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Category: Parenting

get thee in the picture

get thee in the picture

Note: This post first appeared on my personal blog, October 2012.

I have a little talk on photography I developed a few years ago to share with my MOPS groups. I’ve given it a few times now and am schedule for once more this year. I love this talk. I love encouraging moms in their photographing of their kids. This talk has little technical stuff, and lots of creative stuff. And my last big point is to remind moms that they need to step out from behind the camera, and get in front of it.

Even if that means handing your camera to a stranger.

Even if that means learning how to use your timer or purchasing a remote.

Even if that means sticking your arm out for a self portrait.

Even if that means paying someone every now and again.

This article is making its way around the internets, and reminds us moms once again of the importance of getting ourselves in our pictures. Even if we aren’t at the weight we want to be, or dressed the way we wish we could, or we look pretty darn tired.  As the author writes,

I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.

So in that spirit, here is one of my newest favorite photos. Yep, I’m in my robe. Yep, I haven’t showered. Yep, you can see quite a mess in the background (or you could, but I did a little cropping and black and white conversion). But this little girl wasn’t feeling well and needed a snuggle. And my amazing husband grabbed the camera and captured our moment together.


I don’t know how long I’ll get to be her mama, but an image like this will remind her (and me) just how very much she is loved.


Another note: I get to give this talk again this year. Click on over to my speaking schedule if you’re interested in coming to hear it. 


Diffusing the Temper Before it Becomes a Tantrum

Diffusing the Temper Before it Becomes a Tantrum

Note: I submitted the following article to a magazine. It was not selected. So why not share with y’all?!



My second daughter was born on the hottest day ever. Well, probably not the hottest day ever in the world, but in our neck of the Pacific Northwest, June 28, 2009 is the hottest day ever recorded. And I use this fact to explain much of the hot-headedness of this strong-willed, big-emotioned girl of mine.

At 6-months old she was throwing her first tantrums. She would get so angry she’d throw herself backwards from a sitting-up position, of course making herself even angrier at the pain that would cause.

At 18 months her verbal skills could rival that of a 3-year-old and she was using them to her advantage against me. (Once at a MOPS meeting a speaker claimed our toddlers were not actively pushing our buttons and it was all I could do not to exclaim that she hadn’t met my daughter, who most certainly knew how to push every single one of my buttons.)

At 2-years-old I was checking out all the books on strong-willed-children the library would let me.

My daughter is now (miraculously) 7-years-old and is an incredibly bright, funny, inquisitive little girl. But she is still as fiery and unpredictable, dramatic and emotional as that baby I gave birth to in that overheated hospital room.

I have learned a few tricks over these past years that have helped us both when emotions of all kinds, especially anger, start to overtake her. If you have a hot-head of your own at home, maybe these will help you too.


Tip #1: Lean In

There was a season when my daughter’s anger would express itself in foot stomping. The minute the first foot would hit the floor I was there encouraging her to stomp harder, or stomp with both feet, to shake the floor or even the whole house. Sometimes I would join in with the stomping or the jumping and before you know it we would be laughing and the anger would be diffused enough for us to have a conversation if needed, or more often simply to move on.

Sometimes the anger would show up in her facial expressions. (That kid can give some serious stink-eye!) In these instances I would use the same trick as with stomping: encouraging her to show me just how angry she could make her face look. Sometimes even a good wail would be added for emphasis. It wouldn’t take long for us to move on to silly face, or surprised face, or anything else that would calm her down enough to talk or move on.

Honestly, for some kids when the anger starts to boil I know a challenge to let it all out might feel patronizing or make it worse. You have to know your kid. For my daughter, if I caught it early enough and used this trick of leaning in, those anger episodes often ended in fits of laughter instead.


Tip #2 Change it Up

My brother-in-law taught me this trick: whenever my nephew started to get frustrated about something, his dad would take something my nephew said and “hear it wrong.” The next step would be to twist the words into something nonsensical—“What? You’re mad about not fletting a yern? Petting a worm? Why would you want to pet a worm?” My nephew will crack a smile and very quickly join the silliness (how could he resist?) and forget why he’s mad.

This trick has worked great on my daughter as well. I have to be sure there is a silly grin on my face, to invite her in on the joke. But once she knows this is an attempt to get her to change her tone, it often works just in time to avoid a major meltdown.


