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, November 30, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Saving Money!


I know, I know, this is the time of year where we're all in the mood to spend money.
But let me give you a cold dose of future reality: It's January 30th. You go to the mailbox. No Christmas cards or colorful discount flyers. Nope. Just a box full of holiday bills. Ho, ho, HOLY COW!
I know no one wants to think about that right now, but in this economy, you can't afford not to. Tough love, girls.
So, even as you're shopping for family and loved ones, don't lose sight of your budget.
And you can use Twitter to help you pinch those pennies!
Below are five fabulous Twitter feeds you should follow. They're money-saving maven mamas who tweet great deals and financial tips. Be sure and visit their websites, too!
Happy Shopping -- within reason, of course! ;)

Just wanted to say I've missed doing TMT these last few weeks. But I just needed a break from blogging. Ever had those times where you just couldn't handle the noise of social media? I've been working through some stuff and I needed to do it without distraction. It was what I needed.
But I'm back now! And so is my co-host Kristen! Please continue to keep her husband in your prayers. He had a very bad hand injury recently and has gone through multiple surgeries. He has another skin graft surgery scheduled for sometime this week.

It's good to be back! I will be visiting all of you soon!

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.

Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Traditionally Late

Things are pretty crazy around my house this week and I am behind on pretty much everything, including my blogging. I have a list of blog posts in my head that just aren't yet finding their way to my fingers. Soon, soon ... In the meantime, I thought I'd share a holiday post from my archives. I'll be back soon! ;0)

I didn’t mean for this to happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a lie. God delights in helping us make new beginnings. Of course, the sooner we start the better, but we can always work on establishing new, healthier ways of communicating, disciplining and guiding our children. The spiritual principles and godly character we model and instill will never be forgotten.

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

Better late -- than never.
Melinda

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If You Build It, They Will Come

It was an unnecessary purchase.

Oh sure, even in Florida, we sometimes have to endure those chilly 70 degree nights, but you still won’t find many people around here chopping firewood.

Yet my teenage daughter wanted a fire pit. I’m not saying teens are irrational, but asking for a firepit in Florida? In August? Well, I’ll just let you be the judge.

I resisted her request until I remembered some advice my husband and I had gotten from a couple who had raised several teens. They said that as their children got older, each year they purchased at least one thing that would make their home more inviting for their kids and their friends.

So, with that in mind, last month, I ordered a fire pit. It came just in time for our first “chilly” Florida weekend.

Molly and several of her friends couldn’t wait to try it out.

So I read the instructions and went out to buy a large bag of charcoal and lighter fluid.

My husband I then attempted to start a fire. It was downright pathetic. The girls, clearly giving up on our meager fire-building abilities, began to scavenge for sticks, leaves and palm fronds (only in Florida).

Finally, I re-read the instructions which clearly said, “Do NOT use charcoal or lighter fluid …”

Alrighty, then. So I trotted back off to Walmart in search of “Pine Mountain Qwiklite Fire Logs.” It took three associates 15 minutes to find them.

Wal-mart Associate: This cold weather has really had them flying off the shelves!

It was 65 degrees! Okay, maybe my daughter isn’t the only irrational one.

The puny fire was nearly out when I got home. But just minutes after putting one of the logs in the pit, it began to ignite again. Soon, it was blazing and the girls were happily making smores and roasting weenies.

Which they’ve done nearly every weekend since.

It got me to thinking about what I’m doing on a daily basis to make my home a warm and inviting place for my children. Sometimes I use the wrong materials – criticism, judgment, pressure to perform – and it seems like the warmth slowly dies.
But when I start lighting the right logs, the fire begins to blaze. It’s not always easy, but here are some "fire starters" I’m trying to use consistently to turn up the temperature in my home:

Unconditional love.
Our kids are going to disappoint us. They make mistakes. It’s easy to communicate our displeasure over their behavior or choices in a way that makes them feel like we disapprove of them – as people. I know I’ve been guilty of this. Why? Because my kids have told me. Ouch. Since then, I’ve tried to be much more deliberate in telling them my boundaries and my displeasure or disappointment, is rooted in love for them and my desire to see them be the people God created them to be.

A sense of humor. I joke around a lot on my blog, but, I have to admit, parenting isn’t very funny sometimes. It’s hard work. As they get older, it can be emotionally draining. And I find I can easily become very serious and sour around my children. Being a recovering perfectionist doesn’t help. Over the years, I’ve learned to lighten up and not take everything so seriously. Laughter always breaks the tension and warms up a room.

Open communication. The older my kids get, the harder this is to maintain. But I’ve learned that it’s something I always have to be cultivating. Nothing can dampen conversation like criticism or judgment. I want my kids to always feel like they can tell me how they feel and that they will be heard even if I don’t agree with them.

Building our homes with warmth has to be an ongoing, deliberate effort fueled by God’s power and grace. But if we do, just like moths to a flame (or teens to a fire pit), they will come.

What do you do to make your home a warm, inviting place for your family?
Melinda

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Gross Overreaction

He looked completely miserable.

My son Micah had happily gone to a neighbor’s house to watch a movie. Not 10 minutes later, he burst through the door looking like a train wreck.

His eyes were swollen and watery. His nose was bright red and he couldn’t stop sneezing.

Me: Micah, what’s wrong?!

Micah: I wrapped up in a blanket that had Sukie’s hair (their dog) on it and this is what happened! So I had to come home!

He buried his face in my shoulder and hugged me.

Just then, Molly walked in the room to offer comfort: Ewww! Your nose looks four times its normal size! Gross!! What happened?!

There’s nothing quite like a sister’s compassion.

