My baby was going to kindergarten. So sweet and precocious, kind and spunky. New backpack on and nervous smile flickering beneath enormous blue eyes.

Actually it was just kindergarten orientation. But she didn’t care. It counted as a first day of real school to her.

We hopped in the van and made our way to school. The teacher welcomed us with a hug and a smile. We knew her well. She had taught Abbie’s older siblings and Abbie already knew Mrs. Ireland’s favorite color and favorite animal. She had the inside track.

Abbie and I picked up our checklist and began making our way around the classroom.

Can you find your locker? Check
Find your tote tray and color the picture. Check 

Find the bathroom. Check
Did you wash your hands? Check

She proudly walked the room and made it her own. The teacher called the kids to the front and began to read them a story while the parents went to an orientation of their own. As the principal calmed the worried “first time” parents my mind wandered.

I remembered feeling so nervous two short years before watching my first baby, Stephen, get on the bus. I had been close to a panic wondering ... would he find his way? Would he make friends? Would he mind the teacher?

It was a different experience this year. I was confident. Excited for the opportunities and adventures awaiting her. I knew Abbie would be fine. She would find her way. She would make friends. She would probably mind the teacher.

That afternoon Abbie was playing in her room while I worked on a Bible study. She was carrying her favorite toy around (a small notebook with a pencil) and pretending her own version of kindergarten. She paced the room finding things and checking them off her list.

She approached me with a new sheet of paper.
Mom. I wanna do a checklist for you.
Not right now honey, I need to finish up.
Please mom. Just a few.
Ok. Just a few.

She looked down at her little pretend list and pretended to read.

Do you think God is a good guy or a bad guy?
I paused. Really? What is this about?
Good guy, I said.

She tightly gripped her pencil and drew a large backwards checkmark across the top of her list.


Does God do good things or bad things?

I now started to feel the Holy Spirit waking me up. He was whispering – what do you think, Rachel? What do you really think?

Tears were filling my eyes and I answered, Good things. 


Do you love God?



Do you love Jesus?


Do you trust the Holy Spirit? 

Thanks mom. That’s it.

Hey Abs? Can I have that paper? Sure Mom. Good job!
And she went on her way.

There’s something about a child looking you in the eye and asking you if you trust the Holy Spirit. It was one of those moments that seared into my heart. To proclaim that I love God, I love Jesus, I trust the Holy Spirit. Out loud. Face to face.

I slid the checklist in my Bible and it’s stayed there. Between Psalm 2-4, the verses I was studying.

That was Sept of 2010. I would soon find myself resting on those truths I had professed.


He gives hope

When Clara was in the middle of her chemo regimen I stopped on the way home to pick up a few groceries.  She walked the aisles with me gamely and had agreed that she could make the trip.  But after we checked out she looked up and me and told me she couldn’t walk anymore.  

By the carts at the door I put down my bags and picked her up.  I cradled her as she laid her head on my shoulder.  She was nearly bald.  Emaciated.  Pale and often tired.  Everything was a struggle.  

“I might throw up,” she whispered.  

The automatic doors in front of me opened and closed.  People came in and out with each blast of cold - every single one looked at me holding her.  

No one offered to help.

I couldn’t use a cart because the snow on the ground made pushing one with her in it impossible.  I couldn’t carry both the groceries and her.  

I began to pray.  Jesus.  You know I need help.  She needs help.  I can’t get her to the car with these groceries.  I can’t leave her alone.  I am desperate.  Send someone.  Anyone.  

No one came.  

After my arms started to wear out I asked her if she could walk to the car.  She walked.  She made it and she was fine.  

I was not fine.  

I was enraged.  

God had been merciful, kind, generous.  We were covered and surrounded by friends and family and a church that was the body of Christ in every sense.  Why withhold this?  

I got home and was surprised by my raw and intense anger.  If you had asked me 3 hours earlier I would have said that I was not angry - just weary.  But here I was and this emotion didn’t come out of thin air.  

Eventually, over the next year, I dealt with my anger.  God was sweet and merciful in letting me walk through a season of wrestling.  

