Thursday, July 30, 2015

The 10,001 Ways I am Failing My Children

Some days I feel like I have this parenting thing down. Like, professional level of parenting. Got me some good kids here, got me a sexy husband who (Bonus!) is an amazing father, cooking some pretty healthy suppers, all is definitely well. I get to feeling like, "I. Got. This."   

But then I read a blog.

(Maybe even a blog titled "Savor the Crazy," which is a dumb name, unless you've read the very first post ever, but even after that maybe you still don't get why savoring craziness makes any sense at all. This mess is hard, and I am just getting through, and this insane day is to be forgotten, not savored!)

My online reading generally involves a blog or article on parenting, because that is the bulk of what I've been doing for the last 9 1/2 years. (Even though the oldest girl isn't yet 9, all the barfing I did while pregnant with her pretty much consumed my life. So 9 1/2 years of parenting is where I stand.)

Those parenting blogs and articles really get me. They are all full of statistics, how I should spend my time, how if I don't spend my time that way the outcomes will be dire. I inevitably end up thinking, "Well, crap. I am really not doing that great of a job. In fact, I stink at this! I have nothing to offer! I need to step up my game!"

And since I am totally committed to being 100% real about the struggle here on this crazy blog, I am going to point out for you the ways in which I am failing at parenting according to the world wide web. There are at least 9,991 more ways I am screwing them up, but these are the big ones that jump out. 

1. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises to never lose one's temper or raise one's voice when dealing with a disobedient child. This will escalate the situation.

Right. So this one is obviously not going to be achieved in this house. While the sexy husband to whom I referred rarely raises his voice (except while playing/coaching basketball when he has been known to get a technical or two), my speaking level could be considered by some (ok, all) "a yell." And if I have told a child 87,000 times to pick up the dirty underwear lying in the middle of the living room and yet there it sits, I am really unclear on what other options I have but to start yelling. The AAP says I should reason through the situation, but there are just too many kids not picking up underwear around here to allow for this "reasoning strategy" they say will work. Yelling is much more efficient.


Even worse than dirty underwear yelling, I vaguely remember, in a sleep deprived stupor, yelling at a four week old for refusing to sleep herself. Actually, I think I yelled into the phone at her sexy father, who cheerily called to say he would be a mere 6 minutes late arriving home, which in turn awakened a beast in me because I could not handle 6 more minutes of the four week old who would not sleep.

This leads to another failure:


2. Do not fight in front of your children.

Occasionally Preston will ask me to assist him with directions or even READ A MAP, and there is just no way this isn't going to lead to a gigantic fight. Not a heated discussion or a reasonably spirited debate. A fight. 

The biggest fight of our entire marriage involves a Lamborghini, a map, Hilton Head Island, a fender bender and the F word. Luckily that was prechildren, but the second biggest involves a map, Atlanta, $80 tickets, Turner Field, and a baseball game we never made it to. The oldest was in utero, but since science tells us they can hear everything, and we should talk to them in there, I'm pretty sure she learned her first cuss words that night. (When my babies were still tucked snugly inside, I used to yell at them to quit doing whatever they were doing that was making me throw up. Again with the yelling.)


3. Do not feed your children insecticides, germicides, pesticides sugaricides, yellow number fiveicides, or high fructose corn syrupicides. Also only drink water from a spring in Colorado as your tap water has been infused with poison put there by the government.

I am so inconsistent with this. Sometimes I am on an all organic, all whole foods, all locally sourced, grass fed, 110% homemade kick. I will hike to a mountain spring and fill all the containers with the water of the gods before anyone else wakes. I will drive to farms and inspect their cows and eggs, interviewing the chickens to be sure they are truly allowed to freely range. 

Other times I'm like, "Eat all the goldfish! Drink another root beer! Funnel cakes are life!"

Part of my inconsistency stems from meal planning, another inconsistent area of my life. For a while I followed a blog all about how this woman fed her family real food, (meaning anything purchased had 5 ingredients or less) organic, no less, for several months and on $125 per week. 

