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Parenting is Hard

Parenting RIGHT is even harder.

Parenting with FAITH feels unnatural.

Parenting without FAILURE, well, that just doesn’t exist.

So give yourself some grace today. Rekindle that faith.

Hit your knees.

parenting is hard

Cause that’s where forgiveness for the failures and restoration of faith happens.

And by all means, stay in The Word.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

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Six Back to School Tips

It’s that time again – BACK TO SCHOOL! Some days it feels like Back to Stress! It seems like every day we open our wallets and money just flies out – supplies, clothes, another box of crayons, shoes, fees, supplies, and even more clothes. Did I mention supplies? There’s also the stress and nervousness of new teachers, new friends, and sometimes new schools. Back to school does not need to mean back to stress. These tips will help!

Back to Sleep – A few weeks before school starts, get your sleep schedules lined up with what it will be for school. Warning: Your kids will not want a bedtime when they haven’t had one, but this is where moms and dads just have to set a rule and stick to it! That first week of school, you will thank me for this one!

Back to Snacks – During the summer, kids experience an open kitchen. While school is in session, they eat at very specific times. Some lunches begin before 11. If you have access to your child’s lunch schedule, try to implement a similar schedule the last week of summer. This is also a great time to try out all of those great lunch ideas you have pinned all summer. (And if you haven’t pinned any, find some on pintrest and try them out!)

Back to Supplies – Even with all the fabulous sales right now on school supplies, it can still add up to a small fortune. Remember, not everything has to be new. Keep supplies year after year and only replace those that really need replacing. When you find something for a great deal, stock up! If possible, go shopping without the kids. When an elementary student sees plain pencils and character pencils, they don’t look at the price, all they know is how cool the fancy ones look. If you do take the kids, this is the perfect time to discuss budgets and sales. A fun idea is to keep all supplies plain, then the morning of school, pull out a present with a few colorful, extra special supplies! It can be as simple as a pencil, eraser, or coupon for a special after school snack.

Back to Schedules – Set up schedules the first week of school. If kids know what to expect, they will know how to react. Morning routines, bedtime routines, as well as after school snack/homework/downtime/sports schedules keep things organized and structured. Set a schedule that works for your family, communicate it effectively, then implement it and stick to it!

Back to Sadness – I wish I didn’t feel the need to put this in here, but kids encounter serious problems at school. Peer pressure starts younger and younger while bullying continues on many campuses. The stress kids feel with overloaded schedules, not enough sleep, and poor nutrition is very real and overwhelming to their growing bodies. Add the emotional situations they find themselves in everyday and now childhoods are looking more like little adulthoods. Keep the lines of communication open. Discuss situations with your child’s teacher before they become problems. Discuss daily events with your child and let them know you are on their side. Be encouraging and let them know how proud you are how much you love them.

Back to Success – As a parent, it is up to YOU to ensure your child is successful. When your child struggles, find the best way to help them. Counteract that area of struggle with something they feel confident in. If you child struggles in reading, work on it daily. Find something they do succeed in and spend just as much time doing that. (Read for 20 minutes then play with legos for 30 minutes!) Focus on an areas they are weak in, they will see failure. If your child knows you believe in them, they will start believing too!

All of these are good tips, but my number one tip for back to school – PRAY.

The Cheerleader and the Misfit by Gindi

Meet Gindi. Her words hit home this week. Not just because they are so relevant for today’s girls, but because I knew her back then. Back when her knees knocked and she wore a back brace. I almost cried when I read her description of herself. I knew her then, but I didn’t really know… In fact, I was intimidated by her. She is so impressively smart. (To be totally honest here, I’m still intimidated.) Back to her blog – I hope it touches you – enough to live it for your daughters.

The Cheerleader and The Misfit

I went out one night this week with a dear friend who also has a young daughter.  As our conversation inevitably turned to our kids, we found common ground in that sometimes our precious beauties turn….MEAN.   It surprised us both that girls forming cliques and excluding others can begin at such a young age.  Her darling girl is a couple years older than mine, but we have both seen some unkind behaviours that we are none to happy about.

