our kids cannot be measured in numbers

October 13, 2014

As a Mom, I have a daily battle going on in my heart and in my head. It is certainly a battle symptomatic of a privileged life.  I can admit that.  It is not one of worrying how much my kids will eat today or if they are safe.  It is not the worry of Moms who live in war zones or extreme poverty.

But once in a while, I fight the battle of seeing my kids as whole beautiful human creations of God versus seeing them as accomplishments, numbers and achievements.  I think this is something very prevalent in today's society and most parents I see personally and professionally struggle with it as well. While I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I agonize with this, I am at least working really hard to overcome it.

I will never forget my parent's reaction to my report card in 1st grade.  I was only five years old and had no notion of grades and honor rolls but my Mom and Dad made a huge fuss about me getting straight A's.  I remember them taking me out to lunch that day and afterwards, they let me pick out a cute new sailor skort. A few days later, I recall going to McDonald's and the employee stamped an M on my report card and gave me a free kid meal. Most of all, I remember the immense positive feedback and I internalized it deeply.  In all honesty, I was not good at much else aside from school.  I was always the last skinny kid picked for sports teams.  I did not play an instrument and I was not very artistic.  The first time I ever remember getting positive feedback from others was for my grades. And on that day, I began to define myself a little bit by those numbers.

Now, as a parent, I have to really watch myself to not transfer that to my own kids. These days it can be a huge struggle for me.  Unfortunately, numbers are very present in our lives right now.  Our oldest son, Will is looking at colleges.  In fact, just last week he and Dave went to visit UVA and William and Mary. He is preparing for and taking the ACT this fall.  His GPA is a constant topic of discussion as we look at schools that are a good match for him.  Harry, our middle son, is applying to private high schools this fall and is preparing for the HSPT (high school placement test).  Therefore, we are also paying a lot of attention to his GPA and first term grades as those are what the high schools will evaluate in addition to standardized test scores.

Kate is in her competition season for gymnastics.  She works really hard and has such passion for gymnastics. Every weekend, she earns scores on bars, floor, vault and beam. Those numbers are a snapshot of one moment in the meet and not representative of how hard she works all year or how well she does in the gym week after week. They also do not reflect how she cheers on her teammates and delights in their successes as much as her own. Yet the numbers are how she advances.  Sometimes her numbers are great and other times, they are not.

I constantly remind myself to see beyond all of these numbers and just focus on the whole person underneath all of the external measures of success.  But it is hard when the world looks so closely at the numbers.  I tell myself the boys will get into the schools that are a right fit for them.  I remind myself that Kate is only 8 years old and the gymnastics is just an extracurricular activity.  I convince myself that in the big picture of life these things are not that important.  They are happy, healthy, well-rounded kids and that is what matters. But the truth is GPA's and class ranks and test numbers will determine which schools my boys get into.  Numbers will determine if Kate gets to go to the regional or state meet that she desperately hopes to qualify for.  The outside world often looks more at the numbers and I understand the purpose they serve.  But as a parent, I have to make sure that the numbers don't define how I see my children or how I love them.

My kids are thoughtful, giving, God-loving, funny, creative, responsible, entrepreneurial, go getters.  They work hard and they are kind. They are certainly not perfect but they are exactly who I want my children to be.  They invite new kids to sit with them at lunch or play at recess.  They share a snack with someone who forgot to bring one.  They stick up for the kid who is being bullied and open the door for people everyday.  They say please and thank you. They treat others with respect.

This week Kate ran for class president.  She wrote a speech and got up and delivered it to her class.  She did not win but she wasn't even remotely sad about it.  She said, "Mama, I even voted for Dylan.  He really was the best person for the job."  My daughter did not vote for herself.  What 8 year old is that wise and selfless?  I was so proud of her maturity. That cannot be measured in numbers.  Colleges and high schools aren't going to see that stuff in my kids.  Kate's humble heart will not earn her a place at the regional meet or in college.

