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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is Divorce Wrong?

My easy answer would be, yes, divorce is wrong.  It isn't the "ideal" plan for my life or anyone else's.  The real answer is more complicated.  There is little in our life that resembles God's original, ideal plan set forth in the Garden of Eden.  We live in a fallen world and the consequences of our brokenness are experienced in differing ways every day.  One of those consequences are broken families.  My marriage was broken long before the divorce.

The loudest voice of condemnation that I experienced was from myself. Because after repeated betrayals, I was the one who finally said, “Enough.” I asked him to leave. I filed for divorce.

I remember praying through that gut-wrenching decision.  I do not believe was sin, I came to the sense that God was actually preparing me for a different life – delivering me from the bondage of my marriage. I remember having to come to grips with the fact that if I was, in fact, making a horrible decision and sinning against the Lord, He would forgive me. My life would not be wasted, written off or over. Even if I was wrong, He would walk through the consequences with me.   

He will. He does. I am able to know now that I was not in sin, but I can never feel good about a choice that ends what we believed would last forever and which comes as the result of living in a fallen world.

The beautiful thing is that even in our fallen state, riddled with consequences of sin, God walks with us and draws meaning and beauty from that experience. It is His beautiful way of making good from that which the enemy meant for evil. Only our Lord could do this…It is His way, the calling card or hallmark of life lived with Him.

And whether the decision of divorce is yours or not, God will walk with you through the pain.  Hand the hurt to the Lord, feel it and learn from it as you build a healthier life.  Be open to whatever possibilities become of the loss and trust that you are never alone.

I felt like the article below articulated it so well.  What do you think?

Misconceptions the Christians Have About Divorce

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mom Matters: Finding (And Keeping) a Great Babysitter

I have a great deal of experience with managing childcare.  I've gone the route of full time day care (didn't last long), paid preschools, enlisting family to help, Parent Day Out part time care, and the nanny/babysitter route along with hybrids of both.  For my current elementary aged kiddos, I only need childcare during the summer time.  Since we moved last year, I had to locate and hire a new summer babysitter for my crew.  I'm happy to say, we found a new sitter and a new family friend.

It can feel daunting, but you can set yourself up for the best results by sticking to the following steps:

1. Find referrals to locate a fabulous girl and be clear about what you need.

As you prepare to need a sitter or nanny, use your current contacts to ask about those who may be interested.  I have found the most reliable sitters through our church, but have also hired off Craigslist and the daughter of an acquaintance.  It makes all the difference in the world to have someone you trust give you the name of someone they trust, but still - do a background check.  I was able to get them for around $49 online.

Think about what you will need so that you can articulate to a potential sitter what you will expect.  For instance, can she provide transportation to classes or activities for all your children?  Is she willing to do work on learning skills?  Is she willing to prepare meals and help with cleanup?  How will she handle sick days?  Does she have any time scheduled to be away?

2. Establish a pay scale in your budget, then negotiate.

Do some research and find out what is reasonable pay for your area, determine if you can truly afford it.  Establish what you are willing to pay and then ask a candidate if she is willing to provide the needed duties for that compensation.

For example, my budget allows me to pay $75 per day (seven hour day).  My sitter needs to be able to transport three children to occasional activities, church functions or boredom-busting events like $1 movie morning.  The costs or fees are covered by us in addition to sitter compensation.

3. Set expectations and deliver what you promise

If promptness is important, make that clear, and be prompt about your return time.  If you come home a half hour early, compensation should not be adjusted.  In fact, if you suddenly don't need her for a day, she should not be penalized.  However, scheduled time "off" need not be compensated unless this is a full time position including paid vacations.

The way this works in real life may look like this: Sitter lets me know weeks in advance that she will be unavailable on dates x, y, z so she can attend a wedding.  I let her know at the beginning of the summer that we will be away for vacation for the week of ----.  These situations are planned ahead and noncompensatory.  However, if I find out that next week the children will be spending the night with Aunt Mindy and we don't need childcare, I let my sitter know, but do not dock her pay.  Another example may be that on Tuesday night I realize that I'll be staying home with a sick baby on Wednesday.  I'll call the sitter and she'll get the day off, but I will pay her for the time she was scheduled to come.

Communicating about these issues makes things so much easier for me and the my sitters have always appreciated it.  Loyalty is important when establishing a relationship with a sitter, so I have found that over-explaining is better than leaving questions out there.

On a final note, let her know clearly when you will pay her.  Will it be daily? weekly? monthly?  I need to track childcare costs for tax and support purposes and so I let her know up front that the income will be reported.

4. Endorse the sitters authority

My children know that when I'm gone, she is in charge.  She is aware of our family rules and schedule and I expect her to enforce them.  She children cannot try to side me against her, I will take her side and her word.

