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

But enough about me.

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

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

Whew. That felt good.

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

Having it all together is overrated anyway.

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

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Twelve Confessions of 2010

Happy New Year! I’ve been taking a bit of a holiday hiatus and just enjoying relaxing and spending time with family. Except when my kids are fighting. Or my teenage daughter is giving me attitude. Or when my husband and I are bickering about home improvement projects. Yes, it's a real season of bliss over here at the Means house.

But if there’s anything I’ve been learning to accept over this past year, it’s that the imperfection makes life much more interesting – and it’s in the messiness that God teaches me the best lessons. Like humility. And anger management.

I always find it cathartic to look back and process what I’ve learned before I move forward. So, in that spirit, and inspired by similar posts at ThetaMom and Mommyfriend, I am listing The Twelve Confessions of 2010 -- some of my favorite parenting lessons (blog posts) inspired by my parenting failures. Feel free to read 'em and laugh. Go ahead. Mock my pain.

January ... in the first month of 2010 ... I have a split personality.
February ... in the second month of 2010 ... I'm tone deaf.
March ... in the third month of 2010 ... I miss opportunities.
April ... in the fourth month of 2010 ... I practice "image control."
May ... in the fifth month of 2010 ... My control freak tendencies are "hair-raising."
June ... in the sixth month of 2010 ... I'm not a "Do-It-Yourself" Mom.
July ... in the seventh month of 2010 ... I won't be the next reality show star.
August ... in the eighth month of 2010 ... I'm my mother's daughter.
September ... in the ninth month of 2010 ... I need a wake-up call.
October ... in the tenth month of 2010 ... I'm Teflon Mom.
November ... in the eleventh month of 2010 ... I overreact -- and it's messy.
December ... in the twelfth month of 2010 ... God's helping me find Morning Glory.

Wow. I feel much better now. Thanks for being such a supportive group of moms to "confess," to! I appreciate you so much! And I look forward to "coming clean" some more in 2011!
Melinda

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cracking the Chore Code


I don't need any Christmas presents this year.

Santa came to visit early this year and he already gave me just what I needed and more than I could ask for: A chore system for my children that actually works.

Come to think of it, this is a more of a miracle than a gift, so my gratitude definitely belongs with the good Lord and not Saint Nick.

Over the summer, I blogged about a new system I was trying with my kids. For the record, that was the 213,475th system I've tried over the past 10 years. I may not be smart, but at least I'm persistent.

Well, that system, like all the others, did work -- for a while. That's always the problem. I couldn't find a system with staying power. And that I could be consistent in implementing.

Until now.

About a month ago, I had an epiphany, ignited by a book I read recently called Have A New Kid by Friday by Dr. James Lehman. (Don't let the title fool you -- the book is much more about changing parental behavior than changing your kids. I learned a ton.)

Anyway, Dr. Lehman suggests this brilliant strategy:

1.) Assign your kids chores on specific days.

2.) Don't nag or remind. (This about killed me.)

3.) If the chore isn't done on the assigned day, offer one of the siblings the opportunity to do the chore and earn a portion of their brother's or sister's allowance.

Finally, an upside to sibling rivalry!

This has been a keen motivator in my house. I've never seen my son so eager to wash towels.

I've added my own spin to this -- because sometimes even earning their sibling's allowance isn't enough motivation to get off the couch.

And then guess who ends up doing the chores? Yep, you guessed it. M-O-M.

To avoid that and to teach my kids responsibility, they simply don't get privileges until the chores are done. Isn't that how real life works?

For example, last night, my daughter wanted me to take her to the mall to spend some of her birthday money. But she hadn't cleaned the bathroom yet (her Monday chore). And Micah apparently decided it wasn't a "manly" job. So, we simply didn't go to the mall until the bathroom was clean.

You know why this works? It's easy to implement. There are no stickers or magnets to keep track of. And the choice is left up to them. If they don't want to do the chores, they don't have to. But choices have consequences. So if they choose not to help around the house, they won't have any money and they won't be going anywhere. I'm not the nagging motivator anymore. The consequences are the motivator.

It sounds so dang simple and obvious as I write it that I don't know why I didn't do this years ago.

