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

But enough about me.

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

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

Whew. That felt good.

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

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

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

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Twitter Profile Widget


If you're a blogger, you most likely Twitter, hoping people will visit your blog.
So why not encourage people who visit your blog to interact with you on Twitter?
The Twitter Profile widget is a great way to do that! This tool is simple to design and install and gives a live, running record of your tweets. (See mine at the bottom of my left sidebar).
Blog visitors simply click "Join the conversation" (at the bottom of the widget) and they'll be directed to Twitter to interact with you!
Even if they don't join in, publishing your Twitter feed on your blog helps your visitors to know a bit more about you. And it may also help increase your Twitter follower stats. Who wouldn't want to follow you once they read how witty and engaging you are?
Adding a Twitter Profile widget to your blog is easy:
2.) Click on "Profile Widget."
3.) From there you can easily customize your widget dimensions, colors and settings.
4.) Once you've saved your changes, simply click "Finish & Grab Code" to add it to your blog.
You're done!
Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, uhhh, 4...

1.) Tweet this post! Be sure to visit Kristen at MamaBytes, too! She is my wonderful co-host in this Blog Hop!

2.) 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.

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

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

You can 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, it's nice to leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday. Not required, but leaving comments is always good!

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.
Twitter
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.

To add the Tweet Me Tuesday button to your blog, just copy the code below!



Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mom's Out of Gas

Today I’m linking up to B in Real Life’s Bad Mommy Rehab meme. She asked readers to link up a memory we have about our mother.

My mom was not meant to drive. No, she would have been far better off with her own personal chauffer.

The roadways were just not as safe when she took the wheel for a variety of reasons.

Hmmm… where do I begin?

Well, first of all, my mom had some kind of strange aversion to actually pumping gas. She decided it was more practical to wait until the gas tank was completely empty and we broke down on the side of the road. Then, we’d simply break out the gas can – always stowed in the trunk for such occasions – and we’d trudge to the nearest gas station.

Now, this didn’t happen every time, of course, but enough times, that it is a vivid memory.

What made this even more comical (now, not then) is that along with always being short on gas, she was also always low on money.

But, somehow, my mother had this way about her that made people just want to believe her and take mercy on her. She’d walk into the gas station with her trusty can or chug into the gas station on her last fume without a dime to her name. And it would go something like this …

My mom: Sir, I am completely out of gas. And I don’t have any money on me. But I am a very honest person. I always have been. I promise you if you’ll just give me a gallon until I get home, I will come right back and pay you.

Gas station attendant: Well, ma’am, we really don’t do that.

My mom: I know. It’s terrible. I feel awful for asking. But my children are with me and my husband is at work. Here, I’ll give you my address. You’ll know where to find me if I don’t come back. But I promise you I will.

Gas station attendant (with a sigh): Okay, lady, pump yourself a gallon.

I swear. She always managed to talk them into it. It was a gift really.

Then there was the driving ... I remember the time we were going the wrong way on a one-way street and were stopped by a police officer.

Officer: Ma’am, you’re going the wrong way. Do you realize that?

My mom: Oh, yes officer, I just noticed that. I am so sorry.

Officer: Okay, I’ll let you off this time. Just drive in the right direction.

This happened two more times within 15 minutes – and we ran into the same officer. Miraculously, he again gave her a warning the second time and pointed her in the right direction.

The third time, after listening to her try to explain her confusion yet again, he finally threw up his hands, shook his head and pleaded, "Lady, please just go and get off of my streets! I don't know what to do with you!”

The thing about my mom is that she wasn’t manipulative. She was genuinely confused or distracted and simply possessed this ability to somehow land on her feet regardless of the jam she found herself in.

As a child, this was not especially funny. At times it was embarrassing or unsettling. When I got older, I learned that my mother had bipolar disorder. Which manifested itself in sometimes odd and frustrating ways.

I was often annoyed by this -- and her refusal to acknowledge a problem -- even after I became an adult. Until I became a mother. I saw through new eyes the struggles she must have faced trying to raise children while simultaneously struggling – untreated – with her bipolar condition. I understand now that bipolar disorder wasn’t recognized or treated the way it is today.

As my kids have gotten older and the challenges have increased, I have found my grace and empathy for my mother has continued to grow as well.

I can look back at these memories fondly now. My mom was quirky and hysterically funny – all the more so because it was completely unintentional. It was why so many people loved her. And I believe it was truly a gift that God gave her to protect her and help her cope.

