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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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Three Reasons I'm Thankful I'm A Parent

Parenting is often a thankless job.

No awards for diaper duty. No pat on the back for keeping your cool with a tantruming teen. Untold and unheralded sacrifices at every turn. If you're looking for instant gratification, you often won't get it from the little people living in your house.

But on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am very thankful to be a parent. Here's a few reasons why:

1.) Trust. Over and over again, I am amazed and dumbfounded that God entrusted these incredibly beautiful and special people to me.

He believed that I would be the best person to be their mom, to nurture their gifts and help them meet their challenges. When I feel annoyed and exasperated by the constant demands, I remember that God has trusted me to do this job and He'll give me what I need to finish well.

2.) Growth. I was selfish before I had children. Quite frankly, it was all about me. I did pretty much what I wanted. Came and went when I pleased. Then, overnight, I had someone who was dependent on me for life itself.

God has used my children more than anything else in my life to teach me how to give selflessly and love unconditionally. It is a constant process to learn how to die to the agenda I have for my own life -- and for theirs. But I like the person I am because of them far more than I like the person I was before them.

3.) Laughter. Perfectionists like me can be pretty humorless at times, believe it or not. My kids have taught me how to lighten up and not take life so seriously.

How can you not laugh when your 12-year-old daughter looks at your outfit and says, "Mom, it looks like the 80's threw up on you"? Or when your son interrupts a disagreement you and your husband are having with your daughter and says, "Come on, Molly, give 'em a break. They're nifty folks!"

Yes, parenting requires far more patience, wisdom and endurance that I possess.

I'm just thankful I'm not doing it alone.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:16-18

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"The Good Life" is Good Clean Fun!

Coming Clean's "Good Clean Fun" Blog of the Week award goes to Dawn at The Good Life! Congratulations, Dawn!
Her blog covers the ups and downs of family life in a way that's touching, informative, witty and inspirational. I've been following it for a while now and it just keeps getting better and better!
Here's a few of her posts that you might enjoy:

I know you'll appreciate her vulnerability and transparency.
Stop by tomorrow for some of my Thanksgiving thoughts as they relate to parenting! ;0)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Over the Top!

My dear blogging friend Deb just gifted me with an "Over the Top" award. Funny, because, frankly, I'm more of an Under the Radar kind of gal. Awards always make me a tad bit embarrassed. But don't misunderstand... I'm very grateful. It means that, in the words of Sally Field, "You like me, you really like me!"

And it also means I get to pass the love on to some really great blogs (see below). The rules for accepting this award are to copy and change the answers below to suit you and pass it on. Answers can only be one word!

Here are my answers to these questions:

1. Where is your cell phone? purse
2. Your hair? brown
3. Your mother? funny
4. Your father? dependable
5. Your favorite food? smoothies
6. Your dream last night? forgotten
7. Your favorite drink? water
8. Your dream/goal? writing
9. What room are you in? kitchen
10. Your hobby? blogging
11. Your fear? failure
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? home
13. Where were you last night? home
14. Something you aren’t? patient
15. Muffins? yep!
16. Wish list item? office
17. Where did you grow up? Iowa
18. Last thing you did? breakfast
19. What are you wearing? PJs
20. Your TV? den
21. Your pets? none
22. Your friends? wonderful
23. Your life? challenging
24. Your mood? trusting
25. Missing someone? Amy
26. Vehicle? tan
27. Something you’re not wearing? shoes
28. Your favorite store? Marshall's
29. Your favorite color? burgundy
30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? October
32. Your best friend? husband
33. One place that I go over and over? Walmart
34. One person who emails me regularly? Sheri
35. Favorite place to eat? Sweet Tomatoes

Now, I'd like to pass the "Over the Top" award to these great blogs and tell you why I singled these out for recognition:

Beautiful Mess -- Courtney is a young mom with a lot of wisdom. She's real, funny, thoughtful and inspiring. I've been following her blog since I first started blogging and have watched her writing and insights just get better and better.

Theta Mom -- Heather is authentic, funny and inspiring. Her blog is full of practical mom wisdom and encouragement, as well as some great reviews and giveaways. She just underwent a blog makeover to WordPress and has been so willing and gracious to help other bloggers who are considering new designs or a switch to WP. She's a peach.

Healthy Spirituality -- Jeanie is a new grandma and an amazing woman. I met Jeanie two years ago at a writing conference and she is such a great support to me and other writers. Her blog is full of hard-earned wisdom that she's gained over the years. She's a godly woman who is honest about her fears and struggles.

Julie Gillies -- Julie is another great writer I met at a conference. Be sure and read the "My Story" section on her blog. It is a testament to God's grace that she is here today and is the wonderful, inspiring mom, woman and writer that I have the honor to call friend.

Mommy Daily Vent -- Who could not relate to a "Mommy Daily Vent?!" I've been following this blog for a while now and it's a keeper. Full of fun posts and great book reviews.

