“Stop Crying Or I’ll Give You Something To Cry About”

Stop Crying or I'll Give You Something to Cry About | thisgratefulmama.com

Oh my. I went and said it. Words tumbled out before thinking.

It all started with a long day. Our son just didn’t get to do what he felt like doing. We ran a lot of errands and because his sister wasn’t feeling well, we didn’t spend time outside playing with friends. We went in the basement for some running and to PLAY before bed and a few minutes in, he stubbed his toe on the concrete. What started with tears of pain quickly morphed into a hysterical melt down. Before long, it was evident he no longer knew WHY he was even crying anymore.

Various tactics to distract, comfort and soothe failed. At some point, I decided it was time to calm down and told him so.

He tearfully stammered, “I. Can’t. Stop.”

For whatever reason, that was the last straw. Out of my mouth came words I thought I’d never say…

Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”

He looked at me quizzically, sucking air and actually attempting to stop crying. His gaze begged the question – what on earth does that mean?

Good question.

Words escaped before I considered their meaning. What DID I mean? And how was I planning to follow through with that threat? Did I want to punish him for crying? Is not being able to calm down a punishable offense? Or is it even an offense?

All I knew is he was making a ruckus and I was grasping at straws to make him stop. Honestly, I was tired of listening to it and ready to move on.

But WHY?

Why WAS it so important that he stop? Sure, it was LOUD, but we were at home, inside, and his crying wasn’t really hurting anyone but him. He was going to pay the price of this tantrum – with lost play time, puffy eyes and a stuffy nose.

Him. Not me.

Why do I need him to stop crying if something in him makes him feel like crying something out? What if this emotional expression doesn’ NEED to be fixed but rather needs release? 

Why ask him to STUFF his emotions if they are so powerful he can’t sort through them any other way? I DO NOT want him to stuff tears simply to avoid punishment. Nor do I want him to be afraid to show emotions in front of me or to pretend to be OK for my benefit.

I DO want a child who is who he IS and is comfortable in his own skin – happy or sad. 

I want him to feel safe and to be himself in our home. If that means he releases emotions with crying when he has no other way, it needs to be OK. Hurrying and judging his emotions did not work and caused escalation. Next time I need to just let him cry it out. We will continue to teach him to seek solace in family, friends and the Lord when he feels down.

He needs to know it is OK to be upset, disappointed, or to just feel like crying even if he does not know why – it is OK to just cry.

I’m not saying we should create an environment for temper tantrums defined by disobedience, stomping feet and screaming. We will continue to teach him that it is ok to be upset but it is not ok to break rules just because we’re emotional.

But once in a while, this kid just needs to CRY. And who doesn’t? There are days when all I need is a good cry. Although I prefer not to do so…I feel better when I’m done.

On this particular day, loud overnight storms had interrupted his sleep, his dad was out-of-town, and the day was packed. I know he was disappointed by the lack of play time and friends. By the end of the day, his body and emotions were exhausted. A stubbed toe sent him spiraling into an emotional release of epic proportions. This wasn’t a tantrum laced with disobedience – it was simply alligator tears and body shaking sobs.

His confused response to my words revealed his need for grace and to be allowed to get it all out. Even if it takes longer than I prefer.

How do you guys deal with this? Sometimes maybe we just need to wait until they are ready to move on. If we’ve done what we can to help and nothing worked…it is time to just wait.

After processing the confusion of my words, he returned to crying, warily eyeing me to see if I’d follow through.

Instead of acting on those careless words, I apologized, sweeping him into my arms. We just sat together and he cried until he was done. I’d rather be soaking wet in tears and deaf in one ear from his loud sobs directly in my ear than give him something else to cry about.

As he calmed down, he snuggled in, finally at rest in my arms. Subdued. Grateful for my presence. Relaxing in the arms of someone who let him just BE. What a glorious picture of how our Father in heaven longs to envelop us in His arms and comfort our very souls.

