Homeschooling Sydney

God WantsWhen I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child, I was already 10 weeks pregnant.  To say that we were joyfully surprised is such an understatement.  But early on, I heard the Lord whisper to me, “This one will be both a comfort and a joy to you.”

And she is exactly that!

An August baby, we made the call to enroll her in kindergarten earlier rather than later.  She had already been in pre-K for a year and she was ready! Or so we thought.  Within two weeks, the teacher had her pulled out regularly for extra help.

Now I confess, the teacher was young.  And I really had trouble understanding how Sydney needed extra help in kindergarten, of all places.  But times are a-changing and there are these tests and other things that perhaps are pushing the schools to have these kids further along than they did a few years before with our other three.

So we submitted.

By first grade, we were again two weeks in and the teacher sent home a note that Sydney needed to go back to kindergarten.  She was falling behind quickly, she said.

So we did.  Full day kindergarten.  And the beginning of what later would become an issue with Sydney….

She went through the whole year and they started her on an early learning intervention segment.  She was pulled out that whole year.  

Then first grade came along again–same teacher that said we should hold her back, whom we love and respect greatly. We made it through to March–with meetings in-between.  And our joy-filled, delighted child was stubbornly losing her way.  She did not want to read. She said the letters “jump off the page and get mixed up”.

She felt stupid and said some kids called her dumb.

Sydney ReadingBy March, with much prayer, we pulled Sydney out and began a couple of interventions for her ourselves: visual therapy and a reading program for kids with dyslexia.

My husband is dyslexic.  He is also a rocket scientist (yes, really) and a National Merit Scholar.  He really is brilliant.  But he cannot do foreign languages (cannot compensate with his dyslexia) and there are times when he still struggles greatly with those letters turning around on him. AND he is an avid reader.

We hope and pray the same for our Sydney.  We have worked together these past 6 months and in that time…

she accepted Christ and was baptized (we do devotionals every day in our homeschool–and missionary stories, too! I love it!)

she is reading a lot more fluently most of the time, but we must work on it daily.

she is growing confident again in her ability to think.

she is joyful again, twirling in dresses, drawing lovely pictures and loving to learn more about science (her favorite subject).

Sydney is our joy and comfort.  She has giftings and a calling that no one else on the planet can fulfill.

She is missing her classmates, though. And she is asking to go back to school sometime this year.

So our goal?  It is to get her reading fluently all of the time and reading without me prompting her to read. And she knows this.  She even prays daily to not only be able to read well, but to WANT TO READ.  I think that is pretty mature for an eight year old.

So this intervention?  Maybe it wasn’t just for Sydney, but for all of us.  

Maybe, just maybe, God is going to use this interruption for the good of generations to come behind her, as she speaks confidence and joy into children, like her, who may not feel quite as smart as the other kids or quite as worthy.

Perhaps, she’ll just pass it on.

So as you face decisions about your own kids today, remember God cares about the details.

And remember: God wants to use His interruptions more powerfully, amazingly, wonderfully and incredibly than your best thought, well-laid out plans.  

Let the interruptions now be seen as blessings and see what God works out in the process of it.

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Five Tips for Moms of Flower Girls and Ring Bearers

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Many people get a chuckle out of the flower girls and ring bearers at weddings. I have been to many weddings where the ring bearer would start saying something silly or the flower girls would dump out all their petals right at the end of the aisle. They always look darling in their nice outfits and they are a sweet reminder of how Jesus loves us. But, if you’ve ever been the mother of a flower girl or ring bearer, you know how rewarding and difficult it is to have your children in a wedding.

