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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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Q&A with the author of "Outnumbered Mom"!

The longer I'm a mom, the more I appreciate the wisdom and encouragement of moms who are a little further along in their parenting journey.

They've survived whatever current kid crisis or phase I'm struggling with and have the battle scars to prove it.
Author Laura Lee Groves is one such mom. Mother of four adult boys, Laura has an abundance of wisdom, humor and encouragement to share with us moms who are still in the trenches. She has now put all her godly, hard-won insights into her very first book, Outnumbered Mom!
I am so excited to interview and introduce her to you today! I met Laura about three years ago at a writing conference. At the time, she was pitching her book proposal to publishers, so I've had the privilege of following her journey as she got an agent, a book contract and now is finally seeing it on bookstore shelves!
By commenting on this post, you'll have a chance to win your own free, autographed copy of Outnumbered Mom!
But first, let me share my recent chat with Laura ...
Explain the title of your book and how the idea for your book was born.
The title? Well, I am greatly outnumbered in my household, 5 to 1. When you have multiple boys, your husband kind of "becomes" one of them -- it's one big fraternity. The idea cropped up somewhere along the way as I was blessed with these four boys, and I began to feel more and more outnumbered. You see, no one in my house wants to see "Little Women." Want to watch "Sleepless in Seattle"? Forget it. When I bought new dishes, they said, "Mom, you aren't going to get some with flowers on them, are you?" I'm so used to this house of boys now, I almost experience culture shock when I'm in a room of ladies.
People would take one look at the passel of redheaded boys and say, "You should write a book." I'd nod distractedly as I counted heads and separated two that were tussling. I've always been an avid reader and writer, though, and I filed that idea away...until one year my husband said, "You know, Honey -- you should really check out that writers conference." So I did. And I took a proposal for this book along, then titled And Then I Had Boys. Interest that first year led to an agent the second year, followed by a contract, and finally, a published book! (I'm still pinching myself!)
What is the toughest part of parenting boys?
The energy and physicality of it. I was a tomboy and was no shrinking violet, having been a Drama major in college. I've always been an active person, but the combination of four boys' constant action and very little quiet or "down" time was really new to me. The wrestling, tussling, tumbling -- what I call in the book "the magnet syndrome." They push, they pull. They attact, they repel. It's exhausting.

Communication is so different, too. They just don't talk like we do! To this day, when I sit in a roomful of women and listen to the overlapping chatter, people finishing each others' sentences and chiming in, I wonder at it. That is just not how they talk at my house!
The dirt can be a bit overwhelming. I'm sure laundry is daunting for any mother, but FOUR baseball jerseys and pants? And all those socks, with the grime just GROUND in...multiplied by four.
For a number of years when the boys were little, I didn't work outside the home. We all know what it's like to be isolated, but to have not even a HINT of pink to connect with on a daily basis...that was tough. And if you don't have other boy moms around who can commiserate and understand, that feeling is compounded.
What is the most rewarding part?
The mother-son bond is so special, and it's incredibly sturdy. I have a wonderful mom, but there were those tough mother-daughter times when I was a teen or pre-teen -- you girl moms know that. I really didn't experience those moments with my boys. Oh, there were rough spots in the teen years, but the mother-son bond is made of different stuff. I think it can take those years more easily.
What else is rewarding? Someone always has my back -- and whichever one it is, he's bigger and stronger than me! I do feel incredibly protected and cared for in this family. The neat thing is that even though they'll rush to my defense, they know that Mama Bear can handle it -- and they stand back while she does.
Besides, truthfully, boys are GREAT fun -- no matter what their age! Even now, I find them a hoot.
Give us your top three survival tools for successfully raising the male species.
1. Just expect craziness every day. That way you'll be prepared for chaos. And if the day is uncharacteristically calm, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
2. Understand that they're different. Recognize it, even celebrate it! No, they're not like you and that's okay. I've seen too many boy moms just give up on the boys, thinking they don't need Mom since they're boys. That's the furthest thing from the truth. They need us even more. They need our perspective on life. Ultimately, they need to be prepared to lead a family, and we can have a big part in that.
3. Find community. Find other boy moms who understand what it's like. Find an experienced mom who's two years or ten years ahead of you in the process. Learn from her. And reach back to help other moms who are two years behind you, too. Our mom burdens weigh so much less when they're shared; they seem smaller when we shoulder someone else's burden.
What encouragement would you give right now to moms who are feeling outnumbered and overwhelmed?
Hang on. This, too, will pass. But don't just tough it out -- tell someone. Be honest with your husband. Find a friend. Get some help and encouragement. No mom is an island and we shouldn't feel we have to do this alone. Ultimately there's One who loves you, values you, and desires a relationship with you, and He gives strength to make it through the day. Look to Him, spend time with Him, and you'll come out a stronger mom. And remember -- He loves your children more than you ever could.
If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Outnumbered Mom, simply leave me a comment! The giveaway ends Thursday, October 6th!
Melinda

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Connecting with Community


I have lots of acquaintances. I'm sure you do, too.

