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?

Listening to Heartbeats

Falling short of the loving, though not perfect, parent my kids deserve does not express how much I realize what a gift He’s given me. Because they truly are a gift.

Here’s a look-back at my discoveries in 2015 from looking a little closer in the rear-view mirror and listening a little closer to my heart.

2015 Heartbeats List_FINAL

Which is your favorite?

Please Let My Child Cry

This post has no eggnog. No holiday bliss. No ribbons and bows.

It’s not about making memories. It isn’t even very Christmasy.

This post is for those moms trying to shop while dragging little ones along.

And for the unfortunate shoppers around you during inevitable meltdowns.

Recently, my toddler formed this bad habit of saying “stupid” when he’s not happy. While it’s not the worst word in the world, we have been working diligently on his vocabulary choice.

It bubbled to the surface while grocery shopping, and I warned him that if he continued choosing to say bad words, he would not get the donut I offered earlier.

Well, guess what? He said it again. So I calmly told him we couldn’t get a donut. I encouraged him that next time he would use the right words and get a donut then.

Well, what do you think happened? Yep, meltdown.

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Now he doesn’t normally do this. Maybe it was close to naptime. Maybe it was too much shopping at once (I had already been to one other store). Who knows what triggered it, but it came on full force.

I’m pretty sure he complained “I want a donut” 27 times. I’m not even exaggerating. Some were small whines, some were unrecognizable with tears, and others were full-fledged shouts that bounced up and down every aisle in the store.

Imagine my embarrassment. Heading to the checkout lane with a full cart, I hesitated. Do I take him out of here and leave my cart, or try to get the groceries? I opted to check out, as I didn’t want the employees to have to return all my food. Plus, I needed the groceries.

Rather than throw my stuff on the conveyer belt, I moved quickly but calmly, to show him he wasn’t getting to me. But my toddler was not deterred. He can be pretty stubborn. I don’t know where he gets it. 🙂

Someone behind me hightailed it to a different checkout lane. I didn’t blame her.

I tried to talk to him, but honestly, he was in that zone. Do you know that zone? The zone of I’m-not-ready-to-be-calmed-down-yet. Heck, I’m not sure he could hear me through his repetitious, “I want a donut” cries.

So I focused on finishing my task and paying as quickly as I could.

“Would you like a candy cane?”

I whirled around when I heard this. Someone had approached him. An employee, I think.

“Oh, I’m sorry. He can’t have that.” I quickly said, handing the candy back to her. “He isn’t acting the right way.”

Please understand, I begged her silently. I’m sorry you have to hear his crying. You have no idea how sorry I am. And I know you’re just trying to help. But…

I can’t give in.

Besides the fact that I don’t want him thinking strangers are nicer than his mama, or heaven forbid, that he should ever accept candy from a stranger, he cannot be rewarded for his behavior. He didn’t get the donut for bad behavior, and ending up with a candy cane is not going to fix that.

I beg you, please just let him cry. Trust me, I know how hard it is.

Moms, I’m warning you now. You will have people give you dirty looks. Perhaps they’re thinking, Why can’t you make your kid shut up? I’m hoping those are the non-parents. But I guess it’s possible other parents’ kids don’t ever have meltdowns. Maybe?

As a parent, I would never judge, only look on with empathy and try to tell another mom that I understand.

In fact, several grocery employees, bless them, shared their understanding, when I said, “I’m sorry.”

The woman bagging my food looked at me. “Oh, don’t worry about it. We’ve all been there.” Then she added, looking at another counter, “Well, Shelly hasn’t yet, but she will soon,” she teased.

“Then I’m sorry for you, too.” I smiled at Shelly.

Because it will happen to most of us. At least once, probably more.

Dealing with meltdowns at home isn’t fun, but the ones in public are worse.

It’s because I love him dearly that I can’t give in. Even in public.

Adults can have meltdowns, too. We might not be repeating “I want a donut” over and over, but we may be thinking other things.

Like, why can’t I just go to the bathroom once by myself? Seriously, why can’t I be alone for two seconds?

Or, why can’t the house be free of clutter for more than a couple hours after I spent four cleaning it up?

Or, why do I have to ask hubby for some time to run errands while he grabs time whenever he likes – alone, mind you?

Rather than cry, whine, and kick our legs, we pout, disengage, or show our cranky selves.

