From “Addled” to Inventor


Thomas Edison was the youngest of a large family. A hearing problem and a disconnect with his attention span (“prone to distraction”) made it difficult for him to learn. Or perhaps, it would be correct to say that it was difficult for a teacher to teach him. At any rate, his school teacher labeled him as “addled”. After twelve weeks of being in school,  his mother pulled her hyperactive child from the classroom and taught him at home.

Instead of stifling her son, she allowed him to fill his appetite for books and for learning.  She managed to do this with him learning independently.

According to the story told by Thomas years after his mother’s death, he was homeschooled after that comment from the teacher. He recalled that his mother did visit the school to speak with the teacher about the term he used to describe her son.

From that day forward, she taught Thomas at home. She recognized his abilities and encouraged him to learn and to stretch himself. She also understood his problem with being easily distracted.

Not once did she treat him as someone who was unable to learn. Not once did she focus on his seeming learning disability. She knew her son, and she knew his capabilities. With that in mind, she encouraged him to learn under her tutelage.

That young boy became a famous inventor. Were it not for him, our world would be so different now. There is no doubt that the response of his mother pushed him in the right direction to use his mind and become an inventor. That boy was Thomas Edison.

As mothers of children who are in school or out of school, there are some things we can learn from Mrs. Edison.

In today’s world, a teacher labeling a child with words like “addled” would send the parent straight to the principal or the school board. No doubt the mother would be blasting it all over social media, developing an instant following whereby she could prove that there was nothing wrong with her child, that the system was flawed, and that the teacher or school was at fault and was failing her child. This child would become entitled, feeling that all the world is a stage and he is the central figure, today and always. All the world is a stage, and the child’s performance is the best he can do and cannot be measured or downgraded by anyone. For, after all, he is a child and the world owes it to him to let him succeed.

Tell me it ain’t so!

This does not just happen among parents who are not believers. It happens in every school setting there is. A child gets his feelings hurt and one or both of the parents rush to his rescue, declaring war on the teacher, the school board, or the school system. Sometimes it happens in our own churches. A Sunday school teacher reprimands a child, and the parent gets upset.

A teacher invokes a consequence and parents get in an uproar. A rule is handed down and enforced, and suddenly the world is unfair and no child should be left behind or be made to endure such a hardship.

Mrs. Edison taught, by her example, that even when life is not fair, we can rise above that unfairness. She took an unfortunate situation and turned it into something positive – and in turn channeled her son’s mind, developing an inventor the likes of which we have not seen since.

What would have happened to Thomas had he remained in that school?  Who knows. Perhaps a teacher would have come along who encouraged him, who saw the potential in his little mind and bolstered it by her support and applause.

For Thomas, it didn’t happen. And he was none the worse for the school system that failed him BECAUSE his mother did not allow this to defeat him or to defeat her.

Her attitude shaped his world and he gave us the light bulb, the telephone, the telegraph, and so many more things. The unfairness of a label did not stifle his mind because his mother did not allow that to happen.

Thomas didn’t know life was unfair, for his mother took the situation and turned it into something positive for Thomas. She rose to the occasion, rose above the unfairness, and succeeded in outfitting her son with developing his full intellectual potential despite the unfairness of life.

Had Thomas Edison been raised to be “entitled” to have the best education, the best help for his mental distractions, the best advantage possible, think how different his outlook would have been. Instead, he had a mother who rose above the label given her son, who didn’t fault or blame the teacher or principle and proclaim it loudly for everyone to hear. We have a mother who faced the battle squarely in the eye and won the conquest.

Not only do we have Thomas Edison to thank, we should also applaud his mother.

Moms – when you think you need to right the wrongs for your kids, when you think it’s time to set things straight, when you want your child to have always and only the best, remember Thomas  Edison and his mother.

Remember that life is not fair – and the sooner your child learns it, the better he will succeed. Help him learn to rise above the difficulties instead of bailing him out. Help him accept what limitations he has, then encourage him to reach for the stars. Cheer and applaud, but don’t trample others underfoot in order to achieve success for your child. Don’t addle your child by focusing on the label. Focus instead of who he really is.

