Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tour of Texas!

We packed up the car and headed around Texas to see family. 792 miles over 12 days! It was SO fun!

Stop #1- The in-laws for my SIL's wedding!

Gorgeous bride!
 My beautiful youngest SIL. (#10) & #1's husband on guitar.
 Too much cuteness.
 Two more SILs, #4 & #6.
 I mean, really...
 #1 SIL with her kiddos.
 Waiting... K was supposed to go sit down after he walked the aisle, but he just stood up there with the rest of the men, lol. We had to go get him.
 Father & son.
 #2 with her family.
 #3 with his family. :)
More ILs :) - #5 & #7
 My nephew was jealous of the flower girl & ring bearer getting to wear costumes, so he brought his own. Genius.

 Breaking it down at the rehearsal dinner. He really was, but of course as soon as I get the video camera out he stopped.
 DH carrying 2 tuckered out boys home.
The in-laws with all 9 grandchildren.
We stayed with DH's sister and their 4 kids. Our kids had a blast playing together. This was the first time all 10 of the siblings have been together in over a year. It was so good to see everyone!

Stop #2- My mom's:

 My brother came to see us. I promise we are not fat, but it makes me feel better that we both look fat in this pic!
 Nana had a dirt pile. Boy Heaven!

While there, I got to see my awesome nutritionist and also get a massage from like, the best massage therapist ever. He's actually not even a therapist; he's considered a practitioner. I got some treatment for my piriformis muscle and plantar faciitis which has been acting up lately.

Stop #3- My oldest brother & SIL's house. They have 3 girls; the youngest is less than 3 wks younger than K.

 The older 2 girls were a great help.

 My brother reading them a story.
We went to ride the park train and then out to lunch.
All tuckered out.

Stop #4- My Dad's place:

 K teaching Major to fetch,
 ... and sit.
 G-man loved the Gator!
 G-man riding.
K riding the horse.
 Playing with Lincoln Logs.
 So big.
 The boys went fishing early one morning.
Stop #5- My grandmother, Gran. My aunt came to see us as well! We went swimming one afternoon and other than that, just hung out. The boys loved the handicap chair that goes upstairs.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Open Letter to Daughter-in-Laws

(Disclaimer: These letters are not about ANYONE in my life in particular. I am just sharing my thoughts in general. I realize that some mother-in-laws and even mothers are extremely difficult, abusive, manipulative, and divisive. While I feel for you, I am NOT writing about those situations, but rather about regular, imperfect but well meaning MILs.)

Another disclaimer- I am not a mother-in-law, so if you are, please comment and let me know how close I came to how you feel. We daughters need to hear it.

We had a mother-in-law panel at MOPS this past year that was very eye opening. We got to ask them questions- why do they do what they do, what do they expect from us?, etc. What I heard there and what I've seen around me in other situations is a lot of hurting mother-in-laws. 

Our generation is different from theirs, for sure. We have the internet with access to lots of research on health, parenting, etc. We don't have to rely as much on our own mothers and MILs for that wisdom. We are even discovering that they are/were wrong sometimes! No, baby cereal at 6 wks is not OK. Babies don't need to cry to exercise their lungs, etc... The other thing that's different is how independent we've become. We want to leave our parents, run away with our husbands, never to be bothered by family again. I'm here to tell you that this is wrong thinking.

Your MIL needs you, needs your children, and dare I say, maybe you and your children need her. The natural situation surrounding MIL & DILs is such that both parties can easily feel uncomfortable around and threatened by the other. DILs are new to the family, wondering how they'll fit in. Especially in this day in age, MILs have to wonder whether their new DIL will accept them or push them away. Both are wondering where the son's loyalty lies. (It should lie with his wife, by the way, which is why this is YOUR issue, to make things right with your MIL. A husband can almost find no safe way to bring this up to you if there is a problem.)

