May 31, 2014

May 2014 in Pictures

To read the full May Update, click here.
 Strawberry Pickin at Circle S Farms.
Our little redneck garden. 
 Fresh strawberries from our patch! 
 The cousins on the tube. 
 She got a library card. All ready for summer reading!
 My two babies!
#nYn lip balm (150) headed to Uganda
Last Day of School! Whoo Hoo!!!
 Summer Picnic in the front yard. 
tLG and Carl on the flight to PCB. 
Havin a blast at the beach!

May 2014 Family Update

Lot’s of happenings in May as usual.

One of the biggest milestones to report is that Skylar can now ride her bike! Mike and I tried and tried to help her but she just couldn't quite get it. Then, our neighborhood buddy Ledarron decided to give it a try. She was riding within 15 minutes. Go figure! And now she is doing this....
I also had a milestone this month and was baptized. You can read more about that here

May also meant that that strawberries were ripe. We went and picked again at Circle S Farms and then made lots of sugar-free strawberry jam. Yum!
Our own little redneck garden is also doing well. We've got lettuce, basil, rosemary, lavender, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. We even pulled out all of our shrubs and planted berry bushes: blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry. I love that we can just go out back and a pick a handful of whatever. 
We spent Mother's Day out on the boat with the whole family. It was a great day and my little family loved on me in their own special way. Hubby took good care of me and tLG sent me on a scavenger hunt and made me a special waterfall house on Minecraft. If you don't know Skylar, Minecraft is her love language. 

Mike is finally working again. After having him home for so long I wasn’t quite sure how the transition would go but we have all adjusted and he is enjoying his job at Towne Park. I’m thankful that the Lord provided this opportunity for him and it seems to be going great so far!

We finished our school year last Friday and did all of our usual end-of-the-year activities including dressing up the car. It really has been a wonderful semester at home and I’m looking forward to an entire year together for 2nd grade. Homeschool is definitely easier than what we were doing before, contrary to every fear that racked my brains for months leading up to the decision. Until then, we will be working on Summer Camp and summer reading
This past Friday, tLG and I hopped on a plane headed for Panama City Beach to hang with Mom and Rex for a few days. Skylar always looks forward to this trip. She’s had a blast so far swimming in the pool and collecting shells. Me? I just love kicking off summer right, with the beach!

Many more exciting things happening in June as we continue our summer fun including my trip to Africa! Stay tuned…

May 29, 2014

Baptism as an Adult

This past weekend I finally put to rest something that has been nagging me for years. I was baptized. Yes, as an adult.
You see, I became a believer at an early age. Yet, I was never baptized. Not that I remember anyway.

I grew up in a Methodist church (they sprinkle) during my elementary years and then went to a Southern Baptist church during my high school years. I don't remember a strong emphasis on baptism at either. It's possible that I either wasn't listening or I was ignoring the next step. Who knows? My memories from childhood are somewhat fuzzy at times.

We have been attending our current church for about 9 years and baptism is a common event. It wasn't until a few years ago that I actually started to question whether or not I had been baptized. I kind of just assumed that I had and the memory had been lost with all of my other childhood memories. If I've been saved for this long then surely I was baptized somewhere a long the way. Right?

But it seemed that every devotional or Bible study that mentioned baptism caused a little tightening of my chest and flutter in my stomach. I finally started paying attention and realized that the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me something.

2014 has been a year of me saying "yes" to God. I've learned through the example of others (like this family) that saying "yes" the first time can be rewarding and amazing. I don't have to worry about the details of what the Lord is asking me to do. I simply have to say "yes" and follow through. And believe you me, He has asked me to step outside my comfort zone quite a bit this year.

Anyway, when the Lord put baptism on my heart again a few months ago, I said "yes" and made a commitment to find out for sure if I had been submersed or not. Ultimately, I decided that even if I had been previously dunked, I was going to do it again anyway. Baptism is special and a milestone to be remembered and celebrated. I wanted to have a memory to hang on to.

I wasn't quite sure how other people would respond to me being baptized at such an age. I even worried that people would think I had just recently become a Believer and that would somehow nullify every decision I've made previously to let the Lord lead my life. Bottom line, it was prideful and I had to let go of those silly details. My decision to "get wet for Jesus" was God directed and my only task was to go through with it.