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My brother recently got married and our twin girls who are four were flower girls in the wedding. I was so honored that my children got to participate in their wedding but I had some struggles in keeping them obedient and well-behaved before and during the ceremony. It was a learning lesson for me and if we are ever asked to be in a wedding again, I have a better idea on how to parent my children without being stressed out. Here’s my advice on keeping the flower girls and ring bearers happy, entertained, and obedient:

1. Pictures – Typically, pictures are taken a few hours before the wedding but the flower girls and ring bearers should come toward the end of the picture taking time. They should be in a few shots with the whole wedding party and with the bride and groom. There is no reason for them to be there the whole time, they just get restless and need more things to keep them entertained. They also need an afternoon nap/quiet time so they are not whiny during the rest of the wedding.
2. Food - Pack your child’s favorite snacks and juice. Even if your child is older, pack a bib for them to wear over their outfit in case of spills. Some great pre-wedding foods for children are the go-squeeze applesauce, Cheeze-Its, grapes, and granola bars. Be careful that the juice straw doesn’t overflow and spill on their dress when they take their first sip.
3. Activities – I have one child that loves to color and draw. A dilemma that we had at the wedding was every pew had a pencil in it for attendance and all the rooms had pens and white board markers all around. I couldn’t put them all away fast enough. Bring her own set of crayons and coloring book or even better, one of those magnetic boards so there is no potential for mess. My other child loves to play games on the iPad. Don’t worry about the amount of screen time on the day of the wedding…if the iPad keeps her quiet and entertained, use it!
4. Game Plan for the Wedding Ceremony – I sat in the back with the girls to keep them quiet as the wedding party walked down the aisle. Once it was time for them to go, I passed them off to the wedding director and the maid of honor – much like giving them to their teacher at school – and slipped away. They didn’t have a chance to cling to me or get scared and not go. But, when they saw me on the first row, they immediately came and sat with me. It was difficult to keep them quiet while also wanting to watch the ceremony. I would suggest having small board books or their favorite stuffed animal on the pew to help preoccupy them during the wedding.
5. Have help! – My in-laws came to the wedding and they were a tremendous help. They took the girls to the pictures on time so I could finish getting ready, they held my baby boy during the wedding, and they took the kids home from the reception so we could stay later. If you don’t have family that can help, it is worth it to hire a babysitter or ask a friend to help. You want to enjoy the day and celebrate your loved ones and sometimes that is difficult when you don’t have help with the kids.

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Being a flower girl or ring bearer is exciting and scary for your little one. I hope this advice can better equip you as a mom to help your child enjoy this special moment in their lives.

Question: Do you have any funny stories from your child being in a wedding? What advice do you have for moms of flower girls and ring bearers?


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Comfort In Spite of ISIS





Hey mom, I just read Isis is the name of an ancient Egyptian goddess from the time of Moses. She was an ancient powerful mother goddess who was extremely popular from the time of the Pharos all the way to the age of the Romans.  Her name meant “Throne” and she was crowned with a throne representing her power*.

 Our children cannot escape the horrors swept into our homes by this newly resurfaced name.  

Shocking news penetrates our homes of the new ISIS expanding their religious throne by demanding complete worship and brutal death delivered to anyone who refuses.  

Fortunately for each of us, we are provided with a history book which was as true in the time of the goddess Isis as well as the ISIS of today. And this book also reveals future events for our comfort and assurance.

What does this ancient history book, the Bible,  provide to reassure his own children during this time of fear and uncertainty?

  • First, the Bible reminds us not to be shocked. Written in A.D. 64, the apostle Paul directed by the Holy Spirit wrote,  “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” In Paul’s greek language the word difficult meant harsh, fierce, savage.** The Bible equates these last days to pain-filled birth pains, and this is part of His sovereign plan before Jesus returns in majesty and splendor.
  • Second, in the midst of these harsh, fierce savage days, we can strengthen our kids when we remind them who is and has always been on the one, true throne.

“Who has announced this from old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me.

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God and there is no other.”    Isaiah 46:21b-22

The one true God has declared and announced His plan from long ago.  We His children can rest in His sovereign plan! 

  • Third, when our children know Christ as their King and Savior they can rest because, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.” Nahum 1:7    God is our protecting fortress  during these fierce, uncertain days.  The God who created the universe personally knows those who run to Him for defense!  
  •  Fourth, we can comfort our children by teaching them our God is with His children, no matter the situation.  Melekh Yisra’el  is Hebrew for, “The Lord is in your midst,” Zephaniah 3:17.  
  •   Lastly, we can teach our children to confidently look forward to the day when Jesus will return as our victorious warrior.  As God delivered Moses and His people from the Egyptian gods, including Isis, the Bible tells us to look forward to the day when Jesus returns to deliver us.  Like Moses we will sing, “Adonai ish milchamah, Adonai shemo, the Lord is a warrior; the Lord is His name,” when the final enemy is destroyed.  Exodus 15:3  


But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.  Psalm 73:28

Mom, are you daily teaching your children where to find true peace? Have you made the Lord God your refuge? How has God’s Word comforted you in spite of ISIS? 

