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936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

When I Realized That My Child’s Projects Are Just As Important As Mine

August 8, 2017

“It’s a mineral! I found a mineral!”

His shrill voice, brimming full of excitement jolted me from my sleep. I had woken at least six times during the night, and was surprised this time, upon opening my eyes, to find sunlight streaming through the tent fly.

“Boys, quiet down.” I mumbled as I turned over to check on our two-year-old. Still sound asleep, somehow. He was nestled into his sleeping bag next to me. I closed my eyes, but the big boys’ banter continued.

When I gave up on sleep and at last emerged from the tent, the boys took their cue. Hearing my own tent zipper they asked eagerly from the next tent over, “Can we come out now?” I said yes. Our six-year-old Zeke counted it of first importance to show me the “mineral” he had discovered upon waking. It was a piece of broken glass. I thought for a moment, examined the glass, no sharp edges. “That is glass buddy, but it kind of looks like a mineral, doesn’t it?”

“Mom, I found a mineral, too!” Ellis, our four-year-old proudly held up his own piece of glass. “Can I add it to my collection?” He was referring to the collections he and his brother had started upon arriving to our campsite–plastic boxes displaying all sort of rocks and foliage they had discovered.

My first instinct was No, you can not play with a broken piece of glass. But then again, it was dull. And–something had told me deep inside, when they started those collections, that this was important. It’s so easy to brush those feelings off, is it not? When something looks by all means insignificant, but you feel as though you should treat it otherwise, for their sake. I let him keep the glass. Sorry–mineral.

A couple of days later after we packed up camp and were driving down from the mountains, Zeke shared an idea with us from the backseat. “Hey! What if we draw everything that we want to find for our collections. Then we can find those things, and make a museum!” We had yet to stop for coffee, and after three (beautiful) long days camping in the rain, I managed to muster just an ounce of enthusiasm. “Yeah Buddy, that’s a good idea. We can do that at home!”


He brought up his idea four more times within the hour, and the final time I lost my patience. “Zeke, I said we would do it. You can stop talking about it now.” And that was that. For a week.

I didn’t hear another thing about the minerals or collections or becoming museum directors—until I brought it up. I was out by myself when the thought crossed my mind. I told him we would do that. It seemed he had forgotten. And I was plenty busy with projects. We’re selling our house, I’m in the midst of big book deadlines, and we’re in the middle of several projects for our small business.

Drawings in a notebook and dreaming up a museum seemed just a tad too insignificant given all that was on my plate.

But there I sat at the coffee shop, staring my projects in the face, and it hit me. My son’s projects or not less important than mine. Because his projects are what his dreams and aspirations are made of.

Our childrens plans will lead to greater plans and action and goals and a life lived on purpose—but only if we fuel those budding dreams in their hearts. Only if we offer a listening ear, and only when we invest ourselves in their aspirations. Whether it’s a lemonade stand, raising money to save an endangered species, building a rocket to launch to the moon, or gathering artifacts for a museum.

Something monumental happens when we grant credit to our child’s ideas. When we stop to ask questions, or offer them another perspective. Instead of their idea vanishing into time, it weighs time down. It slows time, offers it more meaning, perhaps redirects it. When we take the time to enter into their idea, it infuses them with confidence to give that idea a try. It makes them brave.

If we don’t fuel these dreams, I fear they will dissipate into adulthood. I’m so afraid that my children will forget how to dream. This is one reason I do have my own projects, ones that reflect my own passions and show my children what it looks like for Mama to chase her own dreams. But it’s also why I set aside those projects today, and sat next to my boy drawing tigers and sea coral. Because he has his own projects and dreams.

And they’re just as important as mine.

936Pennies Parenting

Let’s Never Stop Getting To Know Them

July 15, 2017

“Why do you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?” I watched his little brow furrow as he popped another bite of pancake into his mouth. I sipped at my coffee, waiting patiently for his answer. “Because I just do.” I was not letting him get away with that.

“What do you think would be cool about being a firefighter?” He looked at me now, sipping orange juice from a straw. “Rescuing people, and putting out fires.” I smiled. Now we were getting somewhere. I continued to ask him questions, the kind that require specific answers. I had woken early that morning to find him by himself, already awake before his brothers and Daddy, sitting by the front window. “Do you want to go get breakfast with just me?” He grabbed his shoes and was out the door, and now we sat, just the two of us at that cafe table. Looking over at him, I couldn’t help but notice just how grown up he looked—how different.