I am not saying that when adults are wrong we should applaud them. I’m not saying that speaking with an adult in private is never in order. I’m simply saying this: when we respond wrongly to what happens to our kids, it can mar them for life. Is that really what we want?

We tend to want to make sure that no one else does something that will mar them, yet we fail to consider how our own attitudes and actions can cripple them. We can raise bridge builders or we can raise delinquents who always expect others to fight their battles for them instead of owning up to their own weaknesses and wrongs.

Choose the high road; help your child respond positively when life is unfair instead of encouraging him to wallow in the mire of a wrong mindset. Teach him that in Jesus, he can do all things. Instead of trying to make an adult pay for hurting your child, model to him that nothing is too hard for God and He can help us rise above what is unjust and untrue.

When you think life is not fair for your child, remember Thomas Edison and his mother. Respond like she did. Who knows, you might be raising a son who, because of your attitude, will contribute a wonderful good to society.



The Art of Being a Mother – Part 7 of 7

The Art of Being a Mother

Part 7 of 7

Writing Your Memoirs

Don’t think that only rich and famous people write memoirs.  We all do.

Yes, huh.

A memoir (from French: mémoire: memoria, meaning memory or reminiscence) is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s life.

Who knows better about those Mom moments, and who is writing them as life happens?

The reality is that each of us is writing our memoirs as we live out life in the daily activities we face and experience. We can’t go back and undo what has been done.  We can, however, make changes for the future.  We do not  have the opportunity to go back and re-do what we could or should have done earlier.  Yet we can move forward in a different direction.

memoirs mallard ducka nd babies

The point is not so much where we have come, but where we are heading.  We might have started out weakly, yet we can still finish strong.

If there are regrets in our parenting past, we can make restitution and receive forgiveness.

If there are areas where we failed, we can become different people today.

We can finish strong!

If you could write the epitaph on your tombstone, what would you want it to say?  If you could do your parenting over again, what things would you change?  If you are in the throes of mommy-ing little people, what are the things you’d like to have different in your heart and your home?

The secret is to decide now what we want people to say about us after we’re gone – and then emulate those characteristics today.

I started thinking about how I wanted to be remembered. What were the things that were important to me?  How could I model that today?

You know something?  On those days when I really didn’t feel like sleeping in a tent, playing ball in the front yard, or hosting a birthday party, I thought about the things I hoped my kids would remember about me.  I knew that those moments could never be re-captured, and I had only this day to be the person my kids needed me to be.

Did I fail?  You betcha.  Did I do some things right?  For sure.

I learned not to try to be like other moms – but to be who I am.  When it comes down to it, kids don’t care about fancy birthday cakes or the best clothes and toys if mom is invested in their lives.


So how about it, artist  moms?

How do you want to be remembered?

What are you doing about it, today?




The Art of Being a Mother – Part 4 of 7

Part 4 of 7

Making Memories


My youngest came carrying his sleeping bag out to the van.

“Why do you need that sleeping bag ?” one of his siblings asked.

“‘Cause I’m staying overnight when everyone else goes home,” he replied.  “We guys always stay up and watch The Ringer and eat jelly beans at the Slabach Christmas,” he explained. “It’s a tradition.”

Later that evening, I asked his aunt about the “tradition” of watching The Ringer and eating jelly beans.

“Last year was the first time they did that,” she told me.  The guys wanted to stay here and I didn’t have a lot of extra snacks, so  I gave them jelly beans.”

Just like that, a tradition was born.  Nobody planned it that way. It just happened.

A few weeks ago our family enjoyed a vacation together.  During Sunday morning’s pancake breakfast, one of our sons told us that when he makes pancakes at home, he always plays “God is Standing By, So Hush, Don’t Worry, Don’t Cry.” by Acapella.  That’s because it’s the song Dave always played Sunday mornings when our kids were young and he was making pancakes.  Just so, memories are made.  We don’t have to plan to make a memory – it just happens.

The question is:  what kind of memories do we want our kids to have when they are grown?

It’s time to do something about it then, today.

