Family 2015

Family 2015

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas - what it is and what it aint.

I really, really, really, really, really, really love Christmas!!  It is such a wonderful family time, great memories and fun activities.  A time to reflect on all that the past year has been and think about the future.  A time to be grateful, to remember the reason for the season.  To worship.  A time to give and reach out to others.

Also, it is a lot of work.

I rarely get sick, but it seems that during the season of "Christmas preparation" I usually fall prey to a nasty head cold or what have you.  Today is that day and this is the first time I have ventured off the couch.  I figured since I am being forced to slow down a little, I should take advantage of it and chat with you all.  :)

This whole situation of getting sick around the holidays always gets me to thinking.  Have I fallen into the trap of commercializing Christmas?  Surely if I'm so busy that I am run down and get sick, I must be losing focus of what's really important during this time.

Here's the thing though, I haven't.  I know what Christmas is really about.  I do.  But, I also have 5 kids and the responsibility/privilege of creating wonderful holidays and memories for them.  When you add that in to all that I'm already doing, it can get pretty overwhelming, and I get pretty worn out.

We have had some slim Christmases in terms of $ and some that weren't so slim.  Even when we have some extra, I don't go crazy with the buying because I want my kids to know that it's about more than that.  But, even in the years when we didn't have much, I was still very busy.

So, I guess I just need to accept it.  Holidays are extra work and that's all there is to it.  I will love it and not feel guilty for being busy.  I will not listen to the folks who get all worked up about how presents take away from the real reason for the season.  And next year, I will start in early December to take extra vitamin C.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eating the Elephant.

You know the phrase, "The proper way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time."  I get that and I think it's a good analogy of life.  Usually.  But, this statement does not adequately address what to do when the elephant sits on your head.

I am generally pretty good about not letting myself get overwhelmed.  I've got a pretty good grasp of "not sweating the small stuff" and "rolling with the punches."  I don't "cry over spilled milk" and I don't generally get "all wigged out."

But today was different.  Since being all stressed out isn't my norm, whenever it happens I try to figure out why.

This is what I decided.  Today everything looks like a really big deal because I didn't get enough sleep.
1.  I went to bed waaaayyyy too late.  (totally my fault)
2.  I was forced out of what little sleep I got several times by a sick child.  (totally not my fault)

So now I know why I woke up feeling like everything in the world had to be accomplished today and I had to be the one to do it.  That the whole house needed to be totally cleaned.  Right now.  That all of the Christmas shopping had to be done in the next 24 hours.  That all of my kids needed some quality time and would suffer if they didn't receive it today.  That today, my family needed to eat a gourmet meal.

You see because when I am overly tired, I have all of these grand expectations of myself AND I feel overwhelmed.  Great combo.

But, I feel much better now that I figured it out.  I have found the problem.  And I'm going to fix it by taking a nap and feeding my family an already prepared rotisserie chicken for dinner.

The End.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Across the Miles

We just had a really great visit with my Dad and step-Mom.  They live practically on the other side of the country and we see them twice a year.

It's pretty tough on my kids, especially the 2 sensitive ones, when they leave.  I remember the feeling well.  I also grew up across the country from most of my extended family and it was so hard to leave, or to be left, when the visit was over.

When Carter woke up this morning and immediately started crying again because his Grandma and Grandpa were gone, I wanted to be able to transfer what I know in my brain and heart right to his.

This is what I know.

Miles and years do not erase love.  The ties of family cannot be broken by distance.  It is actually a blessing to cry and miss someone because it means you have relationships in your life that are worth crying over and missing.

I'm so grateful that my kids' lives are full of family and of all that that means even when it is hard.  We are truly blessed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Will Not Teach my Kids to be Afraid.

An older woman once gave me some advice that has gone a long way towards shaping my parenting.  It wasn't even meant to be parenting advice, but there you have it.

Anyway, I was talking with her about a pretty serious problem I was going through and I was feeling pretty swallowed up by it, you know the feeling?  She says, "Yvonne, you have to take the teeth out of it."  Um, what?   She laughed and said, "You have to let your mind follow it all they way out to the worst possible scenario and realize that even the worst possible scenario isn't so bad."  You know what?  Most of the time, that is true.  Many times, the worst part of dealing with a problem is the fear that goes along with it.

There is some statistic I read a long time ago somewhere (ha! how's that for non-committal??) that says 80% of the things we worry about never happen.  That, my friends, is A LOT of wasted time.

This idea has so impacted me that I pass it along to my kids without even realizing it sometimes.  Say they are having trouble with a friend at school and are worried that said friend will no longer be their friend.  Without thinking, I will say something like, "Well, what if she isn't your friend?  How much power does her friendship really hold?  Will that keep you from learning?  Will it keep you from having other friends?  Will it stop us from loving you?  Will you not graduate high school because of it?"  You get the idea.

It works for just about everything.  A couple of years ago, we had some pretty serious money trouble and I was pretty worked up about it.  Then, one day, I thought, wait.  What is the worst thing that could happen?  We could lose our house.  And that would be bad.  But, you know what?  Even if we do, so what? 

We live in a country where we are so fortunate to be able to start over.  We have family and friends who would have helped us had that been the case.  We have each other.  And, we have God, who is always on our side.  From that moment forward, the situation looked a lot different to me.  Also, we didn't lose our house, which is a great fringe benefit.  :)

I want, so much, for my kids to really grab ahold of this idea.  Life will throw you some curve balls.  But, don't let that control you or your outlook on life.  As the saying goes:

Perspective isn't something.  It is everything.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Journey

It is such a cliche thing to say that "life is a journey," but it's true. 

I have long ago conceded the fact that I need to enjoy the moment and not rush past my days trying to arrive at the elusive "there."

I understand that for myself.  What is blowing my mind right now, though, is that this is also true for my kids.

Our kids come into our lives so needy, so utterly dependent, that it is easy to forget in those early years that they are their own person.  When they are very young, we do indeed have all the answers.  I can look at a wailing newborn and know for certain that what they need is to be fed, have a clean diaper and then go to sleep.  I can watch a feverish baby tug at his ear and know that I need to go and have him checked for an ear infection.  I can be sure that it is not a good thing for a toddler to run with a pencil, or play with a light socket or eat copious amounts of sugar.  This part of life has very little guesswork.

This changes rapidly once they hit the middle years though, and the art of holding on, while letting go, can be very tricky indeed.

When my oldest approached these years, I wasn't very good at it.  I was still holding onto her life like it was my own.  I was still sure that I had all the answers.  It still made me nervous when she questioned anything that I held as the gospel truth.  And for that, I owe her many apologies.

I have gotten (a little) wiser with each child, and now I am more able to hold on loosely.  They have to walk this journey of life on their own too.  Yes, a thousand times yes, I can be a guide; but ultimately it is their life.

This doesn't make me as nervous as it used to because I now get it.  They are not mine, really.  They are God's.  His love for them makes mine look like puppy love.  His hand is on them.  He is sharing them with me for a season, but ultimately; they are His.

They will have bumps in the road and they will struggle.  They will have crisis' of their faith.  They will wonder and question and cry and rage.  But, they will make it.  And they will stand.  Because He is able to make them stand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Have Almost Arrived... Thanksgiving Break!!!!!!

I am soooooo looking forward to the next 5 days.  I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart as far as holidays go.  It probably has a lot to do with it's uncomplicated nature.  I mean, sure I have to cook, but I do that everyday.  :)

I just can't wait for tomorrow!  We will sleep in (hallelujah) and then spend the day cooking the stuff that has to be made the day before.  There will be Christmas music and we will drink coffee and eat goodies while we work.  My kids will stay in their pj's and they will run and laugh.  They will build with legos and watch some holiday shows.  They will chase the dog.  They will play games.  They will enjoy being together, and without even realizing it, they will create memories.

Then, on Thursday, I will get up early and put that turkey in the oven.  My family will wake up to that wonderful smell and come downstairs, all smiles, knowing that they still have several days before they are back to the school grind.  They will watch the parade and ask me 1,287 times if the turkey is done yet.  After we eat, we will load up in the van and head to Lansing to visit Grandma Dori and then later in the day, we will visit Grandma Debbie and Grandpa Bruce. 

The rest of the weekend will be filled with more of the same.  We do not rush past Thanksgiving to get to black friday - no way.  This is the weekend that is just about us celebrating family.  Presents have their place, but it's not now.  Now, it is just time to sit back and be grateful for all of the ways that we are blessed.  To pause for a moment and reflect on where the journey of life has brought us so far and to dream about the future.

And to eat.  A lot.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


So, yesterday I gave Pierce some money to give to the Salvation Army bell ringer outside of Wal-Mart.  He ran over to drop it in all excited and then ran back to me, with his glasses sliding down his face and wiping his nose with his sleeve, he said with impish innocence, "What did we do that for again?"

It kind of broke my heart to explain it to him.  It is sad to think that at the age of 5 he already is pondering the plight of those less fortunate.  Already wondering what it would be like to be a kid who doesn't have all that he is blessed to have.

