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, July 29, 2010

She Speaks! Really?

I have always had a dream. A dream to write.

From the moment I won a strawberry-shaped notebook for a second-grade essay, I was hooked.

But speaking in front of people? That was something I never contemplated for one moment growing up.

Writing was easy. It came naturally to me.

Speaking? That would push this natural introvert (with some extrovert characteristics) out of her comfort zone into the harsh, scary spotlight. I’m much more comfortable waxing poetic behind a computer screen, thank you very much.

So, naturally, God clearly called me to add speaking to my ministry about 10 years ago. What was He thinking?

Thankfully, He was merciful to open opportunities gradually – small, informal groups and Bible studies. Receptive, friendly audiences that were too gracious to tell me how lousy I was.

Over the years, the opportunities have grown slowly, along with my confidence level. Sure, I still feel like I’m going to have a heart attack every time I get behind a podium, but I no longer keep defibrillator paddles handy. So that’s progress.

Today, God’s nudging (shoving) me out of my comfort zone in a big way. I’m going to She Speaks, a conference led by Proverbs 31 Ministries for women speakers and writers.

I have to give two short talks in front of professional speakers. And they'll critique me. Gulp.

But something God gave me to say in one of my talks has been giving me some mojo and reminding me what my ministry is all about:

What He calls you to do will always be beyond your abilities. That way He gets the glory.

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

(I'll probably be in a busy, stress-induced conference haze for a few days, but I will catch up on visiting your blogs when I get back next week!)

Melinda

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Five Reasons I Won't Be the Next Reality Star

Lights. Camera. Action.

Those are three words you won’t be hearing around my house.

Lights? We definitely got ‘em because no one ever turns them off in my house, but at the same time, no one ever admits to leaving them on. Curious.

Cameras? If you count my teenage daughter constantly taking pictures for her Facebook profile, then yes, definitely got them.

Action? I have children. Hello?

But that doesn't mean I'm ready for my closeup. Nope, the in-development reality show Project Mom is not for me. Here are five very good reasons why:

5. Watching me blog in the morning before hair care and sans makeup would be known as a horror flick. That’s a frightening dose of reality no one needs to see.

4. Heidi. Spencer. Enough said.

3. My kids could turn into the Kardashians. And I already have enough trouble "Keepin’ Up" with the drama around my house.

2. With a teenage daughter and a boy about to hit puberty, I’m usually looking to escape reality.
And the Number One reason I won’t be the next reality star is …

I’m already the star of my children’s hearts. (Every teenage girl idolizes her mother. Duh.)

Although reality TV isn't for me, I know so many awesome mamas that are auditioning for Project Mom and I wish them the best! (Theta Mom and Mommyfriend Lori are two that immediately come to mind that would be fantastic representatives of mom bloggers.)

But after witnessing some reality show nightmares over the years, I am concerned about how producers will approach this project and how it could potentially impact the featured bloggers and their families. I love our mom blogging community and hope and pray it turns out to be the realistic, positive, uplifting project that the many amazing mom bloggers – and their families -- deserve.

By the way, you'll want to read my bloggy friend Michele’s post on this same subject (we each wrote about it without knowing the other was) at The Professional Family Manager. She has a very insightful and interesting viewpoint!
Melinda

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Monitter Key Word Search Tool

Don’t you love it when you meet someone who speaks your language?

You know what I mean. You meet someone and soon find you have common interests and enjoy talking about the same subjects.

Well, I’ve found a very cool Twitter tool that helps you find those kindred spirits!

Monitter is a key word tracking tool that you're going to love. All you do is type in key words (for example: parenting, perfectionism or motherhood) and Monitter will show you a live stream of all the Twitter peeps who are currently talking about those subjects. Then you can jump in on the conversation!

It will also show you what key words that are really "hot" at any given moment.

Monitter allows you to even narrow your tracking so you can see the people in your area who are using your key words in their tweets.

There are several reasons why tracking key words can be valuable:

1.) As mentioned above, it can help you find new peeps to follow.

2.) If you regularly jump in on conversations about your areas of interest you build your name recognition and blog recognition on these subjects. This contributes to building your “brand” and perception as an expert on these topics.

