One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nappy Hair, Shredded Shoelaces and Financial Decisions: Learning to Be Happy With What We Have

Nappy Hair, Shredded Shoelaces and Financial Decisions:  
Learning to Be Happy With What We Have 
December 12, 2013

We were already supposed to be in the car on the way to church when my 7-year-old comes to me with nappy hair.  We took down her hair yesterday with the intent to wash and re-braid it. 

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I spent last night in deep conversation with my daughter about some pretty tough subjects.  And today, her hair isn’t even brushed because even that would take 30 minutes and it really needs to be wet and reconditioned to do it well. 

To make matters worse, this same child shredded her shoelaces yesterday when she tried to get them untied after she played in the mud.  It wasn’t her fault.  They are designed to shred so we will have to buy more.  But I have only had $1.09 in my bank account since November 24, the day after my daughter’s beautiful wedding, and we try not to use credit unless it is absolutely necessary.  So buying new laces seems like a luxury.

So I make two quick decisions.  Let her go to church with nappy hair and hopefully find time to fix it before school tomorrow.  And meticulously braid the shoelace so that it can be re-tied. 

These were both choices. 

I could have chosen to skip church or buy new laces.  But I didn’t.

And life is all about choices.

Yesterday, I read that it costs $1.50 MORE per day per person to eat a healthy fresh diet.  That seems like such a small investment given the long-term benefits.  However, for our family, who already eats lots of fresh food, that translates to about $500 per month more than our current budget – the cost of pre-school for one of my young boys with some special needs.

Twenty years ago, when we were a 2-income professional family with three children, that was absolutely no big deal.  I could spend that much on clothes in one month. 

But our choices have led us down another path.

Quite frankly, I realize that we are so comparatively wealthy that the decisions I am going to write about look asinine to a divorced mother trying to raise 3 children alone, or to one of the poverty stricken families that our family engages with on a daily basis.  

We are not wanting for anything that we really need.  But in the social, financial, and neighborhood circles that are my life, we know that we are not the norm.

I guess my thoughts are really for those of us who have the capacity to make choices. I’m speaking to those of us (myself included) who recognize that sometimes we really aren’t making choices at all.  Rather, we have fallen into the trap of believing that we must or should have something to show for our hard work, our position of privilege, our education, or our training – even if that means going into debt to have it.

I dare to say that we aren’t actually choosing.  Rather, we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned by the world of marketing, fashion, privilege and planned obsolescence to believe that we actually need a fancy house, expensive clothes, a zillion extra-curricular activities, lots of toys, a new car every two years, and generally, the best of everything – or at the very least, the best we can afford or obtain on credit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not criticizing those who make these choices.  I have made them myself more times that I care to admit.  I still do. But I’m trying to re-condition myself to understand the difference between want and need.  The difference between it would be nice and I can wait or forego it all together. 

I was raised with incredible opportunities.  My parents were not even remotely wealthy, but my parents modeled for me how to live frugally and without credit, while sharing everything we had and never asking for anything in return.  

Moreover, as far as I know, my parents never made a decision based on what other people had or thought about us.   We weren’t given the latest and greatest anything unless it was useful to our lives in some way.  I recall a blow dryer and a calculator as the really big gifts for the entire family one Christmas in the mid-70’s.  

We didn’t have a color television or the trendy toys.  We had baby dolls and erector sets and crafts and Lincoln logs and Legos and swings and sandboxes and trees.  (The fact that my father was an architect might have something to do with all the building sets.  I had never thought of that before!)

My mother cooked every night and we had visitors at our home almost all day every day.  Yet, she made one major monthly shopping trip (and smaller trips for fresh goods) and we rationed food.  She made the same amount of food every night – no matter who joined us for dinner.  And somehow, it was always enough.

With the help of my parents, I made a lot of good decisions when I was a young adult.  I was able to attend law school because my parents had the foresight to invest in my education throughout my life.  My first house (which my grandparents helped me buy) made a huge profit in a short time, which set the stage for our future homes. Even after I quit working to stay home, my husband’s career, his choice to quit renting space and move his office to the basement of our home, and the booming economy allowed my husband and me to invest in a much larger home that was custom built for our fast-growing family of birth, foster and adopted children. 

