NOT Smarter Than a Preschooler

I got called out.

By my 3-year old.


First, it was at his older brother’s birthday party.

When one of the party goers needed to visit the restroom, my youngest tagged along and watched me wait outside the door to escort them back. Apparently, he decided to give himself the duty, because the next time someone asked, he ran forward saying, “I’ll take you to the bathroom. Follow me!”

I trailed after them and saw him point out the bathroom, then wait in his assigned spot. When I approached to join him, he put out his hand like a stop sign.

“Mama! I got this.”

Huh. I guess he told me. Someone wants to be a big boy.

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My second “schooling” by my toddler was this weekend.

I was in the cleaning frenzy mode. My home dirty disaster meter was going off. It was time to reset it for another week with a good Pick n’ Scrub. You know…where before you can even think of scrubbing the house clean, you have to pick up like a 1,000 things. 🙂

I was mopping the tile floor and warned my youngest to stay off until it was dry. He argued that it was safe because he had bare feet, not socks. I explained it was still slippery with bare feet, but he wouldn’t take my word for it.

Sure enough, he slipped and landed on his bottom. Now I didn’t come right out and say ‘I told you so,’ but I may as well have.

Are you okay? That’s why I wanted you to stay off, honey. Did you hurt anything?

Yes, my bottom, he said.

Okay, it may sting a little now, but it’ll go away quickly.

I went back to finish mopping. That’s when the water works started.

Mama…mama…mama…he kept saying.

What? I answered.

I fell.

Yes, I know, honey, but there’s nothing I can do to make it better.

And the very second the words were out, I thought, Well, how stupid am I.

And that’s when my 3-year old pointed out the obvious.

Mama…just…just give me a hug or something.


I propped my mop against the wall and immediately hauled him up in my arms. I nuzzled his neck with kisses and hugged him close. The water works immediately stopped and he went off to play.

Jeez, just last week I vowed to fill this house with more hugs, and here I almost missed just such an opportunity.

In these two instances, my son reminded me that he struggles between being a big boy and still being my baby. One minute he wants to be twice his age and the next he’s needing reassurance. Sometimes they can’t make up their minds.

But that’s okay, because neither can we.

I wish they’d grow up. I don’t want them to grow up. I wish they’d grow up. I don’t want them to grow up.

When my youngest crawls in my lap and begins to play with the ends of my hair, I can’t help but wish he would stay this small, cuddly being that makes me feel cherished with a simple hair twirl.

Yet, when he throws a toddler fit about putting on his own shoes, I roll my eyes.

When my oldest lays his head on my shoulder while reading stories at night, I know one day he’ll no longer ask me to read with him, and I’ll miss it terribly.

Yet, he drives me crazy when he thinks he knows more than I do about…everything.

When they want to grow up too quickly, we want it to slow down. Other times we forget that they’re still so young.

Here’s all we really need to remember.

Even as you let go with one hand, always keep the other one within reach.

What my 3-year old reminded me was to keep my eyes and ears open. Not only for when he still needs me, but also when he thinks he doesn’t. At those times, I will be there anyway.

And there will probably be times he should be given more freedom, but I’ll still want to feel needed. It’s a give and take.

One where I’ll always be ready to give.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

— Denis Waitley, writer

Dear God, grant me the wisdom to know when to let go and when to hold on. When to keep my tongue and when to share my stories. When to lift them from a fall and when to wait as they pick themselves up. Help them grow to be confident, loving, compassionate, independent, and faithful. And as I grow older…even as their manly hands engulf my small, wrinkled ones…please never, ever let my failing mind rob me of the precious memory of their little hands in mine. It’s a feeling I want to hold on to forever.

Role #226: Stress Ball

I was lying in bed, debating whether to get up or give myself 5 more minutes, as my toddler headed to the bathroom.

That’s when I heard the sound.

Not so much a tinkling in a small pool of water like I was expecting.

More like a hose spraying the side of the house.

Oh yeah.

A groan escaped me. I went to investigate. With a click of the light switch, there it was. A lovely pool of yellow on my tile floor with a thorough spray spanning the wall.

Someone had missed the toilet…completely.