3.) It’s helpful in attracting quality followers and building a receptive, target audience for your tweets and links. This can also be very helpful in building your blog following.

So go and give it a try! It’s super easy to use, but I’ll warn you: This may feed your Twitter addiction. ;0)

Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday...

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at MamaBytes. (Her blog has a new name and look! It's fabulous!) She is my wonderful 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.

Finally, please remember that Tweet Me Tuesday is about Linky Love! Please don't just leave you link and fly off! Visit as many of the others listed as you can. The more you interact with others, the more benefit to everyone.







Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hooked on a Feeling

“This is the worst day of my life!” My teenage daughter was at the brink of despair. What inspired gloom of such apocalyptic proportions?

Brace yourself.

The airplane we were taking to our fun-filled vacation didn’t have Wi-Fi.

Earlier in the week, she could barely contain her excitement and spontaneously declared me to be “The Best Mom in the World.” What stirred such unrestrained elation and adoration?

I told her I’d buy Quiznos for her and her friend.

Emotions can be so unpredictable and irrational. It occurred to me recently that they’re a lot like that leaking oil well in the Gulf. They can explode spontaneously, are difficult to contain and have the power to create a mess that can cause irreparable damage and is nearly impossible to clean up.

And teenagers aren’t the only ones who have dizzying, inexplicable swings of highs and lows.

Although I won’t go all Lindsay Lohan on you, I have a hard time containing my emotions, too. Since I’ve become a parent, I’ve found that children can inspire a wide range of emotions all within about a 10-second period. And emotions are a wonderful thing. Life would seem pretty dull and meaningless without them. Where it can get dangerous – especially in parenting – is when we’re led by our emotions.

Emotions can lie to us and cause us to act on things that aren’t true.

Here are a few of the emotions that bubbled up and caused some messy cleanups in my family:

Fear. I think this emotion is the most common one moms experience. We worry about our kids. Fear for their safety. But, if we’re honest, most of us have a fear of losing their love – even for a moment. That fear has led me to say “yes” to things I should have said “no” to – and I’ve paid the price for that more than once.

Frustration. Everyone should do things the way that I do them. My kids have never quite jumped on that bandwagon. So Little Miss Perfection here has had to learn that children have their own unique personalities and do things their own way. And they're prone to making mistakes. Which is how they learn.

Embarrassment. I used to go a little bonkers when my kids embarrassed me in public. For me, anyway, this was a little something called PRIDE. I was far less concerned about my kids’ behavior as I was about my “image.” People will think I'm a bad mother! As God changed my perspective, I quit worrying so much about what people thought. It was NOT an overnight process. I had to admit my pride problem, pray A LOT and ask forgiveness – from Him and my kids when I messed up.

Finally, ANGER. I learned through a wise counseling friend that anger is always a secondary emotion. Anger is usually spurred by the primary emotions of hurt, fear and frustration. When we acknowledge and address those emotions, we are much better at taming our anger. That has certainly been the case for me.

We’ll never completely tame our wayward emotions. But we can learn to recognize when they are unhealthy and choose not to act on them. Although I still struggle, I’m living proof that progress in this area can be made with God’s help.

He’s the Master at containment and cleanup.
Melinda

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm the Featured Blogger at Theta Mom!

Welcome fellow ThetaMoms! Come on in, relax, put your feet up and let it all hang out! I sure do. Every parent deserves a safe place to confess their shortcomings without fear of being put in “time out.” If you’re in need of a parental pep talk and some cathartic confessing, then you’ve definitely come to the right blog.

Heather of ThetaMom is all about being authentic, too. So, I was thrilled and honored when I got an email asking me if I would be this week’s TMC Featured Blogger!

Heather is one of the first moms I “met” on my blogging journey. I immediately connected with her mission and honest revelations about the challenges of motherhood. ThetaMom and the awesome community she has created has been a huge encouragement to me over this past year, both in blogging and motherhood. She is incredibly deserving of her explosive success!

For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I’d highlight a few of my “confessions” over the past year:

1. The Shirt Heard ‘Round the World (or at least the neighborhood). I always thought I’d give my kids the shirt off my back. Apparently not. At least not one I haven’t worn first.

