Tag Archives: children

Make Life Hard

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I stumbled across this kernel of wisdom while reading one of my daily devotionals from David Jeremiah.  Sometimes it’s the scripture verse he references or the message he offers that speaks to me. But sometimes, it’s the quote at the bottom of the page that leaves the biggest impact.

This one made me think. About my own kids and what kind of life I offer them. About other kids I know and the life they live. It’s all about perspective.

I started this blog as a way to support other Mommies who find it hard to, well. . . .be a mommy! I’m not a natural. I find it easier to nurture my cats. I love my kids. But my kids aren’t my life. There is so much more to me as a person than “mommy”.

I know there are other moms out there who feel the same way. And you probably struggle with the same sense of guilt that I do. (If not. . . .well, aren’t you special?)  There are plenty of times I know I could’ve been kinder, gentler, softer, more patient, more understanding, etc. I have plenty of regrets. I’ve told them I’m sorry and asked for forgiveness. Thankfully, my kids still wake up every morning loving me.

However, reading this statement eased some of that guilt. I’m hard on my kids. I have big expectations for them. I know what they’re capable of, especially when they fall short. I don’t let them off the hook easily or give in to tears. I’ve told them to “Suck it up!” or “Cowboy up!” or “Deal with it!” so many times I should be paid for it.

Why am I hard on my kids?

Because the real world is hard!

I refuse to raise kids who will go out into the world expecting it to bend to their wishes and whims, to give in when they whine, or give them a pass when they’re too tired. IT WON’T HAPPEN!

I want them prepared to face the truth that it’s going to be hard.
That they will get their feelings hurt.
That they will have to put their time and energy into things they may not want to do.
That they will not get rewarded for effort, but results.
That they will have to budget to pay rent and grocery bills before anything fun.
That no one will be motivating them but themselves.

So, when my eight-year-old tells me she’s too tired to get a shower before bed, I tell her, “Tough. Do it anyway.”
Or when she doesn’t want to brush her teeth, I tell her, “You can pay for your own dentures.”
Or when she “borrows” money from grandma to buy something, I make sure she pays it back.
Those nights when she complains about the “horrible” food that I cook – (I can cook, by the way. I just don’t like to.) – I remind her of the two little girls we sponsor in Africa who would be happy to eat my horrible meal. And then I offer to send her there and bring them here.

On the days when they fight, when they whine constantly, when they’re too bored because they don’t have anything to do, when they complain that there’s nothing good to eat – I’m honest with them. I tell them I don’t like their attitudes and I don’t want to be around them. I’ve told them I need a vacation from them and threatened to leave them home alone with Daddy. (The horror!)

I will not pander to their every whim, I will not reward them for trying, I will not give them a pass when they break a rule or give their word.

I will make life hard for my kids now because it will continue to be hard for them.

My hope in being hard is that:

  • It teaches them right from wrong.
  • It teaches them how to think for themselves.
  • It teaches them responsibility.
  • It teaches them integrity.
  • It teaches them how to persevere.
  • It teaches them to be thankful and content with what they have.

Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t condone any kind of abuse. That’s TOTALLY different. And I also don’t want to raise children who are cold-hearted scrooges.

I want to produce two adult women who know how to take care of themselves and expect nothing from anyone. I want two women who can be relied upon for their upstanding character and hard work. Most of all, I want two women who understand how hard life is – and are willing to find ways to make it easier for others.

That’s why we sponsor two little girls from Africa – to show my kids what a “hard life” truly is. They learn compassion by making that hard life easier. They also learn to be thankful for how rich we are – even if we aren’t “rich”.

That’s why they are aware of and (to a small extent) helped in the creation of a local program, Panther Packs. It sends food home on the weekend with at-risk elementary school children who may not otherwise have a meal. My kids learn that hunger exists in their own community – with their classmates. And they learn that Mommy’s food isn’t so horrible after all.

I make life hard for my kids now so when it truly gets hard, they aren’t too soft to handle it.