The story of our home is wonderful, miraculous and heart-warming in and of itself. Many people, including the builder and many of the sub-contractors, went above and beyond to give us exactly what we needed, as well as some of what we wanted, to raise our super-sized family. 

As a result, we live in a great family-oriented neighborhood with caring neighbors who look out for each other.  Our home is 6600 square feet designed to blend into our mixed income, but upscale neighborhood.  However, our home is furnished in what I like to call “Early American Thrift Store.”  I pinch pennies every day.  Yesterday, as I finished pre-cooking 40 pounds of potatoes that I got for $8.00 at Aldi and then washed 15 Ziploc bags to re-use, I ruminated about how time-consuming it is to save pennies.

Things are different than they were in the 80’s and 90’s.  The economy has tanked.  My husband has lost many of his clients, in part because his clients have lost their businesses.  We have chosen to care for 21 children and we financially support almost all of them in some way.

And instead of practicing law or teaching, I’m staying home always looking for ways to be thrifty and save money. (Now that I think about it, I would have to have an excellent job to justify the childcare expenses for our 8 children that would need childcare, so working isn’t really an option anyway – but it was when we had many fewer children.) 

Nonetheless, for us to have so many children and for me to stay home and forego my potential income, we have to make choices.  And we choose to make do.  We choose to scrimp and save. 

We choose to allow our nappy-headed girl with braided shoe strings go to church looking pretty raggedy. 

We choose to live in an upscale neighborhood where we are sure our children are safe and free to roam around. Yet, we choose to wear hand-me-downs,  clothes that are donated to us, and what we can find at thrift shops, consignment shops and garage sales.

We choose to drive older model cars until they literally can’t be driven again, and to leave the bumper hanging down on our ugly 15-passenger van, which was damaged by a hit and run driver in front of our house.

We choose to send homemade nutritious snacks (that the kids hate) to school instead of the more convenient, but expensive, junk food that they LOVE!

We choose to have 8 bedrooms filled with young children and many of our young adult children, who use the bedrooms when they need them.

We generally choose to give away everything when we finish using it, rather than selling it to make money.

We choose to have a family of 5 living in our basement with a make-shift kitchen and a half-bath with huge painter’s canvas stapled to the 2x4’s, because we spent our money on the toilet and sink and decided not to invest our resources in having it sheet rocked, finished and painted. (If we had more money, we would add a bathtub!)

We choose to allow our 5-year- old to wear pants that are 4 inches too short – not because he must – but because he insists on wearing the tan corduroy pants with pockets. 

We choose NOT to give our kids extra money in their lunch account for ice cream, and we rarely give them money for junk food except on very special occasions.

We rarely choose to eat out because it could easily cost $60-100 per meal to feed us – even at a fast food place,  although we hate that we miss multiple opportunities to socialize with our friends.

We choose not to give our kids money to spend every time they ask.  Ironically, as I type these words, my 6-year-old runs up to me from basketball practice begging me for money to get a drink from the vending machine.  With no qualms, I tell him to go get water from the fountain.  But my resolve doesn’t lesson his determination.  Even when he pleads that he is sooo thirsty and he doesn’t want water, and he’s hungry and he will find something "healthy" like chips, I stand my ground.  

Instead, we choose to give our children a very small allowance that forces our children to make choices too.

We choose to allow one particular kid, who shall remain nameless, to wear the same stupid shirt over and over again (washed daily) because it is his favorite.  Even though they have plenty of choices.  Even though it looks like he doesn’t have any choice.

I say these things not because I want anyone to feel sorry for us.  

There is absolutely no reason to feel that we are somehow missing something.  We have good credit.  We can borrow money.  If there is a real need – our parents or family or friends will help us – often without us asking.

Don’t get me wrong.  We feel grateful and honored and loved when people take the time to notice what we need (or want) and either ask us how they can help, or simply surprise us.

But we try not to live in expectation that this is how we will manage to keep up with society’s view of what we should have and what we should do. 

