Little Prince

An illustration of Prince as “The Little Prince.”

I think I have been mourning Prince’s death on April 21 of this year and am finally just coming to terms with it, or at least talking a little more about it rather than just playing his music over and over again with, let’s face it, very little repetition because he was so prolific.  I don’t know what to write about Prince and his death that won’t already have been written.  I knew the day he died at age 57.  And I find it strange that I’m still in mourning.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at the shock of his sudden death, though. Several people who were near and dear to me have died over the past couple of years, and they’ve died far too young, including my father’s younger brother, my Uncle Bill, this past summer.  And it seems that they all died without warning.  It’s making me face my mortality at a time when I should still be teetering between the excesses of youth and old age and having some sort of mid-life crisis.  David Bowie dying earlier this year really affected me too, but Prince, not Prince please!

I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I have grown into the woman I am today with the soundtrack of Prince throughout my life.  I was first introduced to his music by a high school boyfriend and it provided great make out music in my youth.  Beyond that, some days I would dance with joy to his music and celebrate life with passion and some days I would sit and listen to the lyrics of songs like Sometimes it Snows in April, and weep.

I was listening to that song the other day when I realized that he died in April and I couldn’t stop the sobs from shaking me.  The first time I heard that song, I was on the cusp of going to college and being out in the world by myself for the first time.  I cried then, too, but it was a gentle cry with a Demi Moore-like tear.  And it makes me wonder at how emotion resonates and grows deeper and more complex across the years because now the cry was a solid, deep, shaking ugly cry.  Great music, great books, and great art is like that.

And after this year and last, I am beginning to think that musicians have some sort of psychic ability to foresee their parting from this world – what with David Bowie’s last video – Lazarus – and then that song by Prince.  But the truth is – the great artists lay out the truth in their art – bone bare.  And the truth is that death comes to us all.  No one escapes it.  It is not elegant or charming.  It just is.

And our choice is whether we want to stop or keep going – and, hopefully, keep going like them – diving into life and everything it has to offer and offering all of our gifts up to the world.  I’m not sure what I have to offer.  I can’t play the many, many instruments that Prince could play or write my own music or lyrics.  And you probably don’t want me to even attempt his moves.  But I can give what is me.


Prince and I at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

So instead of sitting around crying to Prince songs, when I had the chance to visit some friends in Cleveland, Ohio, I decided to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to visit his memorial.  It wasn’t very big.  The docents or volunteers or groupies or whatever they call them said that most of Prince’s paraphernalia is at Paisley Park and being closely guarded by the family right now.  I understand that.  They must still be in shock at his sudden death.  It was still amazing to see his memorial and listen to his music and video and see his signature when he was inducted.  And to realize how he touched and influenced so many other artists because his voice was so unique and unexpected.

Maybe I’m panicked because I still feel like I’m a work in progress and I have soooo much to do.  Maybe I’m mourning because I still need to hear the deep, dark, dirty, bone bare Prince truth again and I want to be amazed by the new music he might have been creating and have it wash over me with wave after wave of cruel emotion and dancing thoughts.

So I think the best thing I can do to honor him is to tell the truth myself.  To just be me.  And to reach out to the world with what I can give.  What an incredible act of love it is to be creative and open yourself to the world – thank you so much Prince.  May God bless you and keep you close to him.  And I’d like to believe that there is one more amazing concert to go to in heaven.  But I’ll still miss you here on earth.

Giving “The (Sex) Talk”


I was thinking today about how lost I was as a newbie parent about having “The Talk” with my kids. I think this topic is a tough one for most parents. It’s hard to just suck it up and realize that your babies are actually growing up and might wander into this sex business someday.

My “Sex Ed” consisted of mostly what I learned from school in the 5th and 7th grade, an anatomy book, and a brief talk about waiting until marriage. The rest of my knowledge about my own sexuality came from my friends, reading and daydreams.