And that is what I keep reminding myself.  These numbers, these external accomplishments like honor roll or 1st place do not define our kids.  It is the journey.  It is the hard work, the determination, the effort and the heart that will make them good citizens of the world. A child who is reading 3 years above grade level will not necessarily become a fabulous and caring adult. Our kids are not the number on the scoreboard, the report card or a college entrance exam.  And we need to stop treating them as though they are.  We need to spend as much time congratulating our kids and talking to them about good choices, values and character qualities as we do about their accomplishments and successes.  Their character is what will get them through life not the trophies they get for just for showing up.

Yesterday, Kate had an amazing floor routine at the meet and she got her highest score ever.  I was really proud of her and guilty of sharing it on Facebook.  But what I should have shared and what I was most proud of was how when her teammate was called up to the podium, Kate hugged her and tried to hold her hand.  In the car, I told her how proud I was of that.  And she said, "Oh Mama there is nothing better than being up there with your teammate right next to you. That's the best!"

In this age of social media, we blast our children's accomplishments all over our facebook pages, blogs, instagram and twitter accounts  I am guilty of it too.  The irony of my last post is not lost on me.  But why do we do it?  Just because our child scored the most goals does not mean that we are a good parent.  Are we measuring our parenting by the ruler of our children's accomplishments?  A friend recently confessed that she felt like a failure as a parent because her children did not excel in anything.  That really struck me.  One has nothing to do with the other.  Sure, I think we need to expose our children to various activities and we need to support and encourage them if they love something.  But their accomplishments are not a reflection of our success at parenting.

In my opinion, parents have one real job and that is to love our children unconditionally.  That means we love them when they win first place and when they come in last.  We love them when they are behaving the way we want them to and when they are not.  We love them when they are excelling in school and when they are struggling.  We love them whether they succeed or fail.  It fact, true unconditional love is deciding to love our children when it is especially hard to love them.

As parents we need to make sure our kids know that we are proud of who they are not what they accomplish.  We need to focus on what really matters instead of what the world or the media tell us matters. And I am working really hard to try to do that everyday.

it might help you to know

February 24, 2014

It might help you to know we had a small-ish faux Christmas tree in our playroom that  just came down the other day.  On February 22nd y'all!  Looooong after the Epiphany.  It might help you to know that the Valentine decorations are still up. You see, like you, I'm struggling.  I am struggling to figure out how God wants me to spend these hours that are a precious gift from Him each day.  I'm struggling to be a good wife, a good Mom, a good friend, a good daughter, a decent housekeeper, a good speaker and counselor, and a good Christian. And I constantly run out of time each day never getting it all done.

I'm overcommitted to work and volunteering and Bible studies and relationships. My expectations for myself are way too high.  I am floundering trying to prioritize exactly what matters most.  Aren't we all?  And while I flounder, clean laundry sits in a pile begging to be folded and put away.  Junk mail multiplies on my dining room table and I fall into bed each evening drained beyond exhaustion.  This is especially difficult for me to reconcile as I have been a "neat freak" for most of my adult life. But my house is a mess.  I am a mess. I am trying so hard to "do it all" that I am not doing any of it very well. That makes me afraid that I am letting people down constantly. I probably am.

I am trying to find balance among what I need to do every day and what I am meant to do. And I fall short every single day.  And I know this is a luxury of sorts to even contemplate.  But this is not about a job or "me time." This is not about being a stay at home Mom or a working Mom.  It's not a debate.  I do both.  Both are valuable.  Case closed. This is about a purpose. And about using my time here on earth wisely.

I heard someone say that your mission is what you are passionate about and using that to serve others.  I think about that a lot.  Am I using my God given gifts and passion to serve others enough?  too much? Am I serving other families at the expense of my own? I sure hope not because I want nothing more than to raise a good family.

When I am giving talks or writing about marriage and parenting...I know that is my mission.  But I also know that it is hard work.  It is hard to prepare talks about parenting and present them on school nights (missing family dinners sometimes) and BE a good parent.  It is hard to counsel others about their marriages yet still find the time, energy and motivation to work on my own marriage.  There are days I feel like quitting.  But what part can I quit?

A friend recently shared this beautiful quote with me.