I can only imagine that your children are growing as quickly as mine. And my heart aches at how easily it is to forget to keep getting to know them. They are so different from a year ago—and are we able to count and name the ways?

My first baby, by this time next week he will be six years outside of my womb. Six years. No longer a toddler or preschooler—a kid. A boy. And every day I see him inching more and more toward manhood. As I watch this, the passing of time happening mercilessly right before my eyes, I fear that time and boyhood will pull him away from me. It’s so easy when they are tiny, to cuddle and read books and run wooden trains across endless loops of tracks on the carpet.

But I’ve seen it happening—as this near-six-year-old boy grows and makes friends and reads books and learns, his interests are developing. He’s more content to do his own thing—to ride his bike over homemade jumps for hours on end—and I think we both forget that we still need time, just him and me.

That’s what brought us to that breakfast table. The evening before after he was sound asleep, I replayed in my mind the two questions he had asked me that afternoon. “Mom, can you read more books to us?” I walked toward the bathroom to grab my hairbrush, “I can’t, Bud, I need to get ready to go.” And, “Mom, can you do this craft with us?” I had turned that one down, too.

I know it’s not realistic, or healthy, to sit side-by-side with them all day long. But perhaps those simple invites tucked into their everyday conversations, the ones we often turn down in the name of Busy and Distracted—perhaps those are a precious gift from our child, an opportunity to keep getting to know them—to mark up the passing of time with timeless memories.

Maybe, if we were more open to those invitations, if we even went looking for them through invites to breakfast, a walk around the pond, or a trip to the ice cream shop—we’d be more aware of time’s passing before us. Maybe we’d be more at peace with its pace because we would be leaning into all it has to give—a front row seat to our babies-turning-big-kids.

I think I’m going to try it. I mean, I have been. Perhaps—no, I am certain–the reason I write so much on time is because it is one of my greatest struggles. But this morning over pancakes and coffee, we won. Over questions of aspirations and favorite hiking spots and hobbies, I got to know my boy a little more.

This is how it happens—how we know them yesterday and today and tomorrow and twenty years from now when they’re living their own lives—we know them because we made an effort to at every stage. And sometimes effort looks like a plate of pancakes and a hot cup of coffee.

Faith Family Parenting

When He Asked Me If God Made Us Like Puppets

March 29, 2017

One busied himself sweeping a paintbrush coated in deep teal paint across the makeshift doorframe of their wood-and-tarp firefighter house. The other swung through the air next to him on his tree swing. I watched them, hot tea in hand and sunglasses perched atop my head, from a chair out in the back yard.

“Mom, is Mary dead?” The oldest one was asking for his little brother, who had just posed the question to him. It took me a moment to gather what they were asking. Right. Mary. Mary mother of Jesus. Got it.

“No Love, she is with Jesus in Heaven.”

My oldest, five-year-old Zeke, thought for a moment before posing his follow-up question. “So, is she dead in Heaven?”

This was getting harder.

“No….” I began precariously, “she lived a long time ago. She died here on the world, and  now she is alive with Jesus in Heaven.”

Both boys nodded and went on with their play. I took a triumphant sip of my tea. I felt pretty good about our discussion. They have been getting harder recently. Yet as the questions dancing on the tips of my boys’ tongues become deeper, and my answers hold more weight, I find that my heart discovers so much purpose in these conversations. The big questions wave casually into our everyday, catching me off guard, as if the boys have been thinking on them for hours, and suddenly they pop into our car, or in the grocery store aisle, or at the coffee drive-thru line.

This happened a few weeks ago as we were driving through the mountains. My husband and I chatted, and the back seat had been quite silent. Then suddenly Zeke asked, “Hey, did God make it so that we can talk? Or did He make us like puppets?”

My husband and I glanced at each other wide-eyed.

We attended the same Bible college, my husband and me. And so we had both been through the same classes on God’s sovereignty, and had immersed ourselves in the same types of discussions about how much God controls, and what type of free will He has given us.

But Bible school never prepared us for explaining Calvinism vs Arminianism, and what God causes versus what He allows, in five-year-old vocabulary.

“God made it so that we can choose what to say, Love. He wants us to be able to make decisions, so that we can decide to love Him.”

The silence from the backseat told me that my answer was satisfactory.