“What happened” is that Micah is allergic to cats, and to a lesser degree, dogs. He can go from happy to needing an antihistamine in about three minutes flat. I had forgotten to give him Claritin before he went over and his whole system immediately overreacted to Sukie hair.

Although I don’t have pet allergies, I can certainly relate to Micah’s tendency to “overreact.”

I can be sailing along happily and then, in no time flat, my mouth and emotions can spin out of control.

It happened just this morning. I told Molly she couldn’t do something and was immediately deemed “the meanest person she has ever met.” So how did I respond? Did I realize that this is just the latest episode in teenage drama?! Did I let it slide off my back, realizing she was just trying to get a reaction?

Oh, no. I took the bait. I ranted. I raved. And I ended up a teary mess. Full-blown overreaction mode.

It used to happen alot when my kids were younger. Now, those meltdowns are relatively infrequent. So when I realized I’d had two of these lovely episodes THIS WEEK, I was reminded of how easily I fall back into overreaction mode when I allow myself to be on overload.

After my Wake-up Call a little more than a month ago, I determined to make changes. And I did – for a while. But as life’s demands increased recently, I fell back into old habits.

When I overcommit to projects and become overwhelmed by my to-do lists, I give in to fear. Neglect my time and communication with God. Become laser-focused on the problem instead of my Provider. Take things personally. And I turn into an overreactive ogre with an attitude.

Trust me. It ain’t pretty.

I have two choices. I can spend the rest of today beating myself up and deem myself “the worst parent I’ve ever met” or I can ask for God’s forgiveness (already done), accept His grace (working on it) and ask Him to help me again let go of those things that are causing me unnecessary stress.

There’s one thing for sure: I’m admitting that I can’t do this stressful life alone. And that’s no overreaction.

I linked up over at Shell's place today. She hosts "Pour Your Heart Out" every Wednesday -- and has a pretty awesome blog everyday. ;0)


Melinda

Friday, November 5, 2010

Delayed Appreciation

It felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart.

My daughter Molly and her friends were sitting at the kitchen table talking about what they wanted for Christmas when one of her friends asked, “Do you guys get anything for your parents for Christmas?”

Molly: Yea, well I used to, but I don’t anymore.

Friend: I never have enough money to buy anything good anyway.

Molly: Well, one year, I saved up my allowance and I picked out a candle that was MY MOM’S favorite color and a calendar that I thought she’d like and she NEVER used them!

Me: I used the candle!

Molly: Nooooooo, you didn’t!

I opened the cupboard and took it down to prove my point. Oops.

Molly: See?! I told you so!

Me: Well, I meant to.

Molly: I tried SO hard and you didn’t even appreciate it. So, now I don’t even try.

Okay, I think I was being given a bit of a teenage guilt trip, but I still felt a deep pang in my heart. Now that Molly is racing toward 18, I realize how fleeting the time is that I have with my kids. And how those sweet, parent-pleasing gestures become few and far between.

Why kind of a mother wouldn’t see the thought and love that went into those gifts?

Why didn’t I value her heartfelt gift of time and love THEN the way I suddenly do now?

Later, I told her I was sorry I didn’t show her and her gifts the appreciation I should have back then (I think she was 9 at the time). We ended up laughing about it. (Although I don’t think she’s going to be breaking the bank for Mom this Christmas.)

But I have to wonder if we’ll be having a similar conversation in a few years – only in reverse. I have a feeling that one day she’ll come to me and ask me to forgive her for not fully appreciating the gifts her dad and I gave her – time, sacrifice, discipline, guidance. She’ll feel regret for not understanding the love and thought that went into the decisions we made and boundaries we set. And, in hindsight, we’ll even be able to laugh about it (please tell me we’ll be able to laugh about it).

Maybe some gifts are more fully appreciated – not at the moment that they’re given – but from the rearview mirror, with a little time and perspective.

I’ll try to keep that in mind the next time one of my “gifts” doesn’t seem to get the gratitude it deserves.
Melinda

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: CheapTweet

I don't know of anyone who isn't looking for a great bargain these days.

And the vast network of Tweeters can help you find them! Using a site called CheapTweet, you can find fabulous deals, coupons and sales -- some you'd most likely never hear about on your own!

CheapTweet filters more than 20,000 tweets per day and only features the best ones -- based how much buzz they're getting on Twitter. It's also based on your votes -- if you think a deal is a good one, you can give it a thumbs up or a "Cheap."

The site posts the "most popular deals of the day," but you can also search for deals by category. You can even search for a specific deal or coupon.


A "DealStream" allows you to see up your own personalized list of deals -- based on your preferences regarding the type of bargains you like, as well as certain brands or companies you want to follow.

All the specific details about how to get started are on CheapTweets' FAQ page.

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.

Alright -- get to tweeting!


Melinda

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who Are These People?

Halloween 2010 Recap:


Manager Maddon and 80's Teen Queen: Mike is Rays Manager Joe Maddon (which probably will mean nothing to you if you're not a baseball fan and/or live in Florida.)

As my daughter would say, I "look like the 80's threw up on me." I'm wearing my circa 1987 prom dress, teased hair out to there and more hairspray than I use in a month. Note the Madonna-era socks and hair bow.

The Bad Boy of Baseball: My son continued the baseball theme. Just pulled out last spring's uniform. Aren't boys great?

The Ravishing Robin Hood: My daughter -- not quite as low maintenance as her brother. Two Halloween stores and $30 later (could have been worse) she settled on Robin Hood -- NOT Peter Pan. Repeat. NOT Peter Pan. She was quite miffed that everyone thought she was Tinkerbell's sidekick instead of the altruistic Robin Hood. Anyway, when you look this cute, does it really matter?

Hope each of you had a very happy Halloween!

Melinda
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