43 - stress

Mind you, this is highly unusual. I have just about the best 3-year old pee-er in the universe. How do you spell pee-er? That’s probably not a word, but I want to use it. 🙂

My toddler never fails to lift both lids, meaning he even lifts the seat. Bless him. He always flushes. And get this…he even uses a small tab of toilet paper to wipe the rim. See, he should get a reward or something!

But this morning went a little awry. Maybe he was tired, maybe he had to go too quickly. I don’t know. But there was a mess to clean up before I even got out of bed. Ugh.

After clean-up, I noticed the toilet was now backed up with too much toilet paper. Oh, did I do that? In fact, it was near the rim, ready to overflow. So I grabbed the plunger. It’s one of those rubber kinds. Have you ever had the rubber part flip the wrong side out? Yep. That happened. And when I tried to flip it back, can you guess what came next?

Toilet water sprayed all over the same wall. I had to clean it twice.


It can take on many forms.

Now this potty accident didn’t really stress me out. It just wasn’t a great way to start the morning.

But countless things throughout our day can create stress.

Some days it’s a true battle. It can feel like the world is on our shoulders. Not the whole world, but our own little worlds – the worlds of our families. And we “moms” typically have a hand in most of it.

For example, we’re often the planners, schedulers, and timekeepers. Do you ever feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, constantly checking his pocket watch?

When I pick you up after school today, we need to move quickly to get to your haircut appointment and then make it home in time to finish dinner before 6:00.

Honey, I’ve ordered the cake from the grocery store, the balloons from Party City, and sandwiches from Subway. We need to pick them all up on Saturday before the birthday party. Can you help with that?

Those are just 3 roles we take on – there are countless others.

CEO. Nurturer. Teacher. Personal Shopper. Nurse. Maid. Seamstress. Mrs. Fixit. Referee. Personal Chef. Accountant. Judge. Head Cheerleader. Taxi Driver. Mediator. Speech Specialist. Vacation Coordinator/Tour Guide. Secret Keeper. Errand Runner. Family Therapist. Laundry Operator. Search & Rescue (for lost things). Event Coordinator. Safety Patrol. Bodyguard. Wardrobe Stylist. Personal Assistant for the whole family…

I’m not sure the list ends, really. The good thing is most days we don’t realize all the roles we play. They just all get wrapped up into our awesome Mom-ness.

But I recently added a new one to the list, one I’d never considered before. Not until I looked at the world from someone else’s perspective.

Stress Reliever.

We tend to focus on the stress we have. But recently I stopped to think about the stress in my child’s world.

As soon as my oldest wakes, he’s on the clock to get ready to go out the door. Did you brush your teeth? Don’t forget your snack. Please double check that I initialed your assignment book.

Each day at school he’s learning brand new things. At the same time, he must navigate expectations…from the teachers, his friends, and me.  Remember to take the sign-up sheet home with you tonight. Make sure you find me on the playground. Don’t forget to look for your lost boot.

After school, the learning and reminders don’t end. At home, we take our role of teacher pretty seriously, wanting to prepare these young ones to become the well-mannered and conscientious adults we wish them to be. Treat your brother the way you would want him to treat you. After dinner, you need to do your homework. Do you have gym shoes for tomorrow?

So often I feel like such a nag. Do you?

After a full day of being instructed, guided, scheduled, and reminded – don’t we all need a break?

When you think about it, our kids are doing battle every day, too. It’s just a different kind.

Part of our job is to offer a place to relax, refresh, and recharge after a stress-filled day – it’s called home. And here’s how I’m going to help de-stress my kids.

Hugs. Home starts within our arms. It’s a place of comfort and safety. In fact, I read that children need a minimum of 8 touches a day to feel connected. So I’m going to dish out the hugs as often as possible.

Off time. There needs to be time to slow down. I’m going to omit things from the schedule when we can; after all, some of it is by choice. And while there’s value in order and routine, we can benefit from breaking up the schedule, too. Like when I spontaneously went strawberry picking last year. BTW, Best. Afternoon. Ever.

