Example of youth

So… sugar.

I grew up with ice cream nearly every night for dessert, candy here and there, and once I was a teenager with some money to burn, I was regularly drinking soda.

With my kids, I didn’t want to have quite so much sugar around.  I didn’t tend to have candy on hand very often, although I filled Easter baskets with candy and have always taken my kids trick-or-treating.  While I am not thrilled about the volume of candy on Halloween, I thoroughly enjoy this occasion when I see almost everyone in the neighborhood in one night and ooh and ah over the kids’ costumes.  To be perfectly honest, we go through phases when we have ice cream around pretty regularly, then go for a period of time without it.

I also like to bake occasional treats at home.  I enjoy the process of baking cookies or some other goody together with my children and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

If we could keep it at the level of occasional treat, I would be okay with it.  I quickly found, though, that sugar was being offered to my kids pretty much everywhere they turned.  Rewards from teachers, birthday parties, treats from friends and neighbors, donuts at church, the “snacks” offered at activities, fundraiser items being sold by neighborhood kids, grandparents…

Before long, I felt that the sweets from everyone else had crowded out our own baking at home.  It made me sad.  I felt that I couldn’t be the one to share treats with my own children.  I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying my kids could not accept the treats they were offered.  Even when limiting what we had at home, I still felt that the sweets had gotten way out of hand.  I regret letting it get to that point, but it is hard to change what we’re already accustomed to.

I’ve talked to my children about some of the concerns of eating sugar, especially eating a lot of sugar.  I wanted them to understand that there are reasons why I try to limit sweets, but I never did require them not to eat the candy from teachers, teddy grahams from friends, and so on, and so on.

I was thrilled when my son announced in late January that he was going to go the entire month of February with no junk.  Eager to encourage him, I told him I would join him.  In the end, our entire family took on this challenge together.

1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

I am so proud that my ten year old son set this positive goal all on his own and that he inspired the rest of us to follow his lead.  It is so true that the young can set a good example.

A little more about the February challenge.  I realize that “junk” is a subjective term.  Since this was my son’s plan, I followed his rules.  No pop.  No desserts.  No chips.  No cereal.  Not much bread or crackers.  Check the label and avoid anything that has a bunch of unrecognizable ingredients.  This meant that he was willing to eat a serving of Triscuits (wheat, oil and salt), but he would not eat Wheat Thins, which have a much longer list of ingredients.  He would eat a Larabar but not a granola bar (we didn’t find any granola bar that met his approval).

How did a junk free month affect us?  Personally, I had gotten back into the soda habit (after giving it up for 2 1/2 years at one point), and I haven’t had any since sometime in January.   Making homemade pizza sauce, pasta sauces and the like has become more routine. I’m getting used to using plain yogurt instead of flavored.  I even lost a few pounds.

My son decided to have dessert on his birthday in March, but not to have sweets regularly.  He has said that he will probably have a dessert again in May.  Again, this is his thing.  I am not an enforcer.  I am, however, an encourager and an enabler.  I am ready and willing to support him in his goal to eat better.  I think that this will go far better as his choice than it ever would have had I forced it.

You know how else he has set an example?  He owns his choice and makes no apologies.  He doesn’t eat the thing he has decided not to eat just to be polite.  He simply tells them that he has decided not to eat sweets at this time.  No thank you.  And it has not been a big deal.  Why was I so worried about hurting feelings?

What about the candy-themed holidays?  As I am stashing away items to put in Easter baskets, there are no sweets involved.  Something that will be going into the baskets this year are packets of seeds, so we can plant and grow food and flowers together.  I don’t know about Halloween.  We will have to talk about it as a family and decide how to handle it.

If you see us, please don’t be surprised or offended if we decline an offer of food that doesn’t meet his criteria.  It is nothing personal.  It is just a boy trying to stand up for his health and a mom who supports him.







Image: NASA

I have been reading a book called The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander with my children.

I found the following passage worth jotting down so I can read it again and again. The characters noted below were high in the air, looking down at the world.

“Are we still in the kingdom of T’ang?” Fragrance of Orchid said. “Have we left it and crossed into another kingdom?”

“The first thing to understand,” Niang-niang said, “is that there is no Kingdom of T’ang, nor any other realm. Do you see borders? Is one countryside so different from another? Is not a mountain a mountain, a tree a tree, wherever it may be? Kingdoms? They are pitiful inventions of humankind. They mean nothing to us. We see there is only the world itself, nothing more, nothing less.”

