It’s a (Simply) Wonderful Life

ifwt_ARRalphie_SteveChristmas trees have appeared in the big box stores in my area. Wreaths, garland, and red velvet ribbon can be easily located. I’ve yet to hear carols piped into the mall, but my bet is that it won’t be long.

This year we will be blessed with five little grandboys gathered in our home for the holidays. A sixth is waiting in the wings, scheduled to arrive after the New Year. The boys range in age from 3 months to 7 years old. It’s going to be noisy. And messy. And all kinds of wonderful.

As “Papa” and I consider the gift lists, I feel certain I will be asked to do what I dread every year: take a trip to the toy store. It’s not a new issue for me; I didn’t like them when I was raising my own sons. The huge emporiums of battery-begging, plasticized wonders, with price tags that would make Saint Nick consider early retirement are not my idea of a good time. And the thought of that stuff finding a home at my house makes me a little woozy. I cringe at the spectacle the season has become, and wonder what God must think about it all.

Holidays are gift-giving opportunities, and I do enjoy seeing the faces of my boys, both tall and tiny, as they open something special, selected just for them. How do we keep our balance, with a focus on honoring Christ and enjoying gift giving and the blessing it brings?

Several years ago, before the grandboys began arriving, my hubby and I proposed a new Christmas plan to our sons and daughters-in-law. Our suggestion? A shared experience in place of gifts. There were a few raised eyebrows and requests for clarification, but eventually, thumbs up all around.

The first year we rented a mountain cabin where the snow and the crackling fire kept us inside playing games, watching movies and talking. Remember talking? It’s been downgraded thanks to the (anti)social media mania. The kids ventured out to ski and we all indulged in a quick snowball fight. We exchanged letters on Christmas morning, each writing a note to the others acknowledging the gifts and gratitude of doing life together. One of the best, ever.

Disney World was beautiful at the holidays, and one year we opted to delay the timing for some fun in the sun of California. As the years advanced, the first couple of kiddles joined us as travelers. I wouldn’t trade those trips and the time together for anything.

But this year with three babies 18 months and under, coupled with a very pregnant mama-to-be, travel is not an option. So we will enjoy time together with games and conversation and lots of meals in. I keep imagining the horror on the faces of restaurant owners (and fellow diners) at the request for three high chairs – at one table.

Logistics aside, the little ones will be wondering which packages under the tree might hold something special. So the toy store seems unavoidable. Or does it?

My niece, Amanda, posted a list entitled “18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children” on her Facebook page. The blog link revealed a list for toddlers as well. The blogger describes the life her family pursues as follows: My name is Rachel. I’m a minimalist, blogger, lover of Jesus, wife to Brian, mom to 6 and real food connoisseur. We live in a 1132 sq. ft. house, in Montana and strive for a simple life. I like her. And I respect her choice to live without all the stuff the marketeers work to convince us we must have.

The list is creative, with unusual suggestions like crafting dates, events, and memberships for the older kids. Books, games, and puzzles appear as steady eddie choices that never go out of style. The site, features healthy food, decluttering suggestions and living a simpler life where your things don’t own you.

So perhaps this year you might swim against the tide in the selection of gifts for your little ones. It’s never too late to make new choices. For the mid-centurians in the group, we’ve lived long enough to amass more than our share of stuff. There are two ways to be rich: make more or want less.  Perhaps we can help influence the little ones to choose wealth by wanting less stuff and living more life. As grandparents, we have a responsibility to the next generations so Jesus, not things, becomes the focus.

And if it minimizes the time in the toy store experience, I’m all in!




Dad shocked by crying babyby Deb DeArmond

I watched my son’s face as he changed his first really messy diaper for his newborn son—his first child. Only a few days old, my grandboy had taken the exercise seriously and had delivered an impressive load.

My husband and I were enjoying the moment, watching our son and his son together. The baby looked relieved and relaxed. My son did not.

I could tell this was a moment my son would never forget, nor would he look forward to repeating it any time soon.

Later, as we sat together with a sleeping baby nestled against my shoulder, we chatted with the new parents. Happy, but exhausted, we talked about the whirlwind that no first timers are ever prepared for.

“So I can’t do that again. It was all I could do not to lose my lunch.” My son looked at his wife.

“You’ll get used to it,” she said reassuringly.

“No, I won’t. I’m not kidding.”

He sounded pretty certain. It made me giggle. It’s just starting, I thought. And it’s not the worst mess you’ll have to deal with.