Your MIL does not want to control your life. She doesn't want her son back. She doesn't want to steal away your children and raise them how she sees fit. She most likely doesn't think you're a horrible mother and wife. That's probably your own insecurity rearing its ugly voice in your mind. She wants to be included and involved. She wants pictures and crafts the kids make and to be invited to special events like birthday parties. She wants you to listen sometimes to her advice. Take it or toss it, but at least listen. She wants you to tell her straight up if there's a problem with how she's doing things. (a REAL problem, NOT, "you put them to bed 30 minutes late, so they can never come stay with you again." or "Johnny can only eat 3 servings of fruit a day and you gave him 6.") 

Using your children as manipulation pawns is not OK. They need their grandparents, and their grandparents need them. You are not an empty nester yet, but just TRY to put yourself in those shoes for 2 seconds. It is hard, and you just want family around you and to feel you are still useful in some way in influencing the younger generations for good. Try to imagine how it would feel to have your son (because his loyalty should lie with you, remember?) and grandchildren never come see you  because your DIL is too busy, too strict, too whatever. Especially if you make lots of time for YOUR family- this can sting even worse. They don't have to do things exactly like you do to be good caretakers of your children. 

I have just seen far too many DILs being overly critical of their MILs and being way too controlling with the relationship between her and her grandchildren. Expecting them to respect your wishes is one thing, but it can easily go overboard into being nit picky, all in the name of "boundaries". You feel you have something to prove, that you are a better mother than she, but it's just not necessary. 

On the other side, I have seen DILs become patient and accepting even of a difficult MIL, and this turned the relationship around. Now they have a healthy relationship with mutual respect. Let your guard down; let go of some control; trust God with your kids; and be more selfless. Everybody will benefit. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Open Letter to Married Men

(Disclaimer: This is not written to ANYONE I know in particular. I am simply sharing my thoughts in general and hoping this might shed some light for someone. Also, know that women have PLENTY of things they need to work on, to get a man's perspective on. I hope your wives are doing that. But you need a woman's perspective sometimes too.)

Repeat after me:

My wife loves me. She does NOT think I'm a failure, and especially not because I put a collared shirt on my preschooler to go outside and play in the mud in, when I KNOW (because she has told me one other time) those are only for school & church. She does keep track of all the good things I do. She would be miserable without all the ways I come through for her. When I forget her take-out order for the fifteenth time or watch football all day while she's away with the kids instead of cleaning up the kitchen like she asked, she does not really take joy in making me feel like a complete failure with her words when she gets home. She is hurt. She feels like I don't love her, or at least wasn't loving her or thinking of her in that moment. And when I react at her hurt with anger, that hurts her exponentially more than the original offense did. I do this because I think she just likes to get on to me about any little thing I do wrong, but she doesn't. She is hurting and feeling unloved. Me withdrawing or blowing up will do NOTHING to help our relationship. Trying to understand the hurt behind the complaints will move mountains for us.

Repeat after me: "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking of you. How can I make it right?" Those 3 sentences will change your life!

There are things she does to me that make me feel unloved and disrespected also. I need to stop being passive aggressive about them and let her know what's going on. I will let her know what I need more of, what I need less of. I will try to remember that women understand this kind of communication and it likely won't undo her like it tends to undo me. I can help hold her accountable, gently and patiently. I can share what hurts me. It's my right to do that.

I am not responsible for my wife's feelings. Those are hers. When I hurt her, I fix it with the 3 sentences above, but every time she's hurting, it is NOT on me. Every time she's down, depressed, anxious, irritable, it is NOT my fault. I am NOT failing my family (same goes for my kids), and I CAN lead her out of it by being cheerful and PURSUING her, NOT lecturing or reacting with my own poor attitude. My joy comes from the LORD, not my wife. 

Even though my wife wants me to lead her, that doesn't mean it's always easy to follow me. I am not perfect. I need to be open to her suggestions and advice, especially where it comes to our young children. Repeat after me: "You (probably) know more about young children than I do. Do what you think is best." (or whatever area your wife is better with. It may not be this area!) When she sees me about to take our family over a proverbial cliff, she cannot just be quiet about it. And after she has spoken her mind and I still decide to drive over (or not! Maybe it will turn out fine! You can never tell with guys like me. ;) ), I need to understand that that is one of the hardest things I will ever ask her to do. If she still supports and follows me, I need to give her all the credit in the world.