Yes, this is making my stress level go down and is making my job easier around the house. But I'm most excited about the responsibility, life lessons and sense of accomplishment I believe this new approach is already giving my children.

Someday their college roommates and spouses will thank me.
Melinda

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sibling Savagery

A war is always waging at my house.

Sometimes my warriors use subtle weapons that inflict superficial wounds. Other times, the combatants whip out their swords and eagerly draw blood.

Sibling rivalry. It’s a battle that’s been brewing since Cain and Abel.

It has driven me to the brink of insanity and at times broken my heart. Sometime, long, long ago, I actually believed siblings were naturally inclined to show love to each other. Poor, sad, silly naïve parent that I was, I foolishly believed that it would somehow be programmed into their DNA.

After 10 years of watching my very own family version of Celebrity Boxing, I believe I just might be on the verge of the turning the tide in the sibling rivalry battle – or at least making significant advances.

Here’s an epiphany I had recently: Behaviors only continue when they’re rewarded.

Now I certainly have had that head knowledge for years. But I haven't always put it into action.

Melissa from Confessions of a Dr. Mom wrote about this subject recently and it inspired me to be even more deliberate about robbing my kids of the thrill of their sibling battles.

Why do our kids battle in the first place? Well, there are probably many reasons, but here are a few reasons I believe kids go for the jugular:

1.) To get our attention. Negative attention is better than no attention, right? If it works, they're going to give us repeat performances.

2.) To answer the question, “Do you love me?” How many times do you hear, “You love him more! You always take his side!”

3.) To make them feel better about themselves. Isn't it human nature to put someone else down to elevate yourself?

I don’t have all the answers (please!), but after a decade of watching the verbal bullets fly, I’ve certainly learned what doesn’t work. And I’m trying some new strategies to achieve a ceasefire:

1.) Focus on their positives.
I’ve been more concious of building up each kid and complementing their unique strengths, talents and character qualities.

2.) I’ve quit engaging. For years, I’ve listened to both kids explain why they “didn’t do anything” and how “He started it!” or “She started it!” What was I thinking? Big mistake. I’m often not in the room when it starts. And I don't have the wisdom of Solomon. So, my new strategy is: "If you’re fighting and unable to resolve it, you both lose privileges. And I don’t want to hear you plead your case. Queen Mom has issued her ruling. It is not up for appeal.”

3.) I’ve been trying to be more consistent. Our kids will probably never believe we're being completely fair. A part of them will always believe that the other sibling or siblings always gets away with more. The fact is, our children have different personalities, so we’re not going to always treat them or discipline them exactly the same. And we shouldn't. However, I’ve found that when I’m consistent and reasonable in how I parent them -- even if they don't always like it or agree -- they're generally more cooperative and it does diffuse some of the sibling friction.

Believe it or not, this battle-weary mama is actually beginning to have hope that perhaps the war won't wage on forever.

How do you handle sibling rivalry in your family?
Melinda

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Taking a Twitter Holiday


We all know it. Twitter is incredibly addictive. You can sit down for "five minutes" and emerge blurry-eyed (but giddy) five hours later.

And, if you're like me, the extra tasks and busyness of the holiday season have begun to pile up, leaving me with very little time to spare these days.

For that reason, I've decided to take a "Twitter holiday" both from Twitter and Tweet Me Tuesday until after Christmas. (I'll still be blogging.) I try to do that periodically anyway and NOW seems like the perfect time to give tweeting a rest and focus on my to-do list so I can enjoy my family and the true meaning of the Christmas season.

I encourage you to take a break at some point over the holiday season as well and come back refreshed and ready for some great conversation in 2011!
Melinda

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Clean Fun: Living Power

When parenting gets tough, wouldn't it be nice to have your own personal coach to support you, give great advice and reassure you that you will survive?

That's why I absolutely love Laurie Wallen of Living Power! A life coach with special needs children, Laurie understands the demands and complexities of parenting in today's world. And she provides real-life, hard-won tips and advice to help parents meet the challenges we face every day.

Here's a little bit of what Laurie says in her bio:

Are you a mom who's determined to thrive no matter what life brings? Do you have children with special needs or other circumstances that really make that tough? As a mom with 4 kids - 2 with bipolar and developmental delays - I get it. Like you, I've had to find resources to help me do this parenting thing and not fall apart doing it.


