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936Pennies Family Living With Intention

We Choose It For Our Child, And It Will Impact The Rest Of Their Life

March 3, 2017

My teeth clench and my foot braces hard against the floor of this shaking machine. All at once the conversations surrounding us are hushed by the droning of the wind against metal. My heart beats harder. I have always been a nervous flyer.

My stomach drops as the aircraft lifts sharply, wheels bidding farewell to the airstrip. The plane tilts left, and I see them like never before. “We’re going to fly right over our house.” My husband leans over me to glimpse what I cannot take my eyes off of: our mountains.

They stretch out before us without end, an infinite expanse of wilderness and wonder. I have never seen them like this before. At least, not since they became our own. Within minutes he spots it. “There! Do you see that curve in the road? Right next to it, there is our neighborhood.” And I do see it. I picture at once our three boys running across the living room, keeping my brave mom, who flew in the night before to stay with them, on her feet. They are a stone throw away, but 10,000 feet out of reach.

My husband points out rivers, lakes, mountain peaks, and canyons. I know them all by name, by smell, by tastes of picnic lunches, and hikes along their trails. I see day drives, afternoons spent tossing rocks into riverbeds, and where we hiked into the forest to cut down our Christmas tree. All of these places—our places— are laid out as if bark on a tree, rising and falling, with lines of river and trail snaking their way throughout. Home. And it is. We have made it to be, and we know it intimately.

Not a half hour later, the summits calm and taper into flatter land, then rise steep again into a wilderness I do not know. Our boys are now a range away. I turn to my husband, “Hey, happy One Year In Colorado.”

We are flying away from the new backdrop of our lives, and toward the backdrop of my husband’s childhood. For four years of his boyhood he called the moss-covered trees and cloud-covered mountains of Washington “Home”. And I could hardly wait to see these places that I had pictured so many times from his stories.

That week I would stand in awe of the 286-foot Snoqualmie Waterfall, maze my way through forests of 100-foot trees and beds of ferns, and see the creek where my husband and his brother used to spend entire days rope swinging and creek jumping. And as I did, I could picture our own boys, and it made me wonder about the backdrop we are choosing for their own childhood.

It’s incredible just how much the backdrop that we choose for our kids shapes their futures. It is something that our kids get little to no say in. We choose it, and it will shape them profoundly. This was a realization that weighed heavily into our decision to move to Colorado one year ago. However, it doesn’t take the majesty of the Rocky Mountains to color a beautiful backdrop. Nor does it require sandy beaches with ocean breeze, or a quaint farmhouse among golden fields. The backdrop of our child’s life is made up of so many details.

A backdrop is made up not only of the things that we see day-to-day. It is pace, and flavor, and music, and scent, and words, and embrace. It is the tiniest of details that make all of the difference in a home.

Our move to the mountains was not a fix-all. I would be naive, and sorely disappointed, if I expected it to produce the perfect pace of life. Yes, it has helped us to embrace wonder. But it did little to slow us down. That takes more than a move; it takes intentional choices every single day. Even among all of this awe and wonder, we can still become lost in the rush of life, and we often do. We still find harsh words on our lips, and our minds too busy to offer a listening ear.

Location does not change these things.

Choosing a backdrop is not often a dramatic move, but a continuous string of small, intentional moves; moves we make every single day. Moves like these:

  • Reserving a campsite for a few weekends throughout the summer
  • Looking up nearby nature trails, and choosing one to explore each weekend
  • Playing music throughout the day in your home. (Our favorite Pandora stations are Caedmon’s Call, JJ Heller, Nickel Creek, and Rend Collective Experiment)
  • Lighting candles in the house
  • Diffusing lavender oil
  • Sitting down (with your spouse if you are married), looking over your calendar for the month, and choosing two activities to cross off. Go on a family date instead.
  • Choosing books, crafts, play, and time outside over screens in the morning hours
  • Reserving one evening a week for Family Game Night
  • Packing sandwiches and snacks for a picnic in the park
  • Visiting the library once a week, and coming home with a new stack of books
  • Sitting to enjoy a cup of tea with a book, or just while sitting with your kids

These small moves add up quickly. They hold the power to change the whole culture of a home, and the backdrop of our children’s lives.