I don’t think it is an accident that we tend to surround ourselves with people who could care less that we don’t keep up with the Jones’.  There was a long period when I felt judged and guilty because it looked like my kids didn’t have equal opportunities – although I really think it was my insecurities rather than other’s actions that caused my feelings. 

The reality is that others know our situation and our choices and when our children are with them, some choose to pay for things that we can’t, or that we decide against.   I would never know about these acts of kindness, except that my children tell me.  These people know that we aren’t in a position to make the same choices or to reciprocate in kind, so when they choose to bless my child –  I have learned to feel grateful without feeling embarrassed.  I rest knowing that these friends are making their own choice and I don’t have to feel guilty because I don't provide everything for my children that they are providing for theirs.

I don’t worry that my kids are in need.  If there is a need that we can't meet alone, God will prompt someone to give us exactly what we need when we need it.  And if we are impatient and have a need, then we aren’t too proud to ask for help.

I don’t worry that my kids aren’t wearing the newest, most up-to-date clothing.  As an independent thinker and non-conformist, I love that they have each developed their own sense of style.  Well, I must admit I don’t always love the way they look and I would hesitate to call some of it a style– but it is a price I’m usually willing to pay --  unless they are going to a place where it is important to ME that they look a certain way.  Just so you know, I did have to draw the line at wearing underwear yesterday! One of my young boys decided that going commando was a good idea.  I had a strong opinion about that!

I don’t worry that my kids have already spent their allowance and don't have money to go to the movies, or the arcade, or out to eat, or whatever with their friends every time that they are asked. I’m training them to make choices and decisions for themselves.  I would love to have the money to freely allow them do more without worrying about taking money from the food budget, but like myself as a child, I think that our limitations force them to be more creative and resourceful and ultimately, more responsible. And I have witnessed the blessings of others as they give their time and money to us and to our children – not looking for anything in return.

I don’t worry because I know that I take into account my childrens’ emotional needs when making each financial decision.  There are times when one of my kids has an emotional NEED to feel special, or to experience something, or to try something out - and that is a priority.  So no matter how broke we are – I will make sure that we use our limited resources in a way that helps meet this child’s emotional and psychological well-being – to the extent that money makes a difference.

So, some days, hair and clothing gets missed, I forget to send in the 50th white t-shirt for an art project, the nap towel gets forgotten, or we don’t buy the professional photos of our child’s first day of kindergarten and a photo with Santa, because we have chosen to dedicate our limited resources, like time, money, emotional strength, etc., to something we think is more valuable.

In the end, I want to be okay with what we have.  I want to be satisfied.  I don’t want to be trying to look for the next best thing.  I’m not there yet.  But I don’t want to try to keep up with the Jones’.  And I want the same for my kids.  I want them to be happy and grateful for what they have – even when it isn’t what others have.

That requires choices.  And we make them every day.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some wise.  Some not so much.  But in the end, we want to be known as a family that trusts God to provide what we need, even when it isn’t what we think we want. 

And that’s my approach to Christmas this year.  I want to go into that day satisfied with what we have, and knowing that what we are given is exactly what we need. And that is good enough for me. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Confessions of An Angry Mom: It’s Time To Get My Heart Checked.


Confessions of An Angry Mom:  It’s Time To Get My Heart Checked.

Warning:  If you are sensitive to certain word choices, you might not want to read this the third column of this post.  It is honest.  When I’m really frustrated or overwhelmed, I use words that some would consider impolite. Consider yourself warned.

I’m a mother and a teacher and a coach.  Most of my days are spent teaching, training and taking care of others.   My favorite verse is directly related to my obvious NEED to remember that if I do not have a servant’s heart, then my service is just good works and I’m screwed.  The verse I quote over and over to my kids and my students is from Luke 6:45:   “... For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In other words, if my heart is full of good, good things will come out.  If my heart is hard and angry, then bad things come out. 

I’m a good teacher and coach and I know exactly how to help my students, friends and clients.  But it would really help me to have a ME in my life, someone who is willing to call me out.  Although it might not be obvious from my conduct, I spend a good portion of my day in self-evaluation.   I’ve decided that I’m pretty selfish and self-centered.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be upset about anything, because my anger seems to be rooted in the problems that someone else causes for me.