In my own journey to thrive, I discovered I love to help others do the same. So I became a life coach who helps women live with purpose and joy in the midst of challenges. I also speak for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups. I'm excited to share this journey with you too!

When you read my blog, you'll find parenting tips, stress-management tips, encouraging stories, and ideas that bring perspective to life as moms and life as caregivers to our special kids. My hope is that each time you stop by and join the conversation, supportive friendships will form with other moms who get it too.

Here's a post Laurie would like to share with you ... I know you'll love her as much as I do!

What’s Your Theme Song?


People can be really creative. That’s usually a great thing!

Except when it’s your four year old pretending to play a CD she made (out of cardboard). In your minivan’s CD player.

Yep.

Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of the music I’m not listening to. My favorites, the songs that I resonate with. The kind of music that pulls my soul to the surface and gives me permission to feel things beyond my usual daily experience.

I have a few that you could consider my “theme songs” in life.

More than any other song I’ve heard in my life, Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redmond, 2002) is the one I want on my epitaph. It captures the longing of my heart to take life by the horns, the good and the bad, and lift it with all my might to heaven, and to thrive. These are the lyrics:

“Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name”

Of course, on a bad day (like, perhaps, today, when my oldest came home with moods off-kilter, asked for something I couldn’t give her, and when I said no, proceeded to bang her head in to the wall until she dented it and broke a light switch). Well, on a day like that, my theme song might be more along the lines of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” or Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic.”

Just like in my car (when the CD player is actually functioning...) I can choose what stations I listen to, in my own mind I have that choice too.

I can choose to have a posture of gratitude and desire to bless His name, even on the “road marked with suffering,” or “when I’m found in a desert place.” Or I can choose to freak out and list in dizzying chaoticness all the things that are going wrong like R.E.M. in their song.

For a few minutes today, I chose R.E.M.’s version. And the music in my spirit sapped me of all my strength and joy. Then I changed my mental radio station (and took a short walk outside!) and voila! It’s like being that cute actress in a movie who has her own great theme song whenever she enters the scene.

What music do you choose for your life? If you had a theme song, what would it be?


Go check Laurie's blog out today and leave her some comment love!
Melinda

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Play Now, Pay Later

My heart went out to her. Really, it did.

My teenage daughter Molly sat at the kitchen table, looking completely miserable.

Molly: Mom, I don’t feel like doing my homework. I’m tired. I don’t feel good. And oh, yea, I HATE math!

(Hmmm… wonder how the family would react if I applied that logic to laundry or making dinner or cleaning… but I digress…)

Me: I understand. But you have to do it.

Molly: You don’t understand anything! If you really cared about me, you wouldn’t make me do this! Wow. Thanks a lot, Mom.

As she was ranting, I looked over at her 10-year-old brother Micah who was doing his nightly cystic fibrosis treatments. They include wearing a vest that inflates and vibrates to keep his lung mucus flowing, along with inhaling three separate nebulized medications.

Me: Micah doesn’t want to do what he’s doing right now either. And I love him. I don’t want him to have to do that every night. But because I love him, I know he has to do it, or he will pay the price later. It may be a while, but there will be serious consequences for his health.

That’s why I’m telling you to do your math. I want to let you off the hook. But I have to encourage you to stick with it because you will pay a price if you don’t. It’s your choice, but there are always consequences.

Molly: Sigh. I know.

After some further dramatics and cries of being subjected to inhumane treatment, she finished her homework.

Now before you say, "Melinda, my what incredible patience and amazing insight you have!" please know two things: 1.) That was totally God who enabled me to make that connection and explain it calmly. 2.) My kids often want the easy way out. And over the years, I’ve been far too willing to open the door for them. We’ve all paid the price to some degree.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been taking positive steps to turn that around. I’m not allowing things to slide. I’m giving them more responsibility. I’m allowing them to suffer the consequences when necessary. I’ve stopped rescuing. And I’ve prayed every step of the way.

Change isn’t easy. It feels very uncomfortable to my recovering perfectionist, people-pleasing self. And believe me, the kids haven’t been too crazy about this new “Do it yourself” mom either.