We chose these mountains because they remind us every day to slow down and listen. They challenge us to this, but they don’t do it for us. We must heed their reminder to keep our hearts focused on beauty, and living a life in line with our values. That is what creating a backdrop is made of: intentional choices that line up with our values in life. Choices to take walks and pursue wonder and create beauty and speak kindness until all of these things engrain themselves into the culture of our home. Until they all add their own color to the backdrop of our kids’ childhoods.

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When You Are An Introvert Raising An Extrovert With “So Many Words”

January 9, 2017

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“Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t let you nap.”

My eyes are closed. I lay in my bed next to my five-year-old; his little brothers sound asleep in their rooms. He goes on. “It’s just that I have so many words. And I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.”

This seems to be the case lately. And can I just say it…that it’s exhausting? It is said that women speak, on average, around 20,000 words a day. Just the thought of that exhausts me. I am not, and have never been that woman. In fact, one reason my husband and I fit so well together is that we have a bit of a role reversal; he has always been the talkative one. During arguments (and yes, they do happen), he likes to talk things over, while I would rather employ the silent treatment, mull things over in my mind, and take a nap. I have never been the talkative type.

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And then I gave birth to the boy who is his father’s son. Just as Zeke put it that day lying next to me in my bed—he just has so many words. And some days, like today, it infuriates me. To get the same point across, I might use five carefully chosen words, while my boy would use twenty-seven to say the very same thing.

It has been a real struggle lately, to remain patient when I feel downright drained in every single way. He rounds the corner with another question, another idea, even another, “I love you Mom and you are the most beautiful Mom I know!” and it is just the sweetest thing. And exhausting.

If you’re the quiet type of mom who treasures her scarce moments of silence hidden amongst the chaos and noise of her day, you might just be nodding your head right now.

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It has been this terribly complex dynamic to wrap my mind around. As we prepare for my book to launch, which includes public speaking, I’m diving into this whole new exhilarating world. And I love it. I love speaking words that move people. And seeing them literally relax under those words and find space to breath again; wisdom to move forward. I love every single bit of it.

I also love quiet.

And how do I balance this type of life, where I can hardly call myself an introvert, because of my love for community and speaking, and yet holding a million conversations a day with my child is downright draining? I’m at a loss, most days. Maybe you feel the same, trying to keep up with just so many words from your little one.

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But on those days when I’m given a bit of extra clarity, I see it. That these “so many words” that my boy holds bottled up within him, they are his byway from young child to adolescent, and eventually adult. They are his only way to make sense of this world around him, where still so much makes very little sense at all.

His endless questions and limitless ideas, they are his only way to express all of those wonderings bottled up in that budding mind of his. With these “so many words”, he is trying to piece together all of the confusion, uncertainty, curiosities, and misunderstandings that surround him. And he is trying to figure out where he fits in it all.

These “so many words”, they need to be spoken, to find a voice and a space and an answer. It pains him to bottle them up. Just as he told me that day on my bed, “I need to tell them to you now, so that I don’t forget them.” It is just the same with my writing. A thought or an idea enters into my mind, and I feel I must find a home for it somewhere. Whether it be in a notebook or a file on my phone or a text to my husband or straight here to the blog. It has to go somewhere, or else it might just disappear into oblivion, never to mature, develop, or move people. My boy feels the same with his ideas of snowboard designs and race car tracks and inventions. He needs those ideas and thoughts and questions and words to have a home, lest he lose them. And my listening ear provides him that sanctuary for his ideas, where he knows they’ll be safe.

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Every time we stop to listen to our child’s words, to really listen, and to answer, it is an invite. It invites them to be vulnerable and curious and to dream. And it invites us to step into their world, and glimpse those wonderings that dance about in their head all day long.

This open invite into their world, it’s a gracious offering that our children give us, and we can’t know for how long it will last. How long until they begin guarding those words; bottling them up and hesitant to share them with us? Now is the time, while our children are young, that we can provide them with a place of trust for their words to rest upon, so that even when they are grown, they will know exactly where they can go to for a listening ear.

So yes—it is exhausting—these so many words. But really, isn’t most of parenthood? And this piece of it—the opportunity to speak truth and life and love and kindness, to answer their questions in such a way that will satisfy their curiosity and teach them about the most important pieces to life—I’ll take that exhaustion any day. One question at a time. Let’s graciously give those so many words a place to be heard today.