And even though I came to terms with my anger, every time I remember that scene in Target, it hurts my feelings.  I experience that wound all over again when I close my eyes and watch those doors open and shut.  I really felt abandoned in that Target entry.  

What was that about, Lord?  

I’ve been studying the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the way they were subjected to cruel treatment.  The word used in Exodus is “anah.”  It means to be “bowed down or afflicted.”  

I’m fascinated by the timing of the “anah.”  It was an ordained time.  The Hebrews were slaves for 400 years.  When at last their cries were heard there wasn’t an immediate release.  There was a process God was walking them and Pharaoh through.  A process involving great pain and tragedy.  

It climaxed in the first Passover.  Blood over doorways announcing to the heavens that they would be saved.  Blood that protected and provided.  A smelly and vivid symbol of grace and forgiveness.  

I imagine sometimes what would have happened if the Israelites had run at the first whisper of freedom from Moses.  If instead of requesting their freedom by the power of Yahweh they had named and claimed it - stealing away at night.  But it was God's way and God's timing.  

And then I discovered this:  Sometimes, it’s even God who employs “anah.”  

In Deuteronomy 8:2-5 it says ...

2 “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has bled you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  3 “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.  4 “Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.  5 “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.

God “anah-ed” (humbled) the Israelites.  He let them be hungry.  He let them walk and walk and walk.  
He let me stand in that cold entryway with my sick baby.

It hurts to stand there.  It hurts to stand in the emptiness and the hunger.  It’s hard to walk in the wilderness when you know that God can make the mountains into highways.  

Secreted inside the verse is the protection within the “anah” of God - because it is from a Father who loves His child.  God doesn’t persecute - He humbles.  God doesn’t treat us as enemies or with sibling rivalry - He reaches down as a loving parent.  

The Israelites were given manna every day.  They never were dehydrated and their clothes never wore out.  

I made it to the car with Clara and all my groceries.  

Psalm 119:75
75 I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, 
And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. 

I’ve come to see that there is a hope within the anah.  Hidden though it is, there is a faithfulness within the affliction.  

Romans 8:18-20

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

It’s how God works - He puts things under subjection to futility (emptiness).  We don’t want to go under futility because we want fulfillment.  He will show us emptiness so that we can have hope and seek true filling.  It is not subjection to emptiness without hope.  He always provides the hope.  

An Anah from God is a humbling with hope. 

I have lifted this old memory up to the Lord and asked - why?  Why let me stand in the cold when I asked in faith for help for my sweet sick girl?  

He showed me that I needed to feel the futility to push me to find the true hope.  

The love and help I received from our church, family, friends, and neighbors while Clara was sick had served to put a gauze over some pretty large and deep wounds in my heart.  As long as my family’s needs were met and the Lord was good during the trial I could go on.  But when the bandage wasn’t applied at that Target entryway - the deep mama bear wound was revealed.  

I didn’t even know it was there.  My rage surprised me, but it didn’t surprise God.  He let that moment serve as a flashlight to show me that there was something much bigger for us to deal with.  

God knew that there was a deep well of anger within me that needed to cry out to the deep of His mercy.  It was alleviated by the constant care and soothed into silence by the support of people, but my soul needed to cry out deeper.  I needed to wrestle.  I needed to address the futility of living in this world and as long as my physical needs were met I was loathe to poke the bear of my fierce anger.  

Not meeting that need, letting the “anah” fall, allowed the light to shine on the deeper issues.  

Only then does the hope come.  

Paul writes in Romans 5:

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Years ago I sat with a woman who had suffered much.  We were speaking about this Romans verse and wondering why hope is last.  It seems like those who are suffering need the hope first.  Not last.  After mulling it over we sat in the dissonance of unanswered questions.  Shrugging our shoulders we let the question be.  

Both of us have walked enough roads to know that some questions need time, not answers.  
Recently I have come to find a small glimpse of why the hope is last.  The infinitely wise Parent has let us struggle against our humanity, writhe and wrestle, to help us understand the futility we are under.  It’s the story we live. Slowly He lets us come to the realization that in our own selves we are lacking.  

He doesn’t just tell us, He shows us.  

Sweetly and gently, never once letting our shoes wear out on the journey.  

