Sunday, January 31, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 2; Intentionally Disciplined


It’s funny that I should be writing about discipline because, truth be told, sometimes I feel like the most undisciplined person ever.

It’s not that my parents didn’t discipline me—they did. For sure. They made sure I behaved properly. They made sure I finished piano practice and homework before I watched T.V. They made me play outside and get plenty of exercise.

My parents tried their best to raise disciplined children . . . and yet . . .

And yet I fail so often.

I have many days that my lack of discipline has me getting up late, rushing to get kids to school, foregoing my workout in order to get other things done, leaving my kitchen a mess until dinner, neglecting my time with God.

And just last week I found it much easier to rationalize the behavior of one of my kids so that I didn’t have to do the hard work of disciplining her. I just didn’t want to do it. (But I did.)

So, really, me? Write about discipline? I want to laugh and tell you it’s a joke, but that wouldn’t be the truth. The truth is, I know how important discipline is in my life because I lack it so much.

And another truth . . . I see how important it is going to be in the lives of my daughters because they aren’t naturally self-disciplined either. Who really is?

So today I want to explore this idea of intentional discipline. What is it? Why is it important? What does it mean for our kids?

What is Discipline?
First of all, let me say what discipline is NOT. I am not talking about the old “to-spank-or-not-to-spank” question. (Remember, intentional parenting asks “why” not “how.”) There are plenty of how-to-discipline-your-children books out there—some of them very good.

I’m not here to tell you how to discipline your kids, but rather to encourage you to really do the hard work of discipline so that your children will enjoy happy, productive lives and relationships.

So, I’m not talking about spanking. I’m not talking about shaking a finger at your child for spilling his milk. The discipline I’m talking about is self-discipline—helping your kids monitor their own behavior so that, ultimately, they will become well-disciplined adults.

Does this require sacrifice on the part of a parent? You bet it does. It also requires paying attention, giving your time, and doing some hard work.

A lot of hard work.

Why Discipline?
I’ve already hinted at this, but I’ll say it a little differently: I’m afraid that undisciplined kids become undisciplined adults. And being an undisciplined adult is a very hard person to be.

This may seem like a simplistic example (and it probably is), but even on the days when I give in to my slothfulness, I feel out-of-sorts. I feel like my day just doesn’t go quite right. I feel like my lack of discipline affects not just me, but everyone around me. I can’t imagine living like that every day.

And, worse yet, when I am undisciplined about my time with God, my relationship with Him is affected. I don’t enjoy the peace that I would normally enjoy on a day when I’ve taken time with Him. I don’t enjoy that closeness with God, all because of my own lack of discipline.

So, you see, my relationships are affected when I lack discipline.

Undisciplined adults also tend to lack stick-to-it-iveness. When situations become hard, undisciplined people give up. They don’t have the inner fortitude to just hang in there and keep going. A strong sense of discipline will help a kid become an adult who can handle tough situations without wilting under pressure.

Finally, we discipline because God calls us to do it. The Bible has a whole lot to say about discipline. God disciplines us for our own good—because He loves us; as parents, we should do the same. God calls a person who lacks discipline evil (Proverbs 5:22-23). Now there’s a scary thought, huh? And the Bible says that a person who is disciplined is called “blessed” (Psalm 94:12).

To show our children love, to save them from evil, and to ultimately bless them—these are the reasons we take discipline seriously.

Intentional Discipline
So when I encourage you (and me) to discipline your kids intentionally, what do I mean? I mostly mean don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to set rules and to follow them consistently. Do the hard work it takes for your kids to become the well-disciplined adults you want them to be.

Some friends of ours have been fantastic examples of this. They have set the expectation that each of their children will spend time reading their Bibles every morning before breakfast. (What a wonderful discipline to instill in our children!) But just telling their kids to read their Bibles every day wouldn’t be particularly intentional. Our friends take their expectation to a new level when the family meets together for breakfast in the morning. Our friend (their dad) asks each of his kids what they read in the Bible that morning. If one child has not had time to read that morning, perhaps choosing a few more minutes of sleep over Bible reading, our friend sends them back to their room for a few minutes to spend time reading the Bible. No breakfast until his children have fed on God’s word first.

Personally, I have a thing about getting homework done (probably because my mom did too), so one rule in our home is that homework and practicing instruments must be done before any television is turned on after school. (My parents were more strict—no T.V. until 6:30 p.m.) If my child chooses to put off homework for a little while after school, that’s O.K.—they do need a little break sometimes—but they understand that they will not watch T.V. until all chores are done.

It might sound like a small thing, but I hope this is teaching my girls that they must be disciplined with their use of time. Sure, they have choices about how they use their time, but they also need to realize that they have to prioritize their time in order to get the most important stuff done first.

So guess what? It takes discipline to discipline your kids. Really. It takes determination. It takes setting rules. It takes follow-through. Sometimes it takes time and energy and even tears on your part in order to see the fruit of strong discipline in the lives of your kids.

And I fail. Every day I fail at this. But I have to keep telling myself that it’s worth it. It really is. Because I’m seeing results every day.

So, let’s talk. What are the things that you are intentional about in the area of discipline? What discipline is it important for you to see in your child? What’s hard about discipline for you?

Friday, January 29, 2010

These Should Keep You Reading Through the Weekend

I've been thinking about writing lately. A lot. As in, I really need to get some priorities rearranged, but more about that next week.

So today I thought I'd share some links to posts that have made me think about writing and blogging lately.