Unfortunately, I can’t give her the grace I give her now in person. She passed away six years ago. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s in heaven and I’ve prayed that somehow she knows what I now know: Mothers need grace. They aren’t perfect, but they do the best they can. That I know she did the best she could.

And since I’ve run out of gas -- both as a mom and in the car—more than once, I truly am my mother’s daughter.
Melinda

Friday, August 27, 2010

Drained of Joy

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Earlier this week, I walked into my newly remodeled bathroom. The gorgeous bathroom that replaced my previously ugly, moldy, seriously 80's bathroom. The spa-like bathroom I love so much I don’t even mind cleaning anymore.

But instead of the glee I usually feel when I walk in this room, I immediately felt nauseous. Overnight, big black, ugly mold stains appeared on the baseboard, and water stains and bubbled, peeling paint scarred my once-beautiful Sherwin Williams “Rice Paddy” green walls.

I knew this meant two things. 1.) Something, somewhere was leaking. 2.) My bank account was about to get a whole lot smaller. And this time I wasn’t going to be nearly as giddy about spending money on remodeling.

One contractor told me the pipe going to my washing machine was the leaky culprit: "Actually," he said, "since your house is more than 20 years old, you need a whole house repipe -- which will run you about $4000."

Oh, sure, let me run and get the checkbook. You don’t know what joy it brings me to blow a few grand on – pipes. That oughta land me on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.

As it turned out, after getting a second opinion, only the hoses that led to my washing machine were leaking. But I still have the drywall expense and of course eventually replacing those pipes (which must be made of solid gold. Four thousand dollars? Really?)

Life tends to throw “joy drainers” like that at warp speed, doesn’t it?

In a five-year period, my house was nearly destroyed by a hurricane, my then-infant son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and I buried my mother after she lost heartbreaking battles with bipolar disorder and ovarian cancer. I’ve learned I have to pin my joy and peace to something far studier than circumstances.

I want to model true contentment – whatever life brings – for my children, who are always watching how we respond when our best-laid plans spring a leak.

Here’s a few lessons I’m trying to pass on to my kids that I’ve learned the hard way:

1.) Give up and give in. Much of what happens in my life is out of my control. As a perfectionistic control freak, that was very hard for me to accept. But, gradually, over the past few years, I’ve moved closer to giving up my quest for control and giving in by surrendering to God’s plan for my life even when I don’t understand it.

2.) Look back. Reliving the past, as a general rule, isn’t very productive. Unless it’s looking back at the ways that God has been faithful to me – sometimes during very confusing and unpleasant circumstances. When my family or kids are facing a crisis – big or small – I try to help them think of times God has taken care of them in other difficult situations.

3.) Live and Learn. There have been times I would have been tempted to lay down and die unless I knew that God was going to use my painful circumstances for my good – to teach me something, to grow my character. I’ve also realized sometimes He uses my pain to teach or benefit others in some way. (It's not all about me? Shoot!) I try to remind my kids to look for what God may be trying to teach them or how he may be using their circumstances to help someone else.

In today’s uncertain world, we have many opportunities to build our children’s character and point them to an unchanging God who always has their best interests at heart – even when He allows life to throw a monkey wrench in their pipes.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NLT)
Melinda

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Twanalyst

Come into my office and let me analyze your Twitter personality, effectiveness, weaknesses.

That's what Twanalyst.com does for you! It is the coolest Twitter tool I have found yet. I'm already prone to overanalysis in all areas of life, so this is right up my alley! ;0)


All you do is go to the Twanalyst website, type in your Twitter username and hit 'Enter'. It will tell you a load of information, including your Twitter personality; style; percentage of replies, retweets, conversations, etc. Based on their analysis, they even give you tips for improving your tweeting! Below is my latest Twanalysis:

PERSONAL INFORMATION:
Name: MelindaMeans (Melinda Means)
Location: Florida (Time zone: Eastern Time (US & Canada))
Description: Life-long perfectionist finally living under God's grace. Imperfect wife and mother of two. Freelance writer, mainly Christian parenting and children's pubs.
URL: http://parentingconfessions.com

STATISTICS:
Account Created: 02 Jul 09
Status Updates: 1486
Followers: 562
Following: 563

ANALYSIS:
Tweets per day: 3.6
Readability index: (?) 12
% conversations: 32
% retweets: 28
% links: 18
% hashtags: 18
% content: 4

Your Twitter personality
Personality: renowned obsessive cautious
Style: chatty coherent
SHARER

Tips for your tweeting...
Your tweeting is already tip-top! No improvements needed -
but check back here every so often to make sure your reputation is being maintained!
_________________________________________________________________

Very cool. You can also type in a keyword and Twanalyst will suggest other Twitter users who you might like to follow. Further, it has a tool called the Blogalyser. You can cut and paste one of your blog posts into the Blogalyser and it will analyze your blog writing personality.

