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, April 29, 2010

Are You Speaking Your Child's Love Language?

It wasn’t always this difficult.

As a fairly smart woman who holds a communications degree, I generally pride myself on my ability to converse well with others and articulate my thoughts and ideas.

But what to do when presented with this conversational dilemma:

Molly (my teenager): How does my hair look, Mom? Be honest.

If I say.... It looks really nice today, Honey.

Then Molly says ... Wow. I knew you wouldn’t tell me the truth! You’re my mom -- you have to say that. You’d probably think it looked good if I had a buzz cut.* (Exits in a huff as she spins on her heel.)

If I say... Well, it looks okay, but I think I liked it the way you wore it yesterday better.

Then Molly says... You hate my hair!? How can I possibly go out of the house when my own mother says I look ugly?!* (As she flings herself out of the room dramatically).

Wasn’t it just yesterday that she believed and hung on my every word?

Sigh.

What happened? In two words: Middle School.

Almost overnight, communication was strained, confusing, exhausting and frustrating – for both of us. I found expressing my love sometimes seemed awkward and ineffective.

Although I’d learned about it years ago, a friend recently reminded me of Dr. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell's book, The Five Love Languages of Children. In it, the doctors talk about the primary ways people – including and, maybe especially, children – feel loved. They include: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts and Acts of Service.

For Molly, “Gifts” – both giving and receiving -- has always been her love language (I think her first words were, “I want that!”). Now a typical teen girl, she loves shopping. And, quite honestly, I became tired and frustrated with her seemingly endless requests for something new.

Until I realized that this could be a way for me to show love to her at a time when our relationship can be contentious. Now before you think I’m raising a Paris Hilton, let me explain.

I’ve found that when I schedule regular shopping trips, we don’t have to buy much. In fact, it’s often just a shirt off a clearance shelf in one of her favorite stores. The bonus is that during the course of the trip, we’re spending time together, laughing, building experiences and learning how to spot bargains.

In that kind of context, Drs. Chapman and Maxwell explain, gifts can “be a powerful expression of love, at the time they are given and often extending into later years.”

I’m finding them to be an invaluable bridge between mother and daughter during a stage when our language is at times, well, less than love-ly.

Do you know your child’s love language? The sooner you discover it, the better. It will give insight into your child’s personality and help you to more effectively establish a love foundation before those teen years hit. To help you get started, ask your child to take this Love Language Assessment of Children (based on the book).

Also, leave me a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a copy of Five Love Languages of Children! The drawing ends on Thursday, May 5th.

I'd love to chat some more, but I’m off to earn some money. Molly and I have big plans at the mall.

* Molly's quotes are used with her permission! ;0)
Melinda

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday! Twitter Backgrounds

Does it really matter what your Twitter background looks like?

It may not be a huge thing, but it can make a difference. Let me explain why.

Because I have a PR/marketing background, I really appreciate the importance of presentation and branding. Creating a polished, professional look that closely coordinates with your blog or website helps people to remember and value your "brand."

This is particularly important if you are trying to sell a product or service through your site or blog. As a writer and aspiring author, I also find it's important to be memorable, even in seemingly small ways.

For that reason, I am in the process of having my Twitter background customized to match my blog. If you're more tech-savvy than I, you can do this yourself. I, myself, am leaving it up to someone who knows an XML code from an X-ray.

I'm using Berries and Cream Design because they've done great work for me in the past and have superior customer service. Berries and Cream are neither the most expensive or the cheapest designers out there, but I've come to value their creativity and reliability.

Having someone design your background can cost as little as $10 or $15 up to $50 or $60 depending on the designer.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few examples of bloggers who have some awesome looking Twitter backgrounds:

ThetaMom -- Just about everybody knows who ThetaMom is! She is a blogging superstar! There's a reason for that. She does everything top notch, including her Twitter profile.

Mary DeMuth -- Mary is an author of multiple Christian parenting books. Her latest book is her moving memoir, Thin Places. Her Twitter background is the cover of the book.

Faith Imagined -- Alisa Hope is an awesome fellow writer who is also trying to expand her audience and make her mark.

You may decide you don't want to invest the time and/or expense to customize your background. And it's certainly not necessary. I just wanted to give you some food for thought.

Now on to our Tweet Me Tuesday blog hop!

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at Hands, House, Heart Full. She is my co-host in this Blog Hop!

Link up a post you’d like Tweeted using Linky Tools below. It can either be your most recent post or an older, favorite post you'd like to share with a new audience.

Follow me and Kristen on Twitter! (if you’re not already)

Visit the links below and Tweet as many posts as you'd like (linked below).

