Connect Powerfully With a Co-Journal

Ready for a fun idea that will deepen the relationships in your family?

We got the idea many years ago from an other couple. Eighteen years ago, when Matt and I were first together, I saw a cute journal on our friend’s coffee table and asked if it was hers. She explained that it was journal she and her husband kept together. In it, they would write each other love notes, share ideas, dreams, pictures, and so on.

I went out right away and got Matt and I our own co-journal, and wrote the first entry explaining how it would work. We added a fun twist by hiding it for each other to find. It was thrilling to be right in the middle of my day and suddenly stumble upon the little book.

In our co-journal, we would write about our dreams for the future or the things that scared us or made us happy or made us cry. We’d leave each other sweet love notes and tape in movie tickets from our date nights.Over time, it became a kind of record of the early days of our relationship.

When kids came along, our journaling habits gave way to dirty diapers and weekly menus and new parent to-do lists.

One day I told Jody about our co-journal, and she thought it would be a cool thing to do  with her girls. She bought each of them a journal, wrote a note in the front of each one explaining how it works, and placed them someplace for the girls to find. Then, it was their turn to write back and hide the journals for Jody to discover.

I loved that idea, so I started doing it with my kids, and they ate it up! Over the years, that have used the co-journal to talk about what they want to do in the summer. They’ve written about dreams they had. They’ve asked questions and told me how much they love me…and how mad they are at me. I’ve used it to tell them how awesome they are and to tell them funny jokes and share little stories about when I was a kid, and we have often taped in little gifts in it for each other. The co-journal has opened a new door to their hearts and has allowed me to see fresh perspectives and new sides of their personalities.

The hiding part is fun…and sometimes comical. Our son Seth’s book is smaller than the average journal and can be tricky to find. One night, I had gotten out of bed to use the bathroom. On my way back in, I thought a nice breeze might cool off the room a bit, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Imagine my surprise when something came flying off! Seth thought it was hilarious.

Watching the kids have so much fun with the co-journal even inspired a recent Mother’s Day gift. After following a little scavenger hunt, I found a beautiful journal in the mailbox. In it was a note from my sweet husband, inspiring us to begin a new journal together.

Try it in your family, or give a beautiful journal as a gift to a young couple.

Let us know it goes…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Creative Is the New Intelligent

Creativity and imagination are the keys to the future. They will solve our energy crisis. They will continue to make our lives and work more powerful. If you had told me when I was a kid that I could stand on a street corner and talk on a phone to someone on the opposite side of the planet, I would have thought you were crazy.

Ever watch the Jetsons cartoon? I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect to see their technology in my lifetime. I still doubt that I will ever replace my car with a flying mobile, but the Jetsonian flatscreen TVs are a part of our every day life. Video chat is also here. And although we don’t have personal robot maids who are part of the family, Honda’s Asimo robot can walk, talk and have basic human interactions. It will probably be a another lifetime before we can shrink our vehicles to a brief size as George Jetson could, but nanotechnology is a fast growing field that will surely make new and amazing things possible in years to come.

It is all the product of imagination and creativity, but he question for parents is this: “How do we help foster this in our kids?”

We would say that it starts with boredom. Author Nancy H. Blakely, said it much better than we could:

“Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we have. If a thing cannot be imagined first — a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS — it cannot be. Life is bound by what we can envision.

I cannot plant imagination into my children. I can, however, provide an environment where their creativity is not just another mess to clean up but welcome evidence of grappling successfully with boredom. It is possible for boredom to deliver us to our best selves, the ones that long for risk and illumination and unspeakable beauty.

If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”

– Nancy H. Blakey, author of a number of books, including Mudpies: Recipes for Invention;101 Alternatives to Television; Lotions, Potions and Slime; and Boredom Busters, all from Tricycle Press

Parents can certainly turn off the TV or limit time on social media and video games. We can create open space (physically and mentally) for our kids to wander through, but once we establish an atmosphere of boredom, we also have to provide the resources and the encouragement for kids to explore and create.