Don't get me wrong, we have had our fair share of financial struggles and we've had a few Christmases that were a bit slim, but that's not what I'm talking about so much.  I mean, he (and all of my kids) have been able to grow up knowing the warmth and security of family and his carefree spirit shows someone who has been free, so far, of the trials of life.  It felt a little devastating to me to pull the curtain back a bit and let him peer into a life that is not so kind.

But, at the same time, there is nothing I want more than children who have a developed sense of empathy and caring...whose only thought when they see those in need is to help, not to judge.  I have been blessed to be on both ends of giving and receiving, and no you didn't read that wrong.  I'm not saying I have ever liked to struggle, but what an amazing thing it has been to be blessed by others who at some point in their lives were taught this lesson.  And, on the flip side, how great it feels to be able to give to others when you have the ability to understand what a burden it lifts from them.

So, yes, little man, there are some kids who need some extra help so that they will be able to have a great Christmas this year too.  Aren't we blessed that we can help a little?  "Yes, we are, but Mom, I'm sure Santa wouldn't forget them."  That's right.  Because right now, you and a bunch of other kids like you are learning to be Santa without even realizing it.

Thank you God.  What a wonder you are...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I like make-up...

...not that you would ever know it.

I used to be a religious make-up wearer.  All through my first 3 pregnancies and even all through the times that I had 3 small girls, I was rarely caught without make-up.  I'm not sure what happened after I had Carter, but I just stopped wearing it for some reason.

It's funny because I will sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think, "wow, you could really use some eye-liner."  But, it is almost never enough motivation to get me to put any on.  You would think that as I am getting older, I would be more apt to wear it, but no.  Not so much.

Honestly, I blame it on my husband.  He is the one who is always telling me how beautiful I am, and how much he likes the "natural" look.  Also, I am definitely more comfortable with myself now, much more so than 15 years ago, which is funny when you compare the pictures from then to now.  ;)

So, I guess I have settled into being a "make-up wearer on special occasions only."   Weird.  But definitely easier.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Walking Away.

Yep, it's Sunday.  But, when I have something to say, I just have to get it out.  So, nevermind about blogging every weekday, I'm just gonna do it when I do it.  :)

Have you ever had a relationship in your life that you just couldn't fix?  You just couldn't make someone see things your way?  You just couldn't get everyone on the same page?  I'm laughing, because, of course you have.  The better question would probably be how many times have you been in that situation.

I think those situations must face us all of our lives, and probably the only thing that changes is how we react to them.  When I was younger, I just couldn't deal with it.  I needed to make everyone in my life ok with me and my choices.  If someone I loved or respected disagreed with me, I reasoned, I must somehow be in the wrong.  Since that was usually not an acceptable option, I would assume they just didn't understand.  Then, I would start down the long and (usually) unfruitful road of trying to make them see it my way.

But, now that I'm (a little) older, I feel differently about it.  I have made peace with the fact that sometimes people are going to disagree with me and it doesn't mean they're wrong.  It also doesn't mean that I'm wrong.  It just means that we're different.  It means that we have different personalities, different backgrounds, and different things that have shaped who we are as people.  There are very few absolutes in life, which would have sounded absolutely heretical to me 10 short years ago.  But, no matter, I've grown up a little and it's true.

So, for me, the best thing to do when I come up against an impasse like this with someone is just to walk away.  Now, that sounds pretty harsh, but I don't mean like walk away and never talk to them again.  I just mean, leave it alone.  Stop having that conversation with them.  Stop allowing myself to be made to feel like I'm wrong or incorrect.  And, yes, I suppose if the only way to do that is to cut ties for a season, then so be it.

I don't always have all the answers - in fact I probably never do - but, I am comfortable with who I am.  I know that the work God has begun in me, He is completing.  And that is enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Brain and Mouth are Tired.

I sometimes get frustrated at myself for being so tired at the end of the day.  I think it's because so little of what I do all day is actually measurable.  There aren't many things in my day that I can look back on with satisfaction and think, "Ah, that's finished!"  

So, today I thought I would just sit down for a minute and think of all I had done - and though I can't cross it all off neatly on a "to-do" list,  I have to admit, it made me feel pretty accomplished.  It also explained the mysterious lack of an attention span that I have since I became a mother.  This is what I figured out, although much of what I do is mundane, what makes me so tired is that my mouth and brain work overtime all. day. long.

Here's a sample of my conversations today:

"I don't know if you will have a sub today, but don't waste your time worrying about something that might not even happen."  (she didn't have a sub)

"Yes, either a lion or a lego man would be a good choice to take to the sound muncher on Friday.  No, a lamp would not be a good choice.  Yes, it does start with l, but it's too big, and it could break, and it's mine."

"We're having garlic chicken for dinner."

 "The reason that a compass always points north is because the north pole has magnetic properties."

"No, you can not power your house with static electricity."

"We're having garlic chicken for dinner."

"No, you cannot open the door on that tower and climb to the top.  I don't know what it is, I just know you can't.  Because I know, that's why."

"I realize you have been waiting a very long time for Brandon to come and have a playdate, but I'm waiting on his Mom to call me."

"We're having garlic chicken for dinner."

"Yes, I will be back at 6:00 for the meeting.  No, I won't forget."

"When you multiply a negative and a positive, you get a negative.  Yes, I'm sure.  No, I can't explain why."

"We're having garlic chicken for dinner."

"It doesn't matter which side of the equation it is, if the "big mouth" side of that symbol is pointing towards it, it means 'greater than'."

I will spare you the rest, partly because I'm sure you get it and partly because well... my brain is tired.

Anyway, thinking about all this jogged my memory about a really awesome quote I read once and in closing, I would like to share it with you:

To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness."~ G.K. Chesterton.

Thank you, Mr. Chesteron.  I will never feel guilty for being tired again.

Oh, and we're having garlic chicken for dinner.  :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Dioramas and Early Bedtimes...

So, my 7 year old is a boy - my first boy - although he is my fourth child.  And sometimes that kid shocks the heck out of me.  I mean I've heard my whole life that boys are soooo different, but I never really appreciated what that meant until I had one.

The good - great - thing about boys is how much they love their mommies!!  I now know why there are so many awful mother-in-law tales.  It's because there will never be a girl good enough to take my boys' hearts away from me - never.  It's a good thing I have some years to make peace with that whole thing because I'm definitely not ready for it now.  But, that is not what this particular blog is about.

Anyway....the not so good thing about boys is -  just about everything else.  I joke.  There are a lot of great things about boys, it's just that sometimes they are hard to remember when they do things like what I'm about to tell you.

So, Carter loves to smash things - I don't why.  My husband swears it is a "boy thing" and perfectly normal, but to me it seems a little strange.  Yah, I know - boys are different.  So, the other day, he and Pierce were merrily smashing up some boxes and yelling and laughing with delight.  I thought it was great because who cares about some boxes?   Well, no one, unless one of the boxes is your sister's diorama that she worked on very hard and was planning to save.

So, after the meltdown, yelling and tears, we finally figured out that Carter had asked McKinley for permission to use her diorama.  Now, she is a girl.  So, as a girl, she logically assumed he was going to use it as a house for his Lego guys or something.  But, he is not a girl, which we have already covered.  To him, the use of the diorama for smashing made much more sense.

Yes, I do sometimes make allowances for things under the excuse of "boys will be boys."  But, this was not one of those times, because even boys need to have manners and understand how to respect other people and their property.  So, Carter apologized and then he had to go to bed early.  On a family movie night.  You would have thought his world was coming to an end, and I suppose in his 7 year old eyes it probably was.

But, we stayed strong and sent him anyway.  I'd rather have him sentenced to early bedtime at 7 than prison at 17.  Just sayin...

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Wounds of a Friend.

I recently had a friend approach me about a situation in my life.  She came to me and asked permission to share.  I granted it.  She was candid with what she said and didn't pull any punches.  I listened.  I really considered what she said.  Ultimately, I disagreed with her overall assessment of the situation.  HOWEVER, I appreciated the heck out of the fact that she took the risk to share it.

The whole thing got me to thinking about friendship and how valuable it is.  I am blessed to have a few friends that I have pretty open and honest relationships with.  They challenge me and cause me to grow.  They don't just tell me what I want to hear, and that is something that you can't put a price tag on.

There's a verse in the Bible that says, "The wounds of a friend are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful."  It's true.  So true.  It's so easy to smile and say something you don't mean to avoid hurting someone's feelings.  But, really who are you protecting?  Not them...yourself.  Being honest with another person is to risk being misunderstood and to risk the possibility that they might be angry at you.  It is to be vulnerable.  It is to say, "I love you....enough to tell you that I think you're wrong right now....and take the chance that you might not be too happy about it."  It's hard, it's scary.  But, it's worth it.

I'm trying to teach this quality to my kids.  I encourage them not to engage in the relationship games kids play, but to have the courage to simply ask the questions they want answered or make the statements they want to make.  Other kids their age don't always appreciate it (or know how to deal with it), but sometimes they are pleasantly surprised.  Also, sometimes my kids play the games - they are kids after all.  But, I'm sure that each one of them would tell you that the honest way is better.