2. Finding Community at Kmart. An embarrassing parenting failure led me to finding grace and community in the unlikeliest of places.

3. Christmas in July? I love Christmastime. I’m just not very good at it. Could planning ahead save me from a repeat of my family’s infamous “shoebox incident”?

4. Pardon the Interruption. I recently ate lunch with a table full of men that did not include my husband. He didn’t mind, though. Sometimes you have to just stop and smell the roll-ups.

5. 5 Ways My Teen Girls Has Saved Me. Teen girls can get a bad rap. I’ve found a few ways the beautiful, but challenging, girl in my life has actually saved me from fashion faux pas and other imminent disasters.

6. My Miracle Boy. Ten years ago, I didn't know what the future would hold for my little man. But God's blessed us with an amazing decade with our boy.

I’d also love it if you’d check out my weekly blog hop Tweet Me Tuesday that I co-host with my blogging buddy Kristen from MamaBytes! You can link up your posts and get them tweeted, as well as gain new Twitter followers. Kristen also hosts a great new meme called Facebook Friday that will help you gain more Facebook "likes"! Plus, she's just an awesome mama ... you should check her out!

I'm so glad you stopped by! Please be sure to leave a comment so I can return the favor!

Melinda

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Twitter Goals

Does Twitter have a point?

That's the question I used to ask myself before I started Twittering.

Actually, if you don't have some goals in mind to accomplish with Twitter, it can seem pretty pointless. After all, you don't blog without some kind of goal in mind. Why should Twitter be any different?

Here's a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

1.) Who am I interested in connecting with online?

2.) Do I want to build a personal brand?

3.) Do I want to drive people to my blog?

4.) Am I promoting a product or service?

5.) Do I want to find people with similar interests?

6.) Do I want to be seen as an expert in a specific area or interest?

In order to make your time on Twitter more enjoyable and productive, it's helpful to have one or two primary goals in mind. For example, my primary Twitter goals (in no particular order) are to 1.) Interact with other moms 2.) Drive new readers to my blog. 3.) Build a personal brand.

Keeping these goals in mind shapes a number of factors as I'm tweeting. I think they'll help you do the same. My goals help me determine the following:

1.) Who I follow

2.) Who I interact with

3.) The tweets I retweet

4.) The types of quotes or other information I tweet (I try to tweet quotes or other articles or information parents would find helpful or interesting.)

5.) The key words I monitor (I have a great tool to tell you about next week that's great for tracking key words).

6.) When I tweet

Twitter is supposed to be a fun, lighthearted medium. But, let's face it. It's time consuming. And addictive. Keeping goals in mind and being productive about the time you spend there can help to further other goals (building your blog, "branding" yourself).

And, as parents, we're all aware that time is a precious commodity. ;0)

PLEASE NOTE! I am not going to have access to the Internet today. Please know that I will be tweeting your posts later in the week! I appreciate you linking up and I won't leave you hanging!

Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday...

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at MamaBytes. (Her blog has a new name and look! It's fabulous!) She is my wonderful 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.

Finally, please remember that Tweet Me Tuesday is about Linky Love! Please don't just leave you link and fly off! Visit as many of the others listed as you can. The more you interact with others, the more benefit to everyone.







Alright -- get to tweeting!



Melinda

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Family Baggage

I didn't see it coming.

After the Herculean effort it took to prepare for our family vacation, we were now standing at the airport check-in with plenty of time to pass through security and find our gate.

We're home free! What could possibly go wrong now? I thought.

I had to ask.

Check-in Clerk: Sir, two of your bags are overweight. That will be $50 for each bag.

Husband: In addition to the $35 I already paid online?!

Clerk (with no expression): Yes.

Husband: Each way?!

Clerk: Yes. Each way.

She said it matter-of-factly, as if it were perfectly reasonable to fork over THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS for the simple privilege of not going naked on your vacation. This from a "budget" airline. Whose budget? Bill Gates?!

Me: That's ridiculous!

Clerk: Well, you could try to redistribute the weight to your other bag. It's lighter.