I’ve decided it’s time for true confessions.  I’m speaking for myself, but I’m willing to bet that if people are honest, almost all moms and dads find themselves thinking, if not saying, similar things.

WARNING: If this makes you laugh or cry, you might need to check your heart!

What happens.

What I say on a good day.

What I think and should - but don’t always - edit before I say on a bad day.      
My 3-year-old is play wrestling with his 5-year-old brother. I warn them that someone is going to get hurt.  Someone gets hurt. 
“I’m sorry.  But I warned you that you would get hurt.  Go wipe the blood off your nose.”
“What is wrong with your brain?  I tell you every single time you are running through the living room and doing head butts into his stomach that you will get hurt.  Big surprise.  Tough it out.  Now go wipe the blood off your nose and clean it up off the floor because I’m not cleaning your mess.”
My teenager waits until the night before a big paper is due to start. 
“Son.  You know the rules.  You must have the final draft ready two nights before it is due so that I have time to help you edit and figure out your problems.  I have 50 other things I need to be doing right now and I’m exhausted.  I can’t start helping you at 10 p.m. the night before it is due. You are on your own.  But if you don’t make a decent grade, you won’t be going anywhere this weekend.”
“Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid. You are too smart not to understand the problem here.  Procrastination doesn’t work.  Don’t expect me to feel sorry for your decision to procrastinate.  I’m not feeling the slightest bit guilty.  Just pissed that I have to keep repeating myself. Now go fix the problem that you created. “
Two children get into an argument.  One hits.  The other returns the hit. 
“I’m sorry, but you deserve each other.  Both of you are hitting to solve your problems and it hurts.  Both of you know not to hit.  Use your words.” 
“Why do I have to say this 25 times per day?  Haven’t ya’ll figured out the problem yet?  Maybe you will beat the living crap out of each other and decide on your own hitting is not the best plan. “
I tell my extremely stubborn 6-year-old to go pick up his towel and hang it on the hook.  He starts shouting and wailing, “No!  It isn’t my towel.  I already did.  I don’t want to.  Why do I have to get the towel, no one else did?”   
“Excuse me. ‘No,’ is not one of your options.  The correct answer is ‘Yes Ma’am.’  Now go pick up the towel.”
“UGGGGHHHH.  I can’t stand this!  I hate stubborn disobedience and intentional defiance. What am I doing wrong that makes you think that it is okay to refuse to obey?  I get so mad I just want to throw something or hang YOU up in that towel.  Why are you so damn stubborn?  It makes me not want to be around you at all.  Is that what you want?” 
My adult daughter calls to tell me that her car just died and she needs help getting to and from work.
“Sure.  What time do I need to come get you?” 
“Really?  Really?  It is always something.  I finally get a few hours to myself and what do I get to do?  Drive my adult children.  What fun.  I can’t wait. “
I tell my 7-year-old to get her snack and put it in her backpack for school.  She hears me, but continues to play and forgets. I move on to the next thing. On her way out the door the next morning, she suddenly remembers and tries to run back inside to get her snack.

