Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
Whether you have a preteen, or have a few years to go, hopefully this will save you countless episodes of frustration and grief.
What they say:
Mom, could you please take me to the mall?
What you think they mean:
Oh, she wants to hang out with me. How sweet.
What they actually mean:
Fork over the cash and get lost. My friends might see you.
What they say:
How does my shirt, jeans, hair, etc. look?
What you think they mean:
She wants me to be honest because she values my opinion.
What they actually mean:
I have no idea. But this is what I've observed from experience:
If I say: "You look nice, honey."
Response: "Nice? Nice? Who says 'nice'?! It's 'cool,' Mom. And if you think it's 'nice' then my friends will probably think I look like a geek. I'm going to change."
If I say: "It looks okay." OR "I don't know, I'm not wild about it."
Response: "Okay, just 'okay'??!! Thanks a lot, Mom." OR "Wow. I can't believe you just told me I look ugly."
My advice: Just smile. Do not speak. a. single. word.
What they say:
Yes, my homework is done, Mom.
What you think they mean:
They've done their homework to the best of their God-given abilities.
What they actually mean:
I finished my homework as quickly as possible, so I can get on with important stuff -- like IMing my friends.
What they say:
I hate swimming, Busch Gardens, homework, school, my brother, dinner, you fill in the blank.
What you think they mean:
They hate everything. And everyone.
What they actually mean:
They actually don't hate much of anything. But it's 'cool' to act like you hate everything. (i.e. "If I liked something, what would my friends think?!")
Yes, being the mom of a preteen (or teen) takes careful navigating and constant readjustment. But I've learned a secret that has helped immensely. Are you ready for it?
Preteen pronouncements aren't personal.
I think I truly internalized this a while back when I expressed astonishment at something Molly said and she responded: "Mom, I'm 12 years old. I'm always saying stupid stuff. What do I know?"
I can't tell you how much this epiphany has helped me! (And I don't know why it took me so long ! ;0)
When I quit focusing on my own personal woundedness, I'm able to be more objective and less emotional. I can parent with purpose and consistency instead of out of fear or hurt.
I just know that if both of us are operating on a purely emotional level, bad things happen. And I'm the grown-up, so....
When I say something, I have to know what I mean and stick to it.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I am sure that barriers to organization for women are based on their the individual circumstances however, I personally find my barriers are based on not having enough time in the day, finances, and my energy level.
I simply keep things out of my house. Especially paper. I limit the number of items we have everywhere possible and ensure I have a place to put items before I purchase them by asking myself ‘Do I have a space to keep this?’.
I keep a running list of all the things I need to get done around the house. If they can be broken down into small steps (I never have more than 3 hours to work on a project) I will work on them. Otherwise, I ask someone to help or pay someone. I try to tackle a project each month.
Three items used every week in my house : Rice cooker (add ingredients press button and walk away), crock pot, and bread machine (used to make dough). I also use a lot of fresh vegetables. Salads, pasta salads, and meal items that can be cooked ahead of time. It helps to be with someone who likes to cook as well!
Every Saturday morning we crank up the music and clean. I encourage the children to help (help is the key word here – they clean with me). I let my children help vacuum, wash windows, wash the van, set the table, clear the table, put away dishes.
Some people love my way of keeping up with laundry, others think I am crazy. In my laundry room I have 4 large ‘pantries’. I fold the laundry, it is put away. The only clothing kept in the children’s rooms are their Sunday bests, shoes, and jackets.
I have been looking at my grocery budget and fuel costs. I always find I am throwing out leftover food each evening, so I am trying to incorporate two meals into each dinner (spaghetti one night followed by sloppy joes the next). I live in a smaller community and I allow my children to walk the 5 blocks to school and found someone on my son’s track team who literally drives past my house to take him to practices.
Plastic bins on wheels for all my children’s homework items and art stuff. We wheel it to the table at homework time. Large shelves in the entry way for the children’s shoes, and school bags.
This is something I had to learn not my children. I read an article recently that talked about parents polled to ask what their goal is in relation to raising their children. The majority said to make sure the children are ‘happy and fulfilled’.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Beginning this week, I’m starting a section called “Child Chatter” in the right sidebar column. It will feature cute and funny quotes from your kids.
Please EMAIL your quotes to me at email@example.com. I’ll try to use as many of them as I can. Feel free to send a photo of your little guy or gal to go along with it.
To get the ball rolling, I’ll share a recent quote from Molly, my 12-year-old:
"I kind of miss the days of Webkinz, before all the drama of MySpace. You know, Mom, back in the days when it was just about two dogs playing checkers..."
It made me laugh!
So break out your tape recorders and start sending me some good stuff!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Tired of hanging around the house, my “on hiatus” teacher husband suggested we take off for a day of fun at Busch Gardens yesterday afternoon.