My husband glanced at our son. He looked serious. “You know, son, I had a personal poo rule when you and your brothers were babies.”

Oh yes! The poo rule! Couldn’t wait to see my son’s reaction to this tidbit of fatherly advice.

My son leaned forward, looking relieved. Aha! My dad’s going to bail me out here, get me off the hook! He had a poo rule – maybe we should make it a family tradition!

You could see the grin beginning to form on his face. “Tell me about it, Dad. How did it work?”

“Well, your mom was home with you all day and I missed out on some of the “firsts” — first smile, first time you rolled over, first crawl. It was tough hearing about it second hand. I watched that bond form between the two of you and I was a bit jealous at times.”

My son nodded. “Makes sense.”

“So I decided I would change every messy diaper I could,” he continued. “I wanted my face to be associated with the relief and comfort that comes when that baby was poo free – all cleaned up in a fresh diaper.”

Not the answer my son had hoped to hear.

I knew Ron had often stepped in to take over a messy diaper. At the time, I didn’t understand his motivation. It has come up with each of our other two sons as they became dads. I’m not sure they were convinced.

What my husband and I are convinced of is this: the poo rule doesn’t expire when they are potty trained. For parents, it’s a lifetime opportunity.

No matter how old they are, there will always be poo to deal with. It comes in new forms – bad decisions, difficult choices, or missed opportunities, but poo by any other name, is still poo. And it can be stinkier and more difficult to help clean up when they’re grown.

Ron’s theory is they’ll go back to those early days, remember the face that brought them comfort and help and seek it out once again. And they do.

Relief now comes in the form of conversation, brainstorming, and sometimes counsel. Poo detail has helped our sons through sticky situations, given them new insights, and brought them closer to their dad. It’s a guy thing. Sometimes, I’m jealous. But I know men learn to be dads from their own fathers. I’m grateful my boys have such a strong teacher.

Isn’t that what Father God does for us? He comforts. His Holy Spirit counsels. His Word instructs and He brings the relief that comes with His touch. Time in His presence leaves us feeling clean, refreshed.

And now each of my three sons has two sons themselves. That’s a lot of relief opportunities.

Who knew poo could be such a wonderful thing?

Bless My Mother-in-Law?? Really?

Mother with her daughterWith Mother’s Day just a few days away, why not entertain a new thought this year? Bless your husband’s mom. She did raise the man of your dreams, after all.  If for no reason other than that, this is a great time to let her know you appreciate her. Find my brand new article today on my friend Dawn Wilson’s website. Here’s the link:  Upgrade with Dawn

Life, Love, and Family Podcast

RadioYou can find a link to listen to a recent interview I did with Dr. Tim Clinton on Life, Love and Family Radio. We talked about the mother-in-law/daughter-in law dynamic. We also discussed that man in the middle! Take a listen! Deb DeArmond on Life, Life and Family Radio



Related By Chance, Family By Choice FREE TODAY on Amazon, B&N, Google



Start 2014 off on the right foot with your in-law, get Related by Chance, Family by Chance FREE today. Very exciting! My publisher is sponsoring a giveaway of my book  Every ebook purchased on JANUARY 10 will be FREE! Please share it with your friends! And if you missed the FREE day, you can still save $11.00 off the cover price Jan. 11-17. Find it at: Amazon.comBarnes and, and Google Books

I wrote Related by Chance, Family by Choice to be a resource for women who want to change and grow in their relationship with their mother or daughter-in-law to more reflect the spiritual family we, as Christians, are a part of. That’s why I’m so happy Related by Chance, Family by Choice is being offered free on eBook today.


Book Club Image copyI’ve recently added a couple of exciting new resources designed to help you get the most out of Related By Chance, Family By Choice. With book lovers in mind, it’s perfect for use book clubs, Bible studies or small group discussions. And if you are pressed for time and would like to go solo, it can help make your individual reading experience even more meaningful!

Under the tab “Resources” you will find two documents. The first is a guide for creating a book club or small group. It has information that will work with any book in addition to the discussion guide for Related. The second document is the discussion guide alone – perfect for all of you pros with experience in creating and running discussion groups and Bible studies.

I hope you’ll get a group together, or think about suggesting Related to your current group. If it’s local, I’d love to come for a Q & A session. If it’s somewhere out there, we can arrange a Skype connection.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions about using these resources! Happy reading!