Music. Stress releases cortisol in our bodies, but too much can tax other parts of our body, like our immune system. Music has been studied to bring our cortisol levels back to normal. While it hasn’t been confirmed, I think many of us would agree that listening to soft music or nature sounds can offer relaxation. So when I think our brains are on overload, it’s time to change the channel to some tunes. And don’t discount the stress relief of an impromptu dance party!

Empathy. When I’m stressed out, I rely on my friends. They listen with true interest, offer advice, or just let me vent. Our kids haven’t quite developed these types of relationships yet…where they can let their true emotions show. But we can be that ear and shoulder. Empathy for what they are experiencing will let them open up rather than bottle it up.

As much stress that falls on our shoulders, we have the power to lift it from our kids.

With more “grown-up” demands than ever, kids today need us not just to teach, guide, and mold. But also to learn how to shut things off. Use silliness to release tension. Find stillness in this world of constant stimulation. Slow down enough to open up about fears, worries, and sorrow. To just be ourselves. Without demands. Without judgement. Just be.

By creating a haven at home, we can help lift their stress as we lift their hearts.

So come on, boys, give me a hug! Didn’t you hear? I’m your personal stress ball. 🙂


Make Smiling Your Favorite

Over the holidays, we enjoyed one of our favorite movies, Elf. There’s a scene that always makes me chuckle.

The department manager sees Buddy’s big grin and asks, “Why are you smiling?”

“Smiling is my favorite,” he says with joy.

The department manager scowls, “Make work your favorite. Work is your new favorite!”

Work is certainly important. I happen to be in a very busy time at work right now, which has prevented much else, including writing my blog. Sorry.

As I’m working, whether it be for my job or at home, my face appears pretty serious. After all, I’m an introvert, so I’m all about the internal processing. With an unsmiling face, I’m usually working things out in my mind or even just recharging. It has nothing to do with what or who’s around me.

Now I know we don’t just walk around smiling all the time. That would be exhausting! Okay, it seems like some people do this, and they’re awesome! But I would be wiped out.

But I realize this can be a problem…forgetting to smile. And though family tops the priority list, I’ve noticed it missing at home.

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As I’m recovering from a long day at work, or mentally checking my to-do list, or sorting through laundry, I’ve got that serious grimace face.

So one random day, I tracked the number of times I caught myself smiling. It was six. Six, people! So not good. I’m hoping I just missed some.

I even noticed once when I gave encouragement, “Hey, you did a really good job of…,” I still remained straight-faced. Hmmm.

It got me thinking. When my kids are not with me, and picture their Mom, what does that picture in their head look like? Am I smiling in that picture? If not, this was definitely worth changing.

I remembered a company that uses unconventional methods to measure their business success. The customer service team measures success by number of smiles. Not the number they give…they measure success by the number of smiles received. How appropriate!

I decided to try this approach at home. Track the number of smiles I receive from my kiddos. If I didn’t get many, I would purposely smile at them…even for no reason whatsoever.

Being a mom feels like being a servant at times, am I right? With little gratitude along the way. Our brain is constantly processing all we need to do, and we sometimes forget what our faces look like while thinking. Or at least I do.

Reminding myself to be like Jesus, I imagine he always has a smile for children. And one way we can serve God is by serving our children. Doing it with a smile makes such a difference.

     “Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.” 
                                       Proverbs 15:30

So I started smiling as often as possible, while doing chores, answering the kids’ requests, getting dinner made…

What an improvement smiling made. Not only with them, but also in my own perception of the day.

I’ve even found that a smile can make the difference between a command and a request, resulting in acceptance versus rejection. In fact, I took this a step further by combining a smile with super positive and unexpected words.

Here’s my new trick. When I want to get my kids’ attention, I say with a big smile on my face, “Beautiful faces!”

They turn, and beam up at me. I ask for a favor. It could be to pick up their puzzle pieces, or put away their breakfast dishes. So far, I keep getting the response I’m looking for – immediate action with no complaints.

I see the difference a smile can make. And it’s the lasting impression I want in my kids’ memories when they think of me.

Today, I asked my toddler, “When is your Mom happiest?”

He answered, “She smiles when she says, ‘Beautiful faces.’” Yes!

A constant smile for my greatest treasures (my kids) is a smile worth seeking.