Truly. Look at that image of Earth. There are natural boundaries formed by oceans, rivers, varying climates. There are not lines denoting ” us” and “them”.

There is so much division in our society, in our world. Different religions. Different political ideologies.

I became a mother after 9/11 and just two months before the U.S. launched its War on Terror. It saddens me that this has been the state of our world for my children’s whole lives. It saddens me that these patterns repeat again and again throughout history.

Radicals aside, isn’t the average person simply trying to live a happy, safe, healthy, meaningful life? Are we really so different from one another?


I wish I could remember all the times when I read an article or passage of Scripture that absolutely spoke to me exactly where I was. There have also been numerous times when I heard a song that was perfectly suited to my situation.

Sometimes these coincidences speak words of comfort, sometimes conviction, sometimes simply let me know I am not alone in my particular situation.

Coincidence is defined as follows:


a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance: Our meeting in Venice was pure coincidence.

the condition or fact of coinciding.

an instance of this.

I am not convinced that all these occurrences are mere coincidence. I think they may be one way that God speaks to us.

I recently shared a Maya Angelou quote that I appreciate. “When you know better, you do better.”

The very next Bible study I attended included the following:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
~Ephesians 4:22-24

Another way of reminding me to keep moving forward and doing better as I learn. Whether providential, or simply coincidence, I appreciate these moments, and I think this message is worth repeating.

Do Better

“When you know better, you do better.”
~Maya Angelou

I’ve been seeing this quote a lot lately, and it resonates with me. I’ve heard that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Maybe that is the case when it comes to law enforcement, but if you ask me, an intentional wrong is something altogether different from an act of ignorance or an accident.

When I look back over my own choices, certainly there are things I would do differently if I had the chance. I am a work in progress and expect I always will be. We are all learning throughout our lives. At least I hope we are. It would be a shame, in my opinion, to consider oneself complete with no room for further knowledge or improvement.

If you are beating yourself up because you’ve had a change of mind or heart about something in your life, please stop. Now that you know better, you will do things differently. That’s all you can do. If you have wronged someone, you can apologize and seek forgiveness. You can and should forgive yourself. You can’t change the past. You can only change how you approach things going forward.

Sailing by Ash Breeze

I wanted to share another book that I really enjoyed reading with my children. This particular title, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, is a biography of young Nathaniel Bowditch, a bright boy who was forced into indentured servitude due to his family’s poor financial situation. He had dreamed of attending college, but his circumstances would not allow for that. A man who worked at the chandlery with Nathaniel described him as “becalmed” – like a sailboat that cannot make progress for lack of wind. Nathaniel, however, refused to allow himself to be stopped by circumstances that were out of his control. Instead of giving up his dream of further learning, he decided to study on his own at night. He taught himself Latin, physics, mathematics – anything that he was interested in. This bright boy grew into a brilliant man, all as an indentured servant. This in itself would understandably appeal to me. As a homeschooling mother, I value examples of successful self-directed learners.

My absolute favorite thing from this book, though, is the idea of sailing by ash breeze. When becalmed, the sailor must use his own power and row the boat. The oars were commonly made of ash wood. Ash breeze.

It is true that life can throw any variety of obstacles in our paths. Sometimes we feel quite stuck. As stuck as a becalmed sailboat. However, with determination and hard work, we can keep moving using our own power.

The next time I feel stuck, I will consider what is in my power to do, rather than dwell on what is out of my control. Sail by ash breeze.

Doing the least actions for love

I read The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin for this month’s book club.  In her own reading, the author became fascinated with a Catholic nun who was sainted, Saint Therese of Lisieux.  She included a Saint Therese quote that resonated with me.

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love?  Great deeds are forbidden me.  The only way I can prove my love is by… every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

No doubt it reminded me of my own desire to pay attention to the little things.

I also agree that love is shown by action, and I think love is a choice as much as it is a feeling. 

It’s just one of those tidbits that I wanted to save. 



…by declining the opportunity to define himself, he allows others, less interested, more callous, meaner others, to create definitions for him.”

This is from The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau. I found the entire book interesting. The above was a line that I wanted to keep forever.

Do you ever feel that way about things you read? I do. There are words that I want to keep long after I’ve set aside the book.

I’m not here to review or discuss this book in its entirety. These words just spoke to me, and I wanted to record them and share them. I do believe that we are always in the process of defining ourselves by our actions, the choices we make. Certainly there are times when others may try to define us, to put us in some box, but I don’t think we should give that over to anyone else. If someone wants to label us, particularly in a way that isn’t true, we ought to stand up and show them who we really are.