I blocked the memories of our last Busch Gardens trip (see earlier post) from my mind and started out full of optimism. It is an amusement park after all.
Unfortunately, this little Susie Sunshine and her husband encountered a few barriers in trying to actually execute the plan:
- The migraine headache I had the day before decided to stick around and make my life miserable for another day. But hey. That’s nothing a few roller coasters can’t cure. We must press on.
- I had to help with Vacation Bible School yesterday morning and since it was the last day, I also had to help with cleanup and tear down. And Busch Gardens isn’t exactly down the street from us. Our “day of fun” just became “afternoon of fun.” That’s okay. A little fun is better than no fun.
- Daughter’s response to “afternoon of fun:” “Ugh… do we have to go? I am SO tired. I don’t feel like roller coasters today. I’m not going.” My optimism is beginning to crumble.
- Get home and preteen daughter can find “nothing” to wear. Three drawers and a closet full of garments, but still “nothing” to wear. And it’s all my fault. Don’t you remember what it was like being 12? When you had to look perfect for a group of complete strangers that you’ll never see again? I do. Doesn’t mean it’s helping my now waning enthusiasm for the “big fun” we’ve got planned.
- After finally finding suitable attire, it is 2:30 p.m. TWO-THIRTY!!! Must take deep breath. “Afternoon of fun” is now “Evening of fun.” Are we nuts???!
- It’s nearly 150 degrees outside, but Molly and Micah spend a good portion of the ride arguing over the car blanket.
- I forgot my camera (thus no photographic evidence of our adventure. Wait. Maybe that’s a good thing.)
We finally arrive. We get food. Everyone feels a little better. Even my headache starts to ease a little. Molly and I hit the Montu roller coaster. There is no line. In fact, there are no lines at all – anywhere.
Pretty soon, we’re having a darn good time. Suddenly, wardrobe malfunctions and blanket battles don’t seem like such a big deal. Who says Disney World is “The Happiest Place on Earth?”
Too often I think I let the massive production involved in orchestrating family activities keep me from just letting loose and having fun. But when I do, I remember, “Yea, it is worth it.”
We’re not just having fun, after all, we’re making memories. And when it’s all said and done, hopefully they’ll remember mostly the good ones.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I've got a few suggestions:
1.) Volunteer at your church’s Vacation Bible School program “Rome: Paul and the Underground Church.”
2.) Enclose 120 summer-crazed children in a single large room.
3.) Try to teach them something.
4.) Agree to be the small group leader for the fifth graders. Hope that most of them are boys. (I’m running a little low on middle school drama in my house right now, so this is PERFECT!)
5.) Turn your group loose outside for some recreation. Watch as they catch lizards, pry open their mouths and sink their little amphibian teeth into their earlobes for lizard earrings! All the cool kids are doing it.
6.) Give them sashes (in keeping with the ancient Rome theme). This week, I’ve learned that these make great headbands, slings and bandages. You can even tie your feet together and hop around bumping into people! They’re great for ill-timed games of tug-of-war! And, if you really get bored, make one into a straightjacket contraption and pretend like you’re choking yourself! Big fun!
7.) Put a bowl of grapes and trail mix in the middle of the floor. Ask your group if they’re ready for a snack.
8.) Try to lead your group in meaningful discussion with 110 other kids closeby.
I promise you. You will not be bored.
I knew my rowdy crew was having fun. But with all the horsing around and distractions, I wasn’t convinced that a whole heck of a lot was sinking in.
Then, one of the coordinators suggested that I move my spirited group to a quieter corner. When I did, an amazing thing happened. They gave great feedback. They shared their thoughts. They asked thought-provoking questions.
Hmmm… maybe they “got” more than I thought.
I find it’s like that with my kids, too. I’ll teach, instruct, discipline. And, at times, they appear oblivious. They’re distracted. Hyper. Bored. Defiant.
But every now and then, usually in a quiet moment, they throw me a bone. They give me a glimmer (sometimes more!) that all of my efforts have not been for nothing. And the words I’ve spoken come back to me – out of their mouths. Amazing.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 (New Living Translation)
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Immediately, my blood pressure began to rise.
There, in the doorway of her closet, on my JUST CLEANED carpet, was a hideous spot.
Me: MOLLY! What is that spot on your carpet???!!!!
Molly (without a care in the world): Oh, that? Yea, Lauren and I ate Cocoa Puffs and we kinda spilled the milk.
Me: Wait a minute. Lauren slept over TWO DAYS AGO! TWO DAYS! That spot has been there for TWO DAYS?! Did you think about maybe cleaning it up or maybe telling me so I could? Did ya think about that?! I JUST got the carpets cleaned, but was it your money? Noooo.
