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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Friends in Every Season

I have had a more difficult time developing close friends in my current season of life.  The combination of a large, blended family with odd scheduling, working full time, cultivating a marriage with greater priority than I did the first time and more have made it difficult to connect.  I'm working on that and hoping for improvement.

I think that's why I value my long-time friends so greatly.  They have seen me at my best and my worst.  They are witnesses to my history.  My closest friends live far away, but are near in heart.  I'm so grateful that we have made a tradition of connecting in person whenever possible.  These girls are wonderful encouragers.  They are my sounding board, they point me in the right direction and keep me humble, too.  I couldn't ask for better friends!

This weekend, we get to gather once again and I'm so very excited!  If you have friends in your life, be sure to let them know what they mean to you!

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Monday, July 20, 2015

I See Superman



Mr. Wonderful and I are celebrating our anniversary today.  Our wedding day was right up there as one of the very best days of my life.  I feel so lucky for so many reasons.  I truly never thought I would have a love relationships like this that encompasses friendship, romance, fun, goals, family, partnership and so much more.  I didn't even know to hope for what I have.

If you meet my husband, you will notice he is a handsome man, kind, articulate and a great story-teller.  You would see that he likes to laugh, he is consistent and he keeps his word.  He follows through, follows up and is great at building lasting relationships.  He is laid back and loves to laugh, he is focused and disciplined about the things which he feels strongly.  He is devoted to his family, committed to his faith and can handle deep conversations.

You would notice immediately that Mr. Wonderful is a jock.  His mood can rise and fall on a soccer match, but he doesn't let anything keep him down for long.  He is quietly confident and can handle whatever challenge is before him.  You might see a Clark Kent-ish guy with lots of potential.

You can purchase this poster here.
When I look him,
I see superman.

I see the man who took another chance at love after his heart had been broken.  He was willing to be vulnerable and in still believes in marriage.  He pursued me unabashedly and completely won my heart.

I see character that is consistent and faith that remains, even when challenged by the doubts and cares that come with a life lived fully.  I see depth, desire for growth and trust that is the foundation of his strength.

I see a dad who filled the empty rooms of his quiet home with noisy children that aren't his by birth, but I'm praying they take after him.  He loves each of his children whole-heartedly and invests in them with time, attention and affection.

I see a generous man who shares what he has with others and loves to be extravagant.  I see kindness that notices when someone needs encouragement.  I trust his discernment and wisdom.  I feel completely confident that he is on my side and acting for the best interest of our family.  He is my reward at the end of a day well spent and my safe place to land when things aren't right in my world.


No - he's not perfect, he's real and true and sometimes tired or weak.  But the Clark Kent many may simply not notice is the hero of our family story.  Daily and even more so in circumstances that test the quality of mankind, he proves his strength.

I'm lucky to be his chosen match.  This day we celebrate just two years of marriage, which seems insufficient for the content of what we share.  But I'm so looking forward to a lifetime with my own personal Superhero!  My great fears of remarriage have prove false, thus far, and I have no worries that will change.  Such is the greatest gift of my Mr. Wonderful: Security.

What do you see that the rest of the world doesn't get close enough to notice?



Monday, July 13, 2015

Screen Time Considerations for our Summer Schedule

Screens.  We have them - lots of them!  I suppose you do, too.  Our summer started out fairly busy and we were out and about more than home.  But the last few weeks and the next several to come are filled with lots of time at home and I felt strongly that we needed some boundaries around the children's media usage.

I'm trying to use my phone less and be more present and I want them to learn self control in this area, too.  So, we worked together to establish boundaries and we all feel better about them.

Together with my older son, we created the following list of things to consider.  In general, televisions don't keep us from other activities, but the video games can dominate the day if we let them.  So we created stronger boundaries around the games than general shows:

We may turn the TV on when we wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, etc. We can watch shows, movies or Netflix.

