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Having a Mary mindset in a Martha World

My daughter left todayIMG_5758

You’d think I’d get used to it. I don’t.

DSC_0558When my daughter visits from across the ocean, we stop the busy-to-do-lifestyle life.

We go to indie coffee shops and on long walks in the neighborhood and make sure we meet with friends.

We bake cookies and craft meals together from scratch and make a mess in the kitchen and clean it up together. We don’t mind.

DSC_0234DSC_0052We play LIFE and YAHTZEE and start movies at 11 p.m.

 We turn off the Internet and the X-box and the phone, at least we try to.

We talk and we laugh and we hug and we share stories and we look at photos and we watch old home videos.

And laugh some more and reminisce and recall and recollect and remember.


DSC_0533 - Version 2We go to the beach, to the mountains, to the Gorge, to the forest, to the park. We take long strolls through the sand, we cross- country ski, we hike.

IMG_6226We look at old photographs and take new photographs and smile for the photographer.

We invite friends and family and grandparents and cousins and extended family over for dinner and coffee and neighborhood walks and long talks. We go out to lunch and we go to the movies and we go to the mall to photobomb with Santa IMG_5848.

We sit around the dining room table way longer than usual and watch the youngest brother blowing out candles then lighting them again and we tell him not to but he does it anyway.

The brothers still fight and argue and complain sometimes but it is all okay when my daughter, their sister, is home.

I am not sure why, but it just is.

When my daughter is home, I watch her plop herself down next to her brothers and put her arms around them, and I see her brothers melt into her arms and they put their arms around their sister, randomly, out of the blue. They hug her and bear hug her IMG_5786and smile a big smile around her and when they do this I smile a big smile. It is good. DSC_0419

DSC_0410We slow down, we hug, we embrace, we realize that the ordinary is the extraordinary and we make each moment, a monument.

Because it is.

We celebrate conversation and savor stories and go on special outings and take time to talk and walk and just to be.

We take the time for slowing and sipping and relaxing and baking and cooking and being.

My daughter asks each of her brothers’ questions and listens to their stories and asks follow up questions and makes follow up comments. My daughter takes each of her brothers out on individual outings to talk with them and find out their dreams and gives them ideas and suggestions IMG_6189without preaching at them.

My daughter pops in on her brothers’ rooms when they are hanging out or putting clothes away or playing x-box and somehow she gets them to hang with her. When they are on the couches doing their homework, she nestles in next to them and they let her.

My daughter tells her brothers she loves them and that they are special and that they mean a lot to her and that they are the IMG_6074world to her and that family is the most important thing and that God loves them. My daughter comes home for Christmas break for them; she comes home on their special birthdays for them. She spends thousands of Euros that she does not have for plane tickets to visit them. She buys them birthday presents and Christmas presents with specific thoughts as to what they would like and she makes them presents and photo calendars that are so special to her middle school brother that he puts it on his wall. He never puts anything on his wall, except maybe that poster of that car.

DSC_0232DSC_0075We slow down when my daughter is home. We hang out. We just plop down on the couch and talk and laugh and share and watch movies. We just “are.”

Because we know that my daughter will only be home for a short period of time. We know that our time with my daughter, my sons’ sister is limited. We know that the time with her will come to an end and we will have to say good-bye. For now.

And what gets us through is knowing we will see her again soon.


We are Mary around my daughter when she is home. We do not even know who Martha is in our family when my daughter is home. (Luke 10: 38-42)

I know that I have to be Martha sometime again, but not while my daughter is home. I never ever want to forget who Mary is, even when my daughter is not home.

To have time for my kids, to make time for my kids. There is no such thing as hurried time. Or rushed time. Or drive-through time. Kids know it, your family knows it, you know it.

May I be Mary to all people, knowing that time together, just being present, is what matters. May i treat all of my people, my family, my friends, as if they are only here a short time. Because, maybe they are. Maybe I am. DSCN0178DSCN0221 - Version 2

 Just as I know my daughter is.

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Being present, Children, Extraordinary Ordinary, Faith, Faith and Culture, Family Life, Gratitude, Grown children, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Writing.

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Hospitality is one Christmas Tradition we cannot let disappear

We recently had two families over for a Christmas dinner and cookie making session. Though Christmas is such a busy time of year, I so want to be deliberate about inviting people into our home for fellowship as a way of maintaining traditions, and maybe establishing new ones. DSC_0984

When I was young, my parents invited families over for special meals during the holiday season, and those were some of my favorite memories growing up. But, as we got older, the dinners with other families became fewer and fewer.

Kids grow up, people get busy, traditions disappear, if we let them.

As a parent now myself, I want to continue traditions, and not let busyness — or perfectionism — get in the way.

Inviting others into our home is one of those traditions I want to keep alive.

But, why is that so hard sometimes?

I think because it takes so much work to clean the house and get my kids to help clean the house and make my house presentable and cook a meal. I can barely get dinner on for my family, yet alone invite others over. Then, I started to think about it.

DSC_0823Here, it is Christmas season, when we decorate our homes and put up an amazing Christmas tree and decorate that amazing tree and adorn our windows and roofs with cozy lights; and we light candles inside our homes and we get out our Christmas china and we place our wooden nativity scenes out and we make our tables all pretty with an advent wreath.

But then we are too tired or too busy or too worried about our houses being perfect or too concerned about not having everything done yet for the holiday.

I am trying to overcome that.

So, for dinner I served these two families pulled pork from Costco on pub buns — nothing fancy–but a hit nonetheless.

And after the meal, we had a family craft, offering an opportunity for the kids to make rollout Christmas cookies, a ritual that we used to do every Christmas. I’d have moms over in December to make cookies, but I’ve gotten away from that and am lucky to make any cookies in December.