So when it came time to give my kids the talk, I was a little at a loss. I wasn’t really sure where to start. I thought about it and decided to start with an American Girl book The Care and Keeping of You:  The Body Book for Girls about the care of their changing bodies.

Then we had a talk about how babies are made along with a cool anatomy book. They have all seen me pregnant, so it was a natural extension of what was going on in real life. We went over what they were learning in school. In our school district, they sort of re-visit sex education every few years. And I just keep talking to them about their feelings and what they are going through as they get older and older.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I could add to the conversation that books and their classes at school couldn’t provide. But the more I kept the conversation open, I realized what they needed from me as a parent is my wisdom and moral compass. And really, just to know that I was there for them when and if they messed up.

So, we started talking about the internal and external pressures about sex and their bodies. I said that sometimes we confused love and physical affection, and that that was totally understandable because physical affection is awesome. We are wired for touch and procreation. And we are big huggers and kissers and snugglers in my family.

I think going against our natures and what God built us for is cruel and unusual and just plain wrong. That being said, there are natural consequences for every choice we make – pregnancy, STDs, broken hearts – the list goes on and on. And, as a caring parent, I really don’t want my kids to go through any of those things.  I want them to wait until they are with someone who loves them and respects them and will stick around through anything.  And I told them that this kind of relationship takes awhile to create.

So what we can do, what I am trying my best to do, is to explain how this mix of emotions, hormones and new experiences works and how to navigate it. And to be open and calm about any individual questions I receive. (Note to self: Try to do better at this, don’t freak out and *BREATHE*) After all, we each have our unique journey.

Wait a second. I’ve just realized that I still have to give my only boy “the talk” in a few years. Darn, just when you think you are on top of things! Wish me luck!

Shout out to my Awana Girls

awana girls

Some of my past Awana girls.

Every Wednesday I get to play!  And visit with some of the best little people I know – my Awana girls.  Awana is a national children’s and youth ministry program we run at my church and it makes me look forward to every Wednesday night.

Two of my daughters are involved as leaders and my son is served by the ministry, so it also has given us a chance to serve together as a family.  My daughters have had the chance to give a lesson in front of all of the kids and this has helped them to be more confident in their public speaking and teaching skills, as well as learn an added level of responsibility for those they have to teach.  And it has helped them examine their own faith because of the questions their kids have asked them.  It has done the same for me, and more.

Every Wednesday night and on Sunday mornings, I am greeted by my Awana girls (past and present) with wide open arms and a “Miss Lisa!” like I am some minor celebrity.  This use to surprise me a little, but now I match their unbridled enthusiasm and love on them right back.  They often tell me random things out of the blue about their families and lives and I get to practice my compassionate listening and unconditional love skills.  They often ask to sit on my lap, or lean against me, or hold my hand.  It’s like they instinctually know that one of my primary love languages is touch.

We get to have fun together during game time and prayer together.  And I really push them to ask questions about the Bible verses they have to memorize and the activities we do.  I find ways to give them positive re-inforcement for doing good work (the prize bucket) and push them to achieve – even when they don’t feel up to it.  I celebrate the small victories with them – winning at game time, finishing a section, or finishing a book.  And walk them through boo boos and losing.  And I get to watch them grow up and become more knowledgeable and grow deeper in their faith.  I can’t tell you what an immense privilege that is and how it makes my heart sing.

So, here’s a shout out to my Awana girls – thank you for being so fabulous!  And to their parents who take them every week and support their work at home.  It is so great to be able to be some small part of their lives and faith and it gives me such hope that there will be people in the next generation of great character and compassion.  They remind me over and over again of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:14  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  And when I am with my Awana girls, I get to view my faith with that same child-like wonder again.


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I was just thinking about how I could help other single parents out there.  You know, sort of a – what would I tell my younger self kind of thing?  And really, I’m not sure what to say.  I didn’t have much of a plan.  I never planned to be a single parent in the first place, but circumstances put me there.