By 10 am, YOU MUST BE DRESSED, TEETH BRUSHED, HAIR BRUSHED AND BEDS MADE. The TV needs to go off at 10 am until 1 pm. This is time for reading, artwork, crafts, bicycle riding, outdoor play, gardening, building, legos, trains or dolls and chores. You MAY use the walkie-talkies or listen to music.

After 1 pm, you may use screens/video games/Wii/other. You may have up to three hours of game time each day of the summer. BEFORE turning on a screen, the chart below must be completed:

Read for 30 minutes?

Finished Daily Chores?
- make bed
- put away laundry
- straighten kitchen
- pick up bedroom floor
- Did Mommy leave a list of extras?

Spent some Time Outside?

Draw or Write in Journal?

Of course, our babysitter is the one who has the job of enforcing throughout the day.

So far, we have been pretty good about sticking to the general plan.  Some may think 3 hours of video game time is too much, but it works for our summer schedule (During the school year, we don't do video games during the week).  It helps that there are a couple of afternoon or evenings each week where we are out of the house and active, so the time is even more limited.  Also, video game time is a privilege lost when there are discipline consequences.

The summer is quickly winding down and I'm comfortable with our screen time situation.  Are you?  Do you have boundaries in place?  Do you differentiate between games/learning/watching?

Note of Disclosure: Every now and then I notice a "binge day" and I'm grateful we have a system for less use overall. Also, these considerations are in place only for the younger children in our home.  My step daughters have differing online regulations.

There is much written on the subject, the ideas in the articles linked helped form my thoughts:

Resisting the Screen Siren

Children Need Outdoor Play

Toll of Screen Addiction In Children

Growing Up Social (includes affiliate link)
 

Friday, July 10, 2015

It's My Sister's Birthday - But I Was The One Who Received the Gift


I have had such a fun time this week gathering old photos in celebration of my one and only sister as she turn 40 today!

Mindy is the most fun and spontaneous friend that I know, even now.  She is an amazing mother and you are lucky if you call her friend - she will be loyal no matter what!

Based on the condition of her bedroom while we grew up, I couldn't have known that Mindy would welcome us all into her home with grace and skill or that she would be such a queen of the kitchen!

My little sister became a mother before me and she is the best!  From her I have learned not to sweat the small stuff and so many ways to love her family well.

We have so many shared experiences and yet travel very different journeys, but I'm so grateful for the best gift my parents ever gave me - a sister!















Monday, July 6, 2015

Fantasy Vs. Reality

Recently I was at Williams Sonoma  - you know, the gourmet kitchen and home retail store?  My daughter and I were taking a cooking class and having a wonderful time.  While there, it truly seemed plausible that I might actually use the double boiler and flour sifter.  I speculated that a new lemon zester and the beautiful mixing bowl would, indeed, make my batter better.  Within the establishment of Williams Sonoma, I saw gorgeous tables set with exquisite dishes.  I marveled at fancy appliances that function for very specific purposes.  I admired table linens and place settings that made me think of vacations.

Taken From Website
When I'm there, it actually seems plausible that I might use those items.  And some, I probably wound, at least on rare occasions.  But mostly, they would take up space in my already crowded cabinets or taunt me about cooking more creatively, when all I really need is something filling more my family of seven.  The idea of many fine meals sounds so alluring, but the reality is that I'm more likely to prepare cheeseburgers than boeuf bourguingnon.  I did prepare that once ... the family loved it!

The truth is, my life is far from pinterest-perfect and we use paper plates and quick recipes more than fine china and gourmet meals.  We can dress it up for a holiday meal and try something new when possible, but the reality is much simpler.

And isn't that okay?  I'm so much easier on myself (and by proxy my family) because I'm not still striving to appear that I've got it all together. I'm thankful for the acceptance I've found for myself and by my husband.  I'm so free to be me!  I hope you feel that way, too.  I think I appreciate it so much because for many years I was living with a mask and trying desperately to cover the ugliness that was in my life.  This way is so much better...even when some of that ugliness gets exposed.