936Pennies Family Motherhood

When Parents Turn The Humdrum Ordinary Into Legacy

October 11, 2016

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“Do you have any collections, Hammy?” With uncanny agility, he moved his little body from rock to rock as we made our way down the riverbed. The evening before, when we had picked my mom up from the airport, he counted it of utmost importance to tell her first of his two collections. “I have a roots collection. And I have a dead bug collection. It has three bees in it.” Now as we skipped stones and counted ducks along the river, he asked his grandma of her own collections.

She thought for a few long moments, stringing suspense in the air as he awaited her answer. “I like to collect seeds from my plants.” She told him. I could picture her bending low to gather seeds in one of her many gardens. I could see the large rubber tires she had spray painted in bright colors and turned into raised beds.

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My boy keeps his collections in a place of honor on his desk; mason jars displaying bugs and plants that have caught his fancy. Once in a while he asks me of my own collection jars. Masons sitting side-by-side on a shelf for us to see often, and consider their copper contents. “The pennies remind us to spend our time well with you.” I explain to him. My heart rests at that, knowing that one day he will understand, when he cradles his own babe for the first time.

One day he’ll understand that it’s not about a jar of pennies, but rather a collection of memories. Each coin marking how we’ve invested it in memory making endeavors.

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There’s a song by Leslie Feist with a line that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it. She sings, “We’ll collect the moments one by one, I guess that’s how the future’s done.” I see this collection of memories as so much more than happy moments to look back upon. They serve as building blocks in the foundation that our childrens’ futures rest upon. I want to give my children a storehouse of “Hey, remember when…!” moments that will bring a smile to their face and hope to their hearts years from now; memories to anchor them when the seas of life swell with wild waves.

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Parents face this overwhelming pressure to make every moment matter. To cherish every second of this journey. But I don’t believe that this paints a fair picture of our calling. Rather than trying to force significance or fabricate meaning, I believe that our job is to open our eyes wide and spot it where it already exists. Our job is to put our hands to the plow and unearth the life beneath the soil of normal humdrum days; to discover the roots that dig deep and anchor us to our purpose as parents. Our job is to hold the common experiences with awe, and turn them over as dog ears in our child’s story.

When she interrupts your work and asks you to push her on the swing, or he insists that you come and see his latest block tower construction, or she asks for your opinion on a situation with her friends at school—these are gem moments. They shine brightly out from among the ordinary of life, but only if we give them the attention they’re due. They become beacons of light only when we choose to pick them up from among the rocks, polish them with our affection, and set them in a place of honor by naming them as significant. This is when the ordinary transforms from overlooked, to holy.

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I have a few of these gem moments displayed on my writing desk, between half finished writing projects, half read books, and art projects from our boys. One is from that day at the duck pond when Zeke taught my mom how to rock hop, and asked her of her own collections. They are stones we’ve collected from our explorations. To anyone else, they might still look ordinary, but I know them to be gems.

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They have been carefully chosen from among thousands like them, but then given dignitary treatment. They’re rinsed in the river, marked by permanent marker with a date and a memory—“Hike with Zeke”, “From Ellis on Devil’s Backbone Hike”, “Duck pond with Mom”, and then set in a place of tribute on my desk. Thrown back into the river, they would be just another stone. Yet sitting on my desk, they serve as a collection of memories, ones that stand out along my motherhood journey as those gem moments to carry me through the difficult days, and remind me exactly what this job is about.

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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

I Dont Want To Look Back And Wonder How We Got There

September 14, 2016

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I am not sure how I didn’t notice until then. Why I didn’t see it until that very inconvenient moment when we’re rushing to get all three kids fed and dressed and out the door in time for church. But I did see it, and it stopped me dead in my hustle-bustle tracks.

The tick of the clock ceased to remind me that church would be starting soon, and we best be on our way. Instead, I took in the sight of our oldest boy as he bound through the living room. I studied his shoulders in that button-up. When had they turned from such pre-school round to little boy square?

