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Fabulous Family Friday–The Third R of Relationships

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Well, we finally come to the third R of Relationships! 

You’ve figured this out by now, right?!  

It is your relationship to your children. 

Let me repeat–your first two relationships must be in order for the third one to be as well.  You certainly can’t be mad at God or your husband and expect your relationship to your children to be just fine! 

I’m not talking about the occasional frustration but the ongoing tone of your other relationships. 

Now, what about those lovely gifts God has entrusted to you? 

There are days they want to make you pull your hair out, right?! ;) 

Having the right perspective makes things fall into place much better AND helps you keep your eyes on the long term goal vs. the current “tyrrany of the urgent”! 

It’s so easy as a young mama (and even us not-as-young mamas!) to get so focused on the here and now–the diapers, dishes, messes, homeschooling, laundry, or if you’ve got older children helping, then you have the oversight of the littles’ training (so they don’t just ride on the coattails of the older ones!), homeschooling three to four levels, (overseeing some, involved in others), making sure the jobs you delegated got done, making sure children make it to lessons, ministry opportunities, coordinating all that and still finding time to practice music as a family (in our case, anyway)!  Whew!  

From time to time it is important to stop, look up, take a deep breath, and keep your eyes fixed on the horizon of your long-term goals, so they don’t get swallowed up in the dailyness of life.  

“Getting things done” is probably a mama’s worst enemy to relationships.  Whether the “things” are chores, school, outings, ministry, meals……if we’re not careful we can go days without really tying the heartstrings in our relationship to our children.   Guilty here! :( 

I remember something I read by Michael Pearl…wish I could find it to quote it verbatim, but in essence he was saying that your daily duties are opportunities to train your children and tie heartstrings.    It was a fun issue with stories by other moms–I remember one enterprising mom had her children drawing or doing their math facts on the tile floor–maybe in washable marker?–then they had the “fun” of wiping it off.  Or maybe she wrote the facts down and as they answered them they wiped it off.  Math and clean floor in one lesson!   Now that’s my kind of school! :D 

Ah!  I found it! 

Here is the letter from the mom and Michael’s comment, both very good: 

The tiles of homeschooling 

“My four and six-year-old love to help me clean our kitchen floors. Although this
game works as well on linoleum, our kitchen floor is made of large ceramic tiles. I
divide the kitchen floor into two sections. With a dry erase pen on the four year
old’s section I draw numbers and letters in random order on the tiles. He has to clean each large square perfectly, thus erasing the letter or number on his square–but he has to do it in chronological order. His older sister has various words to read as she cleans each square, thus decoding a secret message (often a mini love letter) I have written to her. Sometimes we even make it a race. It’s lots of fun and sure beats nagging the kids! 

Valeri Marsh 

Payson, AZ” 

“The previous letter is the way life should be lived. She said, “it sure beats nagging.” Nagging is always counterproductive. It eats away at the soul of the family like moist rot. 

“Can you see that this mother is enjoying her children? It would no doubt be easier for her to clean the floor herself. Imagine mother crawling around on the floor, writing on every tile, leaving coded messages. This is a woman that needs to have fifteen kids. 

“Consider what must be the world-view of this mother. What is the most important thing to her in the course of a day? Keeping her house clean? Absolutely not. She lives for her children. She is a builder of souls. She has a full time job, and she is determined to succeed above all else. She is a mother. That is the attitude you must have to train up your children in the way they should go.” 

~Taken from Working Character in Children, part 2 

The following was also taken from this article.  I’m quoting this at length because it really captures the heart of why we do what we do–it’s not just to have something to eat, a clean home and clothing.  It’s about training character while tying heartstrings: 

“You have been thinking in terms of what you can get done most efficiently in the shortest amount of time. You are motivated moment by moment to follow the path of least resistance. You must change mantles. You can no longer be a one-person dynamo of efficiency. Resign from all of life’s callings. You are now a father or mother whose sole purpose in life is to produce beautiful sons and daughters of God

“There must be two changes; the first one is absolutely critical. Change your perspective and then you can change your lifestyle. With a new attitude toward the children and toward what must be accomplished in a given period of time. Arrange your lifestyle so the children are needed and are effectively engaged in responsible work.” 

(my emphases) 

Another mom I read about (different source) talked of giving the kids dishtowels that they could scoot around the floor on while they “mopped”.   Yeah, they made a mess and needed to change clothes when done–but what a memory!  And what a mom! 

