Please Thank a Teacher Today

teach

It’s amazing that I did not become a teacher.  My Mom is a teacher and my sister is as well.  I dabbled with a degree in education while in college, but ultimately decided against it.

I feel like teachers get the short end of the stick.  They are blamed for the problems in education when they rarely have a say in all the changes taking place.  Common Core?  I have not talked to one teacher who is on board with that.  Saying that teachers are responsible for Common Core’s implementation is like saying that I am responsible for the Affordable Care Act because I work in healthcare.  Trust me, if someone had come to me for advice on ACA, things would have gone down differently.

Here are some reasons why we ought to run out and thank teachers immediately:

1. Curriculum

Imagine that you have been working in a job for several years.  You have built up a system and feel comfortable with your responsibilities.  Your files are up-to-date and you have kept meticulous notes.  Now imagine that one day you are told that the paperwork and notes you have no longer apply.  You need to start over and teach according to a new script, so-to-speak.  Not only that, but you have little time to prepare yourself for this new way in which you must do your job.  Then, you have to find a way to learn a new curriculum then teach it to a classroom full of students. You need to develop ways to make the new curriculum fun and engaging.  Your students are expected learn and apply what you have taught so that they can perform at a high level on standardized tests.  Have fun, but don’t forget that you will need to toss this new stuff in the trash and learn yet another new curriculum in a few short years.

2. Testing

Unfortunately, everything revolves around testing.  I was once an aide to a child in elementary school and his classroom had to take a practice PSSA test that lasted for a few hours on the second day of school.  Students were crying because they didn’t know the material.  These were very smart and capable kids, but they didn’t realize that they weren’t supposed to know the material because it hadn’t been taught to them yet.   It was a must that the students be assessed immediately because it was a predictor as to how much needed to be learned before the actual test was administered several months later.   The students became frustrated and anxious when it came to the actual test because they felt like they knew so little on the pre-test.  Teachers are under so much pressure to get through as much material as possible before the official testing begins.  They have little to no time to slow down and go over topics when their students need extra review.  Do you think teachers enjoy this?

It’s no secret that children learn in different ways.  One type of testing is not an appropriate indicator of what a child knows or how intelligent they are and teachers know this better than anyone.  But it is dictated to our teachers that they must find a way to make every child successful in this one measurement.  School districts and states are judged by these test scores and failure is not an option.

3. Paperwork

Everything must be documented.  Paperwork has to be turned in to show progress and plans have to be made for future progress.  If you are a special education teacher, the paperwork is endless.  In addition, teachers are in front of a classroom basically all day – when are they completing this paperwork?  That’s right, they take their work home and finish it off the clock.  They don’t get to punch out and leave it all behind for a few hours.

4. Plan Periods

Yes, teachers are supposed to get plan periods.  But, most of the time, they are not getting caught up on anything because of the aforementioned points.  Then there are the papers to grade, the letters that need to be sent home, the classroom that needs to be put back into order.  Plan periods are not a time of relaxation.  If I want to grab a cup of coffee and a breather during my day, I get to do that.  Not teachers.

5. Masters Degrees

How do you get a raise if you are a teacher?  Go back to school!  The teacher must become the student in order for them to receive a bump in pay. So in addition to the extra work they bring home from their job, they must also attend classes to further their own education.  Not all teachers have done this, but many of the teachers my age have while raising a family and taking care of a household.  Why not?  They don’t have enough on their plate.

6. Snow Days

Last winter, when the 10th snow day occurred in the Northeast, it dawned on me that these days are the worst for teachers.  Sure, it’s fun to be Captain Sweatpants and hang around the house for a day or two, but any more than that and it becomes a nightmare.  They have the task of assembling the troops and getting them to focus and learn something after unexpectedly having days off.  Seriously, last year the teachers practically lost whole weeks of school due to the weather.  How do you get kids to retain anything when that is going on?  Plus, all that standardized testing is always right around the corner and we all know we have to hang our hats on that.

7. Summers Off

This is why the rest of us think that teachers have it made in the shade.  However, it’s not all fun and games.  Once school is officially done for the students, the teachers have a few more days of in-service followed by another couple of days of cleaning out their rooms.  Given the snow days, this might take you until the end of June before your summer actually begins.  Then, if your curriculum has changed, you better learn it and prepare your materials and come up with fun ways to relay the lessons.  Raises are hard to come by, so in order to make a little more money, many teachers head back into the classroom to teach summer school.  If you are pursuing your Master’s, odds are it’s that time of year when you add a few extra graduate courses to your workload.  Vacation just wouldn’t be vacation without four term papers to write.

8. Out-of-Pocket Expenses

You know those cute signs and inspirational posters in your kid’s classroom?  I would be willing to bet that their teacher bought them.  Not with the school’s money – with their own.  Classroom supplies?  Yeah, I’ve known teachers to go above-and-beyond and buy a bunch of those too.  This is another fun way that teachers get to spend their summer ‘off’ – shopping for things to keep their classrooms fresh and functional.  Plus, there are countless things that come up during the course of the school year that would require a teacher to reach into their pockets for their students.  The teachers that I know do this willingly.  My sister has told me that one time she was checking out at Walmart and had her arms full of candy and toy dinosaurs.  The man in line in front of her turned around, looked at what she was carrying, and asked, “You a teacher?”  That would be correct, sir.