They have been coming more and more frequently, these questions. Most of the time they catch me off guard. But sometimes I see them, working their way through my little guy’s mind. He grows silent, and I see the gears turning. I see that question sitting in his mind right amidst wonderings of how airplanes glide through the sky, or how caterpillars transform to butterflies.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by this task. As parents, we hold the responsibility on our shoulders of helping our children navigate these questions. We feel as though we are teetering on the edge of Well Done! and Well, You Screwed That Up! depending on the answers we give. We place incredible weight into each word, questioning ourselves the whole time on whether we’re explaining things right.

At least, I know that this is how I have felt. As though their future and eternity rests in the words I choose to craft my answers from.

It feels terribly delicate.

But then, just the other day as we were pulling onto our street, I overheard our middle guy nearly four years old, chattering away. He spouted off something about “God running away”, and Zeke didn’t miss a beat. “Ellison,” He began, seriousness dripping from his voice, “God does not run away. He loves us.”

And that’s when I saw it—or heard it, rather. Child-like faith.

He may not understand the intricacies of God’s sovereignty, but then again, neither do I. Yet sometimes I think that this child’s faith is actually bigger than my own.

It ends up that my answers are not quite as weighty as I place them on my shoulders to be. Rather, our kids come to understand faith and Jesus and love and beauty through what we show them every single day.

They see the grace of God every time I forgive them, and every time I ask them for their forgiveness. They see God’s beauty every time we take them out for a hike or a walk through the park. They see God’s creativity every time we sit next to them and splash paint on paper, speaking about how God is creative, and made us to be the same. They see God’s power every time we as parents stop relying on our own power to do things or say things just right, and instead trust God to work through us.

This is how our children come to know their Maker. Yes, we are called to be intentional with our words. We need to pay attention to the opportunities spun into everyday conversations to explain to them just how great and beautiful and loving our God is.

But we also need to stop placing all of the weight of their eternities into our perfectly manicured answers. We need to trust that God chose us as their parents for a reason. And we need to trust that He will work powerfully through our words throughout our everyday conversations.

“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.” Deuteronomy 11:19-21

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

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

January 9, 2017


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Family Parenting

The One Question Us Parents Are Asking But No One Is Talking About

November 11, 2016


I paused as I considered my next box to pack. Our move date was fast approaching; within a couple of short weeks we would relocate our young family from Missouri to our new home in Colorado. Most of the house was already stuffed and taped into cardboard boxes. But there was still that pile of clothes and a few garments hanging in the closet, the ones with elastic waist bands and stretched out mid-sections.

I could no longer avoid the decision. Do I pack these, or list them on Craigslist? It was crux of the crossroad we couldn’t move beyond. To do so we would have to answer that question us parents seem to encounter around every conversation with a new friend, or a stranger at the library. You know the one—the, “So, are you done?” question.


I find it ironic that even with the question hovering around our conversations, we’re not actually talking about it. We offer a short, “Oh we’re not sure yet,” or “I think so, but maybe not”. Yet these short, trite answers speak nothing of our heart’s agony over this decision.

We’re not talking about how emotional and heart-wrenching this decision is. We’re not talking about the finality of it that haunts us, freezing us in our tracks.

I listed those clothes. Laid them out piece by piece on our bed, a flood of memories washing over me with each fold. I could picture my hand rubbing the red knit sweater over my belly swollen with our third boy. The electronic shutter of our camera sounded, wiping the memories from my mind as I pulled out the camera card and slipped it into my laptop.


In the coming weeks, I’d receive a few emails of interest, but no bites. In the rush of last minute packing, I shoved the clothes into a plastic bin and loaded them into our moving trailer. It would be a month later when I would think about that bin of clothes again, and why they had made their way across the vast expanse of Kansas and into our new homeland of the mountains. With a faint second line and a burst of shock and hope, I found the purpose for holding onto that bin of clothing.

We were going to need them again.


I wondered if that was the plan all along, why the interested emails never turned into a sale. Some divine intervention sparing us from having to purchase a whole new maternity wear wardrobe.

But then two days passed. That faint line grew fainter, and with it my hope. When the blood appeared, I knew that those clothes were not going to get unpacked with the dishes and photo frames. They would remain in their bin. I began to wonder why, again, they had made this trip with us.