Praising Him through my pen,

Tara Dovenbarger


* The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World by Jane Bingham, Fiona Chandler, Jane Chisholm, Gill Harvey, Lisa Miles, Struan Reid & Sam Taplin

**The Road to Armageddon, by Swindoll, Walvoord and Pentecost


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The Redemption of a Messed Up Life


I was a teen mom and a single mom, whose 3rd marriage was a mess, but Jesus changed everything.

If I could share anything with the young mom teen and single mom that I once was, it would be to think through the decisions I make and how each of them would affect my children rather than just doing what seemed to come next… and to let Jesus pave your parenting path instead of just responding to the moment.

Today, I want to share with every mom who has lost her way and every wife who is struggling in a hard marriage. This is a reminder that EVERYTHING YOU DO affects your children… that Jesus can heal a messy marriage and even if you’ve blown it, JESUS STILL REDEEMS!

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The best (and easiest) applesauce you’ll ever make

With cooler weather approaching and fall just around the corner, I’m starting to look forward to making some warm, cozy recipes. And today I thought I’d share one of my favorites (that also happens to be a favorite with my kids).

I got the recipe a few years ago, right in the middle of soccer season. One of the families from my son’s soccer team had a beautiful apple orchard on their property, and after a tournament one Saturday, the whole team went to their house to hang out and spend time together.

Everyone ended up going home with a huge bag of gorgeous apples. 

One of the other moms on the team just happened to have an applesauce recipe that she shared, and I’m telling you, it was the best (and easiest) applesauce we’ve ever made.

In fact, this recipe is so easy, it doesn’t even need words:

Crock Pot Applesauce:

applesapples1 apples3 apples4 apples5

How easy is that?! And after leaving the apples and cinnamon in the crock pot all day, the whole house smelled like apple pie. This really is the perfect fall/winter recipe. The applesauce was hot and delicious and it can even be served as a dessert on top of vanilla ice cream!



When the Idea of Mentoring Makes You Cringe

Even though I’ve spent years mentoring teenagers and younger women, along with writing how to simplify the whole mentoring process, I still have my moments when the mentor word makes me want to cringe.

I wonder if my investment of time is really worth it. I question if I am doing it just-the-right-way. And I still long for a mentor to live next door and have time to sip a cup of coffee with me face-to-face.  Yet God never seems to allow me to wallow in my self-pity for long before reminding me of the beauty of mentoring — like bringing back into my life a young woman who I mentored a decade ago. But before I tell you that story, I want to give you the chance to think about what mentoring means to you?

Mentoring Biblically is about Following Christ Distinctly

What does mentoring mean to you?

“The word mentoring carries such a stigma, both positively and negatively. Those who have experienced the blessings of mentoring use the word with fondness and passion, understanding the purpose and seeing the tangible benefits. However, those who have never experienced healthy mentoring relationships tend to face the word with fear, hesitation, and sometimes a bit of bitterness or resentment.

I’ve been on both sides of the mentoring continuum. I’ve mentored others and have seen tremendous blessings in being mentored as well. Yet I also know that feeling of longing for a mentor and of growing resentful when I wasn’t the one picked, so to speak. I’m sure my face turned three shades of red, embarrassed by my own intense jealousy, as I heard a woman I deeply respected publicly declare her mentoring role in the life of a woman nearly my age. I wanted that proclamation!  And then, as I shared in Impact My Life, I remembered the truths God impressed on my heart about the roles of mentors:

The fact is that many women lack eyes to see the opportunity to mentor and miss noticing when they have been mentored by others.

