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, April 27, 2011

Winning Wisdom Wednesday Winner!

The winner of this month's Winning Wisdom Wednesday is .... Graywolfie! Congratulations!

She'll get to choose from the three parenting books that I featured over the last month:

Boundaries with Kids by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna

All three are excellent, so you can't go wrong whatever you choose, Graywolfie!

Do YOU want to win some wisdom next month? Here's how:
Each Wednesday, I post a thought-provoking, interesting or encouraging quote from a parenting book I've read. On the last Wednesday of the month, I will give away one of the books (winner's choice) that I've quoted from throughout the month.

Simply leave me a comment on my Wednesday "Winning Wisdom" posts during the month. I will choose a monthly winner from all those who have commented.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's the Big, Honkin' Deal?

I am so excited to have my very good friend Dina guest posting today. Dina is not a blogger, but she should be. And I think she's about thisclose to taking the plunge. Dina and I met about 9 years ago and have spent many hours solving the world's problems in our kids' school parking lot. Which, by the way, is the setting of a funny, entirely all-too-relatable experience she's sharing with us today:

My anger can be an ugly thing. Especially when it’s on display in my children’s Christian school parking lot. At least it wasn’t directed at any family members this time (I’m hoping that’s a step in the right direction). Perhaps I’m just in a bit of denial.

Okay, let me explain. On a recent morning, after dropping my kids off at school, I was exiting the parking lot. You can only turn right or left out of the parking lot into a 15mph school zone. There was quite a bit of traffic coming both directions so I knew – okay , I thought - I had a minute to look down and dial a number on my phone. (Talking while driving is a topic to be discussed at another time.) Well, apparently I missed a prime opportunity to pull out because the person in line behind me gave me a nice long honk. Point taken. Phone down. Begin exit from parking lot.

But wait, I can’t pull out – too much traffic is still coming. Not to mention I’m totally distracted now because the honking has continued very obnoxiously and as I look in the rear-view mirror I see that this man’s lips are moving violently. He's alone in the car, so I realize that he is honking and yelling at me. My first instinct was to throw the car in park, make him wait even longer and go back there and give him a piece of my mind. I didn’t want to be rude to the other people behind him though. Instead, I waited until I had a nice long break in traffic, pulled out ever so slowly, rolled down my window, craned my neck, made full eye contact, and proceeded to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS IS A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL – YOU COULD ACT LIKE IT!!!”

At least I didn’t swear.

Fast forward to the next day. God must have wanted to test me because as I was coming to school guess who pulled out right in front of me? You guessed it - Mr. Horn Honker! I could feel the anger rising up in me again. I indulged my impulse to ride up on his tail for a minute, until my level-headed daughter reminded me that "I am a Christian and should probably act like one." Ahem.

I know that I should have ignored this man to begin with. I know it was wrong to yell out the window at him. But this type of thing gets to me. I was burning with rage and continued to stew over it for at least an hour. I could have made a list: “40 Ways to Torture the Honking Hellian”.

However, I decided to spend a little time with God, ask forgiveness, and get my head back on straight. Proverbs 29:11 reminded me “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control”. I might tape this to my visor. Maybe the next time I’m confronted by another hostile honker, I won’t act like a fool.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Winning Wisdom Wednesday!

We all want to raise revolutionary offspring.

Unfortunately, if you're like me, getting them to school in the morning sometimes feels like your only parental accomplishment in an average day.

So how do we rise above the chaos and mundane aspects of parenting so we can raise children who actively live out their Christian faith in their workplaces, friendships and communities? Who bring their spiritual commitment and character into everything they do?

Renowned researcher George Barna was on a mission to find out the secret to raising kids with "life-impacting faith." To that end, he spent years talking to parents who had raised children who were making a measurable difference in their churches and communities. He looked for common themes in how these parents raised their children. His book Revolutionary Parenting is the product of that research.

Be prepared. This book will no doubt change your ideas about how you teach (he prefers the term "coach") your children. And you may be surprised that the things we focus on with our children aren't always the most important things.

