Dear Children, I Want You to Fail. Love, Mom

Note: This post was originally published on For Every Mom. I wanted to post it here first, but apparently after you neglect your blog for 3 months, it breaks! So we had to have it fixed yesterday. Oops.

Recently Sophie and Joshua have become enamored with cooking shows, so thanks to Netflix and Hulu we’ve been watching Chopped, Cupcake Wars, and Master Chef Junior. I’ve never watched these before, but we’re enjoying them, PLUS I’m learning a lot about weird food I’ll never cook.  But, as I’ve watched and bonded with my kids over these shows, I’ve noticed a phrase that the cooking competitors say over and over again. I’ve heard it many times before in all sorts of contexts, but since we’ve been binge-watching these cooking shows, my kids and I have heard these 5 words over and over again a lot recently:

“Failure is not an option.”

And I get it. These competitors came to win, not to mess around. Winning would mean a lot for them both financially and clout-wise for their businesses.

But. I don’t like my kids hearing “Failure is not an option” over and over again. Because the truth is, failure is always an option. It is an option that all of us will have to accept at some point in our lives, willingly or unwillingly. It is a fact of life that we all need to know how to handle so that we don’t fall apart when it becomes our reality (like many of the chefs on Chopped, mere moments after we’ve confidently declared that it is not an option). I’ve been thinking about that phrase often over the past few weeks, and finally, I have to say something about it. So, pardon me while I clear my throat and take a minute to speak to my children about failure.

Dear Joshua, Sophie, and Jonah,

Hey kiddos. I want to tell you a story about your mother. When I was a junior in high school, sweet 17, I was having a pretty great year. I know it’s hard to  imagine, but I was kind of fabulous! I was the lead in the school play and the school musical. I had a solo in the honors choir. My talents were lauded and I loved what I was doing. Soon I would be a senior. The best was yet to come. (Can you imagine me being young and cool? I was, I swear.)

Jenny Annie
Your mother in her glory days. Don’t act like you’re not impressed!

At the beginning of my senior year, I approached the fall play auditions with full confidence in my abilities. I knew what part I wanted and I knew I would get it. My audition and my callback were great. There was no doubt in my mind I would succeed.

Except…I didn’t. As all of us hopefuls gathered after school around the poster in the hallway where the cast list had been posted, I eagerly looked for my name. And I looked. And I looked, and I looked. Eagerness turned to disbelief. Then the tears came. People all around me were as shocked as I was. Looks of pity abounded. I ran away humiliated.

I had failed. And not even at anything hard, kiddos. At something that came easily to me. At something I was good at. I failed big time.

I cried all the way home and all night long. I remember my mom trying to comfort me but I don’t remember what she said. I just remember the humiliation and the hurt. It was my senior year! It was supposed to be my victory lap, and I was out before the race even started. Not only did I not get the part I wanted, and I didn’t get ANY part.

Somehow I moved on—I don’t really remember how. My 18-year-old ego was bruised but I managed to show my face at school despite my failure. My friends avoided the topic, and I tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. But it was there with me, every day.

Soon, however, I had something to distract me from my failure: an accident. In one of those “urban legend” type stories, one of my best friends—a boy—had a pretty bad accident at school in shop class. And after surgeries and a solid 3 weeks of missed school, not to mention trying to study on painkillers, he needed a tutor. I was in all 3 of the required graduation classes with him, and because of my failure to win my coveted spot in the school play, I had lots of free time. Soon I was spending most days after school helping him catch up on his senior year schoolwork.

Also, since he couldn’t drive due to his injury and medications, I started picking him up for school events and soccer games. We were spending a ton of time together, and eventually, about three months after my epic failure, we started dating.

You’re smart kids, so you’ve probably already figured out that that boy was your father. But what you didn’t know about me and your dad is that our getting together was in large part due to what at the time I considered a huge embarrassing failure. If I had gotten that part in the school play that I wanted SO badly, I would not have been available to help your dad catch up on all his school work and pass those classes he needed to graduate. I wouldn’t have become his driver, his companion, his girlfriend. Maybe God would’ve brought us together some other way, but…maybe not. After all, though I am so glad your dad and I chose each other, I don’t believe that there’s only ONE person in the world out there that you’re destined to marry. Maybe if I’d succeeded instead of failed at that school play audition, we would have remained “just friends.” Maybe I would have gone to college without a boyfriend and met some nice Christian guy there and married him instead. Maybe you kids wouldn’t be here. Maybe I would have missed a life that is so, so, so, much better than a lead role in a high school play.

Since then, I’ve failed many times over, my babies. I’ve failed at jobs, at friendships, and as you know, at countless mom moments. And that’s because, kiddos, failure is ALWAYS an option. But it’s not always a bad thing. It’s only bad if you don’t LEARN from it. In a failure you may feel pain, but you may also learn to empathize. You may be broken, but because you’re broken and desperate, you can experience the glory of being fully dependent on Christ. And you may fail at opportunities you reallyreallyreallyreallyreally want only to be available for ones you’d never dreamed of getting.

