Hey, friends!

I miss old school blogging.  My posts reflect that, meandering from current events to family updates to long form articles.  I know, I know. . . current blog gurus say Find your audience! Write in your niche!  But whatever. It’s my website.  

Still, you're probably here for some mommy-encouragement or theological talk.  Welcome! 

H3 and her babies.

Grandma made H3 and her baby matching nightgowns.  Her big brothers got her a baby stroller and two babies, and her cousin got her yet another baby!  H3 is in mommy-baby heaven, and can fit all of her babies and gear on the stroller.
Cocktails and Pearls

Cocktails and Pearls

“Hello, Mrs. Ambassador! Would you like a canape?”


“Hello, I’m a diplomat’s wife in a movie. I always have a cocktail in my hand, pearls around my throat & household help at my beck and call. I never need to deal with rats, insects the size of my hand, or pathetic looking produce. Oh, and I’m a spy.”

from @tulipgrrl on Twitter

Did you miss the the Bad Film Tropes twitter meme?

Add yours in the comments or on twitter. . .

2019: Another Year is Dawning


Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in heaven,
Another year for Thee.

~ Frances Ridley Havergal

(H/T: The Reading Mother)


Holidays and Transitions

Merry Christmas!


We attended a holiday party with some colleagues tonight and it was very lovely.

Yet this picture from the party stirs up a certain sadness, a certain nostalgia.  A certain era of our family is only in our memories. This picture shows us with only A6 and H3. They are the only ones going with us to our next post.

Missing are our four young adult sons.

We’ll all be under one roof this Christmas, and for that I’m extremely grateful.  Being all together is a rarity now. Each time we are I feel like it is an unexpected gift, one to treasure, one which I may never have again.

We’ve raised our children all over the world. Yes, they have some roots in Florida but not all of them consider it “home.”  We’ve raised our children with the normalcy of moving every few years. It is unlikely that any of them will settle in one place for long, much less all in the same area.

Hubby’s parents have downsized through the years, and yet they have a large table in their open floorplan small home which seats ten. That is enough for them, each of their four children and their spouses.  I would need a table to seat fourteen were I to have all my children and their spouses together for the holidays. My heart is heavy, because it seems unlikely that a day like that will come when we are all together in one place once they each have families of their own.

We may have given them the gift of experiencing the world, a broad view of what life can hold. At the same time it has meant sacrifices for both us and them, sacrifices of roots and place and future close proximity.

I’m happy for the lives my older children are living. I’m so very proud of them.

And seeing this picture reminds me that, yes, they really are adults now.

Things in our family really have shifted.

Charles Hodge and Parenting

Charles Hodge and Parenting

Charles Hodge on Romans 6

The other night I was skimming Charles Hodge’s commentary on Romans (aff) and was just struck by how God relates to us as His children, and how I can follow that example with my children.

This is from the Crossway Books Classic Commentaries, page 189 commenting on Romans 6:12-23:

“As no man is free from sin, as no man can perfectly keep the commandments of God, every man who rests on his personal conformity to the law as the basis of his acceptance with God must be condemned. We are not under the law in this sense, but under grace–that is, a system of free justification. We are justified by grace, without works.

We are not under a legal dispensation, requiring personal conformity to the law and entire freedom from sin, past and present, as the condition of our acceptance; but we are under a gracious dispensation, according to which God dispenses pardon freely and accepts the sinner as a sinner, for Christs’s sake, without works or merit of his own. Whoever is under the law, in the sense just explained, is not only condemned, but he is bound by a legal or slavish spirit. What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment. But he who is under grace, who is freely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit. The principle of obeying him is love and not fear.

Here, as everywhere else in the Bible, it is assumed that the favor of God is in our life. We must be reconciled to Him before we can be holy: we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him.”

My Reflections Related to Parenting

“God. . .accepts the sinner as a sinner”
I know this to be true with God accepting me, and now I want to really just ACCEPT my children as who they are. I want to provide a “safe place to fall” for my kids, where they know they are accepted as they are, even when they sin. I know my parents have lived that out towards my siblings and me.

“What he does, he does as a slave, to escape punishment.”
I don’t want my children to be doing things out of fear, simply to escape punishment.

“But he who is under grace, who is freely accepted by God and restored to his favor, is a child of God living under his Spirit.”
This is the part of the passage that first drew my attention to asking how I can relate this to me and my children, copying God as my Father.

“The principle of obeying him is love and not fear.”
Again, I don’t want it to be fear of me or fear of punishment that compels my children to obedience. But of love. Just as, truly, my obedience (imperfect though it may be) to God is out of a desire to please Him and out of love.

“we must feel that He loves us before we can love Him.”
I read a survey once that said something like 90% of kids knew their parents loved them, but only 30% FELT that their parents loved them. I want to really nurture my children, and have them FEEL loved by me and my husband.