Here's a rather lengthy, but very insightful quote from the book:

Spiritual champions have the advantage of being raised by parents who are more concerned about the love they show fellow students than whether they outperform them. They are raised to tell the truth, even if it means they might lose some opportunities....

"Oh my gosh," said a mother, laughing as she recalled the behavior of her son, who was always trying to impress his folks with his grades and his sports feats. "We kept coming back to how he treated people and what he did with his money and what kind of stories he'd tell his friends. We tried to affirm his accomplishments, but we worked at keeping those things in their proper place.

"He was sick of hearing me tell him that I'd rather have an honest boy than a smart one, and that God was more excited about a servant than a superstar. It took him a long time to get that message. None of his friends were being given the message, his teachers did not give him that message, his coaches did not give him that message; it was only dorky Mom and Dad who kept harping on that them But as he grew older and began to see, and sometimes suffer from the absence of character among this friends, he latched onto the idea that character matters more than achievements."

Your Chance to Win Some Wisdom:
Each Wednesday, I post a thought-provoking, interesting or encouraging quote from a parenting book I've read. On the last Wednesday of the month, I will give away one of the books (winner's choice) that I've quoted from throughout the month.

How do you enter?
Simply leave me a comment on my Wednesday "Winning Wisdom" posts during the month. I will choose a monthly winner from all those who have commented. The first winner will be chosen on April 27th.

* I apologize for not posting last Wednesday. Last week's Winning Wisdom Wednesday was the casualty of Melinda's Migraine. :(

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 Things To Know Before They Start Middle School

It’s been a wild ride.

Yes, middle school has been all that and more – hormonal ups and downs, angry tirades and impatient ranting. Poor Molly.

It’s true. Adolescence has sometimes brought out the best and worst in me -- bringing me to my knees (literally) in ways I never thought possible. It has ruthlessly challenged my rigid, perfectionistic tendencies. It has relentlessly stretched my capacity for love, humility, courage and forgiveness.

I feel pity for the mom of a 5th grader that I was three years ago. She was so naïve and woefully unprepared. So, as an act of service for other mothers who may soon be entering the middle school years, I offer my Top Five Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Molly Started Middle School:

Your child is now too cool for you. Think you got it goin’ on, mama? Well, think again. You see, it’s embarrassing to be seen with your parents, because, well, no one else has parents. Your child is the only one. So you can see how your existence is a tad bit humiliating – at least until they need money.

2. All your brain cells suddenly evaporate. Your decades of wisdom and life experience just can’t compete with their friends’ 12 years of knowledge and expertise. (Actually, in hindsight, I think they’re listening to us more than we give them credit for.)

3. Every promise you make is written in stone. Pre-teens and teens tend to see things in black and white. Circumstances don’t change. YOU are the one who changed things. Which makes you a big, fat liar.

4. You suddenly become a candidate for “What Not to Wear.” I have gotten enough fashion critiques in the last three years to last me a lifetime. (The plus side? I must admit, I’m no Heidi Klum, but she’s made me more hip.)

And best of all...

5. You’ll learn to love your child in a whole new way. The really valuable things in life are worth fighting for. Don’t believe everything they tell you – good or bad. And keep loving them and praying for them no matter what. After all, you’ll need all the prayers you can get, mama. They’ll be driving soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Winning Wisdom Wednesday!

Ignorance is bliss.

Okay, I don't really believe that, but sometimes I would like to stay in the dark about my own shortcomings. Because when my eyes are opened to my own unhealthy patterns and selfishness, I know I'm going to have to make a change. In a word: Yuck. I generally don't embrace change -- especially change that causes me and my children pain (at least in the short-term).

So Boundaries with Kids by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend was a tough book for me to read. It hit my control-freak, people-pleasing self right between the eyes. In truth, I wish I would have read it years earlier. Change wouldn't have been as painful then. So my advice? Don't wait to read this!

