Why it is Okay to Think Your Kids Are Pretty Special

That last post about individuality in a pile of kittens and how the eyes of love see them… well, here is where I am going with that.

I believe strongly that our children need to know that we see them, who they are, their gifts and natural abilities, as distinguished from all the other grey kittens in the pile. They need to know that Mom and Dad are on their side, cheering them on to success, despite the fits and starts that accompany budding attempts at growing up.

One of my sons is having a bit of a wobbly time right now, struggling to relate to friends, not always sure he likes himself or anybody else, even. Oh dear, I think, here we go into adolescence, and I have no idea what I am doing parenting this age. I have seen his step lighten after I just casually put my arm around him and tell him (one cannot be too deliberate with affection at this stage, it seems) how proud I am that he is my son. I tell him that he is learning to walk upright, and that is sometimes really, really hard, but I know that someday it will help him to be a real man because he fought battles when he was young. I explain that it is all right to mess up, as long as one admits the mistake and makes amends where it is needed. I want my son to know that he is special, he has gifts, he makes me happy, so I tell him those things, even when, or maybe especially when he sorely tries my patience. I do hope and pray that this will help him to have confidence and steadiness when the waters get even rougher.

In parenting, there are so many moments of correction, reproof, instruction… so many times we need to discipline and pull back an erring child. We certainly don’t want them to run wild without the stability of boundaries. But it is much too easy to forget that they do not automatically know how much we love them, how delightful they are to us.

The eyes of love notice the hidden talent that will be a tremendous asset as the person emerges. They see under the surface of sameness and assure the little ones that they are unique, telling them small specifics that are evident in the child’s life, like little buds waiting for the right season. This is what breaks my heart about orphanages. No matter how clean and well fed a child may be, every child needs someone who really sees them as invaluable. My deepest respect goes to those who make it their life goal to provide that for parentless children.

The old thinking was that too much praise would make a proud child. Humility is a beautiful virtue, but there were entire generations of children who grew up straining for approval and yearning to hear just once that their parents love them. That is just tragic, and not a mistake that we need to repeat. Surely we can show our children how much we like them without turning them into stuck-up snobs.

Parents are notorious braggers. We don’t mean to be, but it happens because we are besotted with these children that we love endlessly. I honestly think this is okay. I have heard some obnoxious bragging, but generally I love to hear people talk about their children. It means that they are noticing them, really looking at them, delighting in them.

This is why I also love pet names for children. It is like a personal tie, a more intimate connection than you have with just anyone. I love secrets with children, whispering in their ears. When my babies were nursing infants, I made up songs for them with their names and sang them in the dead of the night, just me and the babe. I make no apologies for being completely dotty over my children, and neither should you.

After all, God delights over His children too! Far from making me feel proud, that fact raises in me a reciprocation of delight in Him and cements in me a confidence in His love that takes me through the storm.


But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love. Ps. 147:11


There are five of them, just all alike except for faint subtleties of darker and lighter stripes. Two are a little blacker, one is smaller. All are fat and fluffy and happy. To me, they are just the kitties. I wish the mother had produced some variety.

To my girls, they are The Kitties. They haul them up from under the deck where the boys loosened a board so that they can easily be accessed. Bending down like little ducks, they fish them out and tenderly croon over them, one by one.

Thundercloud, Black Lightning, Fluffy, Claude, Stripey. They know them, which is which, and they never get mixed up. They know which one likes to hang onto and snag their clothes. They know which one likes to sleep in a swaddle of blankets and which one tends to scamper away, which bites their fingers with tiny nips and which one comes running to them when they play.

I ask myself, how do they keep them apart, that nest of same ordinariness?

It must be love that notices, and therein lies a parable.

Here We Go Again

Here We Go Again

Little Girls and Kittens-
Is there any better picture of carefree childhood? These are the offspring of the pregnant stray that we took pity on and fed Kit and Caboodle. We only found five babies. What a relief. One for each kid, they say, and they are as delighted as can be.

Wise Buys

You probably know that I try hard to be thrifty in my buying choices. We are raising our family on one income, and the older the children get, the more I understand why many people say, “But that is impossible these days!” It isn’t, but it requires carefulness, especially if you have a desire to be debt-free.

Enter second-hand stores, yard sales, discount groceries, coupons, and clearance racks. The stereotype of tight-wad plain people may actually have something to do with the necessity to provide for larger than average families, although I know many of them are quite wealthy, yet quickly scarf up free stuff that others need much more than they do, so… Whoa. Major bunny trail there.

Yesterday I had to go to the city to order next year’s school books at an exhibit put on by ABeka publishers. I guess it is probably to their advantage to have early orders, but it always comes at a time when I would rather not think about next year’s school for, oh, maybe about a year. 🙂 They lure us in early with free shipping and discounts, and it works!

