and the parents didn’t spend much time at home, either. When you’re all home, all the time, the house has time to get messy.

Take 15 minutes before each meal and do a quick tidy. Set the timer and have “clean up time”. If everyone cleans three times a day, you’ll find that you stay on top of it better.

Top 10 Ways to Banish the Stay at Home Mom Blues


9. Have Something Special You Do with the Kids

Nobody likes kids pulling at you or whining at you all day, but often that whining is caused by two things: loneliness and boredom. The boredom can be cured by daily outings. The loneliness needs some focused Mommy time. For me and my kids that meant reading. We spent hours cuddled up in someone’s bed reading books. That helped them feel the physical connection (they were touching me); it helped them rest (it was quieter time); and it helped give them security (I spent time with them). Then they would go and play together and I could have some time to myself. To expect a child to entertain themselves all day, though, is unrealistic. Plus you miss out on the bonus of staying at home–that amazing bonding time!

10. Do Something Wild and Crazy

Every now and then, do something completely out of the ordinary. I’m all for schedules and naptimes and all that, but some days, I’d wake up and say, “who wants to go to the zoo?” Who cares if it’s a one and a half hour drive, and we’d only be able to spend three hours there? It would be memorable! Or we’d head to the beach. You have freedom as a stay at home mom; use it. Create those memories and laugh with your kids, and you’ll find the busier days easier to bear.

I do not have the personality of a pea. I’d say it’s more like a bunch of grapes (the seedless kind), with many different things in my life that are all interconnected. It was, and is, such a privilege to stay at home and watch my children grow. They are my reward. But I could not have survived without acknowledging that though I love being a mommy best, I am more than that. Plan for success when you stay at home. Don’t settle for exhaustion. Your life will be richer for it.

Tell me: what’s your biggest source of stress as a stay at home mom? What do you do to relieve the stay at home mom blues? Let me know in the comments!

Get Out with Your Husband–and DO SOMETHING!

Do you know what kills love in marriage faster than anything else? Boredom. When we get bored with each other, it’s all too easy to start ignoring each other’s needs, and to stop being kind. Contempt all too easily follows.

The key, then, is not to get bored, and the way to not get bored is to actually do things together! Even weird things.

How often does the whole evening go by after the kids go to bed with you on Netflix, watching movies, or playing video games? It seems fun at the time, but if you try to remember some great, fun event 10 years ago, I can practically guarantee that it didn’t have to do with television or computers or games. It had to do with something you were actually doing together.

Making memories means you have to be doing something memorable.

I know on Tuesdays I usually do a top 10 post, but I’ve been on vacation a lot in August and taking it easy, and I thought instead I’d share with you something kinda funny that happened to my husband and me while we were camping.

One week last month my husband and I decided to set up our tent trailer at a campground just north of the city where Keith works. He commutes everyday, so it took 40 minutes off of his commute, and let us enjoy the great outdoors. They had internet in the main building, so I could walk there every morning and tend to the blog, but then we could “switch off” and just have fun at night (and I could read and knit a storm during the day!)

I made these socks:

Homemade Socks

But then I had a bunch of pairs of handknit socks that were wearing through (like the one on the right), so I cut off half of the food and reknitted it (like the one on the left):

Socks Fixed

Anyway, that’s not the fun part. I just wanted to show you my knitting!

We booked in from Saturday to Saturday. And on Thursday I became very alarmed because a bunch of new RVs were setting up. And almost every single one of these RVs had dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

We went for a walk that night and I saw a big dog (maybe a sheepdog?)–the prettiest sheepdog I had ever seen. But it was a little startling, and I said to my husband, “I think that dog has been blow dried.”


And sure enough, right across from us was an RV with a mobile dog blow-drying and grooming facility. Dog after dog was lining up to get so groomed. And all because, as we found out, there was a dog show on Friday and Saturday at this particular campground.


All I could picture was dogs barking all night and keeping me awake. But thankfully, these dogs were actually well behaved and the night was silent.

And so, my anxiety over, on Friday I decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

I wandered over to the “big top” tent and saw different breeds being led around the ring by their intrepid owners.



But, as I was informed by a rather nervous man from Montreal, whose corgie was about to compete against 29 other corgies, some of those people leading the dogs weren’t owners. They were “ringers”, hired for the purpose to help the dogs win.

Seriously? They have ringers for dog shows?

I thought this was a riot, and I went back to my camper, grabbed a canvas chair and my knitting, and plopped down next to an older couple who had also just been camping and decided to watch the show.


By the time Keith came back from work that afternoon I had a feel for what was going on, and he joined me and took pictures and we laughed and had an amazing time talking to some of the “junior trainers”, the kids who would be competing later, and many of the owners. And we saw this poodle (and a black one just like it that won “best of fair”. Seriously. I thought people made this up, but they really do look like this):

Dog Show 2

I kept trying to ask the competitors, “what do you get if you win?” Is it prestige? Is it money? Can you charge more for breeding your dogs if you win? But I never did get a satisfactory answer. It’s like people just enter to win because they love it. This was their life.



It’s probably going to be one of the highlights of my summer. I’ve never seen people actually blow dry a dog before, and I’ve never seen that many dogs behave so well. And I’ve never seen people so nervous about whether or not their beagles will properly run in a circle.

And we never would have seen it if we hadn’t have been camping at the right campground.

It got me thinking: there’s a lot of fun to be had just meeting people and doing crazy things.