I can’t believe it, but I first started out on my single parenting journey about 12 years ago.  I could argue that I was essentially a single parent for many years before that because my first husband was a workaholic who was largely emotionally unavailable.  Little did I know that he was doing his best to hide his intense mental health issues until he just couldn’t hold them in any longer.  I paid all of the bills, did the financial planning for the family, grocery shopping, cleaning, child care, household stuff and more both while staying at home for each of my children when they were very young and also as a working mother.  I guess it was a good rehearsal for what was to come.

Even when I asked him to leave, I expected that it would be a wake up call to get help.  I even called his family begging them to help him because it was growing increasingly more unsafe for him to be around us.  I didn’t think it was the end of our marriage.  Boy, I am slow sometimes.

I’ve known all kinds of single parents, though, coming from a divorce, choosing to have a child without a partner, widowers, and so on.  I don’t think it always matters how you get there.  I think you just have to understand that the task you have before you is almost impossible alone – and that’s why you have to build your chosen tribe to raise your child.

One of the things I really had a hard time learning was to ask for help.  Even if I did most everything when we were married, I still had another adult there sometimes for backup.  And he was a financial help, as well, because he worked.  Consider that asking for help is an amazing way to grow relationships with others and to maintain social ties.  Be sure to only ask people who you can trust and are already your friends and family, especially in that first year you are going through the transition to single parenting.  I call it the Wonderland year because everything is so topsy-turvy.

Get out and be social.  I don’t care how you do it.  Go to church, go to Meetups groups, take a salsa dancing class, bonfires with friends – the list goes and on and on.  But what’s important is that you engage with people and share.  You will be surprised and comforted by the stories you hear.  And you will find that your coupled friends won’t quite know what to do with you at first unless they are amazingly together and strong and have their wits about them.  They will be afraid it could happen to them.  And you will need support.  It’s another loss of sorts, but you have to move past it and know that this part of your life has changed and move on.

Get your financial house in order.  This part sucks, but if you can keep yourself sane financially, you will thank your future self so much.  Just when everything seems to be going crazy, do whatever it takes to set a budget that works for you, take on extra work, find different income streams or just find a good paying job.  Try to save as much as you can.  This needs to be a good strong foundation to help you accomplish greater goals.  If it is crumbling, it will be a great source of stress for your whole family.  Again, ask for help if you need it.  It’s not just you who will be affected anymore.

Take premium care of yourself.  Notice I did not just say – take care of yourself.  You have to do the job of many people – mom, dad, chauffeur, nurse, tutor, housecleaner, financial consultant – well, you get the picture.  You have to keep yourself in good fighting shape.  Delegate when you can.  Simplify…simplify more.  Find out what you can let go of to remain sane and happy.  Exercise, but not to the point of exhaustion.  Take a multi-vitamin and get good sleep.  Stay hydrated.  You know the drill.

This is just the beginning.  I have more brewing, but most of all I wanted you to know that while you are looking after your kid(s), you must remember that you are God’s child, too.

When you are in that first year of being a single parent, you are on an emotional precipice and roller coaster.  There will be the fear always looming of – how am I going to do this by myself?  What if I don’t have what it takes?  What if something happens to me?  What if something happens to my child?

And then there will be the moments where everything is right with the world and you know that there is nothing better you could be doing with your life.  And as you watch your kids travel down their own path and have the amazing opportunity to watch their own very different lives’ unfold before your eyes, feel privileged that you get to share in the journey.  And know that the burden is worth it, but it is not their burden – they can be freed into the world because of your good work.




Day of Rest – or why I am a hot mess


Me, without makeup, barely combed hair and wearing really old clothes.

I don’t know at exactly what point the change happened, but several years ago I decided that Saturday was going to be our family day of rest and that I was going to do my best to protect that day as such.  I wasn’t going to plan anything that wasn’t fun and we weren’t going to run around doing a lot of things we didn’t want to do.

