Archive | January 2014

Birthday Parties Make my Head Explode

I will be the first person to admit that I am not a “throw a birthday party” type person. If I can get out of throwing one, I will. I am not above offering money or other like minded bribes to achieve that goal.

I have friends who throw fabulous parties, with a theme and goody bags and everything. They probably don’t tell people when it’s time to leave and enforce it.

Not. My. Thing. Sorry. It’s just not.

A typical birthday party for me has been “Oh, God, I forgot the cake. How in the heck does someone forget a cake for a BIRTHDAY PARTY? Hey, hon, can you call your mom and ask her to stop and get a cake?” God bless my mother in law, please! She has saved me a few times. 🙂 My family likes to plan. They will call two days before a birthday to ask what I am doing. I’m like “Seriously? I can’t plan that far ahead”.

I love birthdays and I love that the people in my life keep having them, but the planning, the buying and the execution are just a little much for me. Not only that, I have to spend a hundred dollars on a party and then my kids want a gift too? The party doesn’t count as a gift? Stepping out of my comfort zone? It should all count for something. It doesn’t. I mean, it didn’t.

Last year, my 20 year old planned a party for herself. She gave me a list of things she wanted for the party, the friends she wanted to invite and the presents she wanted to receive.

I gave her $100. I told her if she could do it all for that amount of money, she could have at it.

You know what? It worked. She decided that she would rather have something for herself than throw a party and suck up all that money. My genius idea was then born for each and every one of my kids. Chad and I sat down and figured out an amount that we would be okay gifting for each of our children’s birthday. For us, that amount happened to be $100 each. We figured that if we threw a party, even with family, and bought a gift, this is the amount we would typically spend.

Now, it is up to the kids to decide if they want a party, a gift or a little of both. One of my kids has chosen a gift, one has chosen a party and a small gift, and one has saved the entire amount. They are responsible for the planning and purchasing, although I am totally available for assistance. I love seeing my kids weigh their options and making their own informed decisions. The baby didn’t get an option, she got money…. and cake.

This has definitely worked for us!

As a side note, they DO get cake and a card from us. They also have the option of us using that money to purchase a gift if they would like a surprise. None of them have taken us up on that offer yet. 

What works for you? Do you go all out or have you reigned in the beast of birthday parties? 

Check out out more posts about things that work for us at WEARETHATFAMILY.

Controlling my Kids

A few days ago I took my five kids to the grocery store. My 20 year old had asked if she could prepare dinner that night. She picked out a recipe and made a list of the items we needed. Somewhere between home and the parking lot, something happened. It’s a pretty short drive, perhaps a mile and a quarter. At any rate it usually only takes five minutes to get from my driveway to their parking space. 

What happened? A switch in Piper flipped. This is nothing new. She is eight years old. It’s been happening for approximately eight years. No  joke.

When I pulled into our parking space and put the truck in park, she decided she didn’t want to be there. Not only did she not want to be there, she wanted to make everyone miserable. We needed groceries. I was determined this would not happen. She stormed off in the parking lot. I called her back. Someone looked at me sideways, like you do when you see people at the store who can’t control their kid(s). When Piper finally came back, I informed her that we would be going into the store. She would hold on to the cart the entire time and she would not misbehave. 

I’ve often been called a dreamer. They may be right. 😉

Piper responded by kicking the truck. She muttered under her breath the entire time we were in the store. I’m pretty sure she said some not so nice things about her brother. Somehow we survived, all of us intact, and we even got all the groceries we needed. This did nothing to improve her mood, she carried it all the way home and practically to bedtime. 

Like I said earlier, this is not the first time. Piper is stubborn and headstrong. She thinks she can control those around her. Her mama (me) is stubborn and headstrong, but I’m old enough to know that I can’t control anyone. 

I’d like for my kids to be well behaved. I want them to be the kids who shine their halos, quietly, while I grocery shop. I really want them to do everything I say when I say to do it. Dreamer!

To some, it looks like I can’t control Piper. You know what I would say to those people? 

