It Doesn’t Take a Brain Surgeon To Set Me Straight


I found this post in my drafts folder from last Fall & decided it was ready to post.

The other day I heard a RadioLab podcast about a guy who had brain surgery to relieve him of seizures. A portion his brain was removed that acts like a “lid” on top of the desire center in his brain. This lid helps people filter and control their deep desires and impulses, like a conscience, or impulse control. Without this “lid,” he entertained and acted on every desire that came to him, and he did so with gusto.

As you can imagine, this eventually got him into hot water.

In some ways, I related to the story.

When I’m in a difficult moment, or in a difficult season, I have a hard time seeing my way out of it. I indulge that feeling of despair and just go with it, feeling like things will never change and I will always feel this way. It’s like I don’t have a lid that controls or filters my deepest despair.

And then I talk to a friend.

My friends are one of the many lids that filter my deepest despairing moments and remind me that I’m not alone, and that it won’t always be this way.

For instance, in the tough parenting moments (like now, for instance, when my kid won’t stop singing DO-DO-DO-DO despite my asking him to stop, like, A THOUSAND times) the floodgates of despair open and I lament the day I ever had kids.

Parenting would be easier without the kids, I joke with Bryan. But then I act on those thoughts by getting snippy with them just for walking into the room.

Friends remind me that all kids can be annoying, disobedient, whiners, not just mine, and then they point me to Jesus and tell me their own stories of bad parenting moments.

Through the “lid” of community, I can filter those moments as irritating, but not despairing. They’re normal. But when I’m isolated and avoid community, my own thoughts are the only reality check I have, and they quickly lead me to despair.

Keeping Our Kids Safe Online – Part 1

One evening a couple weeks ago, Ruthie’s friend called and said, “Go on your Google hangout!”

Ruthie didn’t know what that was, so Bryan set up her own account on the family computer in the living room, and within a few minutes we were flies on the wall to a pre-teen conversation.


The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: I had just heard Katie Greer speak about keeping our kids safe online, and I felt ready for this moment.

I didn’t know what to expect from the event, since I’d never heard of Katie Greer before. I thought – worst case scenario – that it might be a fear-inducing call to ban all technology from the home, but I was so pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know how the other parents felt, but I came away completely at peace about our family’s use of technology, and armed with helpful information about keeping them safe online.

Over the next few posts I’ll share my main take-aways from the event.

In the meantime, I definitely recommend checking out her site for helpful tips and information on where she might be speaking near you.

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.

On Working Alone.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a creative conundrum.

You see, I have it made. I’m one of the lucky ones. And no, I’m not talking about my hair. It’s amazing, to be sure, and the world is generally very jealous of my thick and gorgeous mane, but I am talking about my lifestyle.

It’s amazing that I get to write for a living. It’s amazing that I get to work from home. During school hours. And that I don’t have ongoing expensive day care costs. This luxury is not lost on me, and from a working parent’s perspective, this is a perfect arrangement.

But it also means I work alone, which can be lonely. And uninspiring. And depressing. And did I mention lonely?

Amazing things happen when I’m in the same room as my creative team. The creative process is sometimes internal, but most of our best ideas happen in collaboration, and most of the time that collaboration is ambient, meaning it happens organically as we’re crossing paths in the hallway and not necessarily during a scheduled brainstorming session.

The watercooler conversations, if you will.

Anyway, back to the conundrum.

I like that I’m in control of my schedule, that I can be highly productive in my pajamas and use my laundry cycles as an excuse to stretch my legs and take a break (it’s better than smoking!). I like that I can be a “working mom” without compromising my affinity for being a “stay at home” mom.

But I hate that it sucks the creative life out of me to work alone.

I’m certain there’s at least a handful of solutions to my conundrum, but I can’t think of one that doesn’t involve compromise – either by me, my family, or my team.

Really, I just want to have it all. Even more all than I already have, apparently.

Friday Link Love: The Danger of Moralistic Parenting

The Danger of Moralistic Parenting | The Resurgence.
I loved everything about this post, then realized at the very end that it’s an excerpt from a book I just ordered on the Kindle. WIN!

An excerpt from the post:

Certainly the faith that has empowered the persecuted church for two millennia isn’t as thin and boring as “Say you’re sorry,” “Be nice,” and “Don’t be like them.” Why would anyone want to deny himself, lay down his life, or suffer for something as inane as that?

I really struggle in sorting out my role vs the Holy Spirit’s role when it comes to my children’s conscience. My parenting style is built on a solid foundation of being a control freak, so I end up requiring some sort of proof that the kids are really truly sorry for what they’ve done.

This has turned them into great actors – Ruthie especially. She gets that striking George Clooney gaze from the top of her eyes thing down really well. And sadly, this often satisfies me. I know it’s highly possible she’s just telling me what I want to hear, but in my lazy moments I’m okay with that.

(If I haven’t mentioned this before, parenting is hard. It requires effort. I don’t always feel like doing it).

It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself I’m not actually the Holy Spirit.

I wrote that last sentence before I found this post from THREE YEARS ago, so I guess this is something I’m fairly slow at learning (ya think?!). Here’s an excerpt:

My first instinct when Ruthie gets this stubborn is to make her life as miserable as possible until she cries UNCLE and repents. In my imagination we play a game of chicken to see who lasts longer – me or her. Forcing behavior seems to be what I am most comfortable with, though I know intellectually it’s the worst way to parent.

I had a revelation awhile ago. I realized that Ruthie is a person, not merely an object I own or control. She is a person with a conscience who can feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Or not. I realized there are more consequences to our actions than just the circumstantial ones, that she is growing up not only in body, but also in faith. I realized that I won’t always be able to make her feel sorry, that sometimes she will rebel against repentance and have a hard heart, and that there’s not really anything I can do about it in the moment.

I’m ready to be over the whole control freak thing. It’s what makes me take things so personally and respond with unholy anger. I’d much rather just parent obediently and trust Jesus with the outcome.

I can’t wait to read the whole book!

I’m just glad someone else did all the legwork.

What happens when you let your children have it all their own way?.
A friend posted this to Facebook and a discussion ensued. It’s an interesting experiment, but I think it spoke to me more about my own bitchyness than it did my kids’ ability to govern themselves. After all, it’s our job to shepherd them in the right direction, but we can’t do that if we let them do whatever they want.

I’ve seen first hand the logical conclusion of that lifestyle.

But I think this mom had the same realization I would have had – that I say NO a lot simply because I’m lazy or inconvenienced by my kids’ request. I can’t say YES all the time, but I know I could say it more. Here’s an excerpt:

Experiment nearly over and I feel I have proved a point — one that is very interesting to all of us.

For a start, by the end of the week the children are imploding. My acquiescence to everything has meant that they are not only buzzing with e-numbers and sugar, but are exhausted, too

But I have also learned some important lessons. The hassle of clearing up the kitchen after they have made a cake is nothing compared to the joy I feel when I hear them laughing so freely.

They just wanted to have fun, to laugh more; to not have every request quashed by a negative.

They also, I think, really started to understand why I create boundaries in their lives, because as much as they don’t like them, they are lost without them.