A friend of mine tells the story of the day he gave his son photos of  his son’s childhood.  His son didn’t really care for the photos because he didn’t remember what was happening at that time because he was so young.  He told his dad, “To me, they’re just pictures.  To you, they are memories.  Maybe someday you can tell me the story behind those memories.”


Pictures and albums are so important – without them, we’d forget so much that is important to remember.  Give your children the gift of documenting special events in their lives.  Some day you can go through those photos and remember with them!

Each of us has memories of our own childhood.  Children who grow up in the same family remember different things and will have different perspectives.  Your kids will do the same.

There are special times when we make memories: holidays, family vacations, special occasions like family gatherings, weddings, and even funerals.  In each of those events, our kids come home with a memory, be it good or bad.memories pocket watch photo and rose

Because I tend to be more task than make-a-memory oriented,  I made a conscious effort to make memories with my kids. Some of them they remember, and others they have long forgotten.  I’m amazed today at some of the things they remember that I don’t even recall happening.

Naptime and bedtime should be pleasant times for our kids, and one way to have that happen is to develop traditions.  Reading to your kids before naptime helps slow the pace (yours and theirs) and helps their bodies and minds relax so they are better able to go to sleep.  In our home, we had family devotions before bedtime.  It was a time when we were all together, slowly winding down our day.  It doesn’t have to be a long event – even ten minutes of sitting quietly when you sing and hear a story will help a child unwind.

When your days are long and full of chaos, take the time to make a memory.  Eat a picnic lunch on a blanket in the yard, visit the library, go to a park or to the playground of a school.  Make up a treasure hunt and send the kids running to find the next clue. The prize can be simple and small, but it will get their minds off sibling squabbles and make life happy again. Getting out of the house and doing something different will help you be in tune with your kids.

Ask yourself this question:  when my kids are grown and gone, what do I  want them to remember about their mom and about home?

A friend shared with me that over the days of the funeral of a family member, there was a time of sharing of memories.  Many folks had good memories to share. One of her inlaws said to  her, “I can’t imagine doing this when my mother dies; I couldn’t think of anything good to say about her.”  How sad.

It gave me pause to consider how I hoped my kids would remember me.  One day I sat down and wrote this piece on how I want to be remembered.

The question I leave you with is this:  How do you want to be remembered?

What are you doing about it, today?



The Art of Being a Mother – Part 2 of 7


The Art of Being a Mother – Part 2

Building Monuments 

Anybody who wants to build something needs to follow a blueprint and have a good foundation.  It doesn’t work well to just wing it even though there are days when we do end up “winging it”.  Even before the blueprint and the foundation, you have to have a plan on how to complete the job.

Putting that foundation down and making sure it is level is the only way to guarantee that your building will be able to stand those winds and rains that will come. One also needs to count the cost.  There’s  no point in beginning a project if you’re not planning to end well.  There’s not even a point in beginning if you’re going to give up before your task is complete. You need to count the cost.

As a mom, it’s so easy to lose sight of the finished product when we’re years away from finishing.  If we could remember to ask ourselves, “Will this help in building my monument or will that diminish its total value?”, that question will help in the decisions we make relating to our kids.

Jesus said that if someone wants to build a tower, he needs to first sit down and count the cost to make certain he has enough money to finish the project.  This means a person needs to not only have a plan, but he must be committed to seeing it through to the end.

Children don’t come with instructions.  Yet there is a Manual. There is a wealth of wisdom and instruction for how to build monuments in the Word of God.  Other parents have struggled just as we do now, and they have many years’ of experience that can be had if we but ask.  ‘Trouble is, we often think those moms  had it all together and didn’t struggle like we do.  As if.

As moms, we have all the resources available that we need if we will but go to God and ask for wisdom.  The problem is that often we go everywhere else first before we consult Him.  It’s a pretty amazing feeling when you ask God for wisdom and He shows up with a nudge or a light bulb moment in your tired mommy brain.  You do what He showed you and all you can say is, “Wow!”

At the same time,  an apprentice can learn well from someone who has years’ of experience.  A cousin shared that her son asked her advice on problems they were having with their children.  They lived in a different community than hers, and her advice was this:  “I’m not around you long enough to observe your problems; find a couple in your church whose children you think are well-behaved.  Go to that couple and ask them how they do it.”