5. Begin and end each session with a realistic chat.  

In order to keep communication flowing, be sure to welcome the sitter with a plan and instructions for the day/time period.  For me, this included general schedule, menu, etc.  Upon returning, I go out of my way to ask if there were any troubles or discipline issues, then ask a few more probing questions: What can I do to make the time work best with the children and a sitter?  Especially in those first few weeks, I like to ask if there have been power struggles or sibling incidences. Are the children treating her respectfully?  Do they need more outdoor activities?  Are they cooperating with the menus and chores?  What does the sitter need from me?  Let her know you on her team for a good relationship with your children.

Ask about her life beyond your children.  Encourage her where you are pleased and be clear about areas you need her to step up.  It doesn't happen instantly, but the best sitters eventually become like extended family members. They add to the family support dynamic and provide you with the freedom to pursue things beyond your little ones.

If you find a sitter who loves your children, is reliable and communicate well - keep her around! Think of little ways to encourage her and communicate your respect:

  • Have the children do something fun for her birthday.
  • Provide a holiday bonus or gift card.
  • Keep her favorite snacks handy.
  • Provide great references, when she needs it.
  • Let her know your schedule well in advance.
  • Include her in family celebrations, if she lives far from home.

Do you employ a regular babysitter?  What do you do for occasional childcare needs?  Do you remember any fabulous sitters from your own childhood?

Friday, August 15, 2014

If Your Summer Hasn't Been Picture Perfect

School began for our family this week and I thought I wasn't quite ready for the transition back to schedules and homework, extra activities and calendar crunching.  I thought I wasn't ready, but it turns out, I was!  I enjoyed our summer and I'm listing the highlights for my own sake:
  • Our first blended family vacation
  • A week-long, cross-country trip to grandma's house including "Cousin Camp"
  • Several serious hikes and our usual trip to the mountains - this continuous to be a highlight for us
  • In introduction to the theatre by watching a children's performance of Disney's Alladin
  • Boy Scout and Kids Church Camp
  • Learning to bike ride without training wheels
  • First jobs and candy striper volunteering
  • Our anniversary!
  • College Girlfriend Reunion - our annual time together is a treasure
  • The boys quit sharing a bed and each have their own
These are all wonderful, treasured memories.  It's been a sweet season for me and I was sorry to see it end.  Still, the return to routine reminded me that not every memory was a favorite:

Tired, whiny and hot.
  • There was that evening at the restaurant on our vacation where my children acted so poorly, ate so rudely and I was thoroughly embarrassed in front of my in-laws.  I seriously wondered if my husband would decide we were just too much chaos and be done!
  • All three children were together so constantly every single day this summer that the squabbling and competition have been at record levels for the past month.  This drives mom to insane levels of irritation!
  • The brain work and educational material I planned remained on the shelf all summer long.  We did lots of reading, but never turned in our time to the library for the reading club prizes.  Mommy failure.
  • All that hiking and I've twisted my second (good) ankle.  And I am nursing plantar fasciitis.  And I can't wear heels right now which makes me feel frumpy.  Way frumpy.
  • Our summer babysitter was fabulous, but our savings is depleted from the new line-item in the budget. I'm so glad all three of mine are back in school with no tuition or childcare costs.  How bad is it that I don't want to pay others to care for my kiddos?
  • High schoolers have summer homework - hard stuff like writing essays and math!
  • That new bike rider, wiped out hard on a couple of occasions.
This was taken at that very same dinner where I thought, "Surely, only blood-family could deal with our mess."
There are even more highs and lows than I have mentioned.  We were eager and ready when students began lining up for classes this Monday.  There were no tears at drop-off this year and each child happily greeted friends.  I waved at fellow moms as we sent our children into classrooms to do their thing independently.  I'm proud of them.  I'm happy for them.  I love them and know them more than ever.  It was a good summer, but I'm thankful for the routine and diversity of our school year.  

Do you have ones going back to school?  Do you see the treasures and the disasters of your own summer break?  How are you feeling about the changing seasons of parenting and of life?

Ooops, mommy tried to save money
and make the hand-me-downs work!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Easy Life

Every so often, I get the urge to complain about the fact that dishes need to be done and there is another load of laundry to fold.  I feel a little put out that our grass is too high and there is no one else to go the grocery store.  Sometimes I get annoyed that my children want me to fill out school papers, read another book or play another game.

Then I hear about the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in a hostile land.  I remember that every day there are those who face dire difficulties and count their belief in Christ more valuable than the ease of life.  These are heroes.  These are the ones who have counted the cost and chosen the jewels of eternity above the trinkets of this world.

I feel helpless to offer encouragement or aid to brothers and sisters in Christ, but they have my prayers.  I pray they have courage and strength.  I pray I could hold the same banner of faith that they do if I was faced with the charge to convert or die.  Convert, or my child will die.  I believe I would chose Christ.  I even have tiny desire to have the privilege of taking such a bold stand in His name, to have the honor and fellowship of His suffering.

Most of all, I feel small for my petty complaints.  I am reminded that while there are annoyances that I must deal with day to day, most of my issues are not eternal in nature.  I am praying for my fellow Christ followers and I'm asking the Lord if there is any more He would ask me to do.  What are you doing?

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. - Hebrews 11 36-38