Archive for the ‘Sons’ Category

Uneven Places

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

I met him half-way to walk him the rest of the way home from school.

Our hands met for a while, then fell, like all of the sudden he remembered that he was nine, and goodness, someone might see him.

We pressed on into the sunshine, carried along by the crisp autumn air–leaves rustling, the sound of acorns crunching under our feet.

Leaves in Grass


He told me about Indian Dance, the piano piece he’s practicing for his keyboarding recital at school. He looked up at me while he talked.  I looked down at his face as I listened, sometimes noticing our feet stepping together on the hard sidewalk that goes home.


He said, “Mom, you know that game: Step on a crack, break your mom’s back?”

“Yes, I do.”

He said, “Well, when I was younger, I never stepped on the cracks because I didn’t want it to be true.”

<Gasp.> “Wow, Stephen. Thank you. That is very sweet.”

He said, with a shrug: “Yeah.”




I’m not sure what we talked about next. My mind was quiet after that, my heart full. Sometimes, it’s the tiniest moments that renew your resolve to parent well.

Over the next few days, I thought about how much I’m in the car, dropping off here and picking up there. I’ve thought about how the older kids go to school a whole 2 hours before the younger two. I’ve lamented over my choppy schedule and daydreamed about a more streamlined one.  Of  course, it’s okay to rearrange and fix and plan to smooth out the rough spots, but on THAT day, the day that we walked home from school together without anyone else, I realized that the uneven places in my day were a gift.



I don’t have to leave  to pick up another child YET AGAIN, I get to.

I get to walk in the sunshine, mind finally quiet for a few minutes, to pick up another child.

Sometimes we run home to see who can get there the fastest. Sometimes I carry his book bag for him. Sometimes he complains about walking home.

And sometimes, he even tells me that he walks over the cracks.




Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

Psalm 116:7

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

Road Trips and Star Wars Sheets

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

road trips

I have a confession to make. I’ve had a parenting success. There I said it. Whew, that was hard. Last week, our entire family drove from Asheville, NC to Philadelphia, PA. That’s 11 hours with 2 kids verging on tweenhood, a bouncy 7-year-old, and oh yes, a baby. Now, we are used to road trips, but apparently, others think we’re crazy. I’m constantly asked by people with wide eyes and gaping mouths: “Wow, how do your kids do in the car?” or “Wow, that must be really hard.” Okay, well, it’s not my FAVORITE activity, but my kids actually do just fine on a long road trip. And….wait for it…we don’t even use DVD players. Yes, I’m here to tell you it’s possible. For most of their childhood, we haven’t lived near family so we’re constantly on the move at holidays. We’ve always packed an activity bag for them with small toys, books, markers, coloring books, and usually something new to pique their interest.

But, this post isn’t really a how-to-take-your-kids-on-an-11-hour-road-trip tutorial (although, if you really want my opinion, you can take me out for coffee). I was actually struck last week by how hard it was for me to admit this triumph (really? doesn’t take much, folks). A friend of mine asked me THE question while we walked down the street together and I said: “Well, they actually do just fine on road trips…always have.” She nodded with approval, then I quickly quipped: “But, don’t worry, that’s about the only parenting success I can claim!” We roared with laughter. It was pretty funny AND pretty true.

Then, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just say road trips are super in my household and move on?” Fear of bragging? Fear that I’ll jinx myself? I’m not exactly sure. But what I do know is that there are a couple tricks up this old girl’s sleeve, even though most of the time I feel like a complete toad.

But, you should know, while my kids do great on road trips, I hardly ever change their sheets. And, I haven’t trained them to change their own. {Gasp!} I probably shouldn’t admit this to the world wide web, but sometimes months go by without a single swap. Yes, that’s months- not weeks. But yesterday, I changed the boys’ sheets to their brand-spanking new Star Wars sheets and I was proud of myself. The boys were ecstatic, which goes to show you how little that special activity is done around here. Merry Christmas! New sheets.

Ah, well. I receive comfort by telling myself that though I’m not that great on maintenance, we’re big on love around here. {Repeat mantra. Daily.}

Hope you and your kids had a very Merry Christmas together, even if you’re on the road with them in the car for 11 hours straight.

Interview with a 1-Year-Old

Monday, November 11th, 2013

So, yesterday my friend Sarah suggested that my first guest post should be by Jonathan, my 1-year-old. I thought that was hilarious in a dismissive sort of way. But then, we kept talking about it and we decided I should interview him and post the conversation. Brilliant. So without further ado, here’s quite possibly the first ever interview with a 1-Year-Old.


Me: So, hello Jonathan. Welcome to onNeutralGround.
Jonathan: Um, hi Mom.
Me: Hi. So, people are dying to know right off the bat: What is your favorite toy?
Jonathan: The dishwasher.


Me: I’m sorry. Did you say the dishwasher?
Jonathan: Yes, you heard me.

Me: So, you have all these neat and interesting toys and even though I know you’re the 4th kid, you actually have some new ones. Yet you still want to play with forks and spoons?
Jonathan: Yes. That is what I’m saying.


Me: Ok. Well, you know what they say: “By the 4th kid, you’ll let the baby have the pacifier out of the trash can.” that how it goes?
Jonathan: I didn’t say anything about dirty pacifiers. Where are you going with this?
Me: Uh, nowhere. Nevermind. Jonathan, what do you like to do in your free time?
Jonathan:Well lately, I’ve really liked driving the kids to school. After I drop them off, I like to check my inbox, I reply to a couple of emails, and then I practice my piano. Then I like to climb on the dishwasher.

checking email

Jonathan Driving

Jonathan on Piano

Me:You seem really advanced for a 1-year-old. You know what they say about the 4th kid…
Jonathan: No, I don’t. What do they say?
Me: Um, nevermind. Jonathan, what do you do when your mom is busy blogging?
Jonathan: See the attached picture.


Me: Oh. Yes. I may need to work on that.
Jonathan: Probably.
Me: Ok, last question. And you can just whisper your answer in my ear. Who’s your favorite person in the family?
Jonathan: Mom, I’m not falling for that little game.
Me: Ok, ok. Well, Jonathan, it’s been nice talking with you.
Jonathan: Mom, I don’t really talk. You know that, right?
Me: Yes, right.