Monday, December 2, 2013

Mom Would Say #13: Christmas is about Jesus

Most of us feel caught up in the holiday rush. With kids underfoot, the daily routines are tiring enough.

But then we're expected to have a clean house for guests, host family or friends, and find and wrap presents. Trim the tree. Decorate the house. Bake cookies. Visit. Go to Christmas parties... on and on it goes. It's exhausting just to think about December.

Here are some ideas to help you set priorities and enjoy the month:
  1. Remember that it's about Jesus. Write down some things you know about Him. Loving. Kind. Gentle. Giving. Caring. Constantly adjust your attitude to match His as you move into the season.
  2. Focus on people not things. What will make the people around you feel comfortable and loved?
  3. Clean where people gather: the kitchen, living room, the entry closet, and your bathroom/s. (Lock bedroom doors if you don't have time to tidy them.) If your main areas are tidy and clean, people feel comfortable in them.
  4. Decorate within your means and for your season of life. When the kids were little, we made decorations and hung unbreakable ornaments. As they got older, I hung more precious things on the tree. 
  5. Establish a tradition or two. You don't have to have 10 family traditions. The kids will remember the one or two that they connect with. Watch to see what they love doing, eating, and where they want to go. Do it again next year and the next to set up a meaningful family tradition. Note: persist through the teens. Though they groan and moan, the continuity and memories build up as family history. Things that go wrong become tall tales. Good things create warmth and connections.
  6. Pray and read the Christmas story together. Read through a short Advent portion, like the one from Focus on the Family or click here. Thank God every day for the Savior who was willing to live among us. Think about it: God with us ... as a baby, toddler, child, teen, young adult, grownup. Marvelous and mysterious, isn't it?
  7. Keep the heart of Mary even though sometimes you'll feel like Martha! Listen to what God is saying ... even in the noise, the hustle and bustle of giving, and while guests come and go. An excellent reflection on this is Joanna Weaver's book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.
  8. Be nice. You'll feel crabby, overwhelmed, and impatient. We all do, especially when we feel stressed. Breathe deeply and take an internal timeout when you need it. Treat others with respect and model kindness to your kids. Let them know you expect them to behave with respect, good manners, and kindness to you and others, too. This can be as simple as answering the phone with, "Merry Christmas. John speaking."
  9. Jot down things you want to remember in a Christmas journal, a line or two at a time. Put it somewhere safe so you can recapture the memories in years to come.
  10. Last but not least, GIVE yourself away. Make philanthropy and service part of your Christmas. Take the kids to a shelter to serve. Buy and wrap presents for the less fortunate. Invite a family to spend Christmas with you. Sponsor orphan or support a missionary as a family giving project.
Merry Christmas! and have a lovely December.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mom would say ... #12 We're in this together

Do your kids have regular chores? If so, you teaching them life skills and a work ethic. A recent study shows how doing chores boosts future success for children. I'm not surprised.

By the time our kids hit their teens, they were dividing most of the housework between them. We didn't have yard work, but we assigned our 3 sons and one daughter four weekly inside chores (besides caring for their rooms):
  • dust the house, including picture frames and door moldings
  • vacuum the house
  • clean bathrooms (2 1/2)
  • wash down kitchen appliances, cupboards, and counters
Our children chose the chore they disliked least ... or thought they could get done quickest. Once in a while they'd swap, but usually they stuck with what they'd chosen. That made it easy for me to evaluate their efforts. I tried not to be too hard on them and to appreciate their help. I'm not perfectionist - but I did note when they'd skimmed or done a lousy job. Doing GOOD work is important.

They also cooked sometimes, messing up a clean kitchen or experimenting on us with strange food combinations. Our rule, which acted as incentive for learning to cook? If you cooked for the family, someone else would clean up. When they cooked or baked on their own, they cleaned up their own mess unless someone pitched in - which the other kids often did. I bought groceries or let them forage the pantry and fridge. Today, they're creative cooks and bakers and know how to keep house.

When parents get too impatient or fussy to let their children help out, we prevent them from learning how to work with others and contribute to a family.

Sure, it's a pain to have little ones "get in the way" as they ride the vacuum. Elementary students can splash more water out of the sink than actually wash dishes. Teens take a long time to fold clothes and put them away. Don't give up!

A lack of skill when tackling a new job is a given, no matter what the chore - or future employment, for that matter! Training can be boring and repetitious. It can also be good fun to hang out together and admire what you've done.

