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I’d Like to Tell You About My Dad…

I’d Like to Tell You About My Dad…

Dad’s as a whole often get a bad rap.  They are portrayed on screen as silly, incompetent, and often the butt of the joke.  But get down to an individual level and it’s a whole different story.  I’d like to tell you about my dad, Alan Naumann.

My dad is pretty amazing in his own right, but when you factor in the reality that he was raised in a single parent home by a mom who was emotionally absent and often neglectful, the fact that he is such a great father is downright miraculous.  His upbringing may have had its share of disadvantages, but it also gave him a push in the right direction as he embraced life with a desire to thrive.

My dad is…

…Creative

My dad is one of the most creative thinkers I know.  When it came time to make my school supply box for 1st grade, we didn’t have the budget to buy one from the store. Instead, my dad made one.  Not only has it held up over the (ahem…many, many) years since it was crafted, but it represents a great memory from my childhood.  He took an old cigar box, covered it with leftover contact paper, added my name to the top. Voila – instant school supply box.  It now holds all my spools of thread, but it is one of those things that reminds me of my dad every time I see it.

As I have ventured into life on my own, I am often finding creative solutions to solve problems when it comes to fixing something or finding a way to use a space better.  And now I see my kids learning this as well.

…Curious

What’s being built over there?  What does this store sell?  What will we discover if we take the back roads?  My dad loves to discover new things.  Sometimes, like when he wondered if we could make it a bit longer without filling up, it doesn’t work out too well. But most of the time it expands our world.  One evening as I was on a speakerphone call to my dad, he asked a question in the

 vein of “I wonder…” 

My then 4-year old son was in the background listening and shouted “Google it, Grandpa!”  We have the luxury of Google and Social Media to answer our questions, and “Google it” is often heard in our home, but it was my dad who taught me to ask the questions in the first place.

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…Optimistic & Opportunistic (in a good way)

While my dad is practical and can see problems and short-comings in situations, he is an abundant source of optimism and has taught me to look for opportunities.  One particularly huge example of this is when I was a Junior in High School and he was faced with a sudden and unexpected job change.  Rather than despair and prepare for a move and a new school, he encouraged me that we would do everything possible to stay put so I would graduate with my class.  In the meantime, he saw the power and potential of video and began to teach himself video editing skills.  Fast forward and my parents are still in that same house and my dad created a whole business centered around video.

…Flexible and Spontaneous

I like to make a plan and stick to the plan.  Changes to the plan can be a cause for anxiety.  Not for my dad!  He is uber-flexible and has taught me to look at changes as new plans or adventures.  As we experience things resulting from flexing, he is quick to point out what we gained as a result of that change.  Remember how he was curious to know if we had enough fuel in our vehicle, and we didn’t? That resulted in 2 extra days at the campground where we were staying.  Two days to play games, read books, and rest.  He didn’t focus on what we missed out on, he focused on what we gained. 

The other side of this coin was seizing opportunities to do things.  One summer night when I was about 6 years old, my mom and dad gently woke me and told me to put my shoes on and get in the car.  Once in the car they blind-folded us because we were on our way to a mystery location.  We drove around for awhile before stopping.  Once we stopped, they guided us out of the car and walked us around telling us to duck low or step high over something.  We ended by going up a staircase, sitting

down in folding chairs, and taking off our blindfolds.  As our eyes adjusted, we discovered that we were next door to our house in the church balcony where my dad had set up the movie projector with a feature length film rented from the library.  We had our own personal drive-in experience complete with popcorn and pop (a rare nighttime treat)!

…Funny

My dad loves to laugh.  No visit is complete without a good belly laugh from him.  (Even better if he is on the verge of tears from laughing so hard!)  Along with laughter, he showed me to how to have fun.  In the winter he would build us snow forts and we would drink hot chocolate inside.  Or we would make an annual trek to the ball park with friends and watch the Minnesota Twins.  Many summers he was a speaker at Family Camp.  One summer he and his friend dressed up as clowns as part of a carnival being thrown.

…Dedicated

We grew up in South Minneapolis when the elementary school served the neighborhood and everyone could walk.  In fact, I don’t even remember very many buses lining up in front of the school.  The kids I knew in school lived in the neighborhood and some even went to my church (which was next door to my house).  Most kids came from families with a stay at home mom, so school programs were held during the day rather than in the evening as it is now.  The gym would fill with moms coming to see the program, but only a handful of dads would be there.  And mine was one of them.  He would work his schedule so that being present for family was a priority.  Even now, as my kids have milestones, he makes it a priority to be there.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

…All About the Story (especially about family)

My childhood was during the era of film cameras, but despite the cost, taking pictures was very important in our family.  (Maybe it was because my dad had very few photos of his childhood?) My dad showed me that photos are a prompt to trigger a memory or elicit a story.  If there were to be a fire and we could only grab a handful of things, the photo albums would have been on the short-list of priority items.