Our toilet paper budget is about $125 per week.

But I decided to try it because our total grocery budget is about $150 a week for our family of 5, and that lady only had four people, so I thought I could do it. We can eat organically and clean ourselves with non-harmful paraben free stuff. (Does anyone actually know what parabens are, or did some celebrity just tell us they were bad so now everyone blogs about how awful they are but no one knows why the heck they are awful?) I meticulously planned and shopped sales. But when I found myself counting out beans and yelling at Preston (more yelling) for dumping ten kernels of corn I could have eaten for tomorrow's lunch, I decided this was a ridiculous way to live. We are on a limited budget, and that's ok, and I can't buy butter that costs $5.99 per pound. I have to go to Aldi and stock up when it's on sale for $1.50 a pound. 

So my children are probably laced with arsenic. And maybe radioactive. 


4. Be consistent. Children thrive on consistency. 

See all the inconsistencies in #3 and apply to everything.


5. Wear safety gear when playing.

At the girls' checkups last year the nurse asked them, in an assuming fashion, if they wore bike helmets, knee guards, shin guards, wrist guards, ankle guards, mouth guards, finger guards, goggles, chin guards, shoulder pads, and butt pads when they rode their bikes or scooters. They all three looked at me like, "What is she talking about here?" I kind of nodded at them to answer the crazy lady, and they all muttered, "Um, no." At which point the nurse cut me a look. I nervously explained we didn't require these things and while we do own bike helmets, we live on a farm of sorts, rarely do they ride bikes on paved surfaces, and I cannot possibly monitor whether or not they strap all that crap on every time they pick up their bike to dash off somewhere, usually to run down a sibling or cousin and knock them off the bike they are riding with no protective gear. The whole time I was thinking, "this lady is probably about to call DCS," but luckily she laughed and said ok, while making an ominous note in my chart. 

Look! We are good parents!

Also, we have a trampoline. Merely owning one shows we don't love our children or care about their safety, proven by the fact that the middle girl broke her ankle on it. But the thing about that is although our trampoline can get kind of crazy with sprinklers and hoses and 36 kids on it at a time, when she broke her ankle she was only jumping with one other kid. Just jumping. No tricks or anything. She landed wrong and fractured her growth plate. So she had to wear a boot, which she wore for two weeks and broke. When I called the doctor to explain what had happened, he was incredulous. Was I sure the boot was broken? Yes, I have the pieces here in my hand. Was I sure? This almost prompted the yelling, but I restrained and assured him again the boot was broken. He had never heard of a boot breaking. Bring her in. They took another x-ray and decided she didn't need another boot. It was already healed. Play hard, heal hard.






6. The American Dental Association says that brushing teeth twice a day for two full minutes is the key to a healthy mouth.

Two minutes each time? I don't even know if they brush their teeth. Somehow it came to light the other night that one child was brushing with water only for an undetermined length of her life because her toothpaste made her "mouth taste like fire." And there's a nightly competition to see who can finish brushing her teeth first, so I guarantee ain't nobody up there brushing anywhere close to two minutes. 



7. Put on sunscreen, wear a hat, be fully clothed even when swimming, so as to avoid all the sunlight. Or don't ever wear sunscreen and swim only in string bikinis since the toxic chemicals in sunscreen wreak havoc on a girl's hormones, and Americans are reporting more and more vitamin D deficiencies. 

I can't decided where I stand on this. So sometimes I slather everyone up in an aerosol sunscreen. (Which not only harms the girls' skin, but also the environment and therefore the world at large, but the aerosol is so convenient when all these people are clamoring to "run into the waves already, Mom!") 

Other times I'm like, "Rub this essential oil on, and the sun's rays will just bounce right off you while simultaneously cleansing you of toxins, especially if I use magic coconut oil as the carrier oil." 

And yet other times I'm like, "Run around naked! Get some Vitamin D! And work on your tan!" 


I think we are doing some tan work here,
but maybe they are aerosoled up.