 

 

 

How to be the Non-Perfect Mommy

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It’s one thing for me to tell you all that I’m crazy.

It’s another thing entirely to have people witness it in real time.

There’s an unwritten rule where I work that goes something like this – never put your words into writing, then they can’t come back to bite you.  Once you write it down, there is proof that you said it.  Otherwise, it’s simply your word against someone else’s.

While that may be true, watching my craziness in action will take that to a whole different level.  It’s more like a spectator sport – so much more exciting to watch in person than to read about online or in the paper.  You can see the play-by-play as it happens!

I want to offer congratulations to my extended family for getting to witness my craziness first-hand this past weekend.  Or maybe I should give my apologies instead. . . .

My father belongs to a hunting cabin in the remote Pennsylvania mountain town of Renovo.  For as long as I can remember we made a weekend trip every year during the summer with my Dad’s cousin and his kids.  Up until I graduated high school, we were like one big family.  Those kids were like my siblings, their parents like my second set.

Once we “kids” became adults, those trips fell by the wayside and for many years, I barely spoke to any of them.  However, since the birth of our own children, the families have begun seeing more of each other and spending more time together.  We’ve managed to spend a weekend at the cabin together for the past three summers.

While it’s been fun to see them again, it’s a whole new ball game when I’ve got two small children to run after.  This year we traveled with a 5 year old, a 4 year old and a 20 month old.  The four and five year old play well together and are mostly self sufficient.  Despite the constant running and shrieking and occasional arguments over the proper way to play with a tractor  :-p , having them along is a great way to remember the good times I had as a kid.

However, my “baby” is the kink in this idyllic little tale.  She’s smart as a whip and wants to do everything her big sister does.  She’s pretty good at keeping up, for the most part.  It’s the times when you need to tell her no that the stuff hits the fan.

She throws world-class temper-tantrums, can yell loud enough to make you wince, and isn’t afraid to ignore or defy your instructions.  My family got to see all this in 3-D this weekend.  They had a good laugh when she started climbing the stairs to the second floor and I told her I would count to three before I spanked her butt.  I got to two and she promptly turned to look at me, saying, “Three. . . four. . .” and then kept on climbing.  All with a smile.

Aargh!

I have to admit, I laughed too, but she still got her rear end spanked.

It wasn’t this one little incident that sent me over the edge.  It was two days filled with these kinds of incidents and the feeling that I need to constantly be hovering over or following her to make sure she doesn’t hurt herself or do something gross, like lick the toilets! While I love my kids, I also love to sit down every now and then.

The “Monster Mommy” persona took over as we were getting ready to leave Sunday.  I managed to keep my cool (for the most part) all weekend, even through the repacking of our bags and the car.  My family so graciously kept an eye on the children while my husband and I made countless trips out to the car (in the rain!) to pack up our stuff.  It was that moment when we were done and I had the silly thought to sit down for a minute that I heard this:  “Okay, kids, let’s go out.  No playing in the bathroom.”

My ears instantly perked up and I scanned the room, watching my cousin emerge from the bathroom with my five-year-old in tow. My youngest was nowhere to be found and I knew immediately that she was still in the bathroom, most likely licking the toilets.

One would think that after spending the weekend with her, my family would have realized you can’t just tell Ella something and expect her to do it.  No, you have to watch her, repeat yourself, and then drag her away kicking and screaming.

So, I marched over to the bathroom, praying I wouldn’t see what I knew I would.  Sure enough, there she stood, reaching into the toilet bowl.

I lost it.  Who exactly I was mad at, I’m not sure.  Ella, for one, because she’s got to get into EVERYTHING!  My cousin, for walking away and leaving her unattended in the bathroom.  Myself, for being a bad mom and not keeping better track of my kids.

Doesn’t matter.  I yelled at Ella, snatched her up and made a beeline for some soap to wash all the icky potty germs from her hands before she stuck them in her mouth.  Because you know she would!

