Family Favorites… Book List

My letter on Summer Reading sparked the idea to ask my kids what their favorite books were that they would recommend to others. Some are their books that they chose at the store with their own money. Others are books they have chosen from our “assigned Summer Reading.” I didn’t edit the list to communicate what I thought was important, but left the lists exactly as they wrote them, to leave the purity of the child’s desire there, instead of inserting this homeschooling mom’s heart. Though the ages listed are their current ages, some of these “favorites” were read in their younger years.

J.R. (age 11):

Christine (age 13)

Nate (age 16)

Casey (age 19)

I asked my kids for permission to use their names (or if they preferred that I leave their list anonymous), and they all said, “yes,” except one, who clarified:

“You have my permission to use my name in conjunction with all of the aforementioned information, along with any other information that may be prevalent to the purpose of the article, under the condition that I am properly referred to and quoted under all standard blog and MLA guidelines and format.”

..just in case you wondered. 🙂

Since my husband, Chris Brady, is an author along with our close friend and business partner, Orrin Woodward, I didn’t want to miss the chance to plug some of their books which would be great for summer reading, or homeschool curriculum or family book discussions. Here are a few of my favorites from our family’s discussions:

I have one last list to mention! I recently came across the reading list for the Torrey Honors Institute within BIOLA University. Any child or adult could benefit from reading this list of books! Check it out here.

Read well to lead well,

Terri

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Summer Reading is Like Underwear

My active four-year-old son decided it was easier to change pants later than use the toilet when it called. I can remember stressing out about it, writing in my prayer journal, and reading books to see what I was doing wrong. I finally came to the realization, that he would figure it out before he started driving a car, (or we wouldn’t give him the keys) so I needed to relax and let him get it right at his own speed!

This same child had issues with material. It all itched, or felt uncomfortable. It was hard to keep him in PJ’s, since he liked the freedom of his birthday suit. (This was strange to me that he didn’t mind wet pants while riding a bike for hours, but hated wearing the “wrong material” shirt to bed.)  Once at a public park, I noticed a little too much “information” poking out the back of his pants, plumber-style, and realized he wasn’t even wearing underwear! Since this had happened more than once that week, I finally said, “Bud!! What is up with the no-underwear thing?! Do you EVER wear underwear?”

“Yes. On Fridays,” he said.

That was his reply. What?! Why?! Who told you that you could do that? And the rest of the “W” questions came to mind, but not one did I ask. I simply explained that we wear underwear. Every day. Including Fridays!

In our house, we wanted reading to be like underwear: a part of every-day-life!
We love to take the summer off of school schedules, but that doesn’t mean the summer off of Summer Reading 1learning.  Summer reading bends well to allowing the freedom of choice: no homeschool curriculum to follow; no test for which to study; simply reading! Chris and I enjoy our summer reading assignments for our kids so much, that we are almost insulted when their teachers (our older kids go to a Christian high school while the younger ones homeschool) assign “summer reading”. We like it when we get to choose topics!

WHY summer reading?

Reasons for summer reading:

  1. Habits made when they are “off school” as children could plant seeds for habits they create when they are “off school” more permanently as adults.
  2. Silently reading during the summer is a time when they are not fighting with each other. (not that my kids would ever do that…)
  3. The content of the books can be targeted specifically per child, not necessarily what Summer Reading 5an entire class or curriculum demands.
  4. Topics they didn’t understand during the year may be expounded upon for better understanding. (OK, I have never done this, but it sounded so good in the list of reasons, I decided to include it anyway.)
  5. Fictional books that would never make the school list make for a fun time reading – which subconsciously improves writing, and increases the pleasure of reading.
  6. Vacation travel time turns into reading time instead of screen time.
  7. It gives moms and dads time to read. 😊 Why not pop some popcorn and sit with books instead of a movie?
  8. Reading looks more fun in a hammock or next to the campfire, than when it is squished between homework assignments at the table, giving it a better light for the future.
  9. One hour/day completes four books in a month of the average adult reader. Three or four books for a summer is doable even if the child has a summer job or wants lots of outdoor playtime.
  10. Sometimes our entire family reads the same book, making for nice conversation at the dinner table when everyone knows the topic. (Like “Gifted Hands” by Ben Carson or “Toughen Up” by Claude Hamilton.)

HOW to do summer reading?

The specifics are not important, because I know you can figure it out for your family, but Summer REading 3in general, Chris picks out a stack of books for each child, and hands it to them before the school year ends. If they are not done with “summer reading” by August 1st, it becomes their priority before they can go outside. (Note: everybody has always been done by August 1st, so we have never had to exercise this.) As usual, screen time would totally take away from reading time, so it is a plus that video games and television are extremely limited in our house, regardless of the season. We do not assign a time or daily reading, or it would turn into feeling like homework. We do not pay them to read or it might turn into a job. We do not make it extremely challenging, or it would feel like the stack is just too huge. It is a combination of pleasure reading with thought-provoking content, but truly all habit-forming, so once they learn to read, they can read to learn anything for the rest of their lives. They of course can also read books we haven’t assigned as “summer reading,” but the idea of assigning three or four is to expand upon what they already know they like.

My dream is that as they grow up and leave the house, they would write home and ask dad what his summer reading assignment would be… but I may just be dreaming.

What to read?