So, my daughter and I had a splendid time making Madeleines with a group of 8-12 year old girls.  We got to bring home the fancy baking tray and the flour sifter and we made a memory together.  Later, my daughter invited a friend over and we replicated the recipe...the results were less than beautiful, but the taste caused everyone at home to rave!

It was a great reminder that the time we spent together and with a friend, was so much more important than the outcome, or than the way the outcome might appear.  The reward was in the process.  The treasure is in the trying!

I will still fantasize over gorgeous tablescapes, and even attempt set them from time to time.  But I have learned that often it's just as important that we gather together, make a memory and nourish our souls.






Thursday, July 2, 2015

Talking to My Child About Same Sex Marriage - We are different

I'm not a stranger to having difficult discussions with my children, even more so as they mature and face the different views and people in our culture.  There are many voices talking to my child and I want my voice to speak the most clearly.  I will not be silent, even when I wish the topic wasn't relevant.  So, I asked my eleven-year-old son if he was aware of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision last week giving marriage rights to same sex couples.

He was very much in the know.

"I know all about this, mom."  He shared that the upcoming decision had been discussed several times in class at school.  He knew that sometimes people of the same gender wanted to get married, but that didn't make sense to him.  "I don't understand why?" he said.  "I think they should have the right, even though I don't want to," he continued.  Yes, he was more in the know than I realized and he had opinions that he was happy to share.  I'm grateful that the lines of communication remain open.

I used the opportunity to talk about fairness and where we get our information to decide what is right and wrong.  For our family, the Bible is our source of truth.  It is where we turn when we aren't sure which way is right and we pray - for ourselves and for others to make wise choices.

"We are different," I said.  This is becoming a motto for him and for each of us as we are surrounded by a culture that is polarized by each demanding his or her own way.  I talked about a Christ-centered world view.  I talked about the ways others make choices based on feelings, science, control/power, finances and intellect.  We came back to the way we make choices, based on Scripture.  There may have been a time in America where the majority of the population used the Bible as a sort of plumb line for truth, but that time has passed and so, we are different.

But, this is far from the first time that government has granted rights to something that goes against scripture.  It is another area in which we will be set apart and that is okay. As Christians, we should be set apart and different.  I think it may be a gift that we will get to identify as distinctly different from our culture.

So much has been written on the subject and the opinions firing up around this issue have been so intense.  I was not surprised by the decision.  I am disappointed at the normalization of a different kind of union, but recognize that it is for the sake of freedom that such rights are mine and theirs.  Others get to be different, too.

The conversation with my son will continue.  It is a privilege to discuss these deep matters with him and so important for me to keep the lines of communication open.  To my fellow humans, I will respect you when we disagree, also, and hope that you can do the same.

Can we allow each other to be different while remaining true to our core beliefs?

I believe it's important to talk to our children about these matters, but maybe it is hard to get started.

Here Are Some Simple Points to Talk About Same Sex Relationships and Marriage with Children from a Christian World View:
  • Don't wait for your child to ask questions, take the lead in opening a conversation.  Communicate that all topics are open to discussion, and establish that you are basing your truth on the Bible.
  • It's alright to use the word "gay."  This may be a good opening comment to ask your child what that word means to him or her?
  • From the beginning, God put together a man and a woman (Genesis).  Even with very young children, you can identify that male and females are created differently.
  • Each gender is uniquely needed for reproduction, so logically it makes sense they are intended to work together.
  • It is never okay to ridicule or be hurtful/mean/rude to someone, even more so when the person is different.  In these cases we are representatives of a differing view and others will be judged by our actions.  It's our goal live peaceably with all people, as much as we are able.
  • It's okay to love family members or friends who are GLTB, because each of us fall short of God's ideals in some way.  It's why we need Him.
  • There is no need to get into details.  Be age appropriate as you explain that sometimes a man loves another man (or woman loves another woman) and choose to form a family.
  • Keep talking, engage your child by asking if they have any friends who call themselves gay?  Assure your child that he or she will be loved by you no matter what. This won't be one "talk" and the discussion will hopefully continue throughout your child's lifetime.
  • Be confident in the Lord, don't allow fear to dominate the conversation.  You don't want your child to hide his or her questions, feelings and thoughts. 
  • Again, remind your children that these are not your thoughts, but God's ways that have been established for thousands of years because He knows that is how life works best and what will honor Him.  He desires what is what is good for us and He knows best.  He can be trusted.
My son was recently on a class trip to Washington DC - decisions made here will affect his entire generation.
My step daughters are both out of the country right now and I haven't been able to have long talks with them.  One said she had several friends who were very excited.  When I asked why, she said it was because they consider themselves gay and want that choice for their future.  My younger two aren't very aware.  By speaking about these matters with the children in my home, I want to let them know that I do not support gay marriage, but I do support treating those who are different than me with human courtesy.  I'm still confused and working out the way those core values line up in me so I'll keep listening, keep sharing and keep communicating.