Here are a handful of posts to give you some ideas. Click through, and try a few new things to cultivate imagination in your home.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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5 Steps to Stock Gift Success

On Monday, we talked about the Stock Gift for this holiday season. Today, we want to sum it up briefly with 5 easy steps along with some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Five Steps to Stock Gift Success

  1. Idea — Pick your stock gift idea (see below for ideas)
  2. Recipient List — Make a list of everyone who will receive your stock gift. Be sure to add a few extras for spontaneous gift-giving.
  3. Shopping List — Make a shopping list for supplies. We like to dedicate a large plastic tote to hold all of the supplies, so we can easily take it out and put it away.
  4. Schedule It — Pick a time each week and make an appointment with your family to work on the Stock Gift. The appointment should be as non-negotiable as any doctor or business appointment. Once it’s on the calendar, everyone in the house should commit to be there.
  5. Make Memories — Put on festive holiday music. Make some holiday treats to enjoy during Stock Gift making time. And keep a camera handy. These are the days that childhood memories are made of!

Ideas…

Any Google or Pinterest search can net you more ideas than you can imagine, but here a few to get your creative juices flowing.

Click below to see ideas

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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The Stock Gift

Thanksgiving is this week, and for most of us, that also means the Christmas Season is officially upon us! The Hagaman and Stahlmann families spend our Thanksgiving day at Busch Gardens, which is totally decked out in full Christmas regalia, and we typically end the night with our first Christmas movie of the year.

We’re not the big Black Friday people, but this is certainly the time of year to start thinking about gift, which means we need to find some extra time and money.

Have you ever met a mom who isn’t busy? We haven’t. Now add the holidays to an already full plate, and wow! Things can get interesting.

But this year, we’ve got an idea that will make you feel like a holiday superhero while saving you money AND giving your family some quality, memory-making time together.

It’s called the Stock Gift, and now is the perfect time to start working on it.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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“Saving Christmas” Movie Review and Giveaway

Christmas is just six weeks away! But for many Christians, there’s an internal struggle with this celebration. For some it may just be a few fleeting thoughts that give them pause. But for others, it can be a raging conflict between their desire to honor and glorify God and the Western cultural expressions of Christmas.

Is it okay to participate in all the holiday hoopla? Should we be surrounding the Christmas tree with so many presents? Isn’t that a participation in the gross commercialization of Christmas that has stolen the meaning of this high holy day? Should we even have a tree? It’s just a throwback to an old pagan tradition, right? And what about Santa? A mythological character who makes a list and checks it twice, who is somehow aware whether every kid is naughty or nice — that sounds a whole lot like God Himself. Isn’t Santa somehow blasphemous? Even the very date of this celebration is suspect. No one knows when Jesus was born. Didn’t the church steal December 25th from the pagan rituals of the Winter Solstice?

It’s not that Christians are trying to be argumentative or disparaging. For the most part, even staunch anti-Christmas believers are ultimately motivated by a desire to honor Jesus. They want their worship to be pure, in spirit and in truth. But the real question is this: Do all the traditional Christmas celebration trappings pervert our worship? Or — could it be possible — that they actually enhance it?

Where is Christ in the modern Christmas? That is precisely what Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas intends to answer.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Our Phone Call With Kirk Cameron

We were so excited when we found out that we were going to be included on a conference call with Kirk Cameron.

I have to confess (Jenni speaking) that I was a HUGE fan back in the 80s when he played Mike Seaver on the TV sitcom Growing Pains. Like most girls my age, I adored his impish character and swooned over his fetching smile, but now, more than 20 years later, I am much more impressed with the man Kirk Cameron has become.

The polar opposite of on-screen ladies’ man Mike Seaver, Kirk Cameron has matured into a devoted husband and father and an outspoken Christian leader, who has devoted much of his adult career to speaking, teaching and making films that spread the gospel message.

He has a new movie coming out on November 14th, and we had the opportunity to hear his take on Christmas, child-rearing, homeschooling and of course, the new movie.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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Their Name is Today – Review and Giveaway

I love the title of this book!

Their Name is Today is an awesome reminder that our kids won’t stop growing to wait for us to get our act together or get through this project or that crisis. They need our love and our focus right here and right now.

In his book Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World, author Johann Christoph Arnold reminds us that “as long as we have children entrusted to our care, we cannot forget that the demands they make on us must be answered in the present. Their name is today. Whatever children need in the way of guidance, security and love, they need now. Because soon enough it will be time for them to fly on their own, and then there will be no holding them back.”

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Are You a TEAM Player?