NOTE:  This is not a child who must have a snack to function in school. I have some kids that can’t afford to miss a snack.  She can.
“I told you to put the snack in your backpack. I’m sorry, but we are running late.  You cannot go back to get a snack.  Next time, maybe you will obey when I remind you. And you are not allowed to get a snack from the teacher.” 
Thinking… “Oh great.  Now I have to take the time to email the teacher so my child doesn’t use this as an excuse to get a junky snack from the teacher’s community snacks.  Uggh!  I don’t have time for this! But I know that she is going to whine at school and tell the teacher that I didn’t give her a snack.  And I don’t want the teacher to have to deal with her either.  If I don’t call, then the teacher will feel sorry for her and give her a snack out of the community snack bucket.  It will be chips or something she loves, so the lesson will be lost.  And I’ve already spent far too much time thinking about this stupid issue.” 
My toddler crawls behind the couch and unplugs the lamp cord which is directly below the safety cap on the upper plug.  He then proceeds to take a fork and stick it as far as he can into the socket.
Leaping forward not knowing what he is sticking into the light socket, I shout…
“OMG!!!  NOoooooo!
Stop baby. That is a No No!  No! No! That will hurt baby.  OUCHIE!  No baby No!  Thank goodness we use plastic forks!  That would hurt baby.” 
“OMG!!!  NOoooooo!  Stop!  What are you doing child?  Are you crazy?  That is a No NO! Did I say that is a No No, because I meant to say it was a NOooo NOOOOO!  You can’t do that!  OMG.  OMG. OMG.  Thank you God for watching him and taking care of him. Thank you for plastic forks. I can’t do this.  I’m not smart enough or fast enough.  I can’t be  everywhere all the time.   Ugggh!!! Pant. Pant.  OMG. OMG. OMG.”
My teen doesn’t want to go to church with the family.  He would rather sleep in or go to the church where his best friend goes.  He whines and moans and complains and asks if he can just skip “this week” or  go to another church.
“I understand that you don’t want to go, but this is my only opportunity to gather the entire family together at one place and I need that every week.  It is important to me.  And because it is important to me, you must go.  Sleeping is not an option and you can go to youth group at your friend’s church.  Now get dressed without complaining and be ready at 9:30.” 
“Screw it.  I don’t care if you come or don’t come.  Sleep all freakin’ day or go with some other family to church.  I HATE listening to you complain week after week.  It puts me in a pissy mood and makes going to church miserable.  Every time you try to get your way it is saying to me that I’m not important enough to you to cooperate.  I hate that feeling.  I want you to go whether you like it or not just because I need it. I spend most of my time meeting ya’lls needs.  Is it so wrong for me to ask ya’ll to fulfill one of my needs?  But whatever.  Do whatever the hell you want and I’ll go worship God by my damn self!”
My son spills his juice accidentally.
“It’s not a big deal.  Go get a towel and clean it up. Then get the juice and I’ll pour you some more.”
“Crap. Crap. Crap.  I know it was an accident and you weren’t doing anything wrong, but now I have to get all the sticky juice off the floor and counter and chair.  More work.  More work.  Does it ever end?”
My son spills his milk after I tell him to sit down and quit playing at the table. 
“Go get a towel and clean it up.  That is what happens when you play at the table.  No more milk tonight.”
Crap. Crap. Crap. I JUST mopped the floor an hour ago! I tell you over and over again to stop playing at the table.  Can’t you just obey me? Can’t you just listen so you don’t keep making messes?  I’m tired.  I’m sick of cleaning. I’m sick of disobedience.  I just want to quit this job forever!”
My adult child calls at 10p.m. and just wants to process with me.
“No. I’m not busy. What can I do for you?”
(Eyes rolling.) Ahhh.  Maybe if I just don’t answer the phone she will go away.  It’s late.  I just got into bed.  I’m exhausted.  I hate talking on the phone on a great day.  I have already had my fill of helping people today. Do I really have to listen to more people talk?
My son needs to go to the bathroom in  a public place. He must go in the women’s room with me.  He starts to pee without lifting the seat and gets pee all over the seat because he has unsophisticated aim!
“Sweetie.  You need to remember to lift the seat before you go potty.  If not, you get pee on the seat and girls don’t like to sit on your pee.”
“Lovely.  Just what I want to do.  Wipe your  pee off the seat in a public bathroom.  Whatever!”
Same bathroom trip… My child tells me that he needs to go poop.  Before I realize what he is doing, he has LIFTED the lid and is going to sit on the toilet!!!
“Wait! I didn’t mean the lift the lid when you POOP! Oh well, at least you tried to obey!”
What can I say.  Good or bad day --- this is the point to simply laugh!!!!