Why not revive the tradition. DSC_0989

Interestingly, my youngest child, my son who is 11, was not into making cookies as I thought he would be. He stood to the side at first, letting the younger kids from the other families roll out the dough and press out Christmas cookies. DSC_0980

DSC_0987I encouraged all the kids to participate and my son did finally get into it. And, when it came time to frost the cookies, all the kids got into the action. Oh, the sweetness of the kids concentrating on rolling out the dough and after the cookies were baked, frosting them and covering them with sprinkles.

It was a mess in the end, but oh so worth it.

My friend Jenni said afterwards, “Your house is so cozy, it feels so warm.

“Let’s make this a tradition,” she said.  DSC_0993

I couldn’t agree more.

(This post was written for the Women of Influence blog: Women of Influence)



Posted in Children, Community, Family Life, Guest post, Holidays, Home, Hospitality, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Tradition, Transitions, Tweens.

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It’s hard, it gets better, keep on keeping on – On parenting

After the recent winter concert of my sixth grade son at his middle school, we went out for ice cream at the local Baskin-Robbins with about a dozen other families from the community who, like us, were celebrating the wonderful holiday musical event. It was my youngest son Gus’s first concert in middle school, which was true for several of the other families there. DSC_0847

B AND R KIDS  DEC 2014 GUS IMG_5434While the kids were slurping on their ice cream cones and I was downing my one-scoop chocolate chip with hot fudge sundae, I got into a conversation with a couple, who were also parents of a sixth grader. We did our usual after-concert conversation, how great it is that the kids are in band, how wonderful the music program is in West Linn, and how amazing our middle school band director, Mr. Lagrone, is.

I shared with this mom and dad, that my older three sons also had Mr. Lagrone as a band teacher, and how much we already liked him back then. Some people do not know that we have older children who are graduated from college, working, and even married.

When this mom asked me more about my older children, I elaborated on my oldest son Ryan and how he graduated from George Fox University and now works as a mechanical engineer at Hyster; I also said that Ryan married his college sweetheart, who’s now a nurse. 

After I shared this info, the mom whom I was talking to said to me:

“You must be very proud of your son.”

I know this mom meant it as a compliment, but by her tone and facial expression, I also thought that perhaps she was hinting that I was bragging just a bit too much about my now grown son.

Although I replied saying, I was indeed proud of my son Ryan, something told me I needed to share more, to tell the backstory of my oldest son; I knew that this couple have had their ups and downs with their tween son, as many of us have had. I thought that perhaps adding a bit of the backstory about my oldest son as well as my high school twins, who are currently juniors, would encourage this couple.

It gets better, kids do change, do not give up, keep on keeping on. 

Yep. It has not always been the way it is now, with my older kids, and we, as parents need to share all experiences with others. To be vulnerable. To be honest. To be real.

DSC_0931For example, with my twins, I like to joke that they were sent to the principal’s office on many occasions; they got into fights with one another and with other kids. And, when school administrators were deciding what first grade class to place kindergartners in at the end of the school year, my twins were on the top of the list to be sure they were not around certain other kids.

But, we did not give up. We refused to let our kids get stereotyped. We worked on their friendship circles, helping them weed out certain unhealthy ones; we helped them form good study habits, we worked on manners with them, we encouraged them to join sports teams, Scouts, youth group, band. We got them involved in leadership at church and Scouts as they got older.

They are now honor students in high school, have great manners, have great friends, and they are active in youth group and Young Life. People tell us all the time what great kids they are.

As with our twins, the backstory of our older, now-an-engineer son is that he also had his issues growing up, both academically and socially. He was on the younger side in school — an August baby — and that is hard on a kid, especially a boy. Our Ryan was shy and emotionally on the young side. He would burst out sometimes and we found out he was taken out of class in kindergarten to work on some emotional issues. Then, as he grew up, he struggled in school and even got a few “DNM” for a few classes, which means, “Does not meet.”  

He had that engineering brain and could be rough around the edges at times, with bottled up energy that many boys have. I appreciate it, but for outsiders — especially moms of girls only — it can be hard. There were certain friends that we saw who were not the best fit for our son friendship-wise, so we helped steer him toward other friends. We got him involved with sports, band, Boy Scouts and youth group.  

In high school, his struggle began to diminish toward the middle of his sophomore year. Though naturally shy, we worked on helping him reach out to others, to be kind and say please and thank you and to look people in the eyes. We tried to be available to help him with his homework and make our home a place where he could bring his friends. We wanted to just be here for him, to make him feel accepted and loved while at the same time helping him to grow.          

GROUP B AND R - DEC 2014 IMG_5436And, we did a lot of praying for him — and for all of our kids. Praying for his character and that he would love the Lord and that he would find good friends at church, at school and in the community. We prayed for him to do well at school, to find that place where he could excel and discover his life’s vocation. He joined the ski team in high school, and caught on to how to study and navigate the corridors of school hallways and classrooms and studying on weekends and during late night evenings. He did not date and he was fine with that and we never said anything that would make him feel any differently. He had great friends in school, both guys and gals.    

But, when he was applying to college, we knew with his innate shy personality that a large school might not be a good fit, though he did apply to Oregon State University, a large public university. We were just praying that he would find a place where he could grow and shine. That led him to George Fox University, where he got a scholarship, and with loans he took out, we were able to bring the sticker shock down to state school prices.

In college, Ryan thrived. My husband said to him when we dropped him off at school: “Ryan, you can be who you want to be here.”

Indeed, he found who he was. He blossomed in college. He joined the track team and became a Resident Assistant. He did great in school as an engineering major and he met the love of his life, whom he married after graduating. And, he got his said dream job at Hyster.

