Connecting With Your Child

IMG_1530Parents find out quickly that children are not the same. They don’t think the same; they don’t act the same; they don’t like the same things. This presents a real challenge when trying to connect with each child.

I have something I try and do every week to connect with each child. We call it our weekly father’s interview. Each Sunday, I take between five minutes to an hour and have a one-on-one with each of my children. We discuss the week’s events, what’s coming up next week, how their schooling is going, and other topics relevant to them in that moment.

I follow a simple plan to hold these interviews. This plan allows the child to open up and feel safe in our conversations. I have also found that following this plan allows me to be less judgemental and more conversational.

1. Find a Quiet Place

The Father’s Interview needs to be held in a quiet place free from distractions. It also ensures that none of the other children eavesdrop on the conversation. Providing a safe place to talk allows the child to open up and feel free to speak what’s on their mind.

2. Start With Prayer

I find that if we start with a prayer we can invite God into the conversation. The prayer allows us to bring focus to the interview as it is a known starting point. I also silently pray for guidance as we discuss things so that I can connect with my child.

3. Review Last Week’s Goal

Each week the child has set a goal to improve (see number 6 below). We start off the interview by reviewing that goal and seeing how they did. There is no judgment here, just a report on how they did and how they feel about how they did.

4. Ask “What’s Going Well”

We start off with “What’s going well?” This question prompts the child to think about the positive. It brings good energy into the conversation and usually smiles. When your child is smiling they relax and talk more freely.

5. Ask “What Could Improve”

The next question I ask is “What could improve?” The child then thinks about ways to be better. It gives them the chance to reflect black and determine for themselves where they want things to change.

6. Ask “What Is One Thing You Will Change To Make Next Week Better”

The last question I ask is “What is one thing you will change to make next week better?” Now that we’ve discussed what could improve, we set a goal. The child chooses one thing to focus on for the next week. The child then reports in the next father’s interview on how they did on that goal.

7. Open It Up

The last part of the father’s interview is opening it up for the child to talk about anything on their mind. Sometimes, I need to prompt the child to get them started. A question such as “What is going well with your friends?” can open up a dialog.

Giving them time to open up and discuss things they want to discuss builds trust. I don’t have to have all the answers, but I do have to listen. If they ask for advice, I will give it. If not, then I’ve listened and that can be enough.

8. Close With Prayer

At the end of the interview, we close with prayer. We thank God for the time spent together and ask for help during the week on the goal that has been set. After the prayer, I tell the child I love them and that I’m so happy they are in our family. Letting the child know you love them allows them to leave the interview on a high and inspires them to move forward.

Connecting with your child is important. The connection builds trust and a tighter bond. When we’ve connected with our children, our love for them is shown and it grows stronger.

How do you connect with your child? What have you found that works? Comment below, I would love to hear your ideas.

How God Answers Our Prayers

God answers our prayersWhen my children were younger, and the work or raising them was more physically exhausting, I remember often praying and asking God for help:

  • Please help me have strength.
  • Help me to have patience.
  • Help me to survive this day.
  • Help me to be kind.

I needed a lot of help. The work of raising 5 children was exhausting. BJ was often out of town on business and I was often alone for 2-4 days a couple times a month. We had no family in town and some days I counted the hours until bedtime.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love being a mom. This has always been what I wanted, but that doesn’t stop the work of being a mom from being exhausting and difficult.

I also had three children with special needs. We had therapies, doctor’s appointments, and daily meltdowns (from sensory, communication, and autism issues). We had a recipe for some crazy difficult days.

During this time in my life, I remember teaching a church class about faith and how God helps me. I talked about how God answers my prayers for help.

When I ask for help, God doesn’t hold my crying child, fix dinner, wipe peanut butter off walls or do the dishes for me. But He does send me the strength to do those things. And He does send me angels to help with those tasks.

For me, my angels were neighbors, friends, and even strangers. A kind word in the grocery store: “You got this Mom! You’re doing a great job.” A neighbor who randomly dropped off lunch to me for a week. A friend who would help me calm a child who was having a meltdown. A friend, who set up a babysitting coop so I didn’t have to drag all my children to every therapy appointment. Neighbors who would meet me in the park so we could chat and the children could play.

