I Admire You, Fellow Mom

I see you handling that tantrum compassionately.

I see you encouraging your child to be polite and well mannered.

I see you unpacking that healthy lunch that took alot of prep.

I see you letting your kid be a kid; a loud, noisy, wild kid, in an appropriate place for it.

I see sometimes when your child doesn’t respond the way you want but that’s ok because I see you trying.

I want to say good job or you seem like a great mom, I want to compliment you but…you know…kids. Usually by the time i’ve had a quiet enough moment to process you have already left, moved on, gone. And sometimes I get in my way, I wonder if you’d think i’m weird for complimenting you and I decide its safer not to.

I know you want the same things I do, you need to hear you are doing a good job sometimes, and I want to tell you, I really do but most of the time I don’t. I’m working on that, maybe you are too.

There are probably lots of days another mom is admiring your parenting handiwork and just to rushed, shy, jealous or distracted to say so but you still need to hear it. You are doing a good job. If you have kids that are loved and safe and happy (mostlyish) then you are doing a good job.

 

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Teaching my Kids Truth AND Tolerance

Our society loves to throw around the word tolerance. It’s become synonomous with “accepting everything as right or true”. Sorry folks, you need to break out the dictionary because tolerance only deals with how much you can put up with an opposing view point, it does not in anyway mean you accept it as valid. [Actual Definition: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”]

I want my kids to be tolerant but also not to accept false things in the name of “tolerance”. It’s a tricky path but for the Christian a 100% necessary one. Jesus preached against adultery but still loved the sinners caught in it. I love alot of people I disagree with but that does not change that they are wrong (just like people who love me when i’m wrong). Being tolerant of their views can NOT look the same as agreeing with their views, I can not knowingly support something that is wrong but I CAN knowingly love someone who is wrong. I am called to love my fellow sinners. I am raising my children in a society that hates truth (because truth is offensive to those who live in contradiction to it) and it would be poor parenting on my part to let everyone else’s desire for political correctness overshadow truth.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Disney’s Mulan when the emperor says, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it.” Truth is unchanging, it is not a societal construct that can be changed to suit our moods.

I am raising my children not to speak about things they do not understand (the opposite of our culture which encourages children, and adults for that matter, to speak loudly and frequently regardless of whether they have any actual understanding of a topic). We forget that freedom of speech is not a compulsion to speak! They will not be jumping into the bandwagon with the Argumentum ad Populum crowd and proclaiming they know best because “a whole bunch of other people agree so it must be true!”. I see this far too often but popular does not equal correct.

My children are being taught to think for themselves but to make sure those thoughts are backed by facts before they share them. I was taught to think for myself but also to have deferrence for facts and life experience and wisdom and I am thankful for that, in fact without an open mind AND closed mouth I may have never become a Christian. People can only hear what they understand but they can only understand what they stop to actually hear. I want my children to grow up listening, knowing they can speak up anytime they need, but having the maturity not to always exercise that right.

Our society has created so many false dicotohmies that sometimes it seems like there are only two choices: religion or science, republican or democrat, christian or atheist, pro this, anti that, the list could go a while but there is no actual duel between truth and tolerance, in fact I think they coexist perfectly, you can know and speak truth AND be tolerant of others views. Telling someone you think they are wrong is not actually an act of aggression, in fact, if done for the right reasons, in the right way, it is an act of love!

Disagree, people, stand up for what you believe in but don’t hate those who disagree with you. The hatred in our society is an overwhelming force. Don’t participate simply because it’s popular.

 

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Success, Parenting & the Gifted Child

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If you clicked this link hoping to get insight into all the ways to make your gifted child even more awesome or even to hear some parenting tips for those “unique” challenges…you clicked the wrong link.

First, I want you to understand my qualifications for writing this and to do that I need to tell you a little story:

Let me introduce you to two real people and where they were at various life stages:

Elementary School: 

  • He is a good student.
  • She is an excellent student in gifted programs, winning every award under the sun.

High School: 

  • He is now a poor student maintaining a GPA only high enough for athletic eligibility and not much else, his plans include moving from McDonalds to UPS and briefly attending community college before dropping out.
  • She is a 4.0 Valedictorian graduating early and offered numerous scholarships to many schools, including the full ride she will take.

Post Graduation: 

  • He finally tires of menial jobs, joins the USAF and goes to a four year school along the way, surprising himself with the fact that as a more mature adult he is able to maintain a very high GPA and graduate with honors.
  • She lands an internship her freshman year which leads to a job as the youngest paralegal in state history by sophmore year. When she determines it’s not her passion she changes colleges and majors and graduates a few years later with the highest honors wearing enough cords and sashes to look like a Christmas tree.

Career: 

  • After the Air Force, he goes on to write a book for a national publishing agency and become employed by one of the most prestigious organizations in the country.
  • She goes on to become a Kindergarten teacher…before staying home with her kids and occasionally writing an unpaid blog for fun.