Please take a moment to check out these fabulous bloggers and look for my Good Clean Fun Blog of the Week tomorrow!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Price of Procrastination

I knew better than to turn my back on it – even for a moment.

But I was feeling a little rebellious. It wasn’t going to control me.

Did I really have to do laundry everyday? Sheesh. Everyone deserves a hiatus now and then.

At first, I was feeling pretty giddy about my laundry strike. Then,
before I knew what hit me, I was facing a cataclysmic clothing catastrope.

I realized just how desperate the situation had become when my husband broke out his gag-gift, Homer Simpson Christmas boxers. Those only make an appearance when all other available options have been exhausted.

Yep, if I ever win the Lotto (which doesn’t seem likely since I don’t play), my laundry duties would be outsourced faster than you can say All-Tempa-Cheer.

Another option would be to outsource my daughter. I wondered why she seemed to produce three times the laundry as the rest of the family. Until I discovered when she made her multiple wardrobe changes each morning before school, she was simply throwing the discarded choices in the dirty clothes – exchanging the 10 seconds required to hang them up for the hours it took Mom to rewash them. Darn (almost) teenager.

Or, I suppose I could take advantage of my son’s willingness to wear the same clothes consecutive days. But that seems like a steep – and smelly – price to pay, even for this weary washroom warrior.

It sounds a little crazy – stay with me here -- but I could keep on top of the laundry before it reached freakish proportions. What a concept.

FlyLady, one of my favorite organizing gurus, says this: “(Laundry) is like a child that does not get the proper attention. You can catch it hanging out in unsavory places … It affects us all the same way, we put it off till it gets to be such a big job that we are paralyzed by the thought of it."

She’s right. Parenting is a lot like laundry. It’s never ending, wears you down and tempts you to let things slide. When my kids were smaller, I was guilty of making that mistake more often than I'd like to admit. “They’ll grow out of it,” I’d sometimes reason. Or, “I’ll let it go, just this one time.”

Now that I’m raising a teenager, I can tell you firsthand, those “little” compromises when they’re younger, can quickly build up into one mountainous, smelly mess. The thought of bringing it back under control can be paralyzing and seemingly insurmountable.

I’m not suggesting that you eliminate grace from your parenting. I am all about grace. But when you observe an unhealthy personality trait or behavior in your child – disrespect, deception, tantrums, to name a few -- better to address the challenge when it’s manageable than try to tame it once it’s become an relentless, out-of-control beast.

Procrastination is a tempting escape, but it always comes with a price. Oops, gotta go … I think I hear the dryer buzzing.

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace of mind and will make your heart glad. Proverbs 29:17 (NLT)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ready for Some Good Clean Fun?

It's about time somebody told you how great you are. I volunteer!
Beginning today, I'm starting a weekly award feature, "Good Clean Fun" that introduces you to some of the blogosphere's amazing women. I'm pretty sure you're one of them.
I've been blessed to meet so many insightful, funny and engaging bloggers over these past six months. If I can do my small part to give you all some notice, I'm privileged to do so.
And I want you to be able to just bask in the moment. So, please accept the spotlight with no strings attached. You are under no obligation to link back to me. Feel free to pass the award on to others, but don't feel guilty if you don't. We all have enough guilt issues already, don't we?
So, are you ready for some Good Clean Fun?
The first blogger I'd like to spotlight is Karen Evans. Karen is a fellow writer and one of the sweetest, most genuine people you'd ever want to meet. Yes, I had the pleasure of meeting Karen face-to-face at a writing conference a couple of years ago. We've kept in touch ever since.
Karen is a military mom of two and a wealth of grace, fun and inspiration. You will never leave her blog without encouragement, a challenge, a smile or something to ponder.
Hope you'll take a moment this week to check her out!
And keep coming back ... you, my amazing fellow blogger, could be next!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guilt Trip

It was an irresistible offer.

My friend Kathy's husband had given her a gift certificate for a few nights at a local hotel to use as she pleased. Stressed and in need of a recharge, she decided to flee the homefront and use one of her “get out of the house free” cards. She graciously asked me to come along.

A spontaneous “girls only” overnight getaway? I hadn’t done anything spontaneous since the birth of my children – THIRTEEN years ago.

Kathy: I know it’s short notice. You probably wouldn’t be able to go, right? Would you?

Me: You mean tonight? As in, five hours from now?

Kathy: Yeah. What do you have to do? How can you make this happen?

I mentally ticked through all the things I would have to do to prepare for my “spontaneous” getaway.

Deep sigh.

But I badly needed the respite. Besides, since we are both writers, we reasoned that we could brainstorm and help each other on some writing projects.

Me: Okay, okay, I’ll do it! Just let me clear it with Mike.

I made lunches for the next day, cooked dinner and put it in the fridge, ironed Mike’s work shirt, caught up on laundry, tidied the house and took care of all the other miscellaneous things that needed to be done for the next day.