My adult daughter wants me to play Nanna and keep her kids while she and her husband get away for a few days. 
“I can’t wait to see the grandkids and I know that you guys need a break. Can you bring them over now?” 
“Agggh.  I really want to see the kids and I definitely want to give my daughter a break, but I am so freakin’ tired.  I just want to crawl into a hole and hide.  When is it MY turn to take a break?”
The teacher sends home a note asking for a family picture. I read the note and remember it 3 days later. 
Note to the teacher:  “This is our family picture.  It contains as many kids as we can gather in one location at one time. Please don’t expect my child to be able to explain all of our rather unique relationships.  All he knows is this is his family!”
“Crap.  I vaguely remember that I am supposed to send a picture to school, but I have no idea which kid is supposed to bring it.  Crap!  Crap! Now I have to look through 8 school folders and assignment books to figure out which child OR I have to print 8 copies and send one with each child and hope for the best. Doesn’t anyone know how hard it is to get a picture of this crazy group?  My kids, even my teenagers have to ask how many siblings they have.  Anyway, I’ve looked in eight folders, and I still have no idea.  Whatever.  My kid is the only one with a family the size of Texas and not a single photo to prove he has a family at all.”
My pre-teen gets so angry at me that he punches the wall and his fist goes through it.  He runs upstairs to his room and sends me a text.  “Just tell me when you are going to make me move out and where I will be living. I need to know now.”
“Son, what makes you think that just because you make a mistake we won’t keep you? I needed to know what you would do if you were pushed to your limits.  I needed to know that you wouldn’t hurt me even though you were raging.  You didn’t hurt me.  You hurt a wall. And your fist.  The wall can be fixed.  The important thing is that you proved that you won’t physically hurt a woman. 

As for the hole:  You need to research how to repair sheetrock and start learning.  Either you will pay to fix the hole or you will learn to do it yourself. 
Oddly.  I don't have bad days when I'm dealing with really big stuff.  I would have reacted this way no matter what my mood on any given day. It's the little stuff that gets me. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Duct Tape or Die Trying: Managing a Toddler by Anna Giattina Lee


Yesterday, I found myself saying aloud to my 15-month-old, “Child, do you have any idea what toys are?  Introducing them, I pointed and said, “These two huge baskets of things are designed specifically for you to play with.”  He ignores me.  Hearing the knob turning on the front door, he races for it, hoping to escape before I can grab him. I leap forward, knowing that if he escapes, I will have to sprint to catch up with his chubby little bow legs that can leave the Road Runner in the dust.

My toddler could give Houdini a run for his money!  This kid can escape from any position meant to keep him safe and secure.  We have tried everything but Duct Tape to hold him down.  He shimmy’s out of his highchair (tightened strap and all) like a professional escape artist removing himself from a straight jacket before the rope burns and he is plunged into a tank of man-eating sharks.

He can pull over a chair, climb up onto a countertop, stand up and hang from the light fixture with such stealth and grace that standing within 3 feet of him I don’t hear him until I happen to turn around from my position at the stove.

There is no “safety” gate for this kid.  We have tried every brand available and rigged and engineered it for maximum harassment.  Yet, he manages to find a way to open the child-proof lock.  Or he climbs over the gate using his toes, feet and hands like a professional rock climber.  Federal standards require certain spacing between bars.  But the federal government forgot to consult my child.  He has been known to push the gate with such force that he can make the space large enough for him to get through – starting feet first so that he can use his hands and feet to keep the space open for his head.

And those supersized play yards – the ones designed to contain children playing  nicely with their toys – he simply pushes the ENTIRE play yard through the house, molding and bending it to fit through doorways, into the kitchen, through the laundry room and anyplace else he chooses to drag it, himself, and all his toys.

Oh, and because lifting it up is too much trouble sometimes, he simply pushes the gate over the edge of the first stair going down, creating a hole for him to crawl under so that he can escape.  The play yard is nothing more than one more step in the game of SET ME FREE!!!

This toddler can push furniture around the house and shove chairs close to the wall so that he can remove the pictures from the walls!!  I have raised a heck of a lot of kids.  He is the FIRST to remove hanging pictures from the walls!

Yesterday, at the store, I had him strapped into the cart.  While I was at the checkout, he managed to pull his body out of the strap and stand up – strap still attached.  The clerk, an elderly woman with a cane standing behind me in line and I all lunged toward him thinking he was about to fall.  He just laughed and sat back down!  I re-tightened the strap and I’ll be dang if he wasn’t out of it and about to stand again before the clerk had given me my change!