Then I went into a highly educational and spirited lecture about how when you leave stains they soak into the carpet fibers and are much more difficult to remove. This is all riveting stuff for a 12-year-old.
Yep, it’s true. I became the bird. Whatever his name is. And I just went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But did I mention that I had JUST had my carpets cleaned? For $200 hard-earned bucks. Not that I’m counting.
My perfectionistic tendencies are dying a long, hard, slow painful death.
Later I asked myself, “Was the Cocoa Puffs battle worth fighting? In the big picture, does it really matter that I have some Cocoa Puffs milk embedded into my carpet fibers?”
Right now, Molly is on the edge of the teen years. Already, she’s been bombarded by a host of influences that make me shudder. And pray. A lot.
Every day, it seems like my influence fades a little. But I know it’s still there. Probably more than I think.
And when I insist on nitpicking and winning every little “Cocoa Puffs” battle, I damage our relationship. And relationship IS influence. When I encounter a battle that really counts, I want her to hear me.
Which means this Cuckoo bird needs to stay in her cage.
He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3
Friday, June 12, 2009
All the little boys were handsomely dressed in white shirts, black pants and knee-high white socks.
Hmmm… that’s odd. Wonder what that’s about?
Then it dawned on me.
In all the Christmas hoopla, I had misread the memo from Micah’s teacher as “have your child wear a dress shirt” instead of “have your child wear a white dress shirt."
I can’t remember now exactly what roles they were playing … soldiers or pages or mice or some such thing. But I can tell you one thing for sure. The role didn't involve wearing plaid.
In my mind, Micah might as well have been wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “I am dressed like this because my mother is a moron.”
My wide eyes locked with his teacher’s. “Uh, did we forget something?”
Worse yet, poor Micah looked like he wanted to be swallowed up into a black hole. I would have gladly joined him.
Finally, I came to my senses. My mom problem-solving skills kicked into turbo drive.
“I can fix this. I can. I’ll run to K-mart. I will be back before you know it.”
“I have to have the children in the auditorium in 15 minutes. I don’t think you can do it,” his teacher said.
Never underestimate a mom on a mission.
On the drive over, I began the oh-so productive exercise of berating myself.
Mom self-talk can be brutal.
I sprinted into K-mart and frantically began looking for a size medium white shirt. They had oodles of every other color.
The clerk scanned the tag then looked at me quizzically. “Is there some kind of program or something at one of the local schools?"
“Yes, actually," I said sheepishly. "The Nutcracker. I misunderstood what they were supposed to wear and had to run over here to get my son a shirt. How did you know?”
“Well, you have no idea how many moms have been in here this morning buying white shirts."
Then I’d look around, compare myself to other moms and heap on even more self-condemnation.
The self-imposed pressure to perform – for perfection -- was crushing. For me and for my family.
Isolation, after all, isn’t God’s idea. He knows there's strength in numbers.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
You know it's going to be a challenging day when the first interaction between your children goes something like this:
Molly: You are so annoying.
Micah: Shut up!
Molly: Don't tell me to shut up! You're ugly!
Micah: M-O-L-L-Y!!!! (As he chases her with his Dollar Store plastic baseball bat.)
That was yesterday ... Day Two of summer in the Means house. At this rate, law enforcement will be involved by August.
The rest of the day unfolded with similar episodes until their father (Mike) finally sent them to their rooms. (He's a teacher on summer vacation.)
At one point in the banishment, Molly emerged from her "cell."
Molly: Dad, when can I come out?
Mike: When I get tired of the peace and quiet.
I am not completely without understanding. Molly was still worn out from back-to-back, end-of-school sleepovers with her friends. And there hasn't been a whole lot to do around here. A change in routine always throws us Meanses off. We all tend to do much better with some structure.
And to their credit, they both separately wrote apology notes for their behavior during their time of confinement. Okay, maybe I'll keep them around. ;0)
It's true. Boredom breeds bad things -- in them and in me. I think a big ol' dose of Somethin' To Do would help curb a lot of the conflict.
I now have a plan to keep them busy for the rest of June ... A youth mission trip for Molly, VBS for Micah and a trip to visit friends in Ohio.
Without a plan, the inmates tend to run the asylum.
Isn't that true, though, yearround with children? When I don't have a plan to address their behaviors, boundaries set in place beforehand, I end up REACTing instead of being PROactive. And when I REACT, I am always in a position of weakness. They are the ones in control.
Sometimes I can slip into "survival mode" in parenting where it becomes just about getting through the day instead of keeping the long-term picture and goals in mind. We are actually raising adults, after all.
I need to always have a plan to guide them, just like my Father has a long-term plan for my life.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
So tell me, how are you keeping your kids occupied this summer?