I thought you might ask, so I found pictures of their stacks from a few years ago – and those are shown in the margins above. Come back tomorrow for a letter with a list of their favorites. I even have my own stack going, though mine does not only exist in the summer! A parent’s love [or hate] of reading will be contagious, whether we want it to influence them or not; my example carries further than my words, so my reading stack is almost as important as theirs. Summer Reading 6

In addition to picking art-stories for our little artist and sports biographies for our sports-enthusiasts, we introduce the kids to some sailing stories or historical fiction to increase the breadth of their reading and topics for conversation. Faith-based non-fiction is an important aspect as well. Summer reading can be kind of the catch-all to throw in what we want to make sure they catch before they leave the house as adults. So how long do they have to read? …until they “get” to read. Summer reading is just one more way to remind them that reading is a good thing – and not one from which we need a break.

Happy reading-every-day, including Fridays… and summers!

Terri

(cartoon featured image by Christine Brady)

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Waiting for the Other Shoe

Dear Lindsey

He got in the car and said, “Has anybody seen my other shoe?”  We were on our way to church for our bi-weekly geography class with other homeschoolers.

“You got in the car wearing only one shoe?!” I said, changing my mood from fun Miss Frizzle to Miss Frazzled as we rushed down the road, trying to gain the minutes we had lost by leaving late.

“NO. I was carrying TWO shoes when I go into the car, but now ONE is gone! Christine!” he blamed his sister for not looking hard enough.

Seeing her reading in the front seat, I got her attention: “Christine, if you lost your own shoe, you would appreciate others helping to look. Please look.”

She looked under and around her seat; no black tennis shoe with neon orange laces was found, so she returned to reading.

We got to church. Still no shoe.

We got out of the car and my son slithered over the tops and under the seats, contorting his body to every nook and cranny of the vehicle, but still no shoe.

“Well you will just have to wear your socks to class today. It’s OK – homeschoolers are used to it,” I joked.

As we walked from the parking lot, many of their friends were in the church yard kicking a soccer ball.  Next to the door, there were two Crocs (shoes) waiting for their owner to claim them before re-entering the building.

“Look! One of those soccer kids took off his shoes! You can wear them and see how long it takes him to notice!” I jested – hoping to improve my son’s mood before we got into the building.

That’s when he surprised me the most….

THERE’S MY CROCSI WAS WONDERING WHERE I HAD LEFT THEM!” He ran crocs-at-church and put on the shoes that were sitting outside of the church’s backdoor…. presumably for the past two weeks since our last geography class when we had used that entrance.

I can’t say I have ever gone to a church with shoes on and gone home without them.  I started to ask questions as to how exactly that happened and decided it was best just to laugh, because I was going to anyway!

I asked J.R. if I could share this story on my blog. (I don’t like to publish things that my kids would not want to be shared.) He said, “I guess, if you think it would help someone.” (Ha! So sweet!)

I asked him how he thought it could help someone… or if it was just a story that would make us laugh – which is what the three of us were doing when we saw the Crocs.

He said, “Well you could tell people that sometimes when you think you lost something, God is just saving it for the right time.”

Perfect.

  • When you lose that house you wanted because of someone else’s offer: wait – God might have the perfect one waiting in the perfect timing.
  • When you lose the opportunity to be on that team because you are not big enough:  wait – God might have the perfect team on hold for the perfect time.
  • When you lose that job you thought you would have forever:  just wait – God might have the perfect job (or one you lost before) to offer at the time when you need it most.

Or when you lose your shoe – just know that God might have another complete pair waiting for you to find at just the right place and just the right time.

Feel free to start a comment below with “when you lose” if you have a time when God gave you your other “shoe” at just the perfect time.

Blessings,

Terri (and J.R.)

Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

P.S. In case you were wondering: When we arrived home after class, his other shoe was found lying in the foyer where he must have dropped it en route to the car.

found-shoe

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Without Rain (Things in my Head…now)

Lindsey,

Hi! I just wanted to give you my year’s story:)

I think you know that eight years ago I had a life-threatening brain tumor. My kids were only toddlers, and the surgery was extremely rough, but truly went better than anyone had predicted. I recovered completely without paralysis, but they were unable to get “clear boundaries” because of the tumor’s proximity to a main vein in the brain.

At the 5-year mark, a doctor told me my chances were much less of recurrence, and I could come every 2-3 years. (-which was nice because MRI’s are expensive!) My husband said, “no.” He didn’t see why we wouldn’t check it every year. I think his exact words were, “I have more money and only one wife: you need to go every year.”

So last January I went for my annual scan, and for the first time in 7 years, they called me back that they had found something and I needed to have it rescanned.

The rescan eight weeks later showed more definition, and what looked like growth so they sent me to Duke Neuro-Oncology within a few weeks. The specialist called it a meningioma (same name as last time) and said that growth was questionable but that it was so small (“blueberry” size) he wanted me to wait until this January and then we would decide radiation or surgery.

I’ll skip recording here all of my emotions of screaming Nooooo!! We can just say I didn’t peacefully and joyfully say, “well, to God be the glory!” …at least not at first. I prayed – and asked a few sweet friends to pray – that I would “let go of this basket,” the same as Moses’ mother did, but sometimes I would reel it back in as though attached with fishing line. Every little headache seemed to say I was headed down an old familiar brain tumor path, and I tried to talk myself into thinking it was “all in my head” (pun intended).  Every travel I planned, or commitment I made for this spring was weighed down, wondering if I would be able to follow through with it.  Yet I knew I was as good as dead if I decided to stop living while I waited for the next test.  I had to accept it one day at a time.

“My daily bread…” was something Jesus taught us to ask. (Matt 6:11) As I awaited the long, drawn-out period, I often thought how He didn’t say monthly bread or even weekly bread; He said DAILY bread – so I tried to be satisfied with His daily promises and stop asking for the month or year of provisions to be satisfying.

