Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

My Word for 2016: Intentional

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person.  I hardly ever make resolutions because I know I won’t keep them. I’m not very disciplined, or maybe, I’m taking care of 4 children and have little time for setting goals, let alone keeping them.

But something was nagging me at the end of 2015. I felt like I was constantly reacting to the flurry of the day’s activities–the tyranny of the urgent– rather than planning to meet that  activity-flurry, spinning like a 200 mph tornado, head on.

One day, I remember saying to myself: I’m just not going to clean anymore. I can’t fit it in. Weeks later, I told Duane about my little plan, to which he replied: “Hmmm, that’s interesting.” So, I guess it’s not a good plan?

I also sensed a gentle conviction that planning ahead would actually not just make me feel more in control of the day, but it would be a kind and gracious act for the 5 other people in my house.

The word that kept swirling around in my head was I N T E N T I O N A L. How could I make changes in my home that would leave me feeling less like a flightless bird frantically flapping her wings?



Several areas came to mind as I thought about becoming more intentional in 2016.





(I’m covering F O O D today. Stay tuned for forthcoming posts on the other topics.)

First, food. I really wanted to change the way I approached food. I felt like the lack of  planning in this area resulted in a lot of carb-consuming. When the kids got home from school, I threw out a bowl of pretzels or graham crackers (with a side of fruit…thank you very much), which basically left them still hungry with a carb-coma to boot. I especially noticed it in my 13-year-old boy, who now eats twice as much as everyone else. He needed more.

So, in the last few days of 2015, we only had one child–3 had gone off to greener pastures to spend time with friends and family. It gave me a much-needed breather to actually think through the changes I wanted to make for 2016.

Pinterest became my best friend in the waning days of 2o15. I looked up a ton of recipes for protein-laden snacks, smoothies loaded with greens, and sweets minus the sugar (ahem, we’ll see how that one goes).

I got a NutriBullet for Christmas, which is honestly the best invention since Pinterest. I can make a smoothie in about 30-seconds flat and clean it up in even less time. I bought all the bells and whistles, too, that make smoothies stick to your stomach: protein powder, chia seeds, almond milk, spinach, Greek yogurt.

Y’all, it’s been fun. I look forward to them every day.

Here’s one I made this morning:

Pineapple Banana & Coconut Cream Smoothie (Vegan & GF) from AverieCooks. It was SOooo GOOood.


Source: AverieCooks


I also follow Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram for recipe inspiration.


This is @simplegreensmoothies Strawberry Daiquiri smoothie made with spinach, strawberries, grapefruit, and dates.

Follow @simplegreensmoothies HERE.


Onto after-school snacks.

I’ve already made THESE.


Peanut Butter Banana Smudgies

Source: PopSugar

You pop them in the freezer for an ice-cream sandwich effect, except with healthy stuff in the middle!

Today, I’m also making another freezer treat: Cherry Almond Coconut Protein Balls .


Source: PopSugar

Feel free to check out my Pinterest board, New Year New Food, for more healthy snack ideas.

Even before 2016 started, I started changing the way I make dinner. For the months of November and December, I entered the vast wide-open land that is freezer meal prep. All I can say now is, after  a few wobbly baby steps in this new territory, I’m a believer!

I used 2 different plans from the blog I Am That Lady. Each plan cost about $3 to download and are specifically tailored to shopping at ALDI, although she’s adapted some of her shopping lists for a regular grocery store if ALDI gives you the creeps.

I made approximately 15-20 meals over the course of 2-3 days (you’re supposed to be able to do it in a 5-hour block, but who has that kind of  free time?), and never thought about dinner again for the rest of the month. 

I know some people get together with their friends for prep, so that it’s not so overwhelming. That might be something I try in the New Year as well.

I’m taking a break from freezer meals in January to focus on overhauling all of the food we eat, but I’m kinda sad about it. I’m going to miss the sigh of relief when that moment of internal panic strikes around 5 o’ clock  that screams: You haven’t started dinner yet!

Only the Freezer Meal can quiet that voice.




I’m looking forward to planning some new things this year, things that have never been.

Later this week, I’ll share some more of my thoughts about becoming more intentional about relationships.

Let me know what you’re cooking up, too. I’d love to know.

Oh, and Happy New Year.






Showing Hospitality WITH Your Kids

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014


We moved around the kitchen together, putting away, picking up, drying, washing. I noticed her sighs become heavier along the way, no longer muffled but full-blown. The knot of anxiety tightened in my chest; the forceful whisper of her sigh was louder than a freight train in my ear. At that moment, I just wanted someone–anyone–to help without sighing.

