Archive for the ‘Back to School’ Category

floridatrees14It is hard when our children learn to deal with the diverse responses of relationships in the classroom. They have their close friends who have their back, then more peripheral friends, and, lastly, conflict peers.

Some of my sons are water-off-a-duck’s back with social conflict. No ruffly feathers here. Some take it to heart and have trouble shaking the continual attempt to establish a pecking-order by conflict peers.

“They don’t like me mom,” one son said of a particular group of boys. Let me qualify that he has awesome friends. When the bully in the bathroom threatened peers in the bathroom, regardless of whether they were his close friends or peers, he had no problem telling the bully to move on.

“Dude, you’re too small to beat him up,”  he told the bully in the bathroom. Instead of a fight ensuing, people laughed and everybody left. The bully in the bathroom was momentarily deflated.

Another time, my son was explaining classroom dynamics with a group of trouble-makers. My son explained, “When they ask me to help with their homework, they’re nice. But then they turn mean again.”

How do you explain to a boy growing into a man that with confidence comes responsibility. Confidence shouldn’t be used for beating down, but for leading into faith. Confidence doesn’t just happen: God put it there for a reason.

“Every time you help, you plant a Jesus seed,” I responded.

He looked at me.

dogwoodlimbs“We all have different bloom times. To a lot of these kids, you have it all. You do great in school, on the soccer field. You have good friends. They don’t see how hard you work at home to do well in school. They just see a confident, well-liked kid. Apparently they respect and trust you to help them.”

He was still paying attention, so I continued, “Maybe right now they don’t feel as great about themselves. Maybe they don’t see the gifts inside them that they see in you – and they feel inadequate.”

“What’s inadequate?” he asked, trying to grab hold of what I was saying.

“If you go to the store and they ring up 22 dollars but you only have 20 – you have inadequate funding,” I explained. “Everybody’s bloom time is different. Gift recognition and development sometimes takes others pointing out your strengths. Right now – these kids see can’t see their strengths. Sometimes it’s easier to see another’s strengths than your own.”

I could identify with the late bloomers – not the bullying part, but not being able to see the good things within. I’d been a late bloomer in school.

This conversation occurred in one of the last bed-time chronicles before my boy outgrew them. I tried to encourage that with great gifts comes great responsibility- and that means your response to these challenges needs to be more intentional and responsible.

IMG_5763_edited-4Last year, I encouraged the boys to find 3 people to pray for every day – not just the easy people, but the bully, the kid who gets on your nerves, the student who tries their best to be unnoticed.  They didn’t do it everyday, but a seed was planted.

We’re starting this year with the same message – but being more intentional, recognizing the mission field they walk through every day, understanding how God doesn’t want a one lost.

God calls us to take risks with the talents He gives us. In the story of the man with the talents, he gave one $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000. Two men took risks of their talents and doubled their investment. One just hid his, fearing failure.

Christ commissioned us to go out into the nations and save souls for Him (Matthew 28: 19-20), to tell others about His father. God has equipped each of us for this task, equipped us like the man equipped his servants with the talents. Early bloomers, late bloomers – each is called to enter the mission field. Our first mission field is our family, the second our schools, then our community – and then the world.

“‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’”Matthew 25: 28-30).

God calls us to be risk-takers. Yes, go out on a limb – take God-risks.   I don’t know if there’s a right age to reach others for Christ; however, our children need to be encouraged to not judge and condemn those who struggle with good choices – but to go out on a limb, be kind, plant a seed: be willing to sit down, really talk, really share, really listen. Don’t use the limb to beat others down. Use it as a leverage to lift them up.


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“If they don’t let us in, you’ll talk to them, won’t you mom?” My son asked. “Like you did before.”

This was summer; we’d just moved back “home” after our 2 year journey some-other-place. During our tenure away, the school board had redistricted so that many families who lived 2 minutes away from their schools would drive 15 minutes away – and those 15 minutes away would pass us on the way to our “old” school. And this son, who had so missed his friends, his teachers, his home  – this son was scared . . . scared he really wouldn’t be home.

This son remembered the embarrassing battles I’d fought – embarrassing to him.

He remembered being in Wal-Mart with me after Christmas. My mom had sent the boys a game that just needed exchanging for an equal priced game. However, because I didn’t have a receipt, it rang up with a $5 deficit. When I asked to speak to the manager, my boys sighed, “Are you going to embarrass us?”

“No! I’m just standing up for what is right. I just want an equal exchange,” I answered. And they watched me parle that fair, equal exchange of one priced product for another.

He remembered a back-to-school battle in Wal-Mart’s check-out aisle – 3 of the boys and me, school supplies filling the cart – I asked to speak to the manager. My boys asked, “Are you going to embarrass us?” The teen just stood stoic, knowing his mama.