I made some health changes in hopes I was doing my best to either avoid surgery, or ready my body to endure it.

Last week, my husband and I had the appointment with the Duke Neuro-oncologist. He gave us the great news that the scan showed it was STILL a blueberry; he is not worried about it and thought it might even only be scar tissue. He told me he didn’t need to see me for THREE years!!

I praise God for this fantastic news!! Though I didn’t feel like telling everyone along the way, (some roller coasters are better ridden alone) now I feel like shouting it from the mountaintop!!

While I bask in the joy of answered prayers, and realize the floating feeling of lifted weight I hadn’t realized I was carrying in the “back of my mind,” (pun intended) I found it interesting that I want to shout about THIS one. Yet, I didn’t write blogs about the skin biopsies that came back normal, annual exams that didn’t cause concern or the colds I didn’t get. I am so extra-ecstatic this time, because the “last time” had been a bad diagnosis. “Last time” had been a fast-growing, life-threatening tumor that would likely cause seizures at any moment.  “Last time” the tumor was resting on the main vein, in the area of the nerves for my mouth and eating through a bone used for hearing! “Last time” had led to urgent surgery within two weeks followed by months out of my mom-of-the-home position. Argh! “Last time’s”  stormy season had taken everything I had to dance in the rain. And because of that rain, I GREATLY appreciate the sun I have been given in this great news.

In other words, I guess the rainy days in life remind us of the value in the sun.

  • Ask anyone who has had cancer in the past how much they celebrate the clear scans of remission.
    • Ask anyone who has almost lost a loved one how much more they are drawn to that same person now that the storm is done.
      • Ask anyone who has ever lived without a meal how much they appreciate every morsel today.

Ask anyone who fully depended on daily bread, how grateful they are when the sun comes up!

The rain makes us notice the sun…and appreciate it even more.  I hope it makes us tell God thank you even more as well!

If you are in the storm right now,

…like the person in front of me at the doctor, who was scheduling his next chemotherapy, while his wife and dad watched on…

…like the person behind me in the check-out line of the doctor, who was already paralyzed with an obvious head-surgery scar and sat patiently waiting in her wheelchair…

I am praying for you.

I pray you feel the God who calms the winds and waves right there with you, as He carries you to bright skies ahead.

Thanks for dancing in the sun with me.

Terri

 

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

Lamentations 3:22-23 King James Version (KJV): 22 It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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It’s Not Mine

I set the case down next to the sink. No, it might get wet. I thought. I picked it up and put the strap on my shoulder, so the prized possession was resting on my back, safe from water. A woman walked by behind me in the public bathroom and knocked my purse, which knocked the case, pulling the strap from my shoulder as gravity pulled the valuable toward the ground. With Elasto-girl’s flexibility and Jack-Jack’s incredible speed, my hand moved swiftly to grab the strap to avoid the camera hitting, while my purse finished the descent to the dirty floor. Fortunately, it was only my purse and not the camera!

I need to shorten this camera strap, I thought, so it doesn’t fall off again. But wait, it is not mine, so I don’t want to adjust anything in case the owner likes it at that exact length.

I continued babying the camera for the three hours it was in my possession.camera baby

My 12-year-old daughter was in a talent competition, Actors, Models and Talent for Christ, and wanted an actual camera as a prop in one of her acting scenes. We borrowed one from a grandparent of another performer.

I was so nervous to hold the camera. I didn’t want anything to happen to it before it could be used for its purpose in the acting competition. Besides, I pretty much hate borrowing anything…almost ever…because I am afraid I will mess something up.  It is as though my pride can’t handle being the one to hurt something that is not mine.

I wish I treated my life as if it were Someone else’s!

To Whom Does This Belong?

How do I keep forgetting Whose life this is?

My pastor, Stephen Davey of Wisdom for the Heart,  did an illustration not long ago. He brought a man to the front of the church and asked him to give him his wallet. The man did. The pastor then took $20 out of the wallet and handed the man his wallet back – $20 short. The man said, “Thank you.” As we all would expect when someone gives you something back – even though:

  1. It belonged to the man to begin with
  2. The pastor was returning it with less value than it originally had.

His example was an illustration of tithing – how God gives us “a wallet of money” and we give a portion back (sometimes only 10%!), and then act like God should say “thank you,” when really it was 100% His to begin with!

Wallet of Twenty-Four hours

I liked the illustration, and for me, I applied it to my “wallet of time.” I have 24 hours in a walletOfTimeday that God has given me. I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I act like He should say “thank you” if I give “some” of it back, while I try to keep the rest of the time “for me”.

The fact is that all of the hours were His and still are. It is up to me to represent them that way.

It’s funny to me how much I like to compartmentalize life: This hour is for Bible time with God; this hour is for exercise; this hour is for motherhood; this hour is for my husband.  But God sees all the hours! All of the words, all of the thoughts, all of the actions,  all of my all is meant to be used by Him!

I guess I need to treat this life like the camera next to the sink – as a precious possession of Someone else’s- and protect every inch of it, so it is ready to be used when the time of its purpose arrives.

If I recalled Whose life this is, would I guard my brain’s intake more wisely? (Phil 4:8)  Would I use words purposefully (1Thess 5:11)? Would I rest more, eat better, and in general beat my body into submission to what I should be doing? (1Cor 9:27)

What if I took care of all of my possessions – as if they are gifts for His use and not mine? (because they are.) (1Chron 29:14)  What if I used my life as the gift He loaned….and used it for His purposes alone?