Both the Twitter and blog information this website provides helps you know how you are being perceived, your strengths and weaknesses and how you can use Twitter more effectively to connect with your followers.

Can you see why I think this tool is super-cool?!

Okay, now on to Tweet Me Tuesday! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3, uhhh, 4...

1.) Tweet this post! Be sure to visit Kristen at MamaBytes, too! She is my wonderful co-host in this Blog Hop!

2.) 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.

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

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

You can 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, it's nice to leave a comment telling them you tweeted it as part of Tweet Me Tuesday. Not required, but leaving comments is always good!

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.

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.

To add the Tweet Me Tuesday button to your blog, just copy the code below!



Alright -- get to tweeting!

Melinda

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kids' Chores Can Be A Dream!

I witnessed a couple of strange sights at my house last week.

Eerie, really.

At first I thought I was dreaming. But the smell of cleaning products brought me back to reality.

It was the unfamiliar sight of my teenage daughter cleaning the bathroom! And my 10-year-old son setting the table!

Say what?! You could have knocked me over with a feather duster.

A few weeks ago I posted about how I had dropped the ball when it came to making my kids consistently help out with chores. Then I posted about how I was making small efforts to get them into the mindset that they are not simply residents at the Mom Resort & Spa.

Now I actually have a system – that seems to be working (as evidenced by the fact that aforementioned teenager was found in the bathroom with a mop instead of a makeup brush. And Micah was holding water glasses instead of a Wii remote.)

Now I know that not every system works for every family. But I always like to hear what works for other parents, so I’m going to share what I came up with. Over the years, I’ve found that I’m most likely to keep up with any schedule if it falls into one of three categories: 1.) Simple 2.) Simple 3.) Simple.

I realize my system is not rocket science. But as a mom who has tried more chore charts than I can shake a Swiffer at, I have a Ph.D. in what doesn’t work. And I don’t mean just what doesn’t work for my kids, but what doesn’t work for me. I’m the adult. I’m the one who has to keep track of and enforce the system. I’m a simple girl. I need a simple system. And all the complicated stickers, bells and whistles of some chore charts frankly send my simple little brain into shutdown mode.

So, bearing that in mind, I purchased this calendar and posted their chores on it:



It consists of two components:

1.) Chores – Each child has a list of chores to complete. Notice I included tidying their rooms and general house pick up. I want them to get into the mindset of picking up after themselves better and not assume Mom the Merry Maid will do it. Yes, I know I’m late coming to this party, but I’m convinced old children can still learn new tricks.

Molly, my teenager, has a lot of homework this year. For that reason, I’m not expecting her to put away her laundry. Plus, she doesn't get home until 4:30 p.m. everyday. However, Micah my 5th grader, has a little more time in the afternoons after school, so I am expecting it of him. It usually takes all of about five to ten minutes, but it's one less thing for me to do.

Also, I added “Help with dishes and other chores when asked.” I told them I expect them to pitch in with other small requests as needed.

2.) Allowance – Their allowance is tied to their chores. I know some people don’t believe in doing that. But I look at it this way: In the real world, you don’t get paid if you don’t do your job. And I’m preparing them to live in the real world, right?

Each job on the list will yield Micah approximately $1. Each job on Molly’s list will earn her about $2. If they don’t do a job on the list, they can deduct that amount from the allowance they’ll get each week. (I'll increase Micah's allowance as he gets older.)

Now that all the back-to-school shopping is done, I told both kids that if they want to buy anything new, they have to pay for it themselves. This will be very motivating, especially for Molly, who considers a T-shirt bought two weeks ago “so last year.” My son is a saver and tends to like to piggy bank his money for big things.

So, there it is … aren’t you impressed? Brilliant, huh? Yea, well, like I said, I’m a simple girl. So far -- two weeks into the school year -- I'm generally not stressed out. If that isn't the sign of a successful system, I don't know what is.