In the course of our conversation, I said, “What I think a lot of moms would like is for their daughter to be a cheerleader that is kind to the misfits.”  Because the reality is, while I will not tolerate unkind or exclusive behaviour from my little one, I also don’t want her spirit crushed by others excluding her or being mean.

Growing up as a girl is hard.  It is hard today, but it was always hard.  As a teenager, I was the misfit.  Well, maybe misfit is too strong a word, but I was the poor girl, new to the community, with recently divorced parents, and no network of friends when I started my new high school.  I had late ’80s hair and a big space between my teeth and my knees knocked together in fear everywhere I went.  My junior year I couldn’t walk (as the result of a degenerative muscle disease), and I spent most of the school year being tutored while homebound.  If I thought my freshman year was hard, coming back as a senior with a back brace and medicine regime was harder.

But there was a girl named Missy.  She was a beautiful popular cheerleader.  While I’m certain she didn’t feel confident as a teenage girl, she seemed confident.  Even more remarkable, she had an unlimited reserve of kindness.  And we became friends.  We were Chemistry partners and I would study at her house and we’d laugh at funny Dana Carvey SNL skits.

It made that year okay.  It made me feel included.  It helped me become brave.

This is the girl you want your daughter to be.  The one that doesn’t check social status or bank accounts when befriending a classmate.  The one that finds those who are uncertain and gives them the confidence to step out and bravely develop new relationships.  The one who speaks kind words instead of words designed to isolate.

This is also the girl we should want to be.  I read a remarkable post by Lisa Jo Baker this week .  Entitled the Untruth About Cliques, Lisa Jo says, “No one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman.  We can stand knee deep in witty conversation holding cup cakes in one hand and our cell phones with brilliant Twitter commentary in the other only to retreat to our rooms and whisper in quiet tears to our husband or roommate or best friend or mom how left out we felt. We want to matter to the people we think matter.”

Oh, does that take any of you back?  Does it make you retreat to the awkward, unsure, insecure version of yourself?  Maybe you are still sitting in that space.  Never having had someone turn and tell you how wonderful you are and how much you do belong.  I am sorry.  I know how hard that is.

But she goes on with this encouragement, “We can fight to find a way in or we can love on the women where we’re at.  We can obsess over who didn’t talk to us or we can focus on the woman we’re talking to.  We can keep looking for a seat at a more popular table or we can pass the bread basket and an introduction to the women sitting right where we already are.  Everyone is on the outside of something. But that is only half the story.  We are all on the inside of something often without even realizing it.”

Sigh.  We are all on the inside of something.  Can we teach our daughters to rub out the distinction between inside and outside?  Eliminate distinctions between valuable and worthless?  Develop meaning instead of mean?  We must show them that if people perceive they are part of the “inner circle,” then they have the power to expand that circle to include everyone.  And if they feel like they’re on the outside, then they stand there with so many others and can develop a new, more inclusive, circle.  And sweet momma, me included, the only way our girls will learn is if they see us doing it.

I know it’s not that simplistic sometimes.  But sometimes, it is.

Gindi Eckel Vincent is a full-time attorney for a global energy company and a part-time speaker and writer, particularly for working moms. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and precocious 3-year-old triplets. She blogs daily at www.gindivincent.comand her first book on leadership, “Learning to Lead,” releases in August.

Mommy Time Out

**Note: as you can tell, this post is one I wrote the first week of November. I almost threw it out, but decided to go ahead and post it! Happy Reading!**