In reality, there is no-such thing as a compartmentalized Christian.

“Either you live your life for God’s glory, or you are living for yourself. There is no ground in-between.” – Chris Brady

May God keep us focused on living for His glory…with every hour He graciously puts in our “wallet”,

Terri

(note: Illustrations by my daughter, Christine Brady, age 12)

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Recommended Reading

Messy Memory Making with Friends

I felt horrible. I couldn’t believe I had done it to them.

I love Christmas cards! They are still up on my bulletin boards now, because the bulletin boards were put on the wall just for that purpose. The cards will likely remain there until replaced next year!

I love the photos – particularly the photos of my friends. (Come on, people! Don’t chicken out from the camera and make your kids get in front of it! I like to see YOU! 🙂 ) I love the plain cards; I love the fancy ones. I love the cards from family, from best friends and from “strangers” whom we met only once overseas in years past.

I actually even enjoy most “Christmas update letters,” because I care what is going on in people’s lives; but I admittedly often wait until after the new year to read some of them.  I have friends who collect the cards in a basket and spend the year taking one card out each day at dinnertime and praying for the family who sent it. Sorry we have never gotten that organized, but I love the idea!

My love for receiving those cards is probably why I felt so horrible about what I did.

I ditched a friend. Hear me out: I have over five thousand contacts in my phone. I know…crazy! I started an electronic address book back in the 90’s (1890’s it feels like!) with my “Palm Pilot,” and have electronically transferred the book with each new device and update. It is my “Roledex” from the 1870’s with a new twist. I never see a reason to delete anyone – because who knows if our paths could cross?

Rather than going through 5,000 contacts to send cards to less than 10% every year, I finally made a Christmas card list of people I think might “want” one. But last year, I noticed a name was missing. (Sorry if your name was missing too! I didn’t mean it!) Since the list was from the year before, it meant that the Kirk and Cassie Birtles family had not received a card from me.

I texted my good friend Cassie: “Did I send you a Christmas card last year?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

What? I didn’t send her a card and she didn’t even seem to mind?! She is so kindly unpresumptuous.

That January, her husband let the cat out of the bag in a humorous way. He had me laughing out loud. Apparently, when our card didn’t arrive, they had assumed I had not sent out cards. But when Kirk and Cassie went to a friend’s house, there was the Brady Christmas card prominently displayed, so they deduced that their friend must have ranked more highly with the Bradys than the Birtles did!

Then they went to Kirk’s sister’s house (whom we had befriended through Kirk)- and there was the Brady Christmas card. The story kept getting deeper when they went to Kirk’s parents’ house (whom we befriended through Kirk and his sister) and there, on their fridge, prominently displayed were the Brady kids and parents, wishing all of the other Birtleses a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! All of the Birtleses…except Kirk and Cassie. They were left with a blank fridge. 🙂

Apparently, it happened for two years before I noticed that their name had inadvertently been eliminated from my list of cards.

WHAT A MESS!

I felt horrible.

BradyBunch1It reminded me of what great friends the Birtles truly are:

  • They gave me the benefit of the doubt, assuming the best intentions on my part.
  • They didn’t discuss it behind my back and hope I got the message. (Well – maybe they did and I don’t know, since I wasn’t behind my back.)
  • They didn’t remove me from their Christmas card list; I still got their wishes to have a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” because their wishes for me told me about their heart, not as payback for my own.

I told them I was so sorry, and made sure their address was on my list! I checked it twice! But then, I decided to try to make it up to them- and make them laugh too.

Fun Friends

I went through my files and found one of our Christmas cards from every year…as long as I have been sending them – since around 1897 🙂 . I wanted to make sure the Birtles family knew they were loved.

I copied each card, put them in separate envelopes and started sending Version 3 them daily at the beginning of December. “Merry Christmas and Happy 1998!” was the first message they received. Next was 1999, 2000 and so on, all the way to “I hope your 2016 is blessed!” in this year’s card.

BradyBunch2

2013

However, the company I used to make the cards for this year, Nations Photo Lab, made a mistake on my cards. When I brought the mistake to their attention, their customer service was amazing, and they immediately sent out a new box of Brady Christmas cards…which meant that I had literally hundreds of extra Christmas cards (the mistakes), so I thought it was well worth the postage to send the ENTIRE BOX of HUNDREDS of Brady Christmas cards to the Birtleses for their amusement.

I giggled all eighteen times I walked to my North Carolina mailbox- and hoped they were having as much fun at the Michigan end. Haha!!

Just to top it off, I sent a text around January 4th. to Kirk and Cassie:  Did you get a Christmas card from us this year?????”; I wanted to be sure they weren’t forgotten. 🙂

They replied to my text, “Who is this?”

Haha!

Then, yesterday, the season of Joy was wrapped with a beautiful bow when a package arrived from Michigan. B Pkg

The Birtleses had sweetly modge-podged all of my Christmas cards onto a twenty-four inch letter “B”!!! Yay! It looks beautiful in my house – as if I planned for someone to creatively display all of my past Christmas cards!

Version 2

Version 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter (age 12) immediately asked when she saw the artwork, “Does this mean they used all of the cards we sent, so now they don’t have any pictures of us in their house?”

Bahaha! Maybe we need to send some more!

SUCH. GREAT. FRIENDS!

I like to say:

“Imperfect moments make perfect memories.”

But maybe in this case, it is better said, “Messy moments make magnificent friends.

If it hadn’t started so messy – with my accidental deletion of their name – it never would have ended so memorable! So if you are in the middle of a “mess”…just wait! There may be magnificence in the making!