God surrounded me with angels. He put people in my path that could be my arms, my legs, my sanity when I needed it most.

Spencer W. Kimball taught: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”

I have a good friend who says that church is for us when we are new to Christ or have just had a baby. The rest of the time, we are at church to serve others. Her point is that we shouldn’t look at how the church is serving us, we should look around to find whom Christ would have us serve.

We are all “of the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27). And if that is true, then we must be His hands, His feet, His eyes here on earth. We must be the instruments through which God can work miracles.

I know that many have worked miracles on my behalf, answering my prayers of need and support. I pray that God will use me in that work as well. God does answer prayers, how blessed we are to be the answer to someone’s prayer.

Linking up with Jamie. Happy Sunday.

What NOT to Say to a Mom of Special Needs Children

what not to say to a mom of special needs children

If you’re the mom of a special needs child, you’ve heard the comments before: “Oh, you are such an angel.”  Or perhaps: “Those children must be so grateful that you rescued them.” Or my favorite: “I couldn’t do what you do, it takes a special mom.”

I know that these comments are meant as compliments. People are trying to tell parents of a special needs child that they see the hard work and are impressed by what is being done. What they don’t understand is the full story.

“Oh, you are such an angel.”

Every time someone tells me this I feel like I need to reveal that time I yelled at my child during a meltdown. Or perhaps tell them about how frustrated I get when I explain a concept for the 100th time. Or perhaps tell them that I cry and yell at God about what will happen when I am gone and my child is alone in this world. Angels don’t usually yell at God, do they?

I am certainly not an angel and neither is my child. We are human. We are doing our best. We have been given difficult trials to overcome, but haven’t we all.  Ours is just easy to see at times.

To all who see an angel. Please, that is too much pressure. I’m just a mom doing my best, just like you.

“I bet your child is so grateful that you rescued them.”

BJ and I hear this statement because our children are adopted and we knew (except for our first who has autism) that we were taking on children with special needs.

But there was no rescuing on our part. In fact, the opposite is true. I dreamt of children. My arms ached for a baby. I wanted to wipe dirty faces, have tickle fights, and read bedtime stories. I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted Sunday naps, chocolate, or money (obviously since I have lost all three since having kids.  The kids keep discovering my chocolate stashes, and naps? Ya, right. Good one.)

My children rescued me. I’m a mom now. And that is my dream come true.

“I couldn’t do what you do, it takes a special mom.”

So you’re telling me you would abandon your child? No. I don’t think so. You haven’t done this because it hasn’t been required of you yet. But if your child got in an accident tomorrow, I would stand by your side, hold your hand, and help you through it. Because I am just like you and you are just like me.

We do what is required of us because that is what moms do. We love our children and we will help them through the tough times.

“What a priceless gift.”

This is the comment I would love to hear because it’s true! God gave me five priceless gifts. They were His children first. I have been given the opportunity to raise them and they teach me all that God wants me to learn.

Yes, they are priceless. And for now, they are mine.

Linking with Mardra, Kristi, and Ellen.

Yearning for Home

yearning for home

This morning I listened to “A Yearning for Home” by Dieter Uchtdorf. He spoke of longing for heaven and of desire for connection with our Father in Heaven.

I believe that every man, woman, and child has felt the call of heaven at some point in his or her life. Deep within us is a longing to somehow reach past the veil and embrace Heavenly Parents we once knew and cherished. Some might suppress this yearning and deaden their souls to its call. But those who do not quench this light within themselves can embark on an incredible journey—a wondrous migration toward heavenly climes.

He spoke of this life as our time for learning and growth. But just like we won’t get to the beach by wandering aimlessly, we need a plan and a destination in mind as we journey toward heaven.

You can read or listen to his talk here.

In the meantime, let us turn unto the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul. Deuteronomy 30:10.

Linking up with Jamie. Happy Sunday!

6 Special Needs Halloween Tips

special needs halloweenWhen it comes to Halloween, preparation is the key so you don’t get tricked! Here are six tips to help special needs children enjoy Halloween.