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His legs looked impossibly long in those dark denim jeans. And as he ran and jumped throughout the living room, his muscles flexed beneath his Sunday’s Best to reveal a budding strength. A young man strength. I bent down and rested a knee on the carpet, and pulled him near. “Just stay,” I told him. “I just want to hold you for a minute.” He leaned back just enough to catch my eyes with his, and then broke into a big grin.

That night I would dream that he was taller than me, and I know some day this will become a realty. My prayer is, that when that day comes, I won’t be asking myself how it happened.

I pray that I’ll know exactly how we got to that point, because I was fully present every step that it takes to get from here to there.

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I did some calculating this week. I unscrewed the tops of those jars that sit on a shelf in our living room, the ones that remind us that time will not stop, so we best learn how to slow it down. I held the copper coins in my hands, counted two by twos. And this is what I found.

Our youngest boy, the one who came on his own timetable through a whirlwind of labor weeks before we expected him. The one born so small I could hold him in one hand. The one who slept swaddled up soundly underneath a sunny window until his skin pinked up. The one who would quickly prove that his big voice and even bigger heart could compensate for his little size. We have spent 74 weeks getting to know him.

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And then our middle guy. The one born with a deep, raspy voice and a contagious giggle. The one who asks to sit and drink a cup of tea with me, and requests to wear a button-up shirt on the most ordinary of outings. The one who forces me to stop and slow our day, because he needs to dance in my arms. We’ve had 173 weeks with this one.

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And then the one who made me a Mama. The one who gave me a crash course in what it means to lose all of myself; to give and give and give some more. And then to receive; to take in all the love and whispers and smiles and moments of grand beauty.

The one whose focus is steadfast and determination is unshaken. The one who gathers paper and markers to make a card for friends when he hears that they are sick. The one who asks the deep questions, and doesn’t settle for shallow answers—and teaches me to do the same. We’ve had 269 weeks with this boy.

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This morning I sat in a room of women. Twelve strangers who are all walking this journey of penny spending; this voyage of time investing. We were gathered for a new Bible study, and took turns sharing our names and the ages of our children. Several talked as they nursed newborn babes. “I have three boys,” I began, “Ages 5, 3, and 1.” One woman sitting the next couch over had three children the same ages.

And I just wonder, what would happen if I had said instead, “My three boys are 74 weeks old, 173 weeks old, and 269 weeks old.” Surely there would have been a few odd glances. It seems as though after the first few months, we transition from counting weeks, to counting months, and then years. But what if we kept tracking these weeks? And what if I had said instead, “I have 862 weeks left with my youngest boy. With my second born, I have 763 weeks remaining. And, well, with my firstborn, I have only 667 weeks left.”

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It’s the same reason some parents say that they can’t do it—this time counting. It’s why for a long time, I didn’t think I could do it either. Sometimes we don’t want this stark reminder. But if we’re not keeping track, I fear we’ll lose track.

I fear we’ll stop noticing the details, and that we might just miss the process of it all. I’m afraid that we’ll get to that last week, when we’re sitting on a bedside helping them pack for college, or watching them drive away to their next adventure, and we’ll wonder how we got there.

I don’t want to wonder how we got there. I want to be able to look back and see a continuous string of moments marked by my full presence, my full attention, my full appreciation. I want to harness the time and engrave it with all of me noticing all of them.

And so I keep counting.

936Pennies Motherhood Peace Plan

It’s Time To Reclaim A Peaceful Motherhood

September 2, 2016

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It would be so easy. Convenient, even, which is very rare in a house with three kids ages five and under. The toddler is napping. The older boys are contentedly constructing Lincoln Log houses together in their room. The house is quiet. I could sit and answer a few emails. My boy walks into the kitchen and asks if I can build with him. “I’d like to Buddy, but I need to finish up a little bit of work.” “Ok,” he replies, “maybe later.” 

He turns and walks out of the kitchen, and immediately my Peace Plan comes to mind, and that one line written, “No work between 8 and noon” It’s 11:00. It’s their time.

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I pour another cup of coffee and walk over to my boy. “I changed my mind,” I tell him, “Can I build a house with you?” He smiles and jumps in the air, then rushes off ahead of me to his room. For a while we sit there together, me and my boys. I find it hard; somewhat restless. But with each minute passing, I feel more at ease. This is where I’m supposed to be right now. When we finish our grand construction, I set up their beanbags against the wall, grab a stack of books, and we settle in, each boy on my side. This is where peace is. And today I’ve chosen it.