I thought I would be nervous come baptism day but I wasn't. At all. I was really excited! Okay, I was slightly worried that I would be the person who inhaled the water and became a flailing, choking mess. You know, because Murphy loves me. ;)

I'm pleased to report that the whole process was quite relaxed and pleasant. I enjoyed chatting with folks from the baptistry committee back stage. They were so encouraging! I also love that TDF let's you get baptized in your street clothes if you want. Wearing robe would have felt a little too ritualistic for me. I was able to walk into the water wearing my jeans & t-shirt, all with a flower in my hair, of course. Click for video.
Speaking of the water, it was gloriously warm. Like bath water. I'm not quite sure how to describe the feeling of being baptized. Is magical too much? I was laid back slowly, just enough to cover my face and then gently raised back out of the water. In the video you can see that I have a huge grin on my face, upon resurfacing, because it just felt so cool.

  1. It's symbolic. It represents being buried with Christ (death to sin) and born again to a new life in Christ.
  2. Jesus commands it. Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." -  John 3:5 
  3. It's submissive. Baptism has been called the first step of obedience. If you are going to, as we say around here, "let God pilot your life" then that means following His desires, not our own. 

Because God told me to. But, you know what, I should have said "yes" a long time ago. The whole experience was so exciting and peace-filled just knowing that I was being obedient. Following His plan for my life really is freeing and liberating for the control freak that I am. I think I am just now starting to understand the meaning of "his yoke is easy." If it's His plan then he already knows the details, which means I don't have to worry about them. My only task is to say "yes" and follow through.


Feel free to reach out to me in the comments, on Facebook or through email. If I don't know the answer I can point you in the right direction. Lifetrack is also a great place to start. 

May 27, 2014

Sugar Free Strawberry Jam

Ask and ye shall receive. For everyone wanting my sugar free strawberry jam recipe, here you go.

Last week, we picked 2 gallons of strawberries from Circle S Farms. The pick-your-own route is the way to go. Only $10 per gallon! We ate quite a few before getting around to jam making but that's just how it goes.
Last year I also planned ahead and made sure to purchase plenty of raw honey (8 POUNDS, in fact). I knew I would need enough to last us through the winter and still have some left over for spring since our bee lady doesn't harvest till late June to July-ish.

Also, for me, the whole point of making homemade items is to know exactly what is going into the food. Most recipes call for sure-jell (powdered pectin). No thanks. I use natural pectin (apples) so here's the recipe I came up with. Note: This will not be as thick as traditional jams. 
  • 12 cups (or 3 lbs) of strawberries, headed and hulled
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, cored and grated (include peel)
  • 2 cups raw honey
Add strawberries, lemon juice and apple to a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until desired thickness has been reached. Stir in honey. Pour into jars, seal and store. This will make six 8-ounce jars.

Now, for my tips and tricks.
  • Cooking: I skim off the foam as I go. 
  • Sweetening: I add the honey at the last minute to maintain the good, raw properties. I don't want them to cook out. 
  • Consistency: We like smooth jam so I run everything through the blender before canning. Remember, this is thinner than traditional jam anyway. Mine turns out more like a thin fruit spread. If you want a thicker jam, you may choose to skip the blender. 
  • Canning: I put my jars in the dishwasher and run them on the rinse-only and heat dry setting to warm them up. At the same time, I put the lids in a separate pot and let them boil for 5-10 minutes. I grab two jars out at a time and fill them and put the lids on. Between the hot liquid mixture and the hot jars/lids, I have found that my jars seal just fine with no water bath required. I love the sound of that pop, pop, pop! ;) Note: If you are going to can like this you really need to be meticulous about cleanliness since you are skipping the water bath, which also kills bacteria. 

May 26, 2014

Last Day of School Traditions

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We made it. We survived homeschool and 1st grade!!! Whew.

The funny thing is, I don't feel like we "survived" at all.  It wasn't really a struggle. In fact, I think it went quite well! Homeschool has definitely turned out to be easier than what we were doing before.