Tip #3 Use Brain Science

In their incredible book Parenting the Whole-Brain Child, Drs. Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. use brain science to help frazzled parents to connect with their kids. When it comes to strong emotions, like anger, Drs. Siegel and Payne Bryson discuss the difference between the “upstairs brain” (responsible for higher-order, analytical thinking) and the “downstairs brain” (responsible for basic functions like breathing and for strong emotions). When strong emotions start to erupt, the downstairs brain takes over and it is nearly impossible for a child to use the upstairs brain.

For us, it has looked like this: in a moment of calm, I asked my daughter to make a fist with one hand and place the palm of the other hand over that fist. The fist represents her “downstairs” brain and her strong emotions, and the palm is the “upstairs” brain that when in control is able to regulate those emotions and make good decisions. But when strong emotions take over (open the fist) she “blows her lid” and off goes the functioning of her “thinking brain” we have started calling it.

Now that she had a picture, when strong emotions begin to erupt, I show her that picture and remind her that her “feelings brain” has taken over her “thinking brain,” and in order to close her lid, let’s put that thinking brain back to work. We do that by asking her lots of questions, helping her to identify the strong emotion, the reason for it, and if her reaction is logical. We also give her lots of support, comfort, and reassurance. This knowledge of brain science has helped tremendously in helping her regain control.


I am so thankful for this strong-willed, and strong-emotioned daughter of mine: she has challenged me to become more knowledgeable, more creative, and more caring as a mother and as a human.

Daughters, Jesus, & the F-Word

Daughters, Jesus, & the F-Word


For the past few years my daughters have been involved in a local Wednesday-night girl’s ministry. They have loved the program and it has been a great opportunity for them to learn Bible verses, make friends, be mentored, and grow in their understanding of Christian principles. They were excited to go each week.

But at the conclusion of the end-of-the-year awards night, my youngest leaned over and told me she wanted to join the boy’s club next year. And I didn’t blame her. We had just heard all about the fun things the boys were doing: survival skills, rowdy games, snow cave building, archery, and campouts.

My husband looked over at me and rolled his eyes, knowing that if our girls really wanted to join that boys club, I would fight for them to do so, no matter how many enemies it might make us. (Or maybe I would just have to fight for some big curriculum changes to the girls’ program?)

Honestly, I don’t want to take anything away from the boys and all the cool things they’re doing. I’m just wondering why the girls group isn’t engaging in those kinds of activities too? Sure, my daughters love pink and a good glittery craft. But they also love building forts and going camping. My oldest wants to be an inventor and is really into robotics. My youngest is super athletic and loves a good challenge. I want to do everything I can as their mama to cultivate their interests and encourage learning and play in all the ways God has designed them to learn and play. Seriously, girls AND boys can be both Christ-followers and outdoor adventurers!

You see, I’m a proud feminist. I’m the daughter of feminists. I’m married to a feminist (yep, men can be feminists too). I’m raising feminists.

Last semester at school we read some feminist theology and a lot of my male colleagues had no idea feminism meant “equality for women” and not “men are evil.” I hate that the word feminism has such negative connotations, but I love that my classmates were getting shaken up a little. Over the past few years I have come to embrace Sarah Bessey’s notion of Jesus feminism: “I define feminism as the simple belief that women are people, too. At the core, feminism simply means that we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. That’s it.” Sarah calls this Jesus feminism because it is most-heavenly influenced by the attitude she sees in Jesus.

Just this week a picture went viral that reminded us feminists just how much work we have to do. A mother snapped this picture of two magazine covers:


Ugh. Just ugh. Girls are told about fashion, makeup, hair, and getting a first kiss. Sure, there is something there about friendship, and a note about getting good grades, but they are pretty buried, especially when shown next to the Boys’ Life cover. Look at all these cool jobs you could have! As the mother who snapped the original photo and wrote to the Girls’ Life editors said, the girl’s magazine is all about “be as pretty as this girl” while the boy’s says “be who you want to be.”

So a big hearty thank-you to Katherine Young for fixing it! Now this is a magazine my budding engineer, artist, athlete, entrepreneur, and feminist would definitely want to buy. And this mother would happily fork out the money to do so.



Now a change in our family’s schedule meant that the Wednesday night programs were no longer a possibility, but you better believe I would have gone to the mat for those girls if they had asked me to.