You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Raising Kids’ category.

In which I give parenting advice that I just figured out, but may not be original.


One thing I didn’t mention in my story about the swamp hike happened during the second of three geocache hikes. A couple of the younger kids were starting to complain about the hike (they wanted to go home, etc) but I didn’t want to quit.


On the way out to the second cache I happened to see a candy machine. So I said I would buy chocolate* that we could all share if (A) we found the next cache and (B) they didn’t complain while we were doing it.


They liked this idea, and not only did we find the cache (we got a deck of cards as the prize) and not only did the kids not complain, but suddenly, when they were released from the possibility of complaining, they were released TO enjoy it more. And they did. They were running, laughing and climbing. They weren’t just stifling unhappiness, they were actually no longer unhappy.


It cost me two bucks in M&M’s. Well worth it. I recommend it.



* I have no problem with kid bribery if I am trying to get them to do something that is a little above and beyond the call of duty for a child. I.e. I don’t bribe them to obey me.


I will probably never do this, but I have considered making a category called “Really Really At Your Own Risk”. If I were to do that, I would put the Dilbert blog there.


It is often quite offensive (although he has of late attempted to make it less so) and Scott Adams is mostly Atheistic and is not shy about this.


But his posts are often quite thoughtful or funny, or both.


This post specifically is good commentary. He obviously wouldn’t buy the idea that God is witness to everything we do, but I like his explanation for why kids desire attention, and it makes their demands for attention more reasonable. So maybe his post will help me become a better father.

. . . By The Numbers

Picnics: 9
Geocaches found: 12
State Park Historical Geocaches found: 7
Total Geocaches found (last two years):101
Steep Hill hikes: 6
Miles hiked: 5? 8?
Complaints from kids: shockingly few, now that I think about it.
Complaints after I promised ice cream: 0
Twisted or Sprained Ankles: 0 (A gift from God)
Minutes of Television Watched: 0
Number of mice spotted in cabin and caught in trap: 1 (My First Mouse Kill!)
Dollars Spent where we experienced the most joy (Caribou Falls): 0
Max people counted on the more popular side of Artist Point in Grand Marais: 75
Person Count on the less popular (but cooler) side of Artist Point: 10 (including us)
Temperature of the water we waded in at this point: 40? 50? (It felt great in the warm sun)
Number of Attempts required to take a timer shot of our whole family across the creek from where the camera was (I had to run fast): 4
Our Gratefulness to God for creating it all for us: A lot, but not enough.


Number of blog posts in-a-row on the subject of our vacation: 4 (which is enough, I think)

So we had a family over today for burgers and the adults were in the living room having ice cream when the kids rushed in yelling that there were bees. I went over to my youngest (Erik – age 5) and he went from agitated to screaming and I found two bees crawling on him.

I swatted them and pulled his shirt off quickly and his screaming got louder. We got out the lotion and I tried to help him. I said “where does it hurt” and he yelled “Everywhere!” 

Then another son came in and was doing his own version of a permanent scream. The bees had been in his shirt and had stung him after he got inside.

We later counted 8 wasp stings on Erik.  They had been back by the bonfire pit and had knocked over a log. A large paper wasp was under it and the log movement aggitated all of them. 7 of the kids were stung (12 stings on our kids).

It took a lot of lotion but they finally all got calmed down. And then they all got ice cream.

Things You Shouldn’t Touch Edition


1. The exterior of any car (with anything besides a sponge).

2. Any dead animal that you didn’t kill.

3. Used gum

4. Power tools (without permission)

5. Mom’s sewing machine

6. Most things in other peoples’ homes.

7. Computer screens

8. Any toilet you are not cleaning*

9. Our piano with anything but your fingers.

10. The sides of our tent or camper.**

11. Anything in the garbage can.

12. Anything besides paper with any writing utensil.

13. The Trampoline with anything but your bodies. (i.e. no chairs, rakes or toys)


Am I missing anything?


* Previously mentioned.

** This one takes some explaining, I think. At first I didn’t want the kids playing in our large tent, for fear they would wreck it. I realized that they could wrestle or jump all they want and not damage anything if they refrain from banging into the sides of the tent. So that’s the rule.

To be filed under “Statements that almost certainly have never been uttered in the history of the English language before”:  Last week my son Daniel said this – “Ticks must have cute lungs.”

I asked my wife if she would like to write a statement in the Message To The World  genre. I said she could go with any theme she chose. She accepted.



Surrender absolutely your whole life to God.  Let Him control every area of your life because there is no limit to what God can do through a believer who is living totally for Him.


