Picking Away at Happiness

heart-668592_1280Such is the nature of kids: if there is a little hole in something, they pick away at it and the hole grows bigger by the day.

I had a tiny hole in the fabric on my living room sofa. It was on the arm of the couch where someone had snagged their jewelry perhaps, and made an eensy tear in the fabric. It was when my house was busy with my 7 kids, and although I reminded them not to put their finger in it until I could repair it, it got bigger day by day. Soon a little wisp of stuffing was coming out and day-by-day that hole increased unbeknownst to me until I suddenly noticed that the couch arm looked deflated. The little ones had found it just right for their finger to poke in and pull out a bit of stuffing. Day-by-day, it had eroded.

I guess we aren’t so very different when we grow up. We marry because another person makes our happiness complete. We feel such joy in being with them, and the promise of the future is great! Then we discover a little hole in the fabric of their character or in their mannerisms. Instead of leaving it alone, sometimes we foolishly pick away at it. We mention it, make it the brunt of a joke maybe, and take mental note of it rather than forgiving or brushing it off. Every so often, we poke our finger in it and pick away at our happiness.

fabric-316777_1280I think it is a dimension of maleness to want to be strong and capable and protective of women. Boys exhibit this too, as they grow up. The hallmark of puberty for boys seems to be an awareness of their muscles and wanting to lift weights or excel in sports as a way to practice that strength. Although everyone enjoys sincere praise, men seem to particularly need to be admired and respected. We do our husbands great damage when we pick away at them, exposing their flaws and repeating their mistakes to others. What we don’t seem to realize is that we are undermining our own happiness! Just as my couch arm gradually deflated, we may discover to our great dismay that our own happiness in marriage has gradually eroded and the fault is our own. We “poke our finger in the hole” of our husband’s idiosyncrasies or flaws and do immense damage to their self-image, their feelings of love for us and respect for themselves.

I am not innocent . . . that’s why I know to write about it! It seems we women can sometimes be pros at noticing mistakes but we may be a little too quick to expose them. There is great charity in lovingly dismissing another’s small weaknesses.

To myself, I would say: “Today, be kind. Overlook other’s flaws and shortcomings. Do all you can to build up others, to see the best in them, especially amongst your own beloved family members.”

rabbit-344311_1280A few authorities on the subject;

Thumper’s mother (Mrs. Rabbit): “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I Thessalonians 5:11: “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another . . . “


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Self-Sufficient Little Ones


My granddaughter Rebekah (4)

“I want to do it myself!”

Sound familiar?

Starting at about one-and-a-half years old, children yearn to be capable and strongly resist any attempts to do things for them. You can launch your little child into feelings of healthy self-sufficiency and capability by making life a little easier to manage for them.

Look Who’s Feeding Baby

Begin with your baby that wants to feed himself. Instead of spooning the food in his mouth and fighting him for control, try something we stumbled onto years ago. Scoop the food into a clean plastic jar lid (mayonnaise size is good). Mashed potatoes, yams, applesauce, oatmeal and other thick foods work best. Give the lid to the baby in a highchair and he’ll pick it up and eat/suck/lick it out of the lid himself, quitting when he has had enough. You can offer him a few lids, with different foods in each, and finish up the job with a spoon if needed. Baby learns quickly to feed himself right along with the family.

selfreliancedshoesNo More Backwards

Toddlers want to dress themselves, but it can be a frustrating experience as they always seem to get things backwards and inside out. You can help little ones have success in dressing themselves by marking on the back of their clothing. A black dot made by a permanent marker on the inside back of their underwear, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. will make it easy to spot which direction to go. I mark the back because that is where most clothes have tags and they can eventually learn that the tag goes in the back.

On clothes that come in pairs, such as shoes, gloves, and slippers; you can write the first few letters of their first name on the left shoe and the remaining letters on the right shoe. Most little ones recognize their name and can line up their shoes right. You can also teach them that the buckles go on the outside so they never touch each other when they put their shoes together. Lining their shoes up before they put them on means less tears and fewer times with backward shoes. (We live in troubled times, and making a child’s name available to strangers out in public may not be a good idea. But you can still write their name in small letters that aren’t visible unless close up.)

Put in a few low hooks in your child’s closet, or where you hang your coats, so your little children can hang up their own jacket. It only takes 5 minutes to install the hooks and saves 500 minutes of picking their coats up off the floor because they can’t reach.

Easy Laundry

selfreliancedresserI sort laundry into bins with the children’s names on them, and then they come every morning during our chore time before breakfast and get their bins. I don’t fold the clothing. They are expected to do that when they put it in their drawers. Too many times I have watched mothers neatly fold stacks of clothing just to have the children crumble and stuff them in their drawers.