Well, I gotta sign off now. I'm going to go put my feet up while Micah fans me and Molly drops grapes into my mouth. Okay, now I'm dreaming ...
Melinda

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coming Through! Make Room for Brooke!

I love it when I make a new blogging friend. Especially one as funny and sweet and engaging as Brooke from B In Real Life.

We seemed to have this instant connection and the same sort of (super-cool!) vibe going on with our blogs. So when Brooke suggested we do a blog post swap, I was so excited! I can't wait for you to meet her because I know you'll love her, too.

After you read her post, be sure to go over and follow her -- and you can read my post at her place!

So, here she is (Applause!) ....

Let me introduce myself. My name is Brooke and I reside over at B In Real Life.

I am a wife to a hot youth pastor (who I refer to as Mr. Baby Daddy) and a mommy to two ankle biters - Q and CeCe. They are pretty sweet little girls, but some days their "sweetness" is eclipsed by the fact that there are two of them and one of me. Did I mention that they are 12 months and 8 months? Of course we would love to adopt a baby Mr. Adoption Agency....the only thing is I'm 5 months pregnant...that's okay with you? Great! See you at the hospital.

Okay, so it was a little more complicated than that, but the gist of the story is this...after years of praying for children I finally got knocked up (thanks to good old fashioned In Vitro Fertilization), and a few months into the pregnancy the adoption agency called. So there I was in the delivery room, 5 1/2 months pregnant watching my daughter Q enter the world.

Hallelujah and where is my Xanax?!

Now, on with the show.

I'm going to be real with you...I suffer from SSE (Single Stroller Envy). Here is my latest experience with SSE:

This morning I got the girls up from their naps and headed to the mall. I was in desperate need of some adult contact (sorry lady in the elevator, I'm sure you didn't want to hear my whole life story in 30 seconds but that's what you get for asking how I was doing). As we were making our way through Dillards (running into a clothing rack every 3 seconds) I see HER... walking...no, prancing through the petite section (of course!), whizzing her cute, agile, single stroller around as if it was floating on clouds of cotton candy (grrrrr). And to make it worse, her baby was sleeping. That is until I accidentally ran CeCe's foot into a display table and she started crying.

I had to talk myself down from the ledge when Single Stroller Sally gave me that snarky "shut your baby up so I can go about my single stroller business" look. But I didn't say anything. I just smiled an apologetic smile, put my double wide in reverse (beep, beep, beep) and headed to the food court for an Orange Julius.

One Orange Julius and a Xanax later I looked down at Q and CeCe. I was suddenly flooded with gratitude that I have to push a double wide around. It wasn't that long ago that I my arms were empty and my heart was aching to be a mother. So, I shelved my Single Stroller Envy, put on my Keep On Truckin attitude and made my way through a few more stores.

The End.

Whew! How did I do? Do you like me? I really hope so, because Melinda is kinda my blogging idol and I haven't slept the past two nights for fear of disappointing her and her readers. Feel free to leave lots of comments after this post telling me how much you enjoy me...kidding...okay not really. :)


Melinda

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Encouraging Interaction

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone, but they did all the talking?

You probably lost interest pretty quickly. No one likes a blabbermouth who doesn't take time to find out what you're thinking.

The same is true when you're Twittering. Sending your tweets out into cyberspace in a random or self-serving manner, without making an effort to engage your community is not going to encourage the kind of interaction that makes Twitter useful and interesting.

I came across an article in Problogger this week that gave some great tips for encouraging meaningful interaction with your Twitter followers. Here a few really good ones mentioned in the article:

1.) Ask questions! This draws people out and makes them more likely to interact, especially if it's thought-provoking. This kind of dialogue can deepen relationships and provide fodder for future blog posts.

2.) Don't 'reply' too often. Make sure you are interspersing your replies to followers with meaningful and informational tweets. If people are only seeing a high ratio of replies to other followers (and thereby only half the conversation), it can become confusing and doesn't provide them with anything interesting or memorable to play off of. Being concious of not replying too often can actually encourage more conversation. Weird, huh?

3.) Keep it interesting! Tweet links to blogs and websites that your followers would find valuable. They'll remember you and it will provide them with information to discuss with you.

For more great tips, go over to the Problogger website. The article I referenced is the best, most informative article on using Twitter effectively that I've read in a long time.

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.

To add the Tweet Me Tuesday button to your blog, just copy the code below!



Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shop 'Til You Drop? Do I Have To?!

