Monthly Archives: December 2011

Serene Saturdays #34

We are complete again!  Our eldest came home from college on Thursday. Woo hoo!

For us, the holidays will really begin today, as we get to watch my youngest dance in the  Nutcracker.  For over 14 years, we have been attending the Nutcracker to watch one or both of our daughters dance.  This will be the first time we’ve watched the performance with our eldest sitting in the audience with us.

So that I can really focus on my family for the remainder of the holidays, I am not planning on posting this week.  Therefore, I will take this opportunity to say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!  I hope your holiday is amazing, playful, and replenishing!

This week I am grateful for:

*  Reading aloud with my kids.

*  A furnace that kicks on.

*  Spanish and Art tutors for my kids.

*  A book study with great, wise, and fun ladies.

*  Getting to watch my youngest in the Nutcracker, sitting next to my eldest, my husband, and our dear, dear friend.  Priceless.

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Are the Best Things in Life Free?

What do you love that is actually free?

“The best things in life are free.”  This is one of those phrases that parents say to their kids to teach them to value the little things in life or to teach them to be grateful.  Even as adults, we pass this phrase around as if it explains our gratitude for the small things that come our way.

Especially in this holiday season, you’ll probably hear someone say this phrase in reference to spending less on gifts, or in reference to doing volunteer work.

Love.  Memories.  A child’s smile.  Getting a good grade on an exam. Friendship.  A great marriage.  Making it through the first year of a business start-up and living to tell about it!

While each of these may fall into the “best things in life are free” category, I beg to differ with whether or not they are actually free.

I can speak from experience that having a great marriage definitely does not come freely.  It takes commitment, forgiveness, communication and a whole lot of hard work.  Getting a good grade is not a free gift – ask my college daughter going through her first finals week.   Finding the love of your life is a costly proposition for some.  Patience, heartbreak, relational skills, and prayer…

The truth is, anything that is worth something, costs something.

The cost may be intangible, but costly nonetheless.

Dedication. Commitment.  Sacrifice.  Money.  Time.  Tears.  Prayers.  Hope.

Often times the things that don’t have a high monetary value actually require the most work.

When do we value things that truly are free?  Whatever we come by easily or cheaply, we will also value little.  A dandelion inherently has little value compared to a rose because they are so easy to come by.

This holiday season, stop to let the enormity of the “free” things that come your way sink in.  Some cost you a lot financially, and others are precious gifts given to you after years of hard, committed work, after dedication to an ideal or dream, or after years of tending to seeds.  So take a moment to feel, deeply breathe in and wonder at the blessings that you have.

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Curbing the Competition

Today, my home is filled with the unbelievably loud antics of my kids playing with each other.  Most of the time it is goofy wrestling (and believe me, that’s not just the boys).  Sometimes it is the made up family game of “Can We Make Them Laugh Hysterically”, with one of my kids who laughs really easily as the main target.  It could also be playing card or board games, playing on the Wii, or any number of activities.

It wasn’t always this way.  Just a few years ago, the kids were constantly operating in strife, angry with each other, so easily offended, and very competitive.

One of the tactics that we employed to end the sibling strife was to cut down on the competition.  One of the phrases that we heard around the house was, “That’s not fair.”  If you hear that statement floating around your house, that is clue that there might be comparison between your kids, and comparison births competition.

As I analyzed where the competition was coming from, I realized that I was treating my children as a group.  When we went anywhere, we went as a group.  If we went grocery shopping, my goal was to get all 4 into the store, get all 4 to keep their hands to themselves, and to have all 4 not screaming at the same time. Keeping them alive, safe, and quiet was a huge task, and thinking of them as one unit instead of four little individuals allowed me to wrap my brain around my overwhelming goal.

I called them my herd.  My herd went in, my herd went out.  My herd went to bed, my herd got up.  For me it meant that each one had been grouped as a collective to make my job easier.

Recognizing this, I started to change the way that I talked and thought.Instead of giving time to the herd, I started pulling each one aside for individual time.  Instead of planning my days with all of them involved in every activity, I started scheduling outings so that I could take just one or a couple with me.

I also started calling them out individually.  Instead of calling them all to dinner, I started by inviting each individually to come.  Instead of assigning a general clean up time, I started assigning specific chores to specific people, listing them out by name.

