As the Zugworld Turns

I have one child who is prone to drama more than the other. When I think of how disruptive the drama can be to our family dynamic, I feel sad and despairing and entertain thoughts of what life would look like without such drama.

(Just keeping it real, friends. Don’t freak out.)


But it’s through my relationship with this child – through woo’ing her heart, through not knowing what the hell I’m doing – that I remember how Jesus loves me patiently despite my own angry and rebellious tendencies.

And I hate remembering that, at least at first. I’d prefer that parenting was easier and more fun.


Okay… *easier.* It’s pretty fun already.

I Call Bullshit On My Own Temptation Theology

Today I learned a deep and profound thing.

It may have changed my life forever.

I hope it’s changed my life forever, because now that I’m fixated on it, I can’t imagine being content in the unknowing of this thing.

In dealing with the temptation to indulge my temper with yelling and shaming, I’ve always tried to will it away. When my kids were little, I would go to bed every night feeling defeated and filled with shame because I broke their little hearts with my anger, and I would wake up every morning feeling hopeful that today would be a new day, that today would be different.

But every day my hopes were dashed as the cycle continued.

I believe that by God’s grace we should cling to Jesus in our temptation, but I always thought the path to grace and to Jesus was for me to turn away from my rage.

That always seems impossible to me, because no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m still going to choose the euphoric relief I feel when the pressure valve of my rage is released.

And no matter what I know to be a true Truth, I’m always going to fight back when my little army advances on me with their own hearts of rebellion.

When I meditate on this very difficult thing, this expectation that I turn away from temptation, I always think of Danny Devito’s line in Heist: “Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money.”

Well… everybody fails at temptation. That’s why they call it temptation.

And then I was shown this true Truth in Hebrews 2:18…

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I don’t have to turn away from anything or will myself to avoid temptation. I can stay right there in the pile I’m standing in and take whatever hurtful thing my daughter says to me, whatever disrespect my son dishes out. And as I absorb it, my ego will bruise, the verbal wound will go deep, and the rejection will be profound.

In that moment, I will suffer.

I might even die a little.

But I will not be alone, because Jesus always suffers with me.

He holds my hair back as I wretch into the toilet.

He cleans my wounds and wraps them in clean bandages.

He cradles me against his chest as I cry the ugly cry and get snot all over his shirt.

And when I’m done suffering the injustice of sassy words or whatever bullshit I take so personally from a half pint, I will walk with a limp or perhaps have a scar. But I will carry this wound as a reminder of that time I loved so deeply that I was willing to suffer, because that’s what Jesus did for me when he died on the cross.

This is the piece I’ve been missing my whole life.

I’ve always believed that I took his suffering for granted and didn’t take my sin seriously, but I couldn’t find my way in to a place of empathy.

I get it now.

And I know I am different.

I’m free to lovingly shepherd my kids’ hearts into repentance and reconciliation because Jesus suffers with me, and I don’t have to fight or turn away any more.

This changes everything.

A New Era, Inspired by Lazy Parenting

No TV Until.jpg

I’m a lazy parent, and also an introvert. As such, I’m inclined to let my kids watch tv all weekend just so I can have time to myself doing things that recharge me.

(By the way, what’s your tv policy? The Zuglets don’t get any tv time on school nights unless we watch something together as a family. After homework is done, of course.)

Also related to being lazy, I don’t like to clean my house. But when I do clean the house, I do it with great bitterness because all my kids do is watch tv and make a mess and they never lift a finger to do anything around here.

This is what we call a conundrum.

I’ve been quite convinced lately that in prioritizing myself as the Most Important Thing, I could possibly be turning my children into the sort of people who live in my basement and eat the Frosted Flakes I buy until they’re well into their 30’s.

At this thought, I decided to start weaning myself off the kids’ weekend tv time by first setting some ground rules about what needs to get done before they watch.

These are not unrealistic expectations, as you can see. And what I like about it, is that it removes any drama from the situation, which I tend to invite because I hate strict boundaries.

(When you have a child who tests the limits of every boundary to see what will happen, setting squishy boundaries invites LOADS of drama.)

Now I am no longer the gatekeeper to the kids’ tv time. They are their own gatekeeper.

(She said optimistically on Day One.)

Momageddon: The Helpful Advice Edition (please disregard).

Sometimes I get really clingy about my advice books. As a new mother, I remember frantically reading every book about sleeping babies while nursing a 6 week old who decided to stop sleeping. I was frantic, and exhausted, and livid that she was not sticking to The Plan.

The Plan which included sleeping.