Another epiphany that I had after the conversation is that I listened because I know she cares about me.  You better believe that if someone who didn't have the standing in my life that she does had tried to address the topic we were discussing, I would have handily sized them down.  I'm not saying that it would have been right for me to do so, I'm just saying I know myself, and I would have. ;)  It reminds of something my husband always says,

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

2 great lessons for me in the past few days - I am one lucky lady.  :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Day at a Time

Do you ever get overwhelmed thinking about all of the things you have coming up?  All of the obligations?  All of the driving here and there?  All of the appointments?  All of the laundry?  All of the dishes?  Holiday shopping?  School volunteering?

I do.  Sometimes it feels like it's about to mow me down like a freight train.

That is when I try to stop and take a deep breath and remember - all I have to do today  In fact, that's all I can do.  It doesn't matter how much brain power or energy I expend, I can never get ahead in time.  Life can only be lived in the present.

Of course, there are certain preparations that can be made, reminders written, schedules planned out and that is all very helpful.  But, once I've done all of that, I just need to do what is right in front of me.  There have been times when one of my kids has wanted me to stop and play a game with them or take a few minutes extra at bedtime to read a story or snuggle with them and because of all that is waiting for me to accomplish the next day and the sense of being overwhelmed that I sometimes get, I say no.  Those are not proud moments for me as a Mom.  Not only do I miss out on some extra moments with them, I also show them the wrong way to handle life by my example.

My worries and thoughts about tomorrow should not affect my today.  Things that I really have no control over should not cause me to forfeit the things I can control.

I may have a lot of stress about how I'm going to accomplish everything on Wednesday, but that shouldn't mean I can't read an extra Thomas book on Tuesday.  I may get overwhelmed thinking about how many times in the next few years I will have to make that drive back and forth to school or dance or gymnastics; but that shouldn't keep me from enjoying the drive time I have today and making the most of my time with my kids in the car.

I think I did a pretty good job today.  Now I'm going to enjoy my evening with my husband, get some rest and then get up and live just tomorrow...

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Why I'm Staying Here... Flint that is...

"You live where?"  "Are you crazy?"  "Isn't that the murder capitol of the world?"  "Aren't you worried about the safety of your kids?"  "Isn't the economy there the worst in the nation?"  "What about the schools?"  "I thought there weren't any jobs there!"


I'm not gonna lie, there are some difficulties in living where we live.  We have a lot working against us.  This city has been kicked while it's down over and over and over and over.  Crime is high and the police numbers are pretty low.  Jobs are scarce.  The schools aren't great.


There's something about the will to survive that gives a community a certain passion, a certain fight and drive that are lacking in places where circumstances might not be as tough.  Shared difficulty binds us together in a way that is hard to explain.

Not to mention.

I have found a lot to love about this place.  First of all, I love the people.  So many of them give me inspiration with their hope, with their ingenuity, with their kindness.  We have found many people in this place who love us and believe in us, and that is hard to put a price tag on.


Sure, the Flint schools are not doing that great.  But, it's amazing what people who believe in and love children can accomplish.  The charter school movement has been a huge boon in this community.  My own kids have benefited tremendously from a charter school that has dared to look at Flint's struggles and say, "Yah, but, those kids are valuable.  They represent all that's good about our future."  Then, there is the amazing Flint School of Performing Arts that sits in the cultural center less than a mile from my house.  It's amazing that we have it in this place, but it is one of the biggest and best conservatories of it's kind in the nation.  My children get to learn there.  I get to teach there.  Amazing.


Despite the fact that I sometimes fall prey to the "grass is greener" monster for a day or two, I love this place and I'm staying.  We have fought for it long and hard, and we're not gonna stop now.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Body Worship

I expect to get a million hits today just because of my title. 

Honestly, I'm probably not far off the mark on that prediction.  This topic seems to be on the forefront of people's minds these days and quite frankly, it drives me nuts.  I mean, I remember being a teenager and being obsessed about my body.  It was probably even worse for me than the average teenager because I was a dancer. I lived a large part of my life in front of full length mirrors wearing only tights and a leotard. 

But, I also seem to remember that all of that angst used to be the territory of young people.  I mean, I certainly don't remember my Grandma worrying about her figure.  It would have been ridiculous to me if she had, her figure had nothing to do with how important she was in my life.  I can understand young people, who are still figuring life out, placing a lot of value on how awesome they look in a mini-skirt; but, aren't we supposed to grow up?

It has occurred to me that all of this body worship probably has a lot to do with how little we value and respect our elders these days.  I'll be honest, it kind of scares me sometimes to realize that I'm raising my kids at a time in history where the younger generation is so quick to think of their elders like yesterday's news.  Not only is the disrespect ugly, really ugly, but it also is robbing them of a wealth of information that the older generation possesses that could really be helpful to them.

But, maybe it isn't all the young people's fault?  Maybe we send the wrong message as adults when we try to look like we're 16?  Maybe all the (married) Moms I hear talking about how cute this or that boy toy is, or starving themselves in front of their daughters so that they can still be bone thin, don't help?  Maybe? 


Well, I'm gonna do my part.  In this family, we talk about respect and we practice it.  My children do not call adults by their first names.  If there are 5 chairs, 5 adults and a bunch of kids; guess who sits on the floor?  There are times when I excuse my children from the room because there is adult conversation going on and their age has not yet earned them a place at the table.

I will also show my daughters, by my example, that growing old isn't awful or something to be feared.  I am not as thin as I was when I walked down the aisle 15 years ago.  But, in those 15 years, I have gained what feels like a whole lifetime of knowledge, plus 5 wonderful kids.  I wouldn't trade all of that in for a younger body - no way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Ability to Laugh.

Did you ever stop to think about how wonderful it is to be able to laugh?  It really is great.  Just think about it - we live in this crazy , messed up world with a bunch of crazy, messed up stuff going on - but, in the midst of it we still have the ability to find humor in things.

In my mind it's kind of like an "in your face" to the circumstances that surround us.  My laughter and enjoyment of life may not have the ability to change things, but it does have the ability to lift me above it.  It does give me the power to look at difficulty and say, "You are there, yes, but you won't master me."

I am not among those who believe that humanity is basically bad.  Heck no.  I believe, with all my heart, that they are basically good.  I have encountered so many amazing people in my relatively short life - SO MANY.  Yes, I've encountered a few rotten apples too, but really they have been the minority.

Also, despite our current economic floundering, I still believe that we live in the greatest nation on the planet.  We have our flaws, I do hate this interminable war, and I have kinda lost my faith in both of our political parties, BUT I hold my head up proudly when I remember who is the first nation to rush to the aid of those who are in need.  It is not a weakness that we help, indeed it is one of our great strengths.

I've gone on and on enough about my family, that you know how I feel about them.  :)

Also, I hang onto this thought, it's found in the book of Romans (in the Bible)  chapter 8 and verse 31.  It simply says this, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"  I believe He is for us.  All of us.

So, with all of that knowledge, I can look at the passing problems in my life and know that they aren't the final answer.  It's not yet the end of the story.

And I'll be darned if I'm gonna wait until it all is perfect before I laugh.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I really don't like Halloween.  There have been groups of Christians that have been down on this particular holiday for years, but that's not why I don't like it.  I mean, I don't buy into the whole idea that if I let my kids dress up and collect candy that I somehow pay homage to the devil.  But...

I really don't like going into grocery stores and being accosted by headless, bloody mannequins.  I don't like driving past "Lucifer's Lair" everyday on my way to drop my kids off at school.  I don't like seeing rows and rows of size 2T  "Jason" and "evil witch" costumes.

We do participate in Halloween.  Truth be known, 4 out of my 5 kids would probably tell you that next to Christmas, it is their favorite holiday.  I mean, from a kid's perspective, it is pretty cool to get to play dress-up and have all your neighbors give you free candy for your efforts. It is pretty awesome to be able to go to school in your costume and have a parade.  So, I play along. 

I tell you what, though.  November 1st is one of my favorite days of the year.  I am so glad that we get Thanksgiving and Christmas to help scrub away all the Halloween yuck.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Being Sincere

Do you ever feel like you're drowning in an ocean of flattery?  It seems to me that this generation of parents has almost lost the ability to be honest with their children...and maybe themselves.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not at all suggesting that we go back to the time where kids were almost regarded as non-people.  Expected to be seen and not heard.  Never given a chance to voice their opinions.  Always told they couldn't do it.  They weren't good enough.  They didn't measure up.  No, those were bad times and many adults have the therapy bills to prove it.


I must wonder if it is not equally as damaging to let children believe that they have arrived at a place in life that they haven't?  Why do we, for instance, give ribbons and awards to everyone who participates in anything?  Why is it considered unhealthy and damaging to reward those who do their best?  To reward the winners?  Why can we barely admit that some people are just better at certain things than other people?