So, yes, I am proud of my son, but that is not to say it was an easy road.   As I spoke with this couple at Baskin-Robbins, they talked about how parenting is hard and they are still on one side of it and I am on that side of it as well with our youngest, age 11. DSC_0874

But, because I have been on the other side of it as well, I know that it makes a difference to continue to teach our kids manners and to help them work diligently in school and to assist in shaping character qualities, even when other parents are not. And, even when times are hard with our kids and all of the work does not seem be paying off right at the moment, keep on keeping on. Because, it does get better. Kids grow up and kids change and we need to allow them to change.

I know. I’ve been there. And I’m there now. Keeping on, keeping on.

Posted in Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Teaching Moments, Teens, Transitions, Tweens, Twins, West Linn, Writing.

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Rough Draft – The theme of the Faith & Culture Writers Conference and my life

I love the quote by Maxwell Perkins that goes like this: “Just get it down on paper, then we will see what to do with it. Perkins, as the editor of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, knew what he was talking about. I also like the quote by James Thurber, “Don’t get it right. Just get it written.” Day 6 - First drafts, by their very nature, are going to SUCK. Just get to it and get those words down on paper.

I just wish I would live by those words, as I should. The blank page. Why does it haunt me?Google thinks Content is a King, then it is!   Whether it is full-page content or just a brief descriptive content, it should convey the information in a flow that should be reader oriented. Google’s guidelines stated; “focus on delivering the best possible experience for users.” The best way to ensure ingenuity in your website content is to get the content developed by a professional content writing agency.

Just begin.

The perfectionist in us perhaps, or the fear of being criticized or the fear of the painful memories we channel when we begin to write. But, the quote by Perkins reminds us to just begin, just get it on paper, onto the computer, into that journal.

That’s why I am  really excited to announce the theme of the 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference: Rough Draft: From Blank to Beautiful.

We want to gather friends of words and story and The Word together to give them permission to create. To not be afraid of the blank page. To know that it’s okay to know that our work is in progress. Because aren’t we all rough drafts, creations of God whom He’s working on?

Every year as our leadership team thinks through, prays over, and dreams about the theme for the Faith & Culture Writers Conference, we come up with five words that represent our vision for the year. This year, to go along with the Rough Draft theme, we wanted to have those five words reflect the nature of the creative process. Those five words this year are:

Decide, Dare, Prepare, Persist, Release.

Follow these 5 words, and you will find your creativity expand and your writing career moving forward.

Decide. We need to decide we are writers, dreamers, artists, activists, authors, entrepreneurs, believers. It starts with a yes. An, “I can do this, I will do this, I start today.” It is a simple yes, packed in deep dreams and beliefs and that you-know-you-are-called vision. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission, to tell you you are good enough. You do not need their permission. God has already given you permission. He has shaped you and molded you and made you into a creative being. He is a creative God. His first words, “In the beginning, God created.” Decide. Begin.

Dare. To write that first word. That first story. That first blog post. That first article. That first book proposal. That hundredth book proposal. Let’s face it, It takes courage to get our words and story out there. It takes guts. People may not like our work, they may not appreciate our story, they may think we are not good enough. That’s okay. Do it anyway. It’s your calling.

Prepare. Yes, you do need to decide that you are a writer with something to contribute, and you then need to dare to get your art out there, to have courage. But then, you need to find a way, get some advice, seek out the expertise of others, learn how to write moving blog posts. As a writers’ conference, we want to help you prepare for that launch of your words, your art, your story, your creativity.

Persist. Okay, you’ve decided to begin, you’ve said yes to the dare, and you’ve begun to prepare for what that means. Perhaps, it’s twice a week blog posts, meeting with a friend, seeking out an editor, attending a writers conference. But, then truth be told, it takes persistence. It takes sticking with it! There really are no one–book wonders or one-blog-post-goes-viral-and-you-are-famous wonders, or one-anything-wonders. Most of those authors who “make it” have been writing for years. When no one was noticing. Until one day, they got noticed.

Release. It’s time. You’ve decided to get your words out there, you’ve dared to be creative, you’ve prepared and you’ve stuck with it. Now, let it go. That’s it. Let people read it, and keep getting it out there, and leave the results to God. If one or a million or just you are changed by your words, your story, your art, it was worth it. If shine is what you seek, then the gold you want is foil pressed into the paper just as ink would be–and the result is a traditional shimmer. (It does cost a wee bit more than ink.) Note that foil is available in many different colors, including white, which is the best way to get a nice opacity on black or dark paper.

(This post originally appeared on the Faith & Culture Writers Conference Website. Join us April 10-11, 2015 for our conference! More info here: Faith & Culture Writers)

Posted in 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference, Art, Author/Speaking Events, Communication, Faith & Culture Writers Conference, Faith and Culture, Faith. Culture. The Arts Connection, Writing.

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On not hiding my name tag anymore

 Today after checking in for my substitute-teaching job at West Linn High School, I had to move my car to a different location, and decided to grab that much needed cup of Joe at the local Starbucks.

 When I pulled up into the parking lot of the coffee shop, I realized that my “substitute teacher” name tag was very SUB CLOSE UP IMG_5492visible around my neck. My mind began racing with how I felt about myself with that title so closely associated with me.

“Just a sub.”


“Don’t belong.”

“Not a part of the real group.”

 Something inside me just made me uncomfortable with people at the coffee shop seeing that label on me.

 Sub farther away IMG_5490So, I decided to take off my substitute teacher lanyard and I laid it upside down in the back seat of my car, just in case someone looked in my back seat.

 I’ve thought about this since then. Why was I ashamed for that moment about my title of substitute teacher, I wondered.

 I think part of it has to do with something I have struggled with for much of my life — the feeling of being an outsider, of not belonging, of not fitting in.