Our miscarriage brought everything back into question. All those conversations where we had circled around and around and around again, with no conclusive answer. “Are we done?” We had been, I thought. We were, I thought. But carrying another baby, if only for a couple of weeks, unraveled any previous reasoning.


And now I don’t know. Do any of us, really? I hear of parents who know for certain when they are done. No questions asked. But I have to wonder, did doubts or questions or uncertainties cloud their decision, if only but for a moment? Was there ever that uncertainty of, “What if we change our minds?”

If there is one thing about parenthood that has completely shocked me it is this:  the decision of when to “be done” having babies is far, far more difficult than I ever anticipated. It’s a question we circle around and around and around again, unwilling to stop at a certain conclusion. Because, “What if?”


The one thing I do know is this:  We’re not talking about it enough. Just as I discovered with our miscarriage, this is a difficult area of parenthood that many of us are suffocating under the weight of, without leaning on one another.

I’m not saying let’s bring up all of our family planning woes and intimacies at the next church potluck. I am only suggesting that if you’re struggling under the weight of this question, that it’s likely that one of your close friends are, too. And perhaps they just need a hug and a “Hey, me too.”


Maybe all they need today is a conversation over coffee, and to hear that they’re not the only one who could just keep on having babies, while not knowing if you can handle more kids. Maybe they need to hear that they’re not crazy, and that it’s ok to be in a place where you just can’t make that choice. Not yet. And really-that’s ok.

I don’t have an answer to this one. There’s no equation for determining when to “be done”. But one thing I am certain of is that in the midst of these most difficult and emotional decisions, we need to know that we are neither desolate nor deserted in our struggle.

So if this is you tonight, hemming and hawing and avoiding and discussing and praying and standing paralyzed in your uncertainty—I’m there too. You’re not alone. Neither am I. And often the greatest comfort is found in the realization that you’re not alone.

936Pennies Motherhood Parenting

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

September 14, 2016


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.

Giveaway Parenting

Why I Teach My Kids To Talk To Strangers (And a Book Giveaway!)

May 24, 2016


His lip began to quiver as he turned his sun-kissed face and buried it into me. The train’s horn signaled its departure from the station. Its cars were packed full of tiny passengers grinning from ear to ear. My boys watched from the sidewalk, their hopes crushed with each toot of the train horn.

I tried to explain to them that it was a pre-season test run; that its passengers were a group of preschoolers on a pre-scheduled ride. But how do you explain such things to a three-year-old with his heart set on a train ride?

Beside us stood an older woman with her daughter and grandson. They, too, tried to explain to the young boy why he couldn’t ride the train. The woman was kind. As we had stood by waiting to see whether we could ride, she’d asked about my boys, about my husband’s work, about our recent move to Colorado.


A silver-haired woman in purple tie-dye came around the corner. She had been busy boarding the passengers moments before. “I just can’t do this,” she began to explain to me and the women beside me. “I’m a grandmother. And look at those tears….” She pointed to my heartbroken three-year-old. Then she bent down until her face was level with my sons’ faces. “You can ride as soon as they come back.” My boy’s lip steadied, and curled into a smile.

As we boarded the train, we chose a seat next to the kind woman and her grandson. My boys beamed as we rode over the small wooden bridge, then through the train tunnel. The woman asked me whether we had found a church; her husband used to pastor one here, she says; they’ve been here for over 25 years. Her daughter explained that she used to ride this train as a young girl. Now her little boy sat next to her, making the same kind of memories.

We exchanged cards before we parted ways. “Call me if you guys need anything!” she said. Then I went to rejoin my boys in the sand, digging endless holes with tiny construction trucks.


She was only one of the handful of woman I spoke to at the park that day. My children have gotten used to it—to Mom striking up conversations with strangers. In fact, I often encourage it by packing our bag full of Matchbox cars, sand toys, or bubbles—something to draw some new friends over for my boys to play with, while I talk with their Moms or caregivers.

After all, I would rather that my children learn how to interact safely with strangers by observing me, right now when they’re little and close by my side. I want them to see how I interact very differently when I am talking to a fellow mom, with other people around, then I do in situations like the other day, when we shared a plate of food with a homeless man—and I asked their Daddy to take it over to him, instead of me. I want them to see the caution. The wisdom. The discretion. And I want them to understand how to put these things into action, so that if a situation arises—they’ll know exactly what to do.