You see, Saturdays use to be something very different for us as a family.  Saturday was the do all the errands you can, soccer games, shopping, and any household projects that needed to be done day.  We would all be working hard all week on our school activities, extracurriculars and work and would just push it further on Saturday.  I’m not sure why.  Some Puritan work ethic?  Peer pressure because everyone else around us seemed to be doing amazing things?  Internal pressure because we wanted to do amazing things?

I don’t know.  But it seemed that it made us more tired and cranky and somehow we got out of touch with each other and what we really wanted.  So I just stopped all that nonsense and said – let’s make this our day of rest because Sunday is all full of church stuff and socializing.  I started sprinkling errands during the week when I was going out anyway.  And letting go of my perfectionist tendencies to slow down and listen and be.

And our Saturdays have become a reflection of what a hot mess I have become. Today, I woke up to two of my kids fighting – Grace wanted Peter to help her clean out the car.  This normally would be so anti-day of rest that it’s not funny, but you’d have to know my Gracie girl.  She takes great joy in cleaning and organizing things – as long as I am not telling her to do it.  She likes to make things look pretty.

I was still so tired from our long week that I yelled at them from my bed and attempted to get them to come upstairs so I could see what was going on.  It took a little bit for both of them to straggle up, but they did.  They were both at fault, so I took Grace’s phone away and Peter’s screen time until they worked together doing a couple of chores – discipline is, unfortunately, still a thing on the day of rest.

In some pre-caffeine, half awake state, I gave them this lecture about how disappointed I was that they had gotten physical with each other and that they knew better.  I hugged both of them and said that I loved them, then asked them to hug each other.  They looked at me like I was crazy, but they know that I am crazy, so they relented.  They hugged each other quickly and I told them to hug for longer or I would make them walk around all day hugging each other.  This turned into a hilarious comedy bit about how they would eat and go to the bathroom and watch a movie.  I laughed so hard I cried.

I did actually take a shower and get dressed, which doesn’t always happen on the day of rest, but we had decided to go out of the house today.  We spent a little time watching Grey’s Anatomy and eating lunch, and then Grace and I decided to go out and get supplies for the bath bombs we were going to make.  We still need citric acid – oh cruel fate!  But I am determined to get some online this week to make our crafting dreams come true and to save us from our Lush addiction – a tiny bit anyway.

Then we went to pick up some of Grace’s friends and we all went to see God’s Not Dead 2 together.  I am writing this after dropping her friends back off at their houses and after my kids are in bed.  Well, my middle daughter may still be snap chatting – oh teenagers!

There was a scene in the movie that really hit me.  Melissa Joan Hart’s character was sure that she was going to lose her livelihood and everything she had with no hope that she could ever work in her chosen profession again and she cried out to God to help her.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in that place, especially as a single mom.  There was one particularly dark time about five years ago when I found out that my second husband was lying and cheating on me with several women and had become physically abusive, as well.  He promptly emptied out our joint bank accounts when I asked for a divorce.  I was a stay-at-home mom with  four kids, including our son who was a little over a year old.

I know I was in shock for a little while.  I was blessed with family support at that time, but it was a low time for me that slowly unravelled into a nightmare when he decided to team up legally with my first ex.  I’ll write about the nightmare that created for my kids at a later date.

During that time, I had difficulty getting a job where I had always had multiple offers because of my skill set before.  My self-esteem had taken a major blow already and this made it even worse.  I cried out to God and said – “Please God help me take care of my family.”  And he brought angels in the shape of my family, friends and strangers who helped me along the way.  Miracles happened.  I mean – someone bought me a car because my was old and run down!  I had people help with food and rent and a safe place for all of us to stay.  It was so hard for me to accept these gifts.  I was humbled and grateful and knew grace.

Five years later, I have climbed from that place through the power of grace.  And I am still a hot mess.