Here's a quote from the book:
"Help your child accept the limits of his power by accepting yours. Admit your failure, weakness and limitations. But, in addition, own what power you do have. In doing this, give your child as much freedom as possible and control him as little as possible. 'I'll make you stop' is sometimes necessary for very young children or for emergencies. However, it's much better to say, 'I can't make you stop, but I can tell you what will happen if you don't.' Then don't make empty threats. Follow up on promised consequences. That's where your true power resides. You can't make a child behave, but you can structure choices and consequences that help the child choose rightly."

Your Chance to Win Some Wisdom:
Each Wednesday, I post a thought-provoking, interesting or encouraging quote from a parenting book I've read. On the last Wednesday of the month, I will give away one of the books (winner's choice) that I've quoted from throughout the month.

How do you enter?
Simply leave me a comment on my Wednesday "Winning Wisdom" posts during the month. I will choose a monthly winner from all those who have commented. The first winner will be chosen on April 27th.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Sink-ing Feeling

Some things you just don’t want to know.

For example, I really don’t want to understand how the plumbing operates in my house. When I turn the water on, I just want it to work.

But now and then, it doesn’t. Last week, I turned on the sink to do dishes and the water just kept rising. I naively thought a simple plunging would do the trick. (Okay, deep down I knew it wouldn’t, but I was in denial.)

This only served to pump the dirty water into the other side of the sink. Beautiful.

The last time this happened was the morning we were leaving for a two-week vacation. We called the plumber (thanks to an aging house, he's practically on speed dial) and arranged for him to fix it while we were gone.

But he didn’t show. You don’t want to know what our house smelled like after a backed-up sink sat for two weeks in an unairconditioned house in the middle of July. Enough said.

That memory fresh in my mind, I had a crazy, terrifying thought: I could learn to fix this myself.

Honestly, this had never occurred to me before. At first, I dismissed this as a moment of pure insanity, but then I remembered how much a visit from the plumber costs. And that it sometimes takes two weeks for him to arrive.

In an act of sheer courage, I drove to Lowe’s to buy the appropriate tools. Two employees greeted me as I made my way to the plumbing department.

Employee #1: How are you today, ma’am?
Me: Just great. How are you?
Employee #2: Oh, we're just livin’ the dream. How can we help you?
Me: Well, I’m looking for a pipe wrench and a sink auger.
Employee #1: Oh. You have big problems.
Me: Yea. I’m the one livin’ the dream.

Employee #2 takes me to the plumbing aisle and shows me what I’ll need. He asks me skeptically, You’re fixing this yourself? And then he smirks. Smirks, I tell you!

Armed with tools I had no idea what to do with, I left Lowe’s on a mission. After a thorough education from ehow.com, I was ready to subdue my sink.

After several failed attempts, I finally was able to remove the pipe from under my sink. A major victory until I realized the bowl I had under it was far too small for all the water pouring into it, which then flooded my kitchen.

I was undeterred. I had found the clog! After removing it from the pipe, I reassembled the sink and, to my shock and amazement, it worked!

I wasn’t the only one in shock. Husband: You fixed the sink? You did? You did? When the reality of the situation hit him, I then think I spotted a glint of new respect in his eyes.

You must be thinking: Great story, Melinda, but how does that relate to parenting? Be patient. I'm getting there.

Like plumbing, parenting requires me to stretch my abilities like never before. Over and over again, especially since my daughter became a teen, I’ve had to act in ways that took courage, that pushed me way out of my comfort zone and that, frankly, I didn’t think I was capable of. But every time, I did it, I became more confident. And I noticed I was slowly gaining new levels of respect from my children.

And if I gain more confidence by being pushed out of my comfort zone, at the ripe old age of 41, don’t I owe it to my children to push them out of their comfort zones, even if they approach these new demands and responsibilities with the same enthusiasm that I approached my sink? When I do, they gain confidence and learn things about themselves that they won't if I don't push them to get their hands a little dirty along the way.

All those realizations from a broken sink. Imagine what I could learn if my roof caved in. Perhaps that’s another thing I’d rather not know.
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