It Takes a Community


Tadd, his parents, and his host parents at his college graduation party

It’s high school graduation party season. And it doesn’t just involve ham sandwiches, potato salad and cake. Guiding our teens toward good choices, again, but this time one that will, hopefully, be a choice that cements them in one place for four years and boosts them beyond for a lifetime. These are big decisions. Then, we’ve got to get them through it. They do experience difficulties along the way.

Tadd called home early in his first semester. He was taking a required English course, his least favorite subject, and had a writing assignment. He was to select his topic from a list provided by his professor. He was asking my opinion, keeping in mind he was required to use three different sources for this paper.

As he was reading the subjects to me over the phone, mentioning some vague topics that the professor probably offered for students who actually liked the class, I was getting concerned. There were a few I thought may be okay to try…and then he read, “the future of electricity.”

I interrupted him from reading further, “That one, Tadd, that one!”


“Because your Grandpa Kvanli used to be an electrical lineman before he retired. You can call and interview him and he will know a whole lot more on that subject than either you or me,” I explained.

“Oh,” he responded, “cool.”

And then I didn’t hear anything about it for several months. On another phone call I finally asked if he wrote his paper on the future of electricity, and he responded, “Yeah. Grandpa helped a lot with that. I got an ‘A.'”

My role as his mother was shifting. I was no longer required to be his daily, hands on helper in his life. For one thing, he was growing, maturing and seeking to achieve things that weren’t within my capabilities. And, I realized I couldn’t always help, but I could direct him to people who could.

During this first semester, Tadd also signed up to have a host family from a church in the area. This family would have him over on Sundays for a hearty, home cooked meal. They would attend his saxophone concerts and join him for ice cream, a McKeown family tradition, afterwards. And, most importantly, they were there, in the same city and state he was in, when needed.

One day Tadd called his dad with a car problem. My husband responded, “Call your other dad.” Marty was unable to help him ten hours away, his host “dad” could be there in a few minutes.

We all worked together to get Tadd through college.

In this graduation season, as we slap the backs of those grads and say, “Well done!” we must also clasp the hands of those that walked the journey with us and thank them for a job “well done!”

Thanks to all those who helped (you know who you are!) and thanks, Mark and Marian. You made the journey a little easier.

This entry was posted on May 31, 2012. 5 Comments

Some Miracles Need a Mom

When our fourth son was two years old, we were told he’d probably never speak and most likely have to be institutionalized. Today he is a college graduate. How can this be?

In the 2nd chapter of John, Mary approaches Jesus at the wedding in Cana. She tells him, “They have no more wine.” His answer? “Why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” Jesus had no intention of performing a miracle at that wedding. Whether Mary gave her son a ‘mother’ look all children dread or she had unrecorded words with him, we don’t know. Jewish women are stereotypically notorious for emotional outbursts. Perhaps she had one at that moment. Something like, “You are in your 30’s now! Don’t you think it’s time for your ministry to begin? You come to the house, bring your 12 friends, expect me to cook and clean for them, and you can’t do this one thing for me?”

Mothers. They are so emotionally tied to their children. Always pushing for the best.

It can be to our children’s advantage. Mary ultimately changed Jesus’ mind. (Think on that for a moment!) Her son, the Son of God, fulfilled her request by turning water into wine. And it was the best.

When our son was diagnosed with autism, the dreams we had for him flickered. We discovered during our parenting journey many skills, one of which was stronger faith. We worked in faith, endured with hope.

We worked in faith we would be able to discover why, as a toddler, he screamed so easily at seemingly inconsequential circumstances. We did.

We endured in hope he would eventually sleep through the night. He did.

We worked in faith he would be able to learn in a regular classroom. He did.

We endured in hope he would progress sufficiently to function in society. He surpassed all our hopeful expectations!

Mary went to Jesus expecting a miracle, we as parents can do the same. Sometimes we need faith and endurance to live in our circumstances, but when our circumstances seem overwhelming, is it a miracle when we allow the Light to guide us out of those dark circumstances? Go to your Lord, expect a miracle. Push for the best. Work in faith, endure with hope.

This entry was posted on May 10, 2012. 7 Comments

The Passion of a Mom

Recently a mom in Argentina gave birth for the fifth time. The mother, Analia Bouter, was handed a death certificate instead of her daughter. The baby was whisked away to the morgue. After 12 hours, this grieving mother and her husband were finally given access to view their child. Once the nailed shut coffin was pried opened, the tiny infant inside trembled. She was alive!

The account of this almost undetectable trembling breath has been told and retold around the world. It is an amazing story of hope to those involved and those hearing of this drama.