And I think a lot of other people feel the same way, for a variety of reasons.

For me it can be jobs, friendship circles, church, and citizenship. Yep, that’s right; I was born in Germany, so while growing up, I was very aware that I was an “alien.” Indeed, I was a “resident alien” with a “green card” which means I was a foreigner in this country, until I decided to become a United States citizen almost 20 years ago. green- NEW CARD80991107

And, now as an adult, some of my job titles are “outsider type of jobs”: substitute teacher, freelance writer, and freelance editor. In the past, I’ve also been an adjunct professor. For each of these work positions, I am not on staff, not part of the everyday, regular folks who make these places of employment function.

We all want to fit in and belong. We all want to feel like we contribute and are an important part of the whole. We want to feel connected to a community rather than one looking in, from the outside.

 I started thinking later that throughout the Bible, you see the theme of outsider, with many references noting that the people of God are “aliens, sojourners, not-of-this world.”                                                                                         And, Jesus was the ultimate outsider, someone who did not fit in. And, He asks us to join him, to follow him, to identify with him, even when no one else does. To celebrate that IMG_5373calling, that place, that narrow path.

I know that the most important thing is attitude. The way we approach life and our circumstances is what matters.

So, when I muse upon my work positions, I remind myself, okay, this is what I do, this is my vocation right now, these are my jobs, so embrace it. Be the best freelance writer I can be, be the best freelance editor I can be, and be the best substitute teacher I can be.

I know I’ve never thought of myself as “just a sub,” though I’ve heard that term before from students; some people may look at the role in that light. The stereotypes regarding substitute teachers may be in my head, but they are there; a “sub” can be seen as someone who is just getting by, someone who is not a “real” teacher, someone who cannot actually get a full-time teaching job, someone maybe that does not know the subject as well, or someone who is a glorified baby-sitter, and so on.  

But, I know those stereotypes are not true for many substitute teachers, and I surely approach the work much differently than those descriptions. In fact, I started thinking, why not redefine stereotypes of the position I have. IMG_9090

I actually really enjoy substitute teaching. Hey, I get to hang out with wonderful kids and then go home after eight hours and not have to prep for the next day nor grade hundreds of papers into the wee hours of the night. I’ve done that in my past.

So, I made up my mind up. I’ve made a deliberate choice to embrace my job of substitute teacher, as I try to embrace all aspects of my life. It’s all an adventure. For subbing, in fact, I made it Facebook official. (As people joke, it’s not real or it did not happen unless you post it on Facebook!) Before subbing one day this year, I posted that I was looking forward to subbing that day and that I was going to tryto inspire students and make them feel valued.

For that Facebook status, I got mostly “you go girl” type of comments, but one of my old high school friends, who’s also a teacher (but not a sub) said, “That’s ambitious, for a sub.” I know my friend was just being sarcastic, but I do think that is the stereotype. How can someone make a difference in a day as a “sub”?

But, I wrote back on my comment stream, that I do believe a sub can make a difference, even if it is just for a day or a moment,  or 10 minutes or an hour. I approach all of life that way.

IMG_5412My goal as a sub — I say “replacement teacher” — is to try to inspire students to love school and to make them feel like they are important and valued individuals. I try to do this in a variety of ways. I try to be enthusiastic about the subject matter at hand, sharing what I love about it personally; I smile at kids who are passing me in the hallways; I ask how a kid who might be sitting alone at lunch how he is doing? During classes, I introduce myself and talk about my love for literature and learning and writing. I also remind students how blessed they are to be in school in the first place, when so many children in third world countries are out working the fields to put rice on their tables. In addition, I ask kids to tell me something about themselves, how their day is going, and so on.

My role as substitute is temporary and I may only reach a few kids and some kids may not relate to me, but I can try. You just never know.

In fact, I’ve been at coffee shops and orthodontist appointments with my kids or the grocery store, and I will see past students, from schools where I have been a sub, and they will say hello to me, by name.

“Hi, Mrs. Seigneur,” I hear quite a bit. Then, I’ll also hear the students, as they are walking away, tell the parent they are with, “That was my substitute teacher yesterday.”

Wow, they remember.

So, I’m reminded, we will be remembered. Why not be remembered for good?

Why not approach life, our jobs, our words, and our roles, no matter how glamorous or small or unimportant in society’s eyes, as if we matter to others. Because we do.

Even, if you are “just a sub.”

Posted in Adventure, Attitude, Kids, Life, Outreach, Teaching, Teaching Moments, vocation, Writing.

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No one cares, Mom – Oh, but they do!

DSC_0670 There was no question regarding getting the Christmas tree this year. We got up early, two days after Thanksgiving, gathering our bags of cold weather gear, and drove to meet the Seigneur side of the family along with our older son and his wife at the Estacada DSC_0725ranger station. After meeting, we drove up into the Mt. Hood National Forest with our $5 permit to chop down our always Charlie Brown Noble Christmas tree. A real tree. It is a great tradition. And this year we met with snow, so much of it that we were unsure we could keep going past a certain point on the road. DSC_0728

But our older son said, let’s do it, let’s keep going, that is why we have four wheel drive; so, we did keep going and had a great day at the mountains, playing — even surfing — in the snow, and we found that perfect tree that is now up in our living room to welcome and represent the Christmas season. It’s a wonderful tradition.

It’s just later that the issue came up.

Decorating the Christmas tree.

I’ve always emphasized the tradition, of our family adorning our tree together each year, ever since our children were young. I’d put on our favorite Christmas albums, listening to Amy Grant and Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and Handel’s Messiah and Michael W. Smith and Lisa Marie Presley. I get out my camera and snap photos of our kids climbing on chairs to reach the high branches while glancing at ornaments crafted from their pre-school days or found on family road trips.

