Rethinking the Stubborn Child (and Big Person too)

Golden Painting

I didn't have to coerce my Eldest into looking at this painting (above), or making observations about it. She freely made meaning and shared. She was happy when I took a picture and gave me advice on how best to capture the image.

That was Saturday.

Enter Monday, and the tackling of an assignment given by her teacher (from the 2-day enrichment program she attends weekly). Suddenly, my Eldest has morphed into a "stubborn child," who's giving me 10 reasons why this is a dumb assignment she shouldn't have to do.

Or, maybe something else is happening.

Reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, I have several theories about the source of this "stubbornness."

First, let's consider the parameters of an "optimal experience" (as discussed in Flow):

"... a sense that one's skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted." (p. 71)

Based on this definition, I might redefine what's going on in my daughter. Rather than seeing it as rebelliousness, laziness, or stubbornness (the common evaluations from authority figures in such a situation), I might instead consider that the assignment is (at least from her perspective):

1. too hard (her skills aren't nearly complex enough yet)
2. too easy (her skills are much more complex than needed)
3. lacking in clear goals
4. lacking in clear rules for how to approach it
5. lacking a built-in feedback system for knowing when "success" has been reached

With this alternate view in mind, I sat down with my daughter and did a little digging. I searched to understand why she was feeling angry. I focused my questions around the five possibilities above.

What I discovered was that, in a sense, all of these variables were at play. It took us about a half an hour to hash things out, and we finally landed on a solution that now has her upstairs in a "flow state."

Are you feeling "stubborn, lazy, or rebellious" (or is your child, or employee)? Maybe some very valid issues are blocking the flow.

Golden Building painting, photo by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Lazy Blogger's Tuna Casserole

tuna casserole

This is the lazy blogger's chronicle of how to make tuna casserole. Or, in other words, I gathered my tweets from the night I made it up (and tweeted my progress), and I'm not going to rearrange them (if I did, then I couldn't call this the lazy blogger's chronicle).

So you'll need to read the recipe from the bottom up. It's a bit roundabout, but in the end, I promise you'll have a delicious tuna casserole on your hands (um, your plate).

Disclaimer: Unlike most recipes, this one has conversation interspersed (occasionally snarky)— makes things interesting for me, if not confusing for you. :) Note that @redclaydiaries and I have a history of discussing the 'violent nature' of cooking.

Pour on some olive oil. Top with mixture of potato chips and fried onions. Bake about 5 minutes more. Yes. :)

Crush the chips with a potato masher. (Is that like cooking a calf in its mother's milk?)

@TchrEric I'll eat your dinner if you send it along. Express, okay? :)

@shrinkingcamel shoot. Well, it's always nice to have a famous cousin or two ;-)

RT @judyshapiro Novice author uses social med to promote & lands on NYT best seller http://micurl.com/FtuwF << did she share her tuna rec?

@shrinkingcamel GET OUT!!!! You're famous! Did they ask you to get up on stage and do the camel dance with them?! :)

RT @kevingosa Check out the new Christmas album I recorded sax and mando on. Just in time to make it into your Xmas rotation. http://bit.ly/7lNEWE

@mdemuth great cover, Mary :)

Bake. I don't know. Maybe 15 minutes. 350 degrees is always a safe temperature. Well, for foods anyhow.

@shrinkingcamel well, come on now, let's hear it. Tell me the tune. I'll sing along. :)

about 1/2 of a big hunk of Gruyere, *shredded* (take note again @redclaydiaries)

And tuna. Every respectable tuna casserole should feature *tuna.* I'm using white. Big can.

Yay! I just found some peas. It stands to reason that a house that has Gruyere ought to stock peas as well, yes?

@cascheller be careful sweet friend. And maybe stop tweeting while you drive :)

roux plus milk

Add some roux to some milk. Add all back into pan. Plus more milk. I told you this was easy. Sort of.

roux beginning

Note that I forgot the celery. Add the celery, okay? Then do the roux. Same pan. No worries.

now for the roux, which is not to be confused with a coup (not to be confused with a coupe either, which would require a garage)

the crisp fry is going to go on the top with... yes!!! potato chips. Delicately *smashed* (take note @redclaydiaries).

okay, enough about @prodigaljohn's ipod shuffles. Back to the haute tuna casserole. Did I say saute onions? Well, saute. And crisp fry a 2nd

RT @prodigaljohn is giving away 3 free iPod shuffles http://stuffchristianslike.net/ <<< yeah, this is my favorite post ;-)

@katdish he'll? It's girl town over here. Big shovel. Little woman. Get thee to the post office.

