If you were a fly on the wall at my house, you'd be sure to hear your share of fussing, complaining and whining. Maybe even a slammed door or two.

But enough about me.

In the pressure cooker that's parenting, I have exploded more than once. And it's harder to clean up than spaghetti night with a toddler.

So after years spent indulging in fruitless self-flogging, I finally let go of my obsession with getting it all 'just right.' I confess...I'm not a perfect parent.

Whew. That felt good.

Now, when my son saunters in with his 42nd tardy of the school year, I let it go. When I hear myself hollering "Whatever!" at my teenage daughter, I move on.

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

And I've determined not to waste God's grace. I'll never get it just right. You won't, either. So read on, sister. If you see a little of yourself in me, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone. Nope. If you're a mom, face it. You're never, ever alone.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Picture Perfect

You'd have thought I was lining her up in front of a firing squad.

On second thought, perhaps that would have been a more welcome fate.

This cruel reality was far, far worse. Torture captured for all posterity.

What heinous act was I requiring my preteen daughter to perform?

She had to take a photo with (brace yourself) ...... her mother! In front of her friends! (Gasp!! Oh, the inhumanity of it all.)

Let me explain.

This past Sunday, I -- along with an awesome leadership team -- launched a six-week mother/daughter Bible Study at my church.

From the outset, the enthusiasm of the mothers was obvious. Some of the girls -- including my daughter -- well .... not quite so much.

That was painfully apparent when we asked them to pose for a mother/daughter picture as they arrived.

I heard the pained whispers: "This is so embarrassing!" and "Do we have to?"

I may actually have to cut and paste the photo of Molly and I in order to make it appear as if we are standing in the same airspace.

Later, as I was delivering some opening words of wisdom (?), some looked positively --- bored.

I'm convinced that aspiring stand-up comics should have to perform in front of middle schoolers as part of their training. I have yet to discover a tougher crowd.

It's not easy being in limbo between "little girl" and "young woman."

Wanting to be independent, but feeling insecure. Needing direction, but wanting to chart your own path.

That evening, as they decorated prayer journals, it struck me that several of the girls had put Disney princess stickers on their books alongside the more "grown-up" and teen-looking decorations.

One foot in childhood, the other in womanhood.

Now that I'm older (I didn't say old!), I can sometimes forget all the mixed-up emotions that dominate adolescence. I can easily grow impatient, frustrated and demand that she "grow up."

The fact of the matter? She is. And growing up is a messy business -- for both mothers and daughters. It's requiring far more wisdom and grace than I feel capable of giving.

In a moment of weakness last week I asked a friend, "How can I be leading a Mother/Daughter Bible Study when my own efforts to guide and support my daughter seem so hopelessly inadequate?"

She responded, "That is exactly why you are starting this study. We can't do it on our own. We need each other. Moms can't do it alone."

Supporting each other while we're diving to our knees.

Sounds picture perfect.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Operation Organization: Home Sweet Home

We came. We saw. We waged war.

Thanks to everyone who participated in my eight-week Operation Organization Challenge! It was wonderful to see so many of you reclaiming your homes.

I received comments and emails from a number of you who said a more organized home had greatly improved your mental health and family life. Now there's a cause worth fighting for, soldiers!

Speaking of relationships, my family relationships have required an extra measure of TLC lately. So, at the risk of disappointing you, I do not have a Week 8 Victory to share with you.

I don't want to ever lose sight of a priceless lesson I learned the hard way years ago: Tasks should never trump relationships.

Bearing that in mind, I'm confident that my home efforts were well-directed this week.

You all are the best!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Strong Medicine

It was a big moment.

Yesterday, I took my nine-year-old son for his cystic fibrosis checkup at his pulmonologist’s office.

We’ve been making these visits every three months since he was eight months old. But this appointment was different.

For as long as I can remember, every test was often a struggle of epic proportions – from the pulmonary function tests to the sputum culture.

Tear-filled eyes. Tortured pleas.

How do you explain to a sweet, terrified little boy that shoving a six-inch long Q-Tip down his throat is for his own good?

I’ve been tempted more than once to grab him by the hand, make a run for it and take our chances. Let ‘em find some other poor child to harass. I’m taking my boy to Dairy Queen, Doc.

But I knew it wasn’t the right thing.

He needed the tests no matter how difficult and unpleasant the process. No matter how hard he fought, screamed or kicked.