And then He delivers with a beautiful stroke over the doorway - Hope.  Letting us stand within our futility, having endured the anah of this life, understanding our desperate need for Him to heal our deep wounds - 

He says “look up, child.”  The covering of the blood of the lamb.  Hope eternal poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  

He gives hope.  


Period Party

It all started with a puberty video.  Actually, the announcement of the puberty video.  In the school district we live in the kids in 4th grade watch a clip with their own gender that details some of the changes their bodies go through during puberty.  I went to a screening of the movie and found it to be very well done, quite benign, clear and concise.

 But as I sat in the back of the elementary school library I had this feeling that I wanted more than a kind teacher guiding my girls in such a major discussion.  My memory stirred and I remembered a book I had read last summer that described a sort of ‘period party’ for girls and moms.  Right there in the paperback fiction section I decided to take the leap.  I decided to have a Period Party.

I sent out an email detailing my goals and the itinerary to hand-picked girls and their moms from our church.

Yeah, it was weird.  Thank heaven for grace.

Here were my goals:

  • Education - let’s get the facts out there and answer questions
  • Community - by broaching this topic publicly I wanted to create an open environment with the girls and with the girls moms.  If I’m not present (or even in favor that day) but another one of these moms is, I pray my girls will go to them with questions or needs.  
  • Set the tone - I know periods aren’t fun to talk about, but I was hoping that by introducing it with lots of fun and openness it could be seen something amazing that God put in place in our bodies.  Not an annoying monthly problem.  

And here was the itinerary:

5:30 - arrive and eat pizza/salad
6 - start baby videos
Video One  - a fun youtube clip of babies laughing
Video Two  - a youtube clip of a baby forming in the womb,(start from 2min 30 sec in to 5 min)
6:15 - handout and go over a list of facts - answer questions
6:30 - show all the gear, let girls make their own emergency packs
6:45 - movie and popcorn

Things went differently than I had planned.

My girls delivered a bit of a rocky start as they were less than pleased at my initiative.  In the weeks leading up the party I had explained to them that we were having a gathering of girls to talk about some of the changes that happen to girls bodies during puberty.  About 30 minutes before the party I walked through the schedule and gave them the details.  We had talked about periods before, but to talk about such things publicly?  They were appalled.  One of them refused to look at or talk to me, the other gave me a lot of feisty verbal feedback.

Que the doorbell.

My girls were soon chatting and playing and forgot about how crazy their mom was.  Over pizza, the moms and I brainstormed and walked through the evening together, divvying up the parts so one mom wasn’t doing all the talking.

I was in charge of starting things up.  I set up the funny video, but we decided to skip the video of the baby forming in the womb.  One mom was concerned it would totally freak out her daughter.  Truthfully, the animation is a bit freaky.

Now, I’ve spoken publicly before, but as I stood there in front of 8 pre-pubescent girls my tongue tied up into knots.  My words fell out on top of each other, I forgot what I wanted to say, in general:  I panicked.  This crowd was not my comfort zone.  What I wanted to say was this “God created women's bodies with a uterus that is designed to carry a baby.  Not all women can carry babies, but all women have special linings in their wombs that are perfect for a baby to grow in.  Once a month, if there is not a baby in the womb, the lining is released - it’s called a Period.”

What I really said was “wha, wha, wha, wha, wha ....”  (imagine Charlie Brown’s teacher).

Bless my friend’s hearts.  They saved me.  In particular my friends Betsy and Tracie.  Betsy has the wonderful experience as an elementary school teacher.  She quickly scooped in and re-stated what I was trying to get at.  And she did it with grace and so sweetly.

Then Betsy handed out a fact sheet to all the girls.  Together we went through the facts and let the girls ask questions as we came to them.  At first the room was pretty quiet, but soon enough they opened up.  Their questions were fantastic!

After the fact sheet we moved to the kitchen were I had a tray full of period paraphernalia.  Tracie was in charge of this section of the night.  My sweet friend Tracie who helps run a summer camp and can talk to kids about anything.  She pulled out different kinds of pads, tampons, underwear, and then cups of water, a baster, a spray gun to show how the water gets absorbed.  The first demonstration was a pad and how to put it on underwear.  We walked through disposal as well.