The truth is that I do have mentors, just not ones who have a platform from which they can announce their influence in my life. There are at least five women who I know, without a doubt, who exemplify what I describe as a biblical mentor in Impact My Life — women who follow Christ distinctly and from the overflow of that relationship, speak truth, life, and hope into my soul.

Women who offer counsel based on the wisdom founded in the Word.

Women who provide encouragement through their thoughtful actions and critical times of support.

The world might simply call them friends, but I call them my biblical mentors because these relationships span the generations, occur outside of the routines of life seasons, and are rooted in our shared faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

      ~ Excerpted from Impact My Life Study Guide, a companion to Impact My Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified

What if the idea of mentoring was simply about living out God’s story for your life?

These Christ-with-skin-on mentoring relationships continue to surprise me — usually right at the time when I’m ready to quit mentoring all-together. It’s easy to get discouraged when you can’t see the fruit. But God is at work in our relationships, enabling us to mentor others when we feel like we’re doing nothing — or doing something seemingly small.

That young woman I mentored over a decade ago — well,  she’s all grown up now, married to an amazing young man, and journeying through the early stages of motherhood — right next door. As I watch her immerse back into our community as a spouse of a teacher instead of a student, I stand in awe of the young woman she has become and how God continues to weave of our stories together.  I get to put on my mentoring hat again, now embracing this young woman as a friend and getting to love on her child, too. And she gets to put on her mentoring hat as she reaches into the lives of my own teen daughters, who think it’s amazing to have her in their life again.

And it all started with one simple prayer, that had very little to do with mentoring?  

    “God, who would you like us to ask to be our date-night babysitter?”

Jessica emerged from the pack of teens in our life as the one to choose, and to our delight, she said yes!  Of course, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to make time for her, as He’d done in the past with our former sitters. It was my tradition to walk in the door from our date night and plop down on the couch to chat away — that’s we’re the mentoring would happen, informally and yet on purpose long before I called it mentoring.

And now, the young girl whose heart I got to shape is going shape the hearts of my girls. Is there anything more beautiful than that?

So, let me ask you:  What would it take for the mentor word to no longer make you cringe?  How can you think different about mentoring, while doing it purposefully, giving God the opportunity to weave your story together with another woman, younger or older?

If you’d like to begin thinking of mentoring differently, grab a copy of Impact My Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified and get involved in the free Mentoring Training groups offered at More to Be.

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Is your faith life more fired up or fizzled out?

I’m super excited to share with you a powerful post from my sweet friend, Cindy Bultema, who has written a MUST READ BOOK entitled, RED HOT FAITH! She has graciously offered to give away a copy to one blessed winner, so BE SURE TO LEAVE A COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN! 


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How I long for a faith life filled with purpose, passion, spark, and meaning— but truth be told —most days I feel caught up in the whirlpool of life.  

After long days jam-packed with a house full of kids, never-ending chores, and our zany dog—I barely have energy to change the sheets, much less change the world.  

Maybe when my family life slows down, then I should serve. When I lose weight, then I’ll be more comfortable sharing my story.  Or when I learn more Scripture verses, then I’ll be a better Bible teacher.  

In the meantime, it’s easy to settle into a lukewarm routine, filling my days being busy with “good” things, while allowing the “best” opportunities God has for me to pass on by. 

I wonder if you can relate.

You read about women who are moving mountains with their faith, blogging to billions, caring for orphans, and you want that life!  You declare “Use me, Lord!” But when it’s time to talk to your neighbor, sign up to serve, or pray for the hurting friend, you hide behind your badge of busyness and settle in to accept comfort over calling, simplicity over serving, hiding instead of hospitality.     

Thankfully God never intended for “lukewarm” to become our norm. 

I’ve found the key to living with fresh passion and purpose tucked in a letter to the ancient church of Laodicea, also known as Revelation 3:14-22.  The people in that church were not very different from you and me today. They struggled with being lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—and Jesus had the perfect remedy for their lackluster faith.

Sweet friend, what if God has purpose for us in the midst of our most mundane days? What if we went from just “believing in God” to allowing Him to ignite every part of our faith lives? 