I also wanted to give her a piece of my mind.

“DO you know how much I do around here? DO you understand that you have free food everyday and a roof over your head because of what other people do for you? So, can you P L E A S E put away a few dishes WITHOUT sighing?”

Okay, that’s happened. More times than I’d like to admit. I like a quick fix, especially when we’re getting ready for company. But this time, I paused before I reacted (key) and thought before I spoke (really KEY).

I took her face in my hands and said: “Part of the joy of having company is the preparation. It doesn’t have to be a drag. We get to anticipate the arrival of our guests all day and work together to create an inviting space.”

She softened a little after these words and replied, “Yeah, you’re right.” Her eyes began to twinkle with the same anticipation that I had. Then, guess what? The sighing stopped. Really.

We continued our work, but with a new willingness to enjoy the work together.

Oh, this scenario is rife with parenting lessons like:

#1 “A fool (me) shows his annoyance (at sighing) at once, but the prudent overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16).”

If I just take a few second to collect myself, things usually go a lot better and the situation doesn’t escalate.

#2 Kids love to have things spelled out for them. Sometimes a plan comes together perfectly in my mind, but if I haven’t communicated that vision to my kids, it flops. It’s always helpful for them if I explain what’s happening for the day and what I expect from them before the day begins. There’s usually less groaning and sighing because they know what to expect.

#3 The real reason for this post: You can be hospitable, even if you have kids, even WITH your kids.

Honestly, I often get incredulous responses when people find out I’m hosting a dinner party. I guess it’s the whole 4-kids-thing (including an almost 2-year-old toddler). I agree, partly, with their responses. Sometimes I think I AM crazy for adding extra mouths to the table when I already feed 6 people EVERY day.

But the truth is: I’d go crazy if I didn’t invite people into our home.

I’ll let you in on a Davis family secret: one of the best ways to get over the aggravations that rumble under the surface of everyday life is to have other people over. (Stop laughing; I’m serious.)

It’s a chance for us as a family to stop navel-gazing and begin thinking about the needs of others. It’s amazing how many tensions have melted away when our attention turns away from ourselves toward others.

I’ve seen it happen countless times, and I’ve been doing this gig for over 13 years.

One more thing: Life doesn’t have to stop when you have kids. A slower pace sets in, for sure, but it’s also an opportunity for your kids to GO with you and TAKE PART in the things you value.

Okay, so now that the pep talk is over, here’s the breakdown of the next 3 posts:

#1 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Kids 

#2 Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Older Kids

#3 Hospitality Stories

I really hope this series is helpful for you. Please feel free to shoot me any questions during the hospitality series in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

I’ll sign off with these two L O V E L Y quotes about hospitality. (And really, who doesn’t want to entertain angels?!)

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

Interview with a 2-Year-Old

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

I’ve been blogging for almost a year now. {Hooray. Cheers. Fireworks. [enter any celebratory phrase here]}

One of my most popular posts this year was Interview with a One-Year-Old.

So, for my one year blog anniversary , I decided to interview Jonathan once again, but this time, as a two-year-old.


baby, interview, 2-year-old


Me: Hi, Jonathan. It’s good to have you back here at onNeutralGround.

Jonathan: (stares longingly at the bagel with cream cheese across the kitchen that I haven’t had time to eat yet)

Me: Uh, okay. Jonathan, I’ve been wondering: What’s it like being the fourth child? Do you like being the baby in the family?

Jonathan: Nnno.

Me: Oh, ok, really? Do you have anything you’d like to add to that sentiment?

Jonathan: Noooo.

Me: I see. Let’s move on.  What’s your favorite toy? I mean, besides the dishwasher. I know, you really like that singing puppy–you know, the one that sings Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.

Jonathan: Nno.

Me: Gosh, I could have sworn that was your favorite toy. You always smile when I turn it on.

Jonathan: Noooo.

Me: Well, what’s your favorite food then?

Jonathan: No.

Me: That wasn’t a yes-or-no question.

Jonathan: Niihhhoooooo.

Me: Um, ok. I see this isn’t going very well. Let’s see. We went to the beach this summer. I know you didn’t like it at first, but by the end of the week, you really enjoyed the water. I’ve got pictures to prove it.

beach, kids, waves

Jonathan: Nnnnnnno.

Me: You don’t like the beach?

Jonathan: No.

Me: Well, what about the sand? It’s pretty fun to build sand castles.

Jonathan: Nooooh.

Me: Well, Jonathan, I have little else to ask you. Hmm. Maybe, are you looking forward to fall? The leaves changing and all that.