It was a shocking, exhilarating hope for this mom. I’m pretty sure she didn’t go to the morgue to see if her daughter was alive. She probably wanted to have closure on her dreams for this child, to see the baby girl who had grown inside her. But her passion to see her daughter was the seed of life that had no hope for 12 hours.

Have you lost hope for dreams for a child? Hopefully, you haven’t been handed a piece of paper that declares the dreams for your child are dead. Whether those dreams are for education, success, happiness or a life devoted to Christ, don’t give up! Anything is possible.

Mommy Wars

Do you hear the rumble of flak in the distance? The “Mommy Wars” have intensified. One side of the political arena made a controversial comment about a mom on the other side of the aisle. And everything exploded.

May I say, as a mom that has mostly been a stay-at-home mom for 30 plus years, both sides have a lot in common.

  • Both moms are slaves to the clock—some more intensely
  • Both actively work—some receive monetary pay
  • Both experience loneliness in the midst of their vocation on occasion
  • Both passionately defend the choices they’ve made
  • All moms have self-doubt at some point in their lives, uncertain if they always make the right choices for their child(ren)

A ‘mother’ is defined as a woman who has a child. Simple, right? Further definitions include a woman who acts as a mother when she has not given birth, someone that protects and nourishes.

Life-giving, strong moms birth defenseless babies to produce mature adults.

The end goal is for our children to be mature, functioning, productive citizens of our country. We moms steadily work ourselves out of a job for often harried 18 amazing years.

Does it really matter if we worked for pay or not while raising kids? We all must figure out life and how to do it to the best of our ability. And I think part of that ‘life’ is being supportive of each other.

I think we can agree it’s not an easy job being a mom. Let’s extend our “protective and nourishing” instincts beyond our offspring to our fellow sisters fighting in the fox hole of parenting. The war between the two hostile factions may ease and give what every mom truly wants…a moment of peace.

This entry was posted on April 22, 2012. 2 Comments

The Games we Play

“Teach us to fly, Momma!” my grandchildren plead when they are seeking attention. I watch, engrossed, as my daughter-in-law begins the familiar routine.

“Hold out your arms,” she gently coaches. “Now, wave them up and down.” She watches their little arms begin flapping. “Good! Now faster, faster!” And my grandchildren run away from their mother, their arms flapping as fast as they can go. Then my daughter-in-law calls out, “You did it! You’re flying! You’re free!”

At this point she turns back to whatever she was doing, and the kids usually come back for more attention, but that’s okay—it was just a game she taught them.

Realistically, we expect the kids to leave and “be free” on their own. After graduation, we help them pack, show them the way to a job or college, and say, “You did it! You’re on your own! You’re free!” We also expect them to never move back home again.

Our economy has changed that.

We moved. Different state; bigger house. Three of the four kids who had moved out previously are back. Did we buy too big? Some may think so. I’m not there—yet.

I consider it a privilege to help our grown children when the world has not treated them kindly. My opinion may be different if they were doing little to help themselves. If that were the case, we would be deploying some tough love stances. However, if their wings are clipped due to rough winds, who’s responsibility is it to help them? The government’s?

Yes, boundaries are needed but sometimes sacrifices are, too, not only financially, but as a couple as well. Grown kids don’t go to bed at 8 p.m. There is always someone roving about the house. Privacy is something we have lost, but, hopefully, it’s not permanent. (I believe. I believe.)

There was another day, another time, when there was wide-spread economic suffering. And Joseph did something about it. “Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children.” [Genesis 47:12]

Yes, there were other things going on there, but to simplify: Joseph had the means. He helped his family.

I wonder if our ever-burgeoning government would be a little smaller if we, as a society, had practiced that concept in our  communities over the last century or two.

While my focus of late has been keeping up with the extra housework, buying groceries, and buying more groceries, something else has been happening. My grown children are spending more time together, bonding and learning to appreciate each other.

Four of our five were playing cards at the kitchen table one evening. There were raucous cheers, aahs, ohs, and slapping of the table in appropriate response to the evolving events of the game. Then suddenly, at nine o’clock at night, there was a mad scramble for a car. Confused, I popped my head up from a book and asked, “What are you guys doing?”

“We played for Popsicles!” one of them called out, “The losers have to buy for the winners. We’re all going to the grocery store to pick them out.”

Playing for Popsicles—this mother hadn’t taught them that game. They came up with that on their own.

What a joy it is to have my children home again for the economic duration. I get to watch my children get better at flying.

This entry was posted on April 18, 2012. 3 Comments