9. Budgets

It’s no secret that the budgets of school districts are tight.  Our taxes go up every year.  Because of these tight budgets, the teachers must fight for everything they get.  It’s why so many receive their Masters.  It’s why they deal with the out-of-pocket expenses.  I know teachers who haven’t received a raise in years – not even cost-of-living increases.
They don’t just sit back and watch as the arts are cut for their students.  They don’t brush it off when extracurricular activities are in jeopardy.  There are some school districts that can no longer fund sports; the students must pay in order to play.  Of course, many students don’t have the money, so fundraisers are organized.  Schools can’t afford to pay people to coach.  I have seen numerous teachers step up and coach these teams because they believe in the kids and they believe in the positive correlation extracurricular activities have to classroom learning.  Teachers are affected the most when budgets are cut.

10. The Kids

I would dare to say that the vast majority of teachers are doing what they do because they care genuinely about children and their future.  They put up with all of this other junk because they are passionate about education and want to make a difference in the lives of others.  Teachers hearts are broken when they see that child in their classroom who they know has a difficult life at home.  They know that passing a test is the least of that child’s concerns.  They personally take it upon themselves to love each child and make sure they know it.  Besides the paperwork and the new curriculum, teachers also take thoughts of their students home with them each night.  Concern about the troubled student or whether or not they are effectively relaying the course material can weigh heavily on a teacher’s mind.  Yet, teachers return to the classroom day after day, year after year, in order to help our kids become respectable, responsible, and educated members of society.

 

These points are just the tip of the iceberg; teachers deal with way more than the things I have listed.  I want to thank my teachers  throughout the years.  Their endless encouragement and words of wisdom shaped who I have become, second only to my parents.  They gave me the confidence to pursue my passions and believe in myself.  They made me feel capable and worthwhile.

I look back now and am so thankful that I did not become a teacher.  But, because I have those feelings, I am so grateful to those who did become teachers; it is truly a job that I could not do.  I think of having a classroom full of the same energy level my kids have and I get an instant headache.  Teaching is not for the faint of heart.  Please take the time to thank a teacher.  But let’s take it a few steps further and make it a priority to pray for our nation’s teachers continually whether they teach in a public school, private school, or homeschool. After all, they are shaping our future.

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Car Seat Comedians

Driving with kids in the backseat can be all kinds of entertaining. As soon as JJ – my oldest – could talk, he wanted to know all about traffic lights and stop signs.  He didn’t like stop signs because he couldn’t see them very well from his seat so he always thought I was just randomly stopping to annoy him.  I only do that on occasion.

Anyway, I took all the traffic light questions as an opportunity to teach him about rules and colors and what it means to stop and go.  We would pull up to a light and he would recite, “Green means go and red means stop!”  Of course, I really didn’t think he understood all of this, I just thought he was repeating what he heard me say over and over again.

One day, I rolled up to a red light and needed to make a right-hand turn.  I came to a stop, looked both ways, and proceeded to make the turn.  I overheard JJ in the car seat say softly to himself, “Hmmm, the light was red.” I chuckled to myself but he didn’t realize I had heard him so he asked,

“Mommy, why did you go when the light was red?”

“I was making a right-hand turn, so if you stop and look both ways, you are allowed to do that even though the light is red.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Sure you can.”

“You’re bad.  GREEN means go – not red!”

Why I tried to explain this to a then two-year-old is beyond me.  He then proceeded to tell everyone that his Mom had run a red light.  Just this past week, I was at yet another red light ready to make a right-hand turn.  I didn’t go because it was in a construction zone and traffic was down to one lane.  JJ insisted that I could have and should have made the turn because of the previous rule that I had described to him.  No need for safety first.

Now he likes to tell me the directions to go different places.  The other day, we were going to run some errands and I told him he could tell me the way to get to the store.  There are several different ways to get to stores from our home, so he has to give me specific directions.  This also helps him learn his right from his left.  We pulled up to a stop sign and JJ told me to go straight.  I asked, “What if I wanted to turn left?”jjcarseat

His response, “You can’t go left. If you turn left you will die.  You are dying, Mom.”

“I’m not dying – I’m not turning left.”

“You are still gonna die soon.”

Great.  File that under creepy stuff my kid says.  It was also the second time that week he predicted my death.  I don’t know what’s worse, JJ saying I’m going to die or Jett yelling “Pappy!” every single time we pass a certain cemetery. What in the world, boys!?

At least the backseat criticism isn’t just limited to me – my husband gets hit with it too.  JJ always tells me that, “Dad is a horrible driver.”  I ask why and he says things like, “He goes too fast,” or “He hits animals.”  This prompts me to get Jeff to explain what JJ is talking about, which is usually about as serious as a bug hitting the windshield.

When JJ says goodbye to me in the mornings, he likes to look outside and see what the weather is like.  He’ll say things like, “It’s pretty foggy out there.  You need to turn on your lights and be careful!”  I’ve also gotten warnings like, “It’s really raining – be sure to use your lights and wipers!”