Follow as many of these bloggers as you’d like on Twitter. (You can follow their blogs, too.)

• When you Tweet a blogger’s post, leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday.

If you tweet at us/about us/for Tweet Me Tuesday please use the hashtag #TMT.
It makes it easier for us to find your tweets! Not sure about hashtags? See Kristen's post from a couple weeks ago.







Alright -- get to tweeting!




Melinda

Monday, April 26, 2010

You Don't Have to 'Like' Me

Thirty-three people 'Liked' me this weekend.

Which I think is pretty good for Coming Clean's debut on Facebook.

But some people I invited didn't 'Like' me.

And that's alright with me.

Did I just say that? Wow. You have no idea what a big deal that is for this people pleaser in recovery.

You see, I used to think everybody had to like me all the time.

And to be honest, trying to get everyone to like me was downright exhausting. And futile, by the way.

Realizing that I'm liked and accepted by God has become enough for me. If things are good between us, then I'm okay with being disliked now and then.

So, if you want to pop by my new Facebook page and 'Like' me, I'd really like that. 'Cause I do love it when you 'Like' me.

But if you don't, I'm okay with that, too. And I mean that in the healthiest way possible. ;0)
Melinda

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Critical Condition

Hurt people hurt people.

A counselor friend once told me that. It's so true. And it can be a painful realization when the hurt person is you and the people you've hurt are your children.

As God healed my perfectionisic, people pleasing heart, I gained a whole new view of Him, myself and the world. But I also experienced the crushing revelation of how my "baggage" had impacted my kids.

That's where His grace comes in. And although it's been difficult (it still is), He's helped me to establish new healthier patterns of relating and communicating with my children. God has healed some wounds in both them and me. Some wounds still remain, but I have to trust that God will use those painful places to draw us all closer to Himself and to help other hurting people.

This month I have an article in Charles Stanley's ministry magazine, In Touch, where I share about how God led me through the process of changing my critical communication habits. Here's the link: Critic's Choice.

No matter what our condition, change is always possible with God.
Melinda

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday! TweetDeck Basics

Wondering what TweetDeck is and why you need it?

Good. Me, too. In fact, I just signed up for Tweetdeck for my iPhone yesterday after doing a little research about its benefits.

For my fellow Twitter newbies, I thought I’d give you an overview.

What is TweetDeck?

TweetDeck is a free application for Windows, Mac, Linux and iPhone. It is the most popular Twitter application.

Why is TweetDeck so popular?

• You can update, send and receive messages, retweet and email tweets to your friends via TweetDeck. You can also check others’ updates. I’m already loving being able to do this “on the go” from my iPhone.

• You can organize your followers in groups based on location, interests, relation to you, etc.

• You can simultaneously update other apps connected to TweetDeck, such as Facebook and MySpace.

• You can organize Twitter on TweetDeck by creating columns for Direct Messages, Mentions of your Username, etc.

• You can upload photos and links to Twitter from this app, using services like TwitPic.

To learn more and/or sign up, go to the TweetDeck website from your computer or iPhone. Visit this YouTube tutorial for more help in getting started.

Okay, are you ready for this week’s Tweet Me Tuesday Blog Hop? Here’s how to get started:

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at Hands, House, Heart Full. She is my co-host in this Blog Hop!

Link up a post you’d like Tweeted using Linky Tools below. It can either be your most recent post or an older, favorite post you'd like to share with a new audience.

• Follow me and Kristen on Twitter! (if you’re not already)

• Visit the links below and Tweet as many posts as you'd like (linked below).

• Follow as many of these bloggers as you’d like on Twitter. (You can follow their blogs, too.)

• When you Tweet a blogger’s post, leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday.

If you tweet at us/about us/for Tweet Me Tuesday please use the hashtag #TMT.
It makes it easier for us to find your tweets! Not sure about hashtags? See Kristen's post from last week!







Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Image? What a Crock!

I need a rifle.


Not the words a mom longs to hear out of her 10-year-old son’s mouth.

Me: A rifle?! What do you need a rifle for?

Micah: Not a real rifle. I need a toy one -- for my costume.

Me: What costume?

Micah: You know, for my Davy Crockett project that’s due tomorrow.

Me: What project?

Up until that point, Micah had conveniently made it seem like it was just a "little report" that he had plenty of time to finish. (So get off my case, will ya, Mom?)

Now, suddenly it was a “project” that was due tomorrow and apparently my problem.

There was a day that I would have put on my cape and transformed into SuperMom, but after two kids, 13 years and countless school projects, my superpowers have been severely tested.

My kids have put out the Bat Signal one too many times.