Then - tampons.

I was nervous about this part.  I mean, tampons?  These girls still play with their American Girl dolls.  In anticipation of the party I talked with different moms of teen girls about introducing this and got their pros and cons.  As a group we moms decided to go ahead and teach about tampons but stressed that using them was a personal decision that girls make with their moms.  And then with a deep breath we dove in.

Tracie tried to talk the girls through how a tampon is used but they were looking a bit confused.  Finally, Betsy reached across the table and put her hand in the shape of a circle and let Tracie push a tampon through.  Then they got it.

I was blushing like mad.  The girls were giggling.

And then we all started our own conversations with our daughters or the girl closest to us.  (One on one I did fine, thank goodness).  It was SO very dear to my heart to watch my little girls ask Betsy, Tracie, and other moms questions.  I loved talking to other girls and encouraging them with smiles and reassurances.

Then we let the girls play.  They took the water and squirt guns and laughed and chatted.   It was sweet and endearing.  And I was relieved.  Each mom had prepared  an emergency kit in a little bag for the girls to take with them in their backpacks.  Some moms went through the packs right then with their daughters, some waited to talk through the packs when they got home.

We didn’t end up having time for a movie.  The conversations went the entire two hours. When leaving the house one girl thanked me and said “I feel like I can handle this, now.”

The best part was after everyone left and my girls and I finished picking up.  They snuggled up with me and thanked me, asking for more times to talk about “this kind of stuff.”

If you have girls in the third or fourth grade I highly recommend the Period Party however you are comfortable.  I will attach the fact sheet we used and the invite I emailed to the other mom’s for your use.  We leaned heavily on the American Girl Body Book.  Its chapters on menstruation are very well done.

Many blessings to you as you tread into new territories as moms.  May God bless them as they grow into women who love and serve Him.


Dear friends,

I am writing to invite you and your daughter to a Period Party.  

I know.  It’s weird.  

I read about it in a book (can’t remember which one) and thought it was a fun idea.  The 196 school district is going to show the kids a puberty video this spring (4th grade and 5th grade) and so I feel like the time is now to get a jump on things.  

Here’s the general idea (see the rest of the email for the specifics):  

A group of girls roughly the same age get together for a fun evening to be introduced (some for the first time, some already have an idea) to menstruation as a way God designed women’s bodies. We will show a video of a baby forming in the womb and talk about the way the lining being released every month is a preparation.  We will give facts and answer questions, then there will be a basket of period paraphernalia for the girls to play with.  Pads, tampons, underwear to put in in, water to see the absorption ...  The girls can each make a Period Pack for emergencies to keep in their backpacks (probably for middle school).  Then we will totally change the subject and turn on a Christmas movie.  :)

The purpose is for our girls to start a community for each other.  They will all have the same info at the same time, hopefully developing a comfort level with each other so that they can talk openly and feel freedom during a somewhat awkward stage.  I am also praying that my girls will be comfortable with you as moms - that they will ask you questions if I’m not around (or because they think you’re cooler).  :)  We will NOT be talking about sex, birth and delivery, boys, dating, etc.  If someone wants to plan a Purity Party that sounds great to me.  But this night we will stick to menstruation and direct them to their parents for other issues.  


Smith’s House

A small bag (I’m using a cosmetic one)
Underwear liner
Tampons, if you wish
Some tylenol or other pain relief, in case she has some cramps
A change of underwear
A small plastic bag for soiled underwear

Here’s the agenda:

5:30 - arrive and eat pizza
6 - start baby videos
Video One (just for fun)
Video Two (start at 2 min 30 sec, cut off at 5 minutes)
6:15 - handout and go over a list of facts - answer questions
6:30 - show all the gear, let girls make their own emergency packs
(this part I was thinking we would leave them alone for, heading to the kitchen or something.  I am open to suggestions)
6:45 - movie and popcorn
(I’m thinking the movie ELF but really we can watch whatever)

PLEASE email me with comments, suggestions, or questions.  I’m a newbie and would love to hear your thoughts.  

RSVP by _______.  