A Peace Plan is just that—a plan. It is a constant reminder to me of what my heart really desires and needs. It is a reflection of my highest values. It is a warning light when I’m slipping into distraction, or losing sight of what matters most in my life.

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I wrote of this Peace Plan a while back, and how it might just be the most important plan that we can make as parents.

It is a guide for navigating us through every single day, helping us to make the most of them. Peace has so much to do with how we spend our time. This plan is the one thing I have found successful for looking back at the end of the day, and seeing a few highlights; a few strategically chosen moments, a few intentional choices made, a few favorite parts of my day; all structured together by the blueprint of this Peace Plan.

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The plan changes from time to time. It has to, in order to be an effective defense against the ever-changing peace thieves in our lives. As our kids grow and we find ourselves in new seasons of life, we face different threats to our peace. And so this plan must be ever evolving, in tune with our heart and mind.

At the beginning of each month, I evaluate those two all important questions that are the foundation of this plan. What will bring more peace to our days right now? And, What is stealing my peace right now?

And then I begin to write, short and simple.

No work between 8 and 12.

Early morning time alone—before the kids wake.

Slow mornings at home, or at the park.

No running unnecessary last-minute errands.

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It is not a to-do list or a goals list. It’s a focus list. It’s about shining a spotlight on the things that give us peace, and reminding ourselves of them every single day. Just as important, it requires pinpointing the very things that are stealing our peace. Those things that when we succumb to them, our shoulders tense. Our mind tells us to put the phone away. Our heart tells us to stay home and sip coffee, that errand can wait. Our spirit tells us to shut down the laptop and read to our child. Our soul is very good at pointing out where peace is, if we’ll only pay attention. And that is when we can begin drafting our Peace Plan.

It’s not elaborate, but simple and raw. It shows us how we want to spend our time, and how we don’t want to spend it. It identifies weaknesses. It highlights our values.

Go hiking with my husband

Make cards with the boys for family

Write something every day

Read a novel

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I pin the Plan next to my desk, where I can glance at it every day; a regular check-in with my heart to see if I’m where I want to be.

I don’t always get it right. Some days I find myself sucked into the social media vortex, or staying up too late, leaving me too tired in the morning to grab that alone time. But when I miss it—I know right away. I see it staring straight back into my eyes—fear. Stress. Frustration. Discontent. Guilt. I feel it deep within my spirit that I missed out on something better.

But when I do get it right, when I choose Lincoln Logs and books over email because it’s still morning—which means it’s their time—I see something much better staring right back into my eyes. I see their eyes. And that is exactly where peace is found.

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I have a habit of asking my boys at bedtime what the favorite part of their day was. Sometimes their answers surprise me. They’ll mention one little thing that I hardly counted memorable, but it stood out to them. It offers me a priceless glance into their hearts. Lately, when I ask myself the same question, What was my favorite part of the day? Almost always I think back to a moment in the day that my Peace Plan brought me to.

And that is exactly what this plan is for—a guarantee that we’ll catch those moments, and make them matter. The Peace Plan is for creating those favorite moments of the day, and protecting against their extinction. If you were to sit down and do a little bit of introspection; to put a name to the things stealing your peace right now, and if you could make some simple changes to bring more peace to your heart and these days of raising your kids…wouldn’t you? Perhaps it’s time to start writing.

“Those Who Plan Peace Have Joy” Proverbs 12:20

936Pennies Adventure Family Giveaway RedeemThe205

Family Adventure Pack Giveaway! Capture Time And Make It Count With Family Adventures

August 16, 2016

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Besides a few other families and the occasional hiker descending from Mt. Quandary’s 14,265 foot peak, we were alone at the lake. In fact, we had spotted more mountain goats, gracefully bounding down the steep slopes, than we had seen people.

I returned from a short hike to the car, back to our spot next to the water nestled between mountain peaks. The lake was clear as the day. I set down the tackle box, then the snack bag, which the boys made an immediate beeline for. Our oldest, Zeke, took a little bit longer, as he had a rocky ridge to clamor down.