Student Loans: 

  • He has none, the few thousand not covered by the USAF has long since been paid off
  • She had no loans those first few years when she was pursuing a degree in something she wasn’t passionate about but transferring to the right school meant no eligibility for incoming freshman scholarships and the tiny transfer ones left most of her tuition unpaid. She will be paying on student loans for years to come.

Which one was the genius? Well she is…or… I am. I have a genius level iq and spent my entire life in gifted programs, told by every teacher and professor what a gifted mind I possess. My husband, the “he” in this story, I contend is actually as smart or smarter but aside from pointless academia there’s rarely a reason to take an iq test so I guess we’ll never know (he is far to humble and claims it not so).

We have two children of our own and I can assure you I don’t plan on commenting on their intelligence levels publically now, if ever. I don’t care if they have iqs off the charts because at the end of the day, intelligence is only one tool. Today “gifted” is thrown around, every parent believes their child to be abnormally intelligent and yet… they can’t all be. But so what if they aren’t? So what if they are? Does a child need to be labeled “gifted” to succeed? By society’s definition my husband is FAR more successful than I am or possibly ever will be. (By my own definition I am successful because I am happy but that’s another story.)

If your child is gifted…don’t make that their defining character trait. Don’t let them get by with murder because you think they are the future Bill Gates. Don’t ride them and pressure them because you want them to win a Nobel prize. Remember that their intelligence level IS a gift, it is part of them but is not them, were a head injury to take that from them tomorrow I can only assume you would still love them the same. If they are gifted that is great but it does not guarantee, or even strongly correlate, to success (check out the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell if you don’t believe me).

If your child is NOT gifted, at least by society’s scholastic standards (and there are so many other ways to be gifted and talented) then take heart, that IQ score, those test grades, honors, awards, even high school and college GPAs…well they tend to come out in the wash. Don’t let them phone it in and purposefully underachieve but don’t stress if they aren’t the “best” either. Success is not measured by those scores or grades. It is something far more complex, but guess what even by the most shallow and superficial of standards your child may still blow those others out of the water (my husband did, and is a good person to boot). I say again to you: success is not caused by or even strongly correlated to iq, if you don’t believe me either just read the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell)

I want to end by saying: Your children are listening. When you talk about them to others what are they hearing first (i.e. most important)? Are they hearing how smart they are? How successful they are going to be? Or are they hearing about their character? Who they are as people? Your well meaning praise of them may be putting undue pressure on them, your focus on the type of intelligence measured by a test may make them feel like less of a person, more of a number. Is that what you want them to hear? 

 

 

See, looking every bit like the KIND of future success everyone expected from me…

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I’m much happier with the kind of successful I became 😀

Ladies: No One Cares About Your House

When I first got married we hosted less than once a year. Why? Because it was stressful to try and make our tiny, cramped apartment seem welcoming and clean for guests. The amount of cleaning and prepping required to get it “presentable” was overwhelming and even then it was not a place I felt proud of, not when most of our young newlywed friends had houses and matching dishes and curtains and this list could go a while! (We eloped so we started life with my college stuff and his bachelor stuff instead of the usual registry fare.)

The next apartments were no better: small, clean, but still kind of a cluttered mish mosh that always looked a little disheveled. I told myself it would be better/easier/different to host when we get a new place/buy nicer things/ have more time to clean/etc…. this list could also go a while.

Meanwhile, despite being active in our church, involved in life groups, and friendly with many people we personally were feeling very isolated and lonely as a couple. We felt on the outside of everything and struggled to develop deeper friendships with those around us.

I didn’t connect the two issues…yet.

After yet another move to a 4th apartment in 5 years I got serious about developing relationships for our family. I decided to risk embarrasment at our little 2 bedroom with the mismatched, cluttered furniture and toys strewn about. My husband and I reasoned we could somehow host with our postage stamp size kitchen and when we couldn’t we’d order pizza! We began hosting a life group in our home, we pulled folding chairs into our living room and set out tv dinner trays to make up for our lack of dining space then we took a deep breath and opened the door. Each time the same things occured: people came, enjoyed themselves and the fellowship and left…. no one seemed to care about our apartment!

Two years later we would find ourselves blessed with our first home. This 1 bathroom, 1 story house still boasts dated wood paneling, old cheap countertops and most of the same mismatched furniture we’ve been carting around for years! But it is also a place we fill with love every single day, it’s the home I brought my daughter to from the hospital, where my son was potty trained, where my kids have their very own yard.

We open our home alot now, as often as we can actually! We love hosting meals for friends even though we don’t have a kitchen table! (My father in law is actually remedying this with another previously loved furniture addition to our home in a few weeks :D!). When I learned to stop caring what my house looked like and start focusing on the PEOPLE in it I realized that no one else cared about my house all along! They are usually to busy laughing to notice the stains on the carpet and too busy enjoying good food to care if it’s on paper plates or not.