Husband (visibly irritated): Start unzipping!

So, right there, at the side of the check-in counter, with a line of impatient, gawking onlookers taking in the scene, we all unzipped our neatly packed suitcases and began frantically moving undies, razors and shampoo from one bag to another.

Other travelers stepped over and around us. I swear I heard snickering.

It isn't enough that we nearly have to disrobe to go through security. That they once confiscated my then-infant son's Teletubbies fork for being a "potential weapon." That a few years ago I acquired a file with the FBI for accidentally leaving a paring knife in an overnight bag.

The airline industry apparently did not feel I had yet been sufficiently humiliated. Nope, now I had to expose my baggage.

Have you ever felt that way as a parent? I know I have.

You try to do the right things. Keep the kids in line. Keep family life neat and tidy.

And then, in the most public of venues, your family "baggage" is laid bare.

I have two very strong-willed, independent children who have never been much interested in maintaining my "image." Most children aren't. Kids tend to exhibit their unique -- and sometimes forceful -- personalities without much regard to how it looks or who's listening.

My own weaknesses -- impatience, sarcasm, anger, pride -- have also been on display in the process.

As I've weathered some complicated parenting challenges (as we all do at some point), I've sometimes felt (and heard) the disapproval of gawking onlookers. Strangers -- and friends -- who only saw a snapshot of the jumbled, messiness of our family's relationships, personalities and dynamics sometimes offered simplistic remedies and judgments.

It used to bother me. A lot.

It doesn't anymore. I think it just became too exhausting to care much what other people thought. It's not that I refuse all advice. I just learned to be much more discriminating about who I accepted it from. I gravitated toward a trusted few who would listen, offer encouragement, wisdom and suggestions (and knew when not to!) and refrain from judgments. If you don't have those kind of people in your life, ask God for them. I did. And He answered.

Jesus' family life was messy. He was conceived by an unwed mother. Born in a stable. His parents didn't fully understand His earthly mission. And His own brothers didn't believe He was who He claimed to be. Talk about some complicated family dynamics.

Why should we expect any different?

No matter what is going on in your family, trust that God is working. Don't get brought down by the messiness of the process. Don't allow the airing of your family "baggage" to leave you feeling condemned and embarrassed.

Ask for God's guidance. Try to follow His leading. Accept His grace when you inevitably make mistakes. When you do that, you have nothing to be ashamed of -- no matter how messy the scene may look to outsiders.
Melinda

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: 4 Ways to Give & Get Twitter Love

Are you feeling the Twitter love?

Just like blogging, Twitter is about making connections. And you wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone in real life who was all "take" and no "give."

Is cyberspace really any different?

The best way to feel the love from fellow tweeters and increase follower loyalty is to give some yourself.

Here are four ways to develop mutually beneficial relationships with your Twitter followers:

1. Retweet! Keep track of who is retweeting your tweets and be sure to a.) thank them b.) return the favor at the next opportunity. Over time, you’ll begin to develop a “tribe” of followers who regularly retweet your posts and tweets. This will help to build your Twitter followers and drive more and more people to your blog.

2. Make Friday Follow more personal! I found a great post about this by Michaele from Social Media Strategies. Basically, she says to avoid listing a bunch of names for people to follow all in one tweet. (ex. Be sure to #FF @juliealoe @jeanwise @mamabytes @unexpectedbliss) All the names tend to run together and other tweeps are unlikely to follow these people because they know nothing about them.

Take the time to single out each person individually and tweet what makes him/her unique and worth following. They’re more likely to get more followers and will feel special that you singled them out individually.

3. Make Tweet Me Tuesday last all week long! After last week’s TMT, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be great if we carried the idea of TMT throughout the entire week? Here’s what I mean: Over the past week, I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for tweeters who have participated in TMT. Then I try to make a point of interacting with them and retweeting their tweets and links!

4. Connect on other social media profiles. If you enjoy interacting with someone on Twitter, follow them on Facebook and subscribe to their blog. I’ve developed some really nice social media friendships this way – friendships that provide mutual support and encouragement on both the journey of blogging and life.

Now go out them and spread some Twitter love this week!

Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday...

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at MamaBytes. (Her blog has a new name and look! It's fabulous!) She is my wonderful 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.

Finally, please remember that Tweet Me Tuesday is about Linky Love! Please don't just leave you link and fly off! Visit as many of the others listed as you can. The more you interact with others, the more benefit to everyone.







Alright -- get to tweeting!

Melinda

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Chore Challenge Continues

She survived.

I asked my teenage daughter Molly to vacuum her room yesterday. And although she looked at me like I had three heads and wondered aloud what she had done to deserve such inhumane torture, she reluctantly complied.

“Okay, I’m done,” she announced 10 seconds later.

“No, you’re not done,” I countered. Her room’s small, but it’s not that small.

Then it dawned on me. “Oh, I get it. You think if you do a really lousy job, that I’ll just take over and you won’t have to do it.”

She smiled a sinister smile.

“That's not gonna work here anymore,” I said. I’ve finally realized that a completed job is better than a perfect one. Took me long enough!

“I’m just not used to doing this kind of stuff,” she said. “After a while, I’ll probably quit throwing a fit.”

Yes, she actually said that. And it just reinforced that if I can get past the initial resistance, I might just have some decent help on my hands.

Last week, I posted on how I’ve let my kids off easy in the chore department. Yesterday, I wrote about how I’m working to remedy that.

Today, I’m continuing with a few more tips and resources to inspire you and, hopefully your children, to clean house. Most of these come from you, my highly creative and resourceful readers!

Tip #1: They want it? They earn it!

From reader Kelly:
"They make a lot of noise when you first start asking them to help. During the school year, I felt sorry for them during the week and only asked them to put up their own clothes and take their things off the table. On weekends, everyone had to clean their own rooms and do two other chores before they were allowed to do anything else (no iPods, TV, computer, reading).
During the summer, they have to earn every minute of TV, Wii, etc. by doing chores, exercising, math problems, etc. It worked so well last summer no one ever complained about being bored and I had the cleanest house ever. I will admit some of them worked harder than others. They still complain sometimes, but not doing it all myself has really paid off."
Tip #2: Remember to keep jobs age-appropriate.
From reader Mitzi:
"There's a book written by Jody Capehart and titled Cherishing and Challenging your Children. She lists age appropriate jobs in there! We're currently working on chores for my 2 young boys in my house."

Tip #3: Consider your child’s personality when determining what might be effective.
From Moi:
In yesterday’s post, I talked about how I have short checklists for my kids to complete when they come home from school. My son, Micah, is a lot like me. He loves to check things off the list and he loves completion. He also likes the computer. I found this site called HandiPoints which combines all three of those things. You can create your own customized lists. Kids check off tasks on the computer and earn points to buy characters and accessories for a virtual world (sort of like Webkinz).

Molly is all about the bling. ;0) So I offered incentives like a top (on sale) from Hollister when she completed two or three weeks worth of tasks.

Tip #4: Assign chores on an “as needed” basis.

From reader Lori:
"I've tried the 'Chore Charts' many times, too, and found it was a waste of time. I find it works much better when I politely ask my kids to do things on an 'as needed' basis. If the trash needs to be taken out or if the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, I summon an available child to do the task. Since there is (always) something that needs cleaning or putting away, it works out that each of the kids are doing some type of chore on a daily basis. It's quick, and they don't even really notice the amount of stuff they do for the 'good of the household' in a week. This method works in our house."

For more inspiration, stop by Alysa’s blog. She just wrote a post on this subject, as well.

See how much we can learn from each other? Thank you everyone for your awesome tips!

How about you? Any other tips you’d like to share that have worked in your family?
Melinda

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Culture of Cooperation

Is it a chore to get your children to do chores?

Girlfriends, I feel your pain.

Last week, I blogged about how I had dropped the ball in consistently enlisting my children to help around the house.

I knew that I’d really blown it when I began to have this response when I’d ask one of my children to do a household task: “What did I do? Am I in trouble? Why are you punishing me?”