I just don't think our kids are that weak, or let's be honest, that dumb.  They know when they're not doing something as well as they can or as well as another person.  Do we look ridiculous when we try to convince them that they are?  I think maybe we do.  Not to mention, what does it set them up for in their future?  Come on, you've seen all those people on American Idol who think they can sing and they CAN'T.  Who is responsible for letting them think that they had any business auditioning for those judges?  And here's the kicker, do you think it was good for them to get up and humiliate themselves like that?  On national television??  I don't really think it was.

I have a confession to make.  I really try to shoot straight with my kids about stuff like this.  When they, for example, ask me if I think they're a good singer and I don't think they are;  I just say "no, I don't really think you're great at that."  

*uncomfortable silence*

But, here's what I don't mean when I say that.  I don't mean, "No, you stink at everything you try."  I don't mean, "Because you can't sing, you'll probably wind up working at McDonald's for the rest of your life."  I don't mean, "Because you're not the next Lady Gaga, I don't love you."  No, no.  I just mean, "That doesn't seem to be a talent of yours." 

But, here's what I believe, about each of my own children and about every child on the planet:

You are amazing.  You won't be good at everything, but there are things you will be good at.  You are unique.  You are valuable.  You should pursue the things you love and that is how you will find out what you are good at and how you will leave your mark in this world.  You have a lot to offer.  But, even if you are talented, you will have to work hard.  Things won't just be handed to you because you breathe air.  And finally,

When I am honest with you, that is how you know I love you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Living Simple

I've been thinking about this concept a lot lately.  I like it.  I may think about it a little differently than some though...

It seems like the common idea of living simple has to do with changing ones' schedule and the way one does life in general.  Get rid of the t.v.  Cut out extra-curricular activities.  Homeschool. No computer.  Cook from scratch.  Sew your own clothes.  Have a garden.  Etc, etc.  There seem to be a growing number of people who are looking to these types of things to simplify their lives, to find their lives more fulfilling and meaningful.

I have a few problems with this.  I like t.v.  I think my kids benefit from the extra-curricular stuff they're involved in.  Homeschool is good and appropriate sometimes, but sometimes it isn't.  I'm not sure how to turn on a sewing machine.  See my dilemma?

It's a good thing that I'm not convinced that all of these ideas are the only way to simplify and enjoy my life.  Actually, I am positive that I can have a busy life, various electronic devices and the occassional dinner of Hamburger Helper and still have a simple, satisfying life.

It's because, in my opinion, simple has less to do with the outside than it does with the inside.  If my heart is at peace, all the busy-ness doesn't have the ability to steal it.  If my heart is in turmoil, all the home-cooked food and gardening in the world will not help.

This is one of my favorite Bible verses:  "A heart at peace gives life to the body..."  Pr. 14:30.  That's so true, isn't it?  Not to be offensive to all my friends who are so into healthy eating (that's certainly not a bad thing to be into!), but I really, REALLY think that a heart at peace goes much further towards keeping me healthy than I what I do or don't eat. 

So, each day I try to start out focusing on all that is right in my world.  You know what?  There's a lot of it.  :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Yelling and Other Bad Ideas.

So, I would like to be able to say that I have never yelled at my kids, but....I'm not perfect and I'm also not a liar.

I can say, however, that I have not once yelled at my kids and thought later, "Gee, that was really great parenting, and effective too!"  I usually end up feeling like I wish I could take it back.  It's really bad now that Pierce is so good at expressing himself with his words.  He is super sensitive.  When he was younger if I would yell at him, or even near him, he would give one of those inadvertent shivers - nice.  Now, he says things like, (with a wobbly, about to cry voice)  "Mommy, it hurts my feelings when you scream at me."  Ugh.

It's not great for the other kids either.  They aren't likely to cry, but they do snap to attention and have that certain look of  "uh oh" in their eyes.  Ugh again.

There is good news though.  I have learned to apologize to my kids, and they have learned to forgive.  I have noticed that when they get upset with each other, it is generally followed by an apology.  I like to think that's because they have observed my husband and I doing the same.

Yelling is a quick fix, but the results don't last.  It is so much better to have pre-emptive conversations about expectations than to freak out in the moment.  It is so much better to count to 10 before you open your mouth when you're frustrated.  It is so much better to take a minute to think about WHAT you are trying to communicate instead of just communicating frustration.

And I will try to remember all of this the next time I go to my van in the morning to discover 3 gallons of milk that were left in 80 degree weather for a day and a half....they are just kids after all.  :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's Good for the Goose... not always good for the gander.

I have been talking to my kids about this lately and it's a hard sell for them.  I think that might be because kids tend to be so "fair" minded.  Everything is supposed to be fair and even.  I'd really like to have a word with the person that started that erroneous idea.  Someone needs to tell them that it isn't nice to lie to children...

Anyway, our conversations have been focusing on how the path that one person takes in life should not necessarily look exactly like the path of another person - even within the same family.  Obviously, there are going to be similarities, but it doesn't have to be and probably shouldn't be, identical.

We've been talking about it in the context of education.  Yes, they all need and will have an education.  However, the manner in which that is accomplished does not have to look the same for each one of them.

I started out, as the Mom of my first pre-Kindergartener, with the notion that homeschool was the way to go.  For everyone, all the time.  End of story.  If you read my post about count day you have figured out that that notion has changed. :)  It changed because along the way I realized that though that was the right appropach for her, at that time; it didn't automatically mean that it was right for the rest of my kids all the time.  Also, because she has 4 younger siblings and I'd like to see you try to homeschool a 4th and 2nd grader while also caring for a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a newborn...but, I digress.

We have fallen into a pattern of re-evaluating what is best for each child at the beginning of each new year.  Last year, I had 3 of my kids at a charter school and 2 being homeschooled.  This year, all 5 of them are enrolled in school, and although my youngest is only gone for half the day, I'm enjoying the break.  I'm enjoying it because I don't necessarily expect it to last.  After this school year, we have 13 more years of having school-aged kids in the house and I'm about 99.9% positive that there will be more homeschooling here and there during that time.

Well, that's kind of messy, you say. Yes, it is.  That doesn't really give you a lot of liberty to say, start a great career or have a great hobby.  No, it doesn't. 

But, I'm ok with that.  I have these 5 wonderful people that I get the privilege of helping to find their way.  I can't think of anything more important than that.  :)

Mama Bear


Without going into detail, let's just say that last night I had the occassion to pull out my Mama Bear.  She is pretty fierce and surprises even me with the intensity of her emotion.  She is a force to be reckoned with and I wouldn't want to run into her in a dark alley - or even an alley in broad daylight.

I'm sure all of you have experience with your version of her.  She's a tough cookie, eh?

Luckily, 14 years of dealing with her has taught me to use her wisely.  I learned awhile back that allowing her to run rampant was a bad idea.  She actually is much more effective if she inflicts no actual damage but instead curls her lip in a snarl and stares menacingly while keeping her distance.

In truth, I think Mama Bear gets a bad rap.  There are many jokes that circulate at her expense and many people who shake their heads when she gets a little out of control.  "That bear," they say, "doesn't she know that her kids are gonna have to face the world on their own someday?"

Well, yeah.  But someday isn't today, my friend.

I will acquiesce that by the time my kids have graduated high school that they need to know how to handle themselves and deal with bullies and difficult situations on their own.  I have no intention of heading off to the college administrator every time they have an interpersonal problem.  But, the reason I won't have to is because they will have seen me handle situations for them first, and then with them, and THEN they will be able to do it on their own.

The reason they will have the confidence to handle it on their own is because I will have firmly planted into their heads by my words and actions that they are valuable; and that they are not to allow themselves to be treated like dirt.

By then, their own Mama Bear will have matured a little and be ready to take care of them.

Right now, their Mama Bear is still a cub.  But not mine - she is in the prime of her life.

Bullies, consider yourselves warned.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Count Day.

I don't remember ever hearing about count day when I was a kid, do you?  But now, it is a BIG DEAL.  I mean, my kids were so excited to go to school this morning.  The older ones got to have a "wear whatever you want" day (GREAT incentive for older kids who usually have to wear uniforms) and the younger ones were promised a prize if they were in their seats when the first bell rang.

I, of course, understand why it is a big deal; the school's funding is based on their attendance on that one fateful day.

Which begs the question, "Whose awful idea is that anyway????"  Seriously, the amount of money my kid's school receives for the whole year is based on ONE day????  I have never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even I could come up with a better plan than that.

I'm not a government hater or anything, but sometimes I just wonder who really is behind the curtain down there in Washington.  I want to believe that there really are folks who are trying to do what is best for this country,and for the kids who will make up it's adult population in the near future.  And I honestly do believe that there are many good-hearted people who work in our government.  They probably scratch their heads about things like this as much as I do.  Their hands are probably tied, just like mine. 

But, I have an idea.  How about if we pick one day during the year and however many people show up for work that day will determine how much the people who hold public office get paid, or even whether or not they get paid period.  Sound like a plan?  That's what they do to our teachers, folks. 

Atleast I have the knowledge that I have done my part - all 5 of my kids are being counted today.   Hooray for big families!!!  :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vicarious Living.