Then I packed my bags and left my family behind. And despite the fact that I left them well cared for, I couldn’t shake a nagging sense of guilt.

My mind began to race: Will Mike be able to get Micah to school on time?... I sort of threw that dinner together... Molly might need help on her homework – will Mike remember to check that? I shouldn’t be doing this …

When I reached the hotel room, Kathy had posted a sign on the door: “Wacky Mothers’ First Annual Writing Retreat.”

There was no denying the pressures of family life had left us both feeling decidedly “wackadoodle.”

I opened the door and immediately felt more relaxed. Mostly because I saw beds that I didn’t have to make, carpet I didn’t have to vacuum and a refrigerator I didn’t have to clean. Woo Hoo!

After a gourmet meal in the tranquil hotel restaurant, I gradually felt the guilt slipping away. We needed this. It was not a selfish indulgence, but a necessary investment. Taking the time to invest in ourselves and our wellbeing always reaps dividends for our families.

If you're like me, guilt is most likely a frequent visitor. It’s always lurking -- ready to try and convict you of any myriad of perceived shortcomings that you believe have negatively impacted your children.

I found the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of guilt enlightening: “Feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy: morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one's behavior.”

“Imagined offenses” … much of what we feel guilty for are things we conjure up in our own minds! And when the “morbid” preoccupation centers on ourselves and our perceived inadequacies, how does this help our children?

I’m certainly not suggesting that regular self-examination of our motives and behavior isn’t healthy or necessary. But I believe the enemy wants us to stay in the prison of continual condemnation.

God, however, wants to bring us freedom. He wants us to walk in grace. We are going to make mistakes, wound our children, get angry, impatient, critical. But His mercies are new every morning. And love covers a multitude of sins.

When God brings unhealthy behaviors and attitudes to our attention, it is never to condemn, but to instruct. Look at its definition: “To provide with knowledge, especially in a methodical way.”

Just as we instruct our children for their good, God lovingly disciplines and instructs us for ours.

Leave the condemnation behind and enjoy the trip.

Readers are my Reward

We all like a pat on the back now and then.

I am extremely grateful to have gotten a few of those over the past couple of weeks. That's what I love about the blogging community. You all are so supportive!

Thank you to Deb at He Gave Me a Dream and Jen at Jael Custom Designs for the Honest Scrap award and to Mandy at Awwwbutmum for the One Lovely Blog Award. These are all awesome bloggers, so please check them out!
I'd also like to pass these awards on to a few other amazing women:
There are all amazing women and you will be blessed by their writing and insights.
Finally, more than any award I could get, I feel like my readers are my daily reward! Knowing there are other parents out there, who are persevering through the same struggles I am, is so comforting. Hearing from you about how something I wrote encouraged or challenged you ... there's nothing like that!
Thank you for giving me a little place in your lives.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Nerd In Progress

Today was “Nerd Day” at my son’s school. It’s Homecoming Week and he loves to dress up for all the theme days.

Fortunately for him, tomorrow he will revert back to being a darn cool kid.

For me, on the other hand, “Nerd Day” encompassed a good chunk of my adolescence.

If you don’t believe me, photographic evidence will prove you wrong. Not that I intend to share these photos with you. I’m not THAT transparent yet.

But let me give you a mental picture:

Farrah Fawcett hairdo sealed into place with massive amounts of Aqua Net. Big honkin’ 80’s eyeglasses with those oh-so trendy pop-bottle lenses. A severely impaired fashion sense that truly believed that leg warmers and neon-colored costume jewelry was a good idea. Oh, and let’s throw in an overbite and an attractive “metal mouth” for good measure.

Are you cringing yet?

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, my husband has seen photos from this particular era and commented, “Well, you were rather unfortunate-looking for a few years, weren't you?

Thanks, honey. Whatever happened to “Love is blind”??!

If you think my exterior image was a train wreck, you’d be even more aghast at the turmoil going on inside. I was shy, withdrawn, insecure, selfish, angry, sad, immature … often all at the same time.

Yes, 12-year-old me was a bit of a nightmare.

Thank goodness, our development is not complete in childhood. It’s a lesson I have to remind myself of daily as I parent my children.

Just as I am a work-in-progress at the ripe old age of 40, so are my son and daughter. Their present personas are not necessarily an accurate predictor of the man and woman they will become. I thank God that was the case for me!

As our kids reach adolescence it becomes increasingly tempting to parent motivated by irrational concerns about who they “might” become. I have succumbed to that temptation over and over again. And when I do, I tend to “freak out” as Molly would say. I lecture and rant instead of listen and relate.

Fear makes us want to control. And the reality is that the older our kids get, the less control we have. Grasping for it is a futile exercise that only alienates us from the very ones we want to draw close.

I can love them, pray for them, set healthy boundaries and point them to the Father, but the choice about who they are ultimately going to become is theirs alone.

And take it from this Nerd-in-Progress, the future may just be brighter than you think.

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:19
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