Michael Hyatt, guru of all things publishing and bloggy, wrote a great article titled, "Do You Make These 10 Mistakes When You Blog?" I'd have to say, yes, I've made them all.

And I know I link to him sometimes, but Jon Acuff makes me think. Here's one that did.

Emily at Chatting at the Sky is writing a book! Isn't that exciting? She was one of the blogging track speakers at She Speaks last summer, so I'm especially thrilled that she's now writing. Anyway, she wrote a great post sharing her perspective on publishing.

Earlier this week Alexis Grant, who is taking her readers on her voyage of writing a memoir, wrote some of the best writing advice I've read in a while. Simple, but profound.

And here. Just in case you need some Springtime. This one's not about writing (although it might just inspire you to take pen to paper). Just my friend, Antique Mommy, taking pictures in her back yard.

Shelly

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What NOT to do next time you're in Costa Rica



O.K., this is probably my last big Costa Rica post because you're probably getting sick of reading about this latest adventure in my life. If so, just turn away and come back tomorrow.

But I just had to follow up with this post because I've already told you many of my impressions. Things that made me laugh about our cultural differences. But today I wanted to tell you about what our Costa Rican guests, M and L, thought some of the main differences were.

On their last night here we ate dinner and headed out for one last shopping trip (oh my goodness, those girls could SHOP!). As we drove, the girls shared some of the main things that we do that they thought were kind of . . . shall we say . . . strange.

1. Drinking milk with dinner. I don't think the girls had ever, not once in their lives, drank milk with their dinner. L said she really thought she would get sick if she drank milk with food. Isn't that just hilarious?

2. Phone numbers. "Your phone numbers are LONG," they told me.

3. Stop signs. They aren't just suggestions here. People really do stop at them.

4. Mini vans. Everybody has one. (Oh, don't get me started.)

5. Pointy roofs. Their words, not mine. I guess they were struck by the slant in our roofs and the black shingles everyone uses here. Their roofs are all flat and tiled.

6. No gates. This was one of those glaring differences that they pointed out right away on the first night--nobody has gates. Apparently in Costa Rica, everyone has a gate for security. Which led to a discussion about guns and safety in America. They felt extremely safe here despite all the media talk about how apparently everyone in America carries a gun. (Which they found to be so not true.) One of the girls even said it was such a relief to not have to always be thinking about holding her purse close to her body so it wouldn't get snatched.

7. This last one made me laugh so hard. Nose blowing in public. They thought it was so strange that it's considered O.K. for people to blow their nose in public (although my husband would disagree with that one). They said that in Costa Rica nobody would ever blow their nose in public--it's considered something similar to letting loose another bodily function in public.

So there you go. If you're ever in Costa Rica, you'll be way ahead of the game. You'll know that in your incredibly small rental car you can slide through that stop sign. You won't drink milk with dinner in a home with a flat tiled roof and a huge gate out front. And it will be much easier to call a friend with their short phone numbers and all.

And finally, you'll know to never, ever, under any circumstance, blow your nose in front of another person.

Shelly

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tacky




Just because it's Wordless Wednesday.

And it's ski season.

And I miss Switzerland.

Shelly

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I never really thought of myself as Type-A, but . . .


Well, our dear Costa Rican “daughters” left on Saturday. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had while they were here or about how many activities they packed into three weeks or about how many differences I observed between us.

But there was one difference I just have to write about because it became a bit of a joke among our family. That is our sense of time. We discovered that there’s our hyper-punctual-never-be-late sense of American time . . . and then there’s Costa Rican time.

Nary the twain shall meet.

Last Thursday was a perfect example. I had every minute of my day planned out, and it looked something like this:

2:15 - pick up Abby at school
2:30 - pick up CR students at church
2:35 - drop off CR students with admissions rep at college for informational meeting and campus tour
3:00 - drop off Abby at church for tutoring ministry
4:15 - pick up CR students at college
4:30 - pick up quick dinner at Qdoba
4:50 - pick up refugee girl for basketball practice (oh, that’s another story for another day)
5:00 - drop off Maggie and our refugee girl at b.ball practice
5:30 - take CR students to church for Blue Man Group
6:00 - pick up Maggie and A from b.ball practice; drive A back home
7:00 - B and I out for a birthday dinner w/ friends

See? Every minute of my afternoon, planned out. Probably a little too much planned out. I was a little frantic when I picked up our Costa Rican girls at 2:30. I hustled them out of the building and into my car, explaining that the admissions rep at the college had exactly 30 minutes to talk to them before she had to leave to go home.

I suddenly had this out-of-body experience as I was walking up the steps in our church, explaining our busy afternoon schedule. I saw myself from above, making wild hand gestures as I tried to get through to these girls that we had to go, go, GO. I suddenly thought that they must think I’m silly, hurrying the way I was.

Then L, one of our CR girls who didn’t seem to be listening to a word I was saying, turned and said, “I think J is going to take me to Kohl’s this afternoon.”

HUH?! WHAT?! WHEN?!

I tried to remain calm.

“Oh really,” I tried a casual this-doesn’t-bother-me-a-bit tone. “When are you going to do that?”

“Oh, later this afternoon.”

Finally, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. (I know. I’m a paragon of restraint.) “L, you don’t have time for that! I’m taking you over to the college right now, which will take until 4:30, and then you’ll have just one hour to eat something and get yourself ready to go to the theater. You have to be back at church at 5:30.”