Thanks, Debbie, whom I love.

1. I forgot.
2. I’m in a hurry
3. I’m really busy
4. He’s been a brat.
5. It would be fake affection
6. She already knows I love her
7. I showed him affection yesterday
8. I’m not feeling affectionate right now.
9. She doesn’t deserve affection right now.
10. He hasn’t been very affectionate towards me lately.
11. She’s independent enough that she doesn’t need it.
12. My last attempt at showing love was not appreciated.

I suppose you could put most or all of these under the title “Bad Reasons for not showing love to anyone.”

* And by “love/affection” I mean words of affirmation and encouragement, hugs, pats on the back and gifts. Also acts of Grace and Mercy. And Training and Discipline.

1. Manufacturer
If you buy a trampoline, you can expect a card that they suggest you attach to your trampoline with several warnings on it, such as only one person on it at a time, make sure an adult inspects it before every use and make sure that adult is mature.

Here is my favorite statement on this card:

Always make sure you land no more than one foot away from the cross-marked center of the jump mat. If you find yourself off center, “Stop the jump”*

I can imagine an overly jittery Dad panicking when his 8 year old daughter steps TWO feet from the center. “FLING YOURSELF DOWN!”

2.  The American Academy of Pediatrics have a slightly more extreme take on the subject:

Adult supervision will not adequately prevent injuries on home trampolines. Trampolines should be used only in supervised training programs for gymnastics, diving or other competitive sports. A professional trained in trampoline safety always should supervise the use of trampolines.

Don’t risk it! Find out if your children’s friends have trampolines before sending them over to play. Children and teenagers should never use trampolines at their home or another person’s home, in routine gym classes or on the playground!

Seriously, have nothing to do with someone who owns a trampoline. You don’t want that kind of influence on your kids! Those parents hope your kid breaks his neck. Don’t ask why, they just don’t like you for some reason.

Okay, I added that last paragraph.

3. Or you could just do what the Jamsco Household does.

. . . not perfectly in the center

. . . and I don\'t see a trained monitor . . .

nor does this look like a \'supervised training excersize\'

We are heading out later to Historic Fort Snelling as a part of the 150 year of Minnesota Statehood commemoration. Happy Memorial Day!

* Yes, complete with wrongly placed double quotation marks. I love those!

As you parent, consider this way of thinking:


Imagine a personified version of the sin in the heart of your child as something that wants to thrive. It doesn’t want to die. So it is tries to protect itself by building a shell that will protect it from the attempts of a parent to be God’s agent in training the child in the way he should go. We should know as parents what might strengthen or feed that shell.


I believe that Anger is one of these things.


And one of the most significant ways that a parent can add to this anger is to discipline a child and leave it unresolved, so that the child is still angry when you leave the room (or the situation, or the conversation). This anger then serves the sin by providing material which it can use to build the shell that it (Sin) is creating around its place in the heart of a child.


Often (Usually? Always?) the child is angry after discipline because he believes that injustice has been done to him. It doesn’t matter how careful and just you were in the discipline of the child if the child thinks you were unjust. The child’s sinful nature will use this to put a wall against future training or spiritual guidance.   


“Why should I be good if I just get punished anyway?”

“They only warned me twice”

“I can’t be held responsible for behavior I can’t control.”


A two year old (or a five year old or an eight year old) won’t think these words in their minds, but they think these ideas. And you need to show them that, yes, in fact they did know what they were doing, or yes, they could have controlled themselves, or no, their Dad isn’t being mean for mean’s sake.


Disciplining the child in the wrong way may be worse than not disciplining them at all. Don’t contribute to sin’s shell.

1. Pray for your kids every day.
2. Speak well of your child every time they do something right.
3. Bring your kids to church.
4. Thank God in front of your kids.
5. Teach Sunday School for your kids class.
6. Sing loudly at church.
7. Sing Songs Of Praise at suppertime.
8. Read the Bible aloud.
9. Teach your kids to pray.
10. Teach your children to find the gifts that God has given them.
11. Teach your children how to use their gifts to Glorify God.
12. Do Family Service projects
13. . . . .Like cleaning up a park.
14. . . . . . . explaining that God’s creation says good things about him.
15. . . . .Or giving money to the poor.
16. . . . .Or going Christmas Caroling at a Retirement Center
17. . . . .Or supporting a missionary as a family
18. Teach your kids that praying shouldn’t be just asking God for stuff.
19. Discipline your kids and explain to them why you are doing it.
20. Adopt.
21. . . . Or do foster care.
22. Show your kids grace.
23. Show Kindness to your Spouse
24. Ask them to pray for you.
25. Ask your kids forgiveness for a wrong you have done to them.
26. Talk about what is in a child’s heart, not just what he is doing outwardly.
27. Encourage your kids when they learn about God.
28. Give money to your church and work out ways that your child can, as well.
29. Never think you’re a good enough Parent.