8. Video screen time provides no benefits for children under the age of two. 

So says those sages at the American Academy of Pediatrics. But I beg to differ. Baby Einstein DVDs got me through babyhood. One girl in particular loved them, so I'd stick her in a swing, super close to the TV so she could see it, and hit repeat. And she benefited greatly. If I got 30 minutes of peace, I was much less likely to yell, something we now know we shouldn't do according to #1.

I can't remember what was on TV, 
but we were dying lauging because she 
was breaking her back to see it. 


9. I did not reserve an email address for my daughters when they were born, sending them special notes and memories all along the way, to which I will give them the password on their 18th birthday.

Nor have I done anything remotely resembling this. Baby books? They have a few entries, like their date of birth. I do not scrapbook. I take lots of pictures...which are locked up inside various laptops. I do not remember what they wore to their first birthday party. I regularly trash pictures they draw and "art" they bring home. 


10.  If you let your baby cry it out she will feel unloved and have mental trauma and grow up to be a psychopath. But if you never let your baby cry and co-sleep until she is three she will never leave the nest and bring her hipster boyfriend home to live in your basement while they both find themselves and the meaning of life. 

Can I just say to this one that babyhood is hard? Like, the hardest season of life? ALL OF LIFE? Granted, we haven't had teenagers yet and from the rumors I hear that will undoubtedly be a time during which the drama knows no bounds, but I just can't imagine anything harder than infancy. And especially the first baby. They don't tell you anything! Got carseat? Here's your baby! Good luck with that. 

I am a firm believer in the sleeping philosophy of Whatever Works. Not just in general, but whatever works that night. If I was an emotional wreck due to all the hours of not sleeping and all of the spit up and diapers and general neediness of this tiny person, and I was incapable of soothing the unsoothable child for the 270th time, I let her cry and often cried along with her. No one has ever died from crying for 30 minutes, and honestly it was safer for both of us to have a break. Conversely I might have a night where I wanted to bring that sweet-smelling Bundle of Baby in next to me and snuggle all night long. (In my world those were super rare. I do not like to be hot when I sleep, and kids are always roughly a million degrees in their terry cloth sleepers and fleece.) 

Same thing with nursing the baby versus formula feeding. I did both. And all three girls are healthy. You would never know who got what. Whatever Works. Do that.

So in summary, it looks like I'm kind of sucking at this parenting thing. But if you ask the girls who loves them more than anyone else, they will all three say, "Jesus" followed by "Mommy and Daddy." 

So I guess we are getting one thing right. 

Grace, Grace and More Grace for Parenting,
Martha
   

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Should We Join A Commune?

I sat down here today to work on a funny blog post about how different it is when Mom is sick versus when Dad is sick, which is really hilarious (by my own standards), and will get written, but I can't seem to get something else out of my mind. 

And since it's my blog and my hobby and my way to process, I can write whatever. 

Someone asked me recently what I am trying to do with this blog. And the answer is "whatever." I enjoy it. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the writing. Every blog post gets a couple hundred hits, some closer to a thousand. It's fun to think about people reading it. I enjoy the conversations it starts. I especially enjoy the parts when moms let me know they appreciate my honesty because this job ain't easy and people who say they have it together and never yell at their kids and never cry in the closet are making them feel terrible about the job they themselves are doing. Trust me, crying in the closet happens here.

So this is what is on my mama mind today. Maybe it's on yours, or maybe you will read this and think we are nuts who need to go live on a commune, but either way it's me being real about the struggle.

And I've had several conversations recently that tell me this topic is on more than just my mind.

So here I go.

Sex. 

The girls wanted to go see a movie as one of our fun summer things. As we were driving home from vacation I started reading and looking at clips of two kids movies that are out right now: "Inside Out" and "Minions." 

I was immediately disappointed by the clips of the Minions movie. I mean, one showed a Minion in a thong, strutting towards a hot tub where two more minions are waiting suggestively. I showed it to Preston, who shook his head in disgust and goes, "Why? Why do they have to put that stuff in there?" 