  • Sensory Issues

The Problem: Is the costume itchy? Is it too hot? Is it too tight/too loose? Costumes are sometimes discarded before Halloween or part way through the night because of how they feel. Sensory issues seem to awaken in full when the excitement is high and the sugar level is higher.

Solution: Look for soft fabrics without tags and big seams. Stay away from cheap plastic or scratch costumes. They get hot fast and your swarthy looking pirate might just become a naked streaker instead. Use clothing children are already accustomed too and remake it with paint, scissors, and markers to make your designs. For example, a soft yellow shirt and markers would make a great Charlie Brown shirt.

  • ADHD or Sugar Rush

Problem: Two of my children have ADHD. Combine that with loads of sugar and you have a ticking time bomb. Trust me, it isn’t pretty.

Solution: Don’t forget medications. And don’t forget the other medicine–good food. Assure that children eat HEALTHY meals that day. Good food can’t completely counter the sugar content of 10 mini candy bars, but it will give their body some balance for the day. If the children are young enough, have them take a nap before leaving for the evening’s activities as well. A well-rested child has a fighting chance of making it through the evening.

  • Expectations

Problem: The child expects to trick or treat all night. Parents expect a happy child all night. Reality doesn’t always match expectations.

Solution: Set expectations realistically. Make a plan together before leaving the house. Have a backup plan in case a meltdown occurs. Or if trick or treating is too much, plan a quiet evening at home handing out candy.

  • Scary Costumes

Problem: Some Halloween costumes and decor can be frightening.

Solution: Discuss before going what things they might see and remind them that it is not real. It may be helpful to prepare for this by reading Halloween stories at home for a week or two beforehand. It may also be helpful to go while it is still light outside. Things are always a bit more frightening in the dark.

  • Manners

Problem: Overstimulation and excitement can cause our children to forget their manners.

Solution: Remind children of their manners and practice before you go. Practice ringing the doorbell and saying “Trick-or-Treat.” Have them practice taking just one piece of candy and saying thank you.

  • It’s All Too Much

Problem: Some children are just totally overwhelmed with the noise, scary decorations, and rules of trick-or-treating.

Solution: Opt out and replace trick-or-treating with your own traditions. Hand out candy in your costumes. Turn off the porch light and watch a fun Halloween movie like It’s the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or Hocus Pocus. Or skip any mention of Halloween and go out to eat or see a movie. You might see some decorations, but you will miss all the noise and chaos that may be happening in the neighborhood.

Happy Halloween!

special needs halloween

Linking up with Kristi and Ellen.

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How to Hold Family Councils

5414311A-32F2-4B82-85A9-3D5D404A0155When BJ and I got married, we were both attending masters programs, we both had jobs (I had three) and we were involved in our church. Life was busy! We began a practice of having time to coordinate calendars and plan our time. We didn’t have family council every week but the weeks we met were smoother.

As our children have grown, we have continued this tradition. We call our meetings family councils and we review the weekly calendar, discuss activities, and plan our time together. We also discussed behavior, chores, or other family business.

We also distribute money at family council. That is for another blog post, but the money motivates the reluctant teens to attend.

After reading The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler I was prompted to add a few more items to our list. In the book, Feiler discussed questions inspired by Agile (see my post here to learn about that) that can be asked at each family meeting. Agile is a software development methodology designed for collaboration from all involved and not just management.

  • What went well in our family this week?
  • What didn’t go well in our family?
  • What could we do better next week?

This method of reviewing the productivity of a family is similar to the review of productivity as a development team. After all, isn’t our goal the development of individuals who can function in society, who can leave the nest and live independently?

So asking these questions allows all family members to have a say in the development and focus of the family.

With these questions, we were able to hear our children voice their opinion about rules, chores and the occasions where mom or dad lost their temper.

A few weeks ago we were on vacation at the beach. When asked what went well the children responded:

  • Boogie boarding (the boards are destroyed from so much fun and we need new ones for next year’s adventure)
  • Nightly games (but they wanted more next year)
  • Grace’s birthday at the beach
  • Set up and take down of the tents

When we asked what didn’t go well they told us:

  • Afternoons were hot and they needed an activity besides the beach
  • Not enough shower time
  • Rashes from too much boogie boarding

When asked what we can do better next year the children said they wanted:

  • More ice cream!
  • More friends to hang with on the beach
  • More game nights
  • A broom to sweep out the tents
  • And they want us to look into renting an RV for next year. They thought that would solve the problem of afternoons because they could have air conditioning and a movie afternoon.