This is where we must–must change our views.  It is tough when they’re younger, but probably the first thing you need to do is die to your pride.  Your idea of what a day should look like.  What if you end up throwing all the cushions on the floor or pillows and just read half the day away?  Was that a loss? 

Or what if you ditch your well-planned day and take a sheet and have an indoor picnic on a rainy day? 

I have done both of those, but way too few times.  Unfortunately I can probably count on one hand how many indoor picnics we did.  :(  And now, that I’m an older mama, I wonder….what was so pressing that I “just didn’t have time”? 

I no longer remember what the “tyrrany of the urgent” was during those younger years.  But I remember those fun oases when I let go of my agenda and let God direct! 

Of course I’m not advocating throwing your schedule out  24/7/365!  I think, however, that most of us in this “Daytimer” generation have a harder time letting go than being too loose! 

There are going to be days, especially when your children are all little, that you may need to take more time than you’d like to discipline and/or train them.  But you are laying a foundation, and you can gloss over the “little foxes that spoil the vines” and “get more done” now…..but you will reap a harvest and not get as much done later.  Nor will you have cheerful help later. Nor will you have the joy. 

Marilyn Howshall (who wrote Wisdom’s Way of Learning) often wrote:  

Character training adds time to every duty and every duty must stop for character training. 

We don’t like that, do we?  We want it to get fixed fast so we can get back to what’s “important”.  Whatever that is. 

Here’s another quote from the introduction to Elisabeth Elliot’s classic book, Keep a Quiet Heart:

“I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances

to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to

help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps

one’s true work–one’s work for God–consists in doing some trifling haphazard

thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is

tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day–the part

one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the

planned work; trust  that time to finish it will be given sometime, and

keep a quiet heart about it.

~Annie Keary, 1825-1879

I fear that we are rushing after the planned work, not trusting and certainly not keeping a quiet heart about it all! 

I had that quote written out and posted at different places in the home for awhile.  At the kitchen sink for a long time, then a mirror, then in my Bible.   I needed the reminder, because when I first read those words I was recovering from my 7th miscarriage and my children were 8, 6, 3 and almost 2.  

I am admonishing you younger mamas especially, please take the time!  Take the time to write down each day the silly, funny, seemingly mundane things you did today.  Right now you may think, “Who will care about that?”  Believe me–in 10 years it will be a riot to read what you ate for lunch that day, or  “Oh, remember? That’s the day we decided to just do a nature walk and had a picnic down the lane!” or when your barely walking toddler pulled your petticoat off the playpen where it was drying and got inside of it and then couldn’t walk! She was so distressed and you were laughing so hard you could barely help her out of it!  (Yes, that happened with my oldest and I did write that one down! ;)

Take time to make a chore fun.  Oh, you can’t do it every day with every chore, but what about 1 chore?  What about making Fridays “Family Fun Friday” where “regular school” is cancelled?  And it’s spelling games or math bees or wash the tile floor with secret messages  ;) ?  My goal is to have Fridays free–no matter how the rest of the week went!  That means if you “lost” 2 days’ worth of work, you do not use Friday to make it up!  That will speak volumes to your children!  Of course there may be the occasional (very rare) exception, but even taking the afternoon off to do some fun projects will be something they can look forward to! 

And please don’t make it a discipline issue–no “If you don’t straighten up you will do your work while we all have fun”–this is about grace.  There are plenty of other times to tie consequences to actions, but let there be one time, one fun time each week where it’s all grace.  Remember what grace you have been shown, Mama! 

You could even use that time to make something to bless others–make cards, no sew fleece blankets (we have a children’s hospital in our state’s capital that posts sizes needed and how to do them–cutting a small 1/4 inch slit at the base of each fringe piece to pull each fringe piece through vs. tying, works for single layer fleece), or perhaps make some simple gifts to have on hand for baby showers, birthdays, etc.  Here is a GREAT blog, Skip to My Lou,  and her Made By You Mondays have a TON of links to other people’s projects they share!  