I could not allow the short-term pain and protest to cloud my view of the big picture.

But yesterday, for the first time in nearly nine years, he went through the paces without a whimper. Even when they drew blood. It was as if he finally made the connection – as much as a nine-year-old can -- between the hassles and staying healthy.

He even got a Spongebob gift card for participating in one of the clinic’s CF studies. Spongebob can cover a multitude of sins.

I walked out of the office breathing a prayer and smiling at the thought of how far we’d come.

I’m in a tough season of having to deliver some strong parenting medicine in a variety of ways.

To our children, our choices and boundaries sometimes seem like cruel and unusual punishment. They don’t understand the “treatment.” They fight and protest. They cry and plead.

But we have to stand firm. No ditching and going to Dairy Queen.

One day they may finally make the connection.

Or not.

The only confirmation that we’ve administered the right medicine may be years away – and never acknowledged by our “patients.”

As any good doctor will tell you, a positive outcome is worth the price.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of righteousness for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:11 (New Living Translation)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Final Tips for the Troops: Mission Accomplished!

Can you believe we are at the end of Operation Organization?!

My house still won't grace the pages of Martha Stewart magazine -- but it's lightyears ahead of where it was two short months ago!

I'll be posting my last Before and After photos on Friday (can't wait to see what those look like myself, since I haven't started working on this week's goal yet!) Be sure and post yours on your blogs, too.

You guys have been awesome! Thanks so much for joining me in conquering clutter. I'll share more of my thoughts on the end (sniff) of Operation Organization on Friday.

In the meantime, Dina is joining me to deliver her final "Tips for the Troops." Today, she's sharing an original poetic work with us (creative and organized?! Showoff!)

So, one last time, listen up, troops!

Hi, Soldiers! You did it! Job well done! Remember, though, this is an ongoing effort. We must continually keep a watch on clutter and keep things organized or we will be right back where we were at week 1.

So, I've written a little poem to sum up the past 8 weeks. Thanks for letting me be a part of this. I, too, have accomplished quite a bit over the past eight weeks.

The time has now come
for our challenge to end.
But, we're winning the battle
dear soldiers and friends!

We've cleaned out our crap
and, yes, we've decluttered.
We've hauled lots of garbage
down to the gutters!

We've organized kitchens,
cleaned desktops and drawers,
We've purged our old clothing
from 1984.

We've lightened our schedules,
our dinners are planned.
No more fast-food restaurants!
And never say Spam!

We've learned to say "no" more
Don't overcommit!
And in our garages
our cars will now fit.

Our homes will be cleaner
'cause the junk's off the floor.
Now we can throw parties
and entertain more.

To have richer lives
live simpler and better...
These are our goals
from now til forever!!

God Bless! Dina

Report back here on Friday for your final discharge orders!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Operation Organization: Week Seven Victories!

A little means a lot.

My goal was small this week. I knew I had an insane schedule and I had to be realistic. But can I just tell you how good I felt when I saw this:

Instead of this:

And it looks even better with my beautiful daughter doing her "Vanna" impersonation on it:

Okay, I'd love to engage in witty banter with you, but quite frankly, I've spent all day on a fourth grade field trip and every creative and coherent thought has long since been expended. You try spending all day in a butterfly conservatory (aka hottest dang place on earth.) The bad news is my good hair day was ruined. The good news: I sweated off two pounds. Bottom line, soldiers... I'm running on fumes.

I'm not a wimp, though, and neither are you, so let's finish this challenge well, troops! This week is the Final Battle. Make it count!

Here's the drill -- for the last time:

1.) Post your Week 8 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.

2.) Leave your link to your Week 8 Goal post via Mister Linky below.

3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!

4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!

The winner of the book Life Management for Women by Elizabeth George is Steph! Congratulations! Just email me your information at melinda@parentingconfessions.com and I'll send it to you!

Don't give up! Victory is almost ours!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 7: The Simple Life

A day late and a dollar short.

That's how I've felt this week (see photo!), so it is not at all surprising that my Wednesday "Tips for the Troops" are being posted on Thursday.

And it's quite providential that my dear friend and organizing guide Dina is going to talk to us today about "simplifying." I desperately need the reminder.

Simple is good. It helps us focus on what really matters. And so much of the stuff we think is so important really isn't.