Are you my kid or my grandfather???

Unfortunately, there are times when Jeff and I experience a bit of road rage.  We will ‘talk’ to the other drivers and then JJ will ask why we said what we did.

“Dad, why’d you say, ‘Move it or lose it’?”

“Why’d you say, ‘Watch out!’?’

“Why’d you say, ‘Get off the road’?”

“Mom, why’d you say, ‘Jeez, buddy’?”

It’s usually too difficult or annoying to explain what we feel the other drive did wrong, so we typically brush these responses off or just apologize for saying them because we don’t want it to be repeated.

Jett has now joined forces with JJ and they are both ganging up on us.  They picked up on the classic, “Are we there yet?” all by themselves.  I have literally been asked that question before we are fully backed out of the driveway.  No, no we are not there yet.

Teaching them to drive should be a real blast.  I think I’ll just sit in the backseat and pepper them with ‘because why’ questions the whole time.  Better yet, I’ll have them drive over to their Aunt Em’s house, pick her up, and then the two of us can do a backseat rendition of ‘Mockingbird’ that can only be rivaled by Harry and Lloyd in ‘Dumb and Dumber’.

dumb

 

Thankfully, these aren’t the only experiences we have while driving.  Many great conversations have been had with our kids while we are in the car and we hope those continue for years to come.  But for now, they are definitely car seat comedians.

Mothers, Children, and Body Image

My favorite accessories

Before I had kids, I told myself that if I had a girl I would turn things around.  I wouldn’t beat myself up when I looked in the mirror.  I wouldn’t frown when I saw the size label on my jeans.  I would never let her hear me say that I was fat or hated my body.

Instead, I would be her rock.  I would teach her to love herself and to focus on her inward beauty.  I would show her what it means to walk the fine line between confidence and humility – knowing what she is capable of, yet keeping the perseverance that is required of hard work.  We would talk of societal standards of beauty versus God’s standards of beauty.  If I had a girl, she would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is perfection in my eyes.

As of yet, I do not have a daughter – I have two handsome sons.  Somewhere along the line, I forgot all of these promises that I made to myself.  I thought that they only applied to girls and that whether or not I had a positive body image wouldn’t impact my boys.  I was wrong.

Call it an epiphany, an “Ah-Ha” moment, the light bulb went off – whatever it was, I realized that my boys needed me to be their rock too.  They need to see me happy in my own skin.  They need to see me live with confidence and humility.  They need to know the difference between societal standards of beauty and God’s standards of beauty.

Right now, I am the woman in my sons’ world.  Yep, it’s all about me.  My attitude is shaping their opinions of women and how a woman ought to appear and behave.  In fact, they don’t even know it yet, but their expectations of what their future wife will be like and all that she will be capable of is being formed by how they see me.  My words of encouragement and affirmation are also building the framework for how they see themselves.  A daunting task, to say the least.

Obviously, as a mother I know I am to be a positive example in the lives of my children.  But it’s easy to forget that body image needs to be part of that positive example.  I don’t want my sons to see me fear the beach (a place I love) because my body just ‘ain’t what she used to be.’  Frankly, even if I didn’t have kids, I would be willing to bet that my body wouldn’t look the way that I wanted it to either; gravity is a real, and ever-present danger.  So, during the summer, I will stuff myself into a bathing suit and run all over the sand, plop myself down and dig holes and build castles, and jump the waves all while trying not to think about how many rolls may be showing or whether or not anyone can see a thigh dimple as I walk hand-in-hand with my son to the water’s edge.  I can tell you right now that my sons do not care if I have rolls or dimples showing while I’m in my bathing suit.  Not once have they made a comment about anything like that.  All they care about is that I am right there doing these things with them, which means that is all I need to care about as well.

Hey, Mom, you weren’t expecting us both to jump into the pool to you at the same time!?  Well we did and your trusty one-piece suit had a wardrobe malfunction. But you caught us and that’s all we noticed because that’s what we expected of you.

Speaking of wardrobe malfunctions, I am also responsible for teaching my sons about the concept of modesty as it relates to body image.  This is quite the uphill battle given our culture, but I still have to try.  I want my sons to see me as a woman who carries herself with grace and dignity.  While I believe that all women (and all people) should be shown respect, I think the way we clothe ourselves can have just as much of an impact on the respect we receive as the person we are on the inside.  Yes, you should never judge a book by its cover, but that’s not really the way we operate, is it? If you had never met me and I had never spoken a word to you, but you saw that I was wearing an outfit that allowed my chest to hang out and my legs to barely be covered, what would you think of me?  Would you think I was a good mother?  Would you think I was an accomplished professional?  As a result, I need to make wise choices when I dress myself.   Being modest does not mean that I need to be frumpy or out-of-touch with fashion.  (Side note: I think many women try to be modest, especially when they become mothers, and what may be modest for one might not be for another, so let’s give each other a touch of grace in this area.)