“No you did NOT just throw your trash on the ground five feet from that garbage can!” I said to myself, walking toward the door of an establishment and watching a teen in front of me. After seeing someone do something so blatantly disrespectful and apathetic, I couldn’t help but wonder why some people just don’t feel that they have a responsibility or need to play a part in keeping an orderly cohesiveness in our world.

When I really began to think about it, one thing came to mind. As a whole, most of us don’t necessarily feel connected to the people around us – at all. I’m not even sure most of us really know our own neighbors.

Community (the way it once existed) is foreign to us these days. Think about it – we don’t hold barn raisings when a couple gets married.We’re lucky if we clear our schedules to make it to the ceremony. Okay, so maybe we’ll hop on a meal train when someone has a baby and cook a lasagna (maybe), but how many of us go clean that new momma’s house and weed her landscaping and do her laundry so she can bond with her newborn or perhaps get some sleep? How many of us really “do life” with other families — eat together regularly, bear each other’s burdens, celebrate the milestones and endure the daily grind?

It makes me feel sad.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Does Your Kid Have a “Thing?”

A few years ago one of my children was celebrating a birthday. He had $50 to spend (a gift from a great grandparent), and he couldn’t figure out a way to spend more than $6 of it.

As he lapped the store, he would pick something up and carry it around for a while and then decide it wasn’t quite right and put it back. He asked me if I thought his G.G. (great-grandma) would be sad if he didn’t spend the money.

“Of course not, Sam,” I replied. “You can save it until you find something you really like. I think G.G. would be proud of you for making wise choices with your money.”

When we left the store, he was very sad, and when I asked what was wrong, he said, “I don’t have a ‘thing.’ Seth likes science, and Skyler likes horses, but I don’t have a special ‘thing’ that I like.”

After that day, we spent a lot of time and thought helping Sam find his “thing,” and he has! Sam loves to grow things. We call him Farmer Sam, and he’s even gearing up right now to invest his leftover birthday money in a worm farm (by the way, he’s still the kid who won’t spend money flippantly — his birthday was four months ago, and he still has quite a bit of money left over).

One of Sam's backyard growing projects

One of Sam’s backyard growing projects

Farmer Sam Canning Tomatoes

Farmer Sam Canning Tomatoes

Jody and I are consistently amazed at how many people we talk to who don’t know what their kids are passionate about (other than video games and social media, that is). We’re not necessarily surprised that they haven’t discovered it. We’re more surprised that so often people say that it never really occurred to the them to figure that out.

But just as my little Sam was so sad that he didn’t have a thing, other young souls are feeling the emptiness that grows inside when passion is missing.

Laziness is Not a Personality Trait

As we dig deeper with parents, encouraging them to help their kids find passion, we often hear many of them say, “My kid is just not motivated.” Or worse, “My kid is lazy.”

Lazy is not a personality trait; it’s a sign of a spirit crying out for purpose.

Understanding our child’s bent, knowing what sets their hearts on fire, gives kids energy and focus, and it gives us a kind of parenting compass: we can plan family activities and birthday parties and gifts and bedroom decor all around the things that our kids love most.

It’s Okay to Change Course

Often you will find that if you allow a child every opportunity to fully explore an interest (as time and money permit), they will often come to the end of it. And that’s okay.

When Skyler was younger, she was passionate about animals, especially horses. She read everything she could get her hands on about animals. When she had TV time, she watched Animal Planet. We got subscriptions to animal magazines, and she read animal fiction books.

She had many pets (snake, lizard, tree frog, bunny, bird, cat, dog, guinea pig). She loved to study an animal’s habitat and try to re-create it at home. We thought for a while, she might become a zoologist one day.

By about age nine, her focus was on horses. She read Equus magazine, worked hard every year selling Girl Scout cookies to pay for horse camp at the Girl Scout Campground, took horseback riding lessons (when we could afford it) and even studied a horse anatomy book in her spare time.

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But by the time she was twelve, she had pretty much come to the end of it. She’s 15 now, and although she still loves horses and hopes to one own a horse, she came to realize that her true passion (something she’d also been cultivating for a while even while she studied horses) was music and art.

She’s has an amazing voice and sings at the Sarasota Opera House. She studies music theory and has learned to play a number of different instruments. She also draws and paints and runs her own henna tattoo business.