This morning was a cool, crisp Alabama morning and I decide to walk seven kids under the age of seven to our local farmer’s market a few blocks away.  My toddler and 2-year-old were in a double stroller.  My toddler leans forward and places both hands on the front wheels to feel the motion.  Almost instantly, he discovers that he can stick his head UNDER the seat, while still keeping both hands on the wheels! Put it this way, he would have flipped the entire double stroller if I hadn’t maintained a counterweighted position at the handles.  Every time I pulled him back into the seat, he instantly flipped forward again! And again!  At one point we were crossing the street and a man in a truck just stared in disbelief at the scene of me repeatedly trying to stop his flipping, while still watching all the other kids.  Finally, I gave up and just held my position at the rear!

Ugggh! This mom to many knows nothing about raising kids.  Every time I think I have things under control – or at least that I should – a new child changes the rules by being different from the last kid. 

I titled this blog post, “Managing a Toddler.” That’s a joke.
Ultimately, I think I’m stuck with editing the title,  “How Do I Manage a Toddler?!?!? ” 

Pssst. Hey.  For the record, duct tape is not allowed.  If it was, I would have used it!

Friday, September 13, 2013



Aka: How To Break A Metal Spoon In 5 Easy Steps

(Disclaimer: This How-To List may or may not be loosely based on actual events!)

  1. Buy cheap metal.  Dollar Tree stuff doesn’t count.  It is made to break upon first use and is therefore not useful for the purposes described below. And for the record - bending the spoon just won’t be satisfactory.
  2. Position yourself within earshot of a young child that is screaming, flailing and pitching a fit for the 100th time in one day because s/he can’t have what s/he wants.  Know from past experience that reason and logic are useless and that the child has no “OFF” button.
  3. Grab the spoon that you are cooking with and begin banging it on the arm of a cushy chair while shouting at the top of your lungs in an overtly dramatic manner, “I can’t take this anymore!” Repeat as necessary, following each proclamation with repeated banging motions on the arm of the chair to the tempo of your wails.
  4. Place the opposing forearm on your forehead and cry out in misery, “What am I supposed to do?  Somebody?  Anybody? God?  Help me!  I’m only human and this is making me CRAZY! I’ve reached my breaking point!" If you are lucky, the dramatic scene will be enough to distract your child and cause a momentary reprieve from the child’s tantrum. If you are even luckier, the spoon will snap in two at precisely this moment, much to the astonishment of said kid (and mom), causing him or her to stop screaming and ponder how mom just broke a thick metal spoon on a cushy chair.
  5. Go out and buy a new spoon.  Then have a mega-sized ice-cold Diet Dr. Pepper, or your drink of choice. 

Postscript:  Expect your children to tell this story to their friends and their friend’s parents, not in fear, but in utter amazement at the brute strength of their mother.  Prepare to explain without having your kids removed by the state authorities.  Under no circumstances are you to consider the irony of pitching a temper tantrum to stop a temper tantrum.  It is pointless.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Don't Meet Your Hero.

Don’t meet your Hero!
By Anna Lee

Don’t meet your hero.
Unless you want to be disappointed. 
Unless you want to recognize that your hero is human.
And sinful.
And flawed.

Don’t meet your hero.
Unless you are prepared to see the truth.
Unless you want to feel hopeless.
And lost.
And deceived.

Don’t meet your human hero. 
Who was never meant to replace
The one and only true hero.
The one Savior.

The one who does not leave us.
Or forsake us.
The one that was fully human
And is fully God.
The one that is not and never was a sinner
But who gave his life for our sins.

Don’t meet your human hero.
Don’t expect a hero to meet your needs.
Don’t rely on a physical being to rescue you.
Don’t seek truth where it cannot be found. 

Look up.
Look down.
Look around.
He is there.  Waiting.  Patiently.
Ready for a relationship.
Ready to meet you where you are.
Ready to gently guide to where He wants you to be.

You will not find your hero in your mom or your dad.
You will not find your hero in a spouse or a lover.
In a pastor or a mentor.
Or any man.
Or any woman.

Don’t meet your hero. 
Meet your Savior.

Meet the one who loves unconditionally.

Meet the one who restores.
Meet the one who is ready to redeem.
The one that will not deceive.
Or leave you.

And only there.
Will you find what your heart is looking for. 
Only there.
With your Savior.