Are you willing to invest in your kids' future? They'll learn at least three things from doing regular chores:
  1. Significance - I'm important and my family depends on my contribution.
  2. Cooperation - my good work and yours make a difference. Working together, we make a positive contribution to our group.
  3. Usefulness - what I do is necessary work. Maintaining what we have is resourcefulness that is good for the planet and good for our family.
For tips on strategic management of household chores, click here. Another resource: here's a chore reminder list.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mom would say ... #10: Real beauty

This wonderful guest post is from blogger Asha Grinnel (bio below)
 * * *
Something Momma taught me...

Momma never put too much stock in outer beauty. Sure we could easily be caught in Sephora or paging through the latest issue of Vogue, but it was all pure fun. Looking good on the outside was just one of the delightful perks of being a woman. Everything my Mom really wanted me to know about beauty can be found in this verse:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Proverbs 31:30

As I journey through parenting my own darling daughter, I want to instill the same sense of real beauty that my Mom left inside of me. I want her to be drawn to the heart of a person. I want her to see beneath the layers of other people's pain. I want her to be completely confident in who she is and know without any doubt that she was made outrageously beautiful inside and out. Her beauty, my beauty, all of our beauty lies in how deeply loved we really are. Nothing can separate us from that.

Something Alana has been teaching me...

My little girl is so quick to delight in this world. Can you remember the last time you were truly delighted by something? It's hard for me to even slow down enough to take things in. Some days there is too much to be done, not enough hands, and I'm just tired—worn thin. Alana has been teaching me the incredible merger of delight and exclamation. It's impossible for her to delight in something with out squealing at the top of her lungs about it. This kind of response to delight is contagious and it draws other people in instantly. So here is this little girl, taking pure delight in the world God made. In an airplane flying high above. In a stick. In a flower. In a balloon at the end of a grocery story aisle. In a stranger. In me. Her entire day revolves around delighting and responding. If you think about it, that changes everything.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. Psalm 37:4

Something I'm learning about myself...

I hear a lot about seasons in life and people around me seem to be constantly striving for more or yearning for what they once had. I hear statements like, “Oh, soak in this was the BEST time of my life!” Or something like this, “I can't wait to be married, finish school, get a new job, etc.” I've felt the Lord urging me lately to embrace exactly where I am right now. Not because it is 'the best time' of my life or because I'm forcing myself into this false contentment, but because I want to live fully alive. The only way I know how to be fully alive is to be fully present. I really want to bloom, right now, in this season—because the Lord planted me here.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver

Asha is a lover of family dance parties, gourmet cooking, and spending time by the sea. She is married to the man of her dreams and a momma to one darling daughter.  You can find her blogging at Only True North.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mom would say ... #9 Your life at home

Older career women are bemoaning the attrition of young women from careers to home management and raising children. Somehow we didn't think the choice of "stay at home" was a good one in the 70s-90s. After all, women won the right to leave the home for a career.

But their daughters ... the kids shuttled off to daycare and babysitters ... the ones who hardly saw their parents? Those gals are choosing to stay home.

"Your life matters," my mom would tell me when I was drowning in diapers and baby food. "Being at home with your children shapes a whole generation. You may have more influence by loving and caring for these few precious ones than you may ever experience by fulfilling your job description elsewhere."

We can't all stay home. And we don't all choose to. But let's give a hurrah today for those stay-at-home moms who pick up the slack for those of us who "go to work" each day.

Many of them:
  • provide an alternative to the "you have to work to be significant" propaganda targeted at women
  • make us all smarter by using their education and skills to interact with neighbors, friends, and children
  • keep our neighborhoods safe when they go for walks and notice friends and strangers
  • keep our schools going by volunteering in the classroom and on the playground
  • shop during the day, giving worker bees jobs!
  • cook homemade food, staving off junk-food diets that will cost us billions in healthcare as we age
  • provide a nurturing space for their children and their friends
  • keep our kids safe by providing a friend's home  as a hangout before or after school
If you're doing all or some of these things, please recognize your role at home as a significant one. You are part of the glue that holds society together.

Some of us have to work outside the home. There's no guilt or condemnation for that! But if you can stay home, you're one of the lucky ones. Your influence will shape the next generation.

Mom would say, "Do the best job you can! and be content with your privileged life."

What part of staying at home do you love the most?

Going around Facebook ...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mom would say... #8 Clean your room

"A clean house helps organize the mind," according to my mom. "Everything seems clearer when the house is in order."

Need help to tackle a room (or house) out of control? It's easy to let things slide, but these resources can help get your home back.

1. Don Aslett has written a bunch of books that I found helpful: he's a professional cleaner with amazing ideas on thorough cleaning with efficiency. Start here if you need a cleaning coach.
2. The magazine my mom used to read - Woman's Day - is online with tips for quickly cleaning a house.
3. If you thrive on time management ("I have 1 - or 5 or 10 - minutes, so what can I get done?"), these Housewives checklists are for you!
4. Martha Stewart on laundry. Check out the other great tips on her website.
5. WikiHow is amazingly practical about cleaning a child's room.