Note: I write from a Christian World View and my thoughts are based on this premise which guides my decision making and direction.  I understand that not everyone shares this perspective.




Monday, June 29, 2015

Seven Ideas to Steal When Trying to Use Your Phone Less (even when you know you can't live without it)

I really like my iphone.  I use it to keep in touch with the people I love.  I enjoy browsing through social feeds and watching for bargains.  I love having a small camera handy almost everywhere that I wander.  I need it for the map app.  For so many reasons, life is easier and simpler for having so much mobile access and information at my fingertips.  The iphone is my friend.

I see many others relying on their phones, too.  With a salesman husband, two teenage step daughters and elementary aged children already plugging their "need" for a phone, I see the vortex into which we can be sucked by our devices.

But these days, I'm valuing being a little less available, less plugged into the constant stream of information.  I'm finding great freedom in limitation as I seek to be a bit less tethered to an electronic device.
source: infographic

Seven Ideas to Steal When Trying to Use Your Phone Less:

  1. Leave it charging in another room during mealtime.  Or movie time.  Or game time.  Or just to remember what it feels like to not have it within arms' reach.
  2. Use the Do Not Disturb feature during certain hours. For me this is 10 pm - 7 am.  
  3. Turn off alerts so that you have to look for information instead of having push messages sent.
  4. Prioritize people.  When I am with a person, the phone remains in my purse (or pocket, or bag or car).
  5. Practice some time with out it.  Seriously, leave the phone at home while you go to the pool with your children.  Leave it in the car while you grocery shop.  You will find that it feels terribly uncomfortable, but the world keeps turning and you are more free.
  6. Practice delayed responses.  Train those in your life to know that you will respond, like, comment or notice when you are able.  If it is your child or spouse, I say respond, but if it's your sister's best friend with a PTA notice - this may not require urgent action. 
  7. Visit locales where there is no cell service or wifi.  Shocking - but they do exist! 

We are so often pressed into responding or being available that it limits our ability to be fully present in our actual lives.  Sometimes we feel stresses that aren't ours to take on, simply because they are handed to use through photos, articles, alerts.  Daydreaming can turn into a comparison trap.

I think it is so fun to know what my college roommates are doing in other states.  I love seeing the happenings in my parents' lives and it's a treat to see posts from my nieces who are rapidly entering the teen years.  But I want to choose when to engage.  I want to embrace the life in front of me and when I turn to my phone, it's intentional.

Start small, but with purpose, by choosing not to check messages while driving.  If there is an emergency, someone will call.  But you can wait till you arrive to see the little notes that others send.   Please know, I use my phone a lot, and I find it so valuable that I am ready to upgrade!  But I don't want it to be the boss of me and I notice the slide toward being engrossed in the gadget constantly.  There are no rules, except what you choose to enforce.

Will you try any of these ideas?  Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on devices?

I love how Kate left her laptop at home when she went on vacation!