Monday, May 25, 2009

My husband and I take turns putting each of our girls to bed each night. It gives us a few minutes totally one-on-one with each daughter every other day, and neither of us has to bear the burden and time it takes to put both girls to bed. ...It works for us.

Frustratingly, but not surprisingly, both girls want mommy to put them to bed every night. You would think after being with mom all day, they would have had enough and would be clamoring for a little space. But no, Violet weeps when Daddy walks away with her saying, "It's bedtime! Say goodnight." And Hope pouts and sulks as Daddy takes her downstairs saying, "I want Mommy to put me to bed!"

This is slightly hurtful for Daddy, and maddening for Mommy.

As we finished a final snack this evening, I announced to Hope that it was Daddy's night to put her to bed. Preparing her in advance usually helps the process. However tonight, she said, not unusual, "I don't want Daddy to put me to bed!"

I took a moment to explain to her that Daddy enjoys spending time with her at night; reading with her, and praying before bed. And I told her that it's hurtful to him when she tells him she doesn't want him for bed time. I added that there are many children whose fathers don't want to spend time with them or aren't able to tuck them in, and she should be thankful for what she has.

To which she announced, as only a three year old can, "Then I just don't want anyone to take me to bed!"

So I (maturely) retorted, "Fine. Then why don't you just go to bed by yourself tonight. You can put yourself to sleep."

She of course didn't like this response, but I think I was sulking even more than her.

My kids, and many of the current generation, are extremely blessed and don't even realize it. They have more material goods than they know what to do with; are warm, well-fed, and protected; and many have a multitude of people in their lives who love and care for them. Yet the blithely walk through life feeling, not only entitled to it all, but demanding even more.

I'm glad that my children have a beautiful home, have never gone hungry, have too many- it seems- toys to play with, and a family who is absolutely crazy about them. I'm thankful they've never known what it means to be in need. But at the same time, I would prefer they show a little gratitude for it all.

Let me be clear, Hope is a sweet, loving, and thoughtful child. For a three year old, she does very well at saying "thank you", oftentimes even unprompted. And both her dad and I are extremely thankful for our blessings, and do out best to show that gratitude.

But still, we're talking about tonight's conversation.

Is it necessary for one to go without to realize what they have been given? Are the only truly thankful people those who know what it's like to have nothing? Do we only appreciate that which we've worked for?

And, if the answer to any of the above questions is "yes", how do you go about instilling those lessons in small children?

I don't have all the answers. If I did, I suppose I would be writing a book and not just a blog. I do know there are other ways to teach children gratitude, such a volunteering to serve others and being an example of gratitude to your children.

In the end, my children are still... in process. I don't have any definite results to show for whatever theories I may have. I am simply doing the best I can, day by day, hour by hour. Sometimes, like tonight, I come to a point where I am not sure what to do. And then, apparently, I ask myself (and you) rhetorical questions for which there are no definitive answers.

By the way, Hope and I ended up talking things out, about being grateful and all. I think she's getting it...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Many Shades of Mommy Friendships

It is valuable and necessary to maintain your friendships after you become a mama. And no one friend category is more valuable than another, all are necessary.

Friends who have children around the same age as yours are a great source for talking about the ages and stages your kiddos are going through. There is something so valuable and comforting about bemoaning the frustration of potty-training along with someone who is also bruised from banging their head against the wall.

Then there are friends who have children just a few years older than yours. These friends are a valuable source of wisdom and insight as you grope aimlessly ahead for how to handle your children. They also are wonderful for giving some perspective when your current child-rearing issues have you in a dark, motherhood fog.

Another valuable source of friendship is those friends who don't have children. With them, you can stop being "mommy" for a little while, and just be... you. Refreshing. They are also a reminder of life before kids, which is important to remember. You are still that person and you need to stay in touch with her.

Make sure you take time to make and maintain each of these friendships. Play dates are a great way to spend time with mom friends whose children are close to your child's age. Other times, you can leave the kids home with hubby or, if you must, head out while the kids are in bed to spend time with friends. Or meet and spend time with other moms by joining a moms' group of some sort. Look up what is available in your area online or ask around.

One possible benefit of having close friends who are moms is trading babysitting. A friend and I do this weekly, and it's been a wonderful experience.

Today I took my girls over to her house for the day. They arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and I picked them up at 3:00. I was able to spend the day catching up on a myriad of volunteer work I do, most of it on the computer. You forget how fast you can work when you get used to having little ones running around your feet during every daily task.

