Get On The Floor: Change Your Perspective, Change Your Parenting

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on January 24, 2017. To read this post in its entirety, please follow the link to the KMB website.

My son loves photography. My mom has a fancy DSLR camera she occasionally lets him cart around his neck on a strap (supervised, of course!), and he always comes away with a bunch of blurry shots of random things around the room: the back of a chair, the corner joist of the porch railing, a lamp shade. Whenever he gets a hold of my iPhone, I usually find 50-100 rapid fire shots of whatever TV show he was watching, horribly unflattering shots of me dozing off on the couch, his dirty shoes piled up in the corner by the door. I guess it’s arguable whether he actually enjoys “photography,” per se, or just that he derives sensory pleasure from the little clicking sound the device makes whenever he snaps a photo of whatever the camera happened to be pointing at.

But I like to think there’s more. These seemingly random pictures my son regularly captures don’t just show the mere directionality of the camera he happened to be holding. Whether or not the subject matter is intentional, these pictures tell me something about my son:

His perspective.

To me, the pictures my son takes are weird, random, and poorly executed. The subject matter is uninteresting, the lighting is terrible, and the shot is out of focus. It would be easy for me to call them “bad” pictures, but is that really true? As an adult, it’s easy to look at the world around us as the grand, all-knowing beneficiaries of the wisdom that comes from age. Certainly it is our responsibility to help our children navigate life from our lens of experience, but what have we lost as we have “grown up,” both figuratively and literally?

Sometimes, to help kids understand and grow from their own experience, we need a little change of perspective.

I used to get so frustrated that my baby would cry whenever I vacuumed. He was fine if I was holding him, but set him down for a second and he would be screaming. What difference should it make if he is in my arms or in the chair? The vacuum is still the vacuum. Then one day it hit me that the vacuum is nearly a foot taller than him, and when I’m pushing it away from myself, it appears to be going toward him. It was then I realized that what makes the vacuum less scary isn’t me, it’s the perspective of being taller and pushing it away that help him feel secure. However, I didn’t figure this out until I was laying on the ground when the vacuum was nearby. Sometimes it requires actual physical repositioning in order to gain empathy for our children.

In other words, get on the floor.


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Dear Worried Mother… from the Babysitter’s Mom

This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on October 19, 2016.

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Dear Worried Mother,

Tonight is the big night, huh? The first time you are leaving your little angel with a babysitter. This is a huge deal! You have spent these early months doing everything for your baby. You feed him, bathe him, soothe him, swaddle him… You are his everything! What a precious gift that is, to have this time to bond with him. As hard as this has been, you will never regret it, as I’m sure you know: the days are long, but the years are so very short.

As wonderful as this time with baby has been, it’s time, isn’t it? Time for a mental break. Time for bodily fluid-free clothing and hair styled in something other than the trusted mommy-tail. Time for uninterrupted conversation with your husband, or a carefree night out with the girls, or an afternoon of shopping all alone… Whatever the occasion, I know this break is much needed and well deserved. Even though we both know you will be thinking about your baby while you’re gone, you need to feel safe knowing you are leaving your little one in trustworthy hands. This is scary, and you need to know everything will be fine.

so get that. Really. Tonight is a big deal for me too, because your babysitter, the one with whom you have entrusted your entire world all wrapped up in a tiny body, is my entire world wrapped up in a slightly larger body. Your babysitter is my daughter.


To continue reading, please visit the Knoxville Moms Blog to view the full post. Thanks, and remember to be kind to the babysitter!

15 Affirmations Your Child Needs to Hear Today

This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on September 22, 2016. 

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Watching my kids get off the school bus every day is a special treat for me. They bound down the steps like prisoners set free, looking back and giggling as their friends call to them from the windows. Once their big, yellow ride is out of sight, they turn and head toward home, just a few houses down. I have a clear view of their path from my front porch, and I can often discern how their day went by observing their gait. Most days they race each other to the mailbox, or skip along the curb toting a prize they received in class. Other days they leap off that bus, not a care in the world, but as they start toward the house I can see it hit them: I have to tell mom what happened today. The skip slows to a walk and then to a trudge with head hanging low as they confess the bad grade, the poor behavior, the hurtful interaction with a classmate.