But, like me, you probably only have a small group of truly close, intimate friends.

The same is true in the social media world, right? You may have 1,000 Twitter followers, but you can't possibly interact on any meaningful level with all of those.

The more Twitter followers I get, the more it seems like I lose touch with the ones I really want to connect with the most.

Here's a few ways to keep connected with your community:

1.) Make "Lists" or groups in Twitter. You can label them according to interest, such as "Scrapbooking," "Writers" or "Bloggers I Love." It is SO much easier to keep up with people on Twitter when you break down your followers in this way.

Twitter provides the following instructions for creating lists:
1.Visit the profile of the first user you would like to add to your list
2.Click the list drop-down, which looks like the icon above
3.At the bottom of the drop-down menu, click "Create list"
4.Enter the credentials of your list, and choose whether others can see it or whether it is private
5.Check to see if the user you wanted to add was successfully included in that list: to do this, click the list drop-down. A blue check will be added next to lists in which that user is included (shown below under "Adding or Removing People")

2.) Make a point of Retweeting, recommending via Friday Follow and interacting with these groups as much as possible. The give-and-take is what helps make great social media relationships.

3.) If you don't already, visit as many of these groups' blogs as possible. This helps you to know more about them and they'll often reciprocate, thereby adding to your blogging community, as well.

4.) Use an application such as Tweepi to periodically rid your Twitter stream of inactive and/or spam accounts.
Just a few common sense, practical ways to be purposeful about connecting with your growing community!
Finally, thanks to all of you for your sweet comments regarding my recent car crash. Your comments really lifted my spirits and reminded me that I am not alone!!

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, September 27, 2010

A Wake-Up Call … Er....Crash

How did I end up here?

Last week, as I stood in the middle of the street with my front bumper lying in pitiful pieces on the ground, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. (I chose cry.)

It was a typical morning. By "typical," I mean stressful, rushed and crazy. I was taking Micah to school. But this morning, my mind was particularly full of distractions. Micah was reading to me from the back seat, but I wasn’t really listening. A couple of tough, overwhelming weeks had taken their toll on my body and soul. My mind was teeming with worries and what-ifs.

Just minutes from school, I approached a familiar intersection. I came to a full and complete stop – law-abiding citizen that I am – and quickly looked left and right. Assuming the car approaching to my right would stop as well, I continued into the intersection.

Bad move. No. Very bad move.

You see, the driver on my right didn’t stop, because, well, he didn’t actually have a stop sign. Nope. What he had was a pesky little thing known as “the right of way.”

For a crucial and fateful split second, I believed that this two-way stop – that I had entered and negotiated safely hundreds of times – was a four-way stop. The sound of crushing metal was my first clue that perhaps I was mistaken.

Although everyone was pretty shaken up, no one was injured. But as I comforted my crying son and surveyed the vehicle damage, I shuddered at the thought of what could have been.

And I realized something. I needed to stop – and not just at road signs. Here's what I decided I need to stop doing:

1.) Stop internalizing my family’s stress. I can’t control everyone’s happiness and – shocker – 14-year-old girls, in particular, are often not happy campers.

2.) Stop trying to change and control my husband and children. The only person I can change is me. And as hard as it is for this stubborn girl to change her unhealthy ways, I’m not sure why I think I can change anyone else. Better left to God.
3.) Stop trying to save my family from experiencing pain and failure. I’ve realized that I am the family “rescuer.” It sounds noble, doesn’t it? Well, it’s exhausting. And futile. The times that I am the most desperate for God and most willing to change, is when I’m experiencing pain and discomfort. Why should I think my children would be any different? Do I want to prevent them from learning valuable life lessons and drawing closer to Jesus?
4.) Stop taking on other family members’ responsibilities to avoid conflict. Ever thought, “It’s just easier to do it myself.” Well, it’s not. It comes at a tremendous cost. Worse yet, my children pay an expensive price, too. When I take their responsibilities on myself, I’m nurturing a sense of entitlement and I keep them children, instead of teaching them how to become mature adults. I've made some steps in the right direction recently, but fallen back into old habits.

