Random Musings on the Writing Life
So excited to announce Reinventing Rachel is being offered free on all ebook platforms until mix night tomorrow (12/28). It’s a little belated Christmas gift from David C. Cook Publishing – perfect for all the folks who got new Nooks and Kindles this holiday. Here are links to the book on Amazon, B&N, and CBD. The CBD link will allow you to download an ePub version of the book that can be read on droids and iPhones, iPads, Sony Readers, and, rumor has it, Kobos, as well as regular old laptops and desktops.
And if you got the news late and missed the free promotion, no worries – for the next 30 days the book is only $2.99. Still a steal!
Things are all shook up here from us trying to sort out what the best schedule is going to be for all of us as I start this new job with Remilon and It Works! Global while also trying to get some new kids’ books outlined with Dan and finish my seventh novel. So I’m going to take a little blogging break while we sort out the best approach and get settled into it. In the meantime, I’m still on Facebook and Twitter (though not tweeting much), and for the locals, I’ll be at the Day of Romance panel discussion at Pemrose Library in Colorado Springs this Saturday.(Be sure to RSVP to them if you’re coming, since they’ll be providing some food!)
See you later!
If I could only do one thing as a job for the rest of my life, I’d choose to write books. It’s no exaggeration to say that writing is in my blood, and of all the things I am, all the labels I wear, writer is the one that comes most naturally. There is, however, a vast difference between writing books and selling them–to a publisher, to a reader–and because of that, and because selling books does not bring in the benjamins the way some people assume it does, I have to find ways to support my habit, as well as my family. (more…)
I think a lot of parents nowadays have this notion that their lives shouldn’t really change all that much when they have children. They envision themselves doing all the same things they usually did, but with a baby and accompanying gear in tow. I was certainly like that before Abby was born. I didn’t want to become one of those mothers whose entire life is wrapped up in her children, who has no identity apart from that of Mother. I think it’s all related to the intense individualism that is preached in the Western world, and also to the “American Dream” that we’re told to strive for. Let nothing and no one hold you back; you can do whatever you want and be whatever you want; look out for number one. It’s hard to do those things if you have to set your desires aside in favor of tending to another person.
As was previously mentioned, the King and Queen brought their first princess, Abby, into their bed when she was 4 months old. And lo, the princess did return to sleep after nursing at night, and lo, the Queen did not lose her mind from lack of sleep. And all was well in the Morrow Kingdom.
And then PJ was born. Again, the second princess was brought into the King and Queen’s bed at 4 months old. And lo, the princess did return to sleep after nursing at night, and lo, the Queen did not lose her mind from lack of sleep. And all was once again well in the Morrow Kingdom.
Now, when Princess PJ was born, Princess Abby did see that the baby had her own bed, for the Queen and King had brought out the Arm’s Reach co-sleeper for the baby to see how long she might use it, and the Princess Abby did indeed burn with jealousy. “I want a special bed, too!” she cried, and the King and Queen said, “You’ve got it, kiddo!” And off they drove to the closest baby furniture store to find a toddler bed for the first princess. And lo, Princess Abby did love the bed, though it took time and much, much nighttime parenting from the Queen to get her to remain in it after lullabys had been sung. But stay in it she eventually did, and so the King and Queen’s bed was not that full anymore. And all slept (though the King and Queen did have to admit they often missed the snuggly princess) and all was well.
Until the Kingdom was moved to Colorado.
In the new castle, the Princess Abby was a little wary of sleeping alone. So she returned to the King and Queen’s bed until she had acclimated to the new surroundings. The King and Queen understood her reticence and were happy to let her return, though things were a mite tight in the royal bed. “Fear not,” they thought, “she will become comfortable in the new castle and will soon return to her own bed.”
And the first princess grew. And the second princess grew. But lo, the bed did not grow. And neither did the first princess return to her own bed. And neither did the second princess want to move to her own bed. And soon the two princesses were sleeping quite well, but the King and Queen, not so much.
So the King and Queen had a choice to make. The toddler bed sat unused in their bedroom, but Princess Abby did not wish to use it. And really, it made no sense to encourage Princess PJ to sleep there, because she still nursed and the Queen did not relish the idea of trying to nurse her in the middle of the night through the bars of the toddler bed. They could force Princess Abby to sleep there, but they knew their children well, and their knowledge told them that forcing the princess into a situation she feared would cause nighttime to become a scary time. The Queen’s childhood memories of nighttime were nothing but scary, and she did not want that for her princesses. She knew that someday Princess Abby would be up for the challenge, but she was not yet there. “She will become ready in her own time,” she reminded herself, “and she will ask on her own to move to the bed. It is not something we need to force.” But still there remained the problem of the bed made for two that was trying to hold four.
“Eureka!” cried the King. “We have a guest chamber no one uses, with a queen-sized bed that sits empty all year. Let us bring it in here!” And so, with much shuffling and grunting, the queen bed was relocated, and lo, the family bed did grow! “Huzzah!” There was now plenty of bed for the royal family. No longer did the Queen awaken with a princess draped across her or a wee hand flung in her face. And again, the royal family slept, and again, all was well.