Again, my goal is to show my boys what a woman is capable of on the inside and out, just as I would show my daughter.  They need to see that I can roll up my sleeves and am not afraid to get dirty or work hard.  They also need to see that I can dress up and look and feel beautiful when I go out for dinner with their father.  These things don’t just do wonders for my sons, they do wonders for me as well.  When I am showing my sons what a woman is able to do, I am also showing myself the same things.  In fact, I don’t know if I have had a more positive body image in my life than I have in recent months.  I haven’t lost any weight or changed my hairstyle, but I have started to shift my attitude.

Proverbs 31 is a popular passage of scripture.  I really began to study it a few months ago and decided that I wanted it to be the blueprint for my roles both in and out of the home.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her.  Her husband praises her: ‘There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!’  Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.”

Proverbs 31: 25-30

I felt like I was doing pretty well with the ‘watching everything in my household’ part, but other than that I knew I needed a lot of work.  This passage of scripture is exactly what I would want to teach my daughter about her gifts and abilities as a woman, so why wouldn’t it be exactly what I want to teach my sons about women?  How amazing would it be if my husband could look at all of my accomplishments as a woman and say that I ‘surpass them all’!?  In striving to embody the Proverbs 31 Woman, I have begun to feel beautiful in ways that I never had before.  Nope, I’m not a size 2, but I’m healthy and able to work, take care of my home, and chase my children around.  Body image is about so much more than the outward reflection we see of ourselves; it’s the combination of so many things about us.  I know for a fact that my husband and children do not look at me and see physical flaws first, so I’m not going to look at myself that way either.  Just like everyone else, I have so much more than physical aspects to offer.

The other evening, after some hardcore playtime outside, I came into the house and went into the bathroom to wash my hands.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror – I was filthy from playing in the dirt, my hair was falling out of my ponytail, and I had a smudge of who-knows-what on my flushed cheeks.  I took a seat in the living room and the boys immediately crawled up on my lap.  My oldest said, “I love you, Mommy.  You are just the snuggliest!”  I sat there, dirty, sweaty, and grinning from ear-to-ear because I had never felt more beautiful in my entire life.

Linked to these great blogs: Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully, Equipping Godly Women

The Myth of Greener Grass

green grass

I once heard it said that, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it’s fertilized with poo.”  I don’t know where I read it or who to give credit to for that quote, but I love it because it’s usually true.

This week marks the one year anniversary of my job change and our big move.  I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around all that has happened.  I struggle with whether or not the right decision was made.  Throughout this year, I have made many discoveries about myself and about the things we tell ourselves when we are in pursuit of greener grass.

First of all, I have come to the conclusion that the decision to change jobs and move was neither right nor wrong.  It was just a decision we made and that’s that.  Did it have a huge impact on our lives?  Yes.  Would the decision to stay also have a huge impact on our lives? Yes.  I can’t say that our lives made a 180-degree turn for the better.  We basically have  the same situation, just in a different town.  Sure, I have a better shift and less off-the-clock things to deal with.  But, Jeff has to work more evenings now.  Our income didn’t wasn’t increased and our grass isn’t greener.

Secondly, we had to change churches.  This was very difficult for us.  We loved our church so much and had grown together in our faith and our marriage there.  Our best friends were found in that church.  Mentors and people that we looked up to were there as well.  We told ourselves that we would be back to visit often.  We have only been back twice in the past year.  Thankfully, the church we now attend is also great (but really, would we put up with attending a church we didn’t believe was great?).  We have made new friends and formed new bonds.  There are also people here who are encouraging us as we grow in our faith and in our marriage.  Again, our grass remains the same shade of green.

Thirdly – and this closely relates to my second point – we left family and friends behind.  We moved from one group of family and friends to be reunited with a different group of family and friends.  It was and is hard and we still find ourselves challenged with how to visit and stay in touch with everyone.  Frankly, it’s a challenge to work and have kids and find the time to visit people in the same town as us.  The good thing is, we have family and friends who understand the restraints on our time and resources and they don’t hold it against us when we aren’t able to stay in touch as much as we would like.  Here we are again with the same old grass.

The fourth discovery would be our home.  There are days that I miss our old home so much that it hurts.  I’ve cried because I want to go back.  I miss our house, our big bedroom, our neighbors, the basketball court that we used to walk to.  Everything.  In those moments, I question why we left it all behind.  I’ve learned that I struggle with an attachment to the material.  Our house was wonderful, but replaceable.  We took our belongings with us and were able to find a new home.  Our new home is also wonderful, but different.  I know that it will take time, but it doesn’t always feel like ‘home’ to me.  I often think that I could walk right into our old house and instantly feel at home, even though it’s been a year.  We brought our babies home from the hospital to that house.  It was our first home.  At the end of the day, I tell myself that the memories I have there are what I truly miss rather than the house itself.  Given time, we will build plenty of new memories in our new home.  Our grass is green.