It’s hard not to grumble once in a while. And while we may be justified in feeling slighted, or taken for granted, does it really make us feel any better? Does it improve our situation, or make it worse? Just as I tell my son his whining will only make things worse, I need to take my own advice. I need to take His advice.


     “A joyful heart is good medicine, but
a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” 
                                       Proverbs 17:22


So shoppers, store clerks, and anyone else around me, please understand. I’m not being mean. I’m not mistreating him. I’m trying to teach him right and wrong. And do my best to keep a joyful heart as I’m doing so.

So please just let him cry.

Next time I go to my grocery store, I think I’ll hand out candy canes to those employees who were so understanding.

Or ear plugs. They might be more useful. 🙂

Keeping Up (Whew!)

I will be age 59 when my youngest graduates high school.

Technically, that’s old enough to be his grandmother. Somebody’s grandmother. I have a friend my age who just became a grandmother. And I have a 3-year old.

Yes, I’m one of those parents. Old.

Hubby and I were married 10 years before welcoming our first child. No particular reason, we just waited. And when we started trying, it took a little time.

In a single day, my age was proven 3 times.

  1. I rose from my office desk, only to stop. I was forced to adjust my hip joint as it went out of whack. And then had to explain the loud pop to my cubicle neighbor.
  2. I had to ask my colleague to blow up the Word doc on her laptop so I could read the text. Otherwise, I would have had to crawl in her lap to see it.
  3. That night, a tiny piece of my front bottom tooth chipped off. WHAT??!? I’m pretty sure the soft burrito wasn’t to blame.

I’m falling apart. Where’s my proof of purchase? Can I trade parts like Wall-e? There’s still so much I want to do. I have a 3-year old, for goodness sake. How am I going to keep up with him?

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Physically keeping up is one thing; mentally is another. I had hoped that with age came experience, wisdom, and insight. But there’s so much about today’s world that I don’t understand. And I’m not sure how helpful my “wisdom” will be when I don’t know what I will end up seeing in this world…and what my kids will deal with.

Let’s face it, there are scary things out there. Of the human-kind. But I’m not treading that water, because that ocean’s too vast and deep.

So let’s look at just one aspect – technology. I can barely keep up with tweets, instagrams, and snapchats. What will it be like in 5, 10, 15 years? (In case you’re interested, here’s a cheat sheet of the top-used social media – http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/social-media-user-cheat-sheet/501627 – which I’m sure is already out of date!)

Technology brings so much into our homes, and not always what we need or want. At this age, I’m still trying to protect their innocence, give them a sense of security and comfort. Focus on teaching them values, beliefs, and morals to counteract the violence and hatred in the world.

Putting it into perspective, I should worry less about me growing older, and more about the outside world that is changing minute by minute.

I’m pretty sure my kids will forgive me if I can’t run around the bases without gasping for breath. I also hope they show patience as they try to teach me how to use the latest technology…maybe my new ApplePants where I surf the web with pocket sensors and view through a transparent eye patch. Just saying.

It’s not that far off. I read about a new smart garment that takes your measurements and uploads it to a website to ensure you’ll order the clothing size you need. It’s called LikeAGlove. Hopefully, it doesn’t talk, too. As you’re surfing a trendy shopping site, click on a pair of capris that look fabulous on the pictured model, and hear from your SmartPants, “Oh, honey, you’ll never fit into those.” 🙂

I can’t count on keeping up with technology. What I can count on is keeping up with my kids…through my heart. What will matter is how well I listen to their worries, how warm my hugs are, how much I care about what’s happening in their lives – and how the world impacts that – and how I securely plant them in God’s love.

We have no idea what the future holds. But God does. There is good around every corner of bad. He won’t give up on us, so I won’t give up on him. I must rely on him for the wisdom and truth I – and my kids – will desperately need as times change.


     If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you
must believe and not doubt, because the one who
doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed
by the wind. 

                                       James 1:5-6


In the meantime, I’m connecting to my busy boys’ hearts through play. I’m building (and crawling under) tents in the living room, riding bicycles up our inclined driveway (and welcoming going down), and dancing barefoot in the living room to the soundtrack of Home (despite my toddler stepping on me).

I’m getting in as much playtime now as I can. Before my pants tell me to get my butt off the floor because I’ll crack a hip!

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

Butterfly Heart

life in progress

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