And then, one day, the two princesses did beg to have “a sleepover. In our own chamber.” The princess’ chamber where they kept clothes and toys did have a crib-turned-daybed. “We can bring the toddler bed in there,” said Princess Abby, “and Princess PJ can sleep on it and I’ll sleep on the daybed.” The King and Queen were skeptical that any sleeping would actually occur. But they agreed, knowing that small forays into independence would eventually lead into true independence, and if nothing else, the novelty might make it last a little longer.
And so, the toddler bed was relocated to the princess’ chamber, and lo, the girls did have their sleepover that night.
And the next.
And the next.
And the next.
And lo, tonight they celebrate the five week anniversary of when they moved to their own beds in their own rooms. And yes, Princess PJ does still nurse at night, and yes, it is a little bit of a bummer that the Queen has to get out of bed and go nurse her back down in another room. And yes, the King and Queen find it very strange to not have their princesses within arm’s reach at night and tend to worry that they’re too cold. But, the baby monitor works just fine to alert them when the princesses require them, and really, ’tis a small price to pay for the King and Queen to have a very, very big bed all to themselves.
Here’s another topic that could fill a few pages. The short of it is that I’ve wanted to homeschool since before I was married. It didn’t take much time in the classroom during my student teaching days for me to decide that, while I enjoyed teaching in a traditional school, I did not want my kids in one. Thankfully, God hooked me up with a husband who feels the same way, and the longer we’ve been parents the more reasons we’ve amassed for why we will make some serious sacrifices to keep our children home for the majority of their education.
Certain reasons are more important than others, and their importance changes up sometimes depending on our current philosophy or where the girls are developmentally, but the reason that will always remain at the top of the list is the simple fact that we have been entrusted by God with our children’s education–not the government, not other people. We will be the ones held accountable for how our children were raised, and that includes how they were trained and taught–it’s not a responsibility we can pass on to someone else.
Closely tied to this is the fact that we cannot trust other people to teach our children the beliefs that we hold. Even at a Christian school, children are going to pick up theology and doctrine that doesn’t necessarily line up with what their parents believe. And when it comes to theology and doctrine, Dan and I are pretty picky.
But those reasons aside, I really just can’t imagine sending my children away from me for six (or seven, or eight) hours a day, five days a week. I know that makes me sound like a mom who just can’t cut the apron strings, but it’s about so much more than attachment. It’s about wanting to be involved in what they learn. It’s about wanting to be the one who sees the light bulb go off when they finally learn to read, or how to do long division, or what it means for a liquid to become super saturated. (I have the *coolest* experiment to do with them for that one!) It’s about tailoring their education to their strengths and weaknesses and passions so that they never lose their enjoyment for learning. It’s about protecting them from bullies until they’re ready to defend themselves. It’s about keeping them innocent for as long as I possibly can. (And no, innocent is NOT synonymous with ignorant.) And yes, it’s also about wanting to strengthen the bonds of our family.
Homeschooling is not for the weak, or lazy, or self-involved. Sadly, I’m often all three. But I believe God has called us to homeschool, and I believe Scripture when it says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. With the advent of 2012 we instituted a morning schedule that includes daily lessons, something we’ve never done before, and something that is still quite laid-back and small-scale right now–only 10-15 minutes per girl–but it’s inspiring discipline and diligence, and all of us are reaping the benefits. When we begin more rigorous, formal academics next year for Abby, I will hopefully have shed some of my weak, lazy, self-involved ways and become even more dedicated to our homeschooling lifestyle. Until then, I will continue to plug away at our daily Hooked on Phonics, to play fun games like Quirkle (the girls beat me 224 to 225 today!) and story cubes and Math Animals and Inchimals, and to pack up half the food in the house for day-long outings to the zoo or the museum or the Garden of the Gods. Hopefully God will allow us to send the girls to dance classes, and the co-op in the Springs that Abby liked so much, and art classes and music and swimming classes, but if those things aren’t in His plan then we’ll look for other ways to get them education in those areas–we’re blessed to know a lot of very talented people, and who knows what arrangements might be made? Regardless, the adventure that awaits us over the next 15 years is daunting and exhilarating all at the same time, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
This is a pretty loaded topic, and one that could fill numerous pages, but since others have said it better than me, I’m going to skip all the doctrinal and theological arguments and just share my heart on the topic of discipline. (For some of those doctrinal and theological arguments, check out Arms of Love Fellowship and Why Not Train a Child.)
Here’s the thing: When I read the Bible, I don’t see a God who punishes His people. He disciplines, yes, and allows the consequences of their actions to be experienced, but He does not inflict further shaming, guilting, or pain on top of what the child has already reaped. (His dealings with those who are not His children are another matter entirely, but that is of no consequence to me because I am His child.) But somewhere along the line, Christianity has developed this weird split personality view of God. He’s full of grace, we say, and His love is unconditional and His mercy saves us…but then, in next Sunday’s sermon, we’re told about how the pastor really got “spanked by Jesus” and how God punishes us in order to drive our sin from us. And the thing is, I don’t see any Biblical evidence to support the idea of God punishing us. And yet, so many Christian parents turn to this skewed view of God and point to it as their model for how they parent their own children.