Next week, she will bring her daughter, who is one year older than Hope, to my house for a day for about the same amount of time. It's not much more work for me to have one extra kiddo in the house and my friend gets a day to spend running errands or with her husband or even catching up on chores around the house- without a preschooler underfoot.

Ah, friendship. It can't be recommended highly enough...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Facebook Pet Peeves


I'm going to let you in on a secret. I've only told one other person this. You can't tell!

It's my pet peeves on Facebook.

You see, I can't post them on Facebook, because then my Facebook friends would know that sometimes they get on my nerves. I can't post a link for the same reason. I can't post any of them as my status because that would create the very real possibility that I would lose all my Facebook friends.

It's a difficult pickle to be in the middle of.

I will share them with you, but you can't tell. This has to remain just between us, our little secret. And if, by chance, you have committed, or do commit, one of the following pet peeves of mine while on Facebook; don't worry your pretty little head. Pet peeve literally means "a frequent subject of complaint", and for me is more of a redundant annoyance. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I annoy you too.

So, without further ado, here are my Facebook pet peeves.

1. Using Your Status to Respond to Another User
A status update is basically supposed to answer the question "What are you doing right now?" or "What's on your mind?" If you want to address someone specifically, write on that person's "wall". Go to their page, leave a message. This is how you communicate a personal note to someone on Facebook. If you want to leave a truly personal message that no one can see, use the tab that says "Inbox". But please don't update us with, "I know! I was just thinking that when we were at the mall Friday. You are so right."

2. Posting Someone Else's Picture As Yours
Your profile picture is to show your friends what you look like, give them a little reminder of who you are with each message you leave. I know your kids and your dog are "sooooooo cute", but really, I want to see your face when you are addressing me. I know maybe you don't have a current picture or are not happy with the way you look right now or are on a diet, but you know what? Join the club! ...And while you're at it, put a picture of yourself for your profile pic.

3. Incorrect Spelling and Punctuation
We are officially living in the era of text messages, Twitter, and non-stop connection to technology. I understand many people use Facebook through their Blackberry, iPhone, or other similar device. But Facebook is not a text message, it's a social networking site. And if you want people to be able to read your statuses, posts, and messages as you intended them to be understood; pick up a third grade language book and relearn the use of commas, periods, and capital letters. A few basic spelling lessons wouldn't hurt either.

4. Inviting All Your Friends to Participate in Every Application You Use and Sending Meaningless Cyber "Gifts"
When I first joined Facebook, I read over a friend's personal information and was surprised at her final message of- "Please do not invite me to join the mafia, become a zombie, or take a quiz about your favorite TV show. I am on Facebook to connect with you personally, and do not have time to dig through endless invitations to waste my time in a variety of ways." I marveled at her rudenessa and didn't fully understand what these invitations are she was referring to.

Now I do.

So Facebook Pet Peeve #4 is when Facebook Friends invite me to use every useless application that they choose to waste time on. I don't need to take three minutes and go to six different screens to accept a little stuffed dog that doesn't actually exist. Friends who excessively use these applications crowd up their contacts' home pages and litter their request boxes.

5. Spouses Writing Sentimental Messages to Each Other
Gag! Listen, I'm a big fan of marriage and love my husband fiercely. And I'm all for occasionally proclaiming for the world to hear, "I love my spouse! I'm so thankful for them. He/she is amazing." But constant status updates of "I'm waiting for my Pooky to come home, I'm so lonely without him. I'm can't wait to smother him with kisses!" And "I'm the luckiest dude on the planet- my wife is so hot! She looks great in anything- and nothing..."

Yuck. Keep it private. Please.

6. Becoming a Fan of Everything
Being a fan of something or someone on Facebook used to be cool. You could show your style and personality by proclaiming your love for a certain band, author, or television show. But it seems things have gotten out of control. I have seen friends become fans of "hugs", "sleeping", and "God".

I'm all for God, but do I really need to become His fan on Facebook? What's next, being a fan of breathing?

7. Extreme Facebook Narcissism
It's true that social networking and blogging (hmm... am I going to insult myself now?) have fed an ever increasing obsession with ourselves in the last few years. And for those who truly believe their lives are fascinating enough for everyone else to care about on a constant basis, Facebook can be an all too easy platform for self-promotion on a stage built ever higher and higher by themselves.

Facebook is an quick and easy outlet for the self-obsessed. There are status updates for them to proclaim their own brand of deep thoughts, endless quizzes for them to take and publish to show the world more and more of how fascinating they are, and even notes to be published and forwarded to display their vast knowledge and experience. The most recent culprit I've seen is a list of the BBC's Top 100 Books in which Facebook users could mark those they've read, loved, and want to read. It includes books ranging from Pride and Prejudice to Harry Potter to
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I'm sorry, but what is this except a list to proclaim to everyone else how intelligent and wide-read you are?