You know what?  I love being a Mom.  :)

I remember being a young person, pre-marriage and parenthood, and thinking about how sad it was that parents seemed to live vicariously through their children.  Boy was a I a dummy.  Living vicariously has nothing to do with not living my own life.  It doesn't mean that I am all washed up and have nothing better to do than wish I was younger.  It has nothing to do with yearning for my "glory days."  I actually had to stop for a minute and laugh after I typed that last line - oh youth, they are funny - and misinformed.

No, the vicarious living I have discovered has everything to do with celebrating my children's growth.  With being able to feel the joy of accomplishments all over again, and feeling the sorrow too.  It is like round 2 of life, but with more understanding.  With greater capacity to be patient.  With the ability to see the forest in spite of the trees.

Oh, how I wish for the ability to pour all of the understanding that living has afforded me into the minds of my kids!!! 

But, I know I can't.  I know that they must grow through it just as I did.  I know that the mountains that they face right now will look like mole hills to them in 20 years.  I know they will at some point feel silly for some of the ways they acted and the things they did.  I know their reasoning skills and ability to cope will develop as their birthdays pass.  But, in the meantime, it's fun.  I love seeing them experience life and being able to be by their side as they do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'm Baa-aack!

Emotions are a weird thing.  They change so fast sometimes it gives me whiplash. 

Of course, now that I'm a grown-up, I understand that.  I know that I might be feeling super duper lousy one moment and then the next hour feel like I'm on top of the world.  I am used to the sudden changes and have learned that emotions really mean nothing.  They are in my life to serve me, not control me.  They are a life enhancer, not a life maker.

Which brings me to teenagers.

They are so misunderstood.  They are in this crazy world and just at the beginning of learning about emotions.  They are overwhelming before you have them in their proper perspective, remember??  I look at my girls sometimes and think, "Wow, they are doing a great job at this."  They have to deal with parents, siblings, school, stress from school work and school drama, sometimes not enough sleep, AND try to figure out the emotional roller coaster at the same time.  It is amazing anyone makes it through that time in their life.

Remembering that, what it was like back then, helps me to give them more grace when they are having a tough day.  It also makes me so, so grateful that I am done with that phase of my own life.  :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Battle of Attrition

I'm a generally upbeat kinda person, but even I have my days.

Sometimes life is just hard.  Situations that you thought would have worked themselves out by now, haven't.  Relationships that were important to you have fallen away.  Dreams that you have had are still in the dream stage after many years.  You are misunderstood.

That last one is a tough one for me.  In my perfect world, everyone understands everyone perfectly and no one's feelings ever get hurt.  We all always judge one another by our intentions and not our actions.  Obviously, the place I live is a far cry from my perfect world.

We've been knocked down many times, my husband and I.  I am proud of the fact that we keep getting back up.  I am proud that our relationship is stronger than ever.  I am proud that we haven't cashed our dreams in. I am proud that we have this amazing family.  I know that the battle of attrition is having it's work in us and that all of the friction is making us into diamonds.  I know that ultimately everything will work out.

But, sometimes it sucks.  Sometimes I want a break.

Don't worry.  Tomorrow I will bounce back.  I always do. :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Balance.

Where exactly is the balance?  Does it exist?  Or is it just some idea that we have made up along the way to make us feel like we have some sort of control?

You know what I'm talking about, don't you?  I must not be the only person who hears that phrase all the time.  "I just need to find the balance between eating healthy and enjoying my life."  "I just need to find the balance between working hard and having faith."  "I just need to find the balance between meeting my families' needs and meeting my own needs."  "I just need to find the balance between work and family."  Etc, etc, etc.


I honestly think that we need to figure out what, in our lives, needs our attention right now and then focus on that.  None of us could ever balance everything.  It just isn't humanly possible.  I think the drive to do so, even the notion that it is attainable, is stressing all of us out.  And stress is bad for us, really bad.

For example, there is a popular parenting idea that says quality time with your kids is more important than quantity time.  I say hooey.  You can't have one without the other.  It is nice to think that I could compartmentalize my kids that way and meet their needs when it is convenient for me, but I haven't found that that approach works very well.  They need when they need.

Now, before anyoe gets huffy, let me say that this is not meant to be a treatise on how all Moms should stay at home.  No, not at all.  I simply mean that if you do work, your kids needs are not always gonna jibe with your work schedule, and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.  I would actually be interested to hear how some of you working Moms pull it off.  If I had to guess, I would say, that there are other areas of your life that have to give because we just can't balance it all. 

Ah, now we've come full circle.

Here is my point.  We need to give ourselves permission to not balance it all.  We need to be able to give ourselves grace and recognize our own limitations.  We need to be able to look back on our day, every day, and see what was accomplished instead of what wasn't.  We need to treat our days like...well more like life, and less like a to-do list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wearing the taxi driver hat...

So, I clocked my miles a couple of days ago.  The amount of I drive everyday - just for school drop off and pick up - is 70 miles!!!  I feel like a real commuter now. :)  I remember when all my kids were in preschool or being homeschooled, I would hear moms of school age kids talk about how they were in the "taxi driver" years.  Inwardly, I would think, "I'm sure that's a big of an exaggeration.  I mean how hard can it be??"  Yah, well, that was then.

But, all of this running around inevitably brings up the "more quality family time and less running around" topic.  That seems like such an easy dilemma to fix when all your kids are in diapers.  I can remember thinking (somewhat self-righteously) "I will NEVER allow our family time to be interrupted by extra-curricular activities.  People who do that just don't have their priorities in order."  Agan, that was then.

Back then, I didn't count on the fact that at some point my kids would no longer be happy staying at home and playing Candy Land all day.  I wasn't remembering that at some point they would develop their own interests and want to be involved in activites that could further those.  Silly me.

So, now, it truly is the dance.  I do, with all my heart, believe that family time is important.  But, I also believe that those outside activites are important too.  They help my kids to grow and figure out where their life is taking them  Also, figuring out how to juggle all of this and still place a priority on our family unit has the great fringe benefit of teaching them how to do it too.  They oughta be time managment gurus by the time they leave this house. ;)

So, what are your tricks?  How does your family fit it all in? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Too Much Pressure.

You know what I worried about when I was 9?  Not much.  I probably wondered if I would be allowed to invite a friend over after school (sometimes) or if I could talk my parents into staying up later than usual (never).  I certainly wasn't worried about my future - about what job I would have or where I would live.  I mean, I'm sure I thought about those things, but it was more the material of daydreaming than stress causing.

But, I had a conversation with my 9 year old last night and it turns out, she is worried about and does think about these things.  I was a little baffled to be honest.  We certainly aren't the type of parents who drive our children.  We don't fill their heads with the notion that if they don't make the A honor roll they might as well resign themselves to a life of asking "would you like fries with that?"  I mean, we expect them to do their best, but I think we're pretty balanced about it. 

We were youth pastors for several years when we were first married and I remember being struck even then by the amount of kids who were afraid to graduate.  Have you ever heard of such a thing??  My friends and I couldn't wait to graduate!  We had the world by the tail and couldn't wait to launch out on our own...

What has changed?

I'm not sure if I have the answer to that question.  I do think that kids are under a lot more pressure than they used to be.  Is it the schools?  Is it the parents?  Is it society?  Is it that they hear too much about the economy?  Is it that they are afraid of war?  Natural disasters?  Maybe a little of all of it.

But, what I believe, and what I tried to communicate to my daughter last night is that it's all going to work out.  Sure, the world has it's challenges, but shoot, atleast we're not in danger of being thrown to the lions like they were a few centuries back.  There are problems out there, but there are solutions.  There are bad people, but there are great ones too.  Sure, money is tight right now, but this is still the land of opportunity.  We do have to face fears, but they can be overcome by faith.  Our collective glass may often look half empty, unless you choose to notice that is also half full.  :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My kids aren't grown-ups...

But, sometimes, I forget that.

I find myself getting frustrated with them because they are struggling with something that I dealt with long ago or because they are immature.  I get weary of having the same or similar conversations over and over and over and over.  I trip over yet another pile of clutter.  I open the laundry chute and a waterfall of toys cascades out.  I look for the new plasticware I just bought to store leftovers and every single piece is in the backyard full of mud.  The towels are "hung" to dry in a big wet mass on the side of the tub.  And on and on and on.

It occurs to me that all of the things in the previous paragraph are exactly why they still need me. 

I read an account once of a mother of 7.  She had just finished the morning routine and got all of them out the door to school and she turned to find her kitchen in disarray and several loads of laundry laying next to her washing machine.  Then, she walked into the bathroom off of the kitchen and encountered a huge mess, including a tub that was badly in need of a scrub.  She got the cleaner and knelt down by the tub and started to cry.  She was totally overwhelmed with the feeling of being in a hamster wheel that all moms experience at one time or another.  She began to pray, "God, I want to do big things for you!  I want to help people!  I want my life to matter!"  Then she sensed a still, small voice in her heart, "These are big things that you are doing.  These children, they are more precious to me than you could ever know, and I trusted them to you.  Who else will do these things for them?  I need you to love them."

Indeed.  Who else will do these things for them?  Who else will love them?

Take heart, fellow Moms.  These things we do and do and do and do and do...they matter.  :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Settling In...