When I think about that quote it seems so simple.  My deep gladness is relationships...my own and helping other strengthen theirs. One of the world's deep hungers is relationships too.  I guess that is my corner.

As I was typing this post, a friend texted me asking for some parenting advice.  I chuckled to myself.  It was as if God was tapping me on the shoulder reminding me of the place HE is calling me to.

The reason I am sharing this is that every woman I talk to lately has told me she feels pulled between her family and her "work."  That she feels like she cannot do it all well.  You are not alone. We are all struggling to find purpose and balance (even those who look like they've found it). Picture that corner where your gladness, joy and talent meet a need of others and you will find your place.

P.S.  I've gotten some sweet e-mails lately at The Nurtured Home telling me that people miss my blogging.  I miss blogging too.  The truth is I am working so hard to have a nurtured home that there is not a lot of time left over to write here or on the Nurtured Home.  I'm a work in progress and I am hoping to be posting more.  Thank you for your kind messages.

Friendship/Bullying Research

October 29, 2013

Friends, I am still researching teen/tween girl friendships and bullying for both a talk and an article. Please email me your stories.  I want to hear from young girls.  I am interested in what were the biggest challenges to you and your friendships in 6-9th grade?  Tell me a story of a difficult time you went through.  What did you learn?   How could your parents have helped you better?  How did you face the girls that were being unkind?  What worked?  What didn't?  How does social media impact friendships and bullying?   What do you wish you knew then that you know know? You can message me or e-mail me at khswales@comcast.net  Let me know if I can anonymously use your examples and stories in my talks/writing. THANKS!

where have all the manners gone?

August 1, 2013

Ok. I am really fed up.  I think those of you who know me in life or have been reading for the 6 and 1/2 years that I have been writing know that I really try to look for the best in everyone.  I do.  I know that no one is perfect. We all have bad days.  But lately, I just cannot get over how rude and mean little girls have become.

When did we stop teaching our daughters manners people?  (and yes, I know boys can be rude too but I honestly do not see this as much with boys as I do with girls right now...probably because I am  around more little girls).

It starts with please and thank you.  I drive a lot of carpools (for camps, dance, art, sports, gymnastics, school).  Parents,please teach your children to say "Thank you for the ride, Mrs. Peanut." Is that too hard?  I know my daughter forgets sometimes but she remembers a lot of times too. And my boys never forget. I have drilled it into them. There are kids I drive day after day, year after year, that have never said thank you.  It is rude.

Once, I was picking up some children from somewhere because their Mom had an emergency. I don't mind doing this at all.  We all need to help each other out, right?  I brought all the kids snacks too.  The first thing one child did was complain.  She expressed anger that I was picking her up rather than her Mom.  Another stranger Mom overheard and said, "you should be grateful this woman is doing your Mom a favor."  Amen sister!

Next, I handed them all a snack.  The same little girl turned up her nose and said, "I don't like this. What else do you have?" Seriously?!  How about..."thank you for the snack, Mrs. Peanut." It seems that almost every time I have a friend over for Kate, some of the girls don't like the snacks we offer (apples, cheese sticks, pretzels, popcorn, blueberries, chips and salsa) and they go right in my pantry looking for something better (we don't have oreos or goldfish).  My kids would not do that.  I have taught them better.  I have taught them to say  "no, thank you" if they don't want something. We have role played what to do if they go to someone's house for lunch or dinner and they don't like what is being served.  I have taught them that you don't complain and you NEVER go in someone's refrigerator or pantry looking for something better.  You take a few polite bites and then eat more when you get home.  And you always say "thank you for the delicious dinner." Since my kids could utter the word "mama,"  I taught them the words,"thank you for the delicious dinner."  In fact, at the Peanut dinner table, that is all you are allowed to say about the meal.  You are not allowed to say you don't like something.  You are not allowed to say, "yuck."  Someone worked hard to buy the ingredients and prepare a meal.  You do not get to complain.

