More Ways to Feel Guilty: Not Crying about Kindergarten

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My oldest child, our only daughter, Libbie, started kindergarten on Tuesday. Leading up to the day, I felt pretty emotional. I wrote about letting my baby bird fly from our nest and I wondered what it would be like having her away from home so much of the time. I knew on Tuesday I would be at the school most of the day, as I had to go to a parent orientation. Because of phasing-in procedures, she didn’t go back until Thursday. So that, I considered, was when I would probably let the tears pour.

At the parent orientation one of the counselors read a book obviously meant to turn on our tears, about letting your raindrop fall from the cloud, even if said raindrop was scared, etc. It was in rhyme, and as she read at least half of the parents crowding the school library were wiping tears from their eyes. And I sat there. Stoic. I don’t like it when books try to manipulate your emotions (see: why I have never read Nicholas Sparks).

Thursday I dropped Libbie off, letting her jump from the van and walk inside herself, ringlets bouncing as she left me in the dust. And still, it didn’t come. No fear, no tears. I took my sons to the grocery store and the doctor.

Should I feel guilty about this lack of emotion? Does it make me a bad mom?

I think if I were not completely sure Libbie was ready for kindergarten, it would be different. But she is a confident, extroverted nearly-6-year-old. She can read, and she loves to learn. She also loves to have every minute planned for her, which I cannot do at home. So we believe firmly that she is going to thrive in school.

But still, I wonder. Will it hit me someday soon that my little one has left my nest?

How about you? Did you cry when your child started school?

What a Baby with the Flu Taught Me about Mothering

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My youngest child, Joshua, was diagnosed with the flu last week. He is 11 months old and usually a fount of joyful grins and babbles. When he started running a high fever, I knew something was up. He had suffered an ear infection not two weeks earlier, and I took him back to the doctor to see if the antibiotics had never eliminated the infection. No, his ears were OK. Probably just a virus.

And then the next night we were at urgent care, getting my 103-degree baby diagnosed with the Real Deal Flu.

My daughter had pneumonia when she was 3, but other than that my kids have been ridiculously well. With three kids, we have none with tubes, only a handful of ear infections between them, no food allergies, and no broken bones (yet – I do have two sons!).

Nothing had prepared me for the ordeal of watching my baby suffer through true influenza. For days he ran that 103 fever that could not be brought down with medicine. He was lethargic and just lay against my chest for long spans of time. His little lungs struggled for air as he panted against the fever. It was heartbreaking. Not knowing what he needed drove me to insanity.

Yet it’s the bad times that bring us closer to the One we need most. Here are the two things I learned most from our experience.

  1. God gave us maternal instinct. My husband is a wonderful, attentive father, but he leans toward the “not worrying” side of most things. It’s something I love and hate about him! The Bible says God created us – male and female – in His image, which I think implies He has what we consider masculine AND feminine qualities. Mothers are given a dose of maternal instinct, a smidgen of the knowledge that God has of His children’s feelings. I was pretty sure something was very wrong with Joshua. I was right. Sometimes you have to trust your instinct (and truly, it’s can’t hurt to err on the side of caution when it comes to our kids’ health).
  2. Jesus loves our children more than we do. I was honestly afraid to put Joshua to sleep a couple of nights, not knowing whether I should take him to the emergency room for breathing treatments. What if he stopped breathing during the night? What if he was struggling for air and I couldn’t tell? I had to force myself to retreat to my own bed and remember that Jesus loves my child much more than I do or could even fathom. Trusting Him with our children is the hardest thing we can do and yet one of the most crucial parts of parenting.

Joshua is thankfully recovered for the most part, but the experience has made me take a step back. Do crisis situations do that for you? 

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Jessie Weaver is a stay-at-home mother of three young children in Chattanooga, TN. She blogs personally and for ParentLife and writes for HomeLife and ParentLife magazines often. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Teachable Moments by Jessie Weaver

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Some days, I think I might actually have this parenting thing somewhat under control. (Then something happens like I trip over the trash can lid that’s on the floor and bang my baby’s head onto the corner of the china cabinet, and I change my mind.)

My daughter, Libbie, who’s 3, has been running a fever for the past day and a half, so we’ve had a lot of time at home. During a better hour this morning, I offered to let her do one of her favorite activities: paint.