Well, we officially have the first week under our belt - big sigh of relief -  I almost feel like I've finished a marathon or something...

Now, I have a clearer picture of my days will look like over the next 9 months.  I have figured out the quickest routes too and from all the places my van must carry me.  I have the start and end times of every activity memorized and I know which clocks in which buildings run fast and which run slow.  I have identified the best way to say goodbye to each of my kids in the morning and how to reconnect with them again in the afternoon.  I am gaining a working knowledge of how each of their classrooms run and learning the personalities and expectations of each teacher.  I know which days I'm really going to need my crock-pot and which days I'll have more time to make a meal.  We almost have the bedtime dance perfected. I think I may have even figured out when to squeeze my laundry in. 

I call that a good week.  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life is Beautiful.

Most days I am caught up in my own life and doing all the things that it takes to make this family run.  It is a lot of work to run a family, as all of you know, and definitely has the potential to be mundane.  So, that's why I shake myself up now and again - make sure that I'm focused on the right things - make sure that I'm not letting the beauty slip by and missing it because I'm so caught up in the details.

The truth is Life is Beautiful.

It's very easy to fall into the trap of viewing everything as an obligation instead of an opportunity.  Here's a good example:  Currently I have kids going to 3 different campuses that start and end at different times.  None of them have bussing, so that means I do a pretty huge amount of drop off and pick up.

  I could really let that ruin my day.

 But, you know what?  I like it.  It gives me lots of time to chit chat with my kids as well as some quiet, alone time after they're dropped off. :)

It also makes me grateful that they get to go to school, for free, and receive a good education.  That I live in a country where I have a choice about where and how I school them.  That, as a parent, I still have a voice.

Then, that leads me down the road of being amazed all over again that I am a parent; that I get to be a part of watching these amazing people grow up and become.

Then, of course, that reminds me of the wonderful guy that I get to do it all with.  Could there be a better person for me to adventure through life with??  No way.  We were made for each other.

Add to all of that the fact that I just got a new (to me) van, and the constant "on the go" of my life feels like a privilege instead of a pain. Truly an opportunity, not an obligation.

So, why don't you tell me why your life is beautiful...I'd love to know.  :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Forgotten lunches and levity...

Holy first 3 days of school, Batman!!!  I'm not sure how I always forget how crazy the beginning of the year is, but I do.  Every dang year.  This would be the perfect time to say, "That's what you get for having 5 kids."  But, if you do I'll just pretend I don't hear you shouting through cyberspace...  ;)

During the summer months, I have all of these dreams of how this next school year, we will be on the ball.  Starting right out of the gate, everyone will have everything packed up the night before, clothes will always be freshly washed, we will bounce out of bed all cheery-like and be ready to saunter out the door 5 minutes ahead of schedule.  Yah, right.  Apparently, during the summer, I lose sight of the fact that we are people and not a clan of robots.

It used to plague me that I was not that kind of Mom that always has everything together at all times - I used to be sure that I was somehow setting a bad example by not doing all things June Cleaver.  But, I'm a little more relaxed now - well, save for the unrealistic back to school expectations - and I'm able to enjoy us the way we are.

I laughed at myself as the lunch guy at school today overheard me tell my 9 year old that if she ever forgot her lunch again I would knock her out - now, you know why I didn't blog this morning - because I didn't feel mortified by myself in the least.  That is just how we roll.  We have figured out that levity goes a long way towards preserving sanity, and I happen to think that it is better for her to hear a fake threat followed by a hug and laughter than for me to let that incident become so important that it ruins both of our days.

So, here's to hoping that things start rolling a little more smoothly for this school year...and also for hoping that we can keep laughing if they don't.  :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


To my 9th grader:  I am so proud of you, you are brave and smart.  Starting your freshman year - you are well on your way to becoming the awesome young womanI have always expected you to become.  Take heart during this frustrating time, it will pass, and you will be glad you went through it.  In the meantime - enjoy sleeping in a little. :)

To my 7th grader:  I will always remember the look on your precious face when we walked into the gym this morning and you saw all those HUGE middle and high schoolers.  It is true, you are small on the outside.  But, you have one of the biggest hearts I've ever known.  You are a treasure and a wonderful person.  Stand tall, even if your tall is kinda short.  :)

To my 4th grader:  You are a gift.  I know you feel unsure and you wonder how you measure up.  Two older, awesome sisters, you say, and two little brothers who get all the attention.  But, you don't see what I see.  You might be in the middle of our family, but you are so unique, so individual.  There couldn't be a better you.  I can't wait until you realize how great you are.  :)

To my 2nd grader:  Handsome.  Confident.  So ready to take on the 2nd grade.  But, so sensitive to those around you.  You are a good friend, son.  Don't let the world turn you into a "tough" guy.  You show them that boys can be tender-hearted too.  And don't let any girls kiss you today - that's still my job. :)

To my Young 5's boy:  Red hair.  Glasses.  Loving his mommy like only the baby can.  Wanting to be confident like your big brother, but not quite.  Quirky.  Wonderful.  Be careful with my heart today, OK?  :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Back to school time really is the New Year - I mean I know we celebrate it on January 1st, but that decision was made long before organized schooling.  :)

So, I woke all the kids up early this morning to make sure they would be tired and ready for bed tonight - 5:45 and 6:50 (depending on which kid you are) is gonna come early.  They have all of their school supplies loaded into brand new back packs - new shoes and school clothes ready to go.  They are feeling a lot older than they did a mere 3 months ago when they were still a "baby" in that "younger grade."

It's funny, I remember all those feelings like they were yesterday.  School is such a big and significant part of a kid's life.  We give it all of the necessary focus around here, and yet there are times when I want to downplay it just a little.  Don't get me wrong, I understand how important education is - in fact, my husband is working on his master's degree as we speak.  It's just that, I don't want my kids to feel defined by their school experience.  They are so much more than how well they do in school.  Or let's just be real - they are so much more than how popular they are in school.

For whatever reason, I always understood that.  I was pretty shy during my growing up years, I know that's hard to believe, but it's true.  I was never a member of the "in" crowd.  I wasn't disliked in school, I was just kind of invisible.  But, I knew.  I knew that it didn't matter because as soon as I graduated, the little hierarchy that exists inside the walls of a school building wouldn't have any bearing on my life.

And I was right.

Soon after I graduated, I was accepted into and began to travel with a touring dance company.  It was serious travel, 11 months out of the year.  I got to go to Canade, Europe, Singapore, Cuba...performed at the World's Fair, the Olympic Village and countless arenas and theatres across America.  It was an amazing time in my life.  Then, I went to Bible school, got married and had 5 wonderful kids.

It now matters less than nothing what those kids in school thought, or didn't think, of me.   I want my kids to go to school, to do their best, to get a good education.  And to realize that school is just a small part of their vast and promising life.  :)

Friday, September 2, 2011


I am a little overwhelmed at all the paperwork I have filled out over the past several days.  Enrolling 5 kids in various schools and activities is no small task!

But, in the midst of all of it, I was seriously overwhelmed with gratitude.  Sooooo grateful that I live in a time and place where all of this is available to my kids.  We are so blessed.  They have so many opportunities for enrichment, so many places that their minds, bodies and hearts can grow.  So many people that understand the importance of investing into young lives.  Wow, their future is bright.

Which brings me to another thought.  On the one hand, we have all of these educators who look at our young people and see good and see potential.  On the other hand, we have a different group of people who look at them and see pierced lips and tattoos, kids who don't know how to obey,  a bunch of lazy good for nothings with their ear buds and blisters on their fingers from texting.  Same kids, different perspective.

The first group looks at the kids and sees their ipods, jewelry and attitudes as exterior trappings that will change form with time, they are able to see that the real kid lives underneath all of that and to see the beauty of the heart despite the outward.  The second group sees only the surface, judges only on the surface.  The first group is interested in what the child has to say, what they think, what they feel.  The second group is only interested in getting the child to change on the outside.

Guess who will ultimately be able to guide the child?  Of course, the one who cares.  Not the one who judges.

I pray everyday that I can give this gift to my own chldren, as well as those I teach.  I pray that I will do what is best for them, and not try to make them conform to what is comfortable for me.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

When Fixing the Problem isn't the Answer...

*Sigh*  Being a parent is really hard sometimes.  I have been told my many older mothers to trust my instincts when it comes to parenting.  To not worry about what other people are doing or not doing, just to trust the heart and mind that God gave me.  I think that is true - atleast most of the time.

The one time when this piece of advice seems to fail is when it comes to watching your children struggle.  Kids start to face struggles from the time they are very young and we mothers, we don't like it.  I can remember almost crying watching one of my babies trying to learn to roll over.  She was so frustrated, red-faced, hollering -it was pitiful.  My knee-jerk reaction was to go and flip her over.  But, what good would that do?  She would still have to struggle to do it next time because all the struggling was, in fact, building the muscles she needed to accomplish the task.

Oh, if only it was always as easy as learning to roll over...