Yes, why?

Then when we went to the theater to see the other kids movie, the movie poster for "Minions" hanging outside the theater was drawn to give the impression that we were seeing the minions from the back, naked.

Why is this the promotion for a movie directed at kids? Why are they being exposed to sexually suggestive situations? I really and truly don't understand whom it benefits.  

Scripture tells us sex is how God supernaturally transforms two people into one. Mind-boggling. Two people fuse and become one. Crazy! 

So why would I expose my children to things telling them sex is all about pleasure, especially when two of the three don't even know about sex yet? Of course pleasure is part of it - within the context of the joy of two becoming one. Still mind-boggling. There were two people and now there are one? What the what now?

While on our two week vacation we were staying at a hotel where the Disney Channel was available, and I had a sick kid, so naturally I went there. 

Wrong move. Shows and commercials telling my girls that they are only a few years away from an adult romance, complete with drama and kissing. 

Again, why? Whom is this benefiting? I truly don't understand.

And then why are we surprised when we put our 8 year olds in front of shows meant for 12 year olds that they act like 12 year olds, or then later on when our 12 year olds act like 16 year olds? 

Why are we surprised by the hypersexualization of our culture when we approve it by tuning in, buying tickets, and refusing to speak up?

Our girls were watching a movie they knew we really wouldn't approve of, but watched it anyways. When we talked to them about it, one said, "I knew I shouldn't be watching it, but once it started I wanted to and couldn't look away."

That pierced me. Isn't this the case with so much of our sin, especially sexual sin? We know we shouldn't watch porn, but once it starts... Or we know we shouldn't flirt, but it feels fun and harmless...until it goes past flirting. Or (for me personally) I know I need to be patient with the One I Love Most, but it's so easy to fall into the routine of being impatient and irritated with him half the time. 

Sin is usually a spiral, rarely an all-of-a-sudden situation. And once the spiral starts, it's so hard to look away.

In light of the recent Supreme Court decision about same sex marriages, the elders and pastor at our church issued two letters addressing the congregation about where our church will stand when this issue is inevitably raised. They are so full of love, and grace, and also the truth our congregation will abide by. There is a particular paragraph from one of the letters which has stuck with me...

"We will teach our young people about sexuality from a Biblical perspective. We will not dodge the hard questions or issues. We won't be prudish, but we won't be sensational either."

This raises several questions:

At what point do we tell our children about sex? Our 8 year old knows the basics, and interestingly it's because of something she saw on TV that brought up the questions. But what about all the other sexual stuff? 

Really, the biggest question for us we are praying through is how not to be prudish in a world where sexuality is literally everywhere? It seems holding to almost any standard these days is considered prudish by some. And the Bible tells me to be in the world - no communes, and on top of no communes, actively seeking out opportunities to be in the lives of the lost. But the Bible also says not of the world. Be relevant, seek to have influence, to be taken seriously, but don't participate. I also don't want to be sensational, making mountains out of things that are really molehills. So this is the balance I need to achieve. 

How??????

Well, I don't exactly know. We are figuring this out as we go. There is no manual, book, website, blog, anything to give the exact answers to the thousands of parenting questions that arise daily. Daily. But I know I want the girls to be well thought of, to have influence, and to use their influence to bring others to Jesus. Really, that's what I want for our family.

And we have the Bible. 

But even that is being twisted, and taken out of context and used to justify our actions while condemning someone else's. I have said it before, and I really do think you can find a study, a percentage, an undercover video, even a Scripture reference to back up anything you want to back up. Exercising makes you fat. Coffee is good for you. Jesus wants you to be happy most of all, so do what makes you happy. Truth is whatever it is for you.