DSC_0765But, this year, our schedule has been crazy. It’s always crazy mind you, with kids in sports and music and youth group and Scouts. But, I hang onto traditions and I know we can find a time and I know it is important.

So, I ask my kids, “When can we decorate the tree together this year?”

They all gave varied excuses. Going out with friends. Working. Going to the neighbor’s house. Homework. SAT test the next day.

I’m busy as well. Coordinating schedules is hard work. You get this, don’t you?

“You guys, we need to find a time for us all to do this together. A half hour. Twenty minutes. Some time. When will it work?” I ask again.

Then the statement that stung.

Mom, no one cares,” my youngest child says to me. He’s 11 and a sixth grader in middle school. DSC_0703

Ouch. That one hurts. Is it true, I wondered, that no one cares?

I counter, that we all care but it’s just hard to find a time that works, but we will find a time, and it is an important tradition; even if it is a changing one, that needs to adapt to our ever-changing family schedule. Even if all we have is 10 minutes to decorate together, even if it is 10 O’clock at night, we will do this.

I’ve talked to moms who say they just decorate the tree alone. It’s easier, they say. But, I cannot do that. I will not do that.

Though it is not easy, I will continue to insist on keeping up on this tradition — and others — because I know in the end, my kids really do care, even though they may say that they do not care. Life is messy and not perfect and hard work, but it is all important nonetheless.

I remember about three years ago during Christmas time, it was busy, as it always is this time of year, and it was getting really close to December 25, and I still had not written my Christmas letter, as is tradition. I’ve penned a yearly Christmas letter since my husband and I first got married 27 years ago. In it, I share a little about what we have done during the past year, a nugget about each kid, a couple of highlights from summer vacations,DSC_0819 and so on. I really do it just as much for myself and our immediate family, as much as I do it to keep in touch with our friends and family.              That year, though, I thought out loud, maybe I will not do a Christmas letter. In the many years my husband and I have been married, I have maybe skipped once or twice. So, I thought, maybe I will just skip this year. Everyone is moving to email letters or Facebook messages.

No one cares anyway, I pondered.

But one of my twins, aged 13 at the time, said to me:

“Mom, you have to do a Christmas letter. You always do one. It’s a tradition.”


Okay, my kid noticed. My kid cared.

And, he was right. It’s an important tradition our family does.

So, I quickly wrote that letter and picked out the photographs for our photo Christmas card that accompanies the letter and I sent it off to Costco; and I got my Christmas letter out to as many people as I could before Christmas, while the rest of the letters went out after the holiday. But that is okay. It got done. It’s a tradition.

It’s interesting that our children appreciate tradition, but may not act like it, until we stop the tradition for a season.

Then, they will tell me they care.

For now, I strive to keep up the traditions around holidays and birthdays and other celebrations, knowing that, deep down, my kids do care. And that traditions do matter.

P1000840Traditions give our kids roots and branches, like a tree firmly planted,  and healthy soil and a foundation of where they come from. That they belong to us, to our family. Traditions are a way to gather people together, year after year, monument after monument. Family, with whom we are comfortable — people who know us and accept us at our core — people for whom we do not have to perform to be accepted. Traditions are something that will bring our kids back, after they have left the nest, and they are comfort and safety and warmth and security, when the world is a storm out there.

My daughter and her husband are coming home from Germany for Christmas next week. My daughter IMG_4705talks about traditions with her brothers, getting the tree, decorating it together. As a 24-year-old, she looks back and longs for that togetherness with her brothers and family. And, my twins talk about going to the mall with their cousins during the Christmas season. And, my sixth grader loves the tradition of going to the beach during spring break for his birthday each year. It’s all tradition.

So, this year, our family did find our 15 minutes to put up our ornaments together; it was later at night DSC_0797that we started them and my high school kids had their SAT test the next day so they could stay up too late to finish; so we did not get them all up at that time. We did finish the next day, moments before friends were coming over, and my kids even humored me DSC_0810DSC_0820with my photographs.

I realize that it is okay to change traditions and morph them into what works for our family. And to know, that even if it is only 15 minutes, we should take it.

My kids care. Deep down, I know they do.

Even when they say otherwise.

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, balance, Children, Extraordinary Ordinary, Family Life, Holidays, juggling, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Raising Teens, Raising Tweens, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Teens, Tradition, Tweens, Twins, Writing.

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But, Mom, you helped ME this morning

It was one of those mornings. Making school lunches, signing permission slips, trying to figure out the after school agenda, calculating rides home, trying to arrange doctors appointments. There was a middle school gathering/Halloween party/dance-ish event that my kid needed money for, and I got called in to substitute teach so I labored over that decision because I already had a commitment. IMG_2312

The commitment I had was to be at a social media conference, which was starting at 9 am, and I was nowhere close to leaving. My middle schooler was was running late getting to school because of said middle school gathering, so I told him that I would just drive him to school that day. We were getting on the website, trying to figure out the cost and the permission forms needed and all the details.

I was mad at myself for being late to everything that day. I should have had my kids’ permission slips ready and I should have gotten up earlier to get myself ready for my conference and I should have had the after school events taken care of before the day of the event and I should not have been late to my conference.

 But, I had to get these things taken care of for my kid. I made him breakfast and lunch and we talked about the dance and what he was going to dress up as.

 “I’m not dressing up for the event, “he informed me.

“Really, why?”

 “Well, they do not let you wear a mask and mine has a mask,” he said.

I added that he could still wear the rest of the costume but he didn’t want to. So we talked about that. And because he was running late, I had to drive him to school. The morning just got away from us all.

