An Artist, A Friend

This past Friday I went with some of the other moms from my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group to a painting class. You’ve probably seen pictures on Facebook of these classes; everyone paints a version of the same picture. The teacher has a starting image, then paints alongside you, guiding you but also letting you get creative with the base image.

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That’s me on the far left. And I LOVE my tree.

But what I loved more was being with friends for a couple of hours. We talked about sewing and crocheting, cruise trips and beach vacations, potty training and sleep schedules, and a couple things that are too darn weird and/or gross to disclose here. (I blame Stephanie.) We joked with the artist, maybe drove her crazy with our different attitudes toward our paintings.

It always does my heart good to be in the company of other women, especially without my kiddos. I adore my kids. But I am with them almost 24/7 some weeks. I need some kid-free time occasionally to remember how to be ME. Just like we’re advised to still date our spouses once we have kids come along so we can remember how we function as couples, having time with friends reminds us that we are all women. Not just moms.

I wasn’t sure I’d really enjoy the painting part of the evening. I didn’t especially like the painting we were going to paint. When we decided to switch at the last minute, I knew I would at least like the finished product. But I was sure my artistic skills weren’t up to par.

I found something in me releasing, though, as I started with the beautiful sunset sky. I wanted the lightest of colors, the biggest swirls, and whimsy. I wanted my tree to dip and dive, I wanted a rolling hill, I wanted to feel my picture. I was brought back to memories of oil pastels and watercolors, painting at our kitchen table in Richmond, Virginia, as a child and teen.

I draw badly. But my painting, it’s not too bad! I loved glimpsing the creative side of myself. Usually my creativity is expressed in writing, and it’s nice to delve into a different branch every once in awhile!

So I remembered Friday night not only that I am a woman and a friend but also that I am an artist. Someone who loves to create. We are multi-faceted people. God created us that way! So take some time, as we end the week and get into the weekend, to remember you are more than a parent. Parenting is of utmost importance … but you are other things, too. And that is wonderful.

Hello, Mornings?

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source: sea turtle via Flickr

I really like to pretend that waking up before my kids doesn’t make that much of a difference.

I have three kids 5 and under, I say! I am tired! I need every bit of sleep I can catch! And I do think it’s true that when the baby isn’t sleeping through the night, I needed to try to catch up on sleep in other places. But now he is, for the most part. {Although the last two nights my 3-year-old has been up twice and my 5-year old once … but that’s not the norm.}

Last night I set my alarm for 5:30 and went to bed about 9:45. I had a 5 a.m. wake-up call from Joshua, and just went ahead and got up at 5:15 after I nursed him. And now, at 7, I’ve had some quiet time with God, showered and washed my face, dressed, had something to eat and two cups of coffee, and am writing a blog post. I feel completely different than I do when I let my daughter wake me up at 7:00 and growl at her to go ask her dad for breakfast.

I still need to figure out where to fit in exercise. I probably need to eat a healthier and more complete breakfast than an apple and cheese. But it’s a giant start. Feeding my brain with positive messages from the Bible before I start anything else makes such a difference in my day.

There’s a whole, well, movement on Twitter about Hello Mornings, a challenge to get up before your kids and study the Word. It’s a great resource if you’re looking for a place to start.

Do you get up before your kids? Have any tips and tricks to share?

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 kids 5 & under.

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).

Special Needs Parents Need Friends by Ellen Stumbo

Did you know that many parents of kids with special needs feel lonely?

Because of their children’s needs, some special needs parents feel isolated. That birthday party everyone is invited to? Maybe the child has significant sensory processing issues and cannot handle the noise or large crowds. That Bible study at church that takes place during the children’s  program? The special needs mom needs to stay with her child because there isn’t a trained volunteer to help with her child’s needs. That playdate at the park where the moms chatter while the kids play?  Not gonna’ happen! Most likely the child needs help to climb on the special equipment, and there goes the adult interaction.

Parenting a child with special needs can be exhausting. Sometimes, it is easier to stay home. The thing is, special needs parents need friends. They need someone to talk to and someone to laugh with. God created us to be in relationships, we are not meant to do life alone.

What can you do to reach out to a special needs parent?

First, get to know her family and her child with special needs. Can you babysit for an hour or two so mom and dad can go out on a date? Maybe a late-night-date after the kids go to bed?

Initiate the relationship. You can ask, “I would love to get together with you, is there a time or day that works for you?”

Plan playdates around the abilities of the kids with special needs. Maybe a playdate at a park won’t work, but the special needs parent might have some suggestions for fun activities that work for her family.

Call. Just pick up the phone and call. It is amazing how something so simple makes such a big difference. Let your friend know that you are available to talk. And you don’t have to talk about special needs! Just chat about the weather, about the conversation you had with your brother, or about the embarrassing situation you had at the store. Just be a friend and reach out.

ellenstumboEllen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.