For all of you parents of little ones out there, especially, learn this lesson well now. I wish I could rewind and relive so many moments that I was too "busy" to savor when mine were little.

I want a do-over.

I'm not gonna get one, but I can do it right today. And if you're like me and have sacrificed precious childhood moments on the altar of overcommitment, you can, too! Praise God that "his mercies are new every morning!"

Alright, enough blubbering from me! Let's get our instructions from our Commanding Organizer Dina, troops.

Hi, again soldiers!
You haven't given up have you? Are you still working on decluttering and organizing your homes - and your lives? I hope so! Remember, this is a work in progress. Don't let the business of everyday life discourage you from a more organized lifestyle.

We've been learning different ideas and methods of getting rid of clutter and organizing our homes, but how in the world do we keep it this way? By simplifying.

Troops, when we simplify our lives we live richer lives. Let's face it - just having spouses, jobs, and children to keep up with adds complication to our lives. So, why do we pile more activities and commitments on our schedules that aren't really necessary?

1.) Take a look at your commitments and see if you can "declutter" anything from your schedule. I limit the amount of activities that my kids are allowed to be in. I do my best to coordinate things so they are on the same days so we have time at home and aren't constantly rushing from one thing to the next.

I'm also careful about what I add to my already busy life each week. I know I need about three mornings at home a week just to keep up with my house. I can't always work this out, but I do my best to keep time open. I get really cranky otherwise!

2.) IT'S OK TO SAY NO! People pleasing is not conducive to a simple life. You can't do it all! (original, huh?) Think carefully before you say "yes" next time.

3.) Be the garbage gatekeeper. Now that you've gotten rid of some of the junk in your home, do your best to filter what comes back in -- like those wonderful party favors from kid's parties. You know - pencils, stickers that will never get used, and other Dollar Store items. Once this little tiny stuff comes in the house it lays around cluttering everything. Just trash it. (And do your friends a favor and don't send their kids home with that stuff, either! McDonald's gift certificates are better!)

Sort your mail each day and trash that junk mail immediately. I literally stand by the garbage can when I sort my mail. The junk and empty envelopes go straight in the "can" and my bills go in their slot to be paid. Just don't let mail pile up on you. It will take more of your time to go through a big pile of it later on.

Before you buy clothes ask yourself if you really LOVE that piece. Don't buy it just because it's a bargain - do you really love it and know you will wear it? If not, maybe you don't need to buy it.

Remember: The more you own, the more you have to maintain. Let's work on maintaining relationships, not stuff!

These are just a few ways to simplify. There are many, many more! A book I recommend is Life Management for Busy Women by Elizabeth George. She lays out a plan to help you prioritize your life.

Well, have a great week - next week we wrap up the challenge. I pray that you all feel a sense of accomplishment and peacefulness that maybe you didn't have before you started this challenge.

This week's giveaway is the book that Dina just recommended!

Can you believe we're almost to week eight? Let's finish well, troops!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Opposite Attracts

I was miffed.

Last week, I made a trip all the way across town to sign some paperwork that required notarization. I had called the day before to make sure that it would be ready and a notary would be in the office.

“Oh yes. A notary will be here. You just come right on in.”

So on a very busy day, I made the 25-minute trek to a very out-of-the way office building.

Lost paperwork, miscommunication and general frustration had been my typical experience with this particular establishment. But ever the optimist, I actually believed (silly woman!) that I might actually be able to accomplish this task in an efficient manner.

When I arrived and explained the reason for my visit, the woman looked at me with a pleasant but blank stare.

This did not bode well.

“I’m just a temp, honey. Now what did you need?”

Oh boy … The words “I’m just a temp” were not inspiring much confidence. I believe I have just wasted a lot of very expensive gasoline.

Still, after a deep breath, I again explained in painstaking detail the reason for my visit.

Another sweet, but blank stare. “Uh, well, I’ll look around here, sweetheart. I don’t see anything like that.”

“You’re not a notary either, are you?”

“Oh no, only Martha’s a notary and she’s out until Monday.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Okay, well, I called yesterday and was assured that both the paperwork and a notary would be here. So I made a special trip across town to take care of this and now there’s no paperwork and no notary?”

Someone clearly doesn't realize how important I am.

