Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Best Years of Your Life?

Confession: it bugs me when people tell children that “these are the best years of your life.” And although I think the t-shirts that say “I don’t feel like adulting today” are kind of funny . . . honestly, I think being an adult is highly preferable to being a kid.

Why do people tell kids that these are the best years of their lives? Sure, I get it that it can be a little sad when our babies grow up too quickly and start to pull away from us, but do we really want 30-year-olds living in our basements? Do we want adulthood to sound so unappealing that no one wants to make it there?

I remember when I was in college, I was at our church youth director’s house one weekend, and someone commented to a complaining child that “these are your best years.” I heard myself blurt out, “Don’t listen to that!” Everyone was surprised at my outburst (including me), but my mouth was already running, so I kept going. I said, “Eventually, you won’t have homework anymore. You can come home and sit on the sofa. You can drink a soft drink and watch TV or read a book that nobody MAKES you read. Also, you won’t have to get a pass when you have to go to the bathroom—you just get up and go when you feel like it. You get to use pens, too, instead of pencils all the time. Purple ink if you want. And if you get in the mood to go somewhere, you can drive your own car instead of begging your mom to take you. And I’ll tell you something else: if you want a dog, you can just go get one!”

Twenty years later, I still feel pretty much the same way. I want my kids to enjoy their childhood, but I would hate for them to think that their best years are the ones spent wearing Garanimals.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016


My husband has a friend who is almost like a brother. This guy has had some serious blows over the years, and we’ve tried to be family to him (thankfully, that’s not a chore since this guy is smart, hilarious, and so fun to be with). During one particularly troubled time in his life, though, he asked me and my husband to step back. Well, it was worse than that—he basically told us to butt out and end our friendship.

I was shocked. Heart-broken. And furious.

Amid asking my husband repeatedly, “What did you do to him? What did you say to him? What the heck happened between you two?” I had plans to call this dude up, bless him out, and then make him a big dinner and demand to know what in the world was going on. My husband kindly but firmly told me, “You’re going to respect his wishes.” And my instinctual response to that was, “Who says you can tell me what to do?”

Oh. Right.

You know, the whole Biblical concept of submission has never really been a big deal around here. During pre-marital counseling, my pastor asked me how I felt about submission. “You went to a fairly liberal female college, and there’s a firm foundation of feminism there. I’m just curious about how you feel about submission?” I smiled my glowy bride-to-be smile and replied, “I don’t have to worry about that. When you’re marrying someone who’s brilliant and kind and selfless, you never have to worry about how he will lead a family.”

I still mean all of those things, but the real reason that I don't think about this concept often is that, frankly, we’re on the same page 99 percent of the time. But that summer we lived the 1 percent. He was not handling this my way. He was not handling this the RIGHT way. He was wrong. I told him so. And I seriously considered ignoring his direct order—yes, it was an order—and doing what I wanted to do anyway. I couldn’t do that though . . . it’s so rare for him to give me a direct order like that, and when he does, he means business.

I poured out my dilemma to my Proverbs 31 lady. In the moment, she didn’t say much. But the next day, we were chatting about how she and her daughter had originally planned to travel that day, and their husbands got on the phone and re-routed their travel plans. In their excitement to be together, they didn’t consider that it was the day of a major football game (traffic and delays). She said to me, “Isn’t it kind of the Lord to give us husbands who protect us and lead us?” Is she saying that women are dumb? Absolutely not. We’re loving, though, and sometimes our hearts get so pumped up that they knock our heads out of the driver’s seat and take the wheel.

I cringe when I hear the advice, “Follow your heart!” I don’t know about y’all, but my heart has made some really stupid decisions—and not all of them took place inside a mall either.

Okay, so I pouted. I fussed. I rephrased the question a dozen times and asked my husband if we could contact his friend. The answer was always no. I finally shut my mouth and opened my heart and started to pray. I prayed for our friend and I prayed for my husband. About six months later, our friend initiated contact with my husband, and their friendship has been restored.

