Not Because I Was Perfect

Any perfect parents out there?

I’m definitely not, and frankly, as amazing and wonderful as my friends are, none of them are either.

We try so hard, don’t we?

Or at least we try hard for a long time, then we get tired or discouraged and our effort dwindles down to about a C+.

It’s stinking hard work, this parenting gig.

Therapeutic parenting takes it to another level altogether, as does parenting children with special needs of any kind.

There are rewards and lots of joy, but there are also times of sheer exhaustion, tears, and loneliness.

We grow weary.

The next day (or hour) our hearts are convicted, so we pick ourselves up and dig in once again.

Recently I stumbled upon something I wrote years ago from notes scribbled during a lecture by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact quote, or even the context of what she was saying.

What I have are the words that resonated with my heart in regard to connecting with my children and mothering them to the best of my ability.

When I reflect on relationships with my children, connection happened and attachment developed (and these are roughly Dr. Purvis’ words),

“…not because I was perfect, but because I was present.”

I find this comforting.

I’ve been “present” in this role as a mother for thirty years. The first four years were given to baby/toddler life, the next 23 years devoted to homeschooling + babies/toddlers, and the last three to being a work at home mom.

Could I be more “present” – yes, of course. But, this mom-life is not about being servants to our children.

It’s healthy to have interests, satisfying work (from home or not, depending on how your family functions best), and community.

At this stage, I find it easier to say “no” to just about everything because life feels full.  Right now, more than any other relationship, I want to spend time with Russ.

So being “present” will not look like “one-on-one” dates with my children. I admire all of you who make this a priority! You’re completely awesome.

I just can’t make it happen in my life, my marriage, and my family.

Present will look like taking that trip to New York with Beza last week to speak at an event and create special memories.

Present will look like a road trip to Minneapolis with the younger crew to celebrate Hannah completing five years of Otolaryngology residency.

Present will look like sitting in the stands at baseball games four nights a week cheering for Ebenezer and Wogauyu – with the boys in clean uniforms at each game (thank you very much).

Present will look like dinner cooked most nights, and sitting together at the table whenever possible in this busy season.

Present will look like helping Annarose pack and organize for her summer job as a camp counselor.

Present will look like having conversations with Zoe about her future and what is important to her.

At the end of the day, my children will clearly remember I was not perfect. Hopefully, by the grace of God, my worst moments will not be seared in their minds.

With all my heart, I hope they remember I was present.

And they were – and are – and always will be loved.


12 Practical Tips for Parenting Teens

four teens Nov 14
four of my teens back in 2014

“But, what should I do?” my friend asked as she told me about an issue with her teen. Her oldest is the same age as one of my youngest, which means I should have all the answers, right?

With one teen in college, three teens in high school, and Ebenezer turning 12, we’re still learning about parenting teens because every teen is different. We have basic principles to guide us, but our kids aren’t cookie-cutter versions of each other.

The variety of personalities, talents, interests, and even struggles in our children is astounding.

This means Russ and I still spend hours talking about our kids and wrestling through how to handle everything from their schoolwork, chores, how to guide their relationships, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

Spring Break – um, yippee?

Hey friends, it’s Spring Break.

Annarose sent this pic from Salzburg – part of her Spring Break adventure.

For the Qualls family, it’s not all that exciting (except for Annarose, as you can see); we don’t usually travel during Spring Break. With a family our size, it’s not easy to drop in on people and stay a few days. My sisters and most of my driving-distance close friends are in Washington and they’re not on break this week.

Russ is working on tasks he doesn’t have time for when he’s in the classroom. Claire and Zoe have track practice to fill their afternoons. The boys are looking for friends and fun, but so far, on Day 1, there’s been a lot of talk about how I’m going to entertain them.

Add to it, this is rain and mud season in our north Idaho town. This could be a long week and I’m realizing I should have done a little more advance planning.

In the spirit of adventure, the boys just experienced a brand new privilege; they rode their bikes to the store and got a movie from Red Box. That was a big deal for me!

The kids ride through our (currently very muddy) cow pasture, out the gate, and down the neighbors’ driveway to the road. Then they ride on a rural road for a short distance before reaching town. I love living on acreage – the privacy, the view, the space around us, but I envy moms whose kids can easily ride to school, the pool, library, sports practices.

We had a great discussion on my Thankful Moms Facebook page about phones for kids because I need to figure out what to get Ebenezer as he becomes more mobile with his bike. Lots of good ideas were shared – you are the smartest readers. If you’re trying to figure this out, like so many of us, check out the discussion.

At twelve and ten, I’m finally ready to give the boys freedom, but I’ll feel better knowing they can reach me and I can reach them.

The kids are each cooking dinner one night this week. The girls are fairly accomplished. The boys have mastered cooking eggs and quesadillas; it’s time to move on to simple meals. Ebenezer made some pretty delicious tacos last night.

In very exciting news, today I get my first look at my new One Thankful Mom site! I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. I can’t wait to show it to you. I’ll be asking for early feedback from friends-letter subscribers. If you want to help, please let me know by adding your name to my list.

Also, if you want to see my interview on The Hope Summit, it’s available through Saturday. From mine, you can find links to the other nine. They are so good, friends – very honest, unedited, interviews. I want to see all of them before they’re no longer available at the end of the week. I carry my computer around the house watching and listening as I cook and work.

When do you have Spring Break? Is it early like ours? Do you have grand plans? I would love to hear from you here, or on my Facebook page.

Have a fabulous day.



Help for Our Teens When They Need It

I want to share something useful and important for our teens before the blog gets quiet again for several days.

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

First, a few thoughts. I have four teenage daughters right now, including Zoe, who has been with us nearly nine months now. Annarose is in college and moving out in a few months. The other three are in high school, a freshman, sophomore, and junior.

Having homeschooled for so many years, this still feels very new to me and we’re navigating decisions one weekend, one athletic event, and one dance at a time.

I probably worry more than I should – or not, but my children’s safety is terribly important to me, as I know yours is to you.

I Took a Little Trip

Well, friends, as it turns out, I’m out of town for a few days.

I was going to write a clever post about my trip, but between packing, getting things set to leave my family, and knowing I have to be up at 4:00 AM, this is going to be short and sweet.

Wandering in the Tetons

Russ and I are taking seriously our 2017 commitment to restore neglected relationships. The last (many) years made it difficult to spend time with some of our nearest and dearest family members. Today, I’m off on a trip with my parents and sisters. Can you believe it?

This is a big deal for us, and not easy to pull off, but we are making it happen and I’m very thankful – especially to Russ.

After our accident, I remember being struck by how short life is and how precious people are. We have to pause our crazy lives and cherish the people we love.

I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say on this when I get home.

I’ll try to get a friends-letter out this weekend to tell you I made it back and maybe share a story or two. Add your name to my list if you would like a short note from me in your inbox most weekends.

As I prepared for my trip, I found myself wishing I’d done a better job asking if some of you would like to write guest posts – just a simple day-in-life, nothing earth-shattering, unless you want to wow us.

So often we want to hear a story of another life, another woman loving children God has brought to her through birth, foster care, or adoption. Or maybe still waiting and hoping for children.

If you would like to share your life with us, please take a look at the My Thankful Life guidelines and send something my way. Sometimes it’s seriously hard keeping up the pace of publishing posts while also working on a book (or two), traveling, speaking, being mom to the six kids at home, wife to Russ, and doing life.

I could use a little help from a friend, or two, or six.

Can’t wait to tell you about my trip. I’ll be back soon!