@sweetmarimari we'll see. Tuna goes haute.

@katdish you are so kind. Can you send a guy to shovel too? :)

@redclaydiaries that's what I love about you. ;-)

@cascheller really? Where's the party? Maybe here... where the snow is pretending.

What are the chances that I'd have both Gruyere cheese and potato chips. Well, happy tuna casserole, I do.

Boil pasta. (That was easy. See mom, sometimes I'm simple.)

Go to basement for 2 onions, whole wheat elbow pasta, milk, tuna, gruyere cheese. Sorry mom, this is already sounding complicated.

Okay, I remember that my mom used to make a tuna casserole. Easy, easy. Let the games begin. (I'm going to make one up. Here we go.)


Labels: ,


Piper's Twitter Tweet: What?!


This morning I studied French, read my Bible and perused a book about art. It's part of my ritual.

Later I will go on Twitter and see what my friends are chatting about. As a work-at-home writer, editor and mother, Twitter is like a nice trip to the coffee shop that would be hard for me to otherwise manage. I can go to this "coffee shop" between frying onions and stacking dishes, planning my next speaking assignment and writing an article.

Just because I go to Twitter doesn't mean I didn't study French, read my Bible and look at a book about art. It's not a replacement for those things; it's a separate and pleasurable part of my life.

I'd be willing to argue that the social connection of Twitter alone is valuable, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. On Twitter I've become part of a poetry group that writes poetry together for an hour straight every other week. (A handful of those poems even made it into my book InsideOut, and they are actually some of my favorite poems.) On Twitter, I've connected with readers in a way that I wouldn't if they simply read my books (which is one-way relationship, after all). I've made and solidified business connections all over the nation. I've even promoted charitable efforts like The $10 Challenge (which, it could be argued is itself a form of prayer-in-action).

And this is why John Piper's Twitter tweet strikes me as simplistic, reductionistic. Twitter is just a tool, a pastime, like any other. If a person doesn't want to pray, it's not like Twitter is the enemy. I know people who hike, garden, drink, watch TV, write books, speak at conferences, exercise, and do any number of other things that lead them into or away from prayer.

Do you want to pray? Tweet your prayers if you like. Or plan a daily morning ritual, the way I do to study French, read my Bible and look at books about art. Oh, and if you pray on Twitter, I think it would not be a bad idea to include a little @JohnPiper, in case he has time in his schedule to pray with you.

Or just have a nice hot cup of Twitter coffee. After all, Jesus himself liked a good party. He even provided the wine.

Tspoetry Twitter Screen photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: ,


Shoes, Twitter, and Wild Kingdoms : Talking with Ann Kroeker

Ann and I Feet

LL: I remember meeting you at the Calvin festival. I was walking through the breezeway, and from a distance, I saw this cool looking person peering at me inquisitively. It was you! We officially met moments later, then spent a lunchtime together chatting forever. Remember?

Ann: How could I forget how gracious you were after I practically stalked you! I knew you through blogging communities and writing networks online, but we’d never officially interacted. So when I saw your book, Stone Crossings, for sale at the InterVarsity Press table at the Calvin festival, I asked the staff if you were attending. They said you were, and I thought, “Hey, here’s a chance to meet that smart LL Barkat.” Yes, I really thought that, because I admired your clever, intelligent comments and your beautiful yet accessible poetry.

I asked what you looked like, since I’d never seen a photo of you. They described you, so I spent the rest of the day looking for someone who fit that description. When I spotted you down that breezeway, you looked like a promising candidate. I was staring at you, waiting until you got close enough so that I could read your name tag. You must have been thinking, “Am I about to be accosted?”

Instead of running or calling security, you were poised and gracious; and when I explained myself, you invited me to join you for lunch! We packed a lot into that lunch break. I think we talked about books we were reading, books we were writing, publishing, agents, bloggers and blogging. And shoes. We discussed our shoes.

LL: You were just beginning Not So Fast then (or maybe you'd just found an agent for it?).

Ann: I already had a contract with David C. Cook, so the book was in motion. In fact, I was working on some chapters that I needed to get done. I carried my laptop with me the entire festival, and during breaks I’d set up in the coffee shop and tap away.

LL: Do you recall the early moments of that book-writing journey? What was it like?

