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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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Continues: The Winter Escape Giveaway Winner!

Hope you all had a very merry Christmas!

If you're like me, your holidays were filled with blessings, gratefulness, fun and family. Unfortunately, you may also have awoke this morning bleary-eyed to the post-Christmas carnage. Dirty dishes, discarded wrapping paper and a sugar-induced hangover.

Hey, it can't all be perfect.

My laundry holiday has also ended. Just in time, too. I believe the only clean clothes in my house may be the ones we all got for Christmas.

But I digress.

The real reason for this post is to extend the Christmas fun just a wee bit longer for one lucky "Coming Clean" reader.

So, without further ado... The winner of the Philosophy Winter Escape Giveaway (selected by Random.org) was commenter #6 -- Debbie of Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Debbie is a grandma who is raising her sweet toddler granddaughter. She has some great information for young moms infused with the wisdom of someone who has been there, done that.

Please email me your address, Debbie, and I will send out your gift post-haste! Congratulations! Thanks to all who entered ... I hope to offer more great giveaways in 2010!

Hope all of you received great gifts this holiday -- and took some time to thank God for the greatest gift of all -- baby Jesus.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Need an Escape? Enter my Christmas Giveaway!

Want to get away from it all?

After a hectic holiday season, you'll deserve a little indulgence.

I wish I could send you a plane ticket to come to play with me and Mickey in the Sunshine State.

But this Winter Escape gift set from Philosophy will have to do.

I thought their amazing cleansers would make the perfect "Coming Clean" giveaway.

The gift set includes:
  • Peppermint Hot Cocoa Shampoo, Shower Gel & Bubble Bath

  • Melting Marshmallow Cream Lip Shine

  • Melting Marshmallow Cream Body Souffle

To enter, simply leave me a comment by Thursday, December 24th.

Good Luck and Merry Christmas!

* This giveaway is not sponsored by Philosophy. It is my own personal giveaway.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Real Story of Christmas

You won’t see it in the pages of Southern Living.

It won’t produce any “oohs” and “ahhhs” from holiday guests.

And I’m okay with that.

Because my tree is "real."

Not only real in the sense that it’s losing about 20,000 needles a day. (Which I take holiday joy in vacuuming.)

“Real” because it reflects reality.

The "real"-ity of it began before it was even purchased. I had envisioned a wonderful Norman Rockwell scene where we all decorated gleefully and then held hands and sang “O Christmas Tree” while we danced around it with abandon. We’d laugh, we’d cry. It would be beautiful.

For this to occur, however, the family usually has to participate. Although I had brought my nine-year-old on board, my teenager deemed the whole idea of a family decorating party to be “lame.” And my husband was dragging his feet on even buying tree. My plan really breaks down if you subtract the tree.

As we neared mid-month and remained tree-less, I lowered my expectations a bit. It was a good thing, too. Because when (at last!) we visited the tree lot we always go to – with the sweet father/son owners who always remember us -- the picked-over selection looked like something Charlie Brown would drag home.

After searching in vain for another tree lot, we finally swung into Home Depot – a little piece of my sentimentality just died.

We found an acceptable tree – one my son proudly picked out – and brought it home, where it looked much smaller and more humble than it did when we bought it.

When it came time to decorate, I groaned when I brought out the ornaments. I had forgotten that I’d thrown out a good portion of the worn-out ornaments after last year with the intention of buying some new ones this year. Most of what I had were homemade ornaments or ones the kids had made over the years. But I wasn’t putting this off any longer. It was now or never.

I finally got Molly engaged in the process. In mere moments, she and her brother were arguing.

Molly (laughing):
Look at this gingerbread ornament! Ha! How pathetic. Micah must have made this one.

Micah: MOOOOOM! She’s laughing at my ornaments. Tell her to stop!

Molly: Alright, alright, I’ll stop.

And she would -- until she’d pull out another one.

Okay, time to break out the eggnog. I’m apparently going to need a lot of it.

As time went on, though, the tone turned decidedly good-natured with lots of laughing and reminiscing about goofy decorations and Christmases past.

This family moment wasn’t what I envisioned. But it was real. And now I wouldn’t trade our sweet little tree -- and the memories it holds -- for the finest Martha Stewart creation.

When Jesus came 2000 years ago, He wasn’t what people envisioned. He was small and humble. Born in a manger under far-from-perfect circumstances.

But there is something wonderfully beautiful about the real-ity of His birth.

It’s a valuable reminder that “real” life isn’t always what we plan. Sometimes it’s better.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Teenage Twilight Zone

Today I entered the fifth dimension which is known to man. A dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. I’m now in the place that lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.

I am in an area which we call the Teenage Twilight Zone.

Actually, I was sucked into its nebulous vortex about a year ago. Today, however, it became official. I am the mother of a teenager. And I have found it to be a place that defies all explanation, that often confounds common sense and that stretches all boundaries of believability.