What each child wants is to feel individual, unique and special.  When you treat them as individuals and focus on each child alone, you’ll be surprised at how much comparison and competition is limited in your family.

I’m not saying that this simple change of thought – from the herd to individuals – will stop all arguing and fussing in your home, but I am suggesting that it is a good place to start.  After all, we like to be thought of us special and contributing something unique to the family.

In the family of God, He knows us.  He says that He knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that we’re the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), and that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26).   He says that we were wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that He knew us before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5).    I could go on and on – the Bible is full of references to how He special He thinks that we are.

Give it a try!  Make a practice of treating your kids, or kids around you, as unique and special individuals, without trying to treat them all equally or the same. Tell me how it makes a difference!

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Serene Saturdays #33

Today has been a might busy day.  Lots of errands, Nutcracker/ballet rehearsal drives, and snacks to be purchased.  Tonight I am hosting a Christmas party for the youth of our church.  It won’t be huge…our church is new and only has a handful of youth.  But nonetheless, I have invested a good deal of time getting things ready for tonight.  I am not normally the party hosting go-to person, but I wanted the kids to have a get together of their own, and thought that I had the emotional energy to do this one!

Because my time is short today, this post will be short.  But I still did want to check in to take a moment to reflect and be grateful.  This week I am thankful for:

*  Christmas ornaments that have so many memories attached to them.

*  Christmas music that also stir memories and nostalgia.

*  Silly Christmas videos.

*  Snow globes.

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My Holiday Scorecard

I have felt quite a mixed bag when it comes to Christmas this year.  On the one hand, I have really enjoyed getting our Christmas tree put up and attending our city’s tree lighting ceremony.  On the other hand, I have found myself wanting to stop school a early and let my kids watch way too much Christmas TV.

Therefore, I thought I’d make a little log of the “goods” and “bads” of my behavior.

Ways I have fallen short:

Not enough consistent school.  This is always an issue, but especially during the holidays.  It always feels like there is so much outside of education that needs to be done.  I am tempted…and the kids aren’t complaining!

Too much Band Hero.  Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, my elder son bought Band Hero for our Wii, complete with a guitar, a drum set, and a microphone.  And this confession is that it isn’t just the kids who are spending too much time conquering Band Hero, but I am right there with them!  I am wicked on the guitar…just saying.

I haven’t purchased or made a single present.  There are a lot that need to be done, but I haven’t found the ability/motivation/joy in doing so yet.

Not getting our Advent activities ready.  Every year, I create an activity-a-day based around a Christmas theme (i.e. crafts, baking, holiday movies, driving to look at Christmas lights).  For some reason, I haven’t been organized/motivated to do so this year.  Maybe it is because the kids are so busy that we don’t have many evenings home together.  It doesn’t seem as worth it this year.  But, my eldest has specially requested that I get them organized for her when she comes home from college…so I have to create the activities by then.  Yikes!

Just today, I mailed my daughter’s college finals care package to her.  I’ve had it in the car for well over a week – maybe two weeks.  I just haven’t made it into the post office to get it sent off.  I’m sure she’ll get it right about the time that her finals are over and it is time to travel home…

Ways I’ve been stellar (I like this list much better!):

I created the whole Thanksgiving dinner all by myself.  I know this is a little out-dated, but I still am giving myself credit for it.  In year’s past, we’ve had tons and tons of guests, each bringing a dish to share.  This year, with it being just our family and two guests, I did it all.    You’ll have to ask my family if it was any good.

I edited a pamphlet for a friend.  This one probably shouldn’t count, because I really enjoy editing, I really enjoyed what he had written, and I really like him.  But, it did take a chunk of time, and I need all of the stellar moments that I can count right now.

I got the Christmas tree lighted.  For some reason, this job always falls to me. This year, however, when I pulled out the lights, EVERY strand wasn’t lighting. I wrap and pack them away meticulously, but somehow they lost their ability to light over the year; therefore, getting the tree lit this year meant a bit more work than usual.

I am hosting a party for the teens in our church.  Our church is very new, so there aren’t THAT many teens, but I wanted them to have a chance to all get together to celebrate.  So this Saturday, we will welcome them over for Christmas movies and snacks.  There will probably be a little Wii Band Hero going on, but I will refrain from showing them all up on the guitar…

I have run driven/waited/eaten/read/slept/written in my car as I have shuttled my younger daughter all over the stinkin’ universe for Nutcracker practice.  The performance is on Dec. 17th, and I am eager, both to see her dance, and to have the rehearsals over!