Love doing this with all of you,


•  At first , the idea of getting menstrual periods may seem well sort of gross. But periods are a sign that your body is healthy and working properly. It’s preparing to do the grown-up work of having a baby someday. Every month your body practices for this by building a “nest,” a place for a baby to grow inside your uterus. The nest is a lining of blood and other fluid that builds up on the uterus walls. Because there is no baby, the lining is shed and you have a period.
•  While it may seem like a lot of blood is lost, the average cycle only produces between 10-85ml, which is around three tablespoons.
•  Day 1 of your menstrual cycle is the first day of bleeding. Each menstrual period will last anywhere from 2 to 8 days.
•  The average amount of time between menstrual cycles is 28 days, but may be longer or shorter depending on the individual (anywhere from 21-35 days is considered normal).
•  On average a girl will start menstruation at age 13 (called menarche) and will continue until she's around 51 (called menopause).  However, don’t worry if you don’t get your period when all your friends do. God has created each of us differently and His plan for your body is the best one.
•  The color of blood loss can vary from dark brown to bright red, depending on how old the blood is and how oxygen has affected it.
•  In years gone by, girls were told they could not swim, have a bath or wash their hair while they had their period. This is most certainly not true. It's important to have good hygiene at all times, especially when you have your period. And yes, you can swim, you will just need to use a tampon.
•  While many woman suffer from period pain, not all will. If your period is heavier you are more likely to have monthly pain.
•  Some nicknames for your period include: Aunty Flo, the monthly, on the rags, 'the time of the month', crimson tide, under repairs, the curse and a whole host of weird and silly things.
•  Some women who live together or spend a great deal of time together discover their cycles become in sync.
•  While a menstrual cycle may have hereditary factors, a daughter's cycle can be quite different to her mother's.
•  You can’t tell exactly when you’ll get your first period, but your body may give you clues that it’s on its way. Many girls start to menstruate about one to two years after their breasts have started developing.
•  Once you begin to menstruate regularly, you may notice some patterns in how you feel right before your period. Sometimes these physical and emotional changes are referred to as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS for short. It’s not a disease or an illness, just a natural part of your menstrual cycle.
•  PMS is caused by hormones-chemicals that are released in your body at this time. Up to two weeks before your period, your breasts may feel swollen or more tender than usual. You may also notice that your body feels heavier, even puffy and that your skin is more prone to breakouts. All of these symptoms will go away after your period begins. You may also feel cramps in your lower abdomen or back before and during your period. The cramps are because the muscles of the uterus are hard at work.
•  Your periods can also affect your moods. Some girls feel irritated, tired, grouchy and more emotional in the days leading up to your period. If you find that your feelings are more intense during this time, know that this is perfectly normal. But when you are feeling extra edgy, try not to unleash your frustration on family and friends. Instead, try talking to them about how you feel.
•  The best remedies for premenstrual aches and pains are fairly simple. A warm bath or a hot-water bottle laid over your tummy can help soothe cramps. If headaches, backaches or cramps make you feel crummy, there is medicine at the drugstore that you can take. Be sure to talk to your mom to see what she recommends first.  To help lift your spirits and lighten your mood it helps to stay active. Regular exercise has been proven to help people relieve stress and lighten moods.


Elementary school, the Internet, and safety (oh my!)

It didn’t take long for my kids to discover that there is a great big world wide web.  By first grade the words google, mine craft, and youtube were in their vocabulary.  By the third grade, they wanted access like I had wanted a cabbage patch doll.  And they wanted it now.  

As technology changes at lightning speed, it’s taken me a while to get my bearings.  How would we navigate this new territory?  It was way past monitoring screen time.  

As I prayed about it I felt God whisper to me “it’s an ocean.  Teach them to swim.”  

And our strategy formed.  I sat down my oldest at age 9 and told him that the internet is like an ocean - big, deep, and full of things that he couldn’t defend himself against.  As his parents, we wanted to teach him to swim and because we loved him there was no way we would drop him off in the middle of the atlantic without a boat, life vests, or knowing how to swim.  

So we would start in the shallows.  

Swimming lessons -
Basic lessons about internet usage are important.  Don’t assume that they know things because they use the vernacular.  We had to explain that Google is not a dictionary.  Or that just because you hit delete doesn’t mean it disappears.  