Best advice from a mom, don’t you think?

It helps to find a mom with a track record you admire.  

Watch her – and ask  her advice.  Experience – whether successes or failures – is one of the things that makes a woman wise.  There’s a reason why scripture tells us that older women should teach the younger.  Be a learner, and then grow your children.

It doesn’t help our kids if we tell them how to build, but we don’t follow that plan ourselves.  If we want to raise strong monuments, then there are proven methods to follow.

Building a monument is like raising kids.  The monuments we build in our kids are not for the praise of men. These monuments are for the glory of Jesus Christ and are to be representative of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

So then, how do we build?!

We build by example.

Isn’t it easier to follow directions for a recipe, a procedure, or a craft if someone says to us, “Here, let me show you.”

Watching someone else do it looks so easy.  How encouraging it is to have someone standing near, encouraging and supporting us.

That’s how we build.

In nonverbal ways, we say, “Here, let me show you how to be respectful.  Let me show you how to be truthful. Let me show you how not to give up.”

Rather than telling, we show by how we live.  If we’re living right, we can say, “Do as I do.”  Isn’t that so much more powerful than saying, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”?!

We all have opportunities to model honesty, respect, and kindness  in the daily activities of life.  When Wal-mart fails to charge for an item, do we take the time and make the effort to pay for the merchandise or do we figure it’s their loss and my gain?  When an older person takes a long time to enter a building and we have to wait our turn, do we show respect and care, or do our kids hear us grumbling about pokey people?  When a stray (whether it’s an animal or a kid) shows up at our place, do we welcome them or grudgingly allow them to stay?  How we respond to these things is how we teach by example.  We don’t have to say a word.  Our kids get the message by watching us live.

We build by teaching.

God said we should talk of things with our children in everything we do.  We are to teach them His commands. Lying, faithfulness, covetousness, adultery, stealing, envy – all those commandments are to be taught to our children when we’re walking, or sitting, or lying down – what other times are there?  I think He covered them all. We answer their questions and, by modeling what we teach, they will learn.

There are a variety of ways and suitable times to teach and no one way or time is necessarily superior to another.   Some of my best moments as a mom were when I grabbed an event and used it to teach the ways of God.

Modeling and teaching should be a way of life for us – and not something we expect the Sunday school teacher to do for us.  Our pastor can’t teach our children seven days a week – so it falls to us as parents.

Brick by brick, mortar by mortar, we teach in the things we say and the things we do.

monument training wheels

We build by training.

Repetition is the key to learning.  It’s not enough to tell a child something once or twice.  Wouldn’t it be so much nicer to only remind a child once to brush his teeth, make his bed, or take out the trash?  It doesn’t happen that way.

Potty training a toddler takes time and patience because we are training him to go a different way than he is “bent” to go. Before, his elimination  happened in a diaper and it happened whenever and wherever.  For a child to be trained, the focus changes to the fact that the child is physically capable of maintaining control and choosing to do his elimination in the bathroom instead of his diaper.

Training never stops.  When we achieve one goal, we reach for another one.  (And sometimes we just want to yell, “Are we done yet?!” because it seems there is no rest for the weary mom.) Sometimes we’re working on physical training (riding a bike without training wheels); sometimes we’re focusing on character development. Whether we’re dealing with temper outbursts, whining, pouting, or laziness – none of these will go away on their own.  A change in behavior happens as we train the child to choose other options.

Wisdom, like scaffolding and ladders, helps us reach beyond ourselves.   It helps us do things we could never do on our own. Ask God for wisdom gives us ideas when we’re fresh out of them.

Remember your goal of raising kids with character that is upright, with a work ethic above reproach, and with a moral compass that enables them to “do the right thing, even if it means being different from the majority surrounding them.

Your studio dwellers can help keep a semblance of order as you navigate them through the oils and tempers of life. Your artists-in-residence will flourish and develop as you keep evening out textures and smoothing out splotches-  building character and “real” living in the lives of your children.

Be an artist and use your studio to build depth and auras of authenticity.  You do this as you teach, train and show the way by your example!