This was accompanied by some grumblings to anyone who could hear me that it is NOT acceptable to leave Ella unattended, especially in a bathroom!

I got some funny looks, mostly of the kind that said, “Why are you acting like a nut job?”

WHY?

Because my kids drive me nuts!  Because I’ve spent the last five and a half years doing nothing but cleaning up messes and doling out instructions only to be ignored by my children.

I don’t enjoy cleaning.  I don’t enjoy repeating myself endlessly.  I don’t enjoy being ignored.

Ugh!

Of course, by the time I got home, I felt like the bad guy because I had lost my temper.  I feel like they all looked at me like I was a terrible mother and they were thankful we were going home because they didn’t want to put up with me any longer.

I get that feeling a lot, like I’m a failure at being a Mom.

You know what?  Screw that!

The bottom line is, I am who I am.  I bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the table and they are going to be different than everyone else’s.   I reach the end of my limits much sooner than some people do and I expect more of my extremely intelligent children than other’s do.

I used to be that person who judged other Moms – thinking how they just needed to do things this way or that, that they just needed to have more patience or give more hugs.

Then I had kids.

I challenge anyone to spend twenty-four hours with my kids.  Then, if you want to tell me how to be a mother, go right ahead.

My point for all you other Moms out there who struggle with the image of being a “good mommy” – God made you to be exactly who you are and he doesn’t want you to be anyone else.

He knows our weaknesses, because he gave them to us.  It’s when we embrace them and ask Him to use us anyway that we’re set free.

One of my biggest weaknesses is impatience.  Ask anyone who’s ever met me.

Another is my temper.  I have a short fuse and my kids are pros at lighting it.

That’s why when I rock my baby to sleep at night, my prayers usually go something like this – “Lord, please don’t let me screw my kids up.  Help them to understand that I’m trying and that I love them.”

No one is perfect, so don’t think you need to be.  Know you’re weaknesses, but don’t be defeated by them.  Own up to them, but don’t be judged by them.

You’ve got plenty of strengths too.  God can and will use them both.

To my family – I’m sorry you had to witness Monster Mommy.  I’m not sorry for who I am.  Hopefully you’ll love me anyway.

Pursuing Your Passion

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I wish I had known when I was young that I would grow to love writing so much.  More than that, I wish those who’d recognized my talent/passion would’ve encouraged me to pursue it and helped put me on a path that would help it flourish in the future.  Instead I ended up majoring in Nutrition and graduated with both a B.S. and an M.S. in the field.

I do enjoy my job with the WIC Program – I like the aspects of nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy and childhood.  After ten years in this specific field, I’m pretty darn good at my job.

But it’s not my passion.  I don’t go home still thirsting to learn more about nutrition.

Instead I spend my down time working over plots or character sketches or simply writing a story.

This true passionate talent gets relegated to the back burner because I pursued something else.

I’m 100% positive I’m not the only one.

I think it’s silly that those of us who choose to pursue a college education are expected to know what we want to do with the rest of our lives at the tender age of 18.  At that point in life we barely have our heads screwed on straight.  All we’re looking forward to is the chance to have freedom from Mom and Dad.

Granted, there are a few who know their passion and pursue it in four years and leave the rest of us in the dust.  It took me a whole semester just to decide to major in Nutrition.  Now, two degrees and thousands of dollars later, I wish I hadn’t wasted the time or money.

My hope now is that I can look at my girls as they grow, see what they’re both good at and truly passionate about, and encourage them to pursue that.  I want them to enjoy what they do and feel fulfilled by it.

This concept isn’t new and I think more parents need to pay attention to it.

When I got married I quickly discovered that one of my Mother-in-Laws favorite scripture passages is Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  At the time, my brother-in-law was a rather wild and rebellious soul and I think she clung to this verse hoping that it meant he would someday accept the much more conservative principles of her own faith.

In some ways, she’s right.  As Christians we are in charge of spreading the gospel to our kids.  It is then their responsibility to believe or not believe.