I made the executive decision for May 23rd to be our last day mainly because I'm from the school of thought (no pun intended) that school should NEVER go past Memorial Day. Even when I was going round and round with the school board about the "balanced calendar" I was adamant that I would not send my child back to school after Memorial Day. All of you folks with a Memorial Day hangover are nodding in agreement right now, aren't you? So, this will be our cut off each year.

Now, that's not to say that learning will stop but we won't be doing formal school work at home. We are very much looking forward to Summer Reading and Summer Camp, both of which are fantastic learning opportunities.

tLG has been at a public Montessori school since she was 3 (pre-school) and every year there are certain traditions that we follow at the end of the school year. This year was no exception.

For starters, we "dress up" the car. It's an idea that I started way-back-when and have continued it every since. It usually involves us pulling out of the school yard like blithering idiots crazy, summer lovers with horn honking, hooping, hollering and celebrating! We skipped that part this year but we didn't skip the ice cream. Because, around here, we will use any excuse to celebrate with ice cream.

We also have a school's out theme song. Although, between me and you, I always think of this song. Don't judge!

Finally, I usually ask tLG a series of questions and document them every year for prosperity sake.

Teachers: Ms. Payne & Mommy
Friends: Carl & LaDarron
Favorite Work: Reading
Favorite Books: Fluffy & Baron, Because of Winn Dixie
Favorite Food: Burger King
Favorite Snack: Grapes
Favorite Game: Minecraft
Favorite Movie/Show: Mighty Med
Favorite Memory: Read 14 books in one day
Favorite Color: Black & Red
Favorite Song: Cruise
Future Career: Video Game Player (like Stampy)

I also document physical traits like height, weight, age, and clothing size. Then I usually write down some of my thoughts about the year. I'm still working on that part!

Overall, 1st grade has been good and we are looking forward to next year and having a complete homeschool year. For now, I'm off to finalize our Summer Bucket List!

May 22, 2014

25 Things I Won't Miss About Public School

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Before we started homeschooling, my theory was "it's got to be easier than what we are doing now." I didn't quite know if that was really possible or if it was just some crazy ideal. Turns out, it was true.

I thought I would make a list of all the things that I won't miss to encourage me on the days that I second guess my decision. These are in no particular order.
  1. Packing lunches. Pretty much the same thing every day. 
  2. Washing uniforms. Weekly chore that wore me out. 
  3. Driving to and from school. I'm using half the gas I was using. Money saver too. 
  4. Sitting in the pick up line. I eventually learned to swing in at the last minute but there were a lot of minutes lost just sitting. 
  5. Homework!!!! I will always be a #homeworkhater.
  6. PTO drama. Bishop Family Motto: "We don't do drama." 
  7. Rearranging my schedule for snow days. Worse than being on call and half the time it wasn't even for snow. 
  8. Planning vacations around school breaks. I hate traveling with the rest of the world. 
  9. Balanced calendar. This mama loves summer! The school board, not so much. 
  10. Sending letters to the school board. See #9. Also, it made no difference. 
  11. Class snacks. tLG has food sensitivities and couldn't eat most of the items sent by other parents. But they were given to her anyway and and then she'd be a hot mess. In the end, I was sending snacks for the class once a month and snacks for her every week. Spency!
  12. Bullying. My child was on the giving and receiving end of this. I hate it all around. 
  13. 1st day of school paperwork. Glass of wine required. 
  14. Behavior-related emails. Always made me feel like a terrible mother and helpless to control the situation. 
  15. Checking a daily folder. Just annoying. 
  16. Getting my child up and ready. Hardest sell of the day. 
  17. Exhausted child. 7 am is not quite her natural wakeup time and 8 pm is not quite her natural bedtime. Therefore, we had sleeping woes. 
  18. Grumpy attitude. Probably directly related to #17. 
  19. Fundraising. I wish schools had more funding. 
  20. Common Core Standards. Not a fan of turning my child into a sheeple.  
  21. Standardized testing. Too much pressure. 
  22. Mad rush if we oversleep. Sometimes we all just need a break. 
  23. Valentine's cards. Darn you Pinterest and crafty moms everywhere. 
  24. Spring Fever. Usually resulted in lots of #14 and tears. I'm pretty sure I've spend the entire month of May crying for the last 3 years. 
  25. Disconnected. I felt like the time away caused our bond to suffer. I also didn't feel in tune with what she was learning. 
Here are a few things I will miss. Again, in no particular order. 
  1. Stanford moms. Some of the smartest and sweetest women I've ever met. 
  2. Ms. Dillehay. New principal who took a legitimate interest in my child from Day 1. 
  3. Free, dependable childcare. No explanation required. 
  4. Montessori methods. I'm a big fan but the tools are expensive. 
  5. Seeing my child run to my car to greet me each afternoon. Made my day. 
  6. Encore. Allowed my child to think outside the box. 
  7. Special programs and activities. Field day, Holiday Lunch, Field Trips, Festival of Nations, Fall Festival, Author's Day, Fly Over. 
  8. Walk Around the Sun. Unique Montessori birthday celebration. 
  9. Lunchbox Letters. As much as I hated making lunch. I loved putting these special notes inside. 
  10. Dressing up the car. I always did this on the last day of school and we pretty much made a scene upon leaving. Hooping, hollering, horn honking. Yay for Summer!
Overall, homeschooling has been a blessing for us. Clearly, my pros outweigh the cons. In some ways I wish we would have done it sooner. In other ways, I'm not sure that it would have worked. I feel like the Lord laid this on my heart at the exact time that we were all ready for it. I also know that this is not a choice for every family but there were certain things about public school that just plain got on my nerves and I'm thankful that we have eliminated those stresses from our life. For us, homeschool is, in fact, easier than what we were doing in public school. 