Pregnant Parenting by Jessie Weaver

Being pregnant is not my talent.

I am a great newborn mother. I nurse with ease, love to snuggle, and deal relatively well with little sleep. I know many parents don’t care for the infancy stage, but I LOVE it. I am always happy to just hold a baby.

But pregnancy does not agree with me. I haven’t had scary pregnancies, or bedrest, or premature births. I just spend nine months sick, exhausted, in some sort of back pain, with severe acid reflux. I like baby kicks … but that’s about it.

So now, in my third pregnancy, I am trying to find ways to be a decent mother while getting through another 9-month period of The Grumps. Here’s a few things I’ve come up with.

Let It Slide

My main job is to take care of my kids and make sure they are eating, sleeping, and breathing, right? If I have to turn to Chef Boyardee instead of cooking from scratch, it’s OK. A little extra TV won’t kill them. Making sure they – and I – get some fresh air is a good goal for the day.

Housework is not my priority, and I will do what I can when I can.

Snuggles

I’m spending extra time cuddling the little ones. Today my almost-4-year-old daughter and I gave up naptime to watch a movie and snuggle. She was thrilled with the one-on-one time, and I got to lay on the couch and still be an awesome mommy.

Reading

One thing I can do quite efficiently while hardly moving is read my kids piles of books. We read, talk about pictures and stories, and make up new stories. They are really into coloring, so any related coloring activities are good, too!

 

Your turn: What’s your secret for when you are too tired/sick/pregnant to parent as you normally would?

Jessie Weaver is the resident ParentLife blogger. She is a freelance writer who lives in Chattanooga with her husband and two kids (1 and 3) plus one on the way!

Punishment or Discipline?

June_22_preteen.jpg“What did you say?” I asked my almost 12-year-old son. When he admitted his guilt of intentionally using an obscene word, I responded with a small tirade, complete with restrictions from video games, an explanation that God insists we not talk that way, and threats for washing his mouth out with soap if it happened again.

As I stormed off, the thought of “at least he was honest with me” made me pause.  He was honest.  I did not want to squelch that with an excessive reaction.  What I wanted was his understanding that this wasn’t about me, but about God’s direction for his life.  He needed to understand that cursing was a choice against God, not a choice against me.  My son was at a critical point in his life where he was increasingly choosing his own reasons and influences for his behavior.  I wanted him to see God’s Word as a positive source of authority in his life.  If his choices were solely to gain my approval or to avoid punishment, what would motivate him when he was alone?

So breathing a silent prayer, I returned to my son.  I thanked him for being honest with me and reiterated, calmly this time, how it is God’s Word that directs us not to curse.  I explained that using those words can easily become a bad habit, one difficult to break.  I wanted to spare him that by helping him to not even get started.  Therefore, I was going to offer him a choice, and he could decide which one would help him not to talk like that again.  He could be on restriction from video games for 24 hours, or he could learn a verse from the Bible where God says not to talk that way.  He would write the verse and learn it so he could recite it anytime I asked.  He eagerly chose to write the verse rather than give up his video games.  It felt like he’d chosen the easy route, but after he’d memorized it within 36 hours, I wondered just what I had stumbled upon. I had never thought to do this before.  Had God just introduced me to a new discipline technique?

In my own life, when God brings a struggle to my attention, I often do a word study in Scripture or search out related verses and then saturate myself with God’s Word to help me overcome the issue.  Didn’t it make sense to teach my son the same process?  As a teacher, I had always avoided using writing or reading as venues for punishment.  But God helped me see that this process wasn’t about punishment.  It was the training mentioned in Proverbs 22:6.  This was about building a lifelong discipline into my son’s life, not just a momentary punishment for an isolated incident.

When I overheard my son correcting another individual several days later for using some choice words, I knew the process had helped him.  Looking at Scripture, I understood why.  When we read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6, we are introduced to many protective pieces, but only one weapon: “The sword of the spirit, which is God’s Word.”  By committing Ephesians 5:4 to memory, my son had picked up a spiritual weapon against the temptation to speak obscenely again.  And this was a weapon always with him, even when alone.

I also realized that when I instituted excessive consequences as punishment in my desire to eliminate the behavior, I was teaching the wrong motivation and authority.  If my son behaved out of fear-fear of making a mistake, fear of rejection, fear of my wrath-I was actually reinforcing a negative stronghold in his life.  If his behavior was shaped by avoiding punishment, wasn’t his motivation more about serving pleasure and self rather than the Word of God?  If I wanted the Word of God to be the authority in his life, it is important that I follow God’s pattern of correction.  When Jesus confronted the adulterous woman, he did not expend his energies on judging and condemning her actions, but rather providing God’s standard for her to follow.   