But this verse means so much more.  I didn’t dig any deeper until I picked up a Max Lucado book and he spent an entire chapter devoted to this one verse.  His interpretation of the scripture meant something entirely different.  He charged parents instead to help their kids discover their talents, to find what they are good at, passionate about, and built for.  Then we are to take every opportunity we can to let them practice and hone that skill so that they can carry it into old age.

There are many translations of that verse, some helping to see this viewpoint better than others:
“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.”  The Living Bible
“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost.”  The Message
“Bring up a child by teaching him the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn away from it.”  New Life Version
“Teach a child how to follow the right way; even when he is old, he will stay on course.”  The Voice

They all speak of a path or a course or a direction – and most assume that means the straight and narrow walk to Heaven.  However, it can also mean the direction of their life in general.  Help them discover who God created them to be.  We are all parts of one Body, that of Jesus Christ, and we all have different skills and assignments.  It is our job as parents to help our kids discover what God created them to do and be.  Beyond that, we need to put them on a course that allows them to use their talent to glorify God.

I only started taking my writing seriously when I turned 30.  For our anniversary my husband bought me a laptop and said, “I expect you to use that to write.  You’re good at it.  So do it.”

No one had ever said that to me before.  People humored me.  Some even read my books and told me they liked it or thought I was a good writer.  But no one ever pushed me to pursue it or helped me find the means to do so.

I had been writing for 19 years by that point, but only in the past five have I allowed my words free reign for the world to see.

Now when people ask me to define myself it rolls off my tongue without hesitation or embarrassment – “I’m a writer.”

I want my kids to have that kind of confidence from the start.  I want them to embrace and be proud of the person God made them to be.   So between all the temper tantrums and dirty diapers, spilled sippy cups and mountains of toys, I am quietly observing who they are.  What makes them tick?  What do they show a natural talent and interest in?

Those are the things I want them to pursue.

Though I may lament lost time and opportunities, I’m still thankful that I finally found someone who convinced me to take myself seriously.  Better late than never.  Even though I haven’t achieved “traditional success” – meaning I’m not published in print or in electronic form – I still feel like I’ve accomplished something for God.  I haven’t wasted my talent.

I have five complete novels posted on WattPad and all five of them are quickly and quietly racking up readers.  All but one of them focuses on a person’s journey to God – whether through grief, fear, anger or unforgiveness.  Better than the numbers and the followers are the comments I’ve garnered from my readers.

God is using my words to tell His story and people are responding to that.

Two of the best comments I’ve received were these:

“Absolutely loved the story line, the flow and character descriptions. You did a good job manipulating my emotions and reminding me of the various tough times that I just couldn’t pray or believe. Grief is not an easy road for many. You were quite effective in answering many grief related questions that people normally ask. All in all, this was an excellent story! This story is truly one of those hidden gems on Watt Pad. Keep up the awesome work!”

“The two stories I’ve read of yours have been a wealth of knowledge for me.  I’ve learned more about God and it’s given me some peace.  Your stories are excellent tools of learning and I hope you write more.  When Gabby threw the Bible I felt the pain rip through me too.  Thank you for beautiful stories of such deep faith.  I’ll treasure all I’ve learned.”

I have three goals when I sit down to write:
1.  Write real and raw.
2.  Point back to the source of my gift – God.
3.  Get it read.

I’ve accomplished those things with every single one and that makes me proud.

I don’t know it all and I’ve still got plenty of learning of my own to do.  But even in the middle of my mess – this crazy, insane, and totally brain-squashing thing called Motherhood – He’s still using me.

We’ve all got a gift or a talent, a passion that drives us.  Harness it.  Thank God for it and figure out how to use it to spread His message.

Beyond that, help your children learn who they are so they can do those things too.

 

*All scripture references were taken from BibleGateway.com*

*Max Lucado reference is taken from Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot*

Conspiracy Theory

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Seems even a nine hour car ride to the Outer Banks isn’t far enough to escape the insanity.  In fact, I’ve decided that there is a conspiracy to make sure I don’t start to think I’m any kind of normal.