So, I went to the store with him, bought posterboard, gave him some limited suggestions, assistance and direction, but informed him there would be no costume. And that he – not me -- was in for a long night. You may not know this, but they don’t sell coonskin caps down at the local Walmart. And with all the youth violence, toy rifles aren’t easy to come by either.

Now a few years ago, I would have hunted down a raccoon and made the the darn cap myself.

And, honestly, I had to hold myself back from making a Herculean effort this time, too.

Why is that?

The answer isn’t all that pretty. No, I didn’t want Micah to fail, look foolish, etc. But Little Miss Perfection (moi) didn’t want to fail, either.

I could just hear the teacher saying, “Tsk, tsk, it’s so sad that Micah doesn’t have any support at home with his schoolwork. And she calls herself a mother ..."
Who knew that Davy Crockett could shoot down my image from beyond the grave? Now that’s one “King of the Wild Frontier.”

God is teaching me, though, to fight my image control urges. Not perfectly. But I’m getting better.

I now identify “image control” as what it really is: pride and selfishness.
It certainly wouldn’t be in Micah’s best interest to assume responsibility for his project and reward procrastination. I guarantee you the six straight hours he put in that night on Project Davy Crockett made a lasting impression on him.

And isn’t that the impression I should be most concerned about?
Melinda

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ultimate Blog Party 2010 Cleanup -- Not!

What could be better than meeting a whole host of awesome women bloggers at the Ultimate Blog Party 2010?

Not having to clean up after them! ;0)

Recovering perfectionists like me still get a little twitchy when things get messy.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to "meet" me! I hope you'll come back soon!

Over the past week, I've added some great blogs to my Google Reader. Below are a few of my favorites that I'd like to share with you. If you didn't Party with these girls, you must go now (ever heard of being fashionably late???)

JDaniel4'sMom - This momma has got it going on -- reviews, giveaways, great resources and a wealth of experience as an educator.

Life with the Campbells -- This is one wisdom-filled experienced mom who also happens to be very, very witty. Want proof? She recently won 2nd place in the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writer's Competition. See. I told you.

Momma's Gone Over the Wall -- Who couldn't relate to a mom who dreams of going AWOL now and then? This mom has adorable kids, an engaging writing style and takes beautiful photographs, especially of aforementioned adorable kids. ;0)

Okay, now I feel like someone making one of those award show acceptance speeches. You know, where you want to mention all the wonderful people (in this case bloggers), but there's just not enough time to include them all and you'd forget someone anyway ...

So, just know I had a blast meeting ALL of you! And thanks so much for not messing up my house.
Melinda

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday! Adding Value to Your Readers

What motivates someone to follow you on Twitter?

Well, it's the same thing that motivates someone to follow your blog. You give them something. Inspiration. Humor. Insight. Hope. Whatever it is, they want to come back for more.

Your tweets should add value to your reader. Providing them with helpful links and retweeting interesting posts are great ways to do that.

Recently, I've been printing out parenting quotes and tips and highlighting the funny and/or meaningful ones. I keep a file and add to it. It gives me some valuable information to Twitter to my readers, in addition to personal tweets about my life and thoughts.

It's easy for social networking to become all about us, but the more we make it truly and genuinely about others, the more followers we'll attract.

Are you ready to be a part of Tweet Me Tuesday now? Here's how:

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at Hands, House, Heart Full. She is my co-host in this Blog Hop!

Link up a post you’d like Tweeted using Linky Tools below. It can either be your most recent post or an older, favorite post you'd like to share with a new audience.

Follow me and Kristen on Twitter! (if you’re not already)

Visit the links below and Tweet as many posts as you'd like (linked below).

Follow as many of these bloggers as you’d like on Twitter. (You can follow their blogs, too.)

When you Tweet a blogger’s post, leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday.

Alright -- get to tweeting!








Melinda

Monday, April 12, 2010

Keeping Your Head in the Game

It was falling apart right before my eyes.

Just an inning ago, Micah, my little 10-year-old pitching phenom, was delivering strikes with a calm and ease that had me envisioning his MLB contract signing ceremony and mentally clearing the mantle for his future Cy Young award.

His team was up by three runs. His coaches were beaming. Everything was golden.

I was actually relaxed when Micah came in to pitch the next inning. (Moms of pitchers and goalies have a hard time doing this. At least this mom does.)

Then he threw out the inning’s first pitch – and got tagged. Badly. The ball flew far and deep into the outfield and bounced all the way to the fence. And that was just the beginning of the opposition’s ugly onslaught. When the inning was over, Micah’s team was down by two runs. I couldn’t believe it, but Micah didn’t seem flustered.