If I make something my kids don't really like, they have strategically figured out a polite way to express it.   Will is the best at this.  He will say, "Thank you for the delicious dinner Mom but I am not sure we should add this to our regular rotation."  That way he does not insult the food I have lovingly prepared but he lets me know he doesn't like it as much as our regular dinners.   And the ultimate compliment is "We should add this to our regular rotation, Mom!" The other peanuts have learned from his example.  Although Kate is still a work in progress with her table manners sometimes.  But we work on them daily.

I think people have gotten so busy trying to teach their kids to be stellar select team athletes and top of the class GT students and little fashionsitas that they have overlooked some of the simple but most important things...grace and courtesy.  

A little girl on Kate's gymnastics team is being really mean to her.  She questions Kate's heritage commanding Kate to "prove" she was born in China.  When Kate shared her Chinese name with said girl, the girl started teasing her that Dan Ru was her "boyfriend" not her Chinese name.  She tells Kate she does not like her and tries to get the other girls to say it to Kate too.  She pushes Kate out of line and cuts in front of her.  Kate tells me all the "sassy" things this girl says day after day. And I think to myself, where does this come from?  In fact, I woke up at 3 am this morning wondering why this girl is being so darned mean to Kate (who would not hurt a fly).

It comes from two places.  First, children who misbehave usually are feeling bad in some aspect of their lives.  Secondly, they have not learned a better way to behave.  Either their parents have not taught them grace and courtesy or they have not modeled it or BOTH.

Let me share another example of how we teach it.....

One day Kate and I were walking home from school and a little girl stopped us and asked "Whose tummy did Kate grow in?"  Oh my.  My heart stopped with that question.  Kate was standing right there.  I took a deep breath and said, "We don't know honey."  She continued..."How could you not know? Why didn't her Mommy want her?"  I was STUNNED!  She kept going and going with rude and insensitive questions. "Why did her Mommy give her away?" Okay, she was a kindergartener so maybe she did not know better.  BUT her 40-something year old Mom was standing right there and never jumped in.  She never said, "Sweetie, that is not our business."  or "All that matters is Kate has a loving family."  I was livid.  I politely shut her questions down once I saw her Mom was not going to do so. She never even looked embarrassed that her daughter was asking rude, personal and insensitive questions.  This is my point.  We have opportunities every single day to teach our kids boundaries and kindness and empathy and manners.  But so many parents today fail to do so.

I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect.  We all have off days. Once I yelled at a sales clerk at the AT&T store in front of Will.  I was having a very bad day.  I ran out of patience. Afterwards, I apologized and told Will how wrong it was and I have never done it again. More importantly,  I have worked diligently and consistently for 16 years to teach my kids graciousness.  And you know what?  They are polite, sweet compassionate kids. ANYONE who has ever met them would tell you that.  It is an investment in a person's soul to teach them kindness.  It is more important than teaching them to read before kindergarten y'all!

This makes it really hard to find good friends for my daughter.  Again, Kate is not perfect.  But she is inclusive and loving and sweet.  She would not say mean things to someone because she knows it is wrong. And she knows that because we have taught her that!  I want her to be surrounded by loving friends with compassionate and understanding hearts.  Friends who don't mind that sometimes it takes her a long time to get her sentences out and will not tell her to "hurry up" or "spit it out."  I want her to have friends who don't question how she came to our family but are just glad she is here.  I want her to have friends who lift her up not tear her down.  And let me tell you, it is hard to find friends like that these days.

This is re-posted from my personal blog. I felt like it was appropriate for this one too.

praying for your children {part 2}

June 19, 2013

I apologize for the extended gap between part one and part two.  Summer happened.  I am slowly realizing that I cannot actually work part-time, mother full time, feed children, keep a somewhat clean house (and I use that term "clean" loosely), chauffeur 3 kids, and maintain two blogs.  What made me think I could accomplish all that?!  I just have not figured out yet what is going to have to go!  Probably the somewhat not so much clean house!

Onto to the post though...

I wanted to offer a few more tips for praying more effectively for your children:

Keep a prayer journal. I have found it so useful to keep a journal of the things I pray for my children. When I feel discouraged, I can look back and see God's work in our lives.  It is hard to remember what we were praying for a year ago.  The journal always reminds me how God does answer our prayers in HIS own ways and times.