I’ve heard submission defined as “strength under control.” In this situation, I can wholeheartedly agree with that definition. I know I’m a handful. I know I talk more than I listen, and I know that I have the instinct to “follow my heart” (even when it’s a big ol’ liar). Thankfully, even after nearly sixteen years of marriage, I still believe what I told my pastor that day. God chose this man for me and, as always, He chose well. Someone has to lead the family; God says that someone will be my husband.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Four Reasons Why You Shouldn't Be an Exhausted Mother

I was scrolling through Facebook recently, laughing at the jokes, rolling my eyes at the political humor, and loving the scripture . . . and then I saw this:

Dude. If this is all I knew about being a mother, then I'm pretty sure I never would have given it a shot.

Are there days like this? Absolutely. The newborn days immediately come to mind; those nights when, for some reason, the kid seems to need zero sleep, yet the experts say that the little booger should be sleeping 18 hours.

But those days shouldn't last forever. And this should not be the norm of your whole life.

Girls, if you have a child over the age of 2 and your days still look like this, then it's time to take a little inventory of your mothering skills.
  1. Are you doing too much? Remember that your job is to work yourself out of a job. With every passing year, your child should be more and more independent. By age 3, children should have basic chores. Put your toys away. Put your dirty clothes in your hamper (and learn to start laundry as well). Put your trash in the trash can. Smooth out your bed linens (they may not be stellar bed-makers, but they can get a jump start). By age 5, they should be feeding the pets, watering plants, and starting simple cleaning tasks (wipe the counter in your bathroom). By 10 or 11, there's not much around the house that they shouldn't be able to do. Don't wear yourself out doing things for your children that they're capable of doing themselves; when you do that, you're falling down on your responsibility to teach your children how to effectively run a household . . . and you're also denying your husband (or yourself) some much-needed attention.
  2.  Are your children doing too much? Sure, extracurricular activities can encourage teamwork, result in new friendships, and teach responsibility . . . but going overboard with ball can also steal family dinner time, throw priorities out of whack, and result in less sleep and bad study habits. If you're not having dinner together as a family four to five nights a week, then re-think your schedule. They're not all going to the pros, y'all. As we've said before--the real world will probably not ask you to hit a home run, but you will absolutely have to know how to sort darks from whites.
  3. Are they obeying you? Have you fallen into a loop of, "Oh, forget it, I'll just do it myself"? If you don't require your children to obey you, then don't be surprised when they disobey their teachers . . . and police officers. Disobedience is dangerous, destructive, and exhausting. Do you truly want a peaceful home? Obedient children are happy children . . . and happy children generally have happy mamas.
  4. Are you treating your husband like one of the kids? Listen . . . you trusted him enough to marry him. Let him be an equal parent. When something needs to be done for your children, be sure you're allowing him to step in and be a parent. And if he tells you that you're doing too much for your children, listen to him--chances are, he's right. God created him to lead your family, so by all means, let the man lead!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Be an Advocate for Your Children (and wear cute shoes)

A couple of weeks ago, I received a short, vague letter from my children's school district stating that both of my very young children would be receiving education on some sensitive subject matters (state law). What the letter did not state was everything that I wanted to know: who will be teaching this information to my children? Exactly what are you planning to say? Will you allow children to ask questions in front of each other? When will this take place? Will my child be required to make this up if he or she is absent that day?

It didn't take long for me to get all of the answers, and I was invited to review the lesson plan and books. After reviewing the materials, discussing the lesson at length, and talking with our school's vice principal, my husband and I agreed that I would be present for the lesson (rather than keeping our child home that morning, which we strongly considered).

I got up extra early that morning and put on Sunday-Go-to-Meeting make-up. I slipped into a cute outfit that I had taken great pains to choose and iron earlier that week. Jewelry. Perfume. Matching purse. Shoes that pinch my toes a little but work perfectly with the outfit. Nails done? Of course.

As I was applying mascara, I had a bit of deja vu: that was the second time that week that I had dressed up to this degree. What was the other time again? Oh, yes--it was for my son's visit to the pediatrician that Monday.

Y'all, I'm not fooling anyone. The first time I met this pediatrician, I was sitting up in a hospital bed with a nursing gown bunched around my waist and a how-the-heck-do-I-do-this look on my feverish, poofy face. And the people at the school? Well, they've seen me in the drop-off and pick-up lines wearing my snuggly $7 fleece jacket and a Mommy bun. These people know the real Andrea, and she doesn't wear mascara every day.