May 19, 2014

Spring Fever

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It's May. This month has held a certain trend in my life since 2011 but I didn't even notice it until last year. Basically, I spend the entire month of May crying my eyes out and feeling like the worst parent in the word.

Here are just a few of my May journal entries from the past few years.

"O.M.G. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. In fact, most days, it downright sucks. Today is obviously one of those days." - May 16

"I'm so disappointed in her behavior. The problem is that I'm starting to become angry and bitter with her because of the stress it causes me." - May 7

"I cried all day yesterday. I feel defeated as a mother. I have certainly tried to do all the right things as a parent and to do all the things that I believe work. Yet, somehow, my kid is really struggling." - May 22

It seems that every May my child turns into Satan's Sister. Like clockwork. She has behavior problems galore. At school. Never at home. Never at church. Never on playdates. JUST AT SCHOOL. It's the craziest thing ever. Except that it's not. It's crazy predictable, that's what it is. Only, it took me 3 years to figure it out.

During the months of May I pretty much spend every waking hour and even the non-waking ones trying to cover my kid in prayer. And crying. I do a lot of crying. I've even had my entire village (you know who you are) pray her through the last few days of school. Multiple times.

I feared sending her to school every day. She was unpredictable. I never knew what she would do. I felt helpless to control the situation. Sure, I got notes home and emails and phone calls from school but there was absolutely nothing I could do to control the situation. I offered rewards. I offered consequences. I flat out said, "you are driving me to drink" or something along those lines. Didn't matter. Nothing made a difference.

Every day I sat helpless at home waiting for the next phone call, email, or note that would crush my confidence as a parent. As a person, really. And people wonder why we only have one kid. Ha! I have been invited to multiple parent-teacher conferences and even the principal's office. Several times. There, I found no solutions. Just expectations.

At one point, I took matters into my own hands and had her see 2 different counselors. The first one said there was nothing wrong with my child. She was perfectly normal. I needed answers so I asked for a second opinion. She referred us to a colleague who specializes in children and we saw him for almost a year. His assessment was the same. He ruled out ADHD, Autism, and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). His diagnosis: She is an extremely bright child. Hmmm. That I already knew. It also confirmed her "gifted" IEP from Metro but it didn't explain her behavior. Or did it?

It seems that my kid gets nothing more than a bad case of "spring fever" every year.  Like, really bad. I have no idea where she gets it from. (Kidding, I'm the biggest summer lover ever. She gets it honest!) She could see the writing on the wall along with everyone else. In the public school setting, once testing is done, there isn't really a point to all this "school" business. The mentality is do to whatever it takes to get through the end of the year. Only, they didn't do whatever it takes. Their response just made me feel like an incompetent parent.