I must have looked and sounded like an idiot to them. I think my face might have been just a little bit red.

“Oh, O.K., we just won’t be able to do that," she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

The entire incident left me scratching my head. Am I that much tied to the clock that I would go crazy over her suggestion that a friend take her shopping? Are they that laid back about time that she would have absolutely no clue what I was explaining to her?

We had a real disconnect about time, and believe me, that wasn’t an isolated incident.

Mornings were a bit of a challenge for me, too, as sometimes the person picking them up had to wait a few minutes in the driveway. A serious breach of etiquette in my house where we call ourselves the most on-time family you’ll ever meet. You just don’t make people wait. Ever.

But you know what? I learned something through all of this. I learned that we Americans (and by “we Americans” I mean me) are just way too tied to the clock. If I’m a few minutes late, it’s O.K. It doesn’t make me a bad person. And if I have to wait a few minutes for a friend to show up to lunch, so be it. It won’t kill me.

As I pictured myself as the girls must have seen me that day last week, I kind of cringe to think how . . . excuse me . . . anal I am about being on time. I must have seemed so silly to them, worrying about being a minute late.

And then it got me to thinking, I wonder what I’m missing when I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Shelly

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Birfday Boy

**If you're looking for my "Intentional Parenting" series, come back next Monday. I'm running it every-other Monday.**



Hey, who's that handsome boy standing with the wrinkly woman with the poofed out hair?

That's my hubby, B, and today is his birthday.

Let me tell you just a few things I love about B.

- I love that he's older than me. O.K., so he's only 3 months older than me, but I'll take it.

- I love that he's a DODO--Dad Of Daughters Only--and he wears the mantle proudly.

- I love that he's just about the only guy I know who would sit through the stage production of "Mama Mia" with me. Twice.

- I love that he would give up watching the "greatest playoff game in history" to watch "Forrest Gump" with his daughter.

- I love that he encourages me to write and to reach for that dream I have.

- I love that he doesn't think my dreams are silly.

- I love that he makes me laugh. Every. Single. Day.

Here's something you probably don't know. B has a blog. Yep. That's right. He's dipping his toe into the blogosphere pool, . . . but just his little toe. He hasn't gone for the big toe yet.

But he will. Someday. When life slows down which will be in about 20 years or so.

Anyway, as a little birthday present to B, would you head over there and give him a shout out? You might find some pretty interesting reading while you're at it.

Heck, you might even want to follow him which shouldn't be too taxing on your reader because he doesn't post that often. I mean, blogging's fun and all, but he's kind of busy working, and I wouldn't want him to stop doing that.

Shelly

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Randomness - 2

It's Friday. Seems like on Friday I just need to clear my head of all the rambling, rolling, raucous thoughts going on in my head. So hang on, here we go.

1. Posting this week was a bit sporadic, mostly because on Wednesday afternoon I walked in my back door and all of a sudden the world started spinning. I managed to get dinner on the table, but headed straight to bed after that. Thursday was so busy that I didn't even have time to think about how I was feeling, but this morning . . . well, not so much.

2. As a result of having some kind of dizzy disease this week, my husband said something to me this morning that I don't think he's said in 25 years of marriage. "Hey, after you get all the kids off to school, why don't you just go back to bed?"

WHERE IS MY HUSBAND AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM?? Serously, I think he's mellowing with age. So I got that going for me. . . .

Which is nice.

I think.

3. Name the movie.

4. Our sweet Costa Rican daughters leave tomorrow morning. Many, many tears will be shed, I'm sure. We have had such a great time with them, and I've learned some things. Things that will take a much longer post to explain, so come back next week when I reveal the main difference I have seen between "them" and "us."


5. B's birthday is on Monday, and I have no idea what to get him. Could you help me out a little? What do you get for a guy who has a newfound love for hockey, who has a reputation for neatness, who occasionally slips, who knows how to score great tickets, and who is a great family guy. What did you get for your husband at his last birthday?



6. I'm so excited about this weekend. We're taking the girls to see the stage production of "Mama Mia." Oh, you can say whatever you want, but I'm a sucker for a good Abba song, and to me, they're all good. B and I saw "Mama Mia" on Broadway a couple of years ago, but it was so strange . . . nobody danced, nobody clapped, nobody sang. I thought this was supposed to be an interactive show, but nothing. Nada. Nope. It was weird.

So this morning I told the girls that I was hoping for more, so much more, from this show. I'm really hoping for lots of raucous singing and dancing from the audience. But I've already been warned that I will not, should not, under ANY circumstances, start the singing and dancing.

I will not embarrass my kids. I will not embarrass my kids. I will not embarrass my kids. . . .

O.K., so spill it. What are YOU doing this weekend?

Shelly

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review - Recipes for a Perfect Marriage



"You have to read this book," Amy said as she set it on my counter. No questions allowed. No protestations. Just, "Read this book."

Don't you just love it when your friends order you to read a book?

So, being the obedient friend that I am, I rose to Amy's challenge and read Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty.

I'm so glad I did.

The book tells the story of two women--Bernadine, who lives in Ireland, and Tressa, Bernadine's granddaughter, who lives in New York City. Both women share their very different, yet very similar, stories of their marriages in a way that will make you both laugh and cry.

Bernadine is writing to her granddaughter to tell her what she's learned about marriage through the recipes she also shares with her. Hers is not an easy marriage, but what marriage really is? But the lessons she learns as she stays true to her husband, James, are profound and real.