I have drug myself out of bed early every morning to exercise at the gym.  That is huge, considering that I hate every part of the exercise process.

I have kept this blog going!

I guess that’s all.  I hope that my cathartic exercise relieved you of some guilt, or gave you someone to which you could compare yourself so that you could feel better about how you’re doing!

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What is Parenting Success?

How do I, as a parent, define success?  The question is a really valid one, and one that deserves to be part of a parenting philosophy that guides your actions.

Do you define success by whether or not you’ve been completely consistent throughout the day?  Throughout the child’s life?

Is success defined by kids that bring you honor by their behavior?

Is success defined by kids that make it through adolescence without a major mistake?

Is success defined by kids that are followers of Christ?

Or could it be something completely different?

Let me suggest that successful parenting could be defined not by the product that you produce, but the process of daily parenting.

Because my faith in Jesus guides every aspect of my life and all decisions with my family, I believe that my faith in Jesus should guide my parenting. Therefore, to me, successful parenting has less to do with the outcome of my child’s behavior, and more to do with whether or not my daily parenting brings glory to God.

When it comes down to it, my amazing children all have their own wills and their own stories.  I do believe that I have influence over the choices that they make, but I certainly don’t have control over their lives.  Since that is the case, the definition of success should be based less on whether or not my kids succeed based on a certain standard, and more on whether or not I’ve brought honor to my faith along the way.

Obviously, because I believe so strongly in finding parenting mentors, and because I’ve read and written quite a bit about parenting, I think there is a lot to being well equipped for the job of parenting.  I strongly believe in doing research and studying for this position.  However, a lot of advice and a lot of information in books revolves around the idea that, if you follow specific steps to parent, or if you model your parenting around various philosophies, your children will turn out great.  The implied message is that if your kids don’t turn out as you hoped, or as you were promised in the book, you did something wrong.  You didn’t work the system specifically enough.

I’ve known way too many fantastic parents who did everything “right” but ended up with kids who followed the “wrong” path.  One of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, a pastor whom I highly respect, had a brother who spent his adult life in jail.  The same parents, the same parenting process, a completely different result.

If your instinct is to make yourself feel better by trying to figure out where other parents made their parenting mistakes, what inconsistencies must’ve been in play, what signs they might’ve missed, then you’ve defined parenting success differently than I have.

What I have seen, both in scripture and in life experience, are examples where the right philosophy and methods were used without netting good results, but God was still glorified.

If that is the case, then don’t be so quick to judge yourself (or others) if your kids:

…don’t listen and obey the first time.

….throw temper tantrums repeatedly.

….don’t treat others with kindness even though you’ve given them plenty of opportunities to do so.

…don’t choose the right friends.

…don’t follow the spiritual path you’ve dreamed for them.

Those issues shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ve had success as a parent.

So how do you know if you’re succeeding or not?

I propose that the starting point to answer that question is looking at whether or not your process of parenting glorifies God in each and every parenting opportunity.

If you have to correct your child, did you do it lovingly?
Did you do it with patience?
Were you self controlled?
Did you set the right example?
Did you act out of the spirit instead of the flesh?
Did your behavior point your children to God?

Of course, the above standard is simply a goal – we are not going to be perfect. And the good news is that even our imperfections can point our kids to God if we follow through with humility, ask for forgiveness, and model that though we might fail, we’ll keep on trying through His strength.

Please don’t misunderstand me…I care desperately how my children turn out.  I believe that we should forever be working towards training and leading them.  I find comfort in Proverbs 22:6 where it says that if we train up our children in the way they should go, then when they’re old they’ll not depart from it.

However, when it is all said and done, it is not about me or my kids, it is about God.  If He has been glorified by my actions, whether they be successes or failures, then I have been a success.

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Serene Saturdays #32

This week, my family and I went to our city’s Christmas tree lighting celebration.  The city makes an event out of it by having a line-up of local entertainment, having a carnival alongside the tree, providing carriage rides, and having characters walking around to provide picture opportunities.


(Because every holiday celebration should include Ronald MacDonald!?!?!?)

This week I am thankful for…

* Christmas decorations

* Family traditions

* New friends

* Inspiration

I hope that your week is full of memory-making opportunities, and lots and lots of lights!

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