I finally said to the principal, "You know what? I am not Skylar. I cannot make decisions for her. She is her own person and makes the choice to do right or wrong. Yes, I am disappointed when this happens but I will no longer take on the guilt for her actions. I am not here to supervise her during the day. I cannot physically guide or redirect her when I am not here. You will have to figure out how to do that because she is under your authority during the day." This particular principal had been working with children for a long time, so she understood exactly where I was coming from. I really liked her quite a bit. The "system," on the other hand, not so much.

Thinking back, that conversation may have been the original homeschool seed being planted. I looked around and all I saw was cattle herding. There was no individual plan to help my child or any other child for that matter. Come May, everyone was in survival mode: the kids, the teachers, the staff, the parents. It also helped me to realize that the public school form of 'socialization' was hogwash. Okay, let's put 20 immature beings together in a room and expect them to have the maturity, self control, and social graces of adults. Not gonna happen.

We've reached May 2014 and our world looks completely different. I have not cried a single day. Well, not about parenting anyway. My child is happy. I'm happy. In fact, our last month of school has been rather delightful. Yes, I'm looking forward to summer, as always, but I'm not leaping for joy because we drudged through and managed to survive the last few days.

Oh the difference a decision and a year make. I'm so thankful that we took the leap to homeschool. It has changed our quality of life in more ways than one.

May 15, 2014

Summer Reading #nplsummer

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School is almost out, which signals the return of Summer Reading programs. If you are in Nashville, the NPL Summer Challenge has already started and runs through August 15.  This year they have SO many ways to earn points for both kids and grownups! You even get points just for registering (online only). Once you reach 25 points you get to select your ticket (for children) or coupon (for adults) to a local attraction. Make it to 50 points and get a book bag plus an extra entry into the Grand Prize drawing.
Last Monday, we stopped by our local branch and tLG got her very own library card. It was quite the milestone. She checked out 14 books and a Playaway that included 4 books. By Tuesday, she had completed all 18 books and was asking what time the library opened the following day. I literally could not stop her from reading. I suppose there are worse problems to have, right?! She was checking off points on her activity log left and right. She has her heart set on a ticket to Wave Country! Girl after my own heart.

Did you know? (source)
  1. Reading teaches vocabulary more than talking, listening or direct teaching. 
  2. Reading substantially boosts general knowledge while decreasing the likelihood that misinformation will be absorbed. 
  3. Reading helps keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age. 
Sometimes, as a homeschool mom, I worry that my eclectic approach is causing my child to fall behind her peers. And then I remember that the whole reason we are homeschooling is not to keep up with the Joneses. I've let go of the reading-level mentality and have turned my focus towards striving to develop a love for reading in our home.

Flashback. tLG started reading at age 4 using this program and has continued to excel, rather easily in my opinion. When I withdrew her from public school she was a first grader reading on a third grade level. Therefore, I was checking out short chapter books because I knew they were on her level of difficulty. I was also checking out non-fiction books based on whatever we were studying or she happened to have mentioned she was interested in that week. It was my way of strewing. Over time reading suddenly became a chore. I was getting the "how much do I have to read today?" comments. She was reading the bare minimum and then she was done. Like, D-O-N-E, and moving on.

I think daily reading is important but I also think it should be fun and enjoyable. After all, I'm trying to grow a life-long reader here. So, I gave her a pass on reading for a while and I started reading to her again. I picked up a copy of Because of Winn Dixie (she loves dogs) and I would read a chapter to her at bedtime. If the story was really getting good and she asked for another chapter, I happily obliged. On some level this was a stall tactic but I didn't care. She was listening and that's what mattered. We've now moved on to Charlotte's Web and I can't decide who likes our new bedtime routine better, her or me. Plus, she snuggles up to me so I'm not planning to put a stop to this anytime soon. ;)

Then, I went back to getting her picture books from the library. I started with books with minimal words, like the books we read to her as a toddler; quick, fast, and catchy! She breezed through them, of course. The next week I got picture books again, some super easy and some with a couple of lines of text on each page. The third week I mixed in some more challenging books with the picture books and, by this point, she was hooked again. She read 13 books in one day and was begging for more. Score for Mommy! That's when I decided to get her a library card as an additional incentive to keep reading. And that brings us up to date with where we are now, kicking off the the #nplsummer reading program.
Today we were back at the library checking out another 30 books on her brand new card. I'm hoping those can at least hold us over until the weekend. Doubt it considering she read 2 on the way home. God bless the library and free books!