If you were really smart, you would know that your life is not that fascinating. And your Facebook "friends" are more interested in proclaiming their own perceived notoriety than in reading about yours.

There you have it! I've given you seven, but we all know the list could go on and on. You're welcome to comment with your own Facebook pet peeves. Let's enjoy our annoyances together!

Well, now that no one is left to read because I've offended them, I guess I will bid myself adieu!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

I decided tonight that you should never base what movies you see solely on other people's opinions of them.

I watched a movie tonight that several friends of mine had seen and raved about. I ended up being a little disappointed with it... The cast was stellar and their performances were applauded. The story line was creative and engaging. It wasn't any of those things.

You see, I have this idea that what you put in comes back out. It's not so novel, really. I mean, if you pour milk in a glass and then spill the glass, milk will come out. If you pour vinegar in a glass and spill it, vinegar will spill out, not milk.

That may all seem very elementary, but to me the same principle applies with our hearts. The things that you pour in are the things you read, watch, listen to, talk about. The things that come out are your words and actions and attitudes. You get out what you put in...

When we were first married, there was a sitcom my husband and I enjoyed watching reruns of. It was a popular show, still is, about a family with several children. However, in this particular show, the husband and wife were often very demeaning to each other. After months of watching it on a regular basis, my husband and I noticed that we were making cutting remarks toward one another. Now, humor has always been a common bond between us, but never at the other person's expense. This was different.

After a little thought, we asked, "Do you think that show is influencing the way we talk to each other?" It seemed silly, but we decided to stop viewing the program for awhile and see if it made any difference. Oddly enough, the demeaning humor seemed to fade away.

Now this isn't to say that we never watched the show again, or threw our TV out, or any other extreme response. We still occasionally watch the aforementioned sitcom. But the principle is still important, and it's what remains pertinent in our lives.

The whole concept may seem silly or naive to you. That's okay. It works for us. And for me, I would rather be naive than fill myself with debris to be poured out later on those around me.

Do you not like the things that are coming out of you? Your words? Actions? Habits? Attitudes? Take a close look at what's going in...

"You will harvest what you plant." Galatians 6:7

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Kindred Spirits

"I've always dreamed of having a 'bosom' friend...a true kindred spirit." Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

I am lucky enough to have found my "kindred spirit", as Anne would say. We met in college, and although we got on swimmingly enough there, we have only grown closer as the years have passed. Friendship is something that can't be planned, conspired, or forced. But when it grows on its own, it is a miraculous and beautiful force.

Unfortunately, my best friend and I live about thirty hours apart, if you were to drive the span. Even if you fly; it takes about three hours, usually two separate flights, and most often over $250. At best, we see each other twice a year; more often it's once. This can pose some challenges! But when you are truly committed to a friendship, it is possible to keep the relationship alive; despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Here are a few ways my kindred spirit and I make the distance seem smaller:

1. Weekly Phone Chats
This has to be very intentional, at least for us. We talked about the possibility of calling each other once a week and settled on a day that is easiest for us to squeeze in a chat. Our weekly talk usually takes place on Saturday. First thing in the morning or right before bed at night seem to be the most common phone tryst times. We have been having these weekly chats for so long now, they are a part of our regular weekly schedules.

2. Keep a Memory Book
In junior high, a friend and i passed a notebook back and forth almost daily with short notes we had written to each other the evening before. These notes usually consisted of complaining about teachers and classes, gossiping about friends, and analyzing guys. Immature, I know.
But the same concept works with my best friend and I across time and miles. We share a book of our favorite memories together and take turns keeping the book and filling it in between visits. We've also each added favorite quotes, photos of shared memories over the years, and even cards we've written to each other.

3. Face-to-Face
Phone calls, e-mails, social networking, and memory books only suffice for so long. Nothing can replace face-to-face contact. Make sure you squeeze in quality time with your dearest friends regularly, even if regularly means once a year. This may be difficult, but certainly not impossible. My mom and her longtime best friend have been meeting together at least once a year since their initial separation after high school. It's been over thirty-five years and they're still going strong.

If you haven't found your kindred spirit, you have my sympathy. But don't give up hope- you never know where one will pop up! Keep cultivating the friendships that you have, and forming new ones- and you're bound to find that one who seems knitted to your very soul.

Marilla Cuthbert: [to Anne] "I think you may be a kindred spirit after all."