Looking back, I believe it started before I even realized what was happening.  The first tip off should have been when my Mother-in-Law decided to leave one day early to make the trip down here.  I’m lucky enough not to work on Fridays and our trip was scheduled to be Sunday-to-Sunday.  Perfect.  It gave me all day Friday and all day Saturday to pack.

I’m a rather organized and skilled packer.  I can put clothes in a suitcase and those suitcases in the car better than any of you can play Tetris.  (For those of you who don’t know what Tetris is. . . .I feel sorry for you. Google it.)  I haven’t lost those skills.  I did, however, seem to misplace my enthusiasm and ambition for a trip to the beach.

It may have been the prospect of taking a five-year-old and an eighteen-month-old on a nine hour car ride without any liquor or hardcore drugs available.  I’m still waiting for that legal marijuana. . . . . .   (I’m kidding people, lighten up!)

So, you can imagine how unprepared I was when my Mother-in-Law announced that we could get into the beach house a day early because no one had rented it the previous week.  Isn’t that great?!

No, not really.  But I didn’t have a choice.  I was now looking forward to working my patootie off all day with two small children underfoot.   YAY!  The kids didn’t disappoint.  In fact, the youngest one did her best to reinforce the budding conspiracy just minutes before we were due to pick up my oldest from preschool.  This is what I found. . . . .

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Needless to say, the toilet paper stayed like this as I whisked Ella out the door to pick up her sister.  It was hours later before I walked into the bathroom and remembered it was still there.  This is why our bathroom door stays shut. . . . most of the time.

Thankfully, my Mother-in-Law volunteered to come over for the afternoon and supervise the children while I packed.  Between that and nap time I was ready to leave on Saturday morning.

Surprisingly, we departed at eight the next morning, which is a record-setting and award-winning accomplishment at my house.   And of the 10.5 hours we spent in the car, Ella only decided to scream for the last half hour.  By then I was ready to scream, so I tried my best not to lose my cool.

The rest of the evening and the next morning passed by blessedly quiet.  My oldest went grocery shopping with her Dad and Gigi so I decided to take a walk with my youngest.  The morning sun shone bright, giving just the right amount of warmth to the breeze.  The gulls called overhead.  I took deep, gulping breaths of something I don’t find often – sanity!  For the first time in a LONG time I didn’t feel like I was teetering between Monster Mommy and true insanity.  I even paused for a selfie with my daughter (though she was less than impressed).

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Re-enter the conspiracy.

Lest I find myself thinking that I might be on the road to “normal”, this conspiracy made sure to remind me that wasn’t happening.  When the grocery shoppers came home my husband pulled a can-cozy out of a bag and says, “Look what Cassie picked out for me.”

This is what he held:

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*sighs*

Even though this was a gift from my daughter to my husband I have no doubts it was also a secret message to me:  You’re crazy!  And you always will be!

Okay, fine.  I accept it.  I just hope the name they give my disorder is a good one.

From that point on the reminders of just how bonkers I can feel kept coming. . . .my daughter decided over dinner that we should all play Crazy Eights later in the evening.  Her pseudo-grandpa Jim asked her if she knew why the Eight was crazy.  I quickly piped up, “Yeah.  Because she has daughters name Cassie and Ella.”

They laughed.  I was serious.

Despite being on vacation, life has returned to normal (did you catch the massive dose of sarcasm contained in that word?)  We keep the bathroom doors shut because Ella has already unraveled a roll of toilet paper.  She’s picked the “coals” out of the gas fireplace.  She incessantly climbs the furniture, does her best to bang on my laptop, and generally gets in to everything she shouldn’t.  While I sat here typing this she found a thousand piece puzzle and dumped the entire box onto the floor.

Then she pooped her pants.