But it's already been reaping dividends. My kids are already more self-sufficient, hardworking and respectful.

And isn’t that what we ultimately want? To raise adults who are responsible, self-motivated and attentive to the needs and feelings of others?

So lately, whenever I feel myself going weak in the knees when I know I should stand firm, or when I’m tempted to give in to my control freak tendencies and do something for them that they can do themselves, I remember what I’m working toward and ask myself, "Is what I’m doing going to shape them into the people God wants them to be?" And I feel my backbone getting stronger.

We all have a ways to go, but if I stick to my guns, they’ll respect that Mom’s not playing around. And one day we'll all reap the rewards.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 NLT
Melinda

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tweet Me Tuesday: Twitter Holiday-Style

Your home is festive, your tree is up ... why not bring some of that holiday cheer to Twitter?

Here's a couple fun ways to add a little Christmas spirit:

1.) Sociable Blog has such great Christmas Twitter buttons that you can add to your blog. Check them out:





2.) Wishafriend has some adorable holiday Twitter backgrounds.


3.) Twixenate allows you to add snowflakes and Santa hats to your Twitter avatar. It's a cinch!

Hope you're enjoying the season with your friends and family and remembering Who it's all about!

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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Morning Glory

He refused to budge.

I expected the first morning after Thanksgiving break to be a little rough. So when my son Micah groaned and rolled over after the alarm clock went off, I wasn’t surprised.

But I also wasn’t going to nag. That has been my MO for years – badger, beg and/or plead and, if all else fails, yell. It’s been working brilliantly for the past eight-and-half years. Everyone leaves the house frustrated and late. Yep. It’s been working like a dream.

Despite its fabulous success, I decided this morning I was going to take a new approach. Instead of turning into Cruella de Vil, I did nothing.

When breakfast was ready, I went in and calmly told him. He didn’t move.

I heard the snooze button go off several times, but I didn’t react. I did laundry, unloaded the dishwasher and kept my cool.

When 7:40 a.m. rolled around (the time we’re supposed to leave), I went into his room and informed him that it was time to leave.

Micah:
What?! Why didn’t you wake me?! I’ve gotta eat breakfast!

Me: Nope. I threw away your breakfast away about 15 minutes ago. There’s no time to eat.

Micah: What?! I want breakfast!

Me: Sorry.

Micah gets up, gets dressed, but the scowl never leaves his sleepy face.

He then flops on the couch.

Me: Okay, let’s go.

Micah: I’m not going to school.

Me: Yes, you are. We’re leaving.

Micah: Grunts.

Me: Is there anything wrong? Is someone at school picking on you?

Micah: No. I’m just not going.

Now, this particular scenario (refusing to go) doesn’t happen often. But in the past, I would have come a little unglued. Threatened and lectured.

But this is New Melinda. That’s not the way I roll anymore.

Me: Well, Micah, I’m actually glad you’re not going to school today. By the end of the day, I’m going to have the cleanest house on the block!

Micah: What do you mean?!

Me: If you’re going to stay home, you’ll have lots of time to help me out around here. I’ll make quite a list for you. We’ll start with weeding … (the most hated job in the Means house).

Micah: Nooooooooooooooooo!

But, still, he wouldn’t budge.

Me: And all the work you’ll be missing at school? I’ll just tell your teacher she can just give you zeros for the day.

Micah: You’d really do that?

Me: I really would.

Micah: Okay. Sigh. I’ll go to school.

Before we left, I gave him a note to give to the office staff that explained why he was late: ("Micah would not get up this morning. Whatever consequences you think are necessary are fine by me.")

Micah: Please don’t make me give the note!

Me: You’re giving the note.

When I dropped him off, I left him with these words: “Tomorrow is a new day. I know you will make wiser choices tomorrow.” (Which he did by the way … the last two mornings have been heavenly!)

I am so glad that God’s mercies are new to me every morning. That no matter what parenting mistakes that I’ve made in the past (see “badgering, begging, pleading and yelling” above), that God always gives me the grace and opportunity to change. No condemnation. No "You should have known better."

And, more than that, I can trust that when I’m willing to change He can turn even something as miserable as my mornings into something glorious.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)
Melinda
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