As I've said in the past, of hypocrites I am the worst. There are so, so many things you can judge about our lives. Judge away. I'll help. I'm impatient. I waste time looking at BuzzFeed. I yell. I spend money on things I don't need while children starve. Our girls like to say "butt." They like "booty" even better. They love "The Little Mermaid" in which a scantily clad 16 year old falls in love and gets married at the end. Barbie, with her giant fake boobs and itty bitty waist, is a favorite play thing in this house. And these things make up the smallest, tiniest tip of the iceberg.

(Put on a shirt, Ariel! And wipe that "come hither" 
look off your face, young lady!)


So I want to be really, really careful about checking the plank in our eyes because it is enormous. Thankfully the sanctification process is real and is taking place every day. I'm not quite as awful as I was yesterday.  

And ultimately, I really believe every mama (and daddy) is doing the best she can for the kids God gave her and whom she loves, with the skill-set and knowledge she has at the time. 

But I want to keep adding to my knowledge and skill set and evolving my parenting as I learn and grow. 

For this, I want the Bible to be my guide, the source of my knowledge, the place to find the truth, untwisted and in context because I have taken the time to read it, not because I read a blog about it or heard a sermon preached. I want the Bible to be the reason I grow...not this blog, not my emotions, or what my neighbor says is ok. Because it only matters what the Bible says is ok. The Bible has to be my standard, or my hypocrisy knows no bounds. 

If you don't agree with any of this, or think we are crazy prudes, or thought the Minion movie was the best movie ever made, that's ok. See my plank? It's bigger than yours. 

And when I stand before the Lord God, clothed in Jesus' righteousness He bought for me on the cross, I only care about one thing: I really, really want Him to say, "Well done with those girls I let you have for a while. They did amazing things to advance the Gospel!" 

Grace,
Martha

P.S. If you are looking for some kids shows that aren't full of sex, "Strawberry Shortcake" (the newer ones) continues to be a HUGE hit in this house. The characters are kind to one another, kindly resolve and work through problems, even having kind confrontations. It is probably my all-time favorite.

Another of our favorites, for girls and boys, is "The Backyardigans." 

And there's always "Leave it to Beaver." The best show ever.  

P.P.S. Also, if you have had it with this deep post and really only come here for a laugh, give me a few days. The Dad sick vs. Mom sick post is cracking Preston and I up. 



Monday, July 13, 2015

In the Meantime...

It's been a few weeks since a post, so I thought I'd show you what has been happening since we last chatted...


We went to Holiday World, otherwise known as Redneck Disney World, with these precious people and had such a fun day. We have been friends with this family since the beginning of time, and all of us parents are really hoping they will just pair off and get married some day. But they are more sibling than not so it's probably a long shot. I really could get on board with arranged marriages.


Anyways, I highly, highly recommend a trip to Redneck Disney World Holiday World if you are close by. Totally reasonable prices (well, for an amusement park) and great rides, plus one of the best water parks! One of the boys said, "No offense, but we need to make this a summer tradition." Uh, none taken. I think. 



So cute! And so are the kids!



Then it rained a lot. 


Like, tons. Or inches. Whatever math term measures rain. 


But rain leads to good gardens, so all is well. That is my Grandma's pressure canner in the background. She gave it to me soon after we married, saying I had so many years of canning ahead of me, and she didn't need it so much anymore. I miss her. I can't even fathom the number of times we sat and snapped beans together. 



Then my family had a Variety Show. This is the second time we have done this, at the behest of the children, and the rule is everyone must participate. They draw up a program and list everyone's talent, and believe me, I use that word extremely loosely. The kids generally have a couple entries, songs and piano playing, and the adults are desperate to think of one thing we can still do. Hope and Eva decided to do this little sketch everyone has seen before and called it "Getting Ready for Church." It involved curlers, eyeshadow and lipstick. It was hilarious. My brother presented a selection of limericks, and then ended with one he wrote:

There is an odd family I know
Who staged a variety show
The attempt was quite valiant
But none had much talent
And the guests were all eager to go.



Then all kinds of crazy went down, and someone who knew I was off Facebook sent me this. I laughed until I cried. And then I cried for other reasons. I definitely have thoughts about all of this, but I have dear, Jesus-loving friends who have different thoughts from mine, so I will leave it with this meme I thought was hilarious, no matter what your deep thoughts.  