Those quiet moments of yesterday morning are long gone.  So to anyone who has seriously considered locking their children in a closet just so they can have twenty minutes to finish a complete thought (or a blog post), I can certainly understand the sentiment.

Gotta run. . . .I’ve got to go stop my daughter from ripping pages out of books!

When Words Aren’t Enough

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I recently celebrated my 12th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I took a weekend trip away, leaving our girls with the grandparents.  We had a great time on Saturday – did a bit of shopping at the outlets (scored some new boots!), shared lunch at the Olive Garden, had some laughs at a Bill Engvall show, played some mini-golf (he beat me by one stroke – ONE STROKE – I never win!), and even revisited the covered bridge where he proposed all those years ago.

By the time we settled into the hotel room for the night he looked at me and asked, “Do you miss the kids?”

I paused.  Do I say yes?  Or do I tell the truth?

I told the truth: No.

Go ahead – gasp in horror . Be appalled.   Do whatever you need to do.

But I didn’t.  I love my children and I would do anything for them, including give my own life.  But for the first time in a long time we had 48 hours all to ourselves with no demands other than what to watch on TV and which snack to pick at the vending machine.  I SAVORED it!

I am not one of those mom’s who can stand the clamor of whining and crying and demands without a second to finish one complete thought.  It drives me bonkers.  And I’m not afraid to tell my kids that.  So, no, I didn’t miss them.  I enjoyed the quiet time to let my mind regroup.

I once had a text conversation with a friend (who has challenged me to run a 5K with him in the Fall) that went something like this:

Friend:  Have you been exercising?

Me:  No.  I hope you appreciate my honesty because you aren’t going to get much else.

Friend:  I always appreciate honesty.

Me:  I’ve been hoping to fit it in on lunch breaks but the weather hasn’t cooperated.  And I can’t do it at home with the kids here.  And they’re always here.

Friend:  You make it sound like Children of the Corn.

Me:  Some days it feels that way.

Friend:  LOL.  You kill me!

Once again, you can all pass judgment.  It’s ok.  Please know that I was only joking and I’d like to think that it’s my sarcasm and sense of humor that keeps me this side of sane.    I already know I’ll never win the award for Mother-of-the-Year.  I don’t have any place to put it anyway.

I think back to the days before I had any children, when I fantasized about what it would be like to have one and be able to love it and teach it and help it grow.  The reality is far from the fantasy.  My children rarely want to hear what I have to say, don’t believe me when I tell them they should sit on the furniture or not take steak knives from the dishwasher, and generally greet each day on their own terms.  Forget that Mom has at least 30 years on them and might know a thing or two.

I have to constantly remind myself of this verse: “See, children are a gift from the Lord. The children born to us are our special reward.”
(Psalm 127:3)

I have plenty of days when my children don’t feel like a gift or a blessing and I think God must be having a good laugh watching me fail miserably at being a parent.  There are plenty of days that end with me rocking my youngest to sleep while I pray “Please, Lord, don’t let me screw up my kids”.

All that being said, I came home yesterday from my anniversary trip, logged onto Facebook, and was slammed with the news that the 18-year-old daughter of an old friend had died.  I felt sick.  I felt broken.  I wanted to say something, anything, that would bring her back or take away the pain.

For this, there are no words.

The only thing that could possibly make good from such a tragedy is that I take a long, hard look at my own kids – even in the midst of their temper tantrums, defiant attitudes, and determination to ignore their mother’s guidance – and thank God that they’re still here.  I take a breath and remember that they are a gift, that they don’t belong to us.  We are here to be their parents, their stewards.  They can be called home to their true Father at any moment in time, so don’t waste any moment, any day.

All we have is now.

So to my beautiful, precious Cassie and Ella:  No matter how many temper tantrums Mommy may throw, please know that there is nothing you could ever do that will keep me from loving you.  At the end of the day I still thank God for the gift of you.

 

*In memory of Hannah Parkhurt*

If you’ve read this and are a praying person, say one for Hannah’s family before you close your eyes tonight.