God bless you and your messy-memory-making with FRIENDS,

Terri

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C.S. Lewis

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted; but an enemy multiplies kisses.” –Proverbs 27:6

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I Miss When They…

Dear Lindsey,

“Class of 2015.”

That seemed like “Jetsons” time of the future when I first heard that my child would be in the “Class of 2015”. But like the “Party of 1999,” it came and went. My son left for college Monday and we are down to five seats at the dinner table. Sniff. Sniff.

For those of you who had babies in 2015, your child will be somewhere around the class of 2033. I almost named this letter, “To the mothers of the class of 2033.”  Doesn’t that sound SO much in the future?!! It is. But I want to tell you, like so many mothers before me told me, it will be here sooner than you think!

I could pontificate for hours on that alone, but I thought instead I would just throw out some random thoughts about having young kids. I had it listed as “Ten Notes to Young Moms,” but the number kept changing, so I am just leaving it as is: unsolicited advice:

(If you are an “old mother” like me, feel free to attach comments below with your “unsolicited advice to young mothers”!)

  • Be silly. You will miss the silly days! Push the grocery cart and make “Vrooming” sounds while your kids “drive” and almost crash into the lettuce! Make hungry monster sounds while the sock monster gobbles up those little feet, getting them dressed for the day. Have the goose in your pocket (your hand in the shape of a goose’s beak) “goose” them up the stairs when it’s time for PJ’s. Let your little princess do your hair, or your prince carry your suitcase. You may look silly to everybody except the ones who matter. You will be amazed how a little “vrooming” takes away your own stress in life. I miss that!
  • Be happy. Kids’ peace comes from your peace. Our mouths can feed our minds. Make your mouth speak happy thoughts to your mind and to your kids’ minds. It seems like happiness would be easy when surrounded by youth, but alas, the enemy seems to thrive by stealing smiles from moms. Happiness is a choice – Make it!

Video: Excitement of bringing home baby #3 (Christine) and the “toddler buzz” about it!

  • Slow down. Life gets so busy. I know you want them to excel in all areas. I know you want them to be geniuses. I know you want them to play instruments, do sports, become leaders. Don’t sacrifice their childhood on the altar of your goalsetting. There will be time. I promise. There will be time when they are so busy, you will be the one wishing to slow down. Enjoy their youth and allow them to get serious about things when they are the ones driving it. I miss lying in the front yard looking at clouds and pretending they are animals.
  • Blow bubbles. I used to be afraid that some moment would slip by and I would miss my chance to teach something important. I didn’t want to miss a teachable moment. I think my pendulum swung too far. Some moments are meant for just soaking in. Stop and blow bubbles. I miss that.
  • Don’t be so embarrassed; other people love your imperfect kids! When I drove to my friend’s house, whom I hadn’t seen in a year, her toddlers, age 3 and 4 greeted me in the driveway. The older stopped abruptly when I opened my car door, and said in a disgusted tone, “You don’t look like Mr. Brady!”

Oh my! My heart laughed! How I missed having toddlers! I missed the times when they got the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” reversed! I missed their fresh look on old things! Your toddlers (when behaving) do not need an apology! You may be surprised what a blessing they are to those who no longer have toddlers! Let them bless!

  • If you want to relate to your teenagers, relate to your toddlers. Relationships aren’t made overnight, though one night can break them. Out-of-control teens can grow from seeds of out-of-control toddlers. Enemy teens grow from seeds of ignored toddlers. Spend time with them doing what they love.

photo: Casey’s yearbook page this past year:

  • Be eternally focused. It is easy to get mixed up in the exhaustion of daily diapers, meals and activities and forget what really matters. Pray aloud when an ambulance goes by with lights on. Do your kids know you trust God to get through your day? Do they know you are a sinner in need of a Savior? (My kids are still shocked at that one! haha!) Do you show them the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc Gal 5:22) because you love the Lord, or because a purple dinosaur said that they were neat for a family? Ask them often what they are thankful for – and live in a way that shows them how thankful you are.
  • Make “me” time a priority. What you are full of is what comes out if you are squeezed! Like putting your oxygen mask on before attempting to assist your children, be sure you have your “me” time. Without working out, or reading my Bible, I am full of stuff that I wouldn’t want to “squeeze” on anybody! So I have had to make it a priority in my day!
  • Be careful with “me” time. I tread on this lightly, but “me” time is addicting. Some think pedicures are a right; a toddler-less hair appointment is a given; a girls’-night-out is part of some unwritten contract. They are not.

Motherhood is a selfless act of living, and often it means many “me times” are given up for a season, because priorities shift. But don’t grow weary (Gal 6:9-10), the season will pass.

I remember when my second child was two-years-old and we had a gym membership. At home, my husband and I had decided we would be a reading family, and rarely allowed our kids to watch movies or television.  Now with my “me” time, I was enjoying trying to get back into pre-baby shape, spending time daily at the gym, since childcare was “free”. Oh the joy of a one-hour class and the subsequent kid-free shower and blow-dry!! However, the “free childcare” was zombie transformation.  My kids sat like zombies in front of the gym’s television, showing whatever brainless cartoon happened to be on for the hour of my class, while the worker sat behind them, busy on her phone. I quickly realized it wasn’t worth the price of giving up these precious morning hours with my kids. I ended up changing my mid-morning “me” time to make it (super) early morning “me” time at the gym (so kids would be in bed – not brainless in front of the TV), but oh my what a blessing! By the time the kids were ready for their day, I was ready for my kids! And they weren’t cartoon zombies!