Do you have other ideas for encouraging kids to be life long readers? Share them with me in the comments. 

Work At Home: Medical Transcription

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I often get asked about legit work at home opportunities. I did medical transcription for 5 years before moving to my current job. It provided the income and flexibility that I needed to stay home with our daughter through infancy and preschool. Here is an article about medical transcription that I wrote back in 2011.

In order to work as a medical transcriptionist you need to be trained in medical terminology and formatting. I took an accredited course through Career Step where students can finish the program in an average of 4-12 months depending on how much time you have to devote to studying. It's self-paced so you can train on your time frame. This is good practice for working at home. You need to be motivated, dedicated and meet goals in order to have a successful career at home. Once your training is complete, Career Step will even help you find a job!

The cost of the training program is small compared to how much you will make in your first year. Plus, they have a wide variety of payment options if you can't afford it all upfront. Right now they are even offering a FREE laptop when you enroll to help you get started right away.

Exciting news! Career Step is now approved for MYCAA Funding, which means that military spouses can qualify for up to $4000 towards training. They can get started with zero out-of-pocket expenses for a job that they can do from anywhere, no matter where their spouse is stationed.

Since I studied with them back in 2007, Career Step has grown and added even more courses of study including healthcare, administrative, and technology careers.

I love their motto of Get In. Get Out. Get Working. Not all of us have the time or financial resources for a full 4-year college degree. Besides, I went to college, got a Bachelor's and am not even using it in my current career as an Event Planner. More thoughts on college here.

In the meantime, click to view this video on how Career Step can help you have a job that you love, while training at home.

May 8, 2014

A Response To "How not to be disappointed this Mother's Day"

I've seen this post show up in my Facebook feed no less than 10 times in the last 24 hours. Moms have loved it, liked it, related to it, embraced it and cried over it. Even I thought there were some neat ideas on her UPside Down Mother's Day Gift List.

But the whole premise of the article just didn't sit well with me. As a mom, I don't need another list of things to do. Moms don't need more tasks to complete for others. We need some attention and self care. That's what this day should be about, if you ask me!

Lord knows I'm guilty of having unrealistic expectations and I've made great strides in trying to have a more laid-back and uncluttered approach to these matters. My husband is not the best gift giver or mind reader when it comes to holidays and Mother's Day is no different. It took me a few years to learn and accept that fact. Now, I just apply a lot of grace and receive whatever is provided for me with a grateful and joyful heart.

However, the LJB post makes it sound like we should just forget the whole thing. That we should expect nothing on Mother's Day. Dads and kids are off the hook. Instead, it seems, the only way to find joy is doing what mother's do best - forget ourselves and do things for everybody else. Granted, this is my interpretation, which could easily be the opposite of what she was trying to share. But, I just call 'em like I read 'em.

Being a parent is tough. It's been said that being a mom is the world's toughest job. I personally think moms have it worse than dads mainly because of that darn "mommy guilt" phenomenon. It's like a natural instinct that you don't want but you gain anyway as soon as you sign up for this gig. It strikes you when you least expect it over, well, pretty much everything.

Being a mom has caused me to question, pretty much, everything in and about my life. Having a child ROCKED. MY. WORLD. and not in a good way. Or at least it didn't seem so at the time. Seven years later and I can honestly say that it has made me into a better person. I'm less selfish and more patient. I'm proactive yet flexible. My type A has even moved into A- status. I'm a multi-tasking fool. I require less sleep. I even became a homeschool mom, which I had swore off in my 20s like I swore off having babies in my teenage years. Children push us to be better even when we don't want to be. I'm convinced that the Lord has used my child more effectively than any other sharpening tool. I'm closer to Him because of her. That may or may not have anything to do with the fact that I've prayed more over this child than anything else in my entire lifetime.