Jonathan: Nnnnooooo.

Me: {flustered} Oh, you’d say “No” to anything I asked you.

Do you want a Pop-Tart?

Jonathan: Yes.

Me: Wait, what?! Can you repeat that answer?

Jonathan: No.






True Confessions

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

True confession: I was kind of dreading this summer. Not even really because of the fiasco that was LAST SUMMER (you can read that happy little story here: Summer’s Revenge).  

It’s just that my kids are getting older now. They have conflicting desires, different friends, and they CAN’T DRIVE. I had visions of spending my entire summer behind the steering wheel, squinting at the sun’s glare through my windshield instead of basking in its glory on a towel next to the pool.

We didn’t sign up for summer camps, either. Not one.  I know. Totally un-American. And maybe even crazy.


But a friend asked me today what I’ve enjoyed most about my summer. I thought about it for a minute (since we haven’t been to the beach yet) and replied: Just being with my kids. What’s even cooler is that is was TRUE.  I didn’t say it because I thought I was supposed to feel that way and I didn’t say it  so she’d think I’m a better mom than I am (there’s plenty of evidence to prove otherwise). I really meant it.

Another true confession: I’m reading Anne Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.

Erg. That was even harder to admit.

I’ve always prided myself on staying away from ridiculously popular books. For instance, The Purpose Driven Life–never read it. And proud of it. (I may have some soul searching to do.)

The world is divided into two camps: those who love Anne Voskamp’s writing style and those who loathe it. I happen to be in the former category.  I became acquainted with her writing first through her blog. I really enjoyed the few articles I read there, though the persistent piano melody in the background  feels slightly manipulative, like at any moment I’m expected to weep like I’m at a funeral.

Piano music aside, she’s one insightful lady, so I decided to take the plunge and read the book. This week, I’ve been reading little bits of it, in the calm of the morning before the kids wake up. I was particularly struck by the words in her chapter First Flight:

“Never is God’s omnipotence and omniscience diminutive. God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with him, and I swell the world and He stirs me, joy all afoot.”


I promise there’s a connection between Confession #1 and Confession #2.

Truthfully, there hasn’t been much spectacular about our summer. (Well, except for that trip to Las Vegas for kids aka Great Wolf Lodge. That WAS spectacular, especially because we were with extended family.) But I’ve enjoyed it, anyway, because of  its simplicity. I’ve been thankful just to see their faces each morning without having to rush them out the door. I’ve been thankful to see them jump together into the deep end of the pool. I’ve been thankful and honestly surprised at how well they’ve gotten along, even through the long hours of summer.

So, my falsely inflated self says thanks for these simple things, and the world returns right, because my ego deflates for just a little while, and for a small second I acknowledge His good gifts. You can bet I’ll return to that falsely inflated self, and not relish the goodness of God, and for that time, His grace is bigger.

For right now, I’m thankful to Anne for the reminder to see beauty in the ordinary and then to thank God for it.

And guess what? I haven’t been behind the steering wheel (that much). I might even have a little tan.


(Gotta run. The three olders are beginning to fray at the edges. It’s not all roses. Still hoping to say thanks.)

Know Your Kids

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014



“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” -Debra Ginsberg


kids, parenting, children


My son Stephen and I went for an evening walk last night. At first, I envisioned a leisurely walk by myself with only my camera for company–the glow of the evening summer sky  is perfect for taking pictures.


But, when me and my camera were only halfway down the driveway, Stephen yelled from the screen door, “Mom, can I come with you?”


“Sure, Stephen. C’mon. “


“Put your shoes on first.”


“No, you can’t ride your scooter. We’re taking a W A L K.”


roses, natural light, sun flare


So, my eight-year-old walking companion, my camera and I set out at a slow pace, holding tightly to the solid white line of the country road. Few cars travel down this street, but when they come, it’s fast and furious. I walked on the outside with Stephen in the grass,  just like my dad used to do with me. He would take me for long walks but never let me walk on the outside.


country, road, wildflowers, dandelions


We stopped along the way to capture wildflowers and tall grass, especially where the light hit them just right. Stephen patiently endured all my stopping for photos, while I listened to his ongoing monologue about what animals he would buy if he had a million dollars (a parrot, a monkey, and a bald eagle, by the way). I encouraged him to maybe look into being a zookeeper.