Tressa is newly married and in her first year of marriage fears that she's married the wrong man. She struggles to find those feelings of love and very nearly ruins what she comes to know as the best thing in her life. Her story, just like her grandmother's, is honest and true.

In the end, Bernadine says this (which I think pretty much sums up the book): "They say there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but there is. A perfect marriage is one where two people live together for most of their lives until death separates them. There is no such thing as an easy marriage."

I really enjoyed this realistic peek into two very different, yet not-so-different-at-all, relationships. It's honest, it's raw, it's real. (Oh, and it's definitely a chick book--guys would probably not even get it.)

You have to read this book.


Shelly

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How'd I Let This One Slip By?

Look at that face.



Isn't that just the face any mother would love?



Doesn't she just look so innocent?



She's fun and funny and lets us have our way with her. (Sometimes.)



She even loves to hold our hands . . . or feet . . . or legs. Whatever's close by, she likes to touch us.



But don't let that innocent look fool you. Underneath that sweet veneer lies the heart of an adventurer.

Apparently yesterday her sense of adventure took over, and she thought she'd explore our neighborhood.

Funny thing is, I didn't even know she was missing . . . for THREE HOURS!

. . . until I got a phone call while standing in American Eagle with Maggie.

"Hey, Shelly. It's Amy. Is Thunder at home?"

*gulp*

These are words I never want to hear. Especially when I'm not home.

Thank goodness for Amy. What would I ever do without her? She rounded up my dog from a neighbor's house, got her key to my house, and brought that wayward beast back home.

Where she belongs.



And where she will surely stay for a good, long time.

Shelly

Monday, January 18, 2010

Intentional Parenting - An Introduction


**Word of warning: this post is long. I hope you'll think it worth your time.**

A few years ago a friend told me, “You are the most intentional parent I know.” At the time it knocked me off me feet. It was a true compliment, and I was honored to receive it, yet it humbled me somehow.

What did she mean by intentional? How did my parenting style differ from hers or that of our friends?

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that comment over the years and thought it might be helpful, both for me and for you, to explore what it means to be an intentional parent. As a result, I am going to do a series of posts called “Intentional Parenting” that I’ll put up here every-other Monday for a few weeks. I think this will help me clarify my thinking about this topic, and maybe you’ll catch a parenting idea or two that will be helpful for you.

Let me say right off the bat that for me to write about parenting is kind of like Sarah Palin calling herself an expert on Russia. Sure, she lives near Russia—rumor has it she can see Russia from her house—and as governor of Alaska she probably had some interaction with the country. But does she have a Ph.D. in Russian history or U.S./Russian relations? I don’t think so.

Same with me. I live with kids. I’ve been a parent for 18 years or so, so I’ve had a little experience. But an expert I am not. My degrees are in English, not Child Psychology. So please don’t think that I have all the answers.

Let me also say that I don’t have perfect kids. I used to think people who wrote about parenting must really have it all together and, more than that, they must especially have kids who never misbehave, who never talk back, and who never harbor bad attitudes. Their families probably have devotions every morning before school and then again every night at dinner.

That is so not us. I’ll just leave it at that.

All I have done is a lot of observing and a lot of thinking about parenting over the years, and I guess I’m just as qualified as anyone to have some opinions on the matter. To me, the issue of parenting is so important that it’s critical to never stop working at it and to never stop striving to get better and better.

So here we go.

What is intentional parenting? That’s the question I’ve asked myself so many times since my friend complimented me. What does that mean? I think I’ve come up with a few ideas.

Have a plan.

Intentional parents think about the results they’d like to see in their kids and then think about how to accomplish those results. Really, the “how” piece will look different for everyone. God has given us all different personalities and children with different personalities, so why would we assume that parenting by a formula would work the same for everyone?

Over the years, B and I have done a lot of thinking about what kind of people we’d like to see our children turn out to be and what we need to do, as parents, to help our kids become those people. For instance, we really thought it was important to develop a global perspective in our kids so that they would understand God’s love for all the people of the world. Along with that, we wanted them to be aware of what missionaries do and how they live. So when our girls were very young, we decided that travel would be an important part of our family life. And we made it a goal to visit missionaries around the world whenever we could.

We started saving Frequent Flier miles when our girls were very young, hoping that some day we would have enough miles to visit our friends who are missionaries in Brazil. Finally, in 2004, we had accumulated enough miles for three tickets and we had saved enough money to purchase the other two. We obtained passports for everyone in the family, and we finally realized our long-held goal to take our kids to visit some missionaries.

That trip changed us all. It gave us a different perspective of the world, and it gave us a much greater understanding of what missionaries do and how they live. It was, simply put, amazing, and we still talk about it today.

Intentional parenting means that we focus on why we do what we do rather than how we do what we do.

Why did B and I think it was important to take our girls to Brazil? It wasn’t just a “let’s see the world” trip for fun. We wanted them to see people who were different from them, people who lived in much different circumstances from us, so that they could see that God loves all of His children and that the people of Brazil need a Savior just as much as the people of Chicago.

We also wanted them to see the greater needs of the world so that they would begin to develop a heart for the poor. In Brazil, our friends took us to visit a family who lived in a favela, which is basically a slum area. The homes are made of cinder block, stacked one on top of another up the side of a mountain. These people have no heat, no running water, no indoor plumbing. The conditions are deplorable, yet the family we met was so happy to welcome us to their home. They smiled broadly as we sat on the sides of their bed (the only place to sit in the home), learning more about them and their culture.