No, kiddos. You’re not in trouble, but I’m knee-deep in it – drowning in a never-ending sea of laundry, dishes and clutter. And there’s something just very wrong about that when I have two capable, if reluctant, helpers in my household. So I’m determined to assert my role in the household hierarchy and start doing a better job of training my crew to live outside the Means Spa & Resort.

I’m inspired by a sign I have hanging in my kitchen: “Ask not what your mother can do for you, but what you can do for your mother!” Can I hear an ‘Amen'?!

So, since I obviously can’t give you a slew of great advice about how I did it right with my kids, I’ll instead explain a couple of key mistakes I’ve made and how I’m trying to reverse course.

1. Mistake: I started too late. I needed to start enlisting my children’s help from the time they were toddlers. In one of my favorite books, A Woman After God’s Own Heart, author Elizabeth George gives some great tips for creating what I call “A Culture of Cooperation” in your home.

From the time her kids were toddlers, she was training them on how to dump laundry soap in the washer, turn the machine on and help put the clothes in the dryer. At very young ages, kids can also wield a dust cloth and tidy their rooms. Elizabeth suggests writing two sets of 3x5 cards – one for you and one for your children. Then you could do the chores together. They feel like they’re part of the family team and at the same time you’re teaching them how to do the tasks correctly.

Be aware! At young ages, children aren’t really “help.” It will often actually take you longer to finish tasks with your “helper” tagging along. To be honest, THIS is why I gave up on having my kids help when they were younger. Remember that you are instilling a work ethic and one day, when you’ve trained them well, they will do tasks well and not consider them some form of torture (ahem….)

Remedy: Well, I can’t turn back the clock. And I can’t expect that I can make up for lost time overnight. So I’m taking baby steps. Instead of instituting some elaborate chore chart (that I can’t keep up with – more on that below), I’ve started by asking my kids to do little things around the house. “Micah, can you take these milk cartons to the recycling bin?” “Molly, no, I’m not making your mac n’cheese. You can do that yourself.” Everyone is rinsing off their own dishes and loads them in the dishwasher. You have to start somewhere. And the more I do this, the less resistance I’m encountering.

2. Mistake: I was inconsistent. I’d get all hot on a new, elaborate chore chart system and then two weeks later, it was all but abandoned. Maybe some moms can keep up with it, but this one can’t. I need simplicity. One thing I DID do that has worked with my kids – and that I have been able to keep up with most of the time – is to make an “Afterschool List.” The list looks something like this: Put lunchbox on counter, tidy room (pick up dirty clothes, etc.), do homework, put away folded laundry, and set the table (on certain nights.)

Once their checklist is done, they’re free to do what they like (TV, computer). During busy sports seasons, I’ve been known to get off track with this for periods of time, but it’s been the most successful system I’ve used (and believe me, I’ve tried more than a few.)

Remedy: Once school starts, I’m going back to the lists. And I’m keeping them short and simple. In the past, I've been guilty of putting too many things on the list. When they have soccer or baseball three or four nights a week, I'll scale back a little so we're all more likely to stay consistent and on board. If they can do a few things well and consistently, I’ll be a happy woman.
Be sure to come back tomorrow when I’ll do some more confessing and share some more tips and resources I’ve found, as well as suggestions from you, my wonderful readers.
Melinda

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Using Twitter to Boost Your Blogging

I'll admit it. I was late to come around to the value of Twitter.

But now I'm a believer. Over the past several months, I've found Twitter has helped enhance my blogging in a variety of ways. Below are a few tips on how you can use Twitter to enhance both your blogging relationships and content:

1. Follow Your Blog Readers. While blogging allows you to leave a single comment, Twitter, as you know, allows for real-time give and take. I make a point of trying to follow and connect with my blog readers on Twitter ... it's helped me to feel like I know them a little more personal level -- like I'm having a cup of coffee with them! This enhances your connections with readers, as well as builds loyalty to you and your blog.

2. Engage, engage, engage! When I was first starting out, I would simply tweet the title of my post and leave a link. Bor-ing! I've become much more creative since then. I've found one of the more effective ways to get people to click on your link is to ask a thought-provoking question. For example, when I tweeted a recent post about learning to say "No" it looked something like this: 'No' Guilt? Why is it so hard to say that little two-letter word?" Everyone likes to be engaged and feel like their opinion matters. Asking them a question accomplishes both.