I'm not trying to discourage anyone, but it just gets harder as they get older.  There have been so many times that I have wanted to step into a situation and "fix" it.  Just buy that toy they want so bad and have been saving for forever.  Rescind a consequence because they really are sorry.  Call that teacher and demand less homework.  Call the mom of that kid who is being so snotty.  Make an excuse about why the assignment wasn't done on time.  And on and on and on...

It doesn't get easier to watch them struggle, but I do atleast understand it better.  I get that this is the way they learn and grow and ultimately become successful adults.  It's just life and I don't do them any favors when I take away the means by which they develop.

There is something we can do though.  Believe in them.  Believe in them and let them know that we do.  Tell them, "I know this is so hard, so hard for you right now.  But, you will make it.  You are able.  You'll be better when it's over." 

And then wait until they aren't around to cry.   

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ok, it's time.

I'll admit it.  I am now ready for school to start up again.  The first half of summer, school is like a curse word around here, but it is interesting how as we approach the inevitable start-up in September, everyone's attitudes start to change.  (Well, most everyone.  I do have one child who would be happy to have summer perpetually).  We all start to feel the familiar excitement about buying school supplies and clothes, figuring out schedules, meeting new teachers and seeing friends again.

For me, it has a lot to do with "me time", which seems largely non-existent in the summer.  In the summer, we throw bedtime schedules out the window and it is not unusual for everyone to be up until midnight.  Sure, then they sleep in, but it's just not the same as having those quiet moments at night after they are all in bed.  That's the time when I get to wind down from my day and reconnect with my husband.  Think my own thoughts.  Watch an interesting t.v. show.  Read.  No one says "Mommy", which although I love to hear it, can start to wear me down by 8:00 in the evening.

So, although I am not thrilled about setting the alarm clock for 6:00 once again, I am ready for the rest of what the school year means.  To quote my 5 year old, "It's Go Time!!!"

Monday, August 29, 2011

The VMA's and why Moms (and Dads) are so important.

So, me and the kids watched the VMA's last night.  What?  Not great for family consumption in your opinion?  Well, I (sort of) disagree. 

I'm just going to assume for the sake of time that you either watched it or have been apprised of what went down.  I actually thought Lady Gaga was kinda funny - cussing aside - and though she  pushes the envelope (or just rips it up), she is quite a talent.  Justin Bieber was cute.  Brittany got a well-deserved award for her video making prowess, and seems to have found a measure of class along the way.  Katy Perry wore a cheese wedge on her head.  Chris Brown performed and, based on the response of the crowd, proved that amazing talent doesn't overrule the need for common decency.  It was predictably edgy, with each performer trying to earn marks for originality or awesomeness or just trying desperately to stand out in some way.

I think watching stuff like this is a great lesson for my kids, not in pop culture, but in reality.  They knew of Brittany in her younger days, and have seen her ups and downs.  They think Lady Gaga is kinda cool, but one of them wisely remarked that she has to keep coming up with more and more outrageous things to keep the media's attention. My girls are keeping a keen eye on Justin to see if all his Jesus talk is for real or if he's gonna pull a Miley Cyrus on us.  They all sighed disgustedly and Reagan left the room when Chris Brown took the stage. 

I actually said relatively little as we watched it and just listened to them.  I was proud.  Proud that at their young ages they already get that that is a fake world.  Sure, it's entertaining.  But, just because someone is standing on that stage doesn't mean that what they say is right. Just because someone has millions of dollars and a gaggle of fans doesn't mean they're happy.  Even when a girl is famous, we know she's insecure and has no self-respect when she puts her junk on display.  I was proud that they were saying all of those things amongst themselves without me directing the conversation.

In our minds, my husband and I think that while our kids live at home is the perfect time for them to test things out, to be exposed to things, to learn to critically think about the culture they live in, and to decide their stances on issues.  There are MOST DEFINITELY things in our culture that I hope they stay away from, but I want them staying away from them because they have figured out that there are more worthwhile things to do, not because they are so sheltered they don't even know those options exist.

I fully expect my kids to get "scraped knees" while they are navigating these growing up years.  Growing up is tough!  I really want to still be available with my "band aids", and not hundreds of miles away, when they do fall down.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Living Every Day

Ok, so I think I'll just aim for posting every week day - at some point during the day - how's that? ;)

I've been thinking lately about how we spend so much of our lives waiting for things.  Living with 5 kids of varying ages reminds of this all the time because they are all always waiting to reach some milestone or another.  It also strikes me - all the time - how once they reach it, it's never quite what they imagined.  Like Pierce - who turned 5 yesterday and had a great birthday - but even so, he was a bit crestfallen at bedtime.  He first said, "I can't believe I'm 5!!"  Then, it was followed up quickly by, "I still feel like I'm 4..."  Yah, well, get used to that feeling buddy, it happens a lot in life.

I remember waiting to turn 10 (2 digits!), waiting to become a teenager, waiting to turn sweet 16, waiting to graduate, waiting to get married, waiting to have my first child, etc, etc, etc.  Somewhere along the line, I realized that in a way, I was also putting my life on hold while I was waiting to get "there."  Like, in order to be truly happy or fulfilled, I had to have all my ducks in a row.  Wow.  What a lie.  I'm so glad I realized it before I wasted a lot more of my life waiting for all the planets to align before I could be happy.

I'm sure there will always be something I'm waiting for, but in the meantime, I am very grateful to have what I have, be where I am, have the people in my life that I love, and to be on this amazing journey called life.  I really hope that I am able to pass this contentment onto my kids, I hope they learn it younger than I did.  I hope they don't pin all their hopes for their future on Prince Charming, or a huge bank account, or the perfect body.

I hope that when they leave this house, they take with them contentment, peace and a knowledge that their life will unfold exactly as it is supposed to...and there's no need to be in a hurry. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worthless Rules

I have mentioned before that my kids watch t.v.  And they play (or do schoolwork) on the computer.  And we have a wii.  My kids also have bikes, a trampoline, great imaginations and love to read.  I don't really have strict rules about their "screen time", although if I think it's been excessive on any particular day, I will tell them to shut off all the screens and go do something else. 

I say all that to say I'm pretty laid back about it.  Actually, I tend to be pretty laid back about most things, which is partly my personality and partly my parenting creed. :)

Let me 'splain.

I have noticed, over the years, whether it's in my own life, my kids or other people; that the moment we make a big deal out of something, it becomes a big deal.  I know, profound.  But rules with no wiggle room, with no context, I think they're not good.  I think they push whoever is governed by them to try to find a way OUT.  It's just human nature.  So, I tend to ask myself when thinking about parenting or really anything in my life - "why is this rule here?"  If there's no good reason, I get rid of it.  Here's a good example.

Carter started going to school in the first grade (he was homeschooled for Kindergarten) and he had fallen into a routine of watching a cartoon in the morning before we homeschooled.  Then, when he started going to school for some reason, I put in place the "no t.v. in the mornings before school" rule.  Why?  Because that was my rule as a kid - probably because my Dad was usually still sleeping in the room right next to the t.v. - no real forethought on my part, just bam, no more t.v. in the mornings for you.  Suddenly, I'm struggling to get him ready for school, he's hard to wake up, and then he sits and stares at the dining room wall while he eats his breakfast and I rush around helping the other kids get ready.  One day it hit me that I was doing it - imposing a rule with no real purpose.  Why should he stare at the wallpaper when he could watch Spongebob while he ate his cereal?  No reason.  At all.  So, I changed the rule and bam - easiest kid in the world to get ready for school.

It all goes back to relationship in my mind.  My goal in this parenting thing is to raise kids who know how to make smart choices, who know how to THINK for themselves.  I don't think I do that effectively when I just say, "Do this because."

I think that more than a "sage on the stage" I should be a "guide by their side."

How about you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Of surgeries and late starts...

My general goal is to try to post a blog each weekday morning.  We will see how often my life allows that, today it didn't.

My oldest daughter, Kennedy, had to have round 2 of some pretty significant oral surgery today.  I just have to brag on her a little because she is a trooper.  Surgery is scary no matter what age you are, but I imagine the age of 14 is just about the worst time you could have to deal with it.  I mean, when one is younger, the parent can alleviate many fears and not reveal the entirety of what is going on until after it's over.  I know that because Carter had to have a minor surgery when he was 3.  Walk in the park, folks.

 By the time one is an adult, they are likely to have some pretty good coping mechanisms in place and if nothing else the fear of being perceived as a wimp will probably help them to hold it together. 

But, shoot coping with it as a teenager leaves you pretty much in the middle of those two.  Your parents are less likely to try to sugar coat what's going down and you're less likely to believe them if they did.  But, you still really are a kid, with all the fears and uncertainties that come along with it.

That being said, I have to say, she did awesome!  Even coming out of the anesthesia was so much better than the first time, and that's the hard part.  I'm proud of her.  She's a great kid. :)  And despite the temporary discomfort and frustration that she is dealing with right now, she's gonna have a great smile to show for it for the rest of her life.  A great lesson in putting up with something tough for the short term to reap something worthwhile for the long term.

Wouldn't it be great if everyone could learn that lesson before they graduated high school?  ;)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Da House Rules.