(Originally posted January 2004)

Parenting and the Westminster Divines

Parenting and the Westminster Divines

Presbyterian Catechising, by John Phillip (c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation


From a Christian History Corner article:

In their teaching on the fifth commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother … “), the Calvinist divines who authored the Westminster Larger Catechism (1648) extended the terms “father” and “mother” to cover all relations of “superior” to “inferior” persons. Like Benedict’s rule, the questions dealing with parental responsibilities and failures reflects a balanced, wise treatment of the subjects of authority and discipline…

Q. 129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?

A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honour to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?

A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, and inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favouring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good; correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonouring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behaviour.

I find this a striking passage. Parents, the catechism is saying, sin against their children when they “correct them unduly,” “provoke them to wrath,” or slip into any other “unjust … rigorous … behavior.” Are you surprised, as I was, to see the tendency toward parental strictness (which I possess) decidedly not recommended or reinforced by these supposedly strict Calvinists? Frankly, as I read through this section of the catechism, I both said “ouch” repeatedly, and asked for God’s grace to come more closely into alignment with the biblical standard.

I’m feeling convicted.

May God enable us to parent our children with wisdom and grace.

(Originally posted June 26, 2004)

Advent: Our Family Nature Walk Tradition

Two children on the shore of a lake picking up nature treasures.

Gathering treasures for our Advent wreath, 2017

The best family traditions often grow organically, rather than through our careful planning. 

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, our family will take a nature walk and gather “nature treasures” with which to make our Advent wreath.   This tradition began when we lived in Ukraine and could not find a premade wreath of natural or artificial Christmas greens.

Four small boys on a couch, with an Advent wreath on a coffee table.

Kyiv, 2004

That year the boys were in preschool and early elementary grades.  We lived on the 16th floor of a “post-soviet ant farm” high rise apartment in the Kharkivskyi Masyv area of Kyiv.  We took a walk in the cold, gathered our greens, and made our wreath.  I remember what a triumph it was that year when my friend Laura and I were actually able to find purple and pink candles! (The year before I think I settled for all red. . .)

Warm glow of Christmas tree in the background, four brothers, advent wreath and nativity in the foreground.

Florida, 2005

When we moved back to Florida, we again made our Advent wreath from found nature treasures.  We had an oak tree in our yard and a magnolia tree not far away.  At first this was done as a frugality measure, but then our annual nature walk became a tradition.

Florida, 2006

It continued in D.C., Kenya, Ukraine again, and the Bahamas. . . Each year’s wreath reflecting our local fauna and the nature items that attracted the children’s eyes.

When we first began, I did not know that it would grow in to one of my most treasured family traditions and memories.


Father and daughter by an evergreen tree and lake.

Nassau, 2017

White plate with tropical found nature treasures making a wreath. Four candles, three purple and one pink, in improvised rice and bottle candle holders.

Our Bahamas Advent Wreath 2017

If you do not yet have your own family traditions for Advent, I invite you to join us in taking a nature walk, making a simple wreath at home, and choosing daily Advent readings and hymns.  I made this Advent calendar for my sons away at college, so that they can be doing the same readings we are at home.  I’m happy to share it with you.

Other resources:
TulipGirls’ 2018 Advent Calendar
TulipGirl Advent Really Old Archives
TulipGirl Advent Not So Old Archives
Jesse Tree Devotionals by Kristen Knox Stewart  (Alt link)
Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems
Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Calendar
Thinking Kids Advent Calendar
DIY Advent Calendar

I’d love to see what you are doing this year for Advent!

Around a table, lit Advent wreath, three teen boys and a toddler girl.

Reading the nativity story on Christmas morning.

Parenting and Reformed Theology

Parenting and Reformed Theology

This week I joined in some interesting conversations with other moms about parenting and Reformed and Covenantal theology.

At one point I wanted to reference the Westminster Confession of Faith and how in impacted me and my parenting, and searched through the old TulipGirl archives.

I love that I have records of my thoughts and learnings through the years because of blogging. (And it makes me sad that I haven’t been consistent with it through the years. I blame FB.)

While a lot of my archives were eaten by gremlins, some of the old posts remain.   Here are links to some of the Mommy-Encouragement Files that I reread this week:

Parenting and the Westminster Divines (2004)

Charles Hodge and Parenting (2004)

Prayer and Parenting (2005)

Restoring Gently and Bearing Burdens (2017, 2005)

Adoption and Condemnation (2005)

To the Least of These (2004)

The T in TULIP and Children (2005)

Islam and the Rod (2004)

When I Give Advice (2017)

Schedule an Event

Whether it is facilitating a workshop or speaking to a group, I'm available to help you develop practical skills to help you connect with your teens.  


Always happy to do audio, video, or written interviews on topics related to connecting with teens, covenant theology, and expat living.  tulipgrrl@gmail.com

Reach out

I love connecting with friends -- old and new.  Feel free to email.  I try to respond quickly.  Try.  tulipgrrl@gmail.com

Hi, I'm Alexandra.
I write to encourage us as we become the people God has created us to be -- especially in the realms of nurturing our children and using our talents right where we are.

Six kids. INFP. Reformed & covenantal. Liberty & justice for all. Speaker. Current project: Helping parents connect with teens.

I started blogging as TulipGirl in 2004. Tech crashes and life derailed the site. The archives are gone, but I'm glad to be back.

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From the Archives