Let’s learn from the lukewarm church and say “no” to lives of complacency, staleness, and stagnation and instead pursue a life of Red Hot Faith!



image003With nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Cindy is a popular women’s speaker, author, and Bible teacher. But don’t let her cheerful smile fool you—Cindy has endured single parenting, overcome bondage to addiction, and survived tragic loss.

Cindy’s Bible study, Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church, was released in July 2014. Cindy lives in Michigan with her husband and their four kids. Most days you can find Cindy walking her dog Rocky, attending one of her boys’ hockey games, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school. Visit Cindy at


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Sleep-Overs the Pros and Cons

I’m just going to put it out there.

I pretty much hated sleep-overs and slumber parties.

And not just because of tired cranky kids the next day.  

Mostly I hated sleep-overs because I preferred to tuck my kids into their own bed at night. be honest, I liked the element of control, knowing what they were watching and what activities they were involved in.

If I could choose, I preferred to have kids come to our home to spend the night rather than my kids go to a friends.

Most parents have a big  opinion about slumber parties and sleep-overs.

Some parents who object to sleep overs have developed what they call sleep-unders or half-overs. It’s a compromise of allowing the child to hang with the group until “late” and then be picked up by mom or dad to go home. 

Here are a few questions that may help you navigate this emotionally charged issue of slumber party participation.




1. Do I know the parents well?

2. Am I comfortable with the siblings?

3. Am I comfortable with the family’s lifestyle?

4. Is my child emotionally ready to spend the night away from home? 

5. How often will I say yes to this activity? 

6. Is my spouse in a agreement with me? 

Sleep-overs can be a fun thing and can give the child a sense of  independence.  But… in order for those two things to occur, a parent needs to ask herself these six questions. If the answer is no to any of them, then the response to the invitation is no as well. 

Parents who are 100%  pro-slumber party may be the biggest hurdle to jump. If your answer is not affirmative be ready to respectfully  hold your ground. “Thanks for the invitation, but that won’t work out.” If pressed say, ” We don’t do sleep-overs.” 

Usually when my kids slept over at a friends, it went great. There was the one time however my daughter (who initially was angry with my no) was relieved when I picked her up from the party at 10:30. She told me she was very uncomfortable at that particular family’s home and was so glad she wasn’t spending the night like the other kids.

My gut was right. 

Trust your mom-sense. We don’t have to say yes. As parents who love their kids with their whole being, we have the freedom to say yea or nay. Forget the parent peer pressure. Don’t worry about it if your child is angry with you. 

Looking back, my husband and I said yes to the sleep-overs more than no.

Mostly, my kids…they loved sleep overs. Of course they did….

How do you handle the sleep over dilemma?     

If you liked this post, you would like the book, Raising Little Kids with Big Love or Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love. Both books can be found on Amazon or


Lori Wildenberg
co-founder of 1Corinthians13Parenting
speaker, author, parent consultant, mom of 4


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What to do about your stretch marks

Before we get into today’s post, we want to share with you that Stephanie Shott is sharing her testimony today on The 700 Club! If you know someone who has struggled with abuse, rape, brokenness, are in a difficult marriage or struggle in their quest to know God, PLEASE be sure to have them watch The 700 Club at 9:30 a.m. (ET) on ABC Family Channel. Jesus really does change everything and Stephanie’s desire is that God will use it to speak hope into those who are watching. And here’s a link to the interview if you didn’t catch it at 9:30:


Stretch Marks and motherhoodLast week I marked another birthday. I now have to check the older age category when I take surveys, have to think more about age spots than getting a tan, have to touch up my gray hair with mascara (a trick from my hair dresser), and have to reach for my glasses just to pluck my eyebrows. A mother never lived who could stop the passage of time or the process of aging. Mothering takes a toll on your body. For moms who had the opportunity to biologically carry a child, most bear stretch marks as evidence. And while our eyebrows may grow thinner with the passing of mommyhood, out stretch marks usually do not. Purple may fade to pink or pink to pale, but we carry marks with us as a badge of birthing babies. Have you tried to erase your stretch marks? Hide them? Deny them? Cosmetic options include oils, lotions, and creams. Medical options include surgery or laser treatments. Fashion options include Spanx and dim lights. The world around us is full of magazines and Photoshop and reality TV stars, suggesting that scars of any kind are ugly and unwanted. Cultural standards of beauty don’t include stretch marks or sacrifices. But if we carry a child, there will be evidence. What if we embraced the evidence of God’s creative design within our womb?