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“He made it all the way up there by himself.” my husband explained, pointing to a natural seat cut into the rock face high above my head. “I just turned around, and he was way up there. Then we had a little talk”, he added with a smirk. Zeke leapt from a rock a few feet from the ground, and joined his little brothers at the snack bag.

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Nut butter bar in hand, our youngest boy settled down into my lap, and we sat staring at the water together, his whole weight resting against me. I leaned in to kiss the top of his head; his hair as soft and white as the mountain goat hair we had found hanging from the bushes we’d hiked through to get here. He turned to look up at me, his eyes as deep and indigo blue as the lake.

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Out here, as the marshmallow white clouds travel across the sky, they do not speak of time passing. Rather they give testimony to time captured and savored, because we’ve chose to stop and watch.

Here surrounded by rock and respite is not where time stands still. As a parent, I have surrendered to the fact that we cannot stop time. Rather, here is where time finds its rightful place. Here is where time becomes bigger.

In the rush and hustle and routine and often chaos of our day-to-day, time shrinks. It becomes small and insignificant, slipping through our hands. And one day we stop only to realize that a week has passed. Perhaps a month. A year. An entire childhood. And where did the time go?

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This is precisely why we take these family adventures. Why they have become an essential fiber woven into our family, holding us that much more tightly together. These adventures were the heartbeat behind our decision to move to the mountains.

But the thing is, you don’t have to have access to the mountains, the ocean, or the forest to take family adventures. Family in itself is an adventure. But wherever we live, and whether or not we as parents have a passion for the outdoors, we owe it to our kids to give them that chance. They deserve the opportunity to fall head over heels in love with the artistry created by the One who crafted them.

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Whether it’s a nature hike deep within the Rocky Mountains, or an after-school stroll along the river that runs through town, there is adventure to be found. And we must encourage that thirst for beauty and discovery in their hearts.

It hit me as I sat and inhaled the scent of my boy’s hair mingling with the aroma of pine. Out here, children lose all sense of time. There is no schedule or agenda; only rocks, sticks, wildflowers, and mystery. And here, as we watch them, fully captivated only by what’s in front of them, we find permission to redefine time also. Time no longer slips away, it lingers. It appreciates. It savors. It chisels itself as memories on our souls. It is no longer menace nor taunter nor burden, but gift.

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All the time as parents we hear it; we feel it, that time is fleeting. But my family is discovering that these adventures are one of the greatest tools we have to slow time down, and to focus on what–and who– is truly important to us in life. When we make time for these adventures, we show our kids a whole new set of priorities. As we wander, we inspire wonder. As we hike and run and stroll and climb and appreciate and respect and watch in awe—we hand them the keys for slowing time and making it matter.

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Giveaway Has Now Ended. Thank You To All Who Participated!

936Pennies Giveaway RedeemThe205

New Giveaway, Delicious Granola, and a Couch Jumping Photo Bomber!

August 4, 2016

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Official Contest Rules and Regulations:

Must be 18 or older and resident of US or Canada to enter. Entrant is entered to win by filling out and submitting subscription form above. Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Contest closes on Sunday, August 14 at 11:59pm Mountain Time. Winner will be announced on Eryn Lynum’s Author Facebook Page on Monday, August 15. Winner will be contacted for shipping address.

936Pennies Giveaway RedeemThe205

5 Questions For Setting Screen Time Limits (And When To Toss Those Limits Aside)

August 3, 2016

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I knew it the moment I took a step, something was wrong. Very wrong. A second before I had hoisted my right leg over the baby gate, a maneuver I take about five dozen times a day. But this time was different, and now a sharp, piercing pain ran down the right side of my back. I gently lowered myself to the floor, wincing with each slight movement. Tears spilled down my cheeks as I texted my husband. “I cannot move.”

Our weekend packed with plans of hiking and running and exploring would now be spent with me on the couch. Now, normally the thought of three days lazing around, swinging in the hammock, and reading books would sound dreamy. But you see, I have kids. Little ones. I have little kids who need diaper changes, snacks, entertainment, and supervision. Oh, and a toddler who constantly needs to be rescued from the top of the dining room table after he climbs the chairs while I’m not looking.

Bed rest with young kids? Yeah that’s not a thing.