My house is a mess most of the time and – just forget about the car – it’s like we have a science experiment going on in there most of the time.  I rely on my phone and my kids to tell me where to go because my memory is shot from lack of sleep.  I am horrible at names for the same reason.  I wear clothes that are sometimes decades old because I haven’t had time to shop for myself in a while and selfishly because I have worn them down to a point of amazing comfort.  We really don’t have a lot of meals together as a family, it’s more like we snack together as a family.  And the snacks are sometimes warm.  We do read a lot, but that’s because books are scattered around the house.  I like to pray and sing and do a nighttime story with my youngest, but sometimes that doesn’t happen because we both fall asleep first on the weekend.  It’s really a miracle when a shower happens that lasts more than 5 minutes.  It’s like all the stars have aligned.  We do homework in the car – a lot – because we are in the car – a lot.  I still struggle with the fear of  how I am going to provide for my family.  I often sign permission slips in the car right before I drop my kids off.  I cry at everything.  And, well, you get the idea.

But while I am a hot mess, I also live in grace.  And I continue my prayers and my pleas to God to show me the way because – really – I am a big idiot who does not deserve all the amazing blessings I have.  Please, please do not look at me as an example.  I am just telling my story here – my truth.  I am a hypocrite and a sinner.

But look at these gifts.  I am sitting in front of a computer in a beautiful house right now.  My kids are safe and healthy and brilliant and amazingly talented.  And they make me laugh.  I have a job I love that pays well and is flexible so I can have more time with my family.  I have a great education and my oldest daughter is in college with a scholarship pursuing her dreams.  And, speaking of miracles – all of my kids like reading and two of them had straight As last quarter (one on the Dean’s list and well, one that is passing because our elementary school has no grades – lol).  My middle daughter is a middle school youth group leader like her older sister before her and both of my daughters and I have the time to volunteer as Awana leaders.  My son, who has mild Cerebral Palsy, has found a passion in Taekwondo that has been so good for him that his Physical Therapist said that he no longer has to have weekly physical therapy.  I could literally go on and on.

But the main point is that God has taken care of me and my family very, very well.  God is good.  And every time I worry about providing for my family or some bump in the road, I sit down and pray for guidance and intervention – which means I pray a lot.  And our Saturdays are a reflection of how God has answered me.  He said – slow down, spend time with your family, be present, REST, follow your dreams because I delight in what you delight in.  And I love the no makeup, barely combed hair, decade clothes wearing hot mess you are.

My Balancing Act


What does it mean to be a single parent? Or really any parent for that matter? I think it is a constant struggle for balance. I was just talking to my dad the other day about my parents experience in raising two children because he said (like many people do) – how do you do it? He told me about how both he and my mother struggled with finances and time and they were both working and taking care of us as a team. He knew how much work it was and couldn’t believe I was doing it all alone. And you know what? I’m not exactly sure how I do it either, but here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

Your kids are more capable than you think. For some reason, we have this odd notion as parents that we need to do everything for our kids. That we need to coddle them and that we are a better parent if we pack them organic lunches until they are 18. I don’t think this is true. Our job is multi-faceted, but I think one of the best things we can do is teach them how to do something and then let them do it. Chores are a blessing of teaching them real world skills so that they can survive in the world when they are on their own. Delegate tasks to your children. It will do them good and it will help you create and maintain balance in your home.

15 Minutes at a Time can make a huge difference. I definitely don’t have enough time in my schedule to do everything that I have to do. But I learned that I can take just 15 minutes and it makes a world of difference. In fact, it is a motivator. And I’ve taught it to my kids, too. Check things off your list 15 minutes at a time. Then take a break.

Organize yourself, and teach your children to get organized, too. My kids receive agendas from their school every year and they are taught to write down their homework assignments in every class. You will be the master organizer in your house with the Master Calendar. Teach your children to keep their own calendars. Each of my kids have their own online Google calendars. This is another life skill that will help you maintain your balance and sanity.

It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s really okay just to drop your perfection for a day because you are exhausted or sick. And who wouldn’t be? It’s essential to take breaks every once in a while. The trick is being easy on yourself and then picking it back up the next day. This is a trick that a lot of successful dieters use as well. You are only human. Forgive yourself and move on.