You know what to expect when you come here. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Yep. When I started this blog, I vowed to kick my performance-focused, approval-junkie ways to the curb and just tell the unvarnished truth about my sometimes very imperfect self. And I try to share the lessons I’ve learned from my parenting misadventures and humiliation. So glad I can be of service.

Well, my new, wonderful blogging friend Brooke had this awesome idea that’s going to give me a little break from all that painful and embarrassing confessing.

She has this meme called Bad Mommy Rehab where you write about something GOOD you did recently as a parent. Ingenious, right? Yea, well, I gave her the idea. NOT! ;0)

I have to tell you, I had a really hard time thinking of something! Not because I don’t do good things as a parent (really!) but I think it’s just our human nature to remember mostly the negative. I’m much better at poking fun at myself than tooting my own horn. But here goes…

Hello … My name is Melinda and I’m a (Recovering) Mommy Guilt-oholic.

I don’t know where my daughter got it. But that girl can shop. I, myself, am not a big shopper (I think that’s why Mike married me). Sure, I like to get new stuff. But I usually have a good idea of what I want. I go in. I buy it. Shopping trip over.

I don’t get any kind of adrenaline high from being trampled by fellow shoppers, accosted by overzealous salespeople (Would you like to try this sample? NOOOO!) and walking aimlessly from one overpriced store to another.

So I cringed a little when my teenage daughter asked me to take her and two of her friends shopping recently. But then I quickly remembered that not so long ago she was unwilling to be seen with me in the mall. (At least until she realized no mom = no money). So this was progress. And I was “cool” enough to be in the mall not only with her, but her friends.

So, instead of being resigned to doing this, I embraced it. I didn’t think about one thing I “should” have been doing at home. I got past the annoyance of practically needing night vision goggles to avoid bodily injury when I walked into Hollister. I waited patiently as they shopped for underwear in Marshalls. And I even took them to Moe’s for dinner.

And I’m so glad I did. I got to know my daughter a little bit better that day. And her friends. And I think they got to know me a bit better as well.

Good parenting involves talking and listening, instructing and guiding, but I think all of those things often happen best in the context of being willing to kick your agenda and preferences to the curb and embrace the world your child lives in – even if it often seems like a foreign and hostile country. (And, believe me, in middle school, it will.)

Need to kick the guilt, too? Stop by Brooke's place and check yourself in!
Melinda

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Funny Thing About Dads

Okay, I’m no Jim Carrey. But I think I’m pretty funny “for a chick” as my husband would say.

But apparently I don’t reach the lofty comedic standards of a 10-year-old boy – namely my son.

I was rudely awakened to this fact recently by a conversation that went something like this:

Micah: Who do you think is the funniest person in the family?

Molly: I think I’m the funniest. Definitely.

Me: Molly, you are pretty hysterical.

Mike: Well, she got it from me, you know. So I think I’m the funniest, but Molly probably comes in a close second.

Micah: Hey, what about me?!

Molly: Micah, you are not funny.

Micah: Shut up, Molly! Yes, I am! Not as funny as Dad, but I’m funny.

Me: We’re all pretty humorous in our own way.

Micah: Yea, right, Mom! You’re not funny! No way! (Laughs hysterically)

Me: Excuse me?!

Micah: Sorry, Mom, but I do not think of you as funny. Now, Dad, he’s funny!

After I recovered from the bruising insult to my witty self, I found comfort when I realized his opinion simply reflected the way Micah views his dad.

My husband is funny. But Mike could say, “Soup!” and Micah would burst out into uncontrollable laughter. It isn’t so much what Mike says, as far as Micah is concerned. It’s all about who says it.

He idolizes his dad. They’re baseball buddies and wrestling pals. They “get” each other. A few years ago, when the Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series, they even got Mohawks together.

I know how important my husband is to my son – and my daughter (although she’s a typical teenager and usually doesn't acknowledge that either of her parents are necessary.)

So, I have to say, I was frustrated when I heard about Jennifer Aniston’s recent comments about how dads are optional:

"Women are realizing more and more that you don't have to settle, they don't have to fiddle with a man to have that child," Aniston said. "They are realizing if it's that time in their life and they want this part they can do it with or without that."