  • Love your spouse. Maybe this should have been first on the list, since it comes as the first priority above the kids. Kids feel security when they see security between Mom and Dad. I have heard moms say, “I would jump in front of a speeding bus to save my kids! That’s how much I love them.” I am glad you are willing to let yourself die to save them by jumping in front of a moving vehicle, but you are more likely to be called to “let yourself die” by dying to self in interaction with your husband…to save your kids. Stop being your husband’s opponent. Stop thinking bad thoughts about him. Stop dreaming of a perfect man who doesn’t live in your house. You want to save your kids? Then be sure you are doing your best to save your marriage.* Talk positively about their dad behind his back! Tell them about your real-live superhero! Sit next to him at the table or at church. Don’t let the kids get between you in seating or in life. Have date nights and make it a big deal to the kids that you are going out with their dad! But it shouldn’t take a date night to create a happily-ever-after in the bedroom. Make a great marriage. Their future marriages depend on yours.
  • Tell/Show your kids you love them.  Kids hear “I love you” when you tell others that you love your kids. Talk positively about your kids to others in front of them and behind their backs! I am not saying you should brag, but stop the complaining! If someone compliments them, say, “thank you.” Or “She has been working at that,” or something that encourages your child to continue the good behavior. Resist the urge to block the compliment with negative that will shout louder than the positive, like, “She has good manners for you, but I wish she would treat her brother that way!”  You may think you are being humble, but your kids are taking the chinks in their armor because of your words.
  • Teach them to love and respect parents and siblings. You are raising future spouses. I recently had to stop my ten-year-old, riding on his older brother’s shoulders, from trying to rip his sister’s head off while they were playing “chicken fights” in the pool. “But Mom!” my daughter contested from her perch on her other older brother’s shoulders, “Why did you stop him?! I like it!”

Easy answer: “Because I am raising a future husband, and that is not how he should treat his future wife.”

  • Put your phone down. (and be sure they do too.) I know it is a fight. I fight
    Casey Brady - graduation 2015 (with the cutest photobomb by one of our family friends!)

    Casey Brady – graduation 2015 (with the cutest photobomb by one of our family friends!)

    myself on it. But you will never regret having screens off!

  • Date them. Without distraction. My kids have enjoyed the Mom dates. OK, maybe it was just the donuts they enjoyed, but I like to think they enjoyed the conversation and fun one-on-one games at the donut shop. Intimacy of one-on-one conversation is important to any relationship, but especially when children are in a house full of kids who are usually splitting the mom time! I have heard that kids spell love, “T-I-M-E.” It is amazing how a little one-on-one always improves a toddler’s behavior.
  • Enjoy the season (and know the next season will be great too!) In the words of Dr. Robert Smith Jr, “Don’t waste Chapter 8 because you are too focused on chapter 9.” God planned every season of motherhood with a purpose. Even potty-training! Even colicky babies! My 4th baby was such a cryer; I often worried I would wish his babyhood away, because I was so anxious for the crying to stop. I almost looked so much at “Chapter 9” that I missed out on “Chapter 8” with him – and my other kids.
  • Remember, “This too shall pass.” I remember times when I thought I would never make it through the day, much less through their toddlerhood, or childhood. It seemed like I would never be able to stop the car, and get out without waiting for someone to find the shoe that they had miraculously lost in the 3 minute drive to the store. I thought I would never make it through a meal without cleaning up a spill (or four!), or finish a phone call without having to cut it short because of some escalating calamity. But it is passing all too quickly. Now I beg my kids to go to the store with me. I definitely never imagined THAT when they were young! haha!…

 

I wonder if I could get them all to ride in the cart and say, “vroom!” now??!

Casey at college this past Monday:

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In 2033, you will look back and think, “Wow. It went so fast!” just like all the rest of the “old” mothers. If you look back and say, “I miss when they…,” more than “I wish I had…,”  I think you did it right.

In love,

Terri Brady

  • *  When I talk about “saving your kids by saving your marriage,” my heart breaks for those who are in the midst of the struggle. I feel like it is torturous on so many – especially those who are divorced due to unrepentant infidelity or abuse – my heart and prayers go out to you. May God guide you through and make your kids strong in Him! But for those who are truly just not “dying to self,” and instead battling the things I mention, my statement remains. I pray you have guidance and courage to die to self to save your marriage. God is bigger than the struggle!

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A Very Brady Italy

Dear Lindsey,

After a full year of busyness, we were ready to convalesce as a family!

Of course we could do that in our basement, or at the lake, or at my kids’ favorite campground in Silver Lake Michigan, but we decided to get away – really AWAY – to Italy. (See video scrapbook below.)  We have been to Italy several times, most famously five years ago, when my husband Chris wrote his book, A Month of Italy.  

Thanks to Chris’s vacation advice, on this trip I suppressed my “task-oriented” self. I did not sort emails or work on my lists (despite how I wanted to, since I finally had time!). I didn’t count the calories of the gelato and tried to stop thinking about the stress at home; I enjoyed my family.  My quiet times got deeper. On a true vacation, life can be whittled down to what really matters, to release the stuff that really doesn’t.* As I forced myself away from the daily grind, I was able to think of the long-term-vision that seemed to have taken a backseat to busyness this year. New ideas; new goals; fresh brain! Ahh vacation.

This vacation wasn’t as entertaining as our original month-long vacation, since
the kids are older (now 18, 15, 11 and 10), and we are probably a little more seasoned visitors of the country. However, our oldest leaves for college next week, and we all seemed to cherish every moment as a family of six, knowing we will be having dinners of five too soon.