I loved getting all this feedback from our vacation. The kids love this yearly trip but we want to make it better each year. So BJ and I will consider the items for improvement.

Family council is an important part of our weekly routine. Plus if all the children are gathered, it makes it easy to begin family game night right after!

How do you plan and organize your family council time?


Get Out of Bed and Do Good

get out of bed and do good

My daughter Ellie and I attended an event yesterday called: “When Life Gets Hard.”  John Bytheway, a popular Christian youth speaker, spoke about how he wrote his first book, What I Wish I’d Known in High School.

He kept telling himself he was too busy, life was too crazy. But when he analyzed his life, he realized he watched television each evening for an hour or two. He decided to go to sleep earlier and get out of bed at 5:00 am.

Now mind over mattress is hard for most of us, John included. So his wake up call was a sound bite of this quote:

One of the great tragedies we witness almost daily is the tragedy of men of high aim and low achievement. Their motives are noble, their proclaimed ambition is praiseworthy, their capacity is great, but their discipline is weak. They succumb to indolence. Appetite robs them of will.–Gordon B. Hinckley

John said that those words motivated him to get out of bed early and begin his work. After he finished and published his first book, he had an epiphany. Why not continue this pattern for the rest of his life. What good could he do? What dreams could he accomplish? It was a life-changing moment for him.

Another man named Peter once had great desire to do good and follow Christ. In fact, he proclaimed:

“Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”

“Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

“Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.”–Matthew 26:31, 33–36

But we know the story of Peter and how he denied the Christ three times. And afterward, “he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26:75

Peter changed after that event. While I don’t know if he rose early, I do know he was faithful in his defense of Christ. He did great things in Christ’s name and became the man God intended for him to be.

I believe God has a work for all of us to do. And sometimes we get caught up in the tasks and distractions of life and lose our path. What work do you feel God has called you to do? What things are getting in the way of accomplishing those tasks? How can we proclaim Christ and hold to our faith on our journey?

John Bytheway’s story has motivated me to set some new goals. I want to do good, proclaim Christ, and accomplish the work God sent me here to do. I’m going to start by setting new goals and getting out of bed earlier.  Join me?


Linking up with Jamie.


Taking the Time to Look Up

When Sam was 5 years old, I coached him in soccer. It was a time where the kids could be as creative as possible while limited coaching occurs (basically tell them to go in the right direction and get the ball). Sam was an interesting player. In 3 games he had two goals, but this last game he did things that most 12-year-old players don’t do.

IMG_0528The concept is called looking up. In the game, Sam would get the ball and stop to look around and see where the other kids were and which way he needed to go. He was the only player on the team to do this. His goal in this game came after he dribbled the ball down the field and stopped to look where the goalie was and shoot the ball where the goalie wasn’t. Of course having played soccer for so many years I am well familiar with looking up and finding the right course. It’s a concept all of us should take note of.

What if we took a moment in our day to look up? What if when we looked up we were able to see what direction we should go. I know in my personal life I do NOT look up enough. I don’t take the time to ensure that the course I’m on is correct. This is a critical time for all of us and I believe that we need to look up more and take notice of what is happening around us. It is also critical for us to chart a course that will lead us to safety and happiness.

I’m glad that Sam looked up in his soccer game as it inspired me to do so in my life.

Applying Agile Practices to Family Vacations

When we applied agile to our family vacation, getting ready for vacation was easier.

using agile at home

I love our yearly trip to the beach, but I don’t like packing and getting ready to leave. I feel like an air traffic controller as I guide still sleepy children into helping with the final preparations: “Get your bags out to Dad; Take out the garbage; Feed the dog; Did you get your pillow?” Getting ready for a family vacation is hard work.

I knew our family needed a better system for getting out the door so I went on a hunt for one. I have been rereading the book The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play and Much More by Bruce Feiler. I loved it when I read it 3 years ago and I was gleaning new ideas for our family to try.