Kids, I don’t want you to be afraid of failure because I don’t want you to be afraid to TRY. I’m not looking for perfection from you, my dears, I am looking for effort. Try and care! Succeed and fail! Do it all for the Glory of God and let Him do what He wills with the results. I’m here for you no matter what. You’re loved and cherished and valued no matter what. And if you continue to give your lives to Christ, you really cannot go wrong in your failures or in your wins.

So, darlings, that’s about where I run out of wise words, but I’ll leave you with this:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” —Thomas Edison

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”.—Proverbs 19:21

I love you guys. Now go out and try some stuff!




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A Beautiful Risk

Two weeks ago, two different families that were “friends of friends” lost children on the same weekend. One a newborn baby who inexplicably never breathed, and one a teen in a freak accident. Since then, I have not been able to stop thinking about this post I wrote back in October 2007 (!!!) about my baby Sophie, for the old online magazine TopBlogMag. I finally searched for it so I could re-publish it here for you guys, because it adequately expresses my thoughts on what I’ve been feeling for these two families, and on the great way we expose our mom hearts when we have kids.


She’s sleeping soundly, and I pause to observe a rare moment of calm in my wild child, my crazy girl, my daring daughter. Her long, fine hair covers her thick eyelashes and rest on her plump, peaceful cheeks. She is, to me, simply amazing. But I am, of course, her mother.

Eleven months ago, I exhibited the opposite of the serenity she now sleepily displays. I was pregnant with her, and on the cusp of giving birth, rotund, uncomfortable, and scared. I was anxious, apprehensive, and fretful about my baby girl. My fears frustrated and confounded me. I already had a son, and he was healthy and strong. I had done this before, what was wrong with me? I just wanted her out, and as my pregnancy progressed I became more and more convinced she would be safer outside the womb than in.

A few days before my due date, after a doctor’s appointment where once again, everything looked fine, I sat down to try and analyze my fear, to seek to know the enemy that was taking the joy out of this pregnancy. What I came to realize after some careful, quiet thought, was this: because I already had one child, I knew what I had to lose if something went wrong with this pregnancy. I knew what it was like to hold my own child in my arms, to nurse it at my breast, to feel its breath on my cheek, to marvel at its first smile and revel in its first laugh. This baby already had my heart. Giving her life meant risking her life, and I already knew I couldn’t live without her.

A few days later, right on time, my risk, my beautiful risk paid off. My daughter came into my world healthy and strong, just like her brother. The last eleven months she has brought me joy upon joy, and looking at her now I don’t regret the risk for a minute. Still, knowing what I have to lose, I don’t think myself brave enough to take it on again.

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Choosing to Be Unstoppable

I wrote this post as part of my participation in a blog tour for The Motherhood on behalf of the makers of Children’s MOTRIN® and received compensation to thank me for taking the time to participate. However, all opinions expressed are my own.


Over the past couple of months I’ve told you about who and what inspires me to be an Unstoppable Mom. I’ve talked about awesome moms in my life and my strategies to make it through the holidays. But the truth is, I’m an Unstoppable Mom by choice. I do what I do because I LOVE my family, and every day I choose to do what needs to be done to make us work. That includes 7:30 preschool, my job, speech therapy, dinner, homework help, swim lessons, church, house church and hopefully time for extended family and friends.

And the truth is? I’m tired. See?

Jenny is tired

As I write this it’s 10:33 p.m. and I have miles to go before I sleep. These kinds of miles:

dirty dishes

And these kind:

messy table

The fun miles have been run. I ran them during my children’s waking hours. Those miles included hugs and kisses and silly games and hot chocolate and Advent time. Now it’s time to run the last couple, the couple you force yourself to do long after you felt like throwing in the towel. Those last couple miles can be grueling. But they are necessary to make the fun miles happen. So I do them.

(Please note: I don’t run in real life. 0.0, baby!)

I’m unstoppable because of those waking hours. The moments of life and love I have with my family are what make me unstoppable. And it’s really just as simple as that. Simple and simply wonderful. These people who leave me so worn out at the end of the day also make me indescribably HAPPY. I am such a lucky mom.

The Makers of Children’s MOTRIN have asked me to share my unstoppable stories with you the last few months, and now I’m going to ask you to share some time with me (and them!): Thursday, December 4, we’ll be tweeting all things #UnstoppableMoms at 1pm EST. Check out the invite for more details – we’ll be giving away FIVE $50 gift cards!

Oh, and hey – you can still share your unstoppable tips over on the Motrin Facebook page. Because one of the best ways we can help each other be unstoppable is to share what works for us! And what’s awesome about that? For every tip shared, they will make a $1 donation made to Safe Kids. Your tip might also win you $100 just for posting (all details on the Motrin Facebook page)!

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY, OPEN TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE 50 UNITED STATES & D.C., 18 AND OLDER. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Promotion ends 11:59p.m. ET 12/28/14.  Sponsor will donate $1 for each approved Submission made as part of the promotion, with a minimum donation of $30,000 and a maximum donation of $50,000.  For Official Rules, and complete details, visit Sponsor: McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc.  To learn more about Safe Kids Worldwide visit

Thanks for joining this year on my #UnstoppableMoms journey! I look forward to seeing you at the Twitter party on Thursday!

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