With a limited realm of life experience, these simple slip-ups can truly feel like the end of the world to a child, especially if they are repeated. Of course we want our children to be their best selves, but they need to be reassured they are capable of better. I do not suggest children be coddled or go undisciplined. As parents, though, we must recognize that words matter, and if we want our children to realize their potential, we must speak that truth to them.

Here are 15 affirmations your child needs to hear from you:

1. You are a good boy/girl.

2. You belong in this family, and nothing will ever change that.

3. You have an important contribution to make in the world.


To read the full list, check out the original post on Knoxville Moms Blog and encourage a child in your life today!

To My Fourth Child…

To My Fourth Child

Photo used with permission by Stephanie Lancaster of Adara Photography.

Hi Baby,

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we welcomed you into our family. It’s been a wild ride already, hasn’t it? People always say you’re the happiest baby in the world, and I know it’s because you’re so loved by so many people. You would never know it, but things are a lot different for you than your big sister and brothers.

When your sister was born, things were much…quieter. She had a room all to herself, full of brand new pink baby things that belonged only to her. In the mornings she would wake up early, and Daddy and I would hear her laughing and talking to herself as she started to stir. During the day, she got love and snuggles from so many people at day care while Mommy and Daddy went to work, and we were both so anxious to give her our undivided attention when we got home! At bedtime, we would gently rock in the glider, singing sweet, quiet songs as she drifted off to sleep.

You, dear child…

Well, that story probably sounds like a fairy tale to you. Your room is shared with big sister’s furniture, clothes, and 8-year-old girl stuff. The only thing in there that belongs to you is your crib and pile of diapers in the top dresser drawer. Those are pretty much the only things that belong to you period, since everything else is a hand-me-down from someone. You are almost always awoken abruptly by a sibling who either does’t understand the word “whisper” or several who are fighting over who gets to hold you first. During the day we shuffle back and forth to the gym, Walmart, Chick-fil-A, and…well, those are pretty much the only places we go. You spend as much time in your car seat in an average week as any of your siblings did in a month. And bedtime? HA! It’s more like a circus, complete with clowns, acrobatics, and plenty of animal noises. Rather than peacefully laying you in your quiet bed to drift off as your sleep-trained older siblings did, Daddy and I take turns hurriedly bouncing you (the glider is in my room serving as a holder of clean laundry I probably will never fold) because you’re over-tired thanks to the big kids who make way too much noise for you to sleep when you want to.

When your brothers were your age, they had playmates. Our Prince Charming had big sister, just two years his senior, then he became a middle child at just about your age when Sweet Carrot came along. Those two boys have always been inseparable. Mommy started staying home when Sweet Carrot was born, and our mornings were filled with costumes and sword fights and coloring each other with markers when Mommy wasn’t looking. Now two of your siblings are in elementary school, and the other one would rather play by himself than with you most of the time. He just doesn’t seem to appreciate the way you chew on his action figures and throw them across the room, does he? You don’t seem to mind too much, though, as long as there’s a roll of toilet paper to unravel because Mommy forgot to shut the bathroom door again.

There are a lot of things you don’t have. You don’t have a keepsake box because I keep forgetting to buy one (but there is a pile on my dresser…), I already lost the lock of hair from your first trim (in my defense, you tried to eat it while I was helping sister with a project, and it got scattered), and you didn’t even have a first birthday party (you won’t remember, it’s cool). I don’t read to you unless you overhear me helping the big kids with their homework, and I don’t flinch when you eat Cheerios off the floor. (Sweet Carrot probably put them there for you.) You don’t have much 1-on-1 time with me, and sometimes I wonder if you’re getting the short end of the stick.

And then I remember your tribe.


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The Good in the World: Small Acts of Kindness

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on June 16, 2016. To read the post in its entirety, please click the link below to view the main page. Thanks and enjoy!