“Will you paint WITH me, Mommy?” she asked sweetly, the dark circles under her big blue eyes making her look even more pathetic. I agree, and she instructs me on where I am to sit, that I need a separate page of paper, where to put the water, what colors to paint. While she makes, well, a big purple watery mess, I use half my brain to paint a simple rainbow.

 

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As soon as she deciphers its shape, Libbie exclaims, “It’s like Noah!” And I beam. Because somewhere in there with the (somewhat correct) words to “Jingle Bells” and ways to annoy her baby brother, she related rainbows with the Bible.

So while we paint, I simply retell the story of Noah’s ark, illustrating my story as we go. She wants me to paint Noah and people and animals, so I craft a few flying birds and a bear with my big sponge brush. They look ridiculous, but I don’t care. Because we’re learning and having fun.

Being a stay-at-home mom is all about these teachable moments. They make it worth every tear, coupon, and suppressed scream.

Originally published January 11, 2012. Which means, BTW, that the fever my daughter had was the start of her lovely battle with pneumonia! Agh!

Jessie Weaver When Jessie Weaver is not busy being the resident ParentLife Blogger, she writes at Vanderbilt Wife and also for magazines like HomeLife and ParentLife. She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, where they run after three crazy kids (ages 5, 2, and 7 months).

Being a Shepherd

In 1 Peter 5, Peter writes to the elders:

Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s ⌊will⌋; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (vv.2-4).

Yes, he’s writing to the elders of the church. And I think church leaders should take that pretty seriously. But this also speaks to me so much as a parent!

While reading these few verses, I couldn’t help but consider:

  • … how much am I “lording over” my children, using stronger language than necessary, just because I am older?
  • … how often do I ask them to do things I don’t do? What kind of example am I being?
  • … do I see my children as nuisances sometimes, or as sweet sheep “entrusted” to me to provide for and love?

These three sweet miracles have been entrusted to me by God. They’re not always going to be good. I’m not always going to behave perfectly. But can I step back for one minute when I am angry and think … these are my sheep. Am I a tender shepherd?

His Children, Our Children by Jessie Weaver

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The longer I am a parent, the more convinced I am that God told us to be fruitful and multiply so we could have a small taste of how He views us.

There’s the baby stage. We’re needy, but altogether loving. I think of all the hours we spend staring at our little ones as they lay on the floor, or toddle around, or clap their hands together. Does it put a big grin on the Heavenly Father’s face to see us in the early stages of knowing Him?

And then comes the terrible twos. And threes.

We are so rebellious it can be funny sometimes. We question everything, absolutely, just to see what the limits are. We are wild in our rebellion and yet needy to the core.

I imagine, somewhere, that it tapers off. (At least I pray that it does. My daughter is still 4, and if her rebellion doesn’t dissipate soon I may have to go to the asylum.) When I consider my Christian walk I think it’s much like growing from a child to an adult: there are some rough patches, some times where I don’t even want to be close to Him. There are times of sweetness. There are times when I fall on my face and wonder what on earth I did to deserve such trials. And there are times when I just am, passing through without wonder but without hurt, either.

I can’t imagine all the lessons I will learn as a parent as my children travel through adolescence. It’s scary, and crazy, but the best visual aid about God I’ve ever been given.

Do you find yourself wondering if God sees you as a toddler sometimes? What things do we do as Christians that are an awful lot like a small child?

Teaching Your Kids about Child Sponsorship

 

My husband and I have sponsored a child through Compassion since our own first child was a baby. His name is Jerome; he lives in the Philippines; he will be 8 in August. We liked his Mickey Mouse shirt in his picture and that his birthday was close to our wedding anniversary. I try to write to him at least once every two or three months. At first, we got letters from his mother, which wasn’t quite as much fun. Now, we get letters hand-written by Jerome – and illustrated, too!

But in all this time, Libbie (4 1/2) hasn’t really shown any interest in the picture of the boy hanging on our fridge. I’ve never involved her in letter-writing. My husband and I have made the decisions about when to send extra monetary gifts for his birthday and Christmas.