It might be difficult to take your children into such a situation to see people living in such awful conditions unless you first talked about why you were doing this. How you get there is easy—it’s the “why” piece that is important.

Intentional parents are proactive, not reactive.

By this, I mean that intentional parents look ahead at what’s coming. They think about how a situation might affect their child and develop a response before it comes up.

Not that I’d know anything about this, but curfew might be a problem in some families with teenagers. Once a kid gets her driver’s license she might want to stay out later with her friends, pushing her parents’ resolve to get their daughter home safely at a decent hour.

Intentional parents decide long before the “curfew talk” comes up what time they want their child home and . . . here’s the important part . . . why. In our house, our daughter’s curfew is a little earlier than her friends’ curfew. We simply shrug our shoulders and tell her that nothing good happens after midnight and because we want her home safely she needs to be home when we tell her. It’s for her safety.

Could things escalate into a huge argument? Sure. But the chances of that happening are much greater if a kid senses his parent waffling, unsure of what they should do. Intentional parents have thought through the issue and are proactive, not reactive when stuff like this comes up.

Over the next several weeks I’m going to share some of the areas that B and I have thought it important to be intentional about. Some of these might really resonate with you; others might not. As parents, you have to decide for your family and for your children what you deem important enough to be intentional about. Just as personalities are different, families are too, so what might be important to my family might be entirely different to yours.

Whatever the case, I’d encourage you to start thinking through some of the areas you think are important enough for you to be intentional about as a parent. And if you’d share these in the comments I’d be especially grateful. I’d love to know what you’re thinking!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Costa Rican Update

I haven't updated you on our Costa Rican visitors for a few days, so just in case you're interested (and even if you're not) here are a few more things I've learned.



1. Costa Ricans don't use brown paper bags for lunches. In fact, when I suggested that they take a piece of fruit and a yogurt to supplement their lunch (which apparently is gross--what school lunch isn't?), they just looked confused. Finally, one of my girls went to the pantry and got out a simple brown lunch bag to show them what we were talking about. The Costa Rican girls started laughing hysterically, telling us that they thought brown bags were only used on television but that nobody used them in real life.

We're finding even the small differences hilarious around here.

2. Apparently American teenage boys are kinda cute. And that's all I have to say about that.

3. I overheard one of the CR girls telling one of my girls the other night, "You guys don't yell at each other like we do. We're like Italians, always yelling at each other, but you guys don't do that." I really would have liked to see the look on my daughter's face when she heard that one.




4. Yesterday they were treated to the treasure-trove that is Target. (Alliteration much?) We tried to explain what was in store for them: "They have everything." "Yes, really, pretty much anything you want to buy, you can find it there." "We get everything from electronics to soap to underwear at Target."

By the time they left the house, I think they were scared to death.

5. They like the early "American Idol" shows as much as we do. We had a great time together the other night, watching the premiere of "AI." I don't think I'll soon forget the CR girls trying to imitate Victoria Beckham. Hilarious.

6. I'm learning that I'm going to miss those girls when it's finally time for them to head back to Costa Rica. I feel like I've gained two more daughters, and I kind of like it. Sure, the house is much busier than usual, the noise level has been increased substantially, and I have to cook a lot more than I usually do, but it's all been so good. For everyone.

So that's the Costa Rican update. All four teenagers are going on a retreat with our church this weekend. I'm sure they'll have lots of stories to tell when they get home.

Me? I'm going to spend the weekend on the couch, NOT cooking.

So now I'd really like to know, what are your weekend plans?

Shelly

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Devastation in Haiti

My heart is breaking. The numbers are staggering. The devastation is worse than anything any of us has ever seen in our lives.

It's mind boggling, what's going on in Haiti right now. Absolutely beyond imagining that anywhere from 100,000 to a half a million people could be wiped out in one day.

And yet there are those who want to place blame. I've already ready stories about people with something less than compassion in their hearts who want to play God and tell everyone why this happened.

Why do we feel the need to speculate on why God does what He does? Really, He's God. That's all. It's His creation. His world. He can let happen what will happen.

We all do that though, don't we? We all, at one point or another, ask ourselves, "How could God do this to me?" Or to our loved one . . . or to the world.

The disciples asked the same question: "Lord, who sinned? This boy or his parents that he was born blind?" Every time I read that passage in the Bible I think, "What a stupid question."

And yet, I'm no better. A tragedy takes place like the one in Haiti this week and I find myself asking why? Or how? Or what have these people done to deserve this? I even have thoughts of thank God it didn't happen here.

But really, what we need to focus on when something like this happens is who God is. He is the Creator of the Universe. A loving God who cares for His children--all of them. He is the sustainer of life and, most importantly, a Savior for all mankind.

Yesterday during our Women's Bible Study leader's meeting we read Psalm 103 together.


The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-

with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

Psalm 103:8-19


So today, rather than pointing a finger at God or at the people of Haiti, let's just remember Who is in control of the world. And let's do whatever we can to aleviate the pain of those who are hurting.

If you are able and interested, here are a few reputable charities who are already doing relief work in Haiti. Samaritan's Purse. Compassion. World Relief. Red Cross.

And pray. Pray for the people of Haiti. Pray for the relief workers. Pray for the families here who are worried sick about their loved ones.

"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done."


Shelly

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Can't Keep This One to Myself

O.K. Sometimes I just have to share some of the cool things I find on other blogs.