But just because she questions my decisions sometimes does NOT mean that she doesn't trust me at all or doesn't want me to lead. She is just scared. I am not God. Say it again: "I am not God!" If my security is in Christ and not her approval, I will be able to step out in faith, even after failure, and risk again, adjust my course, and try again. Don't be discouraged, self! Don't be discouraged. She needs me to be strong for her, to protect her, to love her. And when I do all of this for our children as well, that also fills her up. Her children are her heart. Hurting them is hurting her. Playing with and caring for and investing in them is doing the SAME thing for her. I kill 2 birds with one stone- bonus!

I can do this. God is my strength. He has given me everything I need.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Open Letter to Young Single Women

I'm speaking to you from the other side. I know it's hard where you are. As hard as raising children and being a wife is, I understand that you are not there yet, and where you are is hard too. The worst part for my planning personality was just not knowing. I wanted to know what the future held, what to expect. You are anxious to get your life going, to get on to "real life". But know this, you are living your life NOW. You are growing and influencing the Kingdom now. Looking back, I envy your free time and your opportunity for ministry. Take advantage of the unique time in your life that you may not have again. 

But because I am on the other side now, I can warn you of dangers to come. One of the biggest threats to your safety, your emotional & spiritual health, and your future children is men. The reason it's the biggest threat is because you can learn from and get past other mistakes fairly quickly. If you smoke pot, drink too much, get arrested, make a wrong friend, believe a wrong doctrine, or alienate your family, you can usually come back from all of those pretty quickly. Those things matter, but whom you marry matters more. Sure, there is divorce for Biblical reasons like abuse, abandonment, or unfaithfulness, but those divorces are not without consequences. But most bad marriages don't have those "outs". You are "stuck" for life. (I am NOT writing this to married women, so don't write me about that, lol.) 

I want to tell you a bit about my dating experience. In high school, I made a decision not to date until after I graduated. This was a personal conviction that I had. I had recently had a huge hole filled in my life by a father figure that came into my life who gave me lots of needed security and love. If you are estranged from your father or are not close, or he, for whatever reason, can't be your security during those teenage years, I would challenge you to pray for someone to fill that role. That's what I did, and God certainly answered. I think this is a huge protection for young women. 

When I got to college, I wasn't looking for a date or a boyfriend. I was looking for a husband. Now, of course, you have to get through those first steps, obviously. But anyone who obviously was not husband material was off the list. My mom had scared me enough of marriage. I wanted romance, but not at the cost of my future marriage. I was able to look ahead and see my children, see him with my children. I was able to see him working hard to support our family. Most of all, I was able to look ahead and see if his relationship with God was strong and lasting. In college, I knew guys that I thought would fit the bill, and I had a few really good friends who fit what I was looking for, but nothing moved forward, and I couldn't understand why. I was introverted, but there was something else going on. (I now know that it was mostly just God protecting me through His grace.) But one outspoken guy friend finally told me one day. He said, "Guys don't ask you out because they know that asking you out is liking asking you to marry them." He was exaggerating of course. I was not one of those girls who talked about marriage non-stop or pressured guys to commit or anything. (I also wasn't in a hurry because my dad had basically forbidden me to get married before I graduated from college.) That friend just meant that I was serious. I later asked a boyfriend if this was true, and he said, "absolutely". 