And it's exhausting. I've always said that parenting is only10% fun. The rest of it is split up between the day-to-day instructing, worrying, and logistics. Heaven help, the logistics! Don't you think all moms should receive an honorary logistics degree? For real.

So when the calendar rolls around to the 2nd Sunday in May, I would appreciate a little appreciation for my efforts in successfully rearing this child and holding this household together. I mean, if I can get 200 Facebook messages just for being born (which I basically had no control over) then, yeah, I think it is only appropriate to be recognized for what we DO on an everyday basis. Maybe instead of lowering our expectations, we should let our people know that we expect them to step up their game on Mother's Day. If they want clean underwear and matching socks, that is. ;)

I'm not expecting a complete day off where all of my responsibilities are done for me. I'm not expecting an elaborate gift or flowers or breakfast in bed. I'm not even expecting handmade cards from my little person.

However, I am expecting my people to at least think about what mom does and how much I mean to them. I am expecting them to express some sort of thanks in their own heart-felt way. Let's face it, their way is probably something I would least expect. Ha! But you know what? That's what makes me love this mommy gig so much. I have unique peeps and I accept and appreciate their individuality and creativity, or lack thereof sometimes.

So, let me be clear. My people are NOT off the hook this Mother's Day. If I can learn to speak their "love language" the least they can do is attempt to speak mine for one day a year. I am expecting some effort be put forth to recognize my contributions to motherhood and I am open to their interpretation of this. That's where the grace and gratefulness comes in. ;)

We all know that moms get no sick days, no vacation days, and rarely a moment to ourselves because that darn mommy guilt racks our brain about as much as men think about sex. So, this Mother's Day I'm also aiming to do a little self care. This can look different for everyone. For you, it may be a pedicure. Maybe it's a nap. For me, the summer-loving introvert, it's alone time outdoors. It may even involve a book and a milkshake. Okay, okay. It most definitely will involve a milkshake. Since this is self care, I'm not expecting my people to do this for me. I don't expect them to buy me a new book or make me a milkshake. I can do those things for myself but I am expecting them to give me a teensy bit of space and a lot of love.

Moms, wanting to be appreciated and taking care of yourself is not entitlement. It's a plain and simple need in life. Plus, it helps us be better moms!

This Mother's Day, if you are going to check off a list, make sure that it's a list for you. After all, they named an annual holiday after us and that's got to count for something!

P.S. Anybody else find it strange that Mother's Day is before Father's Day? I kinda wish they were reversed so we could give them a good example to follow each year. ;)

P.S.S. To anyone who is reading this. For the love of Pete, this Sunday, please make a point to at least call the woman you raised you or find some way to let her know that her years of mothering were not in vain. Because, some days, we think "why?" a lot. Help her remember.

May 6, 2014

Santa Isn't Real

We've let our child believe in the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Santa from the beginning. It's not something I'm proud of. In retrospect, I wish I could take it back. I wish we would have never started those traditions. They were cute and sweet and exciting when she was ages 1 and 2 and that pretty much signaled the end of the fun.

I finally realized the error of my ways when tLG was four. She was super obsessed with how many gifts she was going to get and she was super attached to Red Robin, our elf on the shelf. I actually thought my mistake would be short lived because she was pretty inquisitive at that age and had lots of doubts about Ole St. Nick. Not wanting her to have a terrible memory of mom breaking the bad news to her, I simply always replied "well, what do you think?" I felt confident she would figure it out on her own and ask me the point blank question, "Is Santa real?" That would be the best possible ending to this whole facade. Only, it didn't happen that way. At all. She would doubt and then talk herself right back into the whole thing. 

At age 5, I was hopeful again. She was still wishy washy on the whole Santa thing but went right on believing. When age 6 rolled around, I was over it. I blame Jen Hatmaker! (kidding. kind of.) I actually tried to plan play dates with other children who didn't 'believe' in hopes that they would break the news. We slimmed down on the gifts and stopped talking about Santa in general. We didn't go visit him at the mall. I dropped hints. Yet, she was unshakable in her belief. 