I was a different story, however. I hate to admit it, but I sort of gave up. Figured the game was lost. Accepted that Micah would probably be replaced the next inning.

But something amazing happened. Those boys came back out swinging and, more importantly, hitting. Even my beat-up boy. He had a perfectly-timed bunt and an awesome hit that drove home a run. By the time they’d finished their turn at bat, they had regained the lead by one run.

Then the coach brought Micah back in to pitch and it was like the previous inning had never happened. He got on the mound, focused and hit the target with amazing accuracy. One-two-three outs and the game was done.

It was a sweet victory. But it very easily could have been a disappointing loss if Micah and the other boys had given in to discouragement.

Have you ever faced discouragement in parenting? Are you facing it right now?

I am.

You know – those times when things seem to be going well and then out of nowhere you’re derailed in some way. Or maybe you feel inadequate and run down by the constant demands. Whatever the reason, you just feel like passing the glove to someone else and taking a seat on the bench.

I thought about my discouragement after Micah’s game and found some things about his approach that I could model in my parenting:

1.) Focus. He didn’t allow the current scoreboard or past performance to cause him to deviate from his goal. Neither can I.

2.) Calm. When I see things going awry, I can easily get anxious or fearful, which only makes me feel more helpless and discouraged. The only thing that helps me stay calm in those situations in prayer.

3.) Persistence. He wasn’t satisfied or comfortable with defeat. That motivated him. It should motivate me as well.

Finally, I want to leave you with a thought I read last week in Streams in the Desert by L.B.Cowman: "The very instant you wholeheartedly turn away from every symptom of discouragement and lack of trust, the blessed Holy Spirit will reawaken your faith and breathe God’s divine strength into your soul.”

If you’re struggling today, I hope that gives you a little inspiration to get back on the mound.
Melinda

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm Partying! Ultimate Blog Party 2010

Ultimate Blog Party 2010

I'm a little late to the party (it started yesterday), but if you knew me that wouldn't surprise you. I'm not a real "prompt" sort of gal.

But I do love me a good party. And after the week I've had I certainly could use one!

What party you may be asking? The 5 Minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party, of course! Since I'm coming up on my first year anniversary of blogging this seems like a perfect time to celebrate!

For those of you who don't know me, nothing about my life is "perfect" however. And as a recovering perfectionist, that really bugged me for a long time. I'm the kind of girl who loves the fun of a party, but gets really stressed out about the mess. Who loves her kids to pieces, but can't count the number of times she's said to them, "Can't you do that outside?"

The weight of being "perfect" became too much eventually and I finally figured out how to cut myself a break and accept God's grace. To learn more about that, read my post Finding Community at Kmart.

As God has led me along that journey, I've become less "kill-joy" and more joy. My blog is a mostly humorous look at my struggles and victories in parenting and perfectionism.

Here's a few party favors (favorite blog posts) to help you learn more about my less-than-perfect self and my family:

Love is a Battlefield

Can You Spell V-A-I-N?

The Shirt Heard Around the World ... or at least the neighborhood

My Miracle Boy

Swimming with the Sharks

I also hope you'll stop by on Tuesdays and visit me for Tweet Me Tuesday. This is a blog hop I recently started with my good friend Kristen from Hands, House and Heart Full. It's a fabulous way to gain new Twitter followers and get your posts tweeted.

The prizes I'd most like to win during this party are the Toshiba Laptop, the Charming Cha Cha bracelet and The Double Stacked A Lot of Love necklace.
Good luck to all of you who entered in the Ultimate Party giveaways!
If you leave a comment, I'll be sure to return the favor! ;0)
Party on, girlfriends!
Melinda

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Blogging Tips from the Trenches: Lessons from Two First-Year Bloggers

Want to learn some blogging battle secrets?

My dear friend Jeanie Wise and I recently presented a blogging seminar at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

We don't hold ourselves out as "experts." Neither of us have huge followings and know all the tricks and formulas to becoming the next Internet sensation.

But we have both learned a few things that we wished we would have known far earlier in our blogging mission.

Today, I'm passing along the 5 Tips I presented at the seminar. To read Jeanie's 5 tips, hop over to her writing blog, Kindred Hearts. Jeanie also has another wonderful blog, which I have featured as my Good Clean Fun Blog of the Week, called Healthy Spirituality.

So here goes, fellow blogging troopers...

1.) Keep your eyes on the target. Focus, focus, focus! Since my blog is about "Parenting Confessions," I try to make sure nearly every post focuses on parenting, includes some kind of "confession" or struggle and then ends with some kind of "takeaway" that hopefully inspires the reader. Following that "template" has not only made for much more interesting reading for vistors (and helps them to know what to expect when they come here), but it has made writing posts so much easier. When I have a post idea, I just follow that template.