So while driving my kid to school that morning I said in the car, more to myself that to him, but nonetheless, audibly, I said:

“Man, it’s already 9:30 and I’ve gotten nothing done today.”

Then, my sixth grader says to me something so profound, so true, so beautiful, so real, and so full of what really matters.

Gus in Car 10801993_10152610586594652_1842713820656244942_n“But Mom, you’re helping ME out this morning.”

Wow, oh wow. This kid of mine is surprising me over and over again with his insights.

I felt so terrible, so low, so raw. This kid of mine, my sixth grade son, had the right values. That people matter, that time with people matters, that time with my kids matters.

We are so busy sometimes that we miss the very ministry of the moment. Why do value certain activities over others? What do we consider “getting something done.” What activity counts for that? Is it something that brings in money? Is it a perfect house or a perfect yard or a perfect kid or a perfect schedule with no interruptions?

Our lives are so full of so much to do. As a mom, I work at least five jobs right now: substitute teacher, freelance editor, freelance writer, conference director, and photographer. Then, top that off with managing the schedules of three kids at home, managing my household, being there for my two married kids, being emotionally there for my three kids at home, being a wife, etc. etc. Oh, there’s also exercising and cooking and cleaning and laundry, which some of that can be part of other categories. Add to that would be spending time with my wonderful friends and extended family, etc.

There is just so much to do. What it the most important thing?

We just cannot do it all. And it’s okay if we don’t.

I think of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible, in Luke Chapter 10, where Martha was so busy running around doing all these things on her to-do list, while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus about Mary doing nothing, Jesus says:

IMG_3113“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).

Hand it to Jesus to not allow for comparisons. He sets the record straight on what is important. This story humbles me. It reminds me to make others most important, to make God most important, to make reading and praying most important. To remember what really matters.

And, it’s not always my to-do list.

Ask our kids.

Posted in balance, Character, Children, Faith, juggling, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Teaching Moments, working moms, working parents, Writing.

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About that new double three-ring zipper binder

The other day, during a break at school where I was working as a substitute teacher, I got a call from my sixth grade son Gus, who was home from school as he had had three teeth removed. My husband took him as I had to work, and I was feeling really badly that I had not been able to take him.

DSC_0366“Hi mom,” he said in his sweet, innocent, determined, serious, sincere voice.

“Hi sweetheart,” I said, and asked him how his mouth was feeling. “Good,” he said with his standard answer. He does not like to complain no matter what.

My son is not one to “just call” to say hello, and I had a feeling this call was not just for fun.

“So, what’s going on?” I ask.

IMG_3095“I want to go get my new double three-ring zipper binder today. I found it at Office Depot and Office Max. They have two in stock at the Tualatin Office Depot and three at the Milwaukie one and three at the Happy Valley Office Max.

The closest store of the ones he listed was about 15 to 20 minutes away, during rush hour traffic. On a day when I had a commitment later in the evening.

And, my husband literally works within minutes of that Office Max store, I thought to myself, and practically speaking we could have called him to ask him to pick up the notebook. That made the most logical sense.

That would have saved gas.

That would have saved money.

That would have saved the environment.

That would have saved time.

That would have saved me stress.

But, the experience would have been missing.

When I got home, my son had not forgotten the double three-ring zipper binder with extra folder. So, I asked him to call the store in advance to see if they had the exact notebook he was looking for. I wanted to at least be somewhat practical. IMG_3092

They did.

Maybe I was feeling badly because I had to work while he had his three teeth removed that day, or maybe it was just so endearing to see how important this three-ring-double-zipped binder was to him.

I just felt such a prompting to go. Forget the schedule. Forget what I had to do later. Forget the time.

So, I said to my 11-year-old, “Hey, get your stuff, put on your shoes, grab your jacket. We are going to Office Max to get your three-ring-double-zipper binder

You just cannot believe how excited my sixth grader was to go.

In the car he said, “Mom, it has an extra pocket on the outside. And mom, it has two sets of those three rings for notebook paper. And Mom, it has an extra zipper area for different subjects. And Mom, it comes in blue and red and black. I like the blue but I will decide when we get there on what color I want.”

You’d think it was Christmas.

We walked into Office Max and meandered toward the aisle with the notebooks and binders. He scurried ahead of me and found where the goods were. You’d think he had won the lottery when he found them.

“Here they are, Mom. They have three colors, blue, red, black,” he tells me as he picks each of them up and turns them over. His eyes focus on the blue one as he begins to unzip it to see all the bells and whistles this notebook has.IMG_3091

“Look, see the extra three rings for paper. My other zipper binder has only one section. And, look here’s another compartment on the other side of the binder,” he carefully demonstrates as he turns the binder over.

After we purchased the binder and got home, we told my husband, Gus’s dad, where we were and that we got the binder.

And, my husband’s natural, practical response was, “But, I work minutes from that Office Max and I could have picked it up for you.”

Gus responds quite confidently, “But, I wanted to go myself.” 

And, I thought, and later told my husband, that it is about the experience for the kid.

And for me.

The time that Gus and I had together, the sharing of something so small, purchasing a three-ring-zippered binder, but something that meant so much to my little one. On a day that he had three teeth removed.

I believe we need to as parents to value and treasure the experience more than just the practicality of everything. It’s not always the most time-efficient, practical path that makes the most sense that matters.

It’s about the experience. And, there is no way to measure that.

I remember hearing a couple of moms share with me that they get their family’s yearly Christmas trees sans kids. They drive to a tree lot while their kids are at school or at sports, and purchase the tree. Another mom told me that she decorates her family’s Christmas tree alone, while they kids are at friends’ houses or other places.

“It’s just easier,” the moms have told me. Or they’ve said, “The kids are so busy and they tell me that they do not care anyway. It’s a lot less hassle this way anyway.”