We moved for my job and over the summer it became clear to me that my job might be in jeopardy.  Healthcare is rapidly changing and the direction that my hospital has to change in order to keep up with everything didn’t look like it was going to include my current position.  I was terrified.  Not only that, but I felt that our move had indeed been a huge mistake.  What were we thinking!?  Yet, God is faithful and a position came along at the end of the summer that I applied for, interviewed, and was offered.  I am able to stay at the hospital and provide for my family.  Just when I thought things were going to be settling down for us, I will have to learn a brand new function.  While it can be intimidating to start over, I am so thankful that this opportunity presented itself.  Going forward, this new job might be able to take my career in a direction I had never dreamed possible.

All in all, our grass may not be greener than it was a year ago, but it is, in fact, green.  The pursuit of something different, better, bigger, etc. is ultimately unsatisfying.  When you are in search of greener grass, you will never have enough – the grass will never be green enough.  The last year has taught me to look at the present and be happy in the moment.  I am a work-in-progress when it comes to the concept of contentment.  I constantly have to resist the urge to search for greener pastures, specifically when it comes to my career.  Looking back serves no purpose and looking forward only gives us unrealistic expectations.  Another quote I love says, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence because it is watered and cared for.”  I can make my grass the greenest grass around if I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

God’s provisions for me and my family have been unbelieveable during this season of change in our lives.  I can see how clearly He has connected the dots and made things possible that otherwise seemed hopeless.  If all of this happened in order to strengthen my faith and trust in God, then the journey has been completely worth it.

Bawl So Hard

Toddlers ‘feel all the feelings.’  They don’t hold back and can go from 0 to 60 faster than most would consider humanly possible.  They are wishy-washy and don’t know what they want until the exact moment they want it.  And then they want it NOW.

The random things that will make my kids flip out never cease to amaze me.  Take Sunday mornings for example.  Lately, we have been in a struggle with our 3-year-old regarding his church attire.  Again, I’m not going to make him wear a 3-piece suit, but I don’t want him to look like he was just jumping in a mud puddle either.  A meltdown ensued when the weather changed and he now had to wear pants to church instead of shorts.  It wasn’t so much the pants as it was the type of pants he was asked to wear.  He sobbed for ten minutes because I dressed him in an outfit with ‘hard pants’ (jeans) when he wanted to wear ‘soft pants’ (sweats).  Son, are you for real!?

A few nights ago, my husband was working and JJ actually took a long nap.  When he gets up from his nap, you can usually tell immediately how the rest of the night is going to go by whether or not he is in a good mood.  Needless to say, this night was going to be rough.  Jett and I had already eaten our dinner.  It’s bad news bears if I try to get JJ to eat as soon as he wakes up, so I just let him come to me whenever he is hungry on these occasions.  Within fifteen minutes he was asking for food.  I had made some homemade macaroni and cheese so that’s what he had for dinner.  I got it ready and placed the plate on the table for him.  He went berserk.  Not because he didn’t want the mac-and-cheese, he just didn’t want it on a plate.

“Why would you put it on a plate!? Why? That is sooo weird!!! I won’t eat it like this!!! WHY? WHY? WHYYYY?”

He was screaming ‘why’ over and over again more brutally than Nancy Kerrigan after she got whacked in the knee by Tonya Harding’s people.  (I did the research and that happened 20 years ago. So no, I don’t think it’s too soon for that joke.  I felt really old when I saw the date.)

How dare I put food on a plate!? What is wrong with me!?  I just walked away and let him work it out with himself.  I also needed to remove myself from the situation just to ensure that I didn’t toss the plate across the room in a fit of frustration.  Seeing that I am the adult, I need to display appropriate self-control and I wasn’t feeling it in that moment.  He eventually calmed down and discovered that mac-and-cheese tastes the same when served on a plate as it does when served in a bowl.  Who’s the weirdo now?bawlin2

During the same week, JJ got up from a nap and just bawled for half an hour for seemingly no reason.  I literally didn’t have a clue what was going on.  I sent him back up to his room until he could calm down – not because he was in trouble, but because he’s wasn’t going to ruin everyone else’s evening while he threw a fit.  After a few minutes, Jett and I went up to check on him.  I held JJ and attempted to find out why he was so upset.  He didn’t even know why he was crying, but he didn’t think to turn off the tears.  Meanwhile, Jett is trying to drink out of JJ’s cup.  JJ had just gotten over a 24-hour bug (which probably had something to do with the crying) so I grabbed the cup out of Jett’s hands so that the germs wouldn’t be passed.  This infuriated Jett and he began to wail.  Jett is pretty even-keeled until he just isn’t, and then it takes a while to get him to settle down.

So now I had both JJ and Jett screaming and crying and clinging to me with no way to calm them down.  What is going on?  Am I on ‘Candid Camera’?  Is the preschool version of Ashton Kutcher about to jump out of the shadows and declare that I’m being ‘Punk’d’?  Things just reached a level of crazy that I couldn’t even describe.

I did the only thing I could think to do – locked myself in the bathroom.  At that point, I couldn’t calm them down and I knew that they were crying for no good reason.  No one was hurt, no one was hungry, they just wanted attention.  I love to give them attention, but not negative attention.  I wasn’t going to play their game.  So, in order to keep my cool, I just stepped inside the bathroom and shut the door.  Without me around as an audience to their weeping, they shut it down within the minute.  I was only in the bathroom for two minutes total, but when I came out, JJ was playing calmly in the living room and Jett was just knocking on the door Sheldon Cooper-style saying, “Knock, knock Mommy,” three times in a row.