Give yourself an adult time out aka Have Fun!!! Don’t forget that you only have one life to live and you need to show your kids that being an adult isn’t only all about responsibility and work. You need time to just be yourself and not just Mommy or Daddy or employee or taxi driver. You need time to enjoy the fruits of all of your hard work.


I am the Human Development Poster Child

Sometimes I hate when all the ideas for things I want to write go swirling about in my head.  It’s like have the opposite of writer’s block.  Instead, I have writer’s flood.  There’s so much I want to write about.  So we’ll start with something that just happened yesterday.

fourmuskateersMy middle daughter, unlike my oldest daughter, was just asked to be someone’s girlfriend.  This has been in the works for a while.  She has seen it coming and they sort of eased into it.

This boy and she have been friends for a couple of years now and he asked her what she thought about going out a couple of weeks ago.  And she said that she needed time to think about it.  She didn’t want to ruin their friendship.  I think that was wise.  She polled me and many of her friends and even a girls she knew who had dated him before.  She took her time.  And yesterday, when he did the official asking out that she knew was coming, she was confidant in her decision to say yes.

And the really cool thing about all of this happening, besides me wondering at how wise she is and where she got that from, was that I have been right here all along while it was happening.  I know that a lot of parents are afraid of the teenage years and, although it has its moments of heartbreak, drama, strife and anger, it is actually an exciting time – so much changing so quickly.  And it feels really good as a parent that my daughter trusts me enough to ask for advice and to let me know what is going on.  This way I get to celebrate with her.  I hope that I am doing a good job of positively re-enforcing her to be able to freely share with me.

I didn’t get that chance with my oldest.  She kept a lot from me.  Maybe it was her more internal and secretive personality, maybe it was her ADD, maybe it was that she remembers the divorce between her father and I a lot more clearly because she was older and thought that opening up emotionally would be chosen sides or picking a favorite.  I don’t know.

But my relationship with my middle daughter is very different in this aspect.  I have learned to sit back and wait for my kids to say things first.  I always give a good morning and have a great day and a similar greeting after school.  And then I let them relax and tell me what they
want to tell me.  And we have good conversations this way.  If they are in a bad mood, I’ve learned not to ask questions and simply reply with a “Good” or “That’s interesting” until they have let everything out.  If they are in a good mood, we laugh and banter.  I love those moments.

My oldest daughter, who is now in college and swiftly closing in on the end of her teen years, is still pretty tight-lipped, but I look to the long view and let her tell me what she wants.  My youngest daughter, who is 12 years old, is teetering on the edge of wanting to tell me everything like she used to as a young girl and remembering that she’s a teenager with embarrassing feelings – loving her mom is one of them.  And then there’s my 6-year-old son who is a non-stop information stream of everything he is thinking and feeling.

Somehow, with this age gap between my children and being able to see a range of human development in full force right before me, I feel like the poster child for parenting at all ages – lol.  And the one thing I can tell all parents is to hold on – it will change…and quickly.  And don’t be afraid of the change.  Sometimes, for a tiny moment, I miss that baby talk and the toddler banter, but the here and now of teenage-land is far more exciting.  Be brave.


Learning about money together


Sometimes I think, with all of the information I have gained over the 19 years (let’s say 20 because of pregnancy) I have been a parent, I should have a PhD. I have easily put in that many hours learning human development, nursing, nutrition, education – well, you get the picture. But I realize that I still have a lot to learn. Lately, I have been working a little more on educating my kids about money.

My oldest daughter is in college now and it feels like time has flown by and before it flies any further, I want to make sure the kids still in the house with me understand some fundamentals. I’ll admit, money education is not my strong point. It has been a haphazard experiment of what will reach my children and what won’t. And then, they each have different personalities. So how to get the fundamentals across to these four very different people? This is where I take a moment to bow down to all teachers.