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In those moments that I spent flat on my back staring at the ceiling through teary eyes, one of my first thoughts was of our recent decision to scale back on screen time. My mind recited words I had written the week before. Words painting a picture of life’s various seasons, and how those seasons ebb and flow with various needs. There on that floor as I lay waiting for my husband’s rescue, and making a mental note to vacuum that carpet as soon as I could move again, I found myself in one of those seasons with greater need.

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 And so over the next few days, I eased up on our newly-established screen time limits. At first, as I lay on the couch with ice pressed against my back, my boy next to me entranced by (another) episode of Bob the Builder, guilt was quick to rush in. I felt as though I was undoing all of our hard work from recent weeks. But that was not at all the case. Instead, after a few days of some extra screen time for the boys, and rest and healing for me, we simply reestablished our screen time boundaries. Just like that. Done and done.

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When we started this journey a few weeks ago, I knew that the question would come up. And so I wasn’t at all surprised last week when a reader asked how much screen time we are letting our kids have. Immediately my mind went to a quote from Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane’s Book, Growing Up Social (Win a copy below!).

In it they explain, “In terms of how much screen time you allow your child, only you can decide how much is too much.”

I don’t believe that there is a “Screen Time Sweet Spot” that fits every family the same. Not at all. Rather, I believe that the boundaries we set up around screen time for our families are a personal decision, not to be judged by the next family over. It is something we all must take account of and decide for the good of our own family. The good news is that your kids can be a huge help in deciding what that healthy amount of media is for your family.

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I find that my children give me subtle hints as to when they’re spending too much time in front of a screen. Their tempers grow shorter, and they develop an entitlement mentality. When I say No, they push back or throw a tantrum. When we’ve been strictly limiting their media use, this is not the case. Rather, they observe TV as a treat, and one that Mom and Dad control, not them.

If you are wondering how much screen time is appropriate for your own family, here are 5 good questions to begin with:

  • “Is technology bringing our family closer together, or driving our family apart?” (Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane)
  • Do my children act as if an hour in front of a screen is a gift, or something they are entitled to?
  • How do my children act when I tell them screen time is over? (If you’re met with tantrums, then consider scaling back. I find that the less time my kids spend with screens, the more OK they are when I turn them off)
  • Have we read books, played outside, or created something before turning on a screen?
  • Is screen time in my mind an occasional help, or a default go-to when I want to keep the kids occupied?

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Another quote I found helpful in Growing Up Social was this, “Although each family should use personal judgment on the amount of screen time, every family must set clear boundaries. Children always do better if they have clear boundaries. Screen time requires limits and parameters, or it will take over your child’s free time”.

It takes time, practice, and evaluation to discover a healthy balance of media for our families.  That has certainly been the case in our home. As we continue to evaluate our children’s behaviors and our own hearts, we are gaining a much clearer picture of how much screen time is ok for our family. And then of course, we must keep in mind that there is grace for setting aside those limits for a short time if we could use a little help.

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When mom is out of commission with morning sickness, or a new baby is welcomed home, or an adopted sibling arrives and is transitioning to a new home and family…or when mom uses improper form when stepping over a baby gate and throws out her back…there are plenty of examples of when those screen time limits can be set aside.

And then, when the waters calm and we get our feet back under ourselves again, we can set down that remote, and head outside for a picnic. We get back up again, dust ourselves off, and remember what this battle is worth…our kids’ childhoods. We reclaim those childhoods with each hour by wonderful hour that we spend outside, in a book, riding bikes, swimming at the beach, side by side making memories that thread together a legacy of a life well spent!

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growingupsocialsWin A Free Copy Of Growing Up Social, Raising Relational Children In A Screen-Driven World

Chapman and Pellicane’s book Growing Up social has played an integral part in my own understanding and practices of how screen time affects a family. In it, they share valuable research and information, complimented by relatable real-life stories, to help a family develop their own practices regarding media in their home. Win your own copy as a part of the #RedeemThe205 campaign!

 


Official Contest Rules and Regulations:

Must be 18 or older and resident of US or Canada to enter. Entrant is entered to win by filling out and submitting subscription form above. Contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Contest closes on Sunday, August 14 at 11:59pm Mountain Time. Winner will be announced on Eryn Lynum’s Author Facebook Page on Monday, August 15. Winner will be contacted for shipping address.