Some people keep one journal for each child.  The advantage of that is that you can look at the prayer needs and changes over time for each individual child in one place.  Also, someday you could give that child his/her prayer journal (on their wedding day or at college graduation) so they can see how you covered them in prayer throughout their childhood. Wouldn't that be such a great gift?

I found having that keeping separate journals for each child is overwhelming so I keep one for now. I do think that someday when my children find my prayer journal long after I am gone, it will be a treasure for them.

A prayer journal also keeps me accountable.  I fall into and out of the habit of daily prayer for my children.  But if I write things down in a journal, it is more likely to get done (kind of like a spiritual to do list!)

You can download some free printables to make a prayer journal here.  Or you can buy some good ones at this Etsy shop or this Etsy shop.  They both have great personalized prayer books and journals for Mom and kids.  Click on the photo to link to the shops.



Team up with others to pray.  I recently faced a very serious situation with a child and I was praying my heart out daily about it.  Then I read somewhere that if prayer wasn't seeming to make it better, invite two other Moms to join you in praying for that issue.  I asked two Moms who love my child and who I KNOW would pray everyday for the situation.  I even told them exactly what I wanted them to pray.  I asked them to commit to 3 weeks of prayer over said child.  Things have definitely improved.  I am not sure if they prayed every single day but I know they helped me reach God regarding this problem.  And those Moms asked me to pray for their intentions too.  We have helped one another in our prayer needs.

Another way to team up to pray is to host a gathering to pray for your children.  I have done this at our church (many years ago).  You can do this at your home or at a church.  And there are many ways to proceed. There is even a small chapter on how to do this in The Power of a Praying® Parent Book of Prayers (Power of a Praying Book of Prayers) by Stormie O Martian. When I helped organize it it at our church, we gathered in a room and went around the circle with a prayer intention for one child each.  People brought a photo of one child and very briefly explained the prayer request.  We usually relied on Stormie O'Maritan's book for the prayer or the parent or a leader led us in specific prayer for each child's needs.  It was a beautiful experience to pray with other Moms for our children. For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.  Matthew 18:20

Speaking of gathering others to pray, I host a healing rosary each week in my home.  It started out to pray for a very dear friend and her cancer battle but it has grown into much more. Yesterday, Kate (my 7 year old daughter) joined our group for the first time.  She had never prayed an entire rosary before and she was very excited.  I briefly explained to her, that I would open with a prayer and ask for everyone's prayer intentions.  She stopped me there saying she had a list in a book.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I had never given her a prayer journal.  She ran upstairs and came down and sure enough, she had one (from VBS last week).  She read the opening page to me. "When prayers go up, blessings come down."  Then she turned to her prayer list and it said, "Harry (her brother), Libby (one of her best friends) and some of my Mom's friends."

So, Kate prayed a beautiful rosary with my friends yesterday and she proudly offered those three intentions just as gracefully as my 40 something year old friends do from week to week.  And it was then that I realized how praying for our children does way more than I thought it did.  It also provides an incredible model for our children to be other oriented and to pray for those in need.


Up next on the Nurtured Home...Summer FUN and strategies for staying sane.

Praying for your children {part one}

May 31, 2013


I know most of us have probably logged a lot of hours praying for our children when they have been sick or needed surgery or have been hurting.  In those times, it seems so natural to turn to God.   I wonder though how many of us turn to Him in prayer when our children are doing well?

I have always been a prayer.  Since I became a Mom (sixteen years ago), The Power of a Praying Parent book has been on my bedside table.  However, some weeks, months and years I have been very consistent about praying for my children and some weeks, months and years I have not. As with most things I know I "should " do (exercise, eating healthy, reading the Bible) I simply fall out of the habit sometimes.  I get lazy.

Recently, I have seen firsthand the amazing power of prayer.  A few months ago, a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer.  I wanted to help her but did not know what to do. I immediately got together a group of friends and we started saying a healing rosary every Monday for our friend.