And, I wonder to myself, what about the experience? For our family, it is about the experience of getting our tree as a family. Then decorating it together while listening to Christmas music.

The other day at the grocery store, a lady was in the aisle with her twins in her cart. The twins were about 3-years-old. As a mom of twins myself, I just smiled to myself thinking how I remember those years shopping with my kids.

This mom at the grocery store was walking down each aisle and before I even saw this mom with her twins, I heard this mom with her twins. The twins were so inquisitive about everything. They asked questions, they pointed, they squealed in delight when they saw something they wanted. “Captain Crunch, Mommy. Look it’s Captain Crunch,” one of the 3-year-olds exclaimed loudly.

“Mommy, there are the Gold Fish. Mommy, can we get Gold Fishes?  “And, Mommy, look, pop tarts, mom Gushers. I love Gushers. Mommy, can we get some Gushers. They had gushers at preschool.”

The mom was so patient in responding to her active twins as the sound level increased with each new item her kids wanted to purchase.

She finally said at one point, very patiently I might add, “Shh, not so loud, okay.”

In fact, she said this about the time I was heading down the same aisle she was in. Perhaps her comment was to show consideration of other people in the store at the time.

I wanted to acknowledge her, to somehow make her feel that it was okay. That her kids were okay. That she was okay.

“So, are they twins?” I ask, trying to start a conversation with what was of course the obvious.

The mom replied to me, yes, as we both looked at her kids who were scanning the next items they were going to ask their mom about.

I say, oh, they are so cute. And then I tell her I have twins and that they are 17-years-old now, and that having twins is so much fun and so crazy and wild and so amazing.

And then I tell her that I did the same thing, bring my twins to the grocery store with me.

And, that even though some people told me I should not bring my young kids to the grocery store, that it would be easier for them to stay home with their dad or with a friend, I did it anyway. Because I wanted them to have the experience with me, to see things we were buying and to help decide what items we needed. And, I as a parent wanted to watch my kids’ reaction to things and I wanted to see what interested them and what intrigued them and what gave them pause.

The mom wasn’t so sure at that exact moment but thanked me for that comment as I moved on to the next aisle.

Sure, it can be easier to leave the kids at home and it can be easier to just do things for our kids, but there are no short cuts to experiencing life.

No matter how big or small.



Posted in Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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Mom, can we just go alone?

The other day, my twins, still 16, were heading out for their co-ed soccer game “Under the Lights,’ which DSC_0195 means they were going to get to play where the regular competitive school soccer teams play, the ones who compete against the other high school varsity and junior varsity teams.

I am a mom who goes to all my kids’ events if I can. I always want my kids to know their mom is their number one cheerleader.

All of my five children have been involved in many activities over the years, from sports to piano to band to Boy Scouts to youth group and I go to as many of their performances as I can. Because I have a lot of kids, sometimes my husband and I have to tag team, juggle, switch off. He’ll go to one event of one of our children and I’ll go to a different one for our other children.

But right before this particular first co-ed “Under the Lights” soccer game, they said to me, “ Mom, can we just go alone? You really don’t have to go.”

I immediately said, “But, I like to go to all of your games guys.”

They came back with, “Mom, it’s not a real game. It’s just a bunch of us high school kids getting together to play soccer.” DSC_0193

“But, don’t all the other parents come,” I say, secretively showing perhaps one of my other motives in going to the game is not wanting to be the only parent who doesn’t show up to their kids’ game (translated, meaning, loser parent).

DSC_0199“No, not many come to this, Mom. Really, don’t come.”

And so I don’t. I realize at that moment, at that age in their lives, as they begin to become more and more independent, I need to let go little by little, and it’s okay; they are teenagers, they may want space, and I need to honor that.

So, while I so want my kids to know that I am there for them, that I support all of their activities, that I am their number one cheerleader, I also need to allow them as they become young men, to have some freedom. To just be with their peers.

I was talking to another soccer mom, Kate, about this the other day, asking her if she has been going to the Under the Lights games at the high school.

She said, no. I felt such relief, as I did not want to be that one parent who doesn’t show up to certain games while all of the other parents were there. I told her what my twins requested, that I not go, and she said, yeah, those under the lights games are the kids’ own thing, a little bit of their hang out time, just them, away from, let’s face it, sometimes hovering parents.

My twins turned 17 this week, and I had mentioned to them that I would like to take them out to lunch on their actual birthday. IMG_2458We already had dinner plans as a family that evening, and I was set to make them crepes for breakfast, which I do every birthday, and I also thought about taking them out for coffee before school.

IMG_2544But, I like to take them out to lunch as well, to pick them up in the middle of their school days, and treat them to lunch. I’ve done it for several years now.

This year, though, the day before their birthdays, they asked if they could just go out with their friends for lunch on their birthday. I could see, in the sensitive, half-hesitant way they asked, that they wanted to be careful to not hurt my feelings.

I offered that I could take their friends out to lunch as well, and we could all go together, but again, they said, in a very sweet way, “Can we just go alone?”

Oh, okay, of course, that sounds like fun, I say, while not showing that I am, if I am honest, a bit disappointed. Part of it has to do with my background and parenting philosophy of always honoring my kids’ special days, concerts, games, and events, to make sure they know I am there for them.

So, I pointed to the fact that we were going out to dinner as a family in the evening and that we could go out for coffee in the morning and that I’d make them crepes before we went out for coffee.

In working through all of these happenings and decisions, I realize that while my parenting philosophy includes wanting to be there for my kids, I also feel it is important to listen to my older children when they politely — or not so politely — ask for space to be independent. To begin to feel that independence, by hanging out with their peer groups.

We need to, I believe, slowly let go of the strings, as our kids get older. The middle teenage years are a big transition for our kids.