I should mention that this was the week of the full moon.  Any parent, teacher, and healthcare worker can attest that all bets are off when the full moon rises.  But this wasn’t any full moon, it was the blood moon (cue menacing music here).  At one point, I thought the boys had totally lost their minds and were going to run out onto the deck and start howling at the moon.bawling

Thankfully, just as suddenly as the crazy comes, the crazy goes.  On the same night that I placed myself on a bathroom timeout, JJ snuggled up next to me before bed and said, “Mom, I had the best night ever with you.”  Wow.  Do you know what the phrase ‘best night ever’ means or did you just genuinely forget about everything that happened earlier?

I love that JJ said this because it was such a great reminder of how God views us.  Just as JJ was able to forget about our struggles earlier in the evening, God is able to forget about the mistakes we’ve made in the past.  When we ask for His forgiveness, He gives it freely and then in God’s eyes what’s done is done.  Move on.  Sure, we need to learn from our mistakes and do our part, but God doesn’t hold them against us.  How incredible is that!?

As a parent, and just in life in general, it can be very difficult to let things go and to be able to forgive and forget.  When my nerves are shot by noon on Saturday and I know that I have nine more hours until bedtime, am I able to move past a tough morning and enjoy the rest of our day?  Or am I hanging on to everything that went wrong and letting it rob me of fun times in the present?  Oftentimes, my kids are a better example of God’s grace than I am.  They can forgive easier than I can.  Yes, I need to teach them appropriate behavior and not let them get away with things.  But, when my toddler’s feelings abound, my mothering forgiveness needs to abound too.

 

 

Comparison Kills Contentment

comparison

I was so excited!  I had $10 in Kohl’s cash to use and a free Friday night in which to use it.  My husband and oldest son dropped me and my youngest son off at Kohl’s as they went to a nearby sporting goods store.  I don’t know why I love Kohl’s so much, I just do.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I can find something for everyone there and it’s not Walmart.

Regardless, my husband told me to make sure that I spent the money on myself.  I didn’t have much more than the $10 to spend, but coupled with the coupons I had, I might be able to find something decent in that price range.  Jett and I were meandering through the store when I saw her.

She was my age, minding her own business, and enjoying her Friday night just like I was – shopping.  However, her level of shopping was much different from mine.  I watched as she pulled a dress off of the rack, held it up, and added it to the stack already placed on her cart.  There had to be hundreds of dollars worth of clothes in her cart.  She continued through the aisle.  Sweater – check.  Jeans – check.  Necklace – check.  I tried not to let  jealously take control of me.

I looked down at the measly $10 coupon in my hand and my earlier feeling of excitement was replaced with a sense of longing.  This $10 simply wasn’t enough.  How is it fair that I had been scrimping and saving in order to get a few new items to wear to work and this woman so nonchalantly placed whatever she wanted into her cart?  How nice it must be to be able to go out and buy whatever you wanted.  Meanwhile, the money I had been saving to replace an old pair of black pants with a fraying hem went to buy the boys new clothes.  Children grow at an alarming rate and just when you think they have plenty in their wardrobe they no longer fit into anything.  It never bothers me when I sacrifice something for myself in order for my kids to have something, but it bothered me on this day.

Just as we were about to leave the women’s department, she spotted us.  She pushed her full cart over to us and smiled and smiled.  Jett was flirting with her and they were having a conversation.  I said hi and thanked her when she told me that my son was adorable.  Before we walked past each other, she said one more thing.  “You are so blessed.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

Yes, yes logically I knew I was blessed.  I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no room for complaining.  Yet, here I was making negative assumptions about this woman whom I had never met while it took her all of two seconds to realize how much of worth I had and congratulate me on it.

I eventually picked out not one, but two pairs of earrings with my coupon and we headed home.  I thought about the exchange I had with that woman throughout the night and for the days to come.  I wondered if maybe she hadn’t been saving her money for a long time in order to enjoy a much-needed and well-deserved shopping trip.  I wondered if she had any children.  Then it crossed my mind that while I was jealous of her, perhaps she was equally, if not more so, jealous of me.  Maybe her and her husband had been trying to have children.  Maybe she can’t have children.  Maybe she would give anything to have just $10 to spend while pushing her sweet and cuddly son around in the front of her cart.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if any of these things are true.  What I do know, is that I’m grateful to that woman for punching me in the gut with perspective.  I have been given so much.  Rather than waste my time and energy comparing my situation to someone else’s, I should be praising God for the situation I have.  I am a wife and mother with an amazing family.  While I may have to bobby pin my dress pants so the hem doesn’t drag, at least I have a job to wear those pants to.  That job puts a roof over our head and food on our table.  That table is the space we gather around and give thanks to our Savior who died for us and gave us eternal life.

My contentment will never be found in things of this earth.  Someone will always have it better than me or be better than me.  My contentment comes straight from my Savior who sustains me.  When I focus on Him, I’m not comparing myself to others and killing my contentment; I’m looking towards an indescribable eternity in Heaven.