Today, make smiling your favorite. 🙂

Time Should Be Wasted

Time is a precious thing. There’s never enough of it.

I manage life like each passing minute needs to be tackled. Gotcha! I knock it to the ground, clutch it in my sweaty hands, ground it together with the other minutes I snatched, and hope I can get a full ½ hour to vacuum and mop the kitchen floor until it gleams like an ice sculpture.

Not buying the gleaming floor? Yeah, I just want to remove the crumbs I keep picking up with my bare feet. Ick!

I took some extra time from work while school was out. I dreamed up all the things I could get done.

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The house would be neat and tidy for full consecutive days because I would have time to keep up with it. Did I really think that?

I’d place wonderful new meals on the table. Everyone would come running, take a whiff of delicious aromas, and mumble ‘Thank you, Mama’ while stuffing their faces. But they like ham and cheese sandwiches.

The laundry would be completely caught up, folded, and put away. With just one or two things added to the basket each day, I could forgo the next load of wash for at least a week. Yeah, I’m still laughing at this one, too.

I realized I wouldn’t get these wishes for Christmas. But I did have extra time. What could I cross off the to-do list? What could I catch up on? What sense of accomplishment could I achieve? How best to use this extra time?

Waste it.

Yes, you heard that from me. Just like many of you, a woman who never has enough time to get things done. And when she finally has a little extra, she wants to waste it? Yep!

I wasted a couple hours watching APL’s River Monsters with my older son. We both found the episodes on eels and sawfish interesting. It was finally some down time from the decibel levels of play, and I got to witness his brain at work as we wondered about the things we saw.

I wasted more time looking through old home decor magazines. Even though I saw them before, I still enjoyed the eye candy. And now I get to treat a friend to them next.

I took my time on a new project: designing a desk for my son. I hand washed the plastic drawers I bought at a garage sale last summer, removing the old sticky labels with Goo Gone. I used the lazy action to visualize my design and work through how best to execute it.

There’s so much I should be doing. Catch up on the Shutterfly albums I’ve neglected. I’m over a year behind right now – ugh! Figure out why some of the basement lights aren’t working. Look for more recipes to try with the family. Find ways to promote my blog.

But I didn’t feel like it. In the words of a friend of mine that very week, “I have a huge case of the, I don’t wanna’s.” I felt the same, and I think I know why.

Rest is a basic need. It’s next to air, water, and food at the base of Maslow’s hierarchical triangle of fundamental needs.

Without doubt, our Father knows how important it is.

     “In vain you rise early and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat – for He grants sleep
to those He loves.”
                                       Psalm 127:2

I get two things from this verse. First, that when we live a life with God, He will give us rest when we need it. And second, that we should take it. He’s giving it to us for good reason.

It’s not just physical rest that we need. Possibly even more important in today’s technology-driven world is the mental rest we all need. Our brains need the down time.

Time to let our thoughts wander, work out problems, or dream of new things. Time to connect with Him to make sure we stay on track. Time to connect with our loved ones to make them feel what they are..the most important part of our lives.

Even time to do nothing.

Or what seems like nothing, but is actually something.

Like write out a pretend check to the wildlife store to buy two cute little bear cubs and take them home to raise myself. Their idea, not mine. Thank goodness they’re already potty trained. 🙂

And then build a nest of fur and grass with a fuzzy green blanket to put my little bear cubs down for a nap like they asked. Bummer! It was only a pretend nap.

What seems like wasting time to us is the time our kids treasure most.

It’s back to the grind now, where I’m snatching time to get things done in the midst of work, school, and everyday routine. So now’s my chance to waste some of it.

In fact, I think the bear cubs need some air. We’ll surface from the den and slide down the driveway a bit. Then I’ll waste some time frying up some salmon from the river. Good thing they like Goldfish crackers!

How will you waste time this year?

Up Close and Personal

UPDATE: Since writing this post, our local police department shared information that many of these panhandlers are frauds, often turning down job offers or offers to take them to homeless shelters, and consciously choose to live this lifestyle. Although panhandling is legal and I may have fallen for a fraudulent one, I won’t let it dampen what I did. The spirit of giving is still worthy. I’ve also shared this with my son so that he can be aware of the best and safest way to help those in need: give to our local charities, warming shelters, and food pantries. May you continue to bless others through giving.