People have all kinds of neat hobbies–arts and crafts, model trains, model planes, gardening, wine making, tons of stuff! You may not be interested in any of those things yourself (I don’t even own a dog and never will; I travel too much), but going to community events can teach you something new and give you a ton of laughs. How many things do we miss because we’re afraid to do something impulsive, and do a little bit of exploring?

Why don’t we try making memories more often?

Why is it that we turn to Netflix out of boredom, rather than check out the community section in the paper and see what’s actually going on?

I would bet that if you opened it up you’d see some neat contest or show or event that would end up being fun! Old movies in the park. Jazz by the beach. A train show. A dance recital.

Pick one this weekend and just go. Put the kids in a stroller if you have to. It’s those memories that make your marriage fun–and push boredom away.

Making memories with your husband: shut off the computer and do something!

Tell me: What weird and quirky things have been going on in your community this summer? What strange things have you done that ended up making the best memories?

Maybe Boys Need a Little Danger

Boys Need a Little DangerAre we making life too boring for little boys? What if boys need a little bit of danger?

I wrote a column about that a few years ago, and I thought I’d rerun it today. In my post where I recommended 10 different summer reads, I recommended the book Why Gender Matters, which looks at the hard-wired gender differences between boys and girls. And one of those differences is that boys naturally lean more towards danger and risk-taking–and too often we moms, and the schools, and society in general, are trying to eradicate that from boys’ lives. But what if they need it? Let’s talk about it today!

I have a little friend who, when he was only five, did a horrendous thing. He bit a boy at school.

This particular boy had been pestering him for months, and my little friend lashed out by sinking his teeth in.

A human bite, unfortunately, is not clean, and it sent the bully on a trip to the Emergency Room. Meanwhile my little friend was given quite the verbal lashing by the principal about how violence is never the answer.

His mother, a good friend of mine, was quite perplexed about how to react. Personally, I told her, I think his transgression was twofold: he used his teeth rather than his hands, and he did so at school where violence is never permitted. Other than that, was he really so wrong? Kids have been fighting back against bullies for time immemorial, and it’s often quite effective in getting bullies to back off.

Taking the publishing world by storm a few years ago was The Dangerous Book for Boys. It doesn’t give secrets on how to get your mothers to feed you chocolate or how to get your way with women.

It simply talks common sense about things that have been part of boyhood almost forever, until our generation forgot them.

Things like how to tie a knot, how to fish, how to jump from a rock into the water, or how to survive in the wilderness. These were the plotlines of most boys’ novels until relatively recently, when we started to believe that what boys truly desired was to share their feelings.

When places like schools try to curb boys’ natural impulses to be active, risk-taking, and even a bit violent, we run the risk that children will start acting out inappropriately in places with less supervision. If boys are told they must sit still and listen to books all day, they’re more likely to go off the rails after school. If boys can’t play tag at recess because it’s too competitive, or they can only play if everyone gets to be “it”, we aren’t going to curb their natural boyhood impulses. They’re simply going to express them in other ways.

Over the years we have taken all the danger out of childhood. We do this in the interest of safety, and few could argue against bicycle helmets for children, or against safe playground equipment, or for playing with matches. But there is a part of boys, and even many girls, that still yearns for risk.

Remember the playground equipment when we were young? You ran a risk every time you used the teeter totter because you had to trust the guy on the other end not to jump off suddenly. And what about that merry go round? They’re removed from most playgrounds today because if you get a few bigger kids creating momentum, a smaller child could go flinging off. Of course, that’s why many boys ride them in the first place—the flinging part is the attraction! But that’s all the more reason to get rid of these dangers.

As schools banish anything resembling danger, much of the adventure of childhood is being removed.

For all children, but especially for boys who tend to gravitate towards risk-taking more than girls do, this isn’t always a good thing. That’s why The Dangerous Book for Boys is needed. It’s a philosophy to bring adventure back into family life, even if the schools are squeezing it out because they’re afraid of being sued. And now that summer’s here, we’ve got a great chance to create some danger all on our own!

Most boys love seeing things explode, or collapse, or go bang. They love starting fires, sleeping outdoors, and even killing things. It’s time for some adventurous, adult men to step up to the plate and let boys be just a little bit dangerous. What else is childhood for?

Okay, everybody, true story:

When my girls were little, we took a yearly camping trip with another family who had two boys pretty much exactly the same age as our girls. The kids would love helping Derek (the other dad) start the fire at night. After the little kids went to sleep, we adults would play games late into the night. When the kids woke up at 6:30, then, we really didn’t want to get up yet.

And so I will tell you about one of the bad parenting things I did. I actually let Katie and her friend Liam start fires when they were about 6 and 7. It kept them busy for like half an hour so we could still sleep! And they would resurrect the coals from last night. When I talked to Derek about it (he’s a “dangerous” kind of man’s man himself) he always said, “the problem is letting kids PLAY with fire. Liam and Katie aren’t PLAYING with fire. They’re building a fire. And they know what they’re doing.” And they actually are really good at starting fires today! (Likely still shouldn’t have done it, but there you go).

Here’s a pic from the summer of 2000 when the kids were little–and enthralled by fire:


(That’s Paul at the fire with his older brother Liam on the right; Becca’s sitting down. Katie’s not pictured. She’s probably raiding the cooler for more chocolate to make smores).

And here’s Katie and Liam on Liam’s 4-wheeler last Sunday for Katie’s 17th birthday:


So now you tell me: what “dangerous” things do your sons–or nephews–do? What dangerous things does your husband do? And how do you deal with it?