 

Linked to these great blogs: Equipping Godly Women, My Freshly Brewed Life, Mom’s Morning Coffee, Serving Joyfully

Dinner is Served

I must admit, my talents are not found in the kitchen.  I never gravitated to the culinary arts growing up – I was in the gym shooting hoops.  So, whenever I got married and found myself faced with the question, “What’s for dinner?” I had very few options.

Things have gotten better the last few years, though.  What was once a rotation of a handful of meals has grown a little bit.  I recently made mini quiches that were a big hit; this surprised everyone, myself included.  Thanks to Pinterest, I can easily find recipes simple enough for me to handle.  But let’s be honest, I’m mostly on Pinterest to search in the humor section and pin funny e-cards like this one:

mail

Having kids has really made me buckle down.  I even meal plan now!  Although, when you’re an organizational freak like me, that’s much easier than actually cooking the food.  I want to eat healthy foods, and I certainly want my family to as well.  If I don’t teach them about proper nutrition, no one else will.  I’m not going to say that our kids are picky eaters – they’re not – but they are definitely used to pretty bland cuisine.  There are weeks when I swear we are in some sort of competition to see how many hot dogs we can eat in a 7 day period.  The answer is A LOT.  This mostly happens when our work schedules are crazy or someone is feeling under the weather.

JJ has a few favorite meals that he requests.  The thing about 3-year-olds is that they will love something one minute and loathe it the next.  He will beg me for a certain meal and then when it’s on the table refuse to eat it.  Yeah, that’s in no way frustrating.  We don’t fight with him – we just wrap it up and save it for him to eat later.  We aren’t going to let tantrums ruin the meal for everyone else.

Then there are times when JJ reverses his process and will whine and complain about what I am making, but will try it and love it.  Just the other night I made tacos – a food he loves – but he was insistent that he was just going to skip dinner.  He ate a bite and exclaimed, “I am so proud of you for making this lovely dinner, Your Majesty.”  I didn’t even know what to say to that so I just responded with, “Thank you, Good Sir.”

My Mom is an amazing cook and while we were living with them she made us great meals several times a week.  She gave me some of the recipes and I have been making them since we moved.  I’ll make one of those meals and JJ will say, “Mom, this is almost as good as Meme’s!”  Thanks, I guess.  Although, anything tastes better when my Mom makes it.  She could make me a bologna sandwich and it would be the best tasting sandwich ever made.

In addition to this, my Mom showed me while I was growing up that it is possible to have a good meal for your family every night. She went back to work when my younger sister was in kindergarten. I never realized how much effort it takes to make sure that your family has a home cooked meal after you’ve just been at work all day. I am certainly even more grateful for all that my Mom accomplished now that I have a family of my own.

Other than the fact that cooking doesn’t come easily to me, I also don’t have the time to craft elaborate meals.  Jeff is great about getting dinner started or putting things in the crock-pot for me, which really saves a lot of time when I get home from work.  If I am trying to cook after Jeff leaves for work, I usually have one or both kids hanging off of me while I’m browning meat or sauteing vegetables.  Not ideal, but I’m really trying not to break our previous hot dog consumption record, so I just suck it up.

Whenever Jeff has a night off of work, we always try to have a family dinner.  Even if he is working, the boys and I sit down at the table together.  This is a major priority and something that we look forward to.  We always pray before dinner and this can get interesting.  JJ is old enough to learn how to pray and we encourage him to pray for our meals whenever possible.  One day he rattled off this gem:

“Dear Jesus,

Thank you for this very nice cut grass day.  Thank you for this food and thank you that Mommy is the boss.

Bye.  I mean, Amen.”

Amen to that, son!  I should explain that he went through a stage where he would thank God that the weather was nice enough for him to cut grass with his Dad.  As for the boss part, who knows where he came up with that.

Jett even knows that we pray before meals.  The other night, I thought he was yelling “cheese, cheese” from his highchair.  Like most human beings, he is obsessed with cheese.  As it turns out, he was saying, “Jesus, Jesus.”  He wanted to pray!  It was such a great moment.

There have been several occasions when we have been eating at a restaurant and the food comes and JJ screams, “We have to pray!”  He has then proceeded to yell his prayer loud enough for most patrons to hear.  But, I refuse to be embarrassed about that and I certainly never want him to be embarrassed to pray in public.

 IMG_5475

 

Getting the food to the table can be quite the adventure, but spending that time together is a tradition that we started when the kids were born and one that we plan to keep going until they leave the nest.  I love having the chance to catch up with one another.  Sure, there are nights when the toddlers’ tempers take over and all you-know-what breaks loose.  But for the most part, everyone’s happy when dinner is served.

The Elusive Date Night

Jeff and I have been together for 8 years – married for 6-and-a-half of those years.  During this time, we have had – to my mind – few date nights.

During college, we were poor (obviously) and we got to hang out all of the time anyway.  You know, what with very few responsibilities and all that good stuff.  Our first real date didn’t happen until months after we had officially begun dating.  We went to Red Lobster and rented a movie.  Who can deny endless shrimp and cheddar biscuits?  Not me.  Plus, I think there was a gift card involved so that didn’t hurt either.

