I let you go Saturday little buddy. It was such a hard decision. I prayed the Lord would just take you in the night. You were my best little companion.

I haven’t let myself cry since Saturday, but I guess it’s time to write about who you were to me.

I got you after my dad died, in the aftermath of the tumult. There there many times I held you and cried. You didn’t know why I was crying but you were just my little snuggler. You helped me welcome all my babies into our family and You loved playing tag with my first cat Willow. Then you welcomed Zappa into your life with ease. You hopped like a bunny as a puppy and I loved your tiny fluffy happy body. You read my moods and fit in perfectly. When I picked you up, you jumped up into my arms. You never took a treat from my hand. I always had to put them on the floor for you to sniff them alone.

I carried you with me everywhere so proud to have you with me.

You loved your toy duck and you were so funny with him Jolie got you another one just like it. You were the most well-behaved dog in your puppy training class. Even the mean dogs liked you.

You didn’t complain about anything except at the end. You must have had back pain and some arthritis. I’m sorry you had any pain at all Apollo. You were a silent sufferer.

You went on all our road trips with Stinky. You didn’t like that we got her at first, but she kept you good company, didn’t she?

You didn’t like dog parks. The dog fights scared you. When you were scared you sat right under me between my feet.

You used to love being groomed. You used to fall asleep as I brushed you.

I miss you a lot, and so do the kids.

Kade says how you were so fluffy. And Micah says he will miss your sweetness.

Love you so much.


A strength and a weakness

I’ve known for about 12 years that our greatest strength is our greatest weakness too.

My firstborn is strong. He has always been strong. His feelings are big, and he carries his intensity on his sleeve. The worst thing you can do for a personality like this is to ask him to hide or tame his big, big feelings. Instead of stuffing our feelings away, we have learned how to use them and articulate them. This word “articulate” is a big word for a little guy who is not even 7 years old. But we were all made differently, and this 6 year old can handle needs these big conversations.

Tonight we went to go get a fish. What an exciting fun thing to do as a family! Getting a pet is always fun! When we got home it was reading time and time for our evening routine. I had told my kids earlier they could have ice cream for dessert, but by the time they remembered, it was almost 10pm. No ice cream is served that late at night in our home.

The tantrum ensued. Stomping feet, crying, slamming fists, and a grunting attitude. My 58 pound son had feelings so big he lost control. We have all been there.

In the midst of the mess, I told him to go try again, to go get his discipline from dad, and gave him a warning about his attitude. We adults do our best not to lose our own tempers. It is uncommon for us to raise our voices in our home. A stern look, a stern voice… yes. But more often, just the issue of some kind of discipline followed by prayer and a discussion about what happened.

Tonight’s discussion was long. He said some things that concerned me. Here’s how I handled it.

I gave him examples of when I’ve felt the same way as him and when my response stank too. I helped him form words about how he felt. I named the behavior that we don’t accept and have him some alternative options he could try in the future: a respectful appeal… something he learned about all last year – he knows what this looks like.

I reminded him that we don’t make decisions about our behavior based on our feelings – we ask the Lord what we should do about things.

I reminded him about the great power the Lord has given him, and how he needs to understand that power.

I told him what it meant to have the heart of a parent, and how that means I feel all his feelings twice as big as he feels them. When a child feels joy, we feel twice as much. When a child feels pain, we feel twice as much.

I counseled him to ask the Lord about his position in the family and what that means about his behavior. He asked the Lord and the Lord told him that his position in the family is to be kind and gentle: this is a reflection of a phrase we often repeat in our home. I told him the special position of a firstborn as the lead child, and the place that holds in a mother’s heart.

We discussed how the attitude of one person impacts the experience of those around him. I used myself as an example.

I enlightened him on the strength of a mother’s love, and that a mother’s love surpasses that of friends and even a child’s desires. We talked about the danger of always giving a child what he wants, and how children have a limited view of what’s right for them. We discussed how many adults have not learned these basic lessons, and so they go on making poor decisions in their lives. We imagined how I would feel and how he would feel if he didn’t know how to make good decisions as an adult and how limited I would be to help him if he didn’t seek council. I allowed him to recall how many times I call my own mother for council and understanding even though I’m an adult. We even talked about how parents are not always around all the time, and how I can no longer ask my dad questions because God took him to heaven. I reasoned with my son, that this is why it’s important to learn as much as possible now.

We discussed the signs of addiction to food, and that food does not control us. And how he will need to make decisions his whole life about how things of this world will not control him, and if he starts to see signs of that control on his life, that it’s a sign to make a change.

I talked with him about the decision set I used to provide him with the right answer. He wanted a detailed understanding. We even discussed negotiation skills, and how good negotiators make reasonable requests. We also discussed how the tantrum changes my decision set and how the tantrum changes my available choices.

I talk often about my duty as a parent to my children. I want them to understand they don’t live under an arbitrary system where we impose rules and boundaries for our convenience and preference alone. Even last night we discussed how God sets the standard and I need to make adjustments based on His standards. Likewise how children need to come into line with their parents, because hopefully their parents are getting their boundaries from the Lord.

We noticed together the ways in which his character is already developing well now even though he’s only six. And how through repentance, he is a real man of valor and victory, and can stand righteous and blameless before the Lord. He tried naming people who didn’t make mistakes. I had to remind him the best people from the Bible were full of mistakes. God loves them because they sought forgiveness and truly desired to be more like God.

He told me he was mad and sad at me. I said, I understood. I told him if he’s still mad at me then he needs to ask the Lord to help him tonight. He asked me to worship God. Since it was 10:30pm by then, I told him I would pray for him instead.

I prayed a prayer that addressed and blessed him in a special way. For the anointing of a firstborn, for supernatural strength for self control. We mentioned things we were grateful for, and prayed for help for hard things we are going through. He learned we have to put our dog to sleep today. It will be a tough weekend for us. We asked the Lord for help.

Today, praise the Lord, we learned about the character traits of determination. Determination is enduring hard things for future achievements. The Lord gave us an object lesson tonight.

The Lord is perfect in His timing.

I feel sad to have to work through something hard like this, but I feel fortunate that now we can use words to help understand each other.

This parenting gig is hard. If we are already having these conversations now, I just wonder what they will be when he is 15 and 16 years old! Or even when he’s working his way through a broken heart. Oh my stars!

The smartest pairing ever

Food is an intrinsic reward, and it doesn’t have to be sweet. Another natural reward is being able to move onto “the next thing”.

I have worked hard this summer on our habits. I think I can confidently say now we’ve built a few, and I thought they might help you in your home.

  • Tidy up before X – children must do a tidy up before moving on to a meal, to the next activity, to outside the house. I have consistently required a tidy up.
  • Morning five – before breakfast, you must floss teeth, brush teeth, wash face, comb hair and make your bed. Even my 3 year old (almost 4) knows this routine now. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it has taken us this long to get to this form of order, especially on the hygiene things. I have insisted on it now.

Now I’ll share some behavioral habits we’ve formed.

  • Mop the floor – if my kids flick food on the floor I clap my hands and celebrate the fact that they have the privilege of mopping that night. Yipppeeee!
  • After a fight, we’re routinely apologizing, naming what we did and asking for forgiveness. But we’ve also added this: “God gave me to you as a brother. My job is to help and protect you, to respect and love you.” We chase that with a “brother hug”. We talk about what should have happened instead of whatever response was given, kind of like having a do-over.

That’s all! I hope that helps you!

These are some of the smartest behavioral triggers you can form in your home for your children!