Libbie’s to a point, now, where she’s beginning to grasp more concepts. She’s always been aware of our efforts toward Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox-packing program. She knows that I collect toys throughout the year that are not for her – they are for kids who don’t HAVE toys and need hygiene items. In lieu of a third birthday party, we even had an OCC Shoebox-Packing Party.

So really, it’s high time we exposed her to child sponsorship. It’s a big concept, though! How do we do it?

The other day I sat down with her and asked her if she would draw a picture for Jerome. I showed her his picture, told her he lived VERY far away, and that we send money to help him get school supplies and clothes and other things he needs. She seemed very interested and asked about visiting him one day. But then she flat-out refused to draw a picture. We’ll have to try that one again.

Worried about messing this up, I asked my friend OhAmanda – the wisest and most godly mom of young kids I know! – how she goes about this with her own kids. Her advice was to just make it natural. She keeps pictures of her sponsored children up. She prays with her kids for these children. Her own kids are involved in making “flat crafts” to send with letters to their sponsored children.

{Kristen from We Are THAT Family describes pretty much the same routines with her children. Plus, well, they go to Africa.}

So there are my first baby steps. Involving Libbie and David in praying, writing, crafting. Seeing. Understanding will come in time.

Compassion also has an online game called Quest for Compassion that I think we’ll have to try out!

Do you sponsor a child? How do you involve your kids in it?

 

Pregnant Surprises by Jessie Weaver

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I’m writing this six weeks before my March 21 due date, but as you read it, we may or may not have welcome our third child, Joshua, into the world.

This pregnancy was a surprise for us, and everything after that plus sign appeared has been surprising as well. My strange, on-and-off sickness made itself known until 22 weeks. I went into our “big” ultrasound 100% convinced we had a baby Katie in there … oops. At 31 weeks, my hip and back started acting up to the point of putting me on modified bedrest (with a preschooler and a toddler and no local family). And at 34 weeks, I’ve started feeling the end-of-pregnancy sick already, making it difficult to eat anything.

While none of my pregnancies have been peaches and sunshine, this one has been especially tumultuous for me.

I can’t say I enjoy pregnancy, although I am grateful to have healthy ones with healthy babies thus far.

It’s easy for me to float away spiritually when I feel bodily miserable, too. I “reward” my pain with too much television and novel-reading, ignoring the Bible on my bedside table. My back makes it difficult for me to sit through a whole church service, so my soul has been without many sermons.

Yet, is there a better time to really cling to the Word and what He has to say about parenting and children?

Do you have any advice for pregnant mommies who struggle like I do? How do you stay focused on God while your body is a constant reminder of earthly pains and issues?

Jessie Weaver is the resident ParentLife blogger. She is a freelance writer who lives in Chattanooga with her husband and two kids (2 and 4) plus one on the way!

Gifts That Give Back by Jessie Weaver

Here’s my great Christmas confession:

  • We don’t do Santa.
  • We don’t have a real tree.
  • The very small amount of gifts that my children get from us generally come from a thrift store.

It’s not how I was raised. My sister and I always received a huge pile of presents, a few of those from “Santa.” But where are those gifts now? Except for our original Nintendo, which is happily housed with my husband and me, I have no idea. A lot of those gifts got great love: Barbies, Cabbage Patch dolls, board games. But I don’t know that our Christmases would have suffered without half of those things we wished for on long lists.

Nowadays, I prefer to keep the focus on Jesus’ gift. This year, my kids (4 and almost 2) and I will be going through Truth in the Tinsel, an Advent e-book that guides them through Scripture while we make fun ornaments. We’re also opening a Jesus-focused Christmas book every night and reading it together.

As for presents, they’ll get plenty from their two sets of grandparents, being that they’re the only grandchildren on both sides. We’ve encouraged them not to overdo it, though, because our kids already have so. many. toys. Experiential gifts are my favorites, and art supplies are basically “consumables” for little ones.

I hope my 4-year-old will be able to help me pick out some gifts that give to others, too, and start to understand that others around the world have needs far greater than ours. We start impressing this idea with packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and continue throughout the holidays.

Here are some of my favorite gifts that give to others!