I did something I’ve never done before.

I responded to a homeless man’s plea.

My older son and I were waiting at a stoplight. The traffic was evidence that Christmas is just 2 weeks away. A man with a cardboard sign stood at the corner of my left turn lane. I didn’t make the green light, so I was now stopped directly next to the man.

I admit I didn’t read his whole sign. I tend to avert my eyes.

And that day I asked myself why. Why do we pretend they aren’t there? Why do we assume someone else will take care of it? Why do so many cars drive right by?

Then, my signal turned green, and countless cars behind me were ready to go.

As I drove away, I was itching for action. I asked my son if he saw the man. He had. I asked if he read the sign. He did not.

I told him the words I had caught while glancing at it.




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I remember my first trip to a big city. I was warned by someone familiar with the area not to make eye contact with the beggars on the street. That they would take advantage of anyone who responded, that they might even steal or harm someone.

I do not live in a big city. Seldom do we see beggars on the street. There are absolutely homeless in our city – I’m not naïve in thinking there aren’t – but they are often not in view of everyday life.

I am a safety girl at all times. But this seemed like an act of kindness that would cause no risk to me or my child. God must have been speaking to my heart. And it was an opportunity to actionably share something important with my son.


[Me: Do you think we should help him?]

[Him: Yes.]

[Me: Really?] I think I still needed a little encouragement.

[Him: Yes, Mom. His kids need help, too.]

[Me: Let’s give him something he could definitely use then.]

We stopped up the road at a convenience store. I wasn’t sure how long the man planned to be there, nor how long it would take him to return to his family, nor what kind of situation he was in. So we grabbed essentials that could be outside and could be used without modern conveniences like microwaves and the fridge. A loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, bunch of bananas, and applesauce packets. I prayed no one had peanut allergies.

With a small bag of what felt much less than I hoped it would mean for him, we turned around.

We got back in that left turn lane, along with the countless shoppers. I worried he wouldn’t see me because I noticed before that his eyes remained downcast, as though ashamed of being there, holding his sign.

This time, we were stopped about 4 cars up. I rolled down my window and wondered how to get his attention. He was on the move this time, nearing car #2 who he must have thought was going to offer something, but when they didn’t roll down their window, he waved apologetically and started to return.

I waved frantically out my window. He came toward us, and I handed the bag to him.

“Could I give you this?” I asked.

He answered, “Yes. Bless you.”

I added, “I hope it helps.” Because, honestly, it was so very little, I was embarrassed.

He said, “It does. It really does. Everything helps.” I felt miserable for him. How hard it must be to swallow your pride.

Before he returned to the end of the street, he said to me, “It’s people like you that make me proud to be a Marine.”

I teared up and wondered at his situation. It would take extremely dire circumstances to find ourselves begging, wouldn’t it? But wouldn’t we do that for our families if we had no other means? Honestly, homelessness could happen to any one of us. All it takes is a lost job, months of bills that can’t be paid, and no family or friends to bail us out. Any one of us could be in his shoes.

How fortunate for those of us that aren’t. We are truly blessed.

I am thankful for the opportunity for my son to see compassion at work. I am thankful that God must have tugged at my heart to take action this time.

     “Give to the one who begs from you, and
do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
                                       Matthew 5:42

I pray our small bag of food was useful. I pray others offered him something, too.

But more than anything, I pray it gave him HOPE. Hope for tomorrow, for his family, for their future.

That night, my son prayed for the man. Then he looked to me.

[Him: I think he really was homeless, Mom.]

[Me: Why do you say that?]

[Him: Because his coat was torn.]

Bless my son’s innocence. And bless the message I was able to share with him that afternoon. I knew he would not forget the decision we made. I hope the up close and personal experience builds compassion in his heart.

And I pray my heart doesn’t forget compassion the next time someone needs it from me.

Bless all of you who work up close and personal every day with those in need. Bless each man and woman who serves our country. And bless the man who graciously took the small bag of hope I offered.

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