I took my Rita-girl along, since she is sturdy enough to skip nap time. We had some extra time to walk in the mall, checking out the clearance racks. I took five articles of clothing into a fitting room, left them all on the rack, and felt very disgruntled. I hate fitting rooms. But I did buy myself a pair of white Nordic-track leggings for next winter. We had checked them out and blanched at the prices this past ski season, so as tired as I am of snow and cold, if I see high-quality, 35-dollar, moisture-wicking, heat-retaining leggings reduced to 5 dollars, I will buy them. When you have a skiing kind of man, you need to be prepared to go along. 🙂

The bookstore was a lot more fun. In less than a month we hope to be celebrating the completion of this school term, which calls for gifts all around, traditionally books. I was so pleased with the ones I found for the little girls. Since Olivia learned to read, her gift will her very own Bible. The only one I found that had large print for small people was a pink Precious Moments one. I don’t even like P.M. stuff, but she would be so thrilled with the pinkness. So I got it. I just won’t look at the illustrations of Abraham and Sarah with large tear-drop eyes.

After I ordered our school books, we took a pass through Aldi’s, where the most thrilling purchase was pineapples, on sale for 1.49. I won’t sneeze at the Cadbury Mini Eggs, either, which is the only Easter candy I would truly miss if I were deprived of it. (Well, I have to admit, I like Peeps, too, but that is not a very adult thing to say.)

When we got home, I put away the groceries, smuggled the gift books into hiding, and proudly showed Gabe my leggings.  Wait, they looked sort of big. I examined the package. “Hon, you will never guess… I just bought myself Men’s size large leggings. Maybe you can wear them.” He laughed. I took them out of the package and they looked really large. I examined the tag. “What? these are not large. These are XXlarge men’s leggings. But what were they doing in the ladies’ clearance section with the CuddlDuds and fuzzy socks? And why were they in this package?”  I tried them on. It was not funny. Not even a little bit.

I felt quite cross and decided to go for a walk. What a washout of a shopping trip! Add to that the fact that I had hurried home to make a meal for friends who, for the second time, were not home when we wanted to take the food to their house. About 1/2 mile down the road it suddenly struck me funny that I (unwittingly) bought (men’s) leggings for myself on the extreme opposite end of the size scale from what my husband wears. Then I had an idea. I wonder how many people would want them if I had a giveaway? It was a deserted stretch of road, so I just laughed out loud for a while. It felt really good. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t quite…


Empty Bowls, a Book List, and a Lot of Links

This winter I tried to find different ways to make my children aware of the hungry, homeless, less fortunate, even beggars. Sometimes it is hard to know how much information about the sadness and brokenness of the world I should share with my little guys. Yet I believe that they need to learn compassion and thankfulness, and one of the best way to learn this is to help them see how hard life is for many others.

We read A Single Shard, the story of a homeless orphan in 12th century Korea. The main character spends his days scrounging for scraps of food and longingly watching the master potters in the village. Eventually he persuades one of them to take him on as an apprentice, receiving for his wages a bowl of food every day.

The Family Under the Bridge is another book I highly recommend for children. It is the story of a crusty old hobo who has his own favorite spot to live under the bridge. He has chosen his lifestyle because he likes it, but one day a desperate mother with her little children invades his space. Slowly he starts to thaw and become more kindly to the people around him. Almost against his will, he learns to care about them and does his best to help the mother keep her little family intact. It is a book with humor and grace mixed into the sad bits.

Another book we really like is Star of Light, a story of little beggars shamefully misused by their stepfather. It is a beautiful tale of how they find the love of a Heavenly Father.

I also have a photojournalist’s collection of portraits of titled Precious in His Sight. It is a powerful visual aid… What if I were the little girl selling bananas in the middle of that crush of cars at the intersection? Suppose I was the little farmer boy in Malawi who spends days and days alone, herding the family’s cows so they don’t wander off or get stolen.

ImageA percentage of  the sale of this book goes to Compassion.

And there is yet one more photo journey that I suggest for little children. It is titled Where Children Sleep. It is an expensive book, but I am glad I bought it. We have discussed why it is that some of the poorest little children with only one little car to play with and a bed of filthy blankets on the floor look just as happy in their photos as the children with everything their hearts desire. You can find a lot of the images from the book here.

So, how did this post turn into a book list? I suppose it may be because they are my main tools for instructing my children. 🙂 But aside from books, how do we do something that makes a difference? That is the real question. The boys helped me cut patches out of fabric scraps and sew them into comfort tops for the ladies at church to turn into warm blankets for somebody cold.