“Well, it sure sounds like you had a good plan there, darlin’,” she said sincerely. “I don’t know who you talked to, but she was misinformed. I’m so sorry you made this trip for nothing. That really is a shame. But is there anything else I can do for you while you’re here?”

She said it so genuinely and with such warmth that I couldn’t help but smile back and thank her as I left the office.

Wait a minute! What just happened here? I'm supposed to be angry! I’ve wasted valuable time and got absolutely nothing accomplished! I oughta be making someone pay!

But, despite, my best efforts, I couldn’t muster up the anticipated level of aggravation.

Why? Because the opposite attracts. She met my frustration with courtesy and kindness. She returned my irritated tone with softness and a smile.

Even though I didn’t get what I wanted, she sucked me in and made me feel like my time was valuable and my frustrations were understood.

Oh, if I only did a better job of doing this with my children.

Our children can be downright defiant and hostile. They can throw around words that pierce the heart like daggers.

I admit it. I have a sarcastic tongue. My human inclination is to launch a few wicked word weapons myself.

And I have – more times than I’d care to share.

If I'm not careful, the casualty becomes the bond I'm working so hard to establish.

Yet, in those moments when God enables me to respond with the opposite emotion, I give softness, instead of sarcasm and patience instead of pride. I can discipline without demoralizing. And I can respond without retribution. The results are sometimes downright miraculous. A soft spirit is contagious.

Because in parenting -- or pesky paperwork -- responding with the opposite emotion is always the main attraction.

He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. Psalm 103:10-11

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I need your funny stories -- pronto!

Over the past few months, I have found my readers to be a wealth of encouragement and inspiration.

Can I tap into it please?

I am working on an article about how humor can be healing in relationships. I am looking for some real-life parenting anecdotes/examples of how you used humor to help your family or child heal from grief, failure or an unexpected crisis.

These don't have to be life-shattering incidents. It could be how you use humor to help your kids cope with the kind of grief, failures and mini-crises we face everyday in the world of parenting. (i.e. not making a sports team, the loss of a friendship, etc.)

A specific incident of how it worked with one of your children would be great. Or it can be a more general parenting principle you've found to be helpful.

My deadline to turn in my outline to the magazine is tomorrow by 8 p.m. I have a few parenting examples, but I could really use more. My brilliant husband suggested I tap the creative brains of my fellow bloggers.

You won't let me down will you??

If you think you may have a story that would fit what I need, please email me with the basic details to melinda@parentingconfessions.com. If I think it fits what I need, I'll contact you and make arrangements for us to do a brief phone interview.

Thanks so much!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Operation Organization: Week Six Victories!

It defies all rational explanation.

I don't know what it says about me, but it can't be good.

My Week 6 goal was to clean out my very messy bathroom drawer -- the one with all the hair products and brushes.

Here's some of the inventory I came across as I organized:

1.) Five EMPTY cans of hairspray

2.) Thirteen (!) hairspray can lids (gee, wonder how long it's been since this drawer has seen some cleaning)

3.) A goofy keychain with my husband standing next to a cutout of the President (from a Washington DC trip years ago) What???

4.) Three floppy disks (you never know when those might come in handy on a bad hair day.)

5.) Enough hair to make me a whole wig.

What the heck??

I'm not sure why I feel bold enough to reveal this to you. Actually I do know why. We're all in this together and every one of you has been so great to just keep it real. We're a mess sometimes, right?! But thank goodness we have good friends and a heavenly Father who loves us anyway!

So, wanna see my Before and Afters? Here goes!

The next two weeks I'm tackling my Master Bedroom.
Okay, so here's the drill:
1.) Post your Week 7 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.
2.) Leave your link to your Week 7 Goal post via Mister Linky below.
3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!
4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!
Rosario and Amber, your gift cards were sent today!
I didn't do a giveaway for this week, but I'll be announcing next week's giveaway on Wednesday.
We're entering the home stretch, troops, so hang tough. Victory will be ours!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 6: The Cleaning Curse!

Cleaning is like laundry. The work is never done.

There's a brief moment of satisfaction -- until someone shatters a blender full of smoothie on the floor (happened to me today) or throws their dirty clothes assuming the live-in maid (you) will take care of them.

So, here's where Dina -- our Organizer-in-Chief comes in to give us some tips to help make that curse of cleaning just a bit less taxing. Your troops are at attention, Dina!