2.) Add thoughtful comments on other blogs. I'm sure most of you know this one. But it bears repeating. I don't comment on tons of blogs. Why? Well, because I want to take the time to read and really think about every post I read so I can give the blogger thoughtful, meaningful feedback. Don't you feel more of a connection when someone who does that vs. a quick "Great post!"?

3.) Use Giveaways, Contests and Book Reviews to draft new readers. This is one of my goals in 2010. Every time I do one of these, I gain at least five to 10 new followers. The time involved is what has held me back in this area.

4.) Motivate the Troops with Challenges. Last summer, I launched an organizing challenge called Operation Organization. I had no clue what a hit that would be! I gained about 200 new subscribers and more than 50 new followers from that Challenge. It clearly struck a nerve! My recent Mission Family Nutrition Challenge didn't generate nearly the excitement. Sometimes it's hard to predict what will be popular, but I think Challenges are always a good way to engage your readers and help motivate them in areas in which we all struggle.

5.) Award Silver Stars and Purple Hearts. I love giving recognition to other great bloggers! A while back, I started the Good Clean Fun Blogger of the Week award. I give the award with no strings attached (no link backs, etc.) Still, I find most bloggers mention the award on their blogs and I've received a good number of new followers as a result.

I hope those tips were helpful to you! Don't forget to check out Jeanie's tips, too!

Now, tell me, what great tips have YOU learned along your blogging journey ??Let's help each other!
Melinda

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday!

Wish new Twitter followers would flock in?

Kristen from Hands, House and Heart Full and I are here to help with Tweet Me Tuesday! A few weeks ago, Kristen and I began hosting this Blog Hop to help bloggers increase their Twitter presence. But we need you!

So link up and see your Twitter presence start to fly!

Every week, we each also include a Twitter tip. Today I’m sharing this great tip that I found on MintBlogger

"Your success on twitter largely depends on whom you follow. It's not the quantity but the quality of your twitter network that matters the most. Follow most active, popular big names in your domain and leverage their strong network by interacting with them and by attracting their attention. Swim with a big fish and benefit from their reach.

Use services like MrTweet to get recommendations about whom you should follow to get the maximum benefit from this micro-blogging service."

Be sure and visit the MintBlogger site. He has some great articles and tips on social media and growing your blog.

Okay! Are you ready to get started? Here’s how:

• Tweet this post!

• Link up a post you’d like Tweeted using Mr. Linky below. It can either be your most recent post or an older, favorite post you'd like to share with a new audience.

• Follow me and Kristen on Twitter! (if you’re not already)

• Visit the links below and try to Tweet at least five posts (linked below).

• Follow as many of these bloggers as you’d like on Twitter. (You can follow their blogs, too.)

• When you Tweet a blogger’s post, leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday.

So, are you ready to Tweet?!






MckLinky Blog Hop



Melinda

Monday, April 5, 2010

Big Eggspectations

I do this every holiday.

You'd think I'd learn.

But every time the calendar begins to inch towards a "big day" like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, I get caught in the same trap.

I place completely unrealistic expectations on how the day should go. I expect it to be all happiness and love and light. For the members of my family to embrace and frolic with abandon. For harmony to reign supreme. For the planets to align.

Take yesterday for example. Easter Sunday. I love Easter. More than Christmas. I think it's because it's the day grace was born. And I need all the grace I can get.

We had planned to go to our church's awesome Easter service and then to a Sunday brunch.

Instead, Molly, my teenager, wakes up with a sore throat -- graciously given to her by her brother who had possession of it last week.

No church service for her. Scrap the Sunday brunch. Deflated, I turned my attention to getting dressed.

And then I couldn't find "the shoes" to go with "the outfit." Girls, you know what I mean.

I refused to change "the outfit" so I had to resort to "ugly shoes." Shoes that make me ask myself, "How? Why? What possessed you to buy those?" But they were the only ones that would work at all with "the outfit."

Then, there was the hair. Worst hair day of the year. Bar none.

And I came a little unglued.

Guilt came washing over me. This is the day to honor the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for me and I'm going nutty over ugly shoes and bad hair.

And then it hit me.

That's how all His children come to him. Flawed, imperfect, badly in need of a makeover. And it made me appreciate His grace even more. Because whatever my condition, He sees me as beautiful.

And that's more than I could ever egg-spect.
Melinda

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Grace is Greater


But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17 (New Living Translation)

Happy Easter!
Melinda
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