With toddlers and children up to age 8, I label the drawers with a picture so they know what goes where. Little children are fully capable of putting away their own clean laundry neatly and returning their bin to the laundry room. When they are little, it doesn’t matter so much if they are do a good job of folding their clothes as t-shirts and pajamas don’t wrinkle much anyway. As long as they are in the right drawers, life still goes along pretty smoothly when it is time to get dressed.


toothbrush-141105_1280I get my little ones in the habit after every single meal to do “hands, face, teeth”. Often they trot in and do it themselves, or I just mention the words and off they go. Of course, “hands, face, teeth” means to wash your hands and face and brush your teeth. After they do this little routine, they come running to me with their toothbrush and I “check” their teeth. A dentist told me that children cannot do an adequate job of cleaning their own teeth until about age 12. So I have them brush their teeth, and then I rebrush them as I “check” them. Anyway, the whole ,”hands, face, teeth” business is an excellent habit that even toddlers can be taught after every meal. It keeps sticky hands off the furniture, keeps them looking presentable, and insures that their teeth are kept clean.

Little ones can do a great deal to help themselves and it brings them feelings of being capable and independent. Just taking a few minutes to make life more manageable really pays off.


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Happy Girl


What does it take to make a happy girl?

Here’s the recipe:

* Knowing she is a daughter of God
* Chances to work hard and serve others
* One-on-one time with Mom
* Challenging enough academic studies
* Time to read uplifting classic books
* A hobby to keep her hands busy
* Friends who share values
* Assurance that she is pretty and pleasing in personality
(. . . to name just a few)

The words “I’m bored” are taboo in my home. I guess it is because Grandma always says, “Only stupid people get bored!” Every moment of a girl’s life should not be occupied and busy. There needs to be time to think and daydream, time to ride her bike and write in her journal. I like to teach my girls at an early age to manage their free time by developing some hobbies to keep themselves content. Something as simple as cross-stitching, playing the piano or sketching can give a girl a project to look forward to. Beware not to over-fill her time with outside-the-home commitments, lessons and classes.

DianeJune2007-2Every girl needs a friend. In a culture that grows girls up way, way too fast, old-fashioned mother-daughter camaraderie is getting rarer and rarer, and yet nothing makes a girl as happy as being best friends with her mom! Take the time when they are young, and that devotion will pay back with smoother teenage years and a lifelong friendship!

Besides mom, a couple of like-minded, value-sharing girlfriends can help make life delightful. A girl doesn’t need a whole class full. I have always been surprised to find that a few friends is enough.

Sweet words are just as important as daily breath, and they live in the memory to keep a girl feeling loved and lovely when the world may shout a negative message. Apply loving praise liberally!

Isn’t it fun raising girls? Remember, love is spelled “T-I-M-E” to your daughter!


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What Will You Trade Your Time For?

coinsWe all get a finite amount of time to live on this earth; our days are numbered. Imagine that the time given to you is a bag of gold coins. Just what will you trade your coins for? It will run out no matter how you spend it. When you’ve spent the last coin, just what will you have?

I recently read the statistics on the effect a working mom has on her family. They were sobering: a professional woman is more likely to get divorced, more likely to be disloyal to her husband, less likely to have children, and, if she does have kids, she are more likely to be unhappy about it. A study in Social Forces (Aug. 23, 2006), a research journal, found that even women with a “feminist” outlook are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Be cautious before you trade those gold coins of time to earn money. You have so much more influence and power right at home, in training and educating your own children! It is easier to buy children things, or to provide entertainment and classes for them, that it is to give them our time. Yet nothing is so valuable to them as our time!



Recently, after a morning of homeschooling and then the excitement of shopping for new clothes, my young daughter Louisa sat on the couch looking at her new clothes and feeling contemplative. Suddenly, she pronounced, “It is better than all the clothes I have, and cotton candy, to have you alone to myself!”

I am not sure how cotton candy fits in (as she has only had it once at a fair) but I guess it ranks high on her list of “desirables”! But I was blinking back tears as I remembered that nothing is as delicious to a child as a loving parent’s attention.

I love old stories! Read this tender, yearning glimpse of what a working mom feels like from a child’s perspective: “Mama’s Boy”.

Enjoy your time with your children!


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Doldrum Buster!


Winter can bring some dark days that give us cabin fever. What better way to break the doldrums than to celebrate! Just the words, “let’s have a party!” gets everybody happy at my house. An ordinary supper can turn in to a “dinner party” in just 10 minutes! Your kids will be excited to do the decorating!