Keep in mind:
  • To have a home is a gift, whether it's rented or owned. Many people have never had a place to call their own.
  • Your house reflects your state of mind and your taste.
  • That said, rich or poor is not the issue. You can be clean or dirty in either.
  • Hospitality is your gift to the world. Invite the world in!
  • People love you because you're nice "people," not because of your house or fancy furnishings.
Have any great resources to share? We'd love them (comments below).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mom would say... #7 Be ready for anything

Today, I'm passing along five family resources from other bloggers:
1. New stuff and great design for families at Apartment Therapy.
2. An interesting blog about raising kids here.
3. Your child is a fussy eater. Here's a doc's take. The guest bloggers at this blog explore many other aspects of childraising and medical concerns, too.
4. Someone you care for ends up in the hospital. How do you show your care for them?
5. You're staying in hospital overnight, supporting a child, friend, or family member? Here's what to pack.

Got great resources to share? Post them in comments or write a guest blog.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mom would say... #6: Keep the kitchen and bathroom clean!

"No matter what, keep the kitchen counters clear and the bathroom clean," my mom told me. "If those areas are done and the living room is picked up, your guests will assume the whole house is done."

When you have little kids, they turn the house into a hurricane zone. Picking up after them and organizing school kids' stuff is an ongoing chore! After homework is done or babies are put to bed, cleaning bathroom fixtures and kitchen counters and sinks may not rate high on your list.

I was SO worn out when my kids were little, I was just happy to have peace and quiet. And sometimes the house looked a disaster. Oh well. They became functional adults anyway.

So - try to pick up. Try to keep up. But on days when it's all you can do to stagger to bed, having clean sheets may be enough!

Here are some links to help you out:
Real Simple checklists
Martha Stewart's housecleaning checklists
Microsoft house chore checklist
Housecleaning Central checklist

Have fun! but remember, your friends are coming to see you not a perfectly kept house.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mom would say ... #5 Your siblings are your best friends

I hated my little brother. He was adorable, took the attention from a happy twosome (my older brother and me), and had a mind of his own. My parents oohed and aahed over him. Our aunts and uncles cooed over his cuteness. I noticed. And was jealous. We had fierce spats in childhood because we disliked each other. Thankfully, we became friends as adults.

When my third child - a boy who even looked and acted like my "little brother" - came along, I was determined to ward off a similar sibling rivalry. I told our older two: "Wow, you're the big kids now! God gave you a little brother who will be your friend and admire you! He's going to think you are fantastic. Be good to him. It's your job to take care of him."

We fussed over the baby, but never to the exclusion of the other kids. He was "their baby" from the start.

We reinforced the importance and responsibility - and privileges - of being older. Today, the siblings get along and look our for each other. They're in each others' wedding pictures and attend events together. We eat Sunday lunches as a family, with dear daughters-in-love and grandkids around the big table.

There's a story in the Bible about twins whose relationship was rocky. The story of Jacob and Esau includes ambition, greed, inheritance, and divided parental expectations. In Middle East culture, the firstborn son got the lion share of the family goods. With goods came authority. Being the firstborn brought great responsibilities to care for the family, but that son determined how the rest of his family lived.

Esau beat Jacob into the world by just a few minutes. From birth, Jacob grasped Esau's heel and wanted the privileges and rights of his older brother. Here's part of the story - how Jacob legally stole the inheritance:

One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, "I'm starved! Give me some of that red stew."' (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means 'red.')

"All right," Jacob replied, "but trade me your rights as the firstborn son."

"Look, I'm dying of starvation!" said Esau. "What good is my birthright to me now?"

But Jacob said, "First you must swear that your birthright is mine"' So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn. Genesis 25:29–34 NLT

Eventually Esau and Jacob's descendents became foes. They fought for land and power in later generations. The enmity of their forefathers became a wedge between neighbors and cousins.

What kind of a family legacy are you building between siblings? Is your child a heart friend to her brother? A selfish conniver against his sister? A peacemaker? A thorn in the family's side? How will later generations speak of your children? We need to model ways to show love, forgiveness, and inclusion to those around us, including our children.

We'd love your ideas about how you're helping your kids build strong family ties.

Mom would say: Friends come and go. Family is forever!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mom would say ... #4 What's really important?

When we're making decisions as singles, our actions affect those around us. As parents, everything we do affects our kids.