Our group grew a little and lots of prayer requests came our way.  And we have seen absolute miracles.  One member of our group was waiting for a heart transplant.  She had been waiting years and suddenly a heart was found! She had her surgery and is recovering beautifully.  In fact, next week will be her last week coming to our rosary because she is ready to go back to her her home state of Louisiana.  It has been truly miraculous. And this is just one story. I could share many.

This has been a challenging year in our family. We have had a few tough transitions and I have been turning to God in prayer for my children daily.  And guess what...I see His work in our lives.  Dramatically.  The Bible tells us You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.  Matthew 21:22.

I want to encourage you all to take a little bit of time each day to pray for your children.  I know we are all running around in 100 different directions but I think as parents this is one of the most important things we can do for our children.  I have learned  (the hard way) that God does not answer each prayer exactly how we want it answered exactly when we want it answered.  We have been praying that healing rosary every week for my son's migraines and they are not gone yet.  That doesn't mean God isn't hearing my prayer.  It just means His plan is different from mine right now. And that is okay.  I have faith. I am not giving up.  I know our prayers will be answered.

I am not an expert in prayer.  I am just a faithful Mom trying to put my trust in God and raise good kids. I was raised Catholic and we've got the rote prayer covered but I was not really adept at just spilling my heart to God. I was not really confident praying off the cuff. So, the following tools have helped me immensely in my prayer journey.  I highly recommend them.

1. The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian.  This book is amazing.  She has a chapter on every situation you could possibly want to pray about from friends to school to talents to freedom from fear and finding the perfect mate. Within each chapter is a prayer that you can say (which makes us Catholics so much more comfortable;) and scripture verses to pray on specific issues as well.  So, I can flip to the chapter on fear and pray that for one child.  Then I can turn to the chapter on Godly friends and pray that chapter for another child.  Then, I might read the chapter on avoiding alcohol or drugs and pray that one for yet another child.  I cannot even overstate how this book has been the best investment I have ever made as a parent.  There are things in there I had never even thought to pray about for my children but I am so glad I do now.

2.  Praying Circles around your Children by Mark Batterson.  This book is very short and quick but it really explains the importance of prayer and how to pray for your children as well.  It helped me pray much more effectively for my children.

3. Revive our Hearts 31 Biblical Virtues to pray for your children.  This is a list of 31 short prayers that are biblical virtues we desire for our children.  I pray one each day.  So if it the 30th of May, I pray #30.  That way each month, I cover all the virtues.  If it is a short month, I might pray two a day on some of them. Click on the title above to download the free printable.

* As a side note, I recommend buying the actual book.  I bought the e-reader of Praying Circles around your Children and I wish I had the physical book.  If the books are sitting out, they serve as a visual reminder to pray for your children daily.  Also, I flip back between the books and the virtues and I like them all in one place.

Have a blessed weekend!

A few early summer faves

May 28, 2013

I live in Houston where summer lasts about 6 months of the year so I usually don't look forward to it.  However, this year, we have had a very mild spring and I am really excited for summer.  Since Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, I thought I'd share a few early summer favorites of mine.



One--this is a fabulous highlighter for cheeks, brow bone or lips.  And it costs $1 y'all! You read that right...ONE Dollar.  You can find it at Target sometimes.
Two--love this lightweight shrunken boyfriend shirt.  It is a flattering fit and looks so cute with shorts or a skirt.
Three--This is a beautiful champagne colored highlighter that looks awesome on your brow or cheekbone when you have a little tan.  Makes you look perfectly sun kissed!
Four--again the shrunken boyfriend shirt.  I got it in this gorgeous blue and had it monogrammed in white on the pocket.  It screams summer with white jeans or shorts. This blue one is one sale right now too.
Five--I love this product.  For about $5 a bottle, I get really beachy waves and no circa 1980's crunchy hair.  It smells really summery too.
Six--these are SO cute!  They come in red too.  I have them in the blue stripe and neon pink!


Here is a shot of the monogram on that turquoise shirt.
It was kind of dark so the coloring is off a little in this photo but it turned out really cute.

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