Thanks, Melinda! I can't believe we are on week 6, soldiers! I hope that you all have made some progress decluttering and organizing your homes. Even something as small as a drawer is progress!

This week I would like to offer some housekeeping tips. I firmly believe that an organized home and a clean home go hand in hand. It is SO much easier to keep a home clean that isn't cluttered with stuff all over collecting dust, or laying on the floor preventing you from cleaning the floor. But - we are all past that point now, aren't we? Or at least making progress! AMEN!

If you are an "all-or-nothing" type person you may find it difficult to get motivated to clean when you know you don't have time to do the whole house. (What Mom has that kind of time these days?) Don't let that prevent you from dividing and conquering on different days.

If you can set up a system for cleaning, that's great! I do have a system loosely in place for cleaning, more structured for my laundry.

For instance, I do laundry on Mondays, and try and clean the bathrooms on Mondays also. My house gets super dusty due to pets and no carpet, so I dust a couple times a week - pretty much "as needed". Fortunately, I don't have junk all over and it doesn't take me too long to dust. I try to vacuum my house every other day if not every day. I mop and wipe down my wood floors about once per week. Once in a while I have to mop the kitchen in between. There is this great tool that I found in the book Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck called a Dutch Rubber Broom. It's great for floor cleaning. (You have to read this book, too! Yes - that's an order!)

A tip for bathrooms: The bathrooms seem to be the most time-consuming cleaning projects, so I only get to them once per week. I do keep those handy cleaning wipes in each bathroom, though, and if it starts looking bad mid-week, I can wipe it down and it will be sparkly again.

Windows and sliding doors: I think dirty windows and glass doors are just, well, GROSS!!! Who wants to look outside through goo and slimy fingerprints?? Mine get terrible because for some reason when kids come over they do not use the handles on my sliding doors. I don't get it, but they have to smack the door with an open palmed hand and push it open. Go figure. This is another "as needed" for me. My doors stay pretty clean when it's just my family here. When the kids' friends come over I usually have to wipe them down after. There are some great products out there now for cleaning the outside of your windows. Windex makes one that simply sprays on, then you wash it off. No scrubbing required. You would also be surprised at how reasonable it is to have someone come and do your windows - inside and out. I had this done several months ago and will probably make it a twice a year "event"!

Product tip: Buy good smelling natural-based products and you might even enjoy cleaning a little more! Try Method products (sold at Target). Their Eucalyptus mint bathroom cleaner smells divine.

Are you all picking up on a trend here? If you get your house decluttered and organized it will naturally just stay cleaner. You won't feel the pressure of needing an entire day to clean everything. And you will realize you don't even need that much time to do certain tasks. AND - when you want to entertain it won't take you a week to get ready! You will know that you can get your house presentable in a reasonable amount of time.

Efficiency Tip: Set a timer and see how long it takes you to do a cleaning task - dusting, mopping, whatever. You might be surprised at how small that time is. Let's say it's a 20 minute job for you to vacuum and mop your floors. During the week when you realize your floor is yucky and you miracuously have 20 minutes to spare you can get it done! And feel better when you walk in that room! That's how I do things "as needed". I sort of know how long it takes and I can squeeze it in during the week.

Do you do laundry every day? I used to do that. The "Fly Lady" (flylady.net) suggests doing a load a day. Now, I'm not knocking the FlyLady, but I have found that I like having a "laundry day" (or days) so I do laundry twice a week. (If you work outside the home this could be difficult.) Don't get me wrong - there are times I have to do a load in between, but for the most part our laundry gets done on Mondays and Thursdays. Once I pull my clothing out of the dryer (if I even dry it), if it is a hanging item, it goes straight on a hanger in the laundry room until I get it ironed. If it's a folded item, I go ahead and fold it and it gets put in a drawer. I've never understood people folding every single thing, only to pull it back out of the basket later, then hang it up, and now it has even more wrinkles to iron out! If you hang it up right out of the dryer you won't have so many wrinkles.

Do you iron as you go or all at once? (You may not iron at all! Some people just don't anymore) I'm an all at once person. When I pull my clothes out of the closet I want them ready to wear! My mornings are hectic enough without having to iron every single day. Besides, I don't have a place to leave the ironing board up all the time. And that would feel like clutter to me. I usually iron twice a week and get it ALL DONE! (If I can do this, you can do this!) And I don't want to hear this: "Well, when I iron and put my clothes in the closet, they are all wrinkly when I pull them back out." Do you want to drop and give me twenty? You obviously have too many clothes in there. Go back to week one, please.