Did you know that the meaning of Twilight Zone is actually “gray area”?

What a fitting description of the teen years.

My daughter, Molly, began exhibiting signs of entering “the middle ground between light and shadow” in the spring of fifth grade.

Suddenly, she hated everything she once loved. Questioned what she once accepted. And deemed virtually everything “uncool” … including her parents.

Overnight, the black and white world of childhood transformed into a sea of gray. Many of the things I once thought I knew about parenting were enveloped in a black hole of uncertainty.
Is this a battle I should choose to fight? Am I being too strict? Am I being too lenient? How much freedom should I give her?

Pop-Cult.com describes the Twilight Zone as “showcasing our fears and criticizing our flaws, tricking us into examining our lives, selves and society.”

Yep, sounds about right.

But if I’m lost in space, Molly’s even more perplexed at how to navigate this new frontier. She doesn't have a lifetime of wisdom and experiences to help her find her way. The result is a mish-mash of emotional highs and lows, irrational outbursts and demands for more freedom.

I’m quickly realizing that I have to be Rod Serling –
the authoritative voice of calm and reason. She needs me to provide consistent stability and boundaries in a world that suddenly doesn’t make much sense.

It's a role that keeps me constantly looking to the One who holds the answers to the mysteries of life – and teenagers.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. Isaiah 40:28

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Traditionally Late

I didn’t mean for this to happen.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But this year, as I started talking about our Christmas plans, my daughter casually commented, “We don’t really have any Christmas traditions in our family.”

Okay, stab me in the heart, why don’t ya? Over the past 13 years, had I really not established any lasting holiday rituals that my children would remember fondly and perhaps pass on to their own children? Just call me Ebeneezer.

Over the years I had tried. When the kids were little, we celebrated Advent a few years, but keeping my active kids’ attention required a serious Christmas miracle. When they got older, I’d get busy and suddenly realize it was December 15th and the Advent candles were still deeply buried somewhere in the garage.

Then I tried to start the tradition of filling shoeboxes to send to children in other countries, but I’d either end up missing the deadline to send them, or I’d fill them, but they’d end up forgotten and sitting on my garage shelf for two years. Apparently a lot of dreams die in my garage.

When my daughter was little, I thought it would be fun to decorate Christmas cookies together. But with my controlling, perfectionist tendencies, I apparently assumed I’d given birth to the second coming of Martha Stewart and set some insane standard of culinary excellence for my four-year-old. Our first – and only – attempt at that heartwarming mother-daughter moment may just have scarred us both for life.

Looking back on it, the bad Christmas karma really started the first year Mike and I were married. I couldn’t wait to go out and get our first real tree. Unfortunately, our Christmas cheer died a slow, ugly, painful death as we spent the next two hours trying to get that stupid thing, I mean beautiful tree, to stand up straight. I guarantee you it was not thoughts of sugar plums that were dancing in our heads. That may have been our last Christmas tree had we not discovered those handy pivot stands. Now there’s a Christmas miracle.

Pitiful, isn’t it? I got a little depressed and began to think, “That’s it. I’ve failed. It’s too late now.

Later, though, I came to my senses. It is NOT too late. As long as they’re still under my roof, there’s still time to make some homegrown holiday memories.

I think the key is keeping is simple. Focusing on what’s truly important and meaningful about Christmas and building a few memorable traditions around those things.

Truly, the same could be said about many aspects of parenting. We make mistakes and get in bad patterns and think, “That’s it. I’ve failed. It’s too late now.”

It’s a lie. God delights in helping us make new beginnings. Of course, the sooner we start the better, but we can always work on establishing new, healthier ways of communicating, disciplining and guiding our children. The spiritual principles and godly character we model and instill will not be forgotten.

If we can look past the daily distractions and deliberately focus on those things that are really important and meaningful to building our children’s spiritual character, we'll give a gift that will hopefully become a tradition for generations to come.

Better late -- than never.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Her Blog's a Dream!

She has a dream. And now she blogs about the One who gave it to her. And we had the good fortune to cross paths in cyberspace! I'm talking about Deb from He Gave Me A Dream -- this week's "Good Clean Fun" Blog of the Week winner!

Deb and I started blogging about the same time. Somehow she stumbled upon my blog and shared a little bit about how God gave her the dream to write. He's given me that same dream. Something about how she expressed it just made me immediately sense I'd found a kindred spirit.

I emailed her and offered to help her in any way I could in her writing endeavor. Writers crave and need support. It's such a solitary profession.

We've been emailing and calling each other ever since. Deb has been such a God-given support and encouragement to me -- with my writing, but so much more, too. We've become prayer warriors for each other in some critical life challenges.

Can you tell I think she's awesome? I think you will, too!

Here's a few of her stellar posts:

Big Girl Boots

Out of Control

Baby Boy

Congratulations, Deb! You're a dream! ;0)
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