Here’s how we do the magic transformation:

1. Decorate the table with a tablecloth (or beach towels!) and some decorations (shells, toy fish, fruit, flowers, paper cut-outs, etc.)

2. Light a candle (or several!) on the table.

3. Use fancy or not-everyday dishes. Even paper plates are okay. As long as it is something different, it makes it special!

dinnerparty14. If you have them, blow up a few balloons and tie them one by one to a length of yarn. Use a push pin to hang from the ceiling.

5. And there is always crepe paper to turn it into a party: twist a roll attaching it to the corners of the dining room.

6. Serve a dessert after dinner.

If you have ice cream in the freezer that you can serve in fancy little dishes with a cherry on top, that will do great! Or you can make easy cookies, or just slice fruit in a little bowl and sprinkle nuts on top. Set the dish atop a paper doily on a plate. Let the kids prepare the desserts in the kitchen and bring them out on a serving tray for extra pizazz.

Louisa sets up all the toppings for Hawaiian haystacks!

Louisa sets up all the toppings for Hawaiian haystacks!

7. Play a game after dinner just for fun.

And the party is on! Dreary day gone.




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Knowing Who You Came From

I’m glad for Memorial Day! It gives us that wonderful opportunity to help our children remember who we came from. Children can grow up thinking that they live in the here and now, and that’s all that matters. Of course, those who came before us are vitally important to our own lives, not only because we look like them—we have their physical inheritance—but because without them, we would not be here. We owe them a debt of gratitude and remembering: remembering their lives, remembering what they valued, remembering their sacrifices.

Here’s a great way to help your children get their immediate ancestors all straight in their minds. This simple poster can be a fun Memorial Day project. Print off our page sized version (below) and paste photos onto it to go in a book, or make your own into a big size using poster board to hang on the wall. Gathering photos may take a while, but the effort will pay off. We visit the cemetery on Memorial Day and it is very gratifying when your children are able to recognize the names of their deceased grandparents or great grandparents.

golden-gate-bridge-4904_1280We have a juicy ancestor story to share! My husband Rick’s father worked on the construction crew for the Golden Gate Bridge  in San Francisco when he was a young man. As the bridge neared completion, a grand ceremony was planned, with the city dignitaries to be the first to cross the bridge. Our grandpa was a cocky young man and thought it might be fun to be the first person across the bridge, so after helping set up all the regalia for the event, he and his buddy jumped in a car and sped across the bridge, thus making history of the less dignified kind! I don’t think you’ll find it in a history of the Golden Gate Bridge, however.

If you get together with relatives for a Memorial Day, ask your parents or grandparents to tell some of their life stories and jot them down. They will be a treasure as the years go by!



May I recommend:

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Project: Souvenir Rocks


We love to travel!

From an educational standpoint, travel really intensifies learning! And family memories are made that form a wonderful store of inside jokes, and shared experiences. (We arecamping_oregon_10still laughing about too-hungry Emily’s comment when locating a road sign that announced that the state police were on the right. She read it, “The steak police are on the rice.”) Hee hee. What a bond travel creates within a family!

When it comes time to take home a souvenir, a rock is just right! It is small, non-fragile and free. We spend time searching for just the right rocks and when we get home it is easy to jot down the place and date in permanent marker We’ve even painted a little scene on them to remember the location we visited. Store these in a pretty bowl or jar and enjoy your memories of great trips together!


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Double Vision

         Double Vision

My Grandma’s spectacles are queer
It’s almost like a game,
She says she has two pair of them,
Although they look the same.

One pair makes tiny thngs seem big,
“Enlarged,” she says it’s called;
The other makes big things seem small­—
I s’pose they are “ensmalled”.

I never see her change them,
But she always seem to know
Just when to see things pretty small
And when to make ‘em grow!

Some days folks think I’m ‘quisitive
And bother ‘round a lot;
Her specs just twinkle as she ‘splains
“She’s such a little tot!”

But when she gives me gingerbread
Or cookies or a treat,
She says, “A great big girl like you
Needs lots and lots to eat.”

I saved some choc’lates for her once—
Some teeny little ones—
She said I was “an angel” an’
They looked “as big as buns”!

But when I dropped my mug,
And made a big spot on the mat
She said, “It won’t be seen at all,
A little thing like that!”

I’m saving all my pennies
And I’m going to buy two pairs
Of spectacles for father­—
The kind that Grandma wears.



May I recommend:

A Child’s Self-Confidence

The Singing House

Magic Words

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