We had our funny moments:

  • When the woman said in her Italian accent that she was a “ballet” dancer in Florence, and I misunderstood and asked her if she was a “belly” dancer. Bahaha! No judging here!
  • When Chris said in perfect Italian, “Posso …formaggio?” when he noticed our table lacked parmigiano cheese. The kids quickly pointed out that he had actually said “Can I … cheese?” which of course went viral on our vacation as the kids often asked if they could…cheese…in Italian.
  • We listened to Italian songs that Chris had downloaded onto his phone. We couldn’t tell what the words actually meant, but that didn’t stop us from singing along in full volume! It reminded us of a funny commercial when a family is singing along in a different language, not knowing the horrendous words they are saying. So Nate (age 15) was careful to not sing anything inappropriate and instead  sang words that he did know – which were limited to food: “Posso Formaggio! Latte! Manzo! Pasta! Pizza!”  He sang to the tune of whatever song was playing – in full tenor voice like Luciano Pavarotti. (And made me laugh!)
  • We played a card game we had just learned with great friends who came to visit North Carolina in early June. Like golf, the goal is to get the lowest score by getting rid of all of your cards. Hysterically, Casey could not get rid of cards, and while the rest of us were within one hundred points of each other, Casey hung out 300 points behind last place! “Casey, you stink at this!” Chris had said in surprise, since Casey usually seems to have a knack for winning. Chris’s uncharacteristic quote again went viral as the kids enjoyed repeating Dad’s funny statement toward Casey any chance they got, often in the form of a rap song.

We had our amazing moments:

  • Chris took us to Orvieto where we had not been in four years. Without GPS or maps, he drove through the town, right up to the driveway of the villa we had rented (which was no easy task to find four years ago WITH a GPS.) He then took us to a restaurant further up the mountain where we had chingiale (wild boar) sausage and pasta to repeat our order from back then. (OK – maybe that is not “amazing” to you, but I was amazed, since I can hardly get around in my own country without a GPS!)
  • At our favorite villa, Il Trebbio, outside of Cortona where we have visited several times, our rental neighbors turned out to be from Raleigh, NC, and were even taking the same flight arrangement home after their five-week stay. Mondo piccolo. (Small world!)

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We missed our weird moments.

“Nothing weird has happened to us this trip!” Casey (age 18) said on one of the last nights. It was almost sad for us.

  • We didn’t have a motorcycle crash into us after popping our tire with his foot peg when he passed too close to our van in Rome traffic.
  • We didn’t have a 12-passenger mini-bus as our rental car, even though Italians are still shocked that we take four children on trips.
  • No child said, “I forgot my shoes” when we were already an hour into the drive for a day-trip to an ancient city.
  • We didn’t have any other child say, “Me too,” realizing he also had forgotten to put on shoes for the same day-trip.
  • We didn’t have any accidental orders of grappa (which Chris swears is kerosene, but Italians drink it) or pasta al scolio (which was full of octopus and squid, not meatballs like the ordering child had hoped).
  • No scorpions came in through the window at 1am, scaring us into leaving the windows closed for the duration of the week with temperatures in the high 90’s – without air conditioning.
  • No man screamed at us, “Allevamento!” (which means “breeding farm”) into a crowd at the market when he saw we had four children.
  • We didn’t see the dog – which looked like a seeing-eye-dog – wearing a shirt that said, “Womanizer.”

We disconnected in order to be reconnected.

IMG_8502 (3)We rested. We bonded.

We turned off electronics. (Turning off electronics put the “family” back into “family vacation.”)

We played cards. (And all the kids are at a competitive level now.)

We swam. (And kids are big enough that nobody is in massive peril.)

We read…and read and read… (and the kids did too).

We enjoyed early mornings with singing birds and late mornings, catching up on a year’s worth of sleep.

We enjoyed the views from the air-conditioned car, while miles of sunflowers and lavender, wheat and hay passed by our windows. Hundred-year-old cypress trees seemed old until we realized they lined the driveways of six-hundred-year-old estates. Grapes hung down near our outdoor dinner table, while grape leaves brought the welcomed shade on the canopy over our heads. Crops formed their signature squares that make the land of Tuscany so beautiful from its mountaintops.

Glorious vacation.

Family bonding.

Minds at rest.

A heart that has had a good vacation is what makes home feel sweet.  IMG_8676

In gratitude for vacation,

Terri Brady

Video Scrapbook of Bradys in Italy:

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* “Going to the cross reminds me of what really matters, so I can release the stuff that really doesn’t.” – Kimberly Wagner

Chin Ups (Via Humorous Teens)

Dear Lindsey,

As heavy as life can get, I love it when a lighter side keeps my chin up.

While Christine and I were away visiting Mom in a Colorado hospital following her stroke, and Chris was speaking at Life Leadership’s Summer Convention in Wisconsin, the three boys were left at home to their own devices. (“devices” ha! I guess I could intend that pun, since their humor used their phones 🙂 )

Since the older two have a schedule of soccer workouts and work, I decided to have a nanny stay the nights, but she kept her job working days elsewhere.  She was sweet enough to text the boys (age 18 and 15) during the day to be sure everything was ok. (She probably was making sure they were taking care of JR (age 10)  too!)

Here is how the exchange went. {For those of you who are not familiar with this phone screen, the “GROUP” is Casey (age 18), Nate (age 15), and Lydia (the nanny), so they can all see each other’s replies, even though none are in the same location. This is Casey’s phone screen, so his words are the ones in BLUE.}

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I am grateful they have a sense of humor, and especially grateful Lydia does too!