When we’re going through a difficult or uncomfortable time, it’s human nature to want our circumstances and/or those around us to change. We continue cruising along, thinking we can manipulate outcomes, until one day – CRASH! We get a serious wakeup call.

And we suddenly see with clear eyes the damage we are causing ourselves and those we love the most.

So, with the Lord’s help, I’m going to stop. And yield. And buckle my seat belt. Even good change can be a bumpy ride.
Melinda

Friday, September 24, 2010

Good Clean Fun: Mum in Flip Flops

It's been nearly 14 years, but I still vividly remember my transition to motherhood.

It was scary, exciting, exhausting and wonderful -- all at the same time. And, suddenly, all the things I thought I "knew" about parenthood didn't translate all that well to reality. I still find that to be true all these years later!

I love Cyrene from Mum in Flip Flops -- this week's Good, Clean Fun blogger -- because she chronicles her journey into the mad, messy world of motherhood with refreshing honesty, humility and wonder. I love reading her sweet posts and am seriously hooked on this girl! She learned early (a lot earlier than I did!) that it's not about perfection in parenting -- it's about grace. Grace for your kids and grace for their mama. Although a new mom, Cyrene has lots of wisdom, humor and encouragement to share. I asked her to tell you a little about herself ...

I count it an honor to be here on Melinda’s blog today! We all know how great she is, so when she first contacted me to tell me I was to be featured – I was given a confidence boost. I’m grateful for the chance to meet her readers (that’s you!) and excited about new blogger friendships that I’m hoping it might bring.

My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years now and have a lovely daughter, our Little Miss, who is turning 1 in 2 ½ weeks. Whew, just writing that takes my breath away. The past year seems to have flown by so swiftly and yet it has been the most eventful, unique, incredible, and humbling learning experience I have ever had to go through.


When I was pregnant with our daughter, I read every book I could get my hands on about pregnancy and parenting. I soaked up every solicited and unsolicited advice from family and friends. I also thought, quite nonchalantly, that I could just draw on my experience with helping my mom take care of our youngest (who happen to be twins) and said to myself, “I’ve got this parenting gig down!”

Then she arrived. And turned my world upside down.

Like so many of you, I ended up frustrated, sometimes downright helpless and clueless. No book, no advice could have ever prepared me for the reality and responsibility that comes with having my own child. The sleepless nights were no help. That plus the need to be the Perfect Mom were enough to drive me insane. Thankfully, not only am I somewhat neurotic and obsessive-compulsive, I’m also a quick learner.

Once I realized that I needed to adjust to life with my daughter (and not the other way around), things have been so much simpler. Don’t get me wrong, being a parent still isn’t easy, and I’m still learning as I go along. But just admitting to myself that I’m not Supermom (and never will be) took a lot of the self-inflicted pressure off my shoulders. My expectations and those of the other people around me (or so I thought) were really keeping me from fully enjoying the time I had with my growing baby. I thank God everyday for shaking sense into me early on so I could immerse myself in the joy that she brings. And bad days? They still come – I’m only human. But I now know it happens to everyone and there’s no need to beat myself up for them. I pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and pray that God will help us every step of the way.

I actually started blogging to keep friends and family who are thousands of miles away in the loop. I wanted them to share in every experience with me – the good and the bad. Imagine my surprise when great people like Melinda started reading what I have to say and whose comments encourage me to keep on writing. I am so glad to have found like-minded women who so generously share their hard-won wisdom, and I’m completely floored to be made to feel that I belong in the blogosphere. I hope you have fun getting to know our little family as much as I look forward to meeting and sharing with all you beautiful people.

Mum in Flip Flops

Be sure and visit Cyrene and leave her some comment love!

Note from Melinda: I know I have been seriously MIA from the blogosphere this week. It's been one doozy of a week, which I'm sure I'll be blogging about once I get my wits about me. I've also had a major glitch with my Wordpress transfer -- which I've put on hold until my life gets a little more sane. I've missed chatting and visiting with you all. By the grace of God, I promise I'll be back in action soon!
Melinda

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday will be back here next week!


Hello, fellow Tweeters!

If you read the post below, you can see I am making a switch to Wordpress this week (at least that's the plan. I've run into a few glitches.) My bloggy world is in a fair bit of chaos right now.