I was so beyond the end of my wits that I wasn’t even reading books straight through. I was skimming chapter titles and bolded sentences, and copying bulleted lists and charts with pen on paper.

My brain became like those videos on David Letterman where they edit together random words from a speech so it sounds like a Presidential candidate says, “I bork Sarah Palin every Thursday.”

Recently I read a couple books that were helpful and encouraging to me as a parent, but I found myself hoarding facts again like I tend to do. Only now I’m older and displaying signs of hereditary dementia and start to panic because I can’t remember what to say when it’s the moment of truth and I need to say something really… parental.

A few weeks ago as I contemplated making a list or pie chart to help me remember a few methods (has anyone seen Memento? Reminder tattoos, anyone?), I started approaching despair again as I wondered how I would keep it all straight.

And then it hit me: Jesus has already given me everything I need to raise my kids.

I’m not dissing all the practical knowledge available in books, but I was giving methods more weight than grace. I realized that practical teaching is a great supplement, but what I really need to do is read my bible & pray for wisdom, get over my fear & selfishness, and teach my kids about Jesus.

Momageddon: Brought To You By the Number 17

I’m starting to like my daughter again. I know it’s not very parental to dislike your own children, nor is it probably very Christian-like, but there’s the truth of it.

Sometimes I don’t like my kid.

Sorry for that pause. Had to deal with my daughter.

What was I saying?

Oh right. I like my kid again.

Oops. Be right back.

Last week I–


Hang on.


So, I’d like to point out how calm I am, despite all these interruptions. Did you notice that? Did you notice how my blood pressure didn’t spike? How I didn’t type in all caps or go out for a smoke?

Thank you, Lou Priolo.

The Heart of Anger was an amazing read for me. And Priolo’s not kidding when he says you should read the book twice – once for yourself and once for your kid. This is not just a book about dealing with an angry kid, it’s also a book about taking responsibility for your angry kid.

I realized quickly that I’ve developed some bad parenting habits that needed to change – habits that were provoking her to anger.

— Issue #1 —

I tend to “answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:4). Though, I kinda knew this already. We all know this about me. When my kid sasses me, I tend to respond more like a 14 year old than a grownup, and we end up getting into a YES YOU DID/NO I DIDN’T/YES YOU DID situation.

Priolo describes in great detail how Jesus responds to all the fools in his life, and never once does he 1) justify himself to a fool, or 2) bark orders at a fool. What Jesus does do, is show a fool his own foolishness.

My child acts foolish often, and by responding “according to her folly,” I create a dysfunctional dynamic between us. Basically, I’ve trained her to only take me seriously when I’m yelling. But as soon as I quit answering “according to her folly,” I began to see immediate change in Ruthie.

In fact, the first time Bryan saw me in action he was all, “Whoa. When did you become the Bitch Whisperer?”

— Issue #2 —

I allow myself to get caught up into an emotional tangle of manipulation and guilt. Priolo starts off chapter nine by giving a test “to determine just how manipulative a child might be.”

A score of 90 or better means “you are probably quite adept at preventing manipulation by your child.” A score of 75-90 means you’re probably being manipulated “to a small degree.” A score below 75 means “it’s likely you’re being manipulated to a great extent.”

My total added up to 17.

Perhaps one might freak out by the number 17, but this was actually a great relief to me. In fact, I heaved great big ugly sobs of relief because I’M NOT FUCKING CRAZY.

Somehow the number 17 was like that lazer thing Luke Skywalker fired into the exhaust vent of the Death Star. With great precision, it found a very exacting path to my guilt and blew it to pieces.


A friend asked me if Bryan would have scored the manipulation test differently.

(Do you have a friend who pokes you like this? I have many. They are annoying.)

To be honest, yes. He would have scored it a little differently because he’s less likely to be manipulated. But not all the questions were subjective, so we would have agreed on many answers.

What I loved about the book is that it doesn’t allow me as a parent to walk away blaming my kid for being angry and manipulative. The responsibility is mine to improve my parenting skills, and the responsibility is mine to mentor Ruthie through her anger responses.

Momageddon: Unbreakable Love

A few weeks ago I watched the Parenthood episode where Julia & Joel realize their daughter, Sydney, who is about the same age as Ruthie, is a sore loser.

When Sydney loses a game, she throws a major fit – screaming, flailing, and she even slaps Joel across the face.

Joel tosses her in her room where she continues to throw a fit for hours. Eventually Julia gets home and takes a shift sitting outside Sydney’s door with a bottle of wine and a laptop.