In fun,

Terri

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Soccer Guys and Humble Pie

Have you ever made a mistake in parenting?

Long before he could write, my son Nate loved soccer. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was

81Tn4mGp+dL._SL1500_watching soccer (or begging to watch soccer as shown by the Post-It notes below). If he wasn’t playing or watching, he was using his “Soccer Guys” to act out field formations that would eventually end up with a “GOOOOAAAAAAALL!” Walking close by his imaginary play, you would usually hear his little 5-yr-old voice narrating the play in a British accent!

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The play in his mind translated well to play on the field. According to the local coach, Image-1 2he was “above” the recreational league for 5-yr-olds and should really come try out for the competitive league. The problem was that the youngest travel league was for 8 and 9-yr-olds. Nate didn’t seem to think that was an obstacle. He began showing his magnificent obsession on the field of giants! (6-yr-old Nate on the U-9 team to the right and below.)

 

 

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His obsession didn’t end there. Every restaurant’s blank placemat was quickly turned into a soccer guy:  legs spread, fingers out (usually twelve fingers!), and the net behind him, often with a dialogue bubble coming out of the mouth saying, “GOOOAAALLLLL!” (I am sure with a British accent.) He seemed so old during league play that his drawings shocked us with his youth.

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He was a monster on the field and a youngster in the house. After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we had moved to My Father’s World curriculum for first grade. The curriculum used the simple language of small words to write a Bible that my little guy could read all by himself! Having a 2-yr-old and 1-yr-old sister and brother, Nate was usually left to finish his Bible journaling once he and I had done the lessonIMG_6915 together for the day.

“Since you have already read the chapter to me, write a sentence about it and color a picture of what it meant to you,” I often said as I left him to work alone and went to care for his older brother or younger siblings.

His journaling began well: Adam and Eve had a serpent come out of the tree to visit them.

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On the next page, Nate had written, “Cain said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’.”

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Noah’s ark had animal stickers, two by two:

 

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Then I forgot to check the book for several days, and things took a turn:

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I was shocked to open his “Bible Journal” and find pictures of …soccer guys!!! There they were: legs sprawled across the page, fingers (many!) spread and sometimes even a ball in the air!

WHAT?!!! I was livid. It would be bad enough if he had drawn soccer guys in his math notebook, but Bible journal?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!

I had found the mess while I was checking work late at night, and ran it by Chris. He Slide1agreed with my consensus that we needed to crack down HARD on little lies or we would raise an adult who tells big lies. I decided to bring up the subject to my 6-yr-old the next morning, with a clearer, calmer head. My thoughts swam: This was pure deceit. I had heard of deviled eggs, but never before had I applied the adjective to kids! Drawing soccer guys while pretending to be recording in a Bible journal? This was like some scene from the Brady Bunch of the 70’s when Peter hides the comic book and pretends to read history! I don’t care how many points he scores on the field if he can’t score points in character!

What’s on the inside is what matters!

I rehearsed my speech in my head, wanting to turn this boy from his wrong ways while he was still young enough to learn.

“You’re character will be what you choose to make it [and I added: young man!!].” – John Lubbock

“When nobody else is looking, I still see.” – God

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6

“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1Sam 16:7

 

The next morning, we started homeschool with a one-on-one conversation. I gave him my “SCORING POINTS FOR CHARACTER” speech, and he sat listening intently. I gave him a chance to tell me if he had any times recently when he thought his character was not something he would want God to see.

“I don’t think so,” he said as his bewildered, 6-yr-old, enormous, brown eyes squinted a little.

I brought out the Bible journal, practically ready to jump on him and say, “Thou art the man!!” I opened and turned the pages, telling him how disappointed I was that he was drawing soccer guys instead of illustrating what he had read in the Bible like I had told him.

His tears started to well.

Guilty as charged! I assumed. I was ready to accept his apology and hold hands to pray toward repentance.

His tears burst through his words as he said, “THAT…. IS MOSES!”

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I was shocked when for the first time I noticed a burning bush next to the man I thought was a soccer guy.

“AND THAT IS JACOB…SEE HIS DREAM?” he said, turning the page to an identically looking man next to what I had thought was a soccer ball.

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“And that one is Joseph next to the barn full of grain,” he said, pointing to another “soccer guy” next to a little square, that apparently was not a goal, but a barn.

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I could have died. Or cried. Or both – preferably in that order.

I…FELT… SO… BAD!!!

Next up: one of the most important parenting moves ever:

I said, “I’m sorry,” to my son!

We held hands and prayed for my forgiveness.  The table was turned. The verse: “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1Sam 16:7) was still applicable. I was indeed “a people” and I just displayed it in full color to my 6-yr-old, since I had only looked at the “appearance”! I hate the taste of humble pie! But I love the results of peace in the relationship.

The Bible says, “Humble yourself and you shall be exalted,” (James 4:10) but I like to say, “Humble yourself or God will do it!”

I showed Chris the pictures later and he laughed hysterically at what we had thought, versus what was reality. Of course, I guess Nate got past the horrible incident and forgave us, because when I got out his old Bible journal this week (now that he is almost 15-yrs-old) and told him the story, he laughed and laughed and laughed, not remembering it at all!

I guess it is a good thing that God judges from the heart, because then He could know that I meant to teach for His glory; however, it served as a good reminder that my heart might be the deviled one some days in this Brady bunch.

Love ya,

Terri

1Peter 5:6 : “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

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