For that reason, I won't be posting and participating in Tweet Me Tuesday this week. However, my blog hop co-host Kristen is still on the job so be sure and see her over at MamaBytes and link up!
I hope to be back in action and posting again (hopefully in my new WordPress home) later this week.
Thanks for your patience and hope to see you here for Tweet Me Tuesday next week!
Melinda

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making the Move to Wordpress!

I'm packing my virtual boxes and making the move to Wordpress!

Change -- even good change -- is always a little scary. What if I lose all my subscribers? What if I can't figure out how to use Wordpress? What if my entire site gets lost in cyberspace?!

I finally overcame my neurosis and pulled the Trigger for a few reasons:

1.) Easier connection with my readers. That is the #1 reason I made the switch. Wordpress plug-ins enable you to reply to your readers on your blog and then send them your response via email. I love that it makes interacting and connecting with your readers so easy. I think being able to see replies also helps fuel dialogue and discussion. I can't wait! And I haven't even scratched the surface of all the cool Wordpress plugins!

2.) I'll own my content. Right now, Google owns my content. And since they didn't write a word, that seems sort of unfair. Plus, since they own it, they could conceivably shut down my blog at any time. I don't know of anyone who this has happened to, but I don't like the idea that it could. Self-hosted WordPress means I'm in control of my blog and its content. And as a recovering control-freak perfectionist, that appeals to me. (Old habits die hard.)

3.) Enhanced SEO. I've heard from several bloggers who made the switch that they saw a boost in traffic after making the leap.

4.) I like the look. Wordpress blogs just have a look I like. I love that I won't need a magnifying glass to see the number of comments. I like having smaller versions of old posts under current posts, so new readers can easily peruse the latest archives.

Blogger has served me well. And I certainly visit many awesome-looking -- and just plain awesome -- Blogger blogs. But, for me, for the above reasons, I just decided that it was time to pack up and move on.

So please excuse the chaos around here next week. I'm making the move on Monday and Tuesday, so it's doubtful I'll be able to post Tweet Me Tuesday this week, but be sure to link up on Kristen's blog, MamaBytes.

I look forward to chatting with you in my new home!
Melinda

Friday, September 17, 2010

Good Clean Fun: The Lazy Christian

I'm not sure how I found Rachel from The Lazy Christian. Maybe she found me. Either way, I'm so glad we connected!

Rachel is real. And that's the highest compliment I can pay a blogger. She's a godly girl, but she doesn't come off holier-than-thou. Like all of us, she sometimes has more questions than answers.

I think you'll love her as much as I do. So, without further ado, I give you Rachel...

I don’t like reading a lot of Christian self-help stuff. They make me feel really, really bad. Yes, I’m a lousy Christian. Yes, I know I should do better. Yes, Jesus is coming so I’d better get a move on.

Not. Helpful.

Some blogs make you think, “Wow! So I need to move to a foreign country and spread the Gospel!” Or, “I’m giving myself two weeks to read the Bible cover to cover!” Maybe you should. Maybe you’re the type of person who would benefit from that advice. If so, then there it was. Do those things. Tell God I gave you the hint you needed. He’ll be glad I did something.

However, many people aren’t called to go to a foreign country, and, personally, my head would explode if I attempted to read the Bible in two weeks. Give me two years, maybe. I need a plan, but it needs to be manageable. Something I can handle and stick with. Something that will help me grow in my faith to the point where I don’t need a schedule or a plan anymore—I just do the Christiany things that I’m supposed to be doing.

First, I need to make a confession:

I am lazy.

There. I said it. I admit it. And I’m not talking just laziness in my faith. No, I’m all kinds of lazy. I’m sure we all have days like that, but for me, it’s a lifestyle. In fact, it’s amazing this article is even written. I want to play video games on the computer or watch movies instead of doing awful things like chores. I am the greatest dawdler who ever lived. I’ve found ways to waste time that others only dream of. I am seriously lazy.

I don’t particularly want to be classified as such. Part of me is even embarrassed to put it in writing. I want to be a go-getter! I want ambition! I’d even take the busy life of a soccer mom over being lazy. The trouble is that I don't know how to get out of this rut or even where to start.

The same happens with my faith. I want to be a prayer warrior. I want to be all fiery for God! I want to quote Scripture and know where stuff is in the Bible! I’ve even thought, “Hey, I could go to seminary or get a master’s in something religious, and then I’ll know everything and be done!”