So to the women in apartments, houses, trailers or whatever who find themselves hesitating to host that party or have those friends over because your home could never be in a pottery barn catalog… DO IT!!!

When you avoid those opportunities you are hurting your ability to grow relationships, you are missing opportunities to share life and you are robbing yourself and others of precious memories.

As I sit writing this while my kids play this is my honest to goodness view, I figured it was only fair to snap it without moving, picking anything up or…caring! So here’s it is in all it’s messy glory, complete with the everpresent sprinkling of toys!

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Parenting is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The funny thing about training for a 100 yard dash and a marathon is that there would be some areas of overlap because both require your body to be in running shape but they would look very different in other areas because the end goals are so different. In the sprint you only need an explosive burst that can take you very fast for a fairly short time, in a marathon you need to run at less than your maximum speed for a very long time. A sprint and a marathon are not the same thing and a sprinter would be ill prepared for a successful marathon if they trained the same as usual.

Here’s the thing though: Parenting is a marathon. It just is, it’s a race that requires stamina, distance and…time. You can’t squeeze a marthon into a half hour no matter how you try because the distance is too great, it requires patience.

The problem comes in when we try to treat parenting like a series of sprints. If I can just get my kid to behave right now in this store and not embarass me, if I can get them potty trained, doing well in school, eating better, etc, etc, etc.

When we focus on the small, short term goals and treat them like their own race instead of just a minor milestone on the course we waste energy and more importantly we may be damaging our longterm odds. We are expending unhealthy energy in a moment we don’t have too.

If you tried to run full speed everytime another runner passed you or you saw someone watching, you would exhaust yourself and most likely fail to complete the race, at best you’d be limping in with the last wave. But we do that in parenting all the time. We treat our kids with respect and love, being consistent and patient…until they make a scene in the supermarket then we lose our temper and react angrily or with bribery or by giving in, instead of patiently sticking to the pace we had set we get hurried, frazzled and race toward a short term solution…even if it hurts the long term goal.

If you can remember in that moment your kid is the only one who hasn’t done X yet or is the only teary mess at the party that this parenting thing is not defined by the short term successes and failures but the long term results you may find yourself happier and better able to shake off the occasional judgmental glance or comment.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

(I’ll admit sometimes it feels more like this obstacle race than a marathon. 😉 )

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Seasonal Friends

The title might sound like a negative thing but hear me out, I want to talk about friends who are meant to be there in various seasons of our lives, they may still be there in a less prominent way through some or all of our life but their role changes with the seasons…..and that’s a good thing.

I’ve noticed that women all around me lament not having “friends”, enough of them, close enough ones or the elusive “best” friend. And I’ve prayed, cried, worried and tried for years to find my “Friends” style friends. They would come over to my house every week, we’d go shopping and on vacation together, we’d take a pilates class and catch the latest movies. These women would surely be there with me through graduations...err engagement?…wedding?…newlywed troubles?….birth?… retirement?  maybe but so far i’ve struck out pretty big.

See, we all know that the media portrays a very unrealistic idea of relationships, we realize how silly it is to expect our husbands to act like they are in a romantic comedy and for some of us that’s actually a relief (i’d be exhausted with all those cutesy lil twists and turns!)

But did you ever realize how unrealistic the female relationships tend to be? Pop culture would have you belief that every woman finds 1-3 best friends who will be there with her from adolescence through old age and they will move from Sex & the City right on into Golden Girls handling everything in between like the women from YaYa sisterhood.

I haven’t seen it. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen because I know it does but I believe those to be the exception. The only women I know who have the same support network they’ve had since high school are sisters biologically. It’s not so common out here in the real world!

I think about my day to day existence and at times I get caught in the trap of why don’t I have a best friend? Someone who prefers my company to all others… you know besides my husband. Wait… I have my husband, we tend to forget them but he is truly my best friend in the world and somehow because he’s a male I can’t count him? I do want female friendships but I think it’s asking a little much to want that kind of commitment from anyone but him, even if tv tells me it’s so.

In youth and young adulthood this myth is easy to continue to buy in to because we are in school/college and therefore maintain close proximity to other females that creates a type of intimate familarity. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s unlikely to last. You will probably remain friends but for most of you in five years you won’t be talking daily…or weekly even and if you do monthly then good work!

I’m here to say that this is ok though. This is normal and…dare I say, healthy? I think they only thing unhealthy about growing closer to women in the same stage of life and geographic location as us is our attitude that if we don’t stay that close forever we have somehow failed or were never really friends.