Learn about undertows -
Undertows are currents that pull you underwater.  We’ve all ended up pinning something on Pinterest and looked up two hours later.  For kids, lots of the games and social media are designed to hook them and some will even penalize them for leaving.  Talking about the mesmerizing nature before they get sucked in assists awareness and has helped my kids separate when their time is up.  

Have Fun! -
Remember how you used to run around the neighborhood playing Cops and Robbers?  Or set up a huge fort for a game of War that would never materialize?  Some online games and activities can serve a similar function for elementary schoolers.  Just as a game of King of the Mountain would be talked about amongst kids all day when you were a kid, now kids talk about what they built on Minecraft or what they saw on YouTube.  

Remember FOMO?  It's real, people.  Help your kids out and let them be a part of the community that will naturally take place.  Find safe ways to let them interact with friends online or to talk about their progress in a game.  

Check the weather and set a course -
Before sitting down at the computer teach them to think about (and even say aloud) why they are on it.  Is it to play a game?  Or perhaps things have been a little rocky and they are looking for an escape.  Are they curious about something and hoping to gain some information?  Homework?  Boredom?

Keeping a clear plan encourages thoughtfulness.  It’s not bad to get on the internet when you’re bored, but it may be easier to drift into some rocky seas.  Homework is a great reason to be on the computer, but if they find themselves off course somewhere it’s good to have that jolt “oh, I was supposed to be …”  

Time to move a little deeper? 
When my kids will thoughtfully explore ideas in multimedia and demonstrate that they can find an escape route, I am more comfortable letting them have freer access to the internet.  Messages in popular songs are great for this.  We don’t need a deep conversation - just a chuckle together about something silly in a lyric. For example, the words in Brave by Sara Borealis are “say what you wanna say, let the words fall out …” I asked my kids, “Is it really wise to say everything that does into your head?”  My 4th grade daughter replied, “no, but the song is saying that if you are being bullied it’s important to speak up.” It’s encouraging to know when they can recognize and discuss content.  Trust begins to build.

We started by allowing hardly any access to the web.  Literally 3 webpages (Webkinz, their elementary school page, spelling city).  As they started to show maturity in other things (discussing book, music, and television content) we began to allow more websites that they specifically requested (minecraft, chess.com, other tetris-y game sites).  YouTube will most likely be the very last site we give unrestricted access to, though we definitely show them fun videos.  Last night we all laughed ourselves silly watching Brodie Smith play ultimate frisbee.  

Be a lighthouse -
Seeing something offensive, following curiosity too far, being fooled by advertising - all these are common in the ocean of the internet and difficult to completely insulate your kids from.   When they run into these storms they will need a lighthouse to find their way home.  Be that lighthouse.  Be a safe harbor where conversations are open and forgiveness and grace are served.  

If they don’t seek out help and need to be pulled into safety, don’t overreact, don’t feel that all is lost or hopeless.  With Jesus there is no such thing as hopeless.  There is redemption and restoration.  King David declared God could make him white as snow after adultery and murder.  Take this opportunity to help them learn about the ways light always overcomes the darkness.  


Lock your front door
Put a filter on your internet.  You can establish it to block adult content easily and freely with opendns.com.  The filter can be as tight as you want and will work on any devise that uses your internet.

Set logins
You can customize each child's access to their needs with separate logins.  Don’t be afraid to use parental controls.

Restrict access at friends/neighbors
It’s not safe at friends houses for kids unless you have had detailed conversations with their parents.  Lots of families have no filters applied to their internet and are naive to what their kids are into - or perhaps their kids are already expert swimmers while yours are still learning.  

Be a snoop
Remember that they are kids and need you to help them if they are in a dangerous situation.  Occasionally check their web history.  Set up their chat/messaging and email so that a carbon copy is sent to your accounts.  

Watch the online chats
Kids like to chat online with each other during games.  Check the usernames and find out if they are people your kids know in real life if the conversation is anything more than basic communication.  Make sure that your child can access the "this is offensive" button that is on nearly every game.  Then snoop.  Get on their login and read the chats.  If nothing else you'll start to get comfortable with the new-fangled slang kids use these days.