In the past, I have given them allowances tied to finishing basic chores that were age appropriate. They could earn extra money for things I needed help with that were outside of their task list. I asked them to give away 10% of their money to charity. I asked them to save some in a piggy bank and we talked about what they were going to save up for so they could see the point in saving up money. They received money from parents, grand parents, great-grandparents and the rest of the gang for all kinds of holidays. We had discussions about how money is a tool. They had savings accounts, but that was something I kept track of and didn’t concern them.

The summer before my oldest daughter went to college, I realized that I needed an easy way to get her money when she needed it and I set up a bank account for her completely in her name with a debit card for purchases and withdrawals, and the ability for me to quickly and easily put money in her account. Her dad did the same through his bank. Through that process, I had to teach her about overdraft fees and how to keep track of her finances online. This was a wake up call for me. Okay, okay, I admit to being slow sometimes!

I decided to turn from a cash economy with the rest of my kids, to one where they each had their own debit card to prepare them for the plastic world to come. These are the basics right now, and may change as I learn more, but we’ve set up and talked about some rules:

  • 10% of their allowance goes to charity
  • 40% or more goes into savings
  • The rest (50%) is theirs to spend, but
  • They can’t ask me to buy anything for them

We talked about why I set things up this way.  Our belief as a family
is that you should always give back from both your money and your time.  I wanted to set about creating the habit of saving and thinking about the big picture.  (The big picture is different at every age – for my 6-year-old son, it’s an X-Box – for my middle daughter, it’s college – for my youngest daughter, it’s the newest Iphone.) We also spoke about how I was going to provide for their basic needs like clothes, shoes, food, school supplies, etc., but if they
wanted anything special, they needed to pay for it themselves.  So when my youngest daughter asks for her 5th pair of sandals because she doesn’t have the silver ones, it’s on her to decide if it’s worth it.Then I did some things to make my life easier, which is something you always need to do as a single parent:

  • I set up automatic payments into their accounts every week, so I don’t have to think about their allowances – it happens automatically!
  • I set up the accounts so that purchases will be rejected if they don’t have enough money in their accounts so they will avoid fees.
  • My bank also has an alert service that I can set so that when their accounts hit the minimum amount I choose, I will be alerted and can take action.

Wish me luck!  There is still a lot we all need to learn and I am looking for more advice, so I think I will do a little more reading.  And, if you’re interested, check out these three books (click on the images on this page to check them out further):  Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze, The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber, and The Everything Kids Money Book by Brette McWhorter Sember.


Therapeutic Swearing

Below is a post I did 3 years ago on my personal Facebook page. It is still true today and I am glad to have written it as part of my learning curve with teenager and pre-teens. Nothing can prepare you for the good, the bad, and the ugly, and sometimes it feels good to let go and throw a mini-tantrum when it gets real – real hard.

This is for all my fellow parents with teenagers and pre-teens out there.

I was watching the super depressing comedy This is 40 last night, which I’ve been wanting to see for a little while now because I, coincidentally, turned 40 last year when this movie came out. I was really disappointed and bored with this movie, but I did get a gem out of it.

There was a scene when the parents were going out-of-town to re-connect as a couple and they started talking about their two daughters – one who was a teenager and one who was swiftly approaching being a teenager. The father was talking about how moody and bitchy their teenager was becoming and how it was confounding to be a parent of a teenager.

The father let the word “bitches” out and both parents started grinning with great joy, as if a damn had burst; and they were able to let the PC-gosh-darn-parenting-is-hard-but-the-most-rewarding-thing-ever mask down for a moment to take a breath as a real human being with actual needs for love and affection and a life and purpose of their own to vent. The mom repeated the word and they both joyfully repeated sentiments, which I won’t exactly repeat here, but something like – screw those ungrateful bitches.

I couldn’t stop laughing at this twisted, but true parental sentiment. It was like an inside joke between those actually doing the work in the trenches and the rest of the world which usually looks in and judges. Afterwards they talked about how much they loved their kids and they were obviously devoted parents with good kids. I think this kind of emotional reaction is normal to the constant onslaught of negativity, chaos and all-consuming need that teenagers and children push on parents.