Like today, for instance, I was catching up on some of the blogs I usually read, and the Nester has a great giveaway going. It's for a personalized sign that you can make yourself at Danielson Design Studios.

I fiddled around for a few minutes, and here's what I came up with.



Cool, huh?

They offer signs and frames for just about any occasion, and you can customize them yourself. And the best part is they're CUTE!

You can enter the Nester's giveaway yourself. And if you don't win, you can go to the Danielson Design Studios website and make one for yourself. If you use the code NEST2010, you'll even get 20% off.

Shelly

I've Got Issues

Winter weather leaves me with some serious issues. Here are just a few.

- My lips are chapped.

- My fingernails keep breaking.

- My feet are chaffing.

- My nose has flakes of skin on the end of it that I am so afraid people will mistake for boogers.

- My hair is lifeless (not sure what that means, but the Pantene people would like me to think that).

- I'm itchy all over.

So what are your issues today?


Shelly

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Just Being Honest Here . . .


Some days I just don't want to be a parent anymore. Some days I'd rather be sitting on a beach somewhere (the Caribbean, perhaps?), underneath some palm trees (Mexico, maybe?), sipping a frothy drink with an umbrella in it (Hawaii?).

What they don't teach you in parenting 101 (you took that class, right?) is that some days you'll just feel like walking out the door for a while. Some days you'll just need to take an emotional break. Because, the truth is, parenting is hard.

My house is filled with teenage girls right now. Most of the time it's a delight, but sometimes it's not. Like this weekend when I had to act like a drill sergeant all weekend and by the end of Sunday nobody was talking to me. Or at least that's what it felt like.

It seemed like every time I turned around one of my children (definitely not our Costa Rican guests--they get the good behavior award for the weekend) had left something sitting in the exact wrong place or had not done something I had asked her to do. It felt like the weekend was filled with behavior correction and attitude adjustment.

And the thing is . . . (and I know my girls won't even believe this) . . . I don't like correcting behavior and adjusting attitudes. That is not the fun part of parenting. In fact, it's work. It's draining. And it's exhausting. The emotional toll it takes on me just plain wears me out some days.

So why do I do it? I've seen parents who have just given up, especially with teenagers. I guess they think it's not worth the fight. They just let their kid do his or her thing, figuring they've done their best and leave it at that.

But I do it because that's what I've signed up for, and my job isn't done yet. My job is to help create "productive citizens" (a little family joke there), and some weekends just happen to turn into Citizenship Boot Camp where we have to re-train and re-teach some of the lessons they should have learned a long time ago.

I also do it because it's what I've been called to do. I can't give up. Even though sometimes I look at B and throw up my hands and say to him, "I don't want to be a parent today," the truth is there is no more rewarding job.

Because after a weekend of re-teaching and re-training, I get to enjoy the benefits of some really great kids who absolutely rise to the challenge and who exceed my expectations in some very surprising ways.

And I get the benefit of playing Link's Crossbow on the Wii with my daughter who came in from a meeting, worn out and tired, but who wanted to spend some time with her drill sergeant.

So my booty will stay here in the frozen tundra, doing what I've been called to do. The view may not be so great some days, but the rewards are so much better than five minutes with a frothy drink.

Shelly

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Randomness

I feel like I'm getting a late start this morning.

But, actually, I didn't get a late start this morning--I was up at the crack before dawn, as usual, trying to see the high schoolers before they left the house at 6:30. And then to get my two "other" daughters out the door at 7:00.

And then to welcome Maggie's buddies for our Friday morning Bible study before school which got started again this morning.

And then to drive them all to school.

And then to get to the gym.

And then to shovel snow.

So, really, at 10:30 a.m., I'd say I've accomplished quite a lot.

I really have nothing important to say today. No profundities. No silly stories. Just random thoughts running through my mind. Want to know what I'm thinking about?

First, I was going to post about a new muffin recipe I tried last night for Caramel-Banana Muffins. They looked so good in Midwest Living magazine--all ooey, gooey and delicious. But, really, when we went to eat them this morning, they weren't all that good. A little on the dry side, to be perfectly honest.




I don't know what I did wrong. I doubled the recipe, which sometimes makes a difference. I might not have used enough banana. Other than that, I haven't a clue. They should have been delicious, according to the picture in the magazine.

Sometimes a recipe just doesn't work out. Oh well. But if you're up for a challenge, you can find the recipe here. Give it a try and let me know how they turn out.

Second, what's with the whole "New Year, New You" craze? This phrase was really popular a few years back, and I'm seeing a resurgance again. Frankly, something about this phrase bugs me. I kind of liked the "Old Me" so why do I want a "New Me"? Oh, sure, there are some things I'd like to change, but really, do I have to fashion an entirely "New Me" to just improve on what I've already got going?

I don't know. What do you think about that whole "New Year, New You" craze?

Third, one thing I have been working on is my attitude about winter. I'll admit, I can get pretty crabby about winter, and if I let that attitude fester, things just go downhill until by the end of March I'm pretty much ready to throw in the proverbial towel and move to Dallol, Ethiopia--that's the warmest place on earth.

Anyway, this year I'm really trying hard to not complain about the weather--it is what it is--and I'm even trying to see the beauty in winter.

(You can hold me to that in about a month or a week when I'm sick and tired of being cold and I start to complain.)