In costume for her role in the opera Little Nemo in Slumberland

In costume for her role in the opera Little Nemo in Slumberland

Henna Art by Skyler

Henna Art by Skyler

As they grow and evolve, it’s okay to let go of old interests and develop new ones. Most people go through it, but isn’t it better to dive deeply into something at 10 or 12 and come to the end of it than it is to dive deeply into something at 20 or 25 and come to the end of it (especially after spending 10s of thousands of dollars on schooling for it)? We actually hear that story quite often — the one where people went to school to become a teacher (or something else), spent years studying and then figured out during student teaching that she doesn’t like it.

Sure, some people don’t find their passion and purpose until they’re in their 30s or 40s, but it’s usually because they were not guided to deeply explore interests when they were young.  We can absolutely shorten the learning curve for our kids. If we make it a focus, we can (and should) help our kids figure out what makes their hearts soar.

This Saturday on Parenting on Purpose radio show, we are going to talk about how finding our kid’s passion is a critical part of helping them prepare for college and career. We’ll also tell you what to do with that information, once you have it. So be sure to tune in live at 10:00AM on Saturday, July 19th.

Local folks can listen on 1220AM, 106.9FM or 98.9FM. And out-of-towners can listen live streaming on the WSRQ website. You can also get instructions there on how to download a mobile app to listen on the go.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Confessions of a Tea Party Hating Mom

“Mommy, want to have a tea party with me?”

Okay, here it is. It sounds ugly, but it’s the truth. My skin crawls at the sound of that question. I confess…I hate tea parties.

I also hate playing with Barbies or any dolls really. I don’t enjoy pretending to eat Play Doh creations. In fact, I pretty much despise most imaginary play.

And for a long time, it made me feel like a bad mom.

When my older kids were little, I would suffer through tortuous rounds of imaginary play, trying not to fidget, and endeavoring to stay focused on their little smiles and happiness. But really, I was silently scanning the room, looking for something to distract them so I could escape the ennui.

I know. It sounds just awful. But Jody and I are huge fans of transparency and vulnerability, so there it is. My name is Jenni Stahlmann, and I hate imaginary play.

Our Kids Can Read Us Like a Book

In hindsight, those years of forcing myself to sit through a tea party and pretend I was having fun weren’t fooling anyone. My kids knew what it looked like when I was really enjoying something. They’d seen it often enough to spot the counterfeit, and because they knew I wasn’t really into it, there was a subtle desperation in them, as they searched my face hoping for signs of a shift.

I’m not sure when the light bulb came on, but at some point in the last ten years or so, I realized my play time with the kids would be much better spent in other ways. I can really get into a craft project or a board game or a day out letterboxing or geocaching. I LOVE long walks and baking or cooking with the kids.

When we lived in New Jersey, we’d go on long outings in our little town. We’d pack the stroller full of water and snacks, walk to the library, read some books together and take some home for later. Then we’d head to the playground, and then to the little grocery store on Main Street where we’d get ingredients for a baking project.

We had all kinds of ways to make the walk more fun. Sometimes we’d take a listening walk and challenge ourselves to hear 20 different sounds. Sometimes I’d print out scavenger hunt sheets of things they might see along our walk (an airplane overhead, a frog, a red bicycle, an American flag, etc.), and whoever found the most things got a little prize.

Freedom

Once I acknowledged that I wasn’t the tea party type, and I began finding things that I can truly enjoy with the kids, I felt a whole new freedom.

Fortunately for my kids, their dad loves imaginary play. So they got their fix when he got home, but during the day with me, we made birdhouses and played board games and read books and drew pictures and went to the zoo and pet the puppies at the local pet store and planted cacti in mason jars filled with sand art and make lighting bug lanterns and had water balloon fights and painted the snow with spray bottles full of colored water, but after we got tired of the snow in our driveway, we had to get it all removed so we could leave the house. If you’re looking for expert Snow removal in Boston MA these guys are the best.

And you know what? I didn’t feel the least bit guilty anymore about turning down the tea parties!

To learn about more play options, tune into this Saturday’s episode of Parenting on Purpose with Jenni and Jody at 10AM (EST). We are broadcasting LIVE from our favorite neighborhood toy store. If you’re local to Sarasota, stop in and visit us at Children’s World (4525 Bee Ridge Rd.).  We’d love to chat with you on air about your open play experiences!

You can also listen live on 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM. If you’re not local, just go to the WSRQ website and listen to the streaming broadcast or download the mobile app and listen on the go (they use Tune In Radio for that).

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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