Ann: This is my second book. The first, which came out in 2000, was The Contemplative Mom: Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood. That’s a long time ago, so launching this one, Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families, was almost like starting over again. But relationships in the industry gave me a chance to meet with some editors and a publisher from David C. Cook. I presented four different ideas to them, and they picked the proposal that became Not So Fast. It was hard to get much momentum or excitement during the long months of waiting while their editorial and marketing teams met to discuss the viability of the concept.

When it was finally accepted and I received the contract, though, the reality set in that I was going to write this particular book. Then the fun could finally begin. I could read, research, and write in earnest, knowing that it was not only for my own edification, but would lead to something I could share with countless others. It’s also daunting to start working on a book. I’d wonder, Can I write this thing? Can I write it well? Getting started was scary, but when it started to take form and the style emerged, I gained confidence and felt I could build on that.

LL: What had inspired you to take the particular journey of Not So Fast?

Ann: Compared with our surrounding society, my family of six (my husband and I have three girls and a boy) does seem to live a simpler, slower pace. So when my husband and I talked with other parents, we began to realize that our choices were unusual. People would ask why and how we created a less frantic, less stressful lifestyle, so we’d share our story, our revelations, our values, and our definition of success. It would lead to some great conversations about what really matters in life, and people seemed grateful to hear our point of view.

Because I’m a writer, it became clear to me that this conversation could take place on a broader scale—spouses could read this book and discuss their pace of life and whether it really matched their family’s values. Book clubs could talk about it together, encouraging each other to make changes. I felt that there was room on bookstore shelves for a book that explored slowing down from a Christian perspective.

Although many people live slower, more contemplative lives than I do, I felt that I had enough of a before/after experience that I could tell my story, weaving it in with research and helpful tips. I love sharing other people’s stories, as well, so I tapped into friends—even some bloggers—and included snippets of their insights and stories in the book. That was a rewarding part of the journey, as well, finding like-minded people who were willing to share their slow-down struggles and solutions.

LL: Not So Fast promises to slow us down, as persons, as families. Do you have a favorite "solution" from the book?

Ann: Oh, there are so many things! Eating meals together and having a family discussion or devotional afterward is a really great one for passing on values and building memories and relationships. And leaving lots of room for creativity and free play is another simple slow-down solution.

But one of my favorites is getting outside in God’s creation. It’s so simple, so doable—except maybe in this bone-chattering, single-digit weather—that I think it’s a great place to start. The high-speed lifestyle that so many families embrace—always on the go, always in the van on the way to something—keeps people whizzing right past the details of God’s creation. Or if kids are outside, they’re often in an organized setting, like soccer practice or a football game, unable to take time to study a flower or a grasshopper. Moms and dads will yell at their little five-year-olds on the soccer field who are distracted by a butterfly dancing in the air or a flock of geese honking and soaring overhead. “Get your head in the game!” they’ll shout. So we’re in danger of pushing that curiosity and interest in nature right out of them.

To counter that, I like to encourage families to go on a walk, even if it’s just around the neighborhood, so they can breathe fresh air and notice squirrels bounding up trees and nests high up in the branches. Families could take just five minutes to stand out on the porch and watch a sunset. This slow-down solution doesn’t require a huge lifestyle change, yet offers almost instant, significant results. Plus, kids of all ages seem to really respond to being together with their parents without a deadline or agenda. It can become a lifelong habit—a tradition. And a lot of quiet kids will open up on a walk and ask questions of their parents they might hesitate to bring up when their parents are doing other things. So I’d urge everyone to spend time in nature together, admiring God’s handiwork and enjoying one another.

LL: Was there ever a moment when you doubted the project? If so, what encouraged you to keeping pressing into it.

Ann: There were times when I’d spot another book release and see that the title was loosely related to mine. I’d worry that by the time Not So Fast was out, someone else would have effectively covered the same subject matter and my book would be pointless. But then I’d get a copy of one of the other books and realize that it was either quite a bit different than I initially thought, or that Not So Fast would in fact complement, rather than compete with, the other book.

Also, in terms of doubt, I can be rather insecure at times. I’d actually start thinking of other people who I felt could write about this topic far better than I. I’d question my abilities. But God used people in my life to reassure me and provide honest feedback on my work. Encouraging e-mails would come at just the right time. Countless little things would address or counter my concerns, and I’d feel I could carry on.

LL: I know that with my own writing, I often look back and say, "Oh goodness, did I really say that?" and I wish I could more deeply live the very things I recommend to others. Is there an area of "slowing" that you wish you could better lean into? Maybe a favorite quote that makes you think, "Yeah, that. I'm still reaching, hoping."

Ann: It’s impossible to live in this fast-paced world without being affected by it, tempted to speed up and aim for a definition of success that doesn’t at all line up with scriptural values.