I hoped to find a soup kitchen that needs volunteers, but the only local thing I could come up with was a fund raiser called Empty Bowls. This is a grassroots movement to help feed the hungry. Local potters hold workshops where volunteers get to make soup bowls to sell at the supper they host. That immediately caught my attention because of my pottery making dreams. We made pinch pots, starting with a ball of clay that became the base of our soup bowl, then adding coils of clay and smoothing them out to form the sides and rim. It was a lot of fun. We decided we wanted our own bowls back, so we went to the supper and claimed them.

All the food was donated by local restaurants and businesses, the proceeds benefitting our local food pantry. It was a lot of fun, an event I hope to make an annual thing for us. Here are the girls with our bowls.



So far I don’t feel like I have accomplished much except helping my crew to notice inequity and to want to help. I need more practical ideas. 🙂

Change Is In the Air

We are still alive here. I experienced the very first sickness of the winter last week when I contracted a miserable head cold that drained me for 3 days. (Get it? Sorry, I know that is obnoxious.) I found myself dragging along in a haze of Vicks, carrying a tissue box, so far behind with normal life that writing seemed downright frivolous. In fact, I entertained discouraged thoughts of shutting down the blog entirely. Then I started to feel better and got over it.

I have noticed some milestones recently in my children’s lives. My absent minded son was on kitchen duty the week I was dragging. “Mama, what in the world are all these pills doing on the counter? You would think they have no home!” Not only did he quote my words back to me, but before that he had actually noticed some stuff that needed to be put away. I am sure I cannot really describe to you what a marvel that is to me. Until very recently, this child saw no reason why anything should have a spot. His practical idea of locating missing stuff was always traveling with a mother. I must have explained to him twenty-eleven times why he should always put his treasures away in his drawer, his boots on the rug, and his bike in the shed. So even though I felt like snot, I got a little burst of encouragement from that conversation. I think there may come a day when he might actually become neat and organized. I see some small signs and how they do cheer me!

I saw some buzz on the web for using a system of mom-bucks to reward a child’s responsible behavior and decided to give it a trial shot. Obviously, penalties involve paying back some bucks to mom. Thus fixing the bed earns a buck, but leaving the pjs on the floor costs a buck. It is impossible to redeem privileges from the mom-store if all your bucks were frittered away in penalties because you neglected to put your folded piles of laundry into the proper drawers or you quarreled with a sibling. I picked some specific behaviors to reward and zeroed in on some especially entrenched habits. There is no way I can keep up with anything complicated, but I think I can cautiously say it is helping my boys to be more heedful.

Gregory seems to have hit his stride with baking. Just a year ago I groaned (privately) when he asked to cook something. He does so dearly love to mess in the kitchen, going into a really happy place, humming, measuring with flourish, the dry ingredients puffing this way and that, the eggs unpredictably doing their oblong rolls off the counter, the whisks and scrapers all saved for licking with gusto when his project is safely baking. At first I had to watch every step of the way or he would use a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon, or forget to grease his pans or use a little more sugar than the recipe called for “to make it better”. I will be honest, it was a trial. The cleanup was dreadful. We blundered along like that for a very long time until he graduated to me just carefully explaining a recipe to him, then forcing myself to let him alone, only coaching him as he came up with questions. Last month for the first time ever he made cookies all on his own steam. Even scooping out the dough. Even putting the baking sheets into the oven. Even cleanup. Whew! Then he did it again and again. We had snickerdoodles one week, chocolate chip cookies the next, and brownies the next. I can see that this could pose a problem, so we will need to work on spaghetti or omelets or chicken soup for a while. 🙂

Olivia is losing teeth with alarming rapidity this spring and now she talkth with a charming little lithp. And she can read. Just like that, she finally got over the hump of great effort in sounding out to reading for fun. I just sat and got all sentimental while she read Ten Rubber Ducks to her little sisters. Forgive me for the little rave, but it thrills me every time it happens for the first time. And every homeschool mom said Amen.

I won’t go down the whole row of children and their changes, but I should tell you that I started about 120 little plants in peat pots: tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, etc. There they are, all plucky and greenish, straining to the sunshine. I keep them on the warm floor of the kitchen, where they may not always be safe from stomping feet, but on the sunshiny days I set them out on the deck. Today I thinned out the extras and I ate them. It was such a lovely, wheatgrassy thing to do.

I also freed the bulbs and perennials from the winter’s accumulation of blown leaves and junk, so that now they can reach for the sky. It always reminds me of Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden, setting the little plants at liberty to flourish. Strange as it may seem, I like weeding, especially my flower beds. I find it about ten times more fun than wiping the dirty handprints off the walls in the hallway. Mmmhmmm, that explains a few  things.

Change. It is good. It is delightful to feel the cocoon of winter slipping into a memory. I sneeze an average of 17 times a day, so pollen is also in the air. Oh, how I do love this time of the year!