Next came the two week vacay. This was our first and most important stop on the road to St. Simon's Island. I can be your good, true friend and disagree with you on lots of stuff, but if you think Dunkin' Donuts are superior to Krispy Kremes it's the end of the line for us. 


The view off the balcony of our room at FCA camp. Not a great pic. But somehow I hardly took any pictures at FCA camp. So this one. 


The girls got to do "campy" things while Preston and I were in chapels and doing "campy" things of our own. Overall a good week, but when we asked the girls if they would like to go back next summer, these were the responses:

"Yes!"
"Maaaaybe..."
"No!"

Pretty much how every conversation goes. Never ever can something be unanimous. So we shall see. 


We climbed to the top of the historic St. Simon's Lighthouse, (129 steps - middle girl counted hoping to catch them in a mistake) and then one girl had to be dragged out onto the platform having just birthed a fear of heights. She walked all the way around the platform, shaking, and then told us never again. We shall see.


$25 on ice cream. Obviously worth it. 


We saw a fisherman catch a shark off the pier. He was definitely not trying to catch a shark. Luckily there were some people there who knew what to do because this guy had no clue. Preston took his picture holding the shark so he could prove it to his wife, and then he tossed it back. To come along and eat us one day.


After FCA camp we met up a little further south at a beach house with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We spent a day at Kennedy Space Center, which confirmed everyone's general feeling that none of us ever want to be involved in the travelling to or living in of space. We are wooses. 



We have a couple traditions at the beach, and we added a new one this year: a week-long nerf war. From 9 am - 9 pm you can take one shot per hour. Each person is responsible for keeping up with the number of times he/she has been hit. If you miss, that's still your one shot, and the person with the least number of hits at the end of the week gets a prize. But Aunty Martha is changing the rules for next year because there was a whole lot of "practice shooting" going on. 






Another tradition is a cake decorating contest with a theme decided by the grandparents who then also judge. We draw names for teams. My team has only won once. Which is purely coincidental. The theme for this year was "Something Seen on Vacation." The middle cake was this year's winner, but clearly it should have been the bottom one. 


We also went to an alligator farm, which was Lillian's favorite thing. She says she's going to be a vet when she grows up. She did not get that plan from me. I genuinely dislike animals, especially our own dog right now who weighs about 125 pounds and is so afraid of fireworks she clawed through the screened in porch last night. If you are setting off fireworks here on the 13th of July, what the heck are you celebrating? Is there some holiday I am being left out of? 


We played a ton of games, this being a particular favorite of the intelligent people in the family (a group of which I am left out). It's called "Labyrinth" and with good reason. One child of mine likes to choose this game because she knows she will be done before I have completed the first step. This is a game for mathy-type people. Not that there's math. It's just those of you people who like math would like this dumb game. I, being of the bookish crowd, detest this game. But I play it because:


How could I possibly resist that grin??? 

And of course, the main attraction at a beach vacation is...THE BEACH!







(By the way, I think I saw a woman wearing my bathing suit in Target today...while shopping. That's not clothes! "Modest is hottest!" I'm going to cross stitch that on something for our girls. If their daddy ever lets them out. In our hyper-sexualized culture I am 99% sure he won't.)







And after we shut down the beach on our last night, we headed home with one teensie-weensie stop in mind.



After which...



Amen.

Grace,
Martha

P.S. As far as our partial media fast, it was delightful. So much so that we cut our data even further. I did put Instagram back on my phone because it feels more like the Christmas card version of Facebook, and I will still be jumping on Facebook occasionally, too, because I do love/hate it. Before we left we got to spend time with several different groups of friends and may I just say that beats the socks off Facebook? Invite someone over (like us, especially if there is a meal involved that I will not be cooking). Get take out or throw hot dogs on the grill. Play Labyrinth. Let the kids run wild. It is so much more fun in person than in pictures.