I showed this to my wife and she suggested that I put “Pray for your kids” as number 1. I have done so.

Any suggestions?

As you may know, I am a fairly Pro-Government and Anti-Libertarian guy. Here’s one way that I am not.
A little more than two years ago, my wife and I began an attempt to get licensed as foster care providers for our county. We had five biological children and another child adopted from Russia and my wife still wanted to increase the size of our family. We both felt that it would serve to glorify God if we were to provide a home for a child in need. So we began to take the necessary steps (and there were many) to get licensed for foster care in our county (which I will not name, but it is named after Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of the Minnesota Territory (I just read that in Wikipedia)).
We discussed this with friends of ours and though none advised us against this path, at least one friend stated that he and his wife had considered it, but found the level of intrusion and inspection from the county to be too much a danger for their family (They teach the bible to their kids and do other things of that sort). I respected that decision (in fact, we shared their fears) but I felt that it was worth taking this risk if we could provide a home for a baby that didn’t have one.
One thing that was made clear in the initial training was that the spanking of a foster care child was not allowed. Not only would the child be taken from you, should it be discovered that you had administered corporal punishment, but you would be guilty of a crime that could land you in prison. Indeed, at one of the training sessions that my wife attended, the trainer added “You’ll be put in jail so fast and I’ll be LAUGHING at you from the other side of the bars!”
It would be a point of amusement if this happened, you see.
But still, perhaps foolishly, we pressed on. We had already decided that we were going to ask for very young babies (my wife really likes the very early stages), and since we hadn’t spanked our children when they were infants, we didn’t think this would be a problem. When we met with the social worker and told her that we spanked she remarked that no other prospective family had ever admitted to doing it. Huh.
In any case she wasn’t sure what to make of it and said she would talk with other social workers and determine how we should proceed.
And when we met with her next she explained that despite the fact that we had agreed to never spank the foster child, the fact that we were planning to continue spanking our own children was quite troubling to them. She told us that if we decided to proceed with the process they wouldn’t give us anyone younger than a five year old (or so) because they wanted the child to be old enough to report to the social worker whether or not we had been spanking them.
We didn’t proceed.
We stopped the process. And this was after numerous hours of training, and writing up pages and pages of documentation, and home safety inspections (which had resulted in non-trivial home updating projects), multiple social worker meetings and so forth. For more than a year. We were frustrated. The no-spanking rule it is a foolish rule. It should be changed. But to treat us with such distrust because we spank has shades of religious discrimination.
Here’s one other bit of trivia. You can be licensed to be a foster care provider in this county if you have used illegal drugs, but only IF you have been clean for the last two years.
So to recap – Parent who currently uses corporal punishment with their children – not tolerated by the county. Foster care applicant who has recently used cocaine, but not since early 2006, and who doesn’t currently spank – happily accepted.
Clarification: There were other reasons that the county was hesitant to give a foster care child to us. Specifically – They thought our family was too big to provide quality care for another child.

Jan 29th

I warn you – this is a sad, cringe-inducing story.

Back a few years ago I was working on our house to get it ready for us to sell it. I was finishing up the basement bedroom. Here’s what I put in Erik’s Journal (he’s our youngest):

I was working on the closet door and Carl (then 6) and Erik (only twenty months old) were alternately watching me and playing with toys and I had just started to saw a quarter inch off the bottom of the door when Erik, who I assumed (unwisely, wrongly, foolishly) would know not to put his hand where I was sawing, did so. He recoiled and I could tell immediately that it was bad: the end of his left pinky was not fully attached. He was very upset and I carried him upstairs, quite upset myself. Debbie called 911 while I held him and he kept crying. So the ambulance came and I held him while we rode in it to Hennepin County Medical Center in Downtown Minneapolis. This was at about 2:30. He was pretty calm from the start of the ride for the rest of the time, thankfully. We had some hope that they would be able to save the end of his finger (in between the second and third knuckle) but this was not to be, which grieved us. The bone had been cut clear though . . .

So now if you look at his hand, it has a clearly shortened pinky with a scar on the tip. I grieved much that week, with no small amount of guilt at my foolishness.