In the book, I explore a very wide range of topics, and one is how technology speeds us—and our kids—up, sometimes in dangerous ways. I continue to seek a healthy balance when it comes to gadgets of all kinds. I love how technology can be a powerful tool—your use of technology to conduct and publish this interview being an excellent example. But I also worry that some of the things I’m experimenting with will pull me away from family or keep me from a rich relationship with God.

Someone forwarded an ironic but challenging tweet from John Piper, “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.” I think this nails the heart of my fear—that I’ll neglect my faith, my devotional life, my connection with the Lord in prayer because I’m caught up in the speed of technology. So I’m cautious, seeking to use it for good—like building a relationship with you long distance, for instance—while watching that I not fritter away my life with tweets about tea and cookies. But don’t get me wrong … I love tea and cookies! It’s just that if I’m not careful, I could really get to loving Twitter a little too much and miss some important moments and memories with my kids.

LL: Stress is such a relative thing. My stress might be your energizing elixir. What kinds of stress do you just love? What kinds do you wish you could diminish in your life?

Ann: That’s a good point—that stress if relative. And the relativity points to our different personalities and capacity. Each of us has a different capacity; for example, you might be able to handle a lot more activities than I can before showing signs of stress and panic.

Stresses I love? This is a hard question! I’m a fairly low-capacity person. If I get too many activities going at the same time, I start to feel overwhelmed and stressed pretty quickly. So I like to avoid having a long to-do list where everything is due at the same time. Even cooking can be stressful if I’m having trouble timing everything to be ready at the same moment.

The things I love aren’t typically stressful. For example, I love creativity and learning—and encouraging it in my kids. I have found, however, when talking with parents, that some people really don’t like to change what’s working in their family’s day-to-day routine. For them to allow free play in their house would invite too many unplanned, unexpected, unwelcome requests, questions and messes. And that, in turn, would increase their stress levels.

They might go nuts at the Kroeker house where wild kingdoms are set up with stuffed animals corralled under tables and cordoned off by yarn or a board game is invented that requires hundreds of scraps of construction paper cut into bits for money or food. You never know what you’ll step into. I like all that fun and creativity, until their inventions cut off a path to my desk. Then I might start to get a little stressed. Eventually it must be picked up and put away until another round of crazy creativity takes off.

LL: You're a Content Editor for HighCallingBlogs now. Could you tell us about that?

Ann: This is still a relatively new role, so I’m still learning the ropes. Already I can say without a doubt it’s a joy and honor to be part of this network of creative thinkers and quality writers who are celebrating the intersection of faith and work. I love seeing how each day of the week, HighCallingBlogs works hard to encourage and inspire people through a variety of topics.

The “family” posts are scheduled for Wednesday mornings. One of the contributing writers is Billy Coffey, an inspiring, gifted storyteller—what a treat to get to know him better as we provide something meaningful for readers to read each week! We’re putting together and seeking out material that explores how our faith in Christ relates to the work of parenting, work in spite of parenting, and our work in the midst of parenting.

LL: What's on the horizon for you? Any dreams, writing or otherwise? We'd love to know.

Ann: I’m staying open to new ideas and inspiration while I wait for the opportunity to develop a new project. Right now my publisher seems to be waiting to see how Not So Fast does. In the meantime, I’ll be working hard to create great content for my personal/author blog, annkroeker.com, my book’s blog NotSoFastBook.com, and HighCallingBlogs.com!

LL: Thanks, Ann. Your profound and amusing words here (and a nice dose of flattery that made my week) remind me: it's good to have lunch with a stranger and talk shoes sometimes. On that breezy, sunny day, we had no idea we'd be here a few years later, talking simple solutions, working side by side.

Ann Kroeker and L.L. Barkat touching toes at the Calvin Festival. Photo by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: , ,


Kids Teaching Kids

kids on beach

When I was a public school teacher, sometimes I got a bit of flack over the idea that kids could teach kids. After all, reasoned certain parents, wasn't the *teacher* supposed to be teaching?

As a home educator, I get to be my own principal. And in my room, kids teach kids. Without me even asking.

Like this afternoon. My girls had a friend over, and they were secreted away in the study. At some point, my eldest popped down to the kitchen to hand me a villanelle (a challenging kind of form poem that she taught herself to write in the first place).

She thrust the paper towards me. "I taught Michaela how to write a villanelle," she said. "I told her to give me certain kinds of lines and I wrote it down for her. Here!"