No one and nothing else challenges every bit of our being. And I am grateful for that because now nothing scares me. But, it doesn’t help when those not doing this work add to the workload with expectations of how they would raise children and expect perfection from parents according to their rules – forgetting that we are all unique (including our children) and what works for one may not work for another. P.S. Mom and Dad – this is not aimed at you. You are uber-helpful.

I think of it this way. I have no idea what soldiers go through and I will never tell them how to do their job. I am simply grateful for everything they go through to serve our country and support them when I can. I will do the same for my fellow parents.

Face it, we are just doing our best here and getting up every day vowing to just do it – and that sentiment – being willing to do it – is what makes a good parent. So good job parents, you made it through another day and your kids are still alive. Now, who’s for a getaway to the beach?

BOYS…and the List

A couple of days ago, my middle daughter and I were having a conversation in the car about a boy who liked her.   Ah, the car!  So many great conversations have happened  there.  This boy had been her friend for a couple of years and she was worried about losing him as a friend.  She had told him as much and that she had to think about how much she liked him.  And I didn’t tell her this, but there is a really small chance that you will be friends again after you date, so she was smart to be worried.

For much of our talk, I listened.  And I said – isn’t it exciting to have these feelings for someone?  I tried not to go to the freaked out mom place.  You know, the – ahhhh, my baby is dating and he might break her heart or hurt her physically or…the million and one worries that come with being a parent.  And I tried to ride along with where she was in her life.  She is on the cusp of these romantic feelings in her life and acknowledging that adventure seemed to bond us closer to each other.  I offered to pray with her and we did.  And she said she had prayed on it, as well.

She also said that she was taking her time and asking friends, including those that had dated him before, what they thought.  She told me that she was measuring him against a list of questions (shown below) that she had written out of her Needs and Wants.  Her best friend went through the list of questions with her and commented that the communication question should have been in the Needs section for a good relationship.


This is the List:


  •  Is he serious?
  • Is he selfish?
  • Does he think he deserves to be “repayed”?
  • Does he show affection?
  • Is he encouraging?
  • Is he steady and/or stable?
  • Is he possessive? (controlling)
  • Is he kind?
  • Is he honest?
  • Is he protecting?
  • Is he loyal?
  • Is he respectful?


  • Is he funny?
  • Can he communicate?
  • Is he intelligent?
  • Is he confident?
  • Does he see a future with you?

She gave me this list after I asked her about it and I was in awe.  It made me think of what a bumbling mess my dating in high school had been.  I dove straight in with my feelings – never really asking the important questions and whether this person was good for me.  I was very fortunate to date my friends and good guys in high school, but I made my mistakes in my dating life.  This list is relevant for dating at any age.

And with this list, I confirmed again that my middle daughter is truly one of the smartest people I know.  Besides having excellent grades in school and being on an AP/Honors track, she has had good judgement about people since a young age.  What I took as pure shyness, at first, when she was young, was really a facade that seemed to cover the fact that she really watched people and knew their nature before most other people.

And I realized how blessed and how important it was that I did my best to surround her with quality people who supported and loved her.  This list came out of her Bible study at church.  And her youth leaders and friends there have counseled her throughout her life. As I thought about these things, I started to feel kind of insignificant because she really is starting to go out on her own and fly more.  Then I remembered that she came to me for advice.

The practice that keeps me sane as a mother is to speak out of love rather than fear or selfishness.  I pray for wisdom every day to be able to do this and to support my children in a way that doesn’t enable them, but let’s them make age-appropriate decisions for their own life.  And most days that looks like driving them to activities, laying out food for them, getting school supplies and listening – mundane stuff.  But every once in a while, I am given a gift – a gleaming moment.  The chance to give my advice and to talk about important stuff with my kids.  And when they do these unimaginably amazing things out of the blue like “The List,” my heart soars and the magic of parenthood becomes real.