936Pennies RedeemThe205

Childhoods Can Be What They Used To Be

July 26, 2016

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I spent a fair amount of time watching television as a kid. Yet when I look back, I don’t remember those times. What I remember about my childhood are the hours upon hours that I spent elbow to elbow with my brother and sister while we constructed a Lego city on a 10 X 5 wooden table that my dad made us. I remember swatting mosquitoes from my ankles as we picked bowls of blackberries on the bush outside of my bedroom window. I remember the late-into-the-night neighborhood games of Capture The Flag at the neighbor’s house.

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I can picture the old shed that we turned into a clubhouse, holding meetings every week with the neighbor kids. I remember collecting bugs in the field behind our property, and returning home only when mom or dad would ring the large metal bell on our side deck. I remember roller blading all morning, exploring the trails by the pond all afternoon, and bike riding into the evening.

And I get it, even as I write out these memories—things are different now. Childhoods are not what they used to be. Many even say that they can’t be. And of course, this generation faces new threats, and we as parents must be aware and diligent to protect our children from danger.

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I get it because I have quite a bit of a “Helicopter Mom” tendency. I had a difficult time letting my son go to camp for the first time this year….and it was only a morning camp; three hours a day. All three of my boys have “Just In Case” bracelets on their wrists with 3 emergency contact numbers. I cut grapes in half, outlaw playing with marbles when the baby is awake, and have a near panic attack if it takes me more than 3 seconds to locate them at the park when I’m doing the headcount. “One….Two……………..…” Yup. Panic attack.

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I get the importance of keeping them safe in an uncertain world. It’s important that we are not ignorant of the threats our children face in today’s society. But what if by setting up extensive boundaries, we are cornering them into a box, one filled with “safe” activities such as screen time? In view of the 205 waking weeks on average that a child spends staring at a screen before they turn 18….I think this is one of those threats that we need to be aware of.

I want to protect my kids from the ugly of this world, while inspiring them to venture out to find the beauty in it. That way, when they are older and facing this world without my helicopter mom protection, they’ll have a storehouse of those memories and experiences to pull them through, and onto greater things.

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Recounting the memories from my own childhood, I find myself nervous thinking about my own boys doing the same things. Ponds hold deep water, streets have cars, strangers can’t be trusted. But more than fear, I grieve. I grieve the loss of that kind of childhood. And I am determined to give my boys a childhood full of those “Hey, remember when….” adventures, all while knowing that the context may look a bit different now. But it is possible. And so very important.

It might just take a little bit of creativity on our end. What are some of your favorite adventures and memories from your own childhood, and how might they fit into a safe context for your son or daughter now? Perhaps it looks like hosting the Capture The Flag Tournaments in your own yard, or accompanying them on their nature explorations. It might take a little more work and time on your part, but I’ll bet it will also be one of their favorite gifts that you ever give to them–the gift of your time.

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I have seen it in these past two weeks, as we’ve refocused our boys’ attentions off the screen, and onto more meaningful activities. At first, the task seemed daunting. With our older boy waking earlier in the mornings, and foregoing any nap time, I had 3 new hours in the day to fill his time. TV had become habit, and it was rubbing up against our family values and creating friction in my spirit. So I started saying No to the TV, and yes to their childhoods. And you know what? It has been So. Much. Easier. than I anticipated!

It ends up that kids want to create. It’s engrained into the fiber of their beings to imagine, explore, and problem solve. They want to be challenged, and to overcome. Their words may speak otherwise at first, but they want to be bored, because boredom often leads to the most grand adventures!

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Those adventures might look differently today than they did for us, but they are there and waiting, if only we’ll provide the space, opportunity, and boredom to see them bloom.

So let’s do it. Let’s offer them the opportunity to have a childhood full of fireflies and bonfires and tree climbing and bike riding. Let’s reset our kids’ default back to its natural setting of exploration and wonder. In doing so, we are not pushing them towards something that’s not already a part of who they are. We just might need to help them dig a bit to rediscover it within themselves. It may be a whole lot easier than we think, and it could change their entire future…and the next generation.

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This post is part of the #RedeemThe205 campaign, aimed at inspiring families to reclaim the 205 waking weeks on average that a child spends in front of a screen. It’s time to redeem childhoods and protect our families.

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