Right now I am in “Mommy Time Out” due to misbehavior. Normally I just call it having a bad day, but today I brought it all on myself. This week I haven’t felt so hot. I had an Eve and the apple moment, but I’ll tell you all about that later. What’s that? You want to hear it now? I guess I’ll tell you… So here’s what happened – at our church fall festival I was starving. Everywhere I turned there was food, and I couldn’t eat any of it. One car in the trunk or treat had apples. It was the LAST car on the farthest side. I just kept thinking about that apple. But not as much as I was thinking about the hot dogs. So I ate one… OK – two. And I was still hungry. I asked my daughter to walk over to the lady with the apples and get me one. On the way there she saw the bobbing for apples booth. Now, my skin crawls at those booths. Out of all of Halloween’s scariness, that is just plain skin crawling scary. My daughter just couldn’t resist. It probably looked appealing because for so many years she has heard NO! associated with that activity. Yes… she did it. She dunked for that apple. So very proudly she walked up to me and handed me the apple. Her entire head was SOAKED. I debated on eating it, but my hunger won out. My husband took it inside and washed it for me. I was enticed by the apple – a definite Eve moment! And that, my friends, is why I think I feel so cruddy this week.

In fact, I feel so cruddy I’ve slept in every morning. Some mornings I woke up at 7, one or two mornings I slept all the way until 8. Losing my early morning solitude translated into loosing my early morning time with the Word. I still kept up with my Bible study reading, but that’s just not the same as truly digging into the Word. And that, my friends is what lead me to my Time Out.

I’ve been grouchy. All day. I prayed, listened to Christian music on the radio, had alone time in the car, and now I’m here. Alone. In my room. Ahhhhhh. It’s just what I need. A good book and a nap without distractions sounds divine.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

Did I say without distractions?

Pause right here.

What would you do?

I want to ignore it, but the incessant knocking would continue louder each time. I want to yell for them to go away, but that usually ends up with whining and everything becoming an emergency. And tears. Lots of tears. Instead I sweetly ask, “What do you need? Momma’s resting.”  The truth is – I don’t always respond sweetly. Remember, I’m in time out – for good reason.

No matter what, one thing I know – Mommies don’t REALLY get a time out. (Unless Daddy is home.) But taking a Mommy Timeout is always a good thing. No matter how short it is. Truth is, if I had poured myself into the word all week, a Mommy Timeout wouldn’t be needed.

Sometimes more work is accomplished in bridge building when taking a break.

Teaching Your Children’s Hearts

The following is an article I wrote for the ICARE homeschool newsletter.  Enjoy!

I woke up this morning at five am. No, I am not a morning person and don’t normally do this. The heaviness of my heart woke me up with a need to pray for my children. After praying one of those groggy – am I even making any sense prayers – I looked at the clock. The red 5:05 was staring at me with a warning of how grumpy I’ll be if I don’t get more sleep. Although I still felt an urgency to pray, I rolled over and tried to sleep. Sleep eluded me. The hearts of my children weigh heavy on me.

That’s why you find me here, on my computer – coffee in hand – when the windows show darkness and the house is quiet. I’ve prayed until my words feel empty. Empty because they are just words and it’s my faith that is struggling. My words mean little if I don’t back them with faith. It’s time to hand it to Jesus and trust Him. For some reason today, I’m finding it extra hard to just hand it over, stop worrying, and start trusting.

It’s not my trust in Jesus that’s the problem. I know he can handle anything – with just a word he can create the world – with just a touch he can heal. The problem is me. When I started homeschooling, there was so much I didn’t understand about my children. My parenting was in survival mode. When I thought about my kids’ hearts, it was about blood flow and beats, instead of Jesus’ blood in them and if they beat for Him.

In my blog ( https://kimberlyvogel.wordpress.com ) on the anniversary of Hurricane Ike, I shared how that day changed my parenting. What I didn’t share is that my parenting skills consisted mostly of yelling at the kids and just trying to survive. The patterns of behavior I had then still come up to haunt me. Patterns are hard to break. Teaching your children’s hearts – not just their minds – is hard.
I still carry guilt about the early years. I’ll admit it: I carry guilt over the mistakes I make every day. That brings me back to trusting Jesus. It’s not HIM I have trouble trusting… it’s me. The one lesson I’ve learned… I am ineffective in teaching my children’s hearts if mine is not flowing with the blood of Christ, beating strongly for Him, and deeply in love with my Savior. I lean on the verses from Joel 2. Verses 12 and 13 remind me what I need to do:

Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Verses 25 – 27 give me hope and a promise:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

If your heart is heavy for the hearts of your children, do not be dismayed! We have a special speaker …info about meeting here…

The Day Hurricane Ike Blew Peace My Way

Today is the anniversary of Hurricane Ike. It is also the anniversary of a life changing day for me. It is what I like to think of as my most peaceful day and the day that changed my parenting. Remember the day I (almost) died? Well, this is the continuation of that story.