{Tangent: We have a long standing agreement in our house that we are not going to own pets. The last thing I want to spend my spare time doing is vacuuming dog hair. Cleaning up after 4 kids is enough. But, how can I not get this kid a pet??? He talks about animals 24-7!}


Daisies Unhinged


Stephen is a wonderfully zany kid. For example, he’s been wearing the same 7 rubber bracelets–the ones with the different slogans on them like “Follow your Dreams” and “Jesus for Japan” (just to name a few) — on his right arm for two years straight. He never takes them off; he wears them with pride. He lost one swimming once and responded with heartbreak: “That was my favorite one. It said Never Give Up.”  Me: <Gulp. Heart in throat.>


slogan bracelets




Last night, he wanted me to photograph his superhero poses (he was wearing his Spiderman pajama shirt after all)  and he especially wanted me to capture him in midair, like Superman.


I did. We giggled. For a brief moment, when he saw the picture, I think he thought he could really fly. His chest swelled, his eyes beamed–just like they do when someone asks him about his bracelets.
















The thing about last night is that Stephen and I were getting to know each other, not just as a mom and a son, but as people. This little boy is  wonderfully made in the image of God, with all sorts of dreams and interests and aspirations. I want to know about them.

This wasn’t a time of correction or discussing his “issues”. There’s a time for that. It was a time for being interested, to listen, to engage.

Soon his identity will transcend being our son, and really  does already. He belongs to Jesus.

And one day, he’ll go and be a zookeeper and have his own friends and be a neighbor, parent, husband to someone else. He’ll become the person God created him to be and I’ve got a front row seat (for now).

So, for my final Parenting in Weakness post, I encourage you to know your children as the people God has created them to be. Guide them, discipline them, and make them do chores. Those are good things. But make sure you KNOW them, too.

Take time to listen to their longings.

Know their particular gifts  and encourage them to use them.

Don’t just chide them in their weakness, help them; because you know that you are weak, too.

Give your children enough space to let God speak to their hearts rather than your endless lecturing (so, so, so hard).

Finally, chill out. You’re not the Writer of the Story, you’re  a supporting actor at best. You have an important job for sure, but ultimately, the Author is up to things you can’t control, see, or even imagine.  That’s hard because it doesn’t feel safe when we’re not in control.

But we cling to the promise that He is good, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Rest in that truth.


light, arrow, road sign


And Babies Don't Keep

That’s Not Fair

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014



If you have kids, you’ve heard it a million times:

That’s not fair.

My three oldest kids are  three and a half years apart from start to finish.  It’s amazing how often I’m walking on egg shells because of those three little words.

Are there enough cookies for everyone to get two? Who gets the last sip of my soda?  Who gets the last scoop of green beans (ok, just checking to see if you’re paying attention)?

“Why does he get a playdate?”

“She got to go swimming yesterday.”

“He ate all of the cereal.”

That’s not fair.


parenting in weakness


We love “being fair” as humans, probably even more as Americans. I work, I get what’s due to me. If she gets a piece of chocolate, I get one, too. It’s only fair. Curiously,  “fair” is seldom used to defend someone else; instead,  it’s used  to defend the rights of the person who wants what the other person has. It’s primarily self-focused.

So, we have a couple of little phrases of our own  in response to That’s Not Fair:

#1 We live by grace and mercy


#2 Rejoice with those who rejoice.

#1 In God’s kingdom, do we really want what’s fair?  Fair looks a lot like Jesus NOT dying on the cross and us paying for our sin instead. If God played fair, we’d be in a heap of trouble. Now, we don’t hammer this into their heads every time they say or imply: that’s not fair. But the concept  informs our responses to their pitiful pleas, though there are times that I respond in a  sing-songy, “Remember-children-we-live-by-grace-and-mercy.”

But that’s mainly to annoy them.

There are times when someone’s going to have a playdate and the other isn’t, when one has 3 birthday parties in a month and the others don’t, when there’s only one piece of chocolate cake left (in that case, I get it!). How do I want them to respond in those moments? See #2.

#2 Rejoice with those who rejoice.

{Ok, we’re seriously working on this one folks. It doesn’t come naturally to ANY of us.}

In Tim Keller’s sermon, Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, he exhorts us to let go of having to be first, having to be the best, in order to actually enjoy the accomplishment of another, just because it happened… just because it’s beautiful. He used a hypothetical  example of an Olympic ice skater who’d be totally content to come in second place  just because the artistry and skill of the gold-medal winner was so stunning, she could rejoice simply because it happened.

Seems far-fetched, I know (that’s why it was a hypothetical example). Tim Keller  admits that this kind of “self-forgetfulness” is way outside of our paradigm.  But isn’t that one of the beautiful, yet arduous, things about being in community: learning that we’re not the center of the universe, that there is joy when we love one another, instead of always demanding what’s fair.