Every summer we would take a family road trip.  Before the trip started, it was given a name, and after the trip was completed, an album or slideshow was created.  Our extended family was scattered around the world.  In order to share our stories with them, we would print the pictures, number them, and then record an audio cassette narrating what was happening in each of the pictures.  This package would be mailed to Uncle Tom who would listen to the tape and flip through the

corresponding pictures (much like my kids listen to read-along books).  When he was done, he would send it to the next family member and eventually it would come back to us.  Occasionally, even now, we listen to these tapes and it brings back a flood of memories that shaped our family.

Pictures have become the keeper of the story and even in a digital age they are a natural part of living life well. 

Bottom Line

My dad could have grown up to be a bitter and hardened man.  Instead, he chose to embrace his circumstances and experience life fully.

Thanks, Dad, for being a great example.

I love you.

I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I Blinked…and You Grew Up

I’m in a strange mothering season.  I can flip like a light switch from a conversation about potty training to high school graduation because they are both realities in my life.  It is the fact that they are both in my life right now that shines a spotlight on the truth of these words. 

They grow up too fast!

This week we are preparing for my firstborn baby to graduate high school.  It marks the end of her life at home and the beginning of life on her own.  She will always be part of our family, but her presence in our family is changing.

This week I have begun the walk down memory lane while gathering pictures, elementary school projects, and other things to share at a small dinner we are holding to honor her.  I hold the evidence in my hand that she did grow up too fast.  I’ve already cried my fair share of tears.  (And I know there are many more to come.)

Let me tell you about Emma.  It’s easy to focus on the resume of accomplishments, and while there are plenty, those things aren’t really her.  In fact, those things are can often drive a wedge and they become points of comparison, discouragement, or envy. Instead, let me tell you about who she is.

Emma is kind and tender-hearted.  When she walks into a room, she is drawn to the person who is alone or feeling out of place.  She has an inviting presence that draws you in.

Emma is a good conversationalist.  She asks good questions and is genuinely interested in knowing more about you.  She finds out interesting things and connects with people at a level deeper than what meets the eye.

Emma is willing to try new things.  From speaking a new language or traveling overseas by herself, to trying a new food or game, she is willing to give it a shot and try something new. Sometimes she finds that she loves it and can develop a new interest, but sometimes she realizes that it wasn’t what she thought and can stop spending energy wondering about it.

Emma is a learner.  Lots of us say we are, but I have seen her do it.  She wanted to play guitar for Wednesday night youth group, only she didn’t play the guitar.  So she learned.  She wanted to be a lifeguard at her summer camp, only she didn’t swim.  So she learned.  She wanted to paint pictures to give her grandparents, only she didn’t have any knowledge on the mediums.  So she learned. 

As she heads off to college, I am excited for the opportunities that face her and seeing where she will be 18-years from now. 

As I continue to muddle through this week of tears, I want to share something I wrote for her 18th birthday.

They Told Me…

They told me 9-months of pregnancy would go by quickly, but I was so sick I couldn’t imagine it ever ending. And then you were born. And I was in love.

They told me you would be sleeping through the night before I knew it, but I was so exhausted from your (multiple) nightly feedings that I couldn’t imagine it. And then one night you did. And I did. (And I panicked!) And we began to find our rhythm.

They told me not to worry about when you would start to walk, but I did worry. And when you were ready you did start to walk. And now you run far and strong.

They told me that no one ever went to college still in diapers, but I was convinced you would be the first. And then almost overnight you mastered the skill of using the potty. And you gained independence.

They told me to enjoy the toddler years because the school years come around quickly, but I was sure they would never end. And then one morning you were off on the bus eager to for your new adventure of school. And I began to feel the momentum of time pick up speed.

They told me the days would feel long, but the years would fly by!

They told me to revel in the moments you wanted me – needed me – and to embrace them not as interruptions, but to cherish as precious mommy moments. But I took them for granted and believed they would never end. And now you are a strong, capable young woman who doesn’t need her mommy the way you used to.

They told me that if I blinked, you would grow up.

I did.

And you are.

No matter what season of mothering you are in, enjoy today.  Look for and create those mommy moments.  They do grow up too fast, and after today, those moments will either be a memory or a lost opportunity.  What will you choose?

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The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

The Importance of Self-Care: YOU!

Recently I heard a friend of mine say, “Your kids want to be you.  Be the best you, you can be.”  It was said casually but it resonated.  It was in line with something I share in “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” but it put it in a new light.