Graduation

Graduation

After graduation, we both moved back home and would alternate visits every other weekend.  We were actually able to go on more dates during this time frame than we have since then.  We were married a year after graduation and the week that we came back from our honeymoon we found out that Jeff would be working second shift and that my hours were going to be drastically cut.  As a result, I got a job as a waitress where I worked for two-and-a-half years before getting my foot in the door at our local hospital.  The schedule of a server varies greatly, and you have to work weekend shifts in order to make any kind of money.  Therefore, whenever Jeff worked, I was home, and whenever I worked, he was home.  Not exactly conducive to date nights, or just time together in general.

When I finally got a job at the hospital, we learned that our first child was on the way.  While I was in training, I worked first shift and Jeff still worked second shift.  We basically only saw each other on the weekends – he didn’t get home until midnight and I had to get up shortly after 5am.  Fun times!  After training, I thought that I would be working second shift and Jeff and I would finally be on the same schedule.  Not so fast.  I had to fill in on third shift and Jeff’s shift was changing to 9:30am-5:30pm.  There I was, working through the night during my second and third trimesters and it was brutal.  Jeff and I joked that we barely saw each other and it was a mystery as to how we managed to make this baby in the first place.  (Mom, you can pretend you didn’t read that part.)

JJ came into the world and I was only able to take six weeks off of work.  An unnaturally short length of time, but that’s our country’s system for you!  Jeff and I got to spend more time together during those six weeks then we had in a long time.  It was wonderful!  Back at work, I rotated between first, second, and third shifts while caring for an infant and keeping up with all the household duties.  I look back and am so grateful to see how God got us through those times.  Just thinking about it causes me to feel overwhelmed.

Honeymoon...we look like babies

Honeymoon…we look like babies

We made it through, but not without sacrificing our time with each other.  Next, I received a promotion and began my new job.  Just when things seemed like they were settling down (ha, that never happens), Jeff’s schedule changed again and he began working 11am-7pm.  If you’ve never worked this shift, it’s the worst.  You don’t have enough time to do anything before work or after work.  It’s ideal for singles, and that wasn’t us.  About a month later, we found out that baby No. 2 was on his way.  Changes, changes, and more changes.

After Jett arrived, I was able to take 12 weeks off.  This was much better than the 6 weeks with JJ, but still about 5 years less than I would have wanted.  I’ve talked before about our tough decision for me to work and Jeff to stay at home.  It was the only way to afford one of us being there with the kids.  Shortly after I went back, Jeff got a part-time job on the weekends.  He had to work 20 hours in two days, which meant that on my days off he was working and vice versa.  Unfortunately, date nights had to take a back seat once again.

Now that we have moved, our schedule is basically the same as this – straight up crazy.  Just this week I read a blog post about our parenting styles affecting our marriages.  Jeff and I have made many sacrifices for our family in the past few years.  They have been nothing short of difficult, yet we feel very strongly that we are doing what is best for our children.  I worry (surprise, surprise) that our relationship has suffered due to our sacrifices for our children.

Last week, we had the opportunity to have an impromptu date night and we jumped on it.  Jeff’s work schedule was switched at the last-minute and we had free child care available, not to mention more sweet gift cards for the Olive Garden.  Carbs – just bring on all the carbs.  Yes, there is nothing more cliché than an Olive Garden date night for a married couple in rural America, but who cares!?  It was amazingly refreshing and fun.  Not only that, but it’s such a great reminder that our partnership is much more than romantic – we are best friends and we are in this for the long haul.

Our best attempt at capturing our impromptu date...JJ had to be involved

Our best attempt at capturing our impromptu date…JJ had to be involved and we forgot to try for a better shot

I’ve heard it said that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse and let them see it.  We want our kids to know that our marriage is a priority.  Next to our faith, it needs to be our top priority.  If we aren’t careful, our kids can easily take over all of our time and energy.  Trust me, this has happened to us over and over again and we often need to reset.  Thankfully, we can be honest with each other and usually it is Jeff having a frank conversation with me and not the other way around.  I know this stems from the fact that I am working all day and I can’t bear the thought that my kids might be starved of my affection and attention in any way.  As a result, I sometimes focus solely on them when I’m at home.  The fact of the matter is, the kids see me just as much as they see my husband.  Jeff has a way of reminding me of this that calms me down and gives me perspective.  Perhaps it’s my husband who is starved for my attention and affection and not my kids.

I don’t want our date nights to be elusive and few-and-far-between.  They don’t need to be fancy or over-the-top;  I just want to have time set aside for my husband.   Our life is not going to calm down anytime soon, so we need to get into the habit of scheduling our time together and not letting anything get in the way of that.  I dream of the day when we are on the same schedule, but today is not that day and tomorrow isn’t looking any better (actually, we are both off tomorrow so tomorrow works).

I would love some feedback on this topic!  What are some things that you and your spouse do to help you prioritize time together?  What are your favorite date nights?  Any creative date night ideas for $20 or less?