Well, I've given you what works for me. But I'd like to encourage you to find your own method of keeping your house clean. I've got a few book and website suggestions that might help you out, too:

Organic Housekeeping, Ellen Sandbeck
The House That Cleans Itself, Mindy Starns Clark
(Nothing wrong with getting a little help now and then!)

Great tips as always, Dina! Only two more weeks of Basic Training and you graduate, troops!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Prepare for "The Pig" ... or be forced to live like one

It had pulled me into the slop before I knew what hit me.

One day I was meeting deadlines, doing laundry, cooking meals, spreading my usual doses of familial joy and happiness. The next I was a sad, irritable shell of a woman unable to muster the mental or physical energy to spell the word deadline – let alone type it. Joy and happiness? A distant memory.

And it was all because of “The Pig.”

Yep, like an unwanted and unplanned houseguest, Swine Flu -- that barnyard pest – took up residence in my body and found me woefully unprepared for its messy extended visit.

Dishes piled up, dust settled, laundry languished. Swine Flu plays dirty.

So, in the name of helping parentkind (especially you moms out there), I am suggesting you learn from my plight and develop a Swine Flu Preparedness Plan. While my experience is all too fresh in my memory, I thought I’d give you some suggestions before your trip to the farm:

* Purchase Paper Products. I have a great family. They’re just not much on dishwashing. After three days in a swine flu stupor, I emerged to find a monumental dining disaster. I’m talkin’ pig pen. Trust me. A small investment in paper plates, silverware and cups now will reap huge dividends later.

* Stock up on Swiffer. With their extended handles, you can sweep the floor and dust those ceiling fans without ever leaving your swine flu-infected sheets.

* Learn to love laundry. It’s my most dreaded task, but let me assure you, I wish I would have tackled it with a bit more diligence this flu season. Had I been caught up, my son might not have been forced to wear the same socks twice or sleep in his underwear.

* Buy Nyquil, Nyquil and more Nyquil. I had it going by IV drip. It was the only thing that produced anything remotely resembling rest.

* Postpone at your own peril. I’m a good work-under-pressure kind of gal. But procrastination becomes a pesky pitfall when you’re suddenly sidelined by the swine.

So there you have it. Scoff if you must, but heed my advice and one day soon when you wake up with that little tickle in the back of your throat, you’ll thank me.

Parents always have to be thinking ahead. In life’s busyness (and I am incredibly overwhelmed at the moment), it’s so easy to focus on the urgent and lose sight of the big picture.

I’ve definitely been guilty of seasons of “fly by the seat of my pants” parenting. When I do that, I leave my kids unprepared to fight off the “viruses” -- in the form of worldly peer and cultural influences – that are always looking to infect their hearts and minds.

We can’t head off all the viruses, but we can do our best to immunize them by exposing them to God’s Word, training them to apply His wisdom to everyday situations, maintaining consistent boundaries and giving them unconditional love. Kids often don’t see the need for this “preparedness plan” -- they sometimes even fight it -- but one day, they’ll thank you.

As a parent, I can never forget that there’s a subtle enemy who’s always looking for a victim. And make no mistake about it: He’s most certainly a pig.

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 (Amplified Bible)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Operation Organization: Week Five Victories!

I came. I saw. I conquered the kitchen pantry.

What did you say? Yes, it was my Week Four goal, but a victory is a victory. Don't give me lip, soldiers, or I'll write you up for insubordination!

Alright, that's better.

So, do you want to see the spoils of war?

Kitchen pantry BEFORE:

Kitchen pantry AFTER:

So, how did your battles turn out this week, troops? Keep fighting!!

Okay, so here's the drill:

1.) Post your Week 6 Goal on your blog along with a link back to this post OR a link to my button in the right sidebar.

2.) Leave your link to your Week 6 Goal post via Mister Linky below.

3.) Visit as many of your fellow soldiers as possible to cheer them on!

4.) Post your Before and After photos on your blog anytime between now and next Friday!

Finally, the winner of this week's $10 Barnes and Nobles gift card is Amber! Be sure to visit her! Send me your email, Amber, and I'll send you your card. Rosario (last week's winner), I'm sorry I haven't sent yours yet, but I have not forgotten. You'll get it tonight! ;0)

Don't give up on me now, soldiers! The war is nearly won!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tips for the Troops Week 5: The Gory Garage!