  1. For $100, you can give a family in need a goat and two chickens through World Vision. This provides a family with goat’s milk and eggs – and the families that receive them are asked to pass along chicks to other families.
  2. For just $9, you can feed a hungry baby for a week through Samaritan’s Purse. It’s Gift 40 in their catalog.
  3. Any donation is appreciated through Compassion’s fund to help provide education fees for children in need.
  4. These fun paper bead necklaces are $25, hand-crafted by women in Kenya, and help support Mercy House Kenya.
  5. Buy an adorable cupcake bib for $6 on Etsy, help support relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy.
  6. $25 from each $50 plate purchase of this cute, recycled glass plate goes to support City Harvest in NYC, an organization that raises money to feed those in need.

Do you have any favorite gifts that give back?

At All Times by Jessie Weaver

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My three-year-old, Libbie, really never ceases to amaze me.

She can turn a conversation so quickly it gives me whiplash. One minute we’re talking about trees and the next minute she’s giving her teddy bear shots.

One Sunday morning on the way to church, she suddenly declared, “God made Daddy, and Mommy, and even David and me! And God died on the cross!” We gently reminded her that Jesus rose again from the grave. Then she chimed in with, “And Jesus walked on cars!”

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

As we tried to turn the conversation to the fact that maybe she meant water, not cars, Libbie was already on to a different story, one about Cinderella being captured by a scary witch. Worlds colliding.

She doesn’t know to separate the religious and the secular, and I love that.

The psalmists loved to remind the reader that being with God is an all the time event.

“I will extol the LORD at all times” (34:1).
“Trust in him at all times” (62:8).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (119:20).

Consumed with longing for His laws? Really? How much time do I spend longing to live in obedience to God as opposed to determining how I might skirt around them or at least not stumble too much?

Libbie is learning what it means to be with God at all times, in her own simple way. If that means a land where God and Cinderella can coincide, I think that’s OK. For me, I think it means I can read novels, write blog posts, and chase my kids on the playground while still “extolling” Him. It means I consider whether or not I am convicted not to read a novel or watch a certain TV show. It means I write what He places on my heart and fingers to type. It means I teach my kids His ways: kindness, mercy, grace, love.

There are not two worlds; there is just life. A life where our lens is God.

SNV32999 copy.jpgWhen Jessie Weaver is not busy being the resident ParentLife Blogger, she writes at Vanderbilt Wife and also for magazines like HomeLife and ParentLife. She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, where they run after two little ones: Libbie (3) and David (1). Jessie is currently expecting their third child, due in March. 

New Moms Need Mentors! by Jessie Weaver

A little over 22 months ago, I birthed my first child into the world.

She took her sweet old time as my husband and mother waited and the dog watched me, confused, while I didn’t sleep for two nights straight.

Her little life has changed me just as much and more than I expected. My greatest panic as we came home from the hospital in October 2008 was that I had no family in Nashville, where we lived. No one to call for help. I begged my mom to stay forever, to move to Nashville without my dad, anything to save me from having to raise a baby without her guidance. Wisely, she declined.

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Just a few days into Libbie’s tiny life, the preschool minister from our church came to visit. She brought three things: the rose that had symbolized Libbie’s birth on the church altar; a Christian parenting book; and a copy of BabyLife.

I will confess to barely touching the book; life was too overwhelming already with a newborn wreaking havoc in our house. But I read BabyLife from cover to cover, multiple times. And discovered its bearer, our dear preschool director, lived very close to our house and would fill in as “Mom” when needed. Her guidance and friendship saved me several times.

Titus 2:3-5 encourages older women to mentor younger women “to be sensible.” I can think of many times when I needed some sense stuffed into my head. I am forever grateful to the women in my life — older, not too much older, even younger — who have taken the time to talk me down from a cliff. Every new mom needs guidance at one time or another, whether she wants to admit it or not!

Now, as baby #2 is gestating and December seems to be getting closer and closer, I hope to find another wonderful mentor in our new city. Because life with two seems pretty scary to me, but I know a lot of women have been there.
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The ParentLife staff is starting work on the newest edition of
BabyLife , which will be released in June 2011. The magazine is full of advice for parenting children during their first two years of life. What would you like to see featured in the magazine? What articles would catch your attention?

Jessie, the new “ParentLife Blog Guru,” is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer and editor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has blogged for over four years at Vanderbilt Wife.