So, in honor of the beauty all around me--and, believe me, lots and lots of beauty fell from the skies this week--here are a couple of pictures I took yesterday.

I just love this tree in my back yard. And when it's laden with snow, it's especially beautiful.


(What I don't love is that ugly electrical pole sitting behind it.)

And this little bench just sits in my back yard, next to a cobblestone path. Nobody ever sits on it--it just sits there looking cute.



So those are my random thoughts for a Friday. What are yours??

Shelly

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quick! Call a Plumber! . . . or a Ringmaster

Well, I knew the adventures would be plentiful with our extra “daughters” around, but I didn’t expect this much excitement this soon.

So, on their second night here, everyone’s getting ready for bed and we hear a shout: “Mr. W!! Please come! We have a problem!”

B rushes upstairs and all of a sudden I hear a huge THUMP. And then some more rustling and excitement. And I hear something about the toilet and water and . . .

Oh no.

So instead of rushing upstairs, I rushed down to the basement to get some towels that I was sure B was going to need. On my way up the basement stairs I met up with Kate who was hysterical, running to get even more rags and towels from the basement.

“It’s overflowing! The toilet is overflowing!” she cried.

Believe me, we’ve had our share of clogged toilets in this house, but we don’t usually have overflowing toilets. So I ran up the stairs as fast as I could with the towels in my hand.

The sight that greeted me was slightly less than mayhem, but pretty darned close.

Our poor guests were peering through the bathroom door, even more wide-eyed than their first day here in America. B was standing over the toilet, its lid removed, trying to figure out what had happened. And he was wet. From top to bottom, he was soaking wet.

The bathroom floor was entirely covered in water, a few towels scattered around, and water was creeping toward the bedroom carpeting. It was obvious that we were going to need more than the couple of towels I had brought up from the basement.

Long story short, yes, the toilet got clogged, but also water had been leaking from the shut-off valve underneath it for who-knows-how-long. We got the mess cleaned up and called the plumber who fixed us up for a mere $200.

But those poor girls. I don’t think I’ll ever forget their faces as they watched B trying to figure out the situation. Because apparently the huge THUD I heard from downstairs was my dear husband, running into the bathroom without realizing how very wet the floor was and doing one of those sitcom slip-then-fly-through-the-air-and-fall-on-your-backside things they do with a banana peel.

Oh the stories they are going to have to tell when they get home.

Let’s hope neither of them has a blog.


Shelly

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

You'd Think Three Daughters Would be Enough

But no, not for me. I had to pick up a couple more. So for the next three weeks I will be the mother of five daughters.

Thank goodness I don’t have to pay for those two extra weddings.

Anyway, I’ve acquired two new “daughters” for the next three weeks. Teenage girls. From Costa Rica. A group of kids from their Christian school came to help teach Spanish at our local Christian school for two weeks. And next summer a group of kids from our youth group will be heading down there, so it’s a nice time for all of the kids to connect. An exchange of sorts.

But most importantly, it’s a great chance for us to fill our home with more girls. I love having daughters! But can I just tell you that the hormones in this house just may be too much for one father to handle? I think that by the end of this adventure B will be calling the local Hampton Inn and begging for a room. Any room.

Oh, heck, a mat on the floor of the local homeless shelter might be easier on him than this place will be for the next three weeks.

We picked up our new daughters on Monday night and they have been wide-eyed ever since. M and L have found everything American to be “so cool” and “lovely” and “amazing.” (Thankfully they have been learning English since kindergarten, so communication won’t be a problem. They even say “like” like every teenager I know does.)

Here are just a few of the things they’ve noticed in their first 24 hours here.

Fireplaces are a necessity. Alright, I know not everyone has a fireplace, but these girls have never seen one. They think that surely everyone has a fireplace because it’s so daggum cold here.

Have I mentioned it’s cold? Really, really cold. L mentioned that the coldest weather she’s ever been in is 11 Celsius. Friends, that’s 51 degrees Fahrenheit! As I’m writing this it is 11 degrees F, which is -11 C. And over the weekend it’s supposed to get well below zero Fahrenheit which will be well, well, well below zero Celsius. Funny thing is, this doesn’t seem to scare them.

It sure scares me.

Mailboxes really do exist. The girls thought mailboxes were just something they put on American television shows, but that we didn’t really use them.

Americans actually send Christmas cards. They were very interested to see all the Christmas cards we received this year. And they were especially amazed at the cards with pictures that people designed themselves. I found it fascinating that they don’t send Christmas cards in Costa Rica, but the girls explained that if they put them in the mail their friends and neighbors wouldn’t get them until July.

So it’s going to be a fun, full, and very interesting three weeks. I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about, but if you have any questions for the girls, post them in the comments. I’ll get the scoop for you.


Shelly

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Friend in Need is . . . an Idiot

So did you catch the change?

Look around. Look hard. Well, not that hard because it's hard to miss.

My blog header changed. Again. And I just want to publicly thank Darcy who did the design and cleared up my little mistake.

A few nights ago I was tucked under my down comforter, sleeping soundly, when suddenly I was awaken by a thought. "My blog header isn't right! I forgot to tell Darcy to add the subtitle when I approved the final design!"

Don't you just hate it when you start dreaming about your blog?

My eyes shot open and I laid there for a while trying to figure out what to do. (Now, for those of you who know me well, you know that things must have been bad for me to wake up at 4:00 a.m. thinking about, well, anything. I am a very sound sleeper most of the time, much to the chagrin of my sister who creeps into her family room in the middle of the night to eat a bowl of cereal. Me? Never in my life have I wandered around in the middle of the night unless I had a crying baby with me. But I digress . . . big time.)