3. Tweet about your "hot" posts. I haven't tried this yet, but I've seen other tweeters do it. When you have a post that is getting a lot of dialogue or comments, hop onto Twitter and tweet about it! It could say something like: "My post on how to say 'No' is burning up my comment box! It's your turn to weigh in!"

4. Find post ideas. Pay attention to what people are tweeting about -- do certain topics seem to pop up time and time again? If so, is there a creative or personal way you can write about it on your blog?

Hope you've found these tips helpful!

Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday...

Tweet this post! Then visit Kristen at Hands, House, Heart Full. She is my wonderful 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.

Finally, please remember that Tweet Me Tuesday is about Linky Love! Please don't just leave you link and fly off! Visit as many of the others listed as you can. The more you interact with others, the more benefit to everyone.







Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Passing Down Freedom


"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." -- Ronald Reagan

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (New Living Translation)
God Bless America!
Melinda

Thursday, July 1, 2010

'No' Guilt

“You’ve learned to say, ‘No’!”

A sweet lady at church made this observation recently after I mentioned to her that I had turned down a request to play a bigger role in our church’s VBS this year.

“Yes, after years of being overwhelmed, overcommitted (and driven to the brink of insanity), I’ve learned to say, ‘No’,” I replied. “You know what’s even better? It took a long time, but I’ve learned to say, 'No' – without guilt.”

No. It’s such a short , simple word. Often, it’s one of the first words that come out of our babies’ mouths. So why is it that so many grown women (men, too) – especially moms – have such a hard time spitting it out?

Personally, I was a “Yes Woman” for several reasons, but they had one thing in common: They were all rooted in fear.

1.) Fear of Disappointing Others. The thought of someone not thinking well of me or being disappointed in me propelled me like a hamster on a wheel.
2.) Fear of Not Being “Enough.” When you root your worth in your performance, and you aren’t constantly performing, what are you worth? I didn’t think I’d like the answer.
3.) Fear of Being Indispensible. “If I don’t do this, who will? It won’t get done! No one can do it as well as I can!
4.) Fear of NOT Being Indispensible. This is even worse. What if someone CAN do it as well as I can?!

So, what turned this stressed-out performance junkie around? I changed my way of living when God gradually opened my eyes to the damage I was doing to my marriage and my children.

It started with a revelation about 10 years ago. I was sitting on the floor, dead-tired, working on a project for someone (I can’t even remember who or what) at 3 a.m. with dirty dishes and piles of baby laundry around me. And I believe God clearly put this thought in my head: “What are you doing?” A simple question that changed my life. It was as if in that moment I saw the complete insanity of my ridiculously people-pleasing ways for the first time.

Change didn’t happen overnight. Realizing I had a problem was just the first step. Old habits and ways of thinking die hard. But in case there are any other ‘No’-phobic parents out there, I thought I’d share a few things that helped me:

1.) I wrote down my list of priorities. I looked at them daily at first to remind myself of the people and tasks God has given me above all others. When someone asked me to do something, I’d say, “Can I get back to you?” And then I’d go back to my priority list. If it took away from my priorities, I said, “No.” If it enhanced or built on my priorities, I said, “Yes.” This exercise was critical to breaking my “Yes” habit.
Over time, with practice, I didn't have to look at the list anymore and I was strong enough to say "No" without stalling.
2.) I asked God to help me. When I felt weak and unable to summon the courage to say that little two-letter word, I prayed.
This week, I happened to catch part of a show on TLC about people with Anxiety and Phobias. As part of their treatment, counselors gradually exposed them to their fears. Over time, they were “desensitized” and realized that their fears were unfounded.
The same thing happened when I began to say “No.” Each time it became a little easier – a little less guilt-ridden. And I realized that all the things I feared were really baseless. As I saw the health and happiness boundary-setting brought to myself and my family, I was even more motivated to stick to my guns. Instead of feeling inadequate and guilty, I felt freedom.
Ten years later, would I ever go back to the way things were?
In a word – NO!
Melinda
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