I know I had a best friend in high school (and because she married my brother she is indeed my sister and friend for life!) but even being related now we’ll never have the SAME kind of relationship we did then when I could tell you everything she was thinking and probably what she ate for her last meal or exactly which shirt was her current favorite. She will always be my friend though because I always know we will have each others backs even if we haven’t talked in forever except on facebook…and that’s ok!

I had close friends in college, different ones in different years, for a while I basically lived in my friend Shannon’s room then my friend Cristie’s and then when I transferred schools I hung out with the same group of education majors almost every class. These ladies are still my friends but we don’t have the kind of relationship we did then…and that’s ok!

I had friends at work too, my fellow teachers were there to support me and pray for me and help me through some tough stuff! Leaving my baby at daycare the first time, pregnancy again, maternity leave, they even let me cry on their shoulders when I had to leave my 2 yr old overnight for the first time ever for a training. (Yes i cried even though he was just home with dad, sue me :)) In the year I have been home I have obviously talked with them alot less but I still count them as friends, our relationship just changed….and that’s ok!

Now I am in the phase of my life where I spend most of my time with fellow stay at home moms or moms from my son’s classes at church. We see each other weekly, talk about the struggles and joys of parenting small people. We are friends and the fact that we haven’t been that way since childhood or that we may not still talk every week five years from now does not diminish our friendship.

I’ve spent to much time worrying about the relationships I don’t have and feeling inadequate because I lacked them. I have lamented to my husband on numerous occasions that maybe I lack some female trait (He is still friends with guys from middle school on up because guys relationships are a totally different creature) . There must be something wrong with me that I can’t cultivate and maintain the mythical best friend relationship. Then I decided to stop. Stop worrying about what category of friend I was and think about what kind of friend I wanted to be.

I started reaching out to women more often, planning social things, joining groups & not taking rejections personally and I realized…I have friends, they are good friends and i’m thankful God has put them in my life, even if it’s only for a season!

 

Fun Fact: my hair is basically the same as it was in high school…and college… and most of my childhood. 😉

 

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You have a Christmas Complex

Some people have a Christmas inferiority complex, some have a superiority complex and alot manage to have both but it seems Moms across the nation have a complex when it comes to Christmas. If you doubt me go look at ANY article dealing with a Christmas tradition like Santa or that Elf and you will find moms attacking one another and anger abounding.

Some think you are evil if you “steal magic” from your kids by not doing the Elf or Santa, others think you are promoting dishonesty by doing Santa or the Elf. Others say there is a “right” number and type of presents (tired of hearing: want, need, wear, read anyone?). Some think the more the merrier and some think we should just say “no” to gifts altogether.

None of this is right or wrong because it’s all just different ways to do the same thing: celebrate.

As a Christian I am alot more worried about WHAT we are celebrating than how.

We are celebrating the birth of a Savior, the moment that changed the course of history for all of eternity, the most selfless act mankind can ever know. 

So do you really care if your friend brings in a magical man in a red suit or a historically accurate portrayal of the man Saint Nicholas or a kinda creepy lil elf doll? Does it matter if I do “Truth in Tinsel”, “What God Wants for Christmas” AND “Adornaments” with my children instead, does that make us more holy somehow? I admit I have a complex too, I am overwhelmed by the complexity of a holiday meant to celebrate the most simple beginning in history. He came as a babe. No OBGYN, no midwife, no golden throne, no sterile hospital, no 5 piece layette, no royal artists to capture the moment. He was born in the least remarkable way and the truth he came to bring was simple. Simple but lifechanging. Christ is the only way to God, to truth, to heaven, to life; real, abundant, everlasting life. 

Can we focus on that?

I am not a “good secular mom”, I don’t do the elf, I don’t do Santa, I don’t do shoes left out or pickles in trees…heck I only give my kids one gift (and not even that as babies). [And yes I realize Christian moms do these too but I don’t see them being heralded as a benchmark for being a good Christian mom.]

I am not a “good Christian mom” either, I bought “What God Wants for Christmas” and tried to do it but my 3 year old just wanted to play with the people and so for the last year baby Jesus, the angel, Mary…the whole set have been lovingly toted around and played with alongside Elmo and Jake the Neverland Pirate. Maybe i’ll try one of those other sets someday…maybe I won’t.

Because I don’t think it matters what I do or don’t do to celebrate Christmas because I know that I am telling my kids the REASON we celebrate. I am showing it with the love and care I put into choosing gifts that I want to demonstrate Christ’s love. I am teaching him joyful service as I donate my time and talents to help where I can and when I can. I may not have a fancy way to do it but all year, especially at Christmas, I am teaching him the Word of God and the importance of Christ in our lives. If he grows up knowing the beginning of the greatest love story ever told then I will consider my Christmases a success no matter what else we did or didn’t do.

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*I am talking about the Christian holiday of Christmas, if you do not celebrate this then this blog isn’t directed at you but if you would like to know more about Christ and why Christmas is so important then contact me, I’d love to share the truth with you.*