*Disclaimer*  If you happen to be reading this and your child spent the night at my house last night, don't worry.  This was not inspired by the events of last night. :)  Actually, they all did quite well.

Sleepovers are such a rite of passage.  I know some parents frown on them and don't allow them, but I think they're great.  In fact, I like them even more as a grown-up than I did as a kid.  It is fun to welcome others into our house and life and to see the kids add another playmate or two or 21 to the mix.  (You think I'm joking.  I'm not.  One year, one of my dear children took it upon herself to make 11 extra birthday invites besides the 10 I had given her for her party.  Everyone invited came.  And it was a sleepover.  In the winter.  That's right - 26 kids slept in my house that night - I say sleep loosely.)

It's fun, that is, as long as everyone can play by the house rules.  It is funny to me how each of my kids at one point or another has assumed that because they have a friend over the rules no longer apply.  Maybe they don't think that exactly, but they think that I wouldn't dare say anything to one of their friends who was crossing a line.  Oh.  They are so wrong.

It usually goes something like this:

Me:  What are you guys doing?
My child:  Oh, my friend just wants to *fill in the blank*
Me:  And you told them that wasn't Ok, right?
My child: *look of horror* No!  Mom, it really isn't a big deal just this once, right?
Me: Um, yes, it is.  You tell them or I will.
My child: *elevated look of horror* You wouldn't!!
Me:  Try me.

They rarely try me because I have no problem saying to unnamed child, "Excuse me, that is not ok in this house."  I've even had, on occassion, a child who isn't mine try to take me on.  "But, Mrs. Mihailoff, my Mom lets me!!!  Can't we just this once???"  I even once heard, "If you don't let us, I won't like you."

Funny how much power words like that used to hold over me when I was a kid.  I used to wonder how my Mom could so boldly stand up to whichever "cool kid" happened to be spending the night.  Now, I get it.  It's because they aren't that cool.  And also because I'm 38 and I make the mortgage payment. :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speech Therapy and the Heart of God.

So, tomorrow is the start of something big for my littlest one.  He will be attending young 5's starting in the fall and so we decided that we have finally hit the point that his "lisp" may require some more attention than him simply "growing out of it."  I am loathe to admit this, however.  Why would I want to change the sound of his little impish voice calling out through the house, "Mama, where are you?  Are you in the chicken??"  "Mommy, come and help me, I'm in the bafwoom."  "I yub you, Mama!"  I don't want to, I don't.  But, him.  I need to do this for him.  Because he will soon be entering the "hallowed halls of academia" and it simply won't do to have him being teased because his favorite shoes are his "cwocks" or because he's trying to show off his cool "yunchbox."  And so, off we will go tomorrow morning to his first appointment with the speech therapist...

I have truly loved all the stages and changes each of my kids have gone through thus far.  I mean, there have been trying times, but generally speaking; I SO enjoy each of them.  Watching them grow and discover and become - well, it's simply amazing.

Things are a little different with this one though, and I know it's because he is my last.  My baby.  I haven't been as quick to want him to spread his wings, haven't minded the fact that he's a bit of a late bloomer.  No, in truth, I have relished it.  Have thanked God many a time that this little one, my last one, needs me perhaps a bit more than the others did.

Aside from the fact that tomorrow is Pierce's first speech therapy appointment, we also just found out he will need glasses, AND Thursday is his 5th birthday.  Quite a week for my little man.  So, we were talking about all of these changes tonight at dinner and Carter (my 7 year old) asked Nic (my husband) if he was proud of Pierce because he was turning 5.  Nic replied, "Well, I am proud of him, honey, but he will turn 5 without trying."

The conversation continued around me, but I was struck with that thought.  He will turn 5 without trying.  And in truth, many of his "accomplishments" up to this point have simply been the result of his normal growth.  And yet, I am so proud of him.  So proud, it makes my chest tighten up and my throat swell and tears spring to my eyes when I think about it.  I am proud of him and I love him - so much - not because of what he does, but because of who he is. 

And then another thought came to me, this my friends, is exactly how God feels about us.  He doesn't love us because of what we DO, He loves us because of who we ARE.  We are His.  We are precious.  He doesn't rush our growth to get us to the end product, or tap his foot impatiently as he waits for us to mature.  He relishes the journey with us just as we do with our own children.  He may even want to slow it down sometimes, enjoy the moment, listen to us call out to him imperfectly one more time...and I believe His heart swells with pride as we make each baby step towards Him.

This thought will make my trek to the speech therapist tomorrow a little easier...but, just a little.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Majoring on the Majors...

My house is not spotless.  Our diet is not perfect.  My kids watch t.v. - some days a lot of it.  My kids learn to read when they do - no Baby Einstein around here.  When they don't feel good, I give them synthetic medicine.  They have all been vaccinated.  I didn't breastfeed.  My boys are circumcised.  There have been spankings in this house.

This is a short list of things I have at one point or another felt guilty about admitting.  But, no more.  Here's why:

We don't tell each other to shut-up.  Ever.  Teasing does not happen in this house. (I'm serious).  My three girls (14,12 and 9)  love to have "sleep-overs" in each others rooms.  My two boys (7 and almost 5) get in trouble almost every night because they stay awake after bedtime playing and laughing together.  My 14 year old will still hold my hand in public.  All 5 of my children have told me within the last week that they love me. My teenager refers to me as her "comfort person."  My girls talk to me about things before seeking the advice of their friends.  My youngest boy still wants to marry me when he grows up. We stand up for each other.  We believe in each other.  We cheer one another on.  Our home is a place where we all belong and feel safe.

I think my efforts over the past 14 years have yielded some pretty incredible fruit - I am determined to keep focusing on the majors....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gettin Down to Business...

Ok, so yesterday's post was kind of a cautious tiptoe into the water's of being a Mom.  No real chance for opinions to clash or really even to have an opinion.  But today, I'm just throwing caution to the wind because I have somethin' I wanna talk about.

It's food.  "This lady has lost it."  I can hear you saying out into cyberspace.  "What has food got to do with parenting??"  Hold your horses, I'm getting there. 

It seems like, in the past, food really didn't have anything to do with parenting.  Your parents probably put food on the table and you either ate it or went hungry.  The thought of Mom as a short order cook was in between laughable and downright disrespectful.

It's kind of a big deal to me, though, for one very big reason.  I'm a picky eater.  If there is something on my plate that I don't like, I cannot force it down my throat no matter how hard I try.  I was assured that I would outgrow this, but let's just say, I was done growing a fair piece back and it is still a problem for me.  Imagine then my dilemma when one of my own kids says, "Mom, I don't like this."  Do I force them to eat it, knowing how that would affect me?  Do I allow them not to eat it?  Do I jump up and fix them something else?  These may be easy answers for you, but often they become somewhat of a Waterloo to me.

Now add into the equation how health conscious some Moms are becoming.  You almost never hear a Mom say, "Well, he ate his ketchup, that's a vegetable, right?"  It's more like, "I can't get Susie to eat her kale.  Whatever shall I do??"  I just smile and nod and try to act like I struggle with that one too when the truth is I think kale is disgusting and would never even offer it as a choice.

So, we've gone through all these cycles at our house of me trying to clamp down on the eating and then abandoning ship on the idea later - see, I told you my propensity to forget about and change rules would come out all on it's own.  At the moment, I just am making sure my kids eat.  And I mean every day.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rules of Engagement..and What This Isn't.

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  For those of you who know me well, you can lift your chins off the ground, it was relatively short-lived.  ;-)  I couldn't fall asleep right away because I was excited thinking about all of you.  Thinking about what a grand online community we are about to create.  Then, I thought, I guess there should be rules.  Also for those of you who know me well, don't laugh!!  We don't have to let the newcomers know just yet that I am notorious for making rules only to forget them and then later decide they were unecessary anyway - OK??  They will figure it out on their own soon enough. 

Seriously though, I could only think of one and it's this:  play nice.  I am certain we will all run across ideas and suggestions on here that we don't agree with, but perhaps, if we hold in our knee jerk reaction and wait until we're civil to respond, we might learn something from the person.  At the very least we will let them keep their dignity while maintaining our own. 

Ok, now What This Isn't. 

This isn't a parenting advice column where you, dear reader, ask questions and I (alone) answer them.  I kind of loathe things like that and here is why:  the 5 kids that I have the honor of parenting, they are real people that live in real time.  They have hearts that beat, feelings that hurt, issues that truly concern them, and amazing, individual personalities.  It's kind of insulting to pick up a book or read a column that gives me canned parenting advice as though all children are basically the same.  See what I mean?  All of us will have something to add and all responses will be valued.  You may have some words of wisdom or encouragement to offer another reader that I wouldn't have because I haven't yet been in a similar situation.

Now to the business of what we'll talk about.  Seriously, anything and everything pertaining to parenting.  I suppose I will get to pick the daily topic by default, but I'm ok with rabbit trails.  Let's just see where all of this takes us.

So, to get things rolling, here's the first question:  What has been the most surprising thing to you about being a Mom?

On your mark, get set, go!!!