But when it comes time to speak up for my children, I speak up. And I dress up.

The pediatrician appointment was just a check-up--but these days, pediatricians don't just check for anemia and scoliosis. I was asked to complete a three-page document on my son's eating habits, TV habits, and social status. I have the utmost respect for this doctor, thankfully, and I know that he's fairly confident that we're not handling snakes at our house. But my confidence goes up when I have a sassy outfit on. My credibility does too. In this day and age of diagnosing every quirky behavior as a medical issue, I was prepared to say, if necessary, "You check his bod, and I'll discipline his character."

Same goes with the school. We've been blessed with two years of talented teachers who know how to keep young, energetic (ahem--WILD) children engaged and motivated. I've been dazzled by the information my children spout off on a daily basis, and for the most part, they can't wait to get to school on Monday morning. But when staff members that I haven't met yet are told that they have to teach touchy info to a room full of first graders--including mine--then once again, I have to be prepared to speak up: "You teach him to read, and I'll teach him to read the Bible."

We're at the very beginning of the school years, and we've had moments of wishing that we had the funds for our children to attend a Christian school. Thankfully, our public school is filled with Christian teachers. But the school still answers to the district, which is controlled by various state laws.

I want them to stay out of my parenting circle. In return, I'll stay out of their teaching circle. I'm not one to get too fussy about Common Core verses--well . . . whatever the alternative is. My young children are already great readers, and they're not too shabby with basic math either. They're excited about learning, and that's a testament to the talents of their teachers.

I understand that the state wants to protect children--but in their efforts to fill the gaps of shaky family units, my job is to ensure that they don't steal the innocence that my husband and I have vowed to protect. I'll speak up about this when the need arises. And I'll accessorize.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ding and Dong in Spring

Well . . . Spring is in full bloom! I don't know about you, but for me, it seems that from the time we set our clocks forward till juuuust about now, everything gets a wee bit off-kilter. I'm sure there is some scientific explanation and internal clock analysis that has been conducted by someone, somewhere . . . but my disdain for the monotone NOVA exploration into such matters causes me to just say, "Here we go again!"

All that to say that we're sorry we've not blogged these past few weeks--but the world seems to have stayed in place while we were away, so WHEW!

So back to the business at hand. Last week was another first for my family. In June of 2015, I closed my childcare center--the very one my parents started when I was just four years old. In all my time as a child, and then as the owner myself, I had never known a "spring break week" at home with my own mother or my own children. All of my memories were of tending to the dozens of my other children while school was out just like my mother did before me. We already had a lot going on, but when school was out, our after-school yay-whoos were on the scene full-bore! What fun activities could I plan? Maybe a field trip, project, or special guest? Don't forget to bump up the food order and adjust the lunch schedule!

And some years my thought turned to, "They will be here alllllll daaaaaay."

I loved my job for sure, and I rarely gave my own children's situation much thought. It had been my childhood situation too, lest we forget. My children shared me in huge doses, just as I had done with my mother. That was just the way it was (no therapy required by the way--let's not jump off that drama ledge).

Spring Break 2016 was the first spring break I had ever enjoyed with JUST Ding and Dong. And it. Was. Fabulous! Getting to spend time with my children before the famously hot weather invades our mere being . . . going to the zoo with only two children in tow rather than a herd . . . not having to call and "check in" with my staff if I left for an hour . . . and actually getting to sleep in a tad! I'm most certain going back to school yesterday was more heartbreaking for me than it was for them.

Well, you all know my reputation: yes, we still did our chores and kept a reasonable bedtime. Everything wasn't out the window--but we got to just enjoy one another in this season of getting back in gear after the doldrums of winter. It was simply . . . nice.

Nothing especially earth-shattering, but for our family, it was new and exciting. Just the simplicity of being with one another. I am grateful every day that God has put me in this place at just this time in my children's lives, and all is well with our souls. Folks ask me from time to time, "Do you miss it all?" And my reply is always the same . . . .

"I miss the children very much. I miss the close knit relationships with each family. And I miss my staff; boy, did we share some fun times together! However, I don't miss it all together, especially now that I know what I was really missing out on all those years. But would I change any of it? Give up all that God had planned for me, our family, and His mission? Never."

Here's to Spring!