This has been a radical change in my approach to raising a preteen.  It is now about discipline rather than punishment; about grace rather than judgment; about the future instead of the past.  It honors his growing need for autonomy, and it makes God’s Word his authority.  I’ve found it important to keep the verses short and very specific.  Using multiple translations helps me find the best wording for the most powerful impact.  It has brought an added bonus in that our entire family learns the scriptures, not just the individual.  Most importantly, it is creating a life-long discipline that will serve my son well for his entire life.  And isn’t that what parenting is supposed to be about?

Sample scriptures for memorizing:

Anger- Ephesians 4:26
Arguing/Complaining- Philippians 2:14
Attitude – Philippians 2:5
Bickering – 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Bragging- Galatians 6:14
Cursing – James 3:10
Greed – 1Timothy 6:8
Grumbling – James 5:9
Laziness/sloppy work – Colossians 3:23
Lying – Colossians 3:9
Obedience – Colossians 3:20
Peer Pressure – Galatians 1:10
Pride – 1 Peter 5:5
Respect – 1 Peter 2:17
Retaliation – 1 Thessalonians 5:15

Juli Lubelczyk is a freelance writer from Elkridge, Maryland, where she lives with her husband and preteen son.  An elementary teacher, she is currently on leave to care for her son who battles mitochondrial disease.

Showing Grace to Our Kids

Pie graph.jpgIt is so easy to get impatient with our kids! Sometimes I think Dads like myself are short on patience. We want things done right but don’t always take the time to explain and teach our kids the skills necessary to succeed. I found myself reacting with impatience while helping my son study for a math test today. We were doing fine until we hit the pie graphs — yikes! Fractions are one thing, but I found interpreting them through a pie graph was not as easy for my son. I wasn’t sure if he wasn’t getting it or just was not trying hard enough to understand! So I began to get impatient.

Times like these remind me that it is best to err on the side of grace in our dealings with others, especially our kids. After all, I would want the same grace extended to me! And since today I found myself, in addition to not being a perfect father, not being a perfect leader or friend or spouse. Notice the theme here? Much like the Golden Rule from the Sermon on the Mount, I need to show grace to others in the same way I want grace extended back to me. Whether that is in relationship issues, life on the job, or those evil pie charts, God has shown grace to us moment by moment. God calls us to do the same with our kids!
Are there times when you need to show extra grace to your kids? What are the triggers or areas of life where you have to guard yourself against reacting with impatience?

Where Do You Go for Parenting Advice?

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Have you seen the latest research on parenting? A study released by LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources, conducted a survey of 1,200 parents with children under age 18. The study reveals that most parents are consistently looking for guidance to help them be better parents. But where do they look to better themselves? Research shows that parents primarily depend upon their own experience to guide them in their decisions as a parent. Only about 14 percent of parents look to the Bible as a source of parenting advice. Even Christian parents look to the Bible at a low rate.

But parents do express the need for help. Ninety-two percent of parents say they need encouragement in parenting. These numbers show the great need for parents to have support, understanding, and mentoring in the task of parenting. But many times parents are too busy, stressed, or even embarrassed at their failures to seek help. So the question is: How can we make time in our schedules to form relationships with other parents where we are vulnerable, willing to listen, and use our weaknesses to help others?

I was challenged this weekend on our Sunday School class retreat to do just this — to see my story with its successes and failures as a gift from God. As parents, this is so important as we face the uncertainties and questions that come with parenting our kids. I want to challenge you to do the same and to be willing to impact other parents in your life — to be an encourager, to be available to follow God’s plan for your life, and to be real with your challenges as parents.

ParentLife is so grateful to be a small part of your parenting journey. When we developed our slogan — Encouraging and Equipping Parents — we recognized how important these tasks are in helping parents carry our their sacred calling as parents. We hope this blog and each issue of ParentLife will encourage and equip you to be a better parent.

Do you agree that parents need more encouragement? Where do you find encouragement as a parent? Let us know how we can better partner with you in your parenting journey.

Super Bowl® Parenting

I love this time of year! Nothing is better than football in January (except maybe March Madness). You might be thinking, “But the big football game is now in February every year!” That’s true … but also part of the reason why I say that football in January is so great.

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Let’s face it. Super Bowl games can be duds. The best games often are in earlier rounds of the playoffs. The Super Bowl gets so much hype and attention. How could it possibly pay off?

Have you noticed that once your kids entered school that parenting becomes a lot more event centered? You have to take them to practice, rehearsals, school, church and all the corresponding games, performances, recitals, plays, parents’ nights, and other important events. Ever beat yourself up for missing some of those big events?

As Dads, we sometimes put too much emphasis on the things we do or a few big things in life — Christmas morning, a birthday party, or a family vacation — when those events may not live up to expectations either. The heart of parenting comes in the day-to-day time you spend with your child — being there, talking, loving, and even drawing boundaries fairly and consistently. This knowledge can take the pressure off trying to perfect those big events and back on how you live today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow! Take some time for your child today.

Let me hear from you: What are some of the things that stand in the way of you doing all that you want to do as a dad?