“Your kids want to be you…

In  “9 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Confident Kids” I talk about how our kids often want to be just like us and then raise the question of what part of mom will they be emulating?  Someone really good at planning meals, or someone really good at connecting in relationship?

It’s a valuable thing to consider and something which I strongly believe will transform who we are as moms.  Are we family CEOs or primary caregivers?  Even without a salary, both can easily sound like jobs if we lose sight of the mission we’ve been given as moms. The specifics of our mission are going to look differently depending on the resources we have to work with and the needs of each of our kids, but the general goal is to love, nurture, teach, and raise up our kids to become kind, thoughtful, and generous people who positively impact the world around them. 

So we focus on the relationship and character and support it with all the things that make home safe, comfortable, and inviting.  Sounds good, right?  Yes.  But it’s still missing something.

You.

On my homepage my core values are “Taking Care of Kids, Taking Care of Home, Taking Care of You.”  It is so easy to focus on the “Taking Care of Kids” and “Taking Care of Home” aspects and to set aside or even forget the “Taking Care of You” part.

So that’s why this next part really got me thinking.

…be the best you, you can be.”

When I say “self-care” what do you actually hear?  Pampering?  Selfish? Rest? Or something else?

We’re told about the importance of self-care, but even so, I find myself bristling when I hear the term self-care.  It has often been couched as a way to legitimize doing what you want over doing something for your family.  Manicures, massages, and girls nights out are all marketed as self-care things that are good for you.  But if time and money are your limited resources, they might begin to feel more selfish than important and just exactly how do you justify the importance of self-care when it feels selfish?

So instead, let’s call it soul care.  That sounds more noble, right?  Set aside time to read and meditate and care for your soul. Just a few minutes each day all to yourself.  But sometimes that even competes with something else.  I have a 20-minute window of calm and quiet.  I also need to make that phone call, get dinner started, and gather supplies for the school project we have to get done tonight.  Taking that time to read feels selfish when I could do that later when the kids are in bed. It’s easier to understand the importance of self-care if it’s about my soul, but my soul is just part of who I am.  Even in its nobility it’s still not enough.

I started using the term smart care because that felt less focused on what I wanted and what I needed to do.  As a description it still feels like the best fit for me, but even so it is still a touch manipulative because it can’t be selfish if it’s smart, right? It’s just not quite right.  It doesn’t go far enough.  It’s still too much about labeling.

But…

…when it was couched in terms of my kids wanting to be like me, it flipped the equation.  How I care for myself is now no longer about me and selfish desires.  It’s about what I need, not only as it relates to raising my kids but even more so when it comes to what I want to model for them.  How I take care of myself will influence how my kids take care of themselves.

Modeling the importance of self-care

I have the benefit of having toddlers, tween, and teens in our home.  With the older kids I can see how what I modeled when they were younger has been embraced and emulated.  It’s natural to see the negative patterns, but trust me when I tell you that it’s easier to help your kids course correct when they’re younger.  I have a new opportunity to intentionally do some things differently as the Littles grow up.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

As I think about good days in our home, I can see some common threads begin to emerge as far as the things I need for myself – things I want my kids to see modeled – and I made a list:

Things Jenn needs:

  • Sleep! I’m a 9-hour a night girl and while I can get by on less, it catches up eventually.
  • Solitude! I don’t want to miss out on anything, but I need times of quiet to myself.  Sometimes I need a nap, sometimes I watch tv, and sometimes I even do a mundane chore, but mostly I have space to hear my thoughts and let things mull around in my mind.
  • Soul-care! I need time to read my Bible and share my heart with God through prayer.  As a mom I find myself praying often throughout the day and while that is a great habit to nurture, I also need intentional time.
  • Spontaneity!  Being a planner means I really like to know what’s coming next, but within that I enjoy fun.  If we see a gorgeous sunset brewing, let’s grab our shoes and chase it down.  When we hear fireworks, lets go see them.  If a neighbor is having a garage sale, let’s stop and meet them.  Spontaneity doesn’t have to be huge, it can be simple.
  • Spouse!  This should be marriage, but I had to keep the S theme going.  When my marriage is good, the tough challenges of parenting are easier to tackle.  I feel loved and supported.  My kids feel secure. We feel like a team and not just a household of individuals.

When I remember the importance of self-care and have these things in place, my kids get a mom that I am much more willing to have them be someday.

So, what do you need?

What do you need to be the best you, you can be for your kids?  It might be hard to come up with a list out of thin air, so over the next week or two, stop and think about your day.  If it’s a good day, think about why it was, or if it was a rough day, think about what was missing.  You will begin to see the patterns emerge so that you can figure out what your “best you” needs to breathe.

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