Part of the problem is that we’ve allowed the use of the words “punishment” and “discipline” to change. Even online dictionaries now use “punishment” in their definition of “discipline.” But discipline has never meant “to inflict punishment”. Its true meaning is simply, “to teach.” The life of a parent is a life of discipleship–24/7, we are teaching, instructing, correcting, training–and not once is there a need for us to insert pain into those lessons. Do you have to spank your child make them learn the alphabet? To learn to tie their shoes? To learn to read? Learning proper behavior is no different from those lessons. With proper modeling, correction, instruction–and by the child reaching the necessary level of maturity–proper behavior and the development of a moral heart will form. Along the way, there will be some consequences for negative behavior. Privileges may be removed. Toys may be put up for a time. Fun events may be missed. On their own, those consequences can hurt plenty–but the truth of the matter is, not every consequence is going to hurt. And that’s okay. Because again, pain is not absolutely necessary in teaching.
When I think about my goals for my children, the list is topped with, “To teach them God.” What message does it send them if I tell them that God insists that I physically hurt them when they make a mistake or a poor choice? What kind of relationship does that set them up for with their Heavenly Father? It creates a fear-based relationship, and yet we are told in Scripture that perfect love casts out fear. If God’s perfect love should cast out our fear, then our children shouldn’t fear Him. But how can we tell them not to fear Him when, in the next breath, we say God tells us to hurt them? We’d be asking our children to not fear pain–and yet, the whole point of pain-based punishment is that the fear of the pain will stop the child from exhibiting that behavior. There is no logic here.
The other issue I take with punishment is that it doesn’t actually do what parents want it to do. Parent want their children to be moral beings with a moral compass that points to true north. But teaching children to suppress a negative behavior by threatening pain doesn’t teach morality. It teaches fear. It teaches them to push down the desire for that behavior–not to change their desire and their heart completely. And when the threat of pain is no longer scary enough to stop them, that behavior will surface again, because they weren’t taught morality in a logical way.
So what’s this “logical way” of teaching morality? I believe natural and logical consequences do the job just fine. The one thing parents have to remember, however, is that their children’s emotional and mental development plays a key part in their ability to learn any particular lesson. If you expect your three-year-old to exhibit self-control, then you’re going to be constantly disappointed, because child development shows us that the ability to control one’s impulses and desires does not fully develop until around age 7. Until about age 5 or so, which is when self-control slowly begins to form, whenever a child does what you ask them to do, it’s because complying with your request is the only thing they want to do in that moment–which is another reason why developing a trusting and deeply attached relationship with your child is so important.
And, lastly, we parents have to remember to show our children grace. In those times that they’re overtired, we need to recognize that their choices are not being driven by a brain that is functioning on all cylinders. In those times that they’re hungry, we need to realize that we can’t expect them to sit patiently for you to finish a conversation. In those times that they’re angry, or scared, or anxious, or lonely, we need to take a deep breath and say, “Something else is going on here that they can’t control.” And in those times, we need to extend them the grace that God gave each of us when we could not control ourselves against our sin. And when they’re fed or soothed or have gotten a nice long nap, then we can sit them down and say, “Next time, instead of screaming at me and throwing your toy because I wouldn’t give you ice cream, you need to express your frustration this way.” An easy rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated if I were in my child’s shoes?” Hence “Golden Rule Parenting,” which could be summed up as thus: Parent your child the way you’d want to be parented. Treat your child with the same grace, compassion, mercy, empathy, and understanding that you hope others will extend to you when you’re having a crappy day and not being the most stellar wife/parent/friend/coworker/Christian on the planet.
So, to sum up: Look to God as your model for parenting. Never let up in your gentle and empathetic correction and discipline. Allow your children to experience the consequences of their actions. But above all, remember grace.
(Fair warning for the guys–I’m talking about birth in this post. Just wanted to give you a heads-up. Skip the third paragraph if that squicks out you.)
When I think about all the parenting decisions I’ve made–especially the ones that raise eyebrows or draw criticism–I see that trust is integral in why I do what I do. In some cases, it’s about trusting God–trusting Him to draw my children to Him, trusting the Spirit to work in their lives, trusting the Scriptures that tell me there’s nothing I can do to *ensure* my children will follow God, but that the decision is up to God. It’s my job to point them to Him. (more…)
When I was pregnant with Abby, suddenly everyone around me became an expert on parenting, even if they didn’t have kids of their own. I took everything with a grain of salt, because I, like those other childless experts, already knew how I was going to raise my children. As an education major, I’d taken child development and other classes that, once I was done with them, left me with my own firm beliefs on the Right Way to parent. (more…)
I don’t usually do resolutions, but for some reason this year I feel compelled. A lot of people I know have a word they focus on as the theme for the year, and today I’ve been mulling over that idea and asking God if there’s a word he has for me. And I’m pretty sure he’s given it to me–two words, actually. SLOW DOWN.