I know what you are thinking. Well, you are thinking either 1 of 2 things. 
  1. Why would you want to ruin this fun and magical memory for your child?
  2. You big coward, just come out and tell your kid the truth. Quit trying to figure out a way for someone else to correct your mistake. 
I used to be in pack #1. I do want these holidays to be special and magical and memorable. Now, I'm totally with all of you folks in group #2. 

So, Easter rolls around. Again, I'm still trying to ride the fence so we got the basket and, in a last-ditch effort to try to bring the message back around to the true holiday meaning, our Easter Bunny does this. Yeah, our Easter Bunny is so awesome she can build with Legos. I should confess that the heart was SO hard that I almost abandoned the whole idea. Have you ever tried to build a heart shape out of legos? It was tricky, at best. 
When tLG saw that message she thought it was the coolest thing ever. And she treasured that little heart like nobody's business. In fact, when the heart accidentally got broken by one of our guests, she erupted into a meltdown of massive proportions. I offered to help her fix it and when had I corrected the heart and handed it back to her, all I got in return was "THAT'S NOT HOW THE EASTER BUNNY DID IT!" 

Oh no she didn't. 

Um, hello, I AM the Easter Bunny, you little punk!

At that moment, I realized that all this make believe and magic had wore out it's welcome. My filter briefly registered the words and considered the consequences before they came tumbling out of my mouth, but not long enough to stop me from saying, "The Easter Bunny isn't even real. You are having a fit about something that isn't even real. That's enough!"

I had just done the thing that I had been avoiding for 2.5 years. I didn't want my child to have a traumatic experience learning that holiday characters weren't real. Yet, I did it in the heat of the moment in a matter-of-fact and completely unloving way. Part of me was like, "whoopsie" while the other part was like, "dang, I should have done this a long time ago." 

There were more tears, as you can imagine. We snuggled up on my bed and she had a good cry about it. I apologized for not telling her sooner. I asked for her forgiveness. I tried to help her understand that Mommy wanted Easter to be a holiday that she looked forward to and having a gift might help her to remember that Jesus gave us the best gift of all. All seemed fine until I let her know that she can't tell other kids that Mommy is the Easter Bunny because telling children the truth is a parent's responsibility. 

I wish you could have seen the look of shock on her face.... "BUT THAT'S tricking THEM!" 

My little activist was ready to share the truth with everyone she knew yet she was told to keep it a secret and that parents can go right on 'tricking' their kids. That's not how I see it but she totally does and, you know what, she's probably right. Talk about a metaphor for life and a knife to this mama's heart. 

After the news had time to sink in for a few hours she came back and asked the question I had been waiting for, "but what about Santa?" By this time, I had also had a chance to get my wits about me and pray for direction on the best way to handle this with her. Clearly she had been convinced hook, line, and sinker that they were real and I had just crumbled her belief system. 

I spelled out the historical truth about St. Nicholas and how his tradition of giving gifts to children has been carried on and, over time, became something that parents wanted to do for their children. I explained that we have these characters to help make Biblical holidays special for little ones. In the end, I shared that believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny is just practice for having faith until children are ready to understand and accept the real gift of Jesus' love and the sacrifice he made by coming to this earth and overcoming sin and death on our behalf. That seemed to resonate with her a bit. I have a feeling that once she does decide to accept Jesus, her faith will be great! In the meantime, I just keep asking the Lord to draw her near.

If I were to go back in time and make this decision again on the whole Santa or no Santa thing, I would advise myself against it. I've seen now how it plays out on the other side and it's not pretty. There are tons of ways to make Christmas and Easter special without "tricking" my child. Her words, not mine. As a new parent, it's really hard to know what to do. In my case, I went along with what had been done in my childhood because it was what I knew, but I regret not putting more thought into this decision and listening to my friends along the way who had. Dishonesty is one of my biggest pet peeves in life and this decision made me into a giant hypocrite. What a mess! I can only pray that God will fill the empty spaces in both her heart and mine with His mercy and grace.

And, thank goodness for Grace & Mercy!