Her sentiments, are not new, of course. Our society has been demoting dads for years now. It's perplexing. Because at the same time, studies and experts continue to underscore their importance. I found this quote from noted sociologist Dr. David Popenoe on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website:

“Fathers are far more than just 'second adults' in the home,’ he says. "Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”

Now I know some amazing single moms who are raising great kids. Single-parent families are a reality today. I certainly realize that. I , in no way, am diminishing the very tough job they do. But most of the single moms I know wish their children’s dads were more involved. They know their role as Mom is vitally important, but they see the painful void that is left when Dad isn’t a regular and positive part of their lives.

Societal influences aren't the only ones who are guilty of undervaluing dads. I think as moms we can get into a mindset of thinking we do all the parental heavy lifting (from late-night feedings to field trips, taxi service and homework help ...). Or we simply take dads for granted, without fully appreciating the God-given unique and valuable kind of strength and security dads can provide to their children -- not to mention a host of other intangibles that are difficult to overestimate.

And that deserves acknowledgement from society. And it deserves encouragement from us inside our own households.

When we encourage and acknowledge the things our husbands do and the influence they have in parenting, dads are strengthened and inspired. I know the dad in my house is. (Even better if you do it in front of your kids.) Usually, a little praise goes a long way when it comes from the women they love.

Bottom Line? Dads are far too important to marginalize -- in society and everyday in our own homes. When we do, our kids suffer. And that's no laughing matter.
Melinda

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Tweetizen

Do you ever get a little overwhelmed by all the tweets coming at you at once?

Get frustrated that when so many of them don't seem to interest you?

Well, I found a cool tool called Tweetizen that allows you to form Twitter groups based on relationship (family or friends) or areas of interest (parenting, cooking, politics), etc.

It's very easy to use:

1.) Log in to Tweetizen using your Twitter username and password.

2.) Click on the "Create a Group" button.

3.) Choose a name for your group.

4.) You can then type in keywords to filter the kind the tweets you want to see in your group. Then only those tweets will show up when you click on each group.

5.) You can even Share or Embed your new group.

It's just another way to make your Twitter experience more customized and to interact with people who share your same interests -- which is what social networking is all about!

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.

To add the Tweet Me Tuesday button to your blog, just copy the code below!



Alright -- get to tweeting!




Melinda

Monday, August 9, 2010

L'Bri Skin Care Review & Giveaway

I’ve spent most of my life “dating” skin care products. You know what I mean. I’d get sucked in by their flashy promises and attractive packaging. But then I’d be disappointed and let down by the reality and move on to the next one only to repeat the cycle all over again. Ugh.

Until I met L’Bri Pure n’ Natural. The search is officially over.

L’Bri Pure n’ Natural was founded by Linda and Brian Kaminski in 1998. They started their company “to provide quality, affordable aloe vera-based skin care, beauty, and nutritional products, as well as to share the 'joy' of positive, prosperous, healthy living with others.” They chose aloe vera as the first ingredient in all of their products because of its amazing healing properties and abilities to nourish the skin naturally.

Further, all of L’Bri’s products are free of heavy oils, harmful chemicals, artificial coloring and manufactured fragrances.

When I first received my products from Julie Leischner, a L’Bri Independent Consultant and all-around amazing lady, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been disappointed before so I kept my expectations in check.

Julie asked me to try the Daily Skin Care Trio for Combination Skin (Deep Pore Cleanser, Gentle Freshener and Moisturizer), the Exfoliating Face and Body Scrub, the Rejuvenating Facial Peel, the Smooth n’ Firm Eye Repair Gel and the Facial Masque. She provided me with a Travel Set -- about a two-week supply of the Trio and single applications of the other products.

I could tell the difference in the way my skin felt almost immediately after I began using the Daily Skin Care Trio. It was smoother and softer. Within a few days, it looked “brighter.” And the great thing is that you need only a small amount of product. The Deep Pore Cleanser does not contain soap, which dries the skin, so there are no bubbles. But my face had never felt cleaner.

The Smooth n’ Firm Eye Repair Gel made a noticeable difference in the fine lines (okay, crow’s feet!) in the corners of my eyes. And you have to use so little product, a small jar will last 3-4 months.

L’Bri’s Exfoliating Face and Body Scrub is effective without being harsh and abrasive. And you only need to use it two to three times a week to achieve results. Again, my skin felt soft, clean and noticeably brighter.

The Facial Masque and the Rejuvenating Facial Peel was like getting a spa treatment right in my own home (for a fraction of the cost.) Both products visibly tightened my pores and made my skin look firmer.