Apparently, it doesn’t work that way. Faith is about having a relationship with God. While being able to find certain Scriptures is helpful, they’re only helpful if you’ve got God’s guidance on how to apply them to your life. There’s not really a short cut.

Now this part is tough. I hate to be the one to tell you this—it was a shock to me, too—but being lazy is actually selfishness in disguise. We’re lazy when we think what we want to do is more important than what anyone else wants us to do. When it comes to faith, that means we think what we want to do is more important than what God wants us to do.

The Bible is full of things we’re supposed to be doing: praying, studying and understanding his Word, praising, working to provide for our families, being kind, doing the “good works” he’s prepared for us to do, leading others to Christ, etc. The list is a mile long. We don’t really have time to sit on our fannies and not do it, especially since we don’t know exactly how long we have to get all these things done.

Here’s another hard truth: God doesn’t like laziness. It’s all over the Bible. Almost every other Proverb is about how awful lazy people are. And, although we’re saved by grace and not by works, the New Testament makes it clear that we’re supposed to be doing good for God because we’ve been saved. We need to be an example to others of how Christians should be—how Jesus was. It’s a lot to live up to.

That being said, I really need to change what I’m doing. Now, I’m no theologian. I’m not someone who’s got it all together all the time, but we all need a starting place, right? My husband likes to quote James 4:8, which says that God will draw near to those who draw near to him. I need to make an effort. I need to show God that we’re ready to make a change and that we want a better relationship with him. That’s when we’ll start to feel a change in our hearts and our minds. That’s when the laziness will be replaced by a fire for God.

I don’t want my blog to just spout advice. Sometimes I feel like people tell me what I should do when they’ve never felt the way I have or have never struggled with the issues I do. Not so here. As the title would indicate, I’m lazy, and if I talk about something you should try, that means I’ve tried it. It’s given me a starting place for putting my faith on the right track. Should I get off track at any point—and chances are I will—I always have a method for beginning again.

I really hope you find this helpful. I have. And I hope this helps you find new ways to ditch your laziness and be an active Christ follower. Because he wants to spend time with us, you know. Even though we’re lazy.

Doesn't she make you want to read more? Please go visit Rachel and give her some comment love!
Melinda

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Twitter Turnoffs


Remember in high school when you saw a super cute guy that you wanted to get to know?

But then you spent a little time with him and he had a really big ego. He only talked about himself non-stop.

Turnoff.

Or maybe you've had a friend who always asks for favors, but never acknowledges when you do something nice for her.

Turnoff.

Guess what? Tweeters can easily get turned off, too. You want to not only attract followers, but keep them. Here's some common turnoffs that can cause tweeters to fly your coop:

1. Asking for retweets. Now occasionally this is fine. But making this request too often is annoying and comes off as self-serving. Here's the bottom line: Consistently deliver valuable content and people will retweet it. You won't have to beg.

2. Using profanity. This may bother some more than others. I won't unfollow someone for a foul word here and there. But if a tweeter regularly uses inappropriate language, it's a huge turnoff for me.

3. Posting too many statuses at once. It clogs up tweeters' stream. They want to hear from you, but in moderation. Space out your updates.

4. Overdoing the self-promotion. I've unfollowed a number of tweeters who seem to only promote their posts and rarely engage in conversation or promote others. Twitter is about conversation and community. No one is interested in being marketed to 24/7 on Twitter. It's kind of like getting those evening telemarketing calls.

5. Lack of acknowledgement. Tweeters earn big points with their followers when they thank them for retweets and Friday Follows. A little gratitude goes a long way.

6. Sharing too much. Personal tweets are great -- to a point. They help tweeters get to know you a little better and see your human side. But know where to draw the line.

Just some things to keep in mind as you build your following and reputation in Twitterland!

What are your Twitter turnoffs?

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, September 13, 2010

If Someone Told You To Jump Off a Bridge ...

Hey! Can we go jump off the bridge?

My teenage daughter, Molly, motioned to the end of the dock that extended into the ocean. She said it nonchalantly like she was asking something innocuous like "Can I walk to the neighbor’s?" She and several of her friends crowded around and anxiously waited for our reply.

"Uh. Nooooo," my husband said in his "What? Are you crazy?" voice.

Molly turns to her friends: See?! I knew we should’ve just done it!!

Then she turned her attention to her thrill-kill parents: Why?! Why can't we?! It's perfectly safe! People do it all the time! We talked to some guys over there who've done it and they said they'll jump with us!