When my mom shared with her mother that she was pregnant, my grandmother cried. These were not tears of joy for the sweet little baby to love and cuddle; nope, she was sad.

Now before you go and think my grandmother is a horrible person – she is really quite delightful – let me explain. My grandmother lived through the Great Depression in a rural Tennessee town and lost her twin sister and baby brother due to lack of medical care. She saw many of her friends and family head off to Europe and Japan during World War II only to come home changed forever. She raised a family during the Civil Rights movement in Memphis, one of the most violent places in the country (then and now). She has seen wars, natural disasters, violence, hatred, death, and all the pain and sorrow of this broken world, and she genuinely feared for the next generation.

Truthfully, my grandmother’s concern was not baseless. This world is hard. And dark. And painful. But there is hope.

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“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” -J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Small Acts of Kindness and Love

True, there is much darkness in the world, but I believe there is more light. It only takes the small light of a candle to dispel the darkness of an entire room, so by each of us shining a little, I believe we can make this world a better place. My grandmother was right about life’s troubles, but she was wrong to fear. Since I was born in 1985, we have seen immense advances in medicine, social justice, protection of vulnerable people groups, tolerance, love, and more. We do not need to fear for our children; our children give us hope.

How do we raise up a generation that will change things for the better? We teach them the value of small acts of kindness and love. Model it for them, and invite them into the process. As Arthur Ashe famously said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”


If you are enjoying this blog so far, please head over to Knoxville Moms Blog to read the full post. Keep on hoping, friends!

Don’t Hurt My Baby! Christ’s Love and the Mama Bear Instinct

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They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned… Except a mama whose baby has been scorned, and that might scare the pants off the devil himself!

A few years ago my 4-year-old daughter started taking dance lessons. She loved the giant mirrors on the walls and the tap-tap-tap of her shoes on the hard floors, and I loved the small, Friday morning class where everyone knew each other. There was one girl in her class who was a close family friend of the studio’s owner, and the girl’s two adorable younger sisters were often sitting in the waiting area with me and the other moms during class. We often chatted about our kids and newfound role of “dance moms.”

One day after class, the toddler sisters of the girl in Princess’ class must have been hungry or cranky or I’m not sure what, but the owner opened a typically-locked door and came out with popsicles for all 3 of them. As my daughter looked on, she turned to me wistfully, longing for a treat for herself. The owner was handing out the popsicles as the other students were standing around, so I assumed those 3 had been the first recipients of special treats for the class. I smiled at my Princess and motioned for her to go stand behind the other girls to wait her turn. Grinning with anticipation, Princess politely waited as the owner passed out the 3 popsicles. However, her smile quickly faded when the owner turned around, closed the freezer, and shut the door behind her. Without even glancing down at my girl, she locked the door and went back to her office.

My Princess was bummed about not getting a special snack, but honestly, she got over it pretty quickly. I, however, flashed back to every moment of my dorky, awkward childhood, desperate to be accepted. In my daughter’s brief moment of preschool exclusion, I was swept under a massive wave of my own insecurities and buried hurt of being rejected over and over again.

Look, I know I overreacted, but to say I took it a little too hard would be doing me a very gracious favor by underestimating my obvious baggage. I was furious at the owner’s lack of consideration for the other students in the class, her apparent dismissiveness of my own precious angel, and at the other parents for not taking up arms with me. (Well, there were only 4 of us, so I guess it wouldn’t have been a very impressive revolt anyway.) But most of all I was hurt. Certainly the appropriation of my own feelings of rejection was overkill, but it was probably the first time I realized the critically important truth of being a mama bear:

Seeing my children hurt is far more painful than enduring it myself.

 Don’t Hurt My Baby

Last week I shared that loving my children is the purest, most effective way to love me. As parents, we see the long-term positive effects of having others care for our children, so it means that much more to us to see it happen with our own broods. In the same way, we know the scars that can come from even the most trivial slights by another (I’m sure I’m not the only one still carrying some baggage from my childhood hurts!) and dread our children experiencing the same. Whether it’s the helplessness of seeing our children in physical pain when they are sick or injured or the torture of watching them endure emotional pain from a mean kid, unfair teacher, or a shocking encounter with the real world, our souls bleed when our children hurt.