In middle school, pre-teen age, kids begin to test their wings, little by little. They want to go to the park alone, or walk to the neighborhood store by themselves or arrive at the bus stop sans mom or dad. As a parent, you begin to let that string out a bit.

IMG_2503Then in high school, it gets release more and more as they get their driver’s permits and licenses.

My childhood friend Jeanie, who is not a parent but works with parents in her job as an educator, notes the difference in generations of parents. As children, we loved our time alone, to just “be” with our friends. Parents didn’t have to go to every game that we played in, getting together with our friends was spontaneous and not all activities were pre-arranged like today’s “play dates.” We just got together with the neighbor kids. Now, parents are at every practice, every game, every everything.

I tell my friend Jeanie that, as a child, my parents were the extreme of that less-involved generation of parents, and I later mourned the fact that they missed some important events of mine. Once in junior high I had the solo for a choir concert and no parents in the audience to smile at because they were at my sister’s event (which I understand, as I do not think my parents even considered doing something separately).

And I was sad that my parents missed my high school graduation due to travel plans in Germany, though I do not think I was sad at the time. It was as it was.

But, I think because of my childhood experience, as well as understanding that we, as parents, need to be our child’s number one cheerleader, I make every effort to be at every event of my children. Once, my daughter had a district track race and she had one of the top times going into both the 1500 and 800 meter races; while making my way to the meet, I came up against some traffic and the first race she was in started earlier than I had originally realized. When I arrived, the 1500 meters had just ended and my daughter had won.

Loser parent I was.

So, what did I do? I told her good race and when she asked if I saw it, I lied: “Yeah, I saw the end. Great job.”

Double loser parent.

I so desperately did not want my kid to feel like she was all alone and that no one cared, so I fibbed — and prayed she’d also win the 800 meters so I could at least see that race.

She did win.

There’s a balance when it comes to supporting our kids and their events. On the one hand, they sometimes say that I don’t need to come to this event or another event, and I’ve said, “Look, I want to see your concert,” or “Hey that is a big race, I’m coming,” or “Yes, this is a big game, I am going to come watch you.” IMG_2510

But, there are some other times when we need to give our teenagers independence. To allow our kids space. With their friends, peers.

Each child may be different when it comes to this. Some children may want us to be at every event, even through senior year in high school and beyond. My kids like it when I substitute teach at their schools, for which I am grateful.

So, when they want a little space, just to breath, apart from me hovering, I need to give them the space they need.

And, when those big events approach, I can insist, and say, “I’m going to be there. . . You’ll appreciate it later.”

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Sports, Tradition, Transitions, Twins, Writing.

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The art of breakfast- It’s what they remember

I love making breakfast for my kids during the summer and on Saturdays off during the school year, and when their friends have spent the night. Crepes are my specialty; crepes smothered in whipping cream and Nutella IMG_9356or sprinkled with lemon and powered sugar or in the summer, topped with fresh Oregon strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. IMG_9392

I love gathering with my children, with the table nicely set with my good German porcelain and the pretty containers for the lemon juice and the Nutella and whipping cream and strawberries and plenty of napkins. And we say a prayer to thank God for our meal, and it is pure joy. It’s a great way to start our day together before everyone goes his or her own direction. We have grounded ourselves together. IMG_9389

When my kids write me Mother’s day cards and birthday cards, they thank me for making me crepes for them. They remember the crepes. Of all the things I do for them, they talk about the food I craft for them. From scratch. Wild. And my kids friends talk about eating crepes at my house and the my tell their friends  when they are spending the night that their mom makes crepes and their friends want to eat breakfast in the morning with our family. And while I am making them, the house is filled with the aroma of butter and fresh thin pancakes frying on the stove top and that is what they wake up to. And it makes me feel good, if I do nothing else I day long, if I’ve made homemade breakfast for my kids.

But crepes are a mess to make. My kitchen turns to shambles and greasy butter flies everywhere and the batter splashes in nooks and crannies of the stovetop and my kids eat the crepes in minutes then dash off to do other things for hours and there is still the mess.

IMG_9382But it’s oh so worth it.

My husband on weekends when he is home used to never join us for breakfast. He’d eat his granola with cold milk and take off into the yard or to the garage to get his work done.

“Takes too much time. I have too much to do,” he’d say to me about eating breakfast with us as he meandered off.

But I said to him, this is an important part of life, taking the time to have this breakfast together; it’s so simple, yet so profound. This art, making breakfast for my kids; it reaches the kids in ways that I cannot explain but it just does. Crafting crepes is an art. It cannot be measured with the word “Accomplishment” and “check it off your list of things done today.” Art is not a check-off list. Yet, like good art, it’s what matters in the end. It’s one of the things that our kids remember.

Sounds so simple. It is.

My kids once in a while get to go to their grandparents’ house, which is about 15 minutes from our house. Their grandpa makes a mean pancake and they say, “Grandpa makes the best pancakes,” and when I make pancakes, they tell me they are not as good as grandpa’s. That is what they remember about grandpa and it is fabulous. And we tell grandpa this and it makes him feel good. He has a secret recipe and he’s proud of it.IMG_9358

My husband is starting to recognize the importance of our weekend and days off morning breakfasts together. One day recently, it just hit him. He began sitting down with us to join us eating breakfasts together. And, he also began making pancakes as well. And bacon and buying good syrup to smother on top of the pancakes. It takes him away from his weekend projects for a few hours in the mornings and it is a mess and he only has so much time off and I totally understand that.

But, he realizes now that it is important to share that time with our kids.

Now, we argue over who gets to make the breakfast on a Saturday morning.



Posted in Art, Family Life, Home, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Summer, Writing.

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