I read the poem and smiled. Wow. Nobody assigned this. I wasn't even in the room when it happened. Maybe that's even part of WHY it happened. Anyway, Michaela's first villanelle...

"She Alone"

Rippling across the cool green grass,
tulip alighted on a leaf;
she gazed out the window on the mountain's stony pass

in an inkling of a wink she basked
filled with deep grief,
rippling across the cool green grass

but she among all of them was last
beyond the shifting fields of wheat,
she gazed out the window on the mountain's stony pass

but she alone could fulfill the task
to find the king of the mountain's golden seat
rippling across the cool green grass

in there among the songs of the past
but the winds of the north she could not beat,
rippling across the cool green grass
she gazed out the window on the mountain's stony pass.

by Michaela, 12. used with permission.

Katie and Sara on the beach photo, by L.L. Barkat.

Labels: , , , ,


The Backyard News, Volume 3, No. 1

beyond lake1

Over at Seedlings, we've been talking about how we got our start as writers. Today, Glynn made me laugh, when he recounted his beginnings. It seemed like a great moment to share Sonia's start (she's still 10, like Glynn was when he began. :)

She's done her book covers already too, and maybe someday she'll link to this post (if there's still such a thing as Blogger in the world) and say, "That's where I started."


But before we start, a joke from Sonia: "Don't leave the books out in the car! They'll get cold, 'cause they have no coats... only jackets. :) "

beyond lake3


“Tim?! Where are you Tim?!... Tim?!... Tim?!... TIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??? Hide and seek is over! Come on out of your hiding spot! Wherever that is!... OK! ... NOW TIM! HURRY UP! IT’S TIME FOR DINNER YOUR FAVORITE SPHAGETTI AND SAUCE!” shouted Bluebell. She had been playing hide and seek when their mother had called her and Tim inside for dinner, but she had only been calling for a short time so that was good.

“ Oh ok.” said Tim as he climbed down a nearby tree. “I was only trying to see if you would even LOOK for me.”

“Ok well I’ll make sure you don’t get in trouble.”


“You’re welcome.” Then they walked into there house to have there dinner. Later that night Bluebell could not sleep. She looked at the clock hanging on the wall across from her. It said 12:34. It was much later than she’d thought it was. She got out of bed and walked over to her window. Then she opened the curtains, then the shade and finally the window itself. She stuck her head out and looked. A breeze came through, ruffling the white nightgown she was wearing. As she did this, what she saw, as always, AMAZED her. It was a lake. She wished she could go to the water’s edge and breathe the air there but they (her and Tim), they where not allowed to go even close to near it, but it looked SO BEAUTIFUL! So much beauty it could be a DREAM, or part of a MAGICAL LAND! Then she wondered something OUT LOUD. She said, “I wonder what’s BEYOND THE LAKE?”

The next morning when Tim came into Bluebell’s room she was fast asleep, curled up on the floor next to the window, and the window and all the drapery and the shade was open. Tim wondered why the window and was open and also wondered why she was on the floor. “Bluebell! Wake up; it’s time for breakfast! You,ve got to tell me about dinner last night, so I get to tell you about breakfast! We let you sleep in!” Bluebell didn’t stir so Tim went over to her and shook her. “ WAKE UP!” Bluebell opened her eyes.

“What time is it Tim? 12:34 at night?”

“NO SILLY IT’S 10:30 AT MORNING!” said Tim laughing, “what gave you the idea 12:34 at night, anyway!” So Bluebell told Tim about the night before, complete with what she’d been wondering and everything.

“Hmm, interesting thought” he said. “interesting thought what’s beyond the lake, hmm. Or what’s near the lake.”

“I was thinking along that line too” said Bluebell. “I mean our parents aren’t the kind of people who would have superstitions or anything like that, so that means they must have a reason, SO I SAY WE SNEAK DOWN TO THE LAKE!”

“Bluebell, I know you’re older then me and all but were not supposed to go to the lake.”

“I know that, but that’s sort of the point! Even if they don’t want us there because of some children-eating monster lives there I want to go find out!”

“Well ok. We go. That’s WE go. You’re not going alone, and how do we go without mother and father knowing?”

“Oh man Tim, that’s an easy one! The answer is already there! Mother and father are going away one whole week! And miss Carrie is coming, but only at night because she got a daylong job, oh and I’m h-a-p-p-y for her aren’t you? So anyway they think I’m old enough to take care of you in the day! Great isn’t it?!”

beyond lake

Book Cover photos by Sonia in Quark XPress. Used with permission.

Labels: , ,