W and I finally stopped fighting about trivia when we started thinking about what would matter in the future. Did the toothpaste squeeze have significance in 5 years? (nope) Would the choice of school make a difference for the children? (probably) Did where we went on vacation or the way we made tea matter in 20 years? (hardly) Would we regret not having hired the French tutor as babysitter? (yes) Did it matter if W liked his job? (oh, yeah)

Most often, the little decisions served to boost our ability to compromise that day. (Happier household.) They had little impact on what we valued.

Mom says: You can let go of a lot of tension by thinking about what matters in the long run. What's really important in shaping the person you are becoming .... and the character of your kids.

What have you focused on to build solid relationships? What have you let slide because it wasn't important?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mom would say ... #3 Respect matters

Do your kids sass you? Refuse to come when called? Slap or bite you? "What happened?" you may ask. "Who are these awful people, living in my house? I expected to be a good mom/dad, but my children don't listen to me at all."

"If you're wondering how your kids got to be so disrespectful, here are a few things to look out for," says this mama:
  1. Do you respect yourself? Are you modeling kindness and that each person has value in the way you treat yourself, your spouse, and your friends?
  2. Do you respect your kids? We're not talking about letting them get away with everything. But random slapping, yelling, and intermittent punishments are disrespectful to anyone - children and teens included.
  3. Do your kids know what's expected? Do you consistently follow up with consequences (praise or discipline) when they've been asked to do a chore or come to you?
  4. Do you sometimes overlook or laugh about their disobedience or disrespect to others? That's confusing, NOT cuteness! The first adolescence starts just before age 2. What you emphasize and reward in toddlers is what you reap in their teens.
  5. Do you support authorities? Schools, churches, and sport events set goals and consequences to train kids in self-discipline, life skills, and getting along with others. Ignoring guidelines and blocking consequences shows your kids they don't have to respect those looking out for their safety or helping them work toward goals.  If Blake's teacher tells you s/he needs to stay for detention, support the teacher!  If Kerry's coach puts her/him on the sidelines for bad behavior, let your kid learn to follow instructions. (These authorities have other things to do besides look for punishments for kids; they WANT to be on your kid's side.)
  6. Set realistic goals. We had "these three expectations by age 16" for our kids: read (you can find out any info); understand math (for calculations); and have good manners (so you can help others and others are happy to help you.)
  7. Are you polite? Do you expect good manners from your children? They have lots of chances to practice etiquette on the phone, holding the door for others, getting in the car, waiting in line, speaking in an "inside" voice, etc. People notice - and respect - children who are respectful to them.
That's a start anyway. How did you do on the list?

How did your parents or mentors teach you respect? (We're not talking about abusive submission!) What are you doing to teach your family to be liked and respected by others?

Mom would say ... #2 Is that you, dear?

I like to call my mom on the phone. She's our family connector. She tells me what my brothers are up to, what her friends are doing, and what's important to her.

She also reminds me who I am. Our conversations remind me of:
  • Values instilled in our family. What's important to us?
  • Traditions that are important or that can be left behind.
  • Things I was good at as a child - past skills that may kick me in the pants to try something today.
  • Things I never liked - flaws, weaknesses, or just plain "NOT ME!" stuff that keeps me out of harm's way.
  • What I said I'd like to do but haven't tried yet.
What about your mom or older friends reminds you who you are? Who you could be?

Mom would say ... #1 You're big enough for this, my dear!

Ever looked at the day ahead and thought it would kill you?
  • The wedding is a few months away and the details are overwhelming.
  • OR marriage isn't what we expected - or we've become single parents.
  • The calendar is so full we think we'll never make it to nightfall.
  • OR it's so empty that we may die of loneliness.
  • The kids are screaming and tearing the house apart.
  • OR we wish there were little feet running around, but the house is quiet.
  • Our job is stressing us out and our boss is downright mean.
  • OR we wish we could find a job to make ends meet.

My dad is 80. My mom is in her late 70s. They've been married 60 years. Both of them told (and showed) my three brothers and me that they believed in us. They KNEW we were big enough for any challenge life would throw our way. Each sibling grew up willing to risk and fail in order to thrive and succeed.

How do you encourage your family? Guard their dreams? Boost them toward their full potential?

Who does that for you?

Mom would say ... Introduction

After 37 years together, my husband and I have four kids, two weddings, one granddaughter, and two doctorates behind us.

From Real Simple Daily Thought
 I'm always on the alert for what works for - and what frustrates - parents and their children. Life is full of surprises, so it's good fun (and sometimes a lifesaver) to get input on making life better.

My husband is a wise man who got more involved with our kids once they were in their teens. He's got serious tech chops and people skills. I'll pick his brain occasionally for the male take on relationships, marriage, raising children, and being a good friend.

Let's buckle up, dive in, and get started! This is your place to share parenting, friendship, and community tips.