Out of ear-shot of my sons, I talked to the manager: “Do you see my sons? Do you see my school supplies? Why would you have sexually explicit material easily readable, easily available in a family friendly store, where you want us to come and spend our money on back-to-school products – and yet have a magazine with sex directions where my kids can read – ’cause my kids can read. I taught them,” I explained to the manager.

“You guys are such hypocrites, taking our family friendly money for school supplies and then dis-respecting our values by placing those magazines uncovered for my kids to read. You guys need to decided who you are – Family Friendly or Porn-Friendly,” I argued, trying to persuade them to place Cosmopolitan and Glamour under sleeves. Today, those magazines are under sleeves.

He remembered when we’d first moved into the school district, being dragged with 3 of his brothers to the superintendent’s office. The older boys knew: “Mom’s going to embarrass us.”

We had moved into this particular district so the boys could attend this school. His district school, however, was going to bus him to another school due to over-crowding. This was the one son who would have dissembled if he were separated from his brothers. This would also put 3 sons at 3 different schools. The next year would have 4 sons at 4 different schools.

I didn’t know who I was going to talk to, but we were told we could wait but it could be hours. I will admit that when 4 or 5 of my sons are with me anywhere – it is not a sight easily over-looked – one of the perks of 1( a large family and 2) all of them being boys.

Twenty minutes later, a man stopped by, saw us sitting in chairs waiting for someone who wasn’t there and invited us into his office. He was the superintendent. He pulled in chairs for all 4 boys, heard my calm, impassioned plea, called the school and squared things away.

To my boys, I’m just mom. Managers and Superintendents are important people – who am I to question or fight for right with such important people – me a mere mama.

And here was my son, asking me to fight for him – if his “home” school wouldn’t let him go there.

I don’t think he doubted for a moment that I would fight for him. He needed assurance that I would bring out my mama-mojo, the same one that “embarrassed” them in Wal-Mart, in the Superintendent’s office, well, just probably everywhere.

He just needed assurance – because I am his champion. I am his provider. I supply all his needs. I believe in him. I would go to the mat for him.

I wonder, for a moment, how he doubts it.

Then I realize – I’m that way with God sometimes. I forget when I’m in the midst of a challenge, when I’m overcome, when I’m trying to handle it all myself, that He wants to fight for me. I just need to step out of the way.

” The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14: 14).

I need to trust him – to remember all the times He has fought for me before – before my very eyes!

“The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes” (Deut 1:30).

My boys don’t always see the battles my husband and I fight for them – just like I don’t always see the battles the Father fights for me. There is goodness in that. I’m sure that if I actually knew all the battles and why – I’d be a mess, scared to put a toe out the door of my home.

However, I need to know about some of those battles, to see that He does fight for me – because it builds trust, faith, and relationship. Those battles He has fought for more taught me that He just isn’t words in a book – He is real and He loves me. I am important to Him, not because I am worthy but because He loves me.

Having seen me fight battles that affect him both directly and indirectly, my son understands that I can and will fight for him.

“You yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you” (Joshua 23:3)

God fights for us. Sometimes we ask because, like my son, we need that confirmation. God does it more gracefully than mamas – I don’t ever recall being embarrassed when He fought for me!

Do you remember the ways He has fought for you?


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School starts today – a senior, 8th grader and 6th grader – 3 still in the nest, 2 out – a snug balance that will change come next May.

I’m not quite ready for this school year, but I am being swept into it regardless of whether I am ready or not. Maybe next week I will be ready. Besides, who says I have to be ready at the beginning of everything?

At least the boys to men will go to school with haircuts – starting out neat and trim. Nice haircuts that seem to say, “I’m ready,” whether you really are or not.

But we’re really not.
And that’s o.k.

I’m making white cupcakes from scratch, filled with strawberry jam, topped with a chocolate ganache and pink, yellow and lavender fondant daisies for a wedding shower for my nephew and his sweet fiance this weekend. Even in that, I’m not quite ready.

And that’s o.k..

There are lots of changes, good changes, answered prayer changes – feeling like it’s a blizzard of answered prayer – and I can’t see ahead of it. I can only see as far as the tips of my toes, which really means, where I am right now.

This girl, here, the one typing – I’m used to seeing ahead of everything, even if I really can’t see: planning contingencies, even planning back-up alternatives for the contingencies – but God wants me to stand in the midst of this blizzard of answered prayer and just soak, not so much say right now.

One never quite knows where an answered prayer will take one – except that it will be ultimately lead its way into something good, something refreshing.

I’m not ready because I cannot see everything out in front of me

but I’m on the journey, even if it means I can’t see what’s beyond right now except the prayers answered – not the cause/effect, just the blessing of those answers

I am trusting Him, that these answered prayers will translate themselves to me eventually, that readiness will unfold itself.

“This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,

Thank you Father for making a safe, solid path through the challenges, through the unknown, even through answered prayers that lead to places unanticipated.

The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.