Matt Chandler says, "Don't try to find a neat Christian guy. Find a godly man. There are far too many neat Christian guys around church, and far too few godly men." Any pain a break-up with a non-Christian or a neat Christian guy or even just someone who is not for you may cause, I'm here to tell you that that pain does not even BEGIN to compare with the pain of a failed marriage. Even if the marriage doesn't end, it can still be failed. Imagine taking your children to church every Sunday and teaching them about God only to see them going the other way, following a father who was just full of words when you were dating but now wants nothing to do with God. Imagine your home wrecked with addiction- alcohol, gambling, pornography. These and worse have happened to very close, very godly friends of mine. It could just as easily have happened to me. No one can tell the future, and sometimes godly men do get derailed. I am just trying to encourage you to make every effort to protect yourself and your future children from a half-way man. 

Protect yourself. Pray for God to protect you. Be picky. If we as women let them know we're serious, men will rise to the challenge. God made them that way. Above all, trust God. He wants what is best for you.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Open Letter to People Without Kids

I am writing this because I used to be the worst. My personality is such that I can't stand having information that may benefit someone else and understanding that keeping it to myself MAY just be the most benefit to that person. I come by it honestly, from a long line of advice-givers. 

But here's the thing, no matter how much you have babysat, how many parenting books you've read, how many child development degrees you have, you don't understand. It's not your fault. You can't understand; it's impossible. Forgive us for forgetting that you're often just trying to help. But please don't be hurt when we dismiss your well-meaning advice by saying that, "you have no idea what it's like." It's just reality. You don't have to be a parent to figure out that rear facing car seats are safer for toddlers or starting solids before 4 months can be harmful to health. What you DON'T get is that you're not the one in the car to hear your 1 YO screaming after being strapped in for 3+ hrs on the road because he can't see anything. It's not your neck going into spasm while driving because you tried to reach too far back into his seat to hand him ANOTHER pacifier.

I really was the worst. I have wanted kids since I was like 2, and it did take my husband WAY too long to agree to start our family (ok, only 5 years, so not WAY too long). I read parenting books, listened to parenting sermons before kids were even on the horizon. I babysat, nannied, taught school, even ran my own in-home daycare for 1.5 yrs. I loved it. I knew everything- no really, I did. Only I didn't. 

My kids went home by 5 every day. I didn't breastfeed any of them. None of them kept me from sleeping. And that is HUGE. At least for me, when something comes between me and sleep, we are going to have to seriously analyze priorities- only true love will trump sleep. When one 5 year-old little boy got a big gash on his head, I called his mom. That was no longer my problem to deal with. I gave advice to one mom (to be fair, this time, she did ask me) of a 7 MO very spirited little girl to let her cry at nap time when she wouldn't sleep. Problem was, it wasn't MY heart inside that little girl, it was her mom's. It was hard for me to hear her cry, sure, but my heart wasn't inside that baby, slowly breaking (or so it seemed). I could not believe why my family members didn't just "sp@nk that girl more". LOL I had no clue. Neither of my boys have the will and spirit that she has, even to this day, and she has turned out pretty darn well so far!

If you want to help, we would love that! You have incredible influence over children, even if you didn't bear them, AND you have an incredible ability to lift parents' burdens as well. 
Here's how...
1- First of all, let me sleep. If you will get up with my child or let me take a nap, you will be the greatest thing that has ever happened to us. We may even start asking you for advice!
2- Take our kids. We will most likely want them back at some point, but all 3 of us win when you take them to do fun things or just to watch for awhile.
3- Know that parenting is harder and more wonderful than you can imagine. Losing sleep (hmm, maybe I have found an idol in my life, lol), discipline, letting them go as they get older, making hard decisions, and seeing them hurt are the hardest things. If you are going to give advice, just try to steer clear of these areas unless we ask out right (and we probably won't, and don't take it personally.) :) 
4- When we talk about difficulties, don't try to fix. Just nod and  listen.

We love you, and we realize that you can't help that you don't understand. If God chooses to give you children one day, you WILL get it, and you will feel guilty for rolling your eyes so much (maybe that's just me). If He doesn't, you will still have opportunities to invest in the lives of children around you. Take those opportunities!

(Disclaimer: None of these letters are to ANYONE in particular in my life. These are just thoughts I have in general!)

PS- If you wake our kids up, your life WILL be in danger.