When the curtain closes on this brief parenting gig, that’s really one of the things I want them to remember. I want them sitting around the table together, making fun of me, rolling their eyes at all the times I said, “Rejoice!” when someone got something that they didn’t. But I also want them to remember me praying, not only for them, but for my own heart because I want what’s fair, too… for meoften.

(And “fair” looks a whole lot like a trip to Italy. Just sayin’.)


**How do you respond to That’s Not Fair in your home or community?






Parenting in Weakness: A 3-part Series

Monday, April 28th, 2014


So, for the next 3 weeks, I’ve decided to post a series of 3 articles on Parenting. I’ve called it Parenting in Weakness, because that’s what I’m good at–weakness. I’m not a parenting guru. I’m often disappointed by my inconsistency. I often wish I was more structured, more creative, more ______________. But Jesus DOES speak to my heart in this parenting gig, and if I slow down long enough, I hear Him.

The truth is that Jesus is transforming weak people, because that’s all He has. And that’s what He’s good at. Here’s the first part in that Story:


It happened one day while I was changing sheets. I lifted the pillow and saw a pile of gold, shiny wrappers. My eyes followed the trail to the floor behind the headboard. More gold, shiny, EMPTY wrappers. Someone enjoyed a major bout of candy consumption in secret.

There’s a phrase we use in our house: if you’re doing something in secret, it probably means it’s wrong. I mean, not even “probably”, more like there’s a 99.9% chance that it’s wrong. My kids are just like yours (and we’re just like them, but that’s another story). They hide the things they don’t want other people to see.

I’ve prided myself on applying this little nugget of truth about human nature to my children’s lives. It’s true. Secrecy should raise a red flag. But something was gnawing at me last week. Just because they understand something is wrong doesn’t mean they’ll actually do something about it. Perhaps, unintentionally, I’d even heaped more guilt on their fragile hearts.

So, in a moment when I was quiet enough to hear the Spirit’s whisper, I tweaked my prized parenting philosophy to: if you’re doing something in secret, ask for help. If you’re hiding, SEEK. Because really, I want to be a safe place for my children to ask for help in temptation and even full blown sin, because that’s what Jesus offers me, nothing less. I don’t just want the alarm to go off and scream: that’s wrong! I wan’t them to have a helper in their time of need and right now, in this stage of their lives, I’m Jesus’ representative of grace, mercy, and help to them.

Sadly, the truth is that their sin inconveniences me, so I’m not always the safe place I long to be. I get angry with their repeated sin, but you probably don’t notice, because it’s in secret. And this is where we’re really in the same boat as our children. We need Jesus to enter into the secret places to show us that he’s better than a thousand pieces of candy or the control and ease I long for.


“It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.” –Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Part 2: That’s Not Fair

Part 3: Know Your Kids

We Become Our Mothers

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

It happens when you least expect it.

We become our mothers. This truth hit me hard during a recent conversation I had with my 3 oldest children. It went something like this:

Me: If I ever find out that you used that kind of language with your friends at school or your friends at church, you will wish you were never born.

Them: [speechless, deer-in-the-headlights eyes]

Me: Do you understand?

Them: [shaky voices] Yes, ma’am.

I walked away with a rare feeling of success.

I also had an out-of-body experience. Did I just say that?

Often, I still feel like I’m that 18-year-old girl who just graduated from high school. Or the 7-year-old who just finished her first dance recital. But, in reality, I have crow’s feet around my eyes and I’m saying things to my kids like: “Oh, moms have a special talent for finding things out.” Or this little gem: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Really? Has it come down to that? Ugh. Listen, I take time to deal with the deeper issues in my children’s hearts, but sometimes  glib phrases are the best thing my little brain can handle when I’m cooking dinner, feeding the baby, and managing conflict for the umpteenth time.

Something else happens, too, during these brief out-of-body experiences when I realize I’m just like my mother. I see her through the lens of grace. It’s a shame that it took this long. Now that I have my own children, I understand why she didn’t want to answer the tenth question from me or why she fell asleep on the couch at night or why she told me: “Mothers have a special way of finding things out.”

A friend of mine from high school recently posted the same sentiment on Facebook. While her 9-year-old daughter was riding her bike away from the house, she yelled out from her front porch: “Make good choices!” She humorously added that it was now time to put her mom-jeans on. May it NEVER be so, but you can bet those same words will roll off my tongue in the next few days, heck…hours. Just like my mother.

We Become Our Mothers

My mama and me. Isn’t she per-tty? **Who remembers Olan Mills?!

How have you become like your mother? What phrases do you pull out of your back pocket?