In fact, my teenage daughter left for church camp for a week right when I started using the products. And, I kid you not, when she came back one of the first things she said to me was, “You look younger!” (Getting a compliment from a teenager is no easy feat. ;0)

In fact, I was so happy with the results, I bought the Basic Skin Care Set from Julie, which includes the Daily Skin Care Trio, the Exfoliating Face and Body Scrub and the Smooth n' Firm Eye Repair Gel!

So, are you ready for a long-term relationship with your skin care products?

Well, Julie is offering one lucky reader a Travel Kit (pictured above) and a full-size (4 oz.) bottle of Facial Masque.

Simply leave me a comment telling me what your most frustrating skin care problem is … if you’re the winner, it will help Julie know what type of products to send you! Giveaway ends Monday, August 16th.

*For extra entries, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and/or my blog and leave me a separate comment for each one. (If you already follow me on any of these, just leave me a separate comment for each telling me you do.)

For more skin care tips and information, you can visit Julie's blog. And you can order products from her website.

Good Luck!

* I received a complimentary Travel Kit for this review. I was not compensated. These are my honest opinions based on my own personal experience with the products reviewed.
Melinda

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lost and Found

With each passing moment, my panic began to rise.

I tried hard to keep my composure and stifle the complete "momma freakout" I could feel bubbling up inside of me.

I was with my family at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. My teenage daughter and I had conquered most of her back-to-school shopping. We’d seen Zac Efron who was promoting his new movie (an unexpected bonus for Molly!) while the boys did whatever boys do when they’re waiting on their women to shop (fight mindnumbing boredom).

To reward their stamina, we all headed to the Nickelodeon theme park located in the middle of the mall. We were having a great time. Then, somehow, Mike and I got separated from the kids. And I realized that in all the excitement I’d forgotten to tell them a place to meet up if that happened.

Mind you, this is THE BIGGEST MALL IN AMERICA! What responsible parent doesn’t make a plan for a scenario like this?! Apparently, me.

Mike and I walked the perimeter of the park and expected we would either run into them or spot them in a line. No luck.

I decided to go back to the last place we had seen them in case they showed up there. Mike and I then began to take turns walking around the park. My heart would sink and my anxiety level spiked each time he returned empty-handed. And I prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more. There I was surrounded by hundreds of people and I felt completely lost -- and alone.

As I sat by one of the rides – and nearly 45 minutes had passed – I knew my "momma freakout" was just moments away.

Just then, a woman – another mom -- touched my arm.

“Ma’am, you look really upset. Is there anything I can do for you?”

That was all it took. Every last shred of restraint came tumbling down. And I dissolved into a blubbering mess.

“I can’t find my children! My husband is looking for them! This is the biggest mall in America!”

If she thought she’d just run into a whole mess of crazy, she didn’t let on. Instead she said, “It’s happened to me before, too. They’re together. I’m sure everything will be alright.”

She said it so sweetly and so confidently that I almost believed it. And, suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone.

I took a deep breath and began to pull myself together.

A few moments later, I turned around and saw my family walking towards me. That prompted momma freakout #2 of the day – but in a good way.

I quickly turned to the woman who had provided comfort in my time of need.

“He found them!”

“I knew he would. I’m so glad.”


Miles from home. In a sea of strangers. In the middle of the biggest mall in America, someone found me who knew exactly how I felt and what I needed to hear.

And I didn’t even get her name.

At that moment, knowing she was “Mom” was more than enough.

We need each other, Moms. Do you know of a mom today who could use your encouragement? Or maybe just your understanding – the knowledge that she is not alone?

Pick up the phone.
Melinda

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

She Spills: Conference Highlights

It would have been my husband's worst nightmare. Six hundred women all in one place with the sole purpose of talking (as if we need any encouragement).

But, I on the other hand, loved She Speaks, the annual writing/speaking conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries. (Mike did volunteer to attend any event called "She Puts A Sock In It." You have to understand my husband. He is totally supportive of me. He just has a rather warped sense of humor. That's why I married him.)

I digress.

This is the first year I attended She Speaks. And I told you how nervous I was. Having a professional speaker evaluate every verbal tic and gyrating hand motion was beyond intimidating. Especially for someone who nearly quit college when she found out she had to take "Oral Interpretation of Literature" in order to get her journalism degree.

But guess what? They liked me. They really liked me. Which I only tell you to confirm that God can even work through weak, wimpy vessels!
It's difficult to recap a whirlwind weekend that I'm still processing, but many of you have been asking for me to spill some things I learned, so here goes:

1.) I need my family. Okay, this is not news. But a special message from Beth Moore (who was there briefly by simulcast) reinforced that my family is my Number One ministry. If I'm a writer with a jillion books, it doesn't really matter if I'm a big, fat failure at home.