Home from the hospital for only three days, we were glued to the TV. Reports of a Hurricane were on every channel. My sister came in to help take care of all of us while I was settling in at home. She stayed only 24 hours before leaving because of the storm. She did leave for us some of her famous crawfish cassaroles in the freezer! What a blessing! While many Houstonians left town, that was not an option for us. We didn’t want to be too far from the hospital and I couldn’t travel. After being in the hospital so much, I had no desire to leave home!

The workers at the clinic where I learned how to take care of my IV and drain gave me enough meds to last for weeks, since they didn’t know what the weather would hold. They also gave me a strict warning: Keep the medication COLD. If there is any way to keep your fridge working, do it. If not, you will need to let emergency workers know you NEED ice for medical reasons.

We didn’t have far to look to find an answer. Our neighbor had passed away recently and had a powerful generator. We asked the caretaker of the house if we could borrow it. They graciously allowed us to. Another neighbor offered to keep it powered and find gas daily in exchange for some of the power. That was a tremendous blessing. While most people powered a fan, lights, radio, or TV, we powered our fridge.

The day the storm was going to come through, we met our back door neighbor. He invited us over for a prayer meeting. The idea of that blew me away. At this point, I still wore only gowns, not real clothes. Looking at my coffee cup print PJ’s and knowing I couldn’t walk that far, even if it was just to the other side of the fence that separated us, I knew I couldn’t attend the meeting. I committed to pray all evening for safety and salvation. I had a feeling some would come to know the Lord during this storm. Little did I know…

I remember sitting, praying, and looking our big picture window. The news of possible doom and destruction floated all around us. Looking outside, everything was calm. There was a beautiful green cast to the air. I marvelled at it all. I did not remember a time of ever feeling such peaceful contentment. In the midst of the storm to come and the storm I recently emerged from (and in some ways was still in the midst of) the biggness of God and the value of life overwhelemed me in a cloud of peacefulness. I worshiped and prayed.

After dinner that night, my daughter came up to me and said, “Mom, you just almost died and now the storm is coming and people might die. What will happen if I die?” In my state of calmlness, I spoke peace over her. I assured her that God takes care of us and can carry us through this. If we were to be called home to Him, it would be only because it is in His plan. I then began to share with her the story of salvation. It is a familiar story in our house, and one she could have told me about. While it was familiar to her, it was not yet HER story. That night, I was able to pray with her as she asked Jesus to come into her life. Now the salvation story was hers. (If this story is not yet YOURS, please skip over to this page right now to read how it can be yours!)

I have trouble putting into words what I felt that night. I don’t think there is a word adequate enough. Peaceful? Gratitude? Thankfulness? They are not deep enough. The Lord gave me a second chance at life. Then He blessed me with the gift of leading my child to Him. From that moment on, my parenting changed forever. We are not promised tomorrow. I decided to parent everyday with that thought in mind. What do I want my children to learn? How do I want my children to think of me? I went from a hurried, yelling, frustrated mom into a (trying to be) patient, calmer mom that teaches to the heart with God’s Word above all.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.                  Ephesians 6:4

I think back on those weeks without power. God gave us many miracles. My parents had power within days of the hurricane. They had actually been out of the country. As soon as they arrived to the states, they came over. When their power was restored, they drove us to their house, then took our children out of town, to my nephew’s wedding. I felt sad that I couldn’t make it, but so grateful for my family and all of those who helped us during this time. (My mother-in-law spent weeks and weeks in our house taking care of the kids during the hospital stays. Out of town sisters came in to help, one left her family – and homeschooling her children – to stay for a week and help my kids adjust to school.) The day my parents returned home from the wedding with the kids, our power came back on! Only a few streets in our neighborhood had power. I believe without a doubt, our street had power because of that prayer meeting at our neighbor’s house. Some think I’m crazy, I think it was yet another miracle in the long line of miracles He did during the many storms Hurricane Ike symbolized in my life.