There are some touches that God painted into the story that are more cheerful. A week later I still needed to finish the job and while I was doing it, I asked Debbie to bring Erik down to watch me. He showed no signs of fear or apprehension. So it appears that I didn’t scar him psychologically, at least.

And of course, since then I have been more careful.

These days, he will proudly show you his slightly different hand if you ask. A badge of courage of a different kind.

And when our family doctor (whose religious viewpoint we didn’t, and still don’t, know) looked at it a few days later to see if it was healing well, he looked my wife in the eye and said “This was God’s will.” Wow.

Towards the end of that day one of our older kids asked if it was going to be the worst day of that year. I told them that I hoped it would be and I am relieved and thankful to report that it was.
And I pray it is my worst day as a father. Ever.

. . . I’m saying something nice about Nate, who I have taken multiple jabs at before.

He wrote last week in his blog:

So an otherwise quiet morning was interupted by my wife’s report the Eli had discovered a monster under the bed in the guest bedroom.

Now I don’t know how y’all deal with your pest issues but we take our monster problems very seriously. Drwho took the boys off to seclusion while I suited up… boots… sword… firearms… black cowboy hat. (please… everyone knows you need a black cowboy hat to fight monsters)

So… I head up stairs… slam the door… and being shoutin and hollering nonsense… it was a great battle indeed. Once the beast was slain…. I devoured it… then came downstairs, grabbed the spotbot, and proclaimed that no one was allowed to go back up until I gave the word. . . 

Say what you want about Nate (“He’s crazy”, “His blog is really offensive”, “this event might goof up his kids belief system” or even “But, Jamsco, you strongly disagree with 90 of what Nate has ever written!” . . . All true). But I have to endorse the spirit of this post (which I couldn’t find a link for and I’m not going to send you to his blog and tell you to search for it – other posts that you might find there are mind-scaringly* warped – I even had to edit this one).

This post shows that Nate and His wife:

– Are clever
– Are a team
– know how to make each other laugh
– Are raising their kids with the idea that Dads should be honored
– Are raising their kids with the idea that Dads should protect their family.

How can one not respect these traits?

* Just to clarify, this adverb is intended to suggest that it will scar your mind, not scare your mind

Please pray for my six year old daughter Anna, who is undergoing surgery this Friday.

Over the last year or so, she has had chronic ear infections and last fall our doctor recommended that we bring her into an ear/nose/throat specialist. We did and that doctor did a CT scan and found that she had a Cholesteatoma in her right ear. I had never heard of this and I imagine that you may not have either. If so, check here.

To describe it briefly, it is a small gap near the eardrum which (in her case) has a tendency to collect matter which makes infection more likely. The surgery will remove this gap.

The doctor has told us that this is relatively routine surgery (out patient) but he wanted us to know that the surgery will be working very near the eardrum, the jugular and the brain, so it requires careful work. If it doesn’t go well, she could lose her hearing in that ear (among other things that could wrong.)

Please pray for wisdom and skill for the doctors, and peace and health for Anna.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

10 Bad Excuses For Not Disciplining A Disobedient Child

1. “I’m really busy”
2. “I don’t want to ruin a special evening/day/event.”
3. “I didn’t give him a second warning”
4. “I don’t want to get up from this chair”
5. “She didn’t hear me”
6. “We’re eating”
7. “It’s not going to work.”
8. “Disobeying isn’t that big of a deal.”
9. “If anyone sees me do it, it will be tantamount to admitting that my child isn’t sinless.”
10. “Maybe Solomon was wrong when he wrote those things about child-raising.”

As you know, we home school. We do this because we are able to, and we think it good for our kids and because we know there are dangers in the public schools.

So tomorrow our school district (or the school district that our kids would be in if they went to school) is having a referendum vote.

I’m just going to put it out there for you. We will be voting ‘Yes’ – for these reasons:

1. Teachers are generally good people and they aren’t paid enough.

2. It is the government’s job to pay for schooling K-12. And our nation is better because it does.

3. There are poor or uneducated people who can’t home-school.

4. Our school systems need to be improved, and not funding them is not going to help.

I must admit, I have one regret about this and it has to do with Home-schooling families that are having difficulty making ends meet. If the referendum passes, I will have helped to make things more difficult for them. My response is, (1) families like this are rare, and (2) they are generally prepared for the challenge.

I have made a goal to always vote ‘Yes’ for these things. Perhaps one day, some school district will say “We want guaranteed free vacations to Disney World for all students! Vote Yes!” But until they are asking for something similarly ridiculous, I’ll be there, willing to have my taxes increased.