Thank you for taking us forward, every closer to you. Thank you for leading us through the mine-field of challenges that reveal our measure of grace only to provide the opportunity to grow that measure of grace into something more. My history, the family history – it has already happened. I need to let go to let us grow into what He has planned. Event though much history is good, answered prayers start new chapters, leaving the old chapters behind.

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.

I’m not ready of myself, Father – but if you are designing the plan, the schedule, the itinerary, if you are building the road, no matter where you building the road, I want to be there with you, to watch your plan explode! Not just watch, but to work with you! Oh, yes, to work with you, even though you don’t need my help! I just have to be willing, game, alert, present.

Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me” (Isaiah 43:16-21)

Thank you, Father, for this blizzard of answered prayer. Thank you for always being faithful to your promises. Thank you for pursuing each of my sons, each member of my family with more love and determination than I can fathom. Thank you for opening doors that lead to other doors that lead us to where you want us to be. Thank you for sending me a husband who leads our family with unconditional love, wisdom founded in you, and a hopeful, joyful, never-give-up heart. Thank you for a support system that knows my heart, loves me where I am and cheers me on for where you take me. Thank you for giving me peace, to let me know that not everything has to be done perfectly on-the-world’s schedule – or even a school year schedule – and that it is o.k. sometimes to not be ready for things like school.

No, I’m not ready for school today, or for the shower Saturday, or soccer practice 3 days a weeks, dinner tomorrow night or tomorrow’s 6:25 wake up call for boys.

He just wants me to be ready to praise Him, to love Him, to just simply follow Him one minute, one hour, one day, one event at a time.

In the following, I will find myself ready at the right time, know how it all unfolds because He created the plans – and each contingency of each contingency.

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Someone asked me how I get my two little guys to read an hour a day over the summer.  Well, to be honest, we did not do anything for an entire month!  Then, I just put my foot down. One hour of reading a day – at the same time. And then something beautiful happened.  Well, first, the silence was beautiful.  I happened upon a solution to a reading problem.

Both my boys begged me to make them do 100 squats earlier in the day. When our reading time started, they hadn’t done them yet.  Which was an un-planned-for boon.

My little guy is not a particularly strong reader.  The rules, “when two vowels are together, the first one says its name and the second one is quiet,” is often repeated – as though he’s never heard it.  And breaking down words, sounding the letters out – not happening.

Until our reading hour that day.  He hated reading The Magic Tree House books, because, well, he was going into 4th grade and he wanted something more interesting – something not so blatantly educational. The abridged classics were still too challenging (they’re really more for 5th to 7th). He needed abridged abridged classics. I had a couple (remember, 24 years of raising sons has allowed me to develop quite a boy-reading library).  I recommend the Classic Starts Series from Sterling Publishing.

He loves them! Gobbles them up. But there are still some pretty challenging vocabulary from names to places to just words.

And the light bulb went off in my Blue Cotton head!  We made a deal.  For every word he did not know, I would take off 2 squats.  Suddenly, he was asking me what all kinds of words were (18 in all). I did not tell him, though, what the word was.  I talked him through it with hints like, “what do the first 3 letters spell,” “The next two” and so on.  You get the picture.

The next reading time, they had not asked for squats (LOL), so he earned 10 cents a word. Of course, words too easy, I wouldn’t count. 

However, I now have a stronger reader getting ready to enter school, and one who really seemed to enjoy the entire process.

Of course, I am somewhat dismayed about the need to read.  Reading used to assure success in life.  However, our president, his advisors and many congressional leaders have shown that the need to read is not a prerequisite for success.  They have continually told us they have not read the bills passed or even contested.

Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General did not read the Arizona legislation before expressing a negative opinion on the bill President Obama signed the Government Health Care Bill into law with reading.  It reminds me of a high school student answering a teacher’s questions about a book he has not read.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on Government Health Care, ““But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy’” – click here for source. Wow – is that not like taking the test to find out what you need to get out of the book? Or imagine my husband and I not reading a contract before we signed it – and saying, “Oh, we’ll find out if we can handle what’s in that contract after we sign it.”

The  Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napalitano, disagreed with the law also without reading it. And she admitted she did not come to class. . . . I mean a Congressional Meeting prepared. Wow! That is like telling the teacher in an Oral Presentation – “No, I didn’t read the book, but I’m going to talk about it – and I’m going to say it stinks.”

President Obama has even admitted that he is not familiar with provisions in bills he has passed. Wow! The most powerful man in the world has signed bills that will affect my family adversely – and he is not really familiar with how it will affect my finances, my health and my freedom. I thought with great power came great responsibility?

Well, how do I tell my guys that reading will get them somewhere in life, when our leaders continually show it is not a skill they use often? I want my children to understand consequences to actions, the benefits of responsibility, the need to always do your best and be your best.  I mean, it is bad enough when my children balk at reading – but the leaders of my country? Somebody help me out here!

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