So, with the hearty and highly valuable endorsement of “some guys over there,” we gave them our blessing. Not.

Dad: Okay, so if someone told you to jump off a bridge, you'd do it? That's comforting.

Molly: Dad!! Come on ... watch! You'll see other people doing it. It's really safe!

Me: Well, no one is getting paralyzed on our watch. It’s too risky. You don't have to jump off a bridge to have fun at the beach.

Molly: Yea. You do. Whatever. (turns and leaves in a huff)

My daughter has wanted to do a lot of “bridge jumping” lately. Her fun-loving, thrill-seeking nature has collided with her teenage thirst for freedom and feelings of invincibility.

Whatever their ages, children generally push against our boundaries, as well as God’s boundaries (which many of our boundaries are drawn from). Our challenge is to help them understand that God gives us boundaries for our protection and to give us freedom. Freedom from being enslaved to addictions, freedom from physical and emotional harm. Freedom from the separation from Him that we feel when we insist on doing it our way.

So how do we teach our kids that boundaries bring freedom?

Instructive Examples. Sadly, there are plenty of cautionary tales out there – in Hollywood, among our kids' classmates and in their communities – about young people who have made unwise choices and are reaping tragic consequences.

It’s important to open dialogue with your preteens and teens by asking questions like, “What do you think about their choices?” and “What do you think led them to make those choices?” Helping them make the connection between seemingly “fun” choices and the bondage those decisions lead to -- on their own -- is so important. Especially with teens. Hysterical or judgmental lectures don't work. Trust me on this one.

Loving boundaries. I used to be all about rules. You do it because I said so! I’d regularly get angry or impatient when my kids disobeyed or were disrespectful. And that was a big mistake.

I’ve learned that always communicating love as the primary reason for giving them a consequence makes a huge difference in their attitude about their offense. They may be angry or upset at the consequence, but when they are assured each time that the motive is love, I’ve noticed their hearts soften much more quickly. (Sometimes I have to wait until I feel a little more loving to communicate this effectively.)

Share your journey. Kids aren’t the only ones who make mistakes and reap consequences. Especially as my kids have gotten older, I’ve been more open with them (without giving unnecessary detail) about what God is doing in my life and some of the painful lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Emphasize God’s faithfulness. In addition to talking with them about what God is doing in my life, I also encourage them to pray (and pray with them) about all the little obstacles throughout the day – like when I can’t find the car keys (this is a frequent prayer) or when my daughter can’t find a contact lens (she just started wearing them, so this has made it to the top of the prayer list also). Bringing Him into their daily experiences and concerns emphasizes His love for them and concern about the details of their lives.

I certainly don’t have this all figured out. I’m in the trenches, girls. But I’m sharing some lessons I wish I’d known and put into practice when my kids were much younger.

With God's help, we can help our kids to look before they leap.
Melinda

Friday, September 10, 2010

Good Clean Fun: Calling Dr. Mom!


Are you a weary and worn-out mama? Dr. Mom has the prescription!
And that's why Melissa from Confessions of a Dr. Mom is my Good Clean Fun Blog of the Week! Melissa is a pediatrician turned stay-at-home mom who definitely knows that children don't always follow the manual. She offers valuable, practical advice while being honest about the fact that just because she has M.D. after her name doesn't mean she doesn't struggle with potty training and separation anxiety issues just like the rest of us! Plus, she is warm, caring, fun and supportive. I just love her. And I know you will, too.

I launched Good Clean Fun months ago, but am ashamed to admit I got off track. After I was recently featured by
ThetaMom and Things I Can't Say, I felt so special. And I decided it was high time I got back to sharing the love and introducing my readers to my great blog finds again. So, Good Clean Fun is back as a weekly feature!
Take it away, Melissa ...
I am so honored to be here at Melinda's place today. Ever since finding her through Theta Mom, I have been reading and loving her! Thank you so much Melinda for sharing your readers with me today, I look forward to meeting them. Here is a little bit about me and why I started to blog.
In a nutshell, I am a pediatrician turned stay at home mom. I am married with two wonderful children ages 3 and 5. I never imagined my life as a SAHM, and yet, I can no longer imagine it any other way. My journey through Motherhood is nothing unique. I face the same issues most mothers do. However, I was not at all prepared to feel so inept at times. To feel like I was making mistakes left and right.