It’s a trait we inherited from our Father when we were made in His image…

God has always been concerned with the needs of his beloved. Jesus reminded us in Matthew 22:37-40 that the entire story of Divine work in humanity is centered on love – love for Himself and love for others. The Lord’s heart is especially tender toward the poor, the helpless, and the vulnerable – much like our own children.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

“Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3

“Don’t rob the poor just because you can,
    or exploit the needy in court.
For the Lord is their defender.
    He will ruin anyone who ruins them.” Proverbs 22:22-23

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” James 2:14-16

Jesus went so far as to say hurting his children is a direct wound to God himself:

 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”

Matthew 25:41-45

The Mama Bear Instinct

Parents are fiercely defensive of their young: it’s an instinctive response to threats that has helped our species survive. We hurl ourselves into gorilla pens dangerous circumstances to protect our children from physical harm; we monitor travel and lifestyle choices – even decisions about vaccines – to protect our children from illness; we step onto the playground or lunch room or whatever social situation to protect our children from emotional harm. As parents, we are compelled by nature and compassion to tend to the needs of the ones whom we love.

God mysteriously chooses to use human connections to accomplish his work in humanity; therefore he has charged us with the task of looking out for each other. Jesus said it this way:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35

Christ took care of the finishing work to protect us against the work of the enemy. His atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection from the tomb defeated death and sin once and for all. Now, with access to the living power of God through the Holy Spirit, there is nothing holding us back from living out the Kingdom of God…

…Except ourselves.

Are we caring for the needs of the poor, helpless, and vulnerable? Can others identify us as disciples of Christ by our love for one another? Do we truly love our neighbor as ourselves? Are we only looking out for those who are like us, or do we follow the biblical precedent and invite everyone to the table?

If we understood our offenses against one another as offenses against God himself…

If we all truly lived by that Golden Rule that parents of all faiths and non-faiths teach their children – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31)…

If we applied our Mama Bear instincts to all of God’s children and not just our own…

Then we would be fulfilling that Kingdom work of really loving our neighbors. If we want to love God, we start by loving each other.

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

To Thine Own #Selfie Be True

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This post originally appeared on the Knoxville Moms Blog on April 13, 2016. To view this post in its entirety, please click the link at the bottom of the page.

When I was growing up, there were two things my mom could not live without: her planner and her camera. Ironically, she was very often losing them both. A few of our contributors are known for their love of planners (it is one of Lauren’s New Year must-haves!), but that is one of mom’s obsessions that did not rub off on me. The photoholic tendencies, however, are another story.

My mother has thousands of pictures. Most of them are in albums because back in the day you had to actually print pictures to look at them, so I can think of an event or trip or vague time in my life, go pull out that year’s album (or set of albums – thousands, I’m telling you!), and bask in all the 80’s glory of perms, shoulder pads, and pastel everything. I can walk through all of my awkward phases of the 90s (what’s that? You only had one awkward phase? Boy did you ever miss out! *eye roll*), then point to my brothers’ awkward phases to make me feel better. There are pictures of every family member, all our friends and teammates, and every teacher we ever had. But one person is noticeably absent from almost all these seemingly endless albums…

My mom.

Of course she was there, but she was always on the other side of the camera. She cherishes all the memories captured in those photos, especially since they are all taken from her perspective! But as I get older – and watch my parents get older – I wish I had more pictures of my mom to reminisce on my childhood from my own figurative lens, which was very often directed toward my mama.

This brings me to now, my own life as a mom. The truth is, much of my children’s day consists of looking at me. Whether I am playing a game with them, serving them food, disciplining them, or snuggling on the couch, there I am, right in their midst. I memorialize these occasions for myself by snapping pictures, but these will one day be their memories as well, so shouldn’t their perspective also be recorded?

Enter selfies.


To continue reading the full post, please click here to visit the KMB site. Don’t be camera shy; to thine own #selfie be true!