Instead of giving something more to cry about, lets extend grace and patience. Instead of teaching them to stifle emotion, lets give freedom to express what cannot come out any other way. Lets give them room to figure out how to stop on their own – when they’re ready.


Of Course My 2 Year Old Wants Coffee

Of course my 2 year old wants coffee | thisgratefulmama.com

One lovely morning, I sat on my front porch talking by phone with my sister. The sun was shining and I was enjoying drinking my morning coffee in peace. The kids were playing in the yard and our daughter meandered over to sit next to me. She proceeded to point at cars passing by and to bounce up and down while cracking herself up.

Then, she gave me a sly look, kneeled down, and decided she wanted to lick coffee out of my coffee cup.

Naturally, I removed the cup from the step.  You would have thought I pinched her. She dramatically threw herself onto the concrete and began to scream “I. WANT. Coffee!”

Toddler problems are serious.

I couldn’t help but laugh at her angry, tearless cry as I reported to my sister what caused the ruckus. As it turns out the 2-year-old need for coffee may be universal (at least to our family) because her daughter does the same thing.

Of course they want coffee! Kids are observant. They know what makes grown-ups happy.

And I must admit that coffee DOES make me happy on a regular basis.

I head straight for coffee in the morning. The kids know that little gets done before coffee is served. I know they see the content smile as I hold cradle the warm cup in my hands and smell it while it cools down. No matter how tired I am…coffee makes the morning better. A morning without coffee…well, any coffee-lover knows how that does.

The kids have seen a drive-thru cup of coffee MAKE. MY. DAY. And, when we go through the coffee drive-thru, they get nothing. But they can tell the grown-ups are getting a treat.

They also see adults having coffee with dessert. Who wouldn’t want something so closely associated with dessert?

My no-spill travel mug keeps coffee hot for 5 hours (yes, you need one of these!). Our kids see me clinging to it for dear life all morning when we’re out and about. Really, I can hardly remember life without coffee (probably because I was to sleepy to pay attention). In all seriousness, I’m pretty sure God made coffee with ME in mind.

Even at the age of 2, children already know the secret that coffee is a gift. A comfort. A grown-up cup of deliciousness.

However, they’ll have to wait. Everyone knows coffee stunts your growth. And of course, the caffeine would make them so hyper we might not make it. Seriously.

So my darling…no coffee for you. I understand your sadness because it would make me sad too.  It must be tough being 2.

Today I’m grateful I’m not 2…and for coffee.


Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

The thisgratefulmama 2015 FALL Family Bucket-List

2015 Fall Family Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

The 2015 fall bucket list focuses on activities to enjoy with your family during the fall season, with an emphasis on gratitude and service to others.

I hope these 100 ideas help you fill fall with joy. 

Hello, Fall!


 Events (Twin Cities)


  • Play a board game
  • Start a Fall Family Tradition
  • Rake leaves and jump in the pile
  • Be a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army (starts in November)
  • Set your fall schedule
  • Play backyard football with the whole neighborhood
  • Visit a new playground and have a picnic lunch
  • Help your kids start a nature collection
  • Plant tulip bulbs in your yard with the kids
  • Write letters to deployed service members
  • Spend the day cleaning the garage as a family before winter
  • Stay warm on a chilly night around a bonfire while enjoying hot cocoa and S’mores
  • Start a family prayer journal – keep track of requests and answers this school year
  • Volunteer to serve meals at Loaves and Fishes
  • Take a family photo shoot in the leaves
  • Make the most of dark evenings – have a candlelight dinner date after kids go to bed
  • Set goals for the school year and encourage each family member throughout the year
  • Spend an afternoon at Feed My Starving Children
  • Clean out the closets and give warm clothes, hats, mittens and coats to those in need
  • Go to a local high school football game
  • Let your child do chores to earn money to give on Sunday at church
  • Deliver Meals on Wheels in your area
  • Help the kids write letters and mail them to grandparents and extended family
  • Spend the afternoon doing homework and reading together at the library
  • Sign up for the family oriented fall Public Programs in the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Get lost in Minnesota’s Largest Corn Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN (Sept 19 – Oct 25)
  • Gather all the neighbors and play an epic game of flashlight tag
  • Download and start the JOY DARE from A Holy Experience 
  • Create your own family Fall Scavenger Hunt and take a nature walk together
  • Read fall-themed books as a family
  • Spend the next large family gathering playing a huge game of Capture the Flag
  • Say Thank you to those who go out of their way to help your family
  • Collect acorns and have some fun with Acorn Races
  • Help your child take photos of fall leaves
  • Help your child find a pen-pal and help them write and send ‘snail mail’
  • Practice gratitude
  • Clean out the toy box together and take your children to donate items
  • Have a movie night with blankets, jammies and home made popcorn