Truth is, I was living the reality of parenting and mothering, something no text book can teach. I felt I was expected to know the ins and outs of parenting and caring for my babies. Problem is, no two children are exactly alike, thus, parenting is never a one size fits all.

So, I finally decided to start writing about it. About it all. The myths, the fallacies, my "confessions" as a pediatrician/mom, because life with children rarely plays out according to even the best laid plans. I wanted to reach out to other Moms and let them know, it's okay...to be unsure, to make mistakes, to toss out the guide books.

The best thing I ever did as a Mom was tune in to my Mommy Intuition and let it be my guide. Of course, I'm still a pediatrician, I'm just on hiatus, so I'm all about the safety and keeping up with current guidelines. Now, I just know when there are certain things I can take with a grain of salt.

I love sharing my personal parenting experiences with my readers and letting those stories be launch points for discussion on specific parenting topics. I try to find the humor and beauty in the everyday challenges of raising children. Some days are great and some days are not. It's life.

Hopefully by sharing our stories, we can learn from each other. Help each other see something maybe we overlooked. My children are truly my on-the-job training in more ways than one. I like to think I have a very private practice of two very rambunctious, yet adorable, patients who are teaching me more than I could ever have hoped.

Thanks for sharing with us, Melissa! Be sure to visit Melissa's blog and make her feel like Queen for a Day!
Melinda

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Friday Follow Tips

Everyone loves to hear “thank you.” To me, that’s what it means when you recommend someone for other Tweeters to Friday Follow.

It’s like saying “thank you” to someone for great information, for encouraging you, for inspiring you or for retweeting your posts. It lets other know that these are people who provide valuable conversation and content.

So, how do you give a “thank you” that truly makes the person feel appreciated and inspires others to follow them? And how do you reward others who recommend you?

Here are five tips to help make your Friday Follow experience more meaningful:

1. Get personal. I’ve mentioned this one before, but it’s worth repeating. You probably don’t have time to do this for every person you recommend, but for those who you really want to give a special highlight, devote an entire to tweet to their wonderful-ness! For example here’s one I tweeted last Friday: In the mommy trenches? @Melissa_DrMom has the prescription for your mama struggles ... honesty & support. You should #FF her!

2. Group Tweeters. I've seen this recommended on several sites. And I realize that it sounds like the opposite of my last tip. But like I said, you can’t always write a separate tweet for every single person you recommend for #FF. Another good option is to group like-minded Tweeters together. An example: "Great writers to follow: @salmicat @RindaHahn @JodyHedlund @JulieGillies @jeanwise" Again, it helps other Tweeters know a little bit about the people you’re recommending. (These really are all fabulous writers to follow, by the way!)

3. Plan ahead. I admit, I haven’t been very good at this one, but I it’s a great idea. Take some time before Friday to make a list of who you want to highlight. You may even want to write your tweets earlier in the week and schedule them using an application like AutoTweeter. Anytime you don’t do something “on the fly,” you tend to do a better job.
4. Be appreciative. Be sure to say thank you to anyone who recommends you for a Friday Follow. It’s just a nice thing to do when someone pays you a compliment.
5. Retweet. If you see someone you like and respect being recommended by another tweeter, retweet it. It’s just another way to give him or her some well-deserved props.

In Acts 20:35, Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” I’ve found that the more I genuinely give and recognize others in the social networking world – and in life in general – the more I enjoy this whole experience of blogging, Tweeting and living life.
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, September 6, 2010

A Sorry Example

I have respect for the law. I really do.

But tell that to the Safety Officer at my daughter’s school. I don’t think he’s buying it.

Poor guy. He – along with my daughter -- was the unfortunate recipient of a mama meltdown – the low point of a week of high stress that finally found a relief valve via my big mouth.

Molly usually takes the bus home, but one day recently I picked her up. Drop-off is fine, but pick-up is a nightmare.

You sit in an endless line until a whistle blows. Then they allow a certain number of cars to pull up to the orange cones. The kids have about two minutes to find their parents’ cars before the whistle blows again and the next group of cars moves forward.

This is NO problem, of course, because middle school girls never get distracted. They are laser-focused on finding their mommy’s car. Not.

If your child doesn’t see you, you make a loop and go through the whole fun-filled process again.

Well, the first time I went through the line, I spotted Molly, but she was completely oblivious.

So ... I made my way into the very long line for the second time. This time she SAW me, but I was in the far lane and they wouldn’t let her cross over to me because other cars were still moving.