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

  • Stretch marks are signs of growth, of a miracle woven by the hands of God Himself.
  • Stretch marks are memorials of change: physically, emotionally, spiritually,  relationally.
  • Stretch marks provide evidence of seasons survived and sacrificed and celebrated.

To bear a child is to bear marks of change on our life. We are never the same in any way once we begin the road of motherhood. Bearing a life in our bodies certainly leaves stretch marks, but every mom bears the scars of a life stretched and changed in the process of becoming a mother. This isn’t to say being faithful means being frumpy. But God wants moms who strive for godliness over glamor. The measure of our beauty, moms, is not compared to the absence of the traces of physical change, but in the evidence of heart change. What if we embraced our physical changes, even our stretch marks, as beautiful reminders of God’s work in us? After all, it’s no surprise that our body is wasting away, but God uses the journey of becoming a mom to renew our hearts daily.


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How to Conquer Your Child’s Fear of the Dark



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SHow to Conquer Your Child's Fear of the Dark

Supposedly a family of bears lives in my daughter’s closet. People-eating bears, I’m told. And when the bears take the night off, a monster steps in. Sometimes an alligator.

Funny, but none of these critters show up when the sun is shining. (Silly Mom, bears are nocturnal. So are alligators. Sometimes I see a monster first thing in the morning—in my mirror, before I put makeup on—but she’s not hanging out in the kids’ closet unless she’s digging for a lost gym shoe.)

Point is, my four-year-old is afraid of the dark. Sweet child. Not only does this fear cause heartache for both of us, but it also robs her precious sleep—and my precious energy, let’s just be honest.

So over the past couple years I’ve developed three effective tricks for helping my daughter overcome her fear of the dark. She still needs reassurance most nights, but all I have to do is whip out one of these tricks and my little one is comforted—and soon snoozing. In other words, these tricks actually work!

If your kiddos are afraid of the dark, try one of these ideas. I hope they’ll help to ease the bedtime battle in your house, too.

1. Spray for monsters. Or bears or alligators or whatever the intruders might be. Seriously. Get an empty spray bottle, or just use your hands shaped like a squirt gun, then aim for the dark corners where your child is pointing to the beast. Make “chhh, chhh” sound effects while you spray your magic potion all over those nasty critters. Yes, it seems goofy, but to your child the imagined monsters are very real. We can help soothe their fears by entering into their fantasy world and empowering them.

2. Give them mommy powers. Speaking of empowering . . . I came up with this trick on the fly one night, out of total desperation, and now my girls ask for it regularly. If your child is afraid to separate from you at night and begs you to stay in the room—oh, do try to stay, at least sometimes; we’ll never get these moments back. But when you have to dodge the room, infuse your child with “mommy powers” before you go.

What are mommy powers? They’re Mommy’s presence, protection and security, doled out like superhero juice. At first I gave mommy powers to a favorite stuffed animal. (“Mommy can’t stay tonight, but I will give Mr. Monkey my mommy powers so when you snuggle with him, it’s just like snuggling with me!”) I grabbed the plush toy, squeezed him, spun him into the air a few times, made funny trilling sounds with my tongue and declared him Mommy Power Monkey! Now my girls ask me to give them mommy powers. So I lavish them with exaggerated hugs, kisses, and taps on the head—fueling my kids with the essence of the lady who makes them feel safe. Then, oddly enough, they do.

3. Remind them God made the dark. This is key for both toddlers and older kids. From an early age, our children can understand this simple truth: Genesis tells us that God created the light and the dark, and he called them both good (Genesis 1:3–5, 31). We don’t need to be afraid of the dark because God made it, he says it’s a good thing, and he is watching over us.

Sweet dreams, everybody. May your kiddos sleep in peace, and may your closets be cleansed of all invisible sharp-toothed creatures.

What tricks have you used to ease your child’s fear of the dark? Frazzled mommies want to know!


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