Go (Minnesota)

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

You Can't Always Get What You Want | thisgratefulmama.com

You can’t always get what you want…”

Will someone please tell me they also hear the Rolling Stones singing in their head when they read those words?

Because I do.

And sometimes when I say those words to our children I consider breaking out in song – they’ve never heard it before so will likely wonder what is wrong with me as I belt it out. I should rehearse now so I’m prepared for teenage years when they’ll really enjoy my off-key singing.

All singing aside, the lesson in these words MUST be learned.

You CAN’T always get what you want. You WON’T. And you SHOULDN’T.

As parents, it is our job to teach this lesson. Unfortunately, the task is not easy and is often met with frustration, sighs, crying and general displeasure. We fight against the prevalent worldly influence of entitlement and the pressure to make our children happy regardless of the cost.

I don’t like saying “No” and sometimes I feel like I’m saying it too much. I don’t like to see their disappointment and quivering lips..but there are simply some things we need to say NO to.

There are things we just CAN’T give them – due to insufficient finances, skills or time. There are things we just WON’T give them – due to values, priorities or necessity. And there are things we just SHOULDN’T give them – like letting them win every time so they never learn how to lose. Or doing things that require us to favor one child over another or to risk safety or health…Or simply because they’re whining…

It seems so logical here on this screen…but  perserverance is often DIFFICULT. HARD.

Especially when my husband is out-of-town, or when I’m tired, or when the kids are tired, or it’s just Monday…it WOULD be easier (for me) to just give them that second popsicle. It WOULD be easier (for me) to pick up the toys for them than to hear them cry while they do it at a snails-pace.

Why, oh WHY, am I putting them myself through this? Because giving in won’t make it easier on me in the long run. And it wont’ make life easier for our children either. 

The stakes are too high to take the easy way out.

I DO want our children to be happy, but not because of STUFF, endless activities or getting everything they ask for. I want them to be happy because they know the Lord – after that, everything else falls into place. 

It won’t always be fun for them and it surely won’t be fun for us. It’s a good thing I hear a song in my head that makes me smile when I say those dreaded words…

They have to learn that their perception of fairness may not be what happens. They have to experience not getting what they want in order to be thankful for what they DO have and what they are privileged to DO. They need to learn what absolute truth is, and what God has to say about our behavior.

Our goal is to raise adults – contributing members of society who do not expect things handed to them. And who understand that everything is a gift from God and that no one owes them anything.

Some days…it seems like a lofty goal. Far away. A struggle met with tears, eye-rolls and confusion. Sometimes I feel like giving in to demands and whines. But the big picture matters too much. Failure just isn’t an option. We have to WIN.

I am grateful that with persistence, small victories become more frequent – moments when disappointment rolls off their shoulders and they understand and accept it. Success is measured in small victories. When they say ‘OK mama’, and go back to playing without batting an eye, I call that success!

Small victories promise adults who know the difference between WANT and NEED. 

But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need”

All those small victories promise success of the ultimate goal – a God-loving, content and grateful adult. So with perseverance and great hope for victory, I cling to the promise:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” – Proverbs 22:6

You Can't Always Get What You Want | thisgratefulmama.com