One suggestion came from  David Starr. He works in the computer industry and wrote “Agile Practices for Families: Iterating with Children and Parents.” Agile is a software development methodology that focuses on collaboration.  I had used agile as a software tester, and my husband uses it as a systems architect. But using agile at home? The thought intrigued us. So we decided to use a work in progress board with all the tasks that needed to be done before we could get leave for vacation.

All tasks for an event (or daily to-do items) are written down on sticky notes. As a person claims the task, they move the sticky note from the To Do column into the In Progress column.  When that task is finished, the person moves the task into the Complete column.

Brilliant! No more remembering all the tasks that need to be done. No more barking orders like a drill sergeant. And since the children can claim their own tasks, I was hoping they would be more eager to help to get what they think are the “good tasks.”

So I wrote all the tasks that would have to be done before we could leave:

  • Feed and water the dog
  • Help Dad load the car
  • Take out the garbage
  • Turn off all the lights
  • Load all dishes and start the dishwasher
  • Pack the cooler
  • Make sure we have headphones and movies

I presented the task list to the children and let them choose their own tasks. I wanted to see if getting out the door for vacation could run a little more smoothly without having to play air traffic controller.

And it worked!

Using agile at home

using agile at home

My board wasn’t perfect, I forgot some tasks, but the board did what I wanted. The tasks were accomplished, I wasn’t yelling and everyone was happier. I call that mission success.

I plan to make a permanent flowchart board for our family with the three columns of To Do, In Progress and Complete. I can see this idea working with Saturday chores, weekly tasks, packing, Christmas decorating, Thanksgiving cooking, and getting out the door for a day of family adventures.

How would you use a work in progress board? How could this agile practice improve your family’s task flow?


Linking up with Meghan and with Love that Max.

The Pressure and Joy of Being a Dad

I love being a dad. It is one of the best and hardest things I’ve ever done. Being a father brings responsibilities. It also means that there is pressure on me to do my best.

Fatherhood Father Dad

Being my best means there are things that must be done:

  • Providing for the family
  • Setting an example of how to work hard
  • Teaching right and wrong
  • Taking time to connect and talk with each child
  • Maintaining a strong marriage

And the list could keep going!

It is also important that I continue to learn and grow. I’ve learned that it is vital to develop routines and habits so that I don’t get overwhelmed. That is why I have created an AM routine, a PM routine and other habits like reading books.Jamboree 2017 Sam

Likewise, centering my life around God helps me to understand my place as a father. I know there is a higher power who wants me to succeed. He wants to guide me on my journey as a father. One reference I use is “The Family: A Proclamation To the World.” I believe this proclamation is divinely inspired for our day. In it we find the following:

Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.  —The Family, A Proclamation to the World

The proclamation is a guideline, not only for finding happiness in family life but how to deal with the pressures of being a father. For one thing, it tells me that I’m not in this alone. Cheryl and I are equal partners. We share the responsibilities of the home.

It also says that I need to show love and be righteous in my home while providing for my family. Some people might see that as being a weight on them. For me, it’s liberating. I have a goal to strive for. I may not be perfect in that area, but if I’m working towards achieving it, then I know that I am on track and God will support my efforts.

IMG_1185My six tips to reducing dad stress:

  1. Create routines – when routines become automatic, I can save energy for more important responsibilities
  2. Have fun – laughing keeps my family happy, it also helps us to remain calm
  3. When needed, take a deep breath – there are times we get frustrated, taking a moment to breathe helps us to address issues without emotional bias
  4. Don’t react, relax- If we immediately react to a situation we can cause more harm than good
  5. Don’t allow work or financial frustrations to come home with you – work can be frustrating, but bringing that frustration home will only add to the pressures we feel. Relieve the frustration before interacting with family
  6. Take time for self – whether it’s a favorite hobby, sport, or just downtime, taking time for yourself helps you re-center and re-focus on those things that are most important

IMG_0870It’s not easy being a dad. If we as fathers can frame our thinking towards being uplifting instead of being weighed down with stress, then we can concentrate on being better fathers.

What pressures do you find as a father? What do you do to relieve that pressure?