What? Oh, I'm fine. Really. That's just my normal reaction whenever I muster the courage to open my garage door.

It's my dirty little secret.

You can look around my home and come away with the impression that I have a somewhat "lived in" but generally organized home.

But beyond my garage door lurks a room that would give Martha Stewart nightmares. It's definitely not "a good thing."

It's going to take plenty of ammunition when I finally decide to fight that battle. So I'm calling in reinforcements. I'm hoping our Organizer-in-Chief Dina can map out a garage battle plan to propel us to victory. Take it away, Dina ...

Greetings fellow organizers!
Before I get started with tips this week I want to tell you about an excellent book that I found at the library. It's called "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh (from TLC's Clean Sweep) This is one of the best books I've ever found for organizing, decluttering, and simplifying. It's concise yet covers all areas of the home. A must read!

So, this week we're going to talk about garages... Garages can sometimes become "limbo" where we put things that we've removed from our homes, but haven't taken them to their desired location yet (trash, goodwill, etc.). Of course, I know that none of you have done that during the challenge, right? You have taken all of your clutter and removed it from the premises, right? If not, you better hurry up!

Many of us have limited storage, so the garage is the only place to keep certain items. There's nothing wrong with this as long as we keep it organized! The number one rule with storing things in the garage is to get things off the floor. Home improvement stores - and some bulk stores (like Sam's Club) sell heavy-duting shelving that requires little if any assembly. You can even get racks that bolt into the rafters in the garage ceiling and hang down for more storage. (I have these in my garage as well as shelving. My Christmas decorations are up there since I only have to get to them once a year.)

Large plastic storage containers work well in the garage - and make sure you buy large stickers and label what's in the containers. Put your labels facing outward so that at a glance you know what's in there. It's more important than ever to keep like items together in the garage.

Here's a little tip I picked up about seasonal item storage from the book I referenced earlier. Each year when you get out your seasonal items make sure you really use everything you have. If not, don't pack it back up. Purge and get rid of it.

I'm not going to get any deeper into garage organization than this, but if you pick up "It's All Too Much", he has more in-depth ideas about how to keep this area organized. Who knows, you might even be able to park your car in there when you're finished?!! Imagine that!

Thanks, Dina! One final note... this week's giveaway is a $10 Barnes and Nobles gift card so you can get one of the great organizing books Dina's been recommending!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Ray of Hope

Baseball makes everybody a little nutty at my house. What else would cause a grown man to sport a Mohawk and then convince his young son to do the same? What mother and wife in her right mind would allow it? Heck, I even took the razor to ‘em myself!

We’ve been Tampa Bay Rays fans for years. And if you know a thing or two about the Rays, that’s not been an easy task. A couple of years ago, we went to 12 straight home games without seeing them win! Twelve!

Conversation during twelfth loss:

Me: Remind me. Why do we come here again?

Mike (husband): It is good family time.

Me: Well, let’s start saving the 50 bucks and bond at home.

Usually, fans jeer the opposing team’s players. We got so bad that our fans (all six of them) began jeering our own.

My son, however, never said a discouraging word about them. He always had hope. Always thought next time they’d win. After a particularly embarrassing loss, however, he finally cracked.

As we walked out into the dark parking lot, my little baseball boy, decked from head to toe in Rays gear and clutching his baseball glove, looked at the ground and shook his head.

Micah: Daddy, it’s really hard to be a Rays fan.

But the next game he kept right on believing.

Then, last year, something amazingly unexpected happened.

They started winning. Gasp. A lot. After years of disappointment, discouragement and heartbreak, we watched them break out and tear a path to the playoffs. Even longtime baseball watchers were amazed at their speedy rise to the top.

Before I knew it, my boys were sporting a couple of “Rayhawks” and heading to the World Series.

In parenting, just like in baseball, it sometimes seems like all struggle and no payoff. But I find it helpful to remember that the present isn’t necessarily a good predictor of the future. A couple of years ago, it was difficult to envision last year’s amazing Rays run.

My job is to be like Micah -- always believing, always hoping, always expecting the best.

Whatever battles I may be fighting today, a World Series run might be just around the corner.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. I Corinthians 13:7 (New Living Translation)
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