But what was new to me was that I need to bring my family into my ministry. Make them a part of what God's doing in my writing and speaking ministries. Ask them for their advice and memories, ask for their opinions on my articles, explain to them what I'm doing and why I believe God has directed me in this way. I'm not doing ministry alone. I need their understanding and support. And they need to feel like they are contributing to the ministry God has given me.
I've done that to some extent, but it really motivated me to be more intentional about it. Yesterday, I asked Molly to pray for me as I start a new project that kind of scares me. And she was very gracious and willing to do it.

2.) No, Slow or Go? One of the speakers talked about how we are usually in one of three seasons in our ministries: No, Slow or Go. For years, I was in the 'No' season. I had very small children. And although God placed the dream and longing in my heart to write for Him, He made it clear that I was not to pursue it at that time. I think I'm in a Slow season now. I'm writing, learning, laying the foundation, preparing my heart, mind and ministry for when God waves the checkered flag and says "Go!"

3.) I'm "quirky." That's what my Professional Speaking Evaluator told me. She said, "I hope you take that as a complement because that's totally how I intend it." I've always known that I'm a little quirky. Now I'm realizing that God is using that in both my writing and speaking to connect with other women.

4.) I'm starting my book, God-willing. This is one of my main prayers when I went to the conference: "Lord, show me what you want me to do next. This book has been burning in my heart for 10 years. If you want me to write it, show me specifically how I can make this manageable and doable without neglecting my family and other responsibilities."

Then I took Lysa TerKeurst's session "How To Write A Book." Now, I've taken other sessions like this in the past and left feeling disappointed and uninspired. But as I sat in Lysa's class, I could hear God answering my prayer. The session was so meaty and inspiring and specific, I could hardly contain myself from jumping up and running for my laptop! I'm now praying and asking God to confirm that this truly is the next step for me. I'd really appreciate your prayers as well for wisdom and protection from spiritual attack.
One of the things I struggled with during the conference, quite frankly, was feeling a little insignificant. Six hundred women all with a message from God. It can make you feel like maybe YOUR message isn't so important. That is a lie. The wonderful thing about God is He has made us each with a unique personality and has given us very individual life experiences and wisdom. You're insignificant is a lie from the enemy who is bent on discouraging us from exercising our gifts and voice.
Okay, well, I think that's about all this She Speaks Graduate can communicate at the moment (somewhere my husband is breathing a sigh of relief!)

Thank you so much for your encouraging comments and prayers for me last week. God is awesome -- and you guys are pretty amazing, too.
Melinda

Tweet Me Tuesday: Auto-Reply?

When you receive an email, you reply. When someone leaves a comment on your blog, you reply.

But when someone follows you on Twitter, should you send a reply?

I think so, but really it is entirely a personal preference. Maybe it's because my mom spent my entire childhood drilling into me the importance of writing thank-you notes, but I guess I just think it's polite. However, writing direct 'thank you' messages to dozens of new followers each week is not a good use of time. That's why I use SocialOomph.com to send automated messages. It's super-easy to do.

But there's a few things that you should know when crafting your auto-reply message:

1.) No one likes junk mail. Don't you hate getting spam in your inbox? Or junk mail in your mailbox? Well, auto-reply messages often spark that same response. So keep your message memorable, friendly and applicable to everyone who might follow you. Since mostly moms follow me, I use this as one of my auto-replies: "So glad you're following! I hope to help you on your parenting journey -- and keep you laughing at yourself (and me) along the way!"

2.) Don't leave your blog URL. I have read comments from so many people who are completely turned off by this. It amounts to an annoying sales pitch. Kind of like a telemarketing phone call. (Ugh!) If they've followed you, they've looked at your profile and can easily find your URL. Plus, if they like your tweets, and you tweet your posts, they'll eventually click on one of your post links.

3.) Rotate your auto-replies. SocialOomph.com allows you to write several auto-reply messages and will randomly rotate the messages sent to your new followers. This makes the practice seem a little less generic.

Before I go on to Tweet Me Tuesday, I just have to say THANK YOU for all the supportive and encouraging comments on my She Speaks post!! You guys are the best! I just got back a few hours ago and plan to post about my trip later in the 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
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