(I do still have July and part of August to fill, so I can use all the ideas I can get! ;0)
(Just so you know, all disclosures I make about Molly and Micah are with their prior approval! ;0))
Saturday, June 6, 2009
It all began when we took the family to a friend’s house for a barbeque.
For a while, the kids – all five of them, ranging in age from 6 to 12 – were playing quite nicely. Truly a miraculous feat indeed.
But then (you know that a ‘but’ was coming) … in one terrible moment, it all went horribly awry.
Molly came out panting and breathless, shattering the rare, uninterrupted stretch of peaceful conversation we moms were enjoying out by the pool.
“Mom, Micah is making Grace cry! He’s trying to be funny and he’s making fun of her. I’m trying to handle it, but he’s just not listening! What are you going to do about it??!!” (Grace is our friends’ 10-year-old daughter).
Although I was confident (ahem…) that my 12-year-old’s ONLY motive was Grace’s welfare and that she no doubt handled the matter sensitively with her brother (DOUBLE ahem..), I decided I needed to find out what heinous act had been committed inside.
Apparently, it all centered around Grace’s retainer. Micah, Robert (another friend’s 11-year-old son) and Grace were all playing when Micah spied Grace’s retainer on the table.
“Grace, your retainer looks like a dead FROG!!”
Then, apparently, he and Robert burst into uproarious laughter at this HILARIOUS observation.
A real couple of Don Juans, those two. Smooth, boys.
Grace, however, did not see the humor. Nope, not one bit funny to little ol’ Grace. In fact, she burst into tears and ran upstairs.
It was an ugly scene. A drama-filled “he said, she said” ensued. How would this heartwrenching tale end??? Eventually, Micah offered a humble apology. Grace accepted. All grownups now needed sleep. Lots of it.
But (another but …) the story doesn’t end there.
The next day, Mike (my husband) and Micah were swimming in our pool. Micah hopped out to use the pool bathroom. From inside, I heard a shriek. I went outside to find him totally freaked out. A FROG was in the toilet!
(I just knew that somewhere Grace was laughing her head off).
Since Micah didn’t discover this until it was too late (I won’t get graphic), we decided to bid the poor guy farewell. See ya, Kermit.
But, the story doesn’t end there.
The next morning, Micah gets up for school and stumbles, half-asleep into the (indoor) bathroom.
“He’s back, Mom! The frog is back!!! Aaaah!!”
Yep, there he was. Alive and kicking. The stories that frog could tell.
This time, the discovery was made in time and Mike rescued the battle-weary amphibian and returned him to the wild.
Don’t you just love happy endings?
Isn’t it like that with our kids? We think we’ve got something licked – a behavior, an attitude – and “Boom!”, when we least expect it, it hops up and bites us on the butt.
Too many times I’ve responded with impatience and/or anger:
“How many times have I told you about this?”
“Why do I have to go over the same things over and over again???!”
And then I’ll remember. “Hmmm … how many times does God have to teach me the same lessons over and over again? How many times have I been guilty of making the same foolish mistakes over and over again?”
And how many times does God extend His grace to me?
God disciplines and instructs me, but He always does it with gentleness and love. It’s always motivated by my good. He doesn’t dole out the kind of condemnation and irritation I sometimes convey to my kids.
And how quickly I forget.
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
There’s nothing like chasing the frogs out of your OWN toilet to wake you up and keep you humble.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It was so fun to see a post from Emily Jean, who gave stories about her students, since she is overdue with her first child! Congrats, Emily! Let us know when the little one arrives ... You'll have lots of stories of your own to tell in no time! ;0)
Okay, I enlisted my children to help me in the random selection and announcement of the B&N gift card. Because kids never cheat. Well, not MY kids anyway.
In fact, they are just as perfect as their mother.
Molly was very excited about this "shoot" because she believes she can use this as a credit on her future modeling portfolio.
Actual quote (in a haughty tone): "Oh yes, I can tell the agency that I appeared on the 'Coming Clean' blog ..."
I don't know for sure, but I think she was making fun of me. The nerve.
Alright, without further ado, pick the name please, Molly ...
The winner is ... SHERI! Congratulations, Sheri!
(My boy is currently sporting a shaggy summer 'do ... He calls it his "rock star" look.)
Here's Sheri's story in case you missed it ...
"Hi Melinda! Before we began home schooling I would drive and pick up Curtis from school. There were mornings when Liv wanted to come along. On the way, we always prayed and dressed in our "Armor of God." One particular morning Liv wanted to finish the prayer, and when she did she said, "and our feet shocked with the preservation of the gospel of peace!" Maybe some truth in that!LOL"
If you didn't win this time, keep checking back... I plan to make this whole contest thing a regular feature ... if my kids don't bankrupt me first.