And while we are having conversations about never going anywhere with someone we don’t know, and telling Mom or Dad if an adult makes them feel scared—I want them to also know that sometimes it is ok to talk with strangers.

That sometimes that is how we make friends.

That someday, they might need to talk to a stranger– if (God forbid) they get lost or separated from me.

I need them to know how to identify a safe stranger from a potentially dangerous one. And I want them to know that there is still good in this world. That sometimes a great conversation and even a friendship can be born out of talking with strangers. But only if they know how it must be done—with caution and wisdom. And those are the things that I want to build into them and give them a chance to observe now, while they are near.


A couple of weeks ago I read this story from a woman about when her two sons were approached by strangers—the dangerous kind. These two young boys were well prepared with sound wisdom in how to identify good strangers from bad strangers—and that knowledge saved their lives.

I had also just read this story from a mom who lost her daughter for 15 minutes. Because of conversations they had prior to the event, this young girl knew exactly what kind of strangers she needed help from in order to locate her mom.

I think we go amiss if we teach our kids to not talk to strangers. Because one day they might need a stranger. And that’s why it is so important that we teach them not only what kind of strangers to stay away from—but what kind of strangers are ok.

That is why I love these two books that I came across while reading those stories. No Trespassing—This Is My Body, and Super Duper Safety School, are incredible resources for you to talk through scenarios with your children in a way that won’t gross them out or terrify them—but will instead empower them.


These books show them exactly how to identity a “Tricky Person”—one that could be dangerous, and how to stay safely away from them. They also show them how to identify safe adults, if they need help. Further, they show kids how to talk these things through with their parents or another safe adult, if something makes them feel uneasy, frightened, “or just plain yucky”.

Knowledge is powerful–powerful enough to save our children’s lives. As Patti Fitzgerald (author of these books and founder of Safely Ever After, Inc) , puts it: “REMEMBER: The ONE thing that deters a child predator or a molester is the possibility that they could get caught….If they think your child is confident enough to recognize thumbs down behavior, or may speak up, you significantly lower the risk of being their target!”

Let’s equip our children with that knowledge and confidence.

These books open up and guide the conversations that could save our children’s lives. They are most certainly a new part of our regular reading list—and I’d love to make them a part of yours, too!

Enter below to win a free copy of both No Trespassing—This Is My Body, and Super Duper Safety School.


Giveaway has now ended. Thanks to all who participated! Check back for our next book giveaway soon!

936Pennies Family Living With Intention Parenting

What Is In Your Child’s Hands Today?

March 14, 2016


He takes my hand in his and gives it two gentle squeezes, and I forget all else going on in that moment. I look at him quizzically; he seems to hang on to every one of my words these days. Two days before I had squeezed his own hand in mine, and he had asked me why. “It’s a way to tell someone that you love them, without using words. It shows them that you are thinking about them.”

He quickly adopts this as a new form of communication, surprising me with hand squeezes while we’re in the car, out on a walk, and running errands; a constant reminder that he’s thinking about me, his hand memorizing the feeling of my own.


In the coming weeks I find myself more and more aware of what is occupying my boys’ hands. I read it in Rachel Macy Stafford’s book, Hands Free Life, “I want my daughters to remember holding our cat, Banjo; a wooden spoon to form cookie dough; musical instruments; books; bike handlebars; ladybugs; seashells; and especially my hand in theirs.”

I read her words as I sit out on our back deck, watching my boy, nearing five years old, practicing his grip on an old tennis racquet, maneuvering it just right to hit a plastic ball across the yard.


Stafford continues in her book, “Because my actions greatly influence their actions, I make it a priority to exercise daily, go outside, and do things with my hands like baking and reading books.”

I’m thankful today that my boy sees my hands occupied with the pages of a book, a pen, and my journal; and in a few minutes, with a tennis ball as I join him in the yard. I know that many times—too many times—they see my hands busying themselves in a cadence across the laptop keyboard, or they watch my thumb dancing across the screen of my smart phone. And yes, the work is important, but I have to ask myself, do they see my hands wrapped around technology more than they see them fingering the pages a book, sprinkling cinnamon sugar over muffins, or wrapped around their Daddy’s hand?


What our children observe our hands holding day in and day out will greatly determine what they decide to busy their own hands with. What might begin to change if we started taking note of what occupies our hands most?