* No, not for the Primary Reason I was placed there. BUT I’M NOT BITTER!

Did I mention that our fourth oldest child just turned 6 this past Sunday? That means our family stars line up and we now have kids aged 4,5,6,7,8 and 9.

1. We have bought 6 different colored enamel cups (yes, like the old fashioned camping cups) for each of our kids. The kids drink out of them at meal time. This has three benefits:
a. The kids always know, after we set the table, where we intend them to sit (helpful especially when we have company).
b. We don’t have to wash cups nearly as often, and
c. The kid like having their own cup.

2. Make and keep traditions. As has been mentioned we have gone of a fall day trip each of the last nine years. And as also has been mentioned – we go to the north shore every year. And every January/ February, when we are getting a little cabin fever, we go to the Mall of America. And early every December, we go chop down a Christmas tree (of course we have several Christmas traditions). Choose your own – make them your family’s.

3. When our oldest was born, I typed up the story of his birth (every labor makes a good story.) I then started typing out interesting, funny or new things he did. I created a monthly list. When other children came along I created a new Journal for them. First Words. First loose tooth. When they learned to ride a bike. Funny things they’ve said. Insights they have shown.

In our family, I’m the one who does this journaling and my wife wants me to say that this is a good thing for Fathers to do. It only takes me about five minutes twice a week. I recommend it.

Now that we have been parents for 9 and a half years, this collection of journals is 267 pages long. If any of our kids ever get famous, I hope the biographers are grateful.

So two weeks ago today our second oldest – Daniel, 9 years old, generally quite bright – came in from the across the street playground. My wife (I was at work) found him standing and looking a little upset by the front door. She asked, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know”
“Are you hurt?”
“My head hurts”
“Why does your head hurt?”
“I don’t know.”

Our oldest came in and said that he had seen Daniel fall from five feet high headfirst into the woodchips. Daniel listened to this, but five minutes later my wife was surprised to hear him ask why his head hurt.

She called our doctor who said (of course) “Get him to the E.R!”

So she brought him to the hospital and gave him a bucket in case of concussion causing car sickness. And on the way there:
Where are we going?
To the Hospital.
Why are we going to the hospital?
Because you might have a concussion.
What’s a concussion?
It’s when you fall and hit your head?
I fell?
Yes, at the playground.
Oh. . . why am I holding a bucket?

They went through conversation like this four or five time on the way to the hospital. This is where I met them. Daniel was still asking lots of questions repeatedly. My wife was starting to giggle. The nurse thought he looked like he was going to faint (actually I think he was just really confused) so they gave him a wheelchair. Every few minutes he would ask why he was in a wheel chair if just his head hurt. A reasonable question.

And then there was a storm warning and we were all told to get to the one part of the waiting area that didn’t have windows. And it was at this point the Daniel started to remember things, like that he had already asked the question he had just asked, and that his brother kept putting the brakes on on his wheel chair.

So the rest of the story quick: Doctor came, brought us into a real hospital room, checked for eye dilation (it was there) told us that memory loss was significant so he needed to have a CT scan. Daniel was nervous about this, but later said it was like being on a ride. CT scan shows things are normal, sent home, that evening memory starts coming back to Daniel – a day later his head stops hurting – so a happy ending.

For a while a few years back we found ourselves going to the emergency room every 11 or twelve months. We had broken that pattern and had gone more than a year and a half. But our accident free streak broke with this event. Oh well. The good news is that it was by far the most pleasant time we had spent in the emergency room.

Make no mistake – the JamFam kids have toys. Thanks (and we are thankful) to the many gifts from Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles, our kids have never lacked Legos, dolls, Bionicles, cars, planes, tinker toys (just to name a few) to play with.


So it is with a certain amount of bemusement that we often find our kids playing with (and making big projects out of) household items that have original usages that are not kid oriented. And I know that my kids are not in any way unique in this respect. It makes one wonder if toys are a necessity.


Anyway, in case you are interested, here are –


16 Non Toy Items that our kids have used as toys:



Twisty Ties


Paper Plates and Cups

Paper clips

Big cardboard boxes

Leftover Material from Sewing projects


Cardboard flat pieces

My Recycled office paper (for reasons other than drawing)



Tin Cans





What notable household items do your kids play with?

My Wife’s Blog

My State Park Blog

Promotion – Songs To Help Families Memorize Scripture

I’m on Twitter

To Subscribe



April 2018
« Mar