The bridges that are built in the midst of a storm bring life changing stories of survival and hope.

There was another blessing Hurricane Ike blew in as it blew away fences and trees. I’ll share that story next week!

The night the lights went out.

Summer Storms. Sometimes they come out of nowhere. Just like the storm I talked about last week.

The storm surprised me. (I think it surprised it most of our area too.) I hadn’t paid a bit of attention to the sky or the weather. In fact, I was pretty oblivious to anything outside the walls of our house. Well… except for Facebookland and the neighborhood pool schedule.

The kids and I worked as a team and secured the needed items for a powerless night. Little did I know the powerless night would end up being powerful. But for now, back to our list of supplies: candles, matches, flashlight, more candles, board games, camping stove, candles, and – you guessed it – MORE candles! We had plenty of light, all over the house, complete with dripping wax.

We started the night without lights playing board games we haven’t seen in years. Dad walked into house full of candlelight and laughter. Normally, when the power goes out and there’s a storm, the kids are not-too-happy and usually a bit scared or whining about the enormous level of boredom. I must admit, mom at times also joins in on the not-too-happy attitude mixed with worry about no AC. On this night, when the power went out, the first question was “what are we going to do?” (translated – What we will do since the TV is off?) The second question was “What are we going to eat?” (no translation needed).  Instead of complaining, someone answered with “GAMES!” and “I’ll get the camping stove!” As soon as the camping stove flared on, the meal became 4 star quality! I had planned on a simple dinner of breakfast tacos. There was such a rustic feel, it gave a completely different vibe to our meal. Who knew cooking indoors with a simple camping stove could elevate the meal? I am so thankful we didn’t hop into the car for some take out or fast food. We would’ve missed the opportunity to share this experience together.

After dinner, we sat down for a family game of Apples to Apples. Laughter prevailed. Dad went outside to do some yard work while it was cool. The rest of us stayed indoors to keep our game going. Three hours later, we finally called it a night. Who knew Apples to Apples could last that long?! Usually, when we play a game, it’s for the older kids and the younger ones are left out, or it’s for the younger ones and the older kids beg their way or out of it. Not this time with this game. We all played. We all laughed. We all got along.

The windows stayed open for some air flow. I was sitting on the couch with my back to the window. My husband was outside cleaning up debris. He tried to get my attention through the open window.  Can you picture what’s going to happen? All he did was say my name. I jumped a mile high. Actually, I didn’t just jump. I screamed. When I screamed, EVERYONE screamed. The screams melted into laughter. The kids are still talking about how much we laughed that night.

After the kids went to bed, my husband and I stayed up talking. It was refreshing to just sit and talk. There is such a calmness without the noises of a working house. I felt closer to nature hearing the sounds of the night. I took time to reflect on the evening. That’s when the power came. Not the electricity, the power. It hit me that when the power went out, no one complained. Everyone worked together. We laughed and played and got along. It was so different from the other storms that blow into our lives. What made the difference?

  • Plans. Before the storm hit, someone asked if we could play a game. I had a TV show I wanted to watch, so I was going to fit the game in before my show came on. Our plans were changed with the power outage. Instead of being upset, we adjusted.
  • Attitudes. When the wind started blowing and the clouds rolled in, we marvelled at the beautiful sight. There wasn’t an attitude of fear, but of peace and the majesty of God. Our attitudes were focused on God.
  • Peace. As the mom, I didn’t complain and gripe, but maintained an attitude of calm and thankfulness. I normally stress in stormy situations. This time I didn’t. Because I didn’t, the kids didn’t. There was peace.
  • Bridge building. The conversations earlier that day added stones of safety to our bridge. We built our bridge with uplifting words and actions. When the storm hit we didn’t sway or fall. We stayed strong.

In the midst of a storm, we built bridges. Above all, we laughed and loved. A powerless night became a powerful lesson.

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