I had options. I could 1) ignore it and pretend I never had a subtitle to my blog, 2) wait until the next redesign, whenever that would be, and include it then, or 3) admit my mistake and ask Darcy to help me clean it up, whatever the cost.

I opted for number 3 because a lot of what I write about here and what I'll be speaking on soon is taking the every day and seeing it as the adventure it is. Plus, the G.K. Chesterton quote at the top of my blog doesn't really make sense without the subtitle.

So I contacted Darcy, fully admitting my idiocy when it comes to all things technological and bloggy and explaining to her what I wanted to have done. Just a little subtitle. Could she do it?

Could she do it? Folks, she did it, and she did it with such grace that I cannot believe it. I hope you'll go visit her design blog or her personal blog and tell her how much you love her. Or tell her how much I love her. Either way.

Thanks, Darcy!!

Shelly

Monday, January 4, 2010

It's All About Grace

So how quickly into the New Year did it take for me to feel like a complete loser of a mom?

Oh, about two hours.

Just a couple of hours into the year I realized I had made a huge mistake. Huge. In that I will be missing an important event that’s coming up in the life of one of my girls because I forgot to write it down on my calendar. Or because I just plain didn’t know when it was.

Needless to say, there was some miscommunication involved. And I made other plans. Plans that involve non-refundable plane tickets.

For both me and her dad.

(If it were just me missing this event, that would be one thing, but for both of us to miss it just feels . . . ugh.)

So I’ve been kicking myself about it for a few days, really feeling badly about what ultimately is my mistake. And I’ve been wondering why.

Why do I never write anything down in my calendar? Why do I make plans without consulting my kids first? Why am I so scatterbrained sometimes?

I’d like to blame hormones or the busyness of life or any number of other factors, but basically I haven’t paid attention enough. I let myself get distracted by responsibilities or the blog or just what we’re having for dinner. And that all just makes me feel like a loser. Like I don’t have it together enough to write down a simple event on a simple calendar.

Sometimes real life is just tough. It takes communication among family members. It requires paying attention when that last little thread of attention you have left would rather be focused on The Food Network than on your kids. It means admitting mistakes and asking forgiveness.

But mostly, real life requires grace. Grace to not see yourself as the loser mom you feel like and to see the thousands of other things you did well in the past year. Grace to be the husband who pointed that out to me. Grace to be the daughter who shrugs her shoulders and says, “It’s o.k., Mom.”

And grace to stop asking why.

Shelly

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Burning Question of the Year

Will you call it "twenty-ten" or "two thousand ten"?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Shelly

Welcome 2010: A Look Ahead


I spent a lot of time this week looking back, but today I think I'll look forward. 2010 is here, and before I know it it'll be gone. This is going to be one of those years that is going to fly.

I could choose to approach this year with trepidation, a pit in my stomach, fear, or even dread. Or I could choose to approach the year with gratitude and anticipation. I'm choosing the latter because, even though it's going to be busy, it's going to be GREAT.

This fall our Bible study looked at the book of James, and we talked about how we should not take for granted that we will have a tomorrow. Instead, we should say, "if the Lord wills" we will do this or that.

Believe me, I do not presume I will have a tomorrow. I learned that lesson a long time ago. But as I enter 2010 I do so knowing that each day is a gift from God. Whatever He brings my way, whatever may change, I will continue to hold His hand through it all.

So, knowing that all of this could change in an instant, I thought I'd share what our 2010 looks like right now. It could be fun, on December 31, 2010, to see how things actually shook out.

Won't you walk it with me?

January
We're starting the year out with a bang, adding two "daughters" to our brood. We'll have two girls from Costa Rica staying with us for three weeks. I guess that's one way to make the winter go faster.

February
Our church's Women's Retreat will be this month, and I'll be doing a little breakout session on, what else? Blogging. Hopefully by this point next year we'll have a whole lot of new bloggy friends.

March
I'll be speaking at a one-day women's retreat at a nearby church. I'm really looking forward to what God is going to do with this.

April
Abby will be turning 16 this month and you know what that means . . . a trip. Stay tuned. . . .

May
The end of the school year brings all sorts of busyness to our home.

June
Graduation! Our first high school graduation will take place in the early part of the month. Just a few days later, Abby will be heading to camp . . . for the entire summer. *sniff*

July
This will probably be the biggest month of our year. B and I, my sisters and their husbands, and my parents are taking a huge trip to the birthplace of golf. That's right--we'll be attending the British Open in St. Andrews. So nice of them to throw such a huge party to celebrate 25 years of marriage for us (and my sister and her husband) and 50 years for my parents.

August
Another big month as we send Kate off to college. So she's only going about 8 blocks away (I'll write more on that next week), but it's still a huge milestone for all of us. Family dynamics will be changing.

September
Ahhhhhh. Can you hear my sigh of relief? Kids will be safely tucked away in school, where they belong.

October
Homecoming. B and I will celebrate our 25th class reunion. And wondering who all those old people are.

November
Can you believe we have no plans for November yet? Better get on that.

December
It's my turn to host Christmas. Need I say more? I'm already excited!

So there you go. A look ahead into 2010 at the Wild house.

Tell me, what do you have planned? What are you looking forward to?

*Photo credit: Francesco Marino

Shelly