By the time Joel returns, Julia’s blathering on about failing as a parent, and Joel quips about this kid being a bust but they can start fresh with a new one.

Up to this point I wanted to marry Parenthood I loved it so much. FINALLY! I thought. SOMEONE WHO GETS ME.

And then…

Julia & Joel opened the door to Sydney’s bedroom and we see she is sprawled out in the middle of the floor, passed out in a room that was completely destroyed in her rage.

I nodded. Oh yes, I thought. I’ve been here before.

And then…

Like flipping a light switch, Julia & Joel get downright giddy over how adorable Sydney looks passed out, and they giggle about her lovingly as they try to get her to bed without waking her up.

*blink* *blink*

This is where the show totally lost me because I couldn’t fathom how they still liked her after all that.

And then it hit me that parents everywhere seemed to still like their kids despite this sort of behavior. How did they do that?

You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love his children — with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

And though they would forget him, and run from him, deep in their hearts, God’s children would miss him always, and long for him — lost children yearning for their home.

– from The Jesus Storybook Bible

I have a daughter who throws a fit like Sydney many times a week – sometimes nightly if the moon and stars are lined up just right – and I realized I scratch a mental notch into my heart each time she does, like a prisoner counting off the days he’s in jail.

All these notches adding up over time are hardening my heart toward her, and I find myself disconnecting from her relationally.


Must be awesome to get parented by me.

So I’ve pretty much been praying for a heart transformation since I don’t know what else to do. Ruthie’s a difficult kid, there’s no doubt about that. But so am I, and Jesus pursues me despite all my bitchiness.

I have a feeling my daughter will struggle with rage and rebellion into perpetuity (I sure do!). It’s my prayer that I can become an earthly example of the heavenly Father who pursues her with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

Momageddon: Jerks In Their Own Right.

Snow ball in the face

It snowed in the Seattle area last week, which made me a little nostalgic so I went back into my snowy photo archives. I found this photo of Thomas, just after Ruthie hit him with a snow clump.

He was 21 months old, Ruthie was 3 1/2.

It’s funny to remember them at this age, because even back then Ruthie went out of her way to push his buttons, and even back then Thomas was quick to retaliate.

This same scenario plays out a thousand times in our home – Ruthie’s sin of provoking, Thomas’ sin of executing his own justice. It happens so often that I get lazy and just start barking at them to leave each other alone.

I tend to take my kids’ flaws personally, as if I somehow caused them to be this way or otherwise failed as a parent. In my rational mind I know this isn’t true, but emotionally I carry the weight of their sin on my own shoulders.

When I remind myself this is just how they are because we all sin, I’m able to slow down and shepherd them through repentance.

But all those other times? The yelling.

Momageddon: Not As Awesome As Being “The Talent.”

Studio time at Bad Animal.

Awhile ago I popped into Bad Animals studio to record a voice over track for one of my clients (Do you like how breezy I was when I said that? Like it happens all the time?). When I got there, the staff ushered me into a special parking spot and asked if I wanted my water chilled or at room temperature.

A few hours later I picked up my kids at the bus stop. Ruthie yelled at me (in public!) because (as usual!) homework comes before playing (gasp!), and Thomas got distracted 42 times while emptying the dishwasher.

How is it that my own children don’t understand what an expert I am, and that I’m to be deeply respected? After all, I’ve helped organizations worldwide communicate their story, yet MY OWN CHILDREN can’t seem to understand a word I’m saying.

For instance, when I say to Ruthie, “You can play with a friend after your homework is done,” she hears, “You will never see that friend again. Ever. Global warming will melt glaciers & flood the continent before you ever lay eyes on any friends ever again,” and responds accordingly with, “YOU’RE THE WORST MOM EVER!”

Our First Mother, Eve, was bent the same way.

God said Adam & Eve could eat from any tree in the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve heard differently. She heard, “BACK AWAY FROM THE TREE! DON’T EVEN TOUCH IT! IN FACT, AVERT YOUR EYES!”

It seems a small discrepancy, but how often do our minds exaggerate to justify what we want? Because surely if God (or mom!) is really that unreasonable, then I’m totally going to talk my way out of this one.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it (Genesis 3:6).

Eve believed a half-truth (which is worse than a lie!), surmised that God was a jerk, and ate the fruit anyway.


When my kids act out like Eve, it’s so tempting to love my job more than I love parenting (which is also a job, in case you missed that). On my worst day with the worst client ever (hardly ever happens!), I can shut the lid and quit working.

But oh lordy, this parenting thing is forever.