Another good resource is Teaching Good Things, and she has many freebie ideas on her blog/website!  You will need to scroll down a bit on the right side to search, and there is a category selection that will keep you busy for awhile! ;) 

I personally believe whatever a child’s “bent” may be, he or she will benefit with learning to work with their hands.  You don’t have to be proficient yourself–just learn along with them!  (Just like homeschooling! ;)

When I was first married I didn’t know how to sew much, knit, decorate cakes, toll paint or a host of other things I’ve learned over the years.  I sometimes have felt like King David–I have amassed the materials (well, definitely THE material!  LOL!  I think I have my own fabric store!) and my children are King Solomon, building the temple.   My girls can do all the things I learned over the years much better than me.  But that’s okay!  I do not have to be top dog! 

Working with your hands builds character, but it also calms and soothes.  There is a boys’ home in Idaho that teaches the boys to crochet.  It is amazing how these troubled boys calm down!  They make blankets  to bless others with and accept yarn donations.  I often said that “technology” and “progress” have taken the part of woman’s work that stayed done and left us with the part that needs redone–sometimes several times a day! 

“Needlework is strong medicine for anyone, but for these young men it helps rebuild their very core. ” 

~p. 22  MaryJane’s Stitchery Room, by MaryJane Butters 

Patsy, a teacher assistant at this home who was  interviewed in MaryJane’s book, said it helps the boys with their anger and their addictions as well as building their self-worth. 

I wonder how many troubled women and children could get off drugs or therapy simply by keeping their hands busy?   Knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, quilting, even spinning (it’s been a long time since I used my spinning wheel, but I still remember how utterly soothing it was!).   

Please don’t overlook the importance of this–“craft time” should not just be a nice extra that gets bumped off when you are “behind” in math! 

I have more I want to post about this “R” of relationships, mainly about older children, so I will save that for next week (don’t want anyone groaning at the length of my posts—conciseness is not one of my strong points!). 

I also wanted to share about Math on the Level today, too, but since this is long enough, I will share that on “Math Monday”!  ;) 

If you would like to donate yarn to the boys’ home, here is the address: 

Northwest Children’s Home 

P.O. Box 1288 

Lewiston, Idaho  83501 

For more information about crocheting as a tool for healing, or to support this important program, contact Patsy Gottschalk, 208-746-1601 ext. 270 

(This information was current as of the 2007 publication of MaryJane’s Stitching Room)

Fabulous Family Friday–Praise the Lord!

Friday, June 11th, 2010



My, what a week!


We picked 134 pounds of strawberries on Monday, and by Wednesday evening all were either in syrup, freezer jam or frozen individually and bagged for the freezer!   


Many hands make light the work–indeed!





Are you training your littles to help and be a part of what you do? Or do you think, “I can do it faster myself!”?   I’ve said it before, but I will repeat–let them “help” now.  The goal is not always to get it done faster.  I know sometimes we just have to get things done, but I fear too much of the time we (yes I still fight it!) tend to focus on the task vs. the hearts of these don’t-stay-little-long blessings God has entrusted to us.


I doubt any of us have great memories of  our phonics workbooks.  Or math.   But we probably all have sweet memories of rolling out pies with a grandmother or maybe working in a garden with a parent.   Think of the way Jesus “discipled”–He simply took the disciples along with Him in His daily life, teaching them by example.  Not by a textbook.  After all, character cannot be learned in a textbook!


As you take your children along with you, you are training them to have a servant’s heart.  Especially if you show your delight in them and joy in their presence.  Like you love having them around!   Then believe me, they’ll want to stick around when they’re older!



I’ve been learning so much about prayer, and more specifically about praise– or intercessory worship as Mike Bickle and Dick Eastman call it.   I’ve been reading a “delightful” series by Dick Eastman called the “Harp and Bowl Series”.   The three books are:






All are available at Every Home For Christ’s Bookstore.   This is a wonderful ministry, and they will send you a free world prayer map that will cover every country in a month’s time. There is also a kids’ prayer map!  I highly recommend these books and the prayer maps!  (And if you’re requesting those, you might as well request their free book, “Look What God Is Doing!” )

Much of what I’ve been reading, from Mr. Eastman as well as a few other authors, is that praise is the missing ingredient in our prayers.  These books have revolutionized my prayer life and increased my faith greatly!  

How easy is it for us to get our focus on the “problems” or “situations” we pray for, and not our great God Who is Most High and All-Powerful!   I will share more specifically about that next week, but I thought I’d let you know about these books and resources to help you in your prayer life.