I want my children to know well the slight cramp of thumb and wrist after gripping a marker or paintbrush, as they splash color across a blank canvas. I want them to know the feeling of both bread dough and garden soil caked underneath their fingernails. When their hands slip into mine, I want to feel their small calluses from swinging on the monkey bars and pulling each other around the yard in the wagon.


I want them to be well acquainted with the feeling of craft glue dried onto the tips of their fingers. I want their fingertips to know the softness of bird feathers, and the prickles of pine needles. I want them to know how to hold a pea pod between their hands, and slice it open with their thumb nail to get at the peas inside. I want them to memorize the perfect hand placements, and how to grip the branches just right to scale the tree at their favorite park.

Most of all, I want my children to know the assurance found in the slight squeeze of my hand around theirs, a silent reminder that I love them, and am thinking about them right there in that moment; and that I wouldn’t rather my hand be busy with anything else.


Today may we all pay a little more attention to what we occupy our hands with; choosing to fill them with the very things we hope our children will wrap their own hands around. May we be the ones to model what is truly important in life, by what we choose to grasp within our palms.


As Stafford says it so well, “Today I want you to remember my open hands—not my multitasking hands, the ones too full, too busy, too pushy to gently tuck your hair behind your ear. I want to love you by opening my two empty hands.”

Empty hands are hands that are ready to receive, whether it be that craft project they are so proud of, a bouquet of wild flowers gathered from the yard, or their own little hand in yours. What will fill your hands today?


Adventure Motherhood Parenting

When I Decided To Let My Kids Do Dangerous Things

March 9, 2016


The garage door across the street begins to slowly crawl upwards, revealing two sets of feet. They walk towards each other, and as the door opens fully, I see them embrace. It’s difficult to tell with the helmet around his head, but he looks young. She looks older, and nervous.

He climbs onto the motorcycle, and I continue to push the baby forward in the stroller, but my other two boys stop me. They stand ten feet behind me, transfixed on the scene across the street. My eldest does not divert his gaze as he tells me, “Mom, we need to see how fast he goes.” I stop, and I too become engrossed, but for a different reason. He pushes the bike backwards with his feet, slowly away from the house and onto the street. She steps forward hesitantly, blowing him a kiss and then hugging herself as she backs into the garage, her eyes still on him as he speeds away.


I am overwhelmed by the emotions that flood over me as I observe her watching her son. I picture my own boy on that motorcycle, his safety completely out of my control. And then I see myself at ten years old, walking into my home after a week with my grandparents to find my mom and dad in casts and stitches, road rash painted across them from the motorcycle accident that almost took them from us. I push the thought out of my mind as I take my boys’ hands and we cross the street.

An hour earlier on the playground I was climbing high on the ropes when my boy told me, “Mom, you can’t do that. It’s dangerous.” I smiled down at him, and told him he could climb too. “It’s ok to do dangerous things sometimes, if you’re very carful.” I tell him. Of course, this is before I witness the woman across the street watching her boy ride off on his motorcycle. She may be braver than I will ever be.


For months now as we have prepared for our move to the mountains, I have prayed countless prayers for my boys’ safety. We moved here for adventure; to give them all the opportunity we can to chase the beauty of God’s creation, to push themselves to new limits, to discover new strength, to learn how to watch out for each other, and to realize how small they are, and how large this world is. All the while, I knew that my very reasons for wanting to bring them here are also the very reasons I am most afraid of.

All of these things that we long for them to experience require an element of danger. And it has been a very real struggle of mine to trust that God will protect my boys as they venture out into His dangerously beautiful earth. But if I shelter them from all of the danger, I will be simultaneously keeping them from many of the most beautiful places on earth. I will be inhibiting them from experiencing awe and wonder. I will be holding them back from knowing and worshiping God in a very intimate way. And that would be something I would always regret.


For now while they are four and two and not even one, we will hold hands while we teach them about snakes and lions and unpredictable weather and not going too close to the edge. But I know that the day will come when it will become my turn to stand by and watch. And I will need to trust that what we have taught them will ring true in their hearts as they go about their adventures—the adventures we intentionally made a part of them by bringing them here.


Today my boy scaled the rope gym at the playground, and as he did so, I stared off at the 14,000 foot mountain peak behind him, knowing that one day that summit will become his playground. The thought makes my heart burst with both fear and pride. Fear for the day when his safety will be completely out of my control, and pride in knowing that climbing those heights will become so much a part of who he is.