I sat there motioning like a lunatic (unaware that she was not allowed to go). Then the whistle blew and I was holding up progress. Which prompted the safety patrol people to go whistle-happy. And they began yelling at the crazy lady who’s just trying to retrieve her firstborn.

Did I mention that it was also raining?

As I passed through the line the third time, I went rogue. I pulled into the parking lot and motioned for her to come over.

She sprinted across the pickup line and jumped into the car. She got quite a welcome.

Me: Why weren’t you looking for me?! Do you know how many times I’ve been through this line?! But noooooo, you're just chatting with you friends, not even paying attention ....

I was still in mid-rant, when Mr. Security Officer knocked on my window.

Officer: Ma’am, what you just did is UN-ACCEPTABLE. The line is there to keep the kids safe.

Me (in a huff): Yeah, well, I tried your line and it didn’t work so well.

Officer: Well, that’s the way it works around here.

I said something else equally snippy and rolled up the window.

Molly: Wow. You were rude. I’ll take the bus next time.

On the way home, I felt that awful feeling of regret. I apologized to Molly, but I knew I needed to tell the Officer I was sorry, too. I prayed for an opportunity.

A few mornings later, I saw him in the drop-off line and rolled down the window. He actually mock-shielded his face when he saw me. I must have made quite an impression.

Me: I acted like a jerk the other day. I’m really sorry.

Officer (smiling): Well, I’ve been known to act like a jerk now and then, too. I won’t hold it against you.

Molly: Awww… that was nice of you to apologize to him. You did the right thing, Mom.

As a parent, I try to set a good example. But I don’t always get it right. Our kids don’t either. But I can always make it right. And I can show my kids how to, too.

I truly think they often learn more during our "sorry" moments than our superior ones.

Still, I think it's safer for all parties if Molly sticks to the bus.
Melinda

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bracing for Changes

She blew me away.

My daughter got out of the orthodontist’s chair yesterday, flashed me her first metal-free grin in 18 months. And she blew me away.

Who was this dazzling young woman and what did she do with my little girl?

Looking at the gorgeous final product, you’d never guess what it took to get here.

Canker sores. Bleeding gums. Regular tightening and adjustments. Incessant nagging by her mother to floss and quit chewing gum. Which obviously was quite effective because I think Molly held the all-time record for most broken brackets.

No “Patient of the Month” awards here. “Parent of the Year” honors weren’t exactly pouring in either.

After begging her to brush and floss properly, I was finally reduced to pointing out the scary pictures in the office of kids who didn’t take care of their braces.

Me: Look, Molly! That’s what you’re teeth are going to look like. Take a good long look at those big stains on their teeth. And those don’t come off either! They’ll be there for. the .rest. of. your.life. Is that what you want?! Huh?! Huh?!

Molly: You worry too much. They’re my teeth. If I screw them up, I’ll have to live with it.

Me: Listen, young lady. I’m not paying five thousand bucks for you to look like a hillbilly!

I’d actually have nightmares about her getting them off. How would they look? How could everything possibly turn out okay after all the setbacks and struggles?

Gradually, and I’m not sure exactly how, but it got easier. I quit having to remind her to brush and wear her rubberbands. We had three consecutive visits without breaking something.

And yesterday, the pearly payoff.

I was struck by how our orthodontic struggles paralleled the many other struggles Molly and I have worked through as mother and daughter over the past two years. The transition from my little girl to an independent adolescent haven’t been easy.

Just like with her braces, as a parent, I’ve had to make constant adjustments in my approach and expectations.

At times, changes in me and Molly – growth in our relationship and character -- happened so slowly I’ve felt like we were making no progress at all. Other times, I've felt broken. And putting things back together was sometimes costly and painful.

I’ve had to rely on a Divine Doctor who knows far more that I do about how to straighten things out.

And I’ve wondered – and often still do – about how it will all turn out.

But, slowly, things have gotten easier. Good changes are happening.

And every time I see her flash that beautiful smile, I'll be reminded that if I continue to persevere, the struggle really does pay off.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:3-4 (NLT)

I’m thrilled to be the Blog Friend Feature over at Things I Can’t Say today! If you are visiting me from Shell's place, I am so glad you're here!

And if you don't know Shell, please be sure to go over and check out her awesome blog. She is such a genuine, open and caring blogging friend. And she’s been so wonderfully supportive of me on my blogging journey. I’m honored to be featured on her site. You’ll want to be one of her BFFs, too!
Melinda
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