As a mama, of course we want to pray for our children as well as instill in them the habit of prayer.  It can become a difficult venture if we are not praying much.  You cannot impart something that is not a part of your own life!   You will find yourself reading these books “as a hart panting after the water brooks”–you’ll want more, MORE, MORE!!!! 


I also share these resources, because this week I want to share an idea with you that we have used in the past and are resurrecting to use with our younger set of children.   I heard about this idea at an ATI conference 15 or so years ago!  

Do you find yourself focusing a bit too much on the negatives–the things that you and your children need to improve?  Especially in their character?

Enter Praise Pockets!




Praise Pockets are very easy to make–and very hard to implement!  *smile!*


The idea is that you work on praising your children for their character vs. always correcting them.   I pick 1-3 qualities to work on for the week or month, and each child has one they specifically are working on.   You don’t have to do it this way!  If you want to work on one quality a week (or month!), that is fine!


We use the character quality list the Institute in Basic Life Principles has.   We have two resources, The Power of True Success for Families and Achieving True Success, that we use a lot (or I should say used–and will use again as we start this!)   I also have the Character Sketches books.  At one time I even made up a little “Character Ant Game” using the 49 character qualities!  (Might have to dig that back out!)


You start with very basic, easily available materials.




Colored paper, glue stick and stickers!   Oh, and some scissors and a ruler, or you can use one of those nifty scrapbooking tools that cut the edges neatly–wish they’d been available back when I first made these! 


I took one sheet of the paper, and folded it not quite in half.  The goal is to leave a little bit at the top of your pocket:





Now you take your glue stick and glue the sides down.




Next you will write the child’s name–or let them do it!   If your children are older, of course they can do this with you.   Younger ones may be able to do some steps–the more they’re involved, the more they’ll love it!





This is the FUN part!


Picking out stickers!!!!



I will warn you that most kids will want a gazillion stickers on their pockets!   Give them some leeway, but don’t let them cover the pockets in stickers!  :)  





Finshed Pocket!



Now it’s time to make the “Praise Markers”!



Basically, they are about 1 1/2 inch by 6 inch strips of paper, various colors, on which you write the character qualities.  I made many per quality–the “big” ones like Obedience have way more markers than, say, Alertness.   How many you make will also depend on how many children are “playing”. 


After getting all the markers made, you may want to use a small basket or make a nice “holder” for them all.  One of my daughters made a nice holder to tack up to the bulletin board.  This doesn’t hold ALL the character quality Praise Markers–just several of them we are working on for now.




We tacked the younger children’s up to a bulletin board under the main holder.   (See earlier picture above.)


The idea is that as you notice your child showing the particular quality(ies) that you are working on, you put a marker in their pocket.



I assigned a point system to the markers.  Some are worth 5 points, some 2 and some 1 (after the Parable of the Talents). 


You NEVER take markers out.  Even if they are good one day and horrible the next 6, you never take them out.   I had one particular daughter that probably would have been in the negative more than once had I taken any out!!!  *yikes!*


When the older girls were younger and doing this, I made up “coupons”.     They could add up their marker points as well as other points for practicing their instruments and doing chores and school,  and the total amount decided which bag of coupons they could draw from.   On the lower end were things like, “Sleep downstairs” or “Pick dessert”.   You know what your kids would like! ;)


The next level might have “Mommy will do dishes for you–Advanced Notice Required”.  That way they didn’t spring it on me at an inopportune time!  


Another level up would have things like “You don’t have to do school today” or “Mommy will do a craft with you”.


Higher levels had even neater things like getting to go out to dessert with Daddy or Mommy, and the top prize was to go out to eat with one of them (fast food restaurants!).


I sometimes had a little trinket, but I wanted to emphasize time with us versus “stuff” (and we know that that kind of “stuff” usually ends up on the floor in their rooms for you to step on!).


We had a lot of fun with it, and no one was competing with anyone.  It was all about striving for your own personal best.


And it helped me, as the mama, to focus on the good things that were happening vs. all that I had to work on!


Whether you choose to make Praise Pockets or come up with your own idea, I encourage you to make praise more and more a part of your life!   Believe me, your children will catch it from you and you all might find you have joy-filled hearts that are also full of song!


If you want to see how that works…..smile…..head over to the girls’ blog today and see a video of us singing a crazy song called “Fugue for Fast Food”! 


Have a blessed weekend–and don’t forget to praise!   (Don’t forget to praise your husband as well! ;) )