Because the years spanning from now until then will be full of encouraging the wild in his heart, not stifling it. They will be marked by intentional teaching about how to be safe amongst the wild beauty of this planet, all while giving him and his brothers every opportunity to experience that beauty in its fullness, and coming to know the One who created it, and who created them with an innate need to explore their world, even when it holds a bit of danger.


Faith Family Parenting

The Day I Yelled Twice

January 18, 2016


Backing out on the gravel drive, I breathed one last quick prayer, that all of my crazy effort to deep clean the house over the past two hours would pay off. That we would finally get an offer. As I prayed, my heart ached with regret. The past fifteen minutes had been ugly. The volume and tone of my voice aimed at my sweet boys had gone completely against the words I had copied down in my journal the morning before,

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

(Proverbs 12:18)

I had thrust the sword.


I slowed the car and pulled over to the curb. Turning off the engine, I glanced at my side mirror before opening the door and winding my way around to the other side of the car. When I opened his door, he was bouncing his cars up and down on his lap—unaware of my shattered spirit.

I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his little chest. Then I pulled back and looked straight into his eyes; my own began to water. “I am so sorry, Buddy. I am so sorry that I yelled. I know that I was stressed and trying to get the house ready, but I should not have yelled at you. That was wrong. I was wrong. I’m sorry.” He looked at me with his eyes sparkling, and he hardly gave his answer a thought before replying, “It’s so ok Mom. And you are very pretty.”

I thanked him before softly closing his car door, and then making my way to his brother’s side to make my second apology. And then I climbed back into my seat, started the engine, and we made our way towards the park. They had forgiven, and I willed myself to do the same; to forgive myself for the harshness in my quick, sharp words.

Yet that was only my first yell. The second came minutes later.


I hoisted the car seat up and out of the middle of the back seat. My infant boy squinted his eyes against the bright sunlight. As I lowered the carseat into the stroller, I did what I had done countless times before, and sent the bigger boys ahead to the playground a few hundred feet away. I shoved my bag into the bottom of the stroller, pulled on my hoodie, and gave the baby his bottle, and then we made our way toward the swings to meet the boys.

As I came around the big red slide, something did not set right. My boys, always right there busy at play, were not. I looked up from the swing set  and caught a glimpse of my eldest boy. His white-blonde hair shimmered in the afternoon sun—almost as bright as the thin layer of ice on the pond that he was standing next to, just a foot away.

My heart stopped in my chest. And this is when I yelled for the second time that day—only this time my voice was high and tight with panic. “Zeke! Zeke come here now!” His little brother stopped, about a hundred feet away from the pond himself, and turned back towards me. My eyes remained fixed on Ezekiel as he turned to me, then back to the thin layer of ice. I prayed he would not trust it.

Come here, my boy. Don’t trust it. Trust me.


I continued to yell, and then exhaled as he began jogging back towards me, away from the ice.

When he was still thirty feet away from me, I calmed my shaky breath and addressed him sternly, “Do you ever, ever go by the water alone?” I asked it short and sharp. Loud. Intense. He looked down to the grass. “No…” he answered softly. He looked up, noticing my eyes beginning to fill with tears. “Why not, Mama?” he asked. I tried to gauge whether he could handle my next words, and decided that he needed to hear them. “The ice is not strong, Love.” My voice was choppy as I choked out the words. “It will break, and you will fall through. If you fall in the water you could die.”

I then wrapped him as tightly as I could into my arms as he buried his tears into my chest. “You scared me, Zeke.” my own tears mixed with his. “It scared me too!” he wailed. And I knew that we both had much to learn from this.


There is a place for raised voices. There is a place for yelling; to turn a child away from danger, and guide them back to safety. I yelled twice on that day. One warranted, one not. One yell evoked pain, and one brought life.

As a mother, the temptation to yell can be fierce and persistent and can seem impossible to control. But if I fail to harness to power of my yell—if I use it where it has no place, then it might just lose its power when I need it. When there comes a time when my child is in danger, and my raised voice induces no alarm because I have abused its power—that is where tragedy may strike.


Let it be my prayer—let it be all of our prayers as parents—that we will not abuse the power of a yell. That we will not speak harshly except where harsh words have their place. That the hard words will be said only when they give life, not take it. 

Let us be careful to raise our voice only once—when it will be a “fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 13:14)