You’re right. I can’t. Not only that, I can’t control my other four kids. Not one of them. They are humans. They are their own person. They each make their own choices and they each have the ability to choose between right and wrong. Four of my kids behaving nicely and helping little old ladies across the street does not indicate that I have ANY control over them. It only shows that they are choosing to exhibit desired behaviors. No matter what I want, they still make decisions about their behavior. (even if it comes naturally to them) Their wonderful behavior does not give me an A+ in parenting. Likewise, Piper’s undesirable behavior does not give me an F in parenting. 

I know that there are parents who think that we need to have total control over our children. I don’t agree, only because I know that the only person I have full control over is myself.  I was a teenager when I finally realized that my parents did not have the power over me that I thought they did. I was still making choices about my life every single day. 

I have friends that say I will survive Piper, as they have survived their children. There are days I doubt this… VERY MUCH! Piper is a wonderful eight year old who pushes my patience to its limits on a regular basis. She makes bad decisions. These bad decisions sometimes embarrass me. I wish she would choose to shine her halo in public. Internally, I sometimes wish I could control her, but eternally I don’t. I don’t ever want anyone to have control of her. I want her to have control over herself. This is going to take time, patience, and the realization that someday it will come. 

I hope. 🙂

Have you had or do you have a difficult child in your life? Care to share your story of survival with me?


Everybody and their Stories

I am not much of a blog reader lately. Life tends to be a little busy around here. What’s busy about 5 kids, a husband, homeschooling, etc? Oh, dear. That’s another blog post in itself.

When I do read blogs, I find myself sticking with the smaller, lesser known authors. There is something I enjoy about not being one reader in a sea of many and when I comment, I like knowing that the author has probably seen what I said.

However, every once in a while I do catch a post made by a big name blogger. The other day it was this one. To be fair, I actually have no idea who Jen Hatmaker is, I just know she must be a pretty popular blogger, because she is paid to speak and travel and apparently she has her own tv show in the works. That and she has 278 comments on one post. 🙂 I like her style though. 

So in this post, she said “Apparently no one has figured out that local teachers and leaders right under everyone’s noses can do a better job than I can. This is not false humility, trust me. Your Aunt Louise can teach the Bible better than me. Your neighbor is funnier. Your pastor is wiser. Seriously, I have no idea why this is my life.”

That one comment made me think of this song That one line, “Everybody’s got a story to tell”. Your neighbor, your daughter, a random stranger at the store, the customer service rep on the other end of the phone. Every one of these people has a story to tell. They are the most unlikely people to have a story to tell. They are not the people you would think would have a story to tell, but they do. There are stories all around us, but since they don’t come with the big name or a huge following, we tend to not listen to them. 

I am all for paying great speakers to tell me great stories and give me a new perspective on life. Some people have that incredible gift and I truly believe they should use their gift to support themselves and their families and bring hope to others. I wonder though how many times we have missed a story because it came from the most normal of places? Or because the story didn’t come wrapped in a pretty package or because the person telling the story didn’t understand the deeper meaning in it? 

I am not a spiritual giant at all! Lately I find that I barely pray, but I promise you, every person I come across, I look in their eyes and I wonder what their story is. I want to have enough time to sit and listen and find out more. Unfortunately when you are just passing through a line or checking in at the doctor’s office, people get irritated if you take up too much time. 🙂 I really do recognize that each and every one of us has something to bring to the table of life though. It’s my desire that all of us recognize this in every one. The stories we hear from the least likely places may be the biggest blessings of all. 

What’s your story? Do you have one to tell? 


Struggling Despite the Joy

When I am out running errands, driving carpool, doing dishes, folding laundry, scrubbing toilets, I think. I think a lot. I write entire blog posts in my head. Then I come home, sit down at the computer and promptly forget every single word  I wrote in my mind. 

After a week of being housebound, due to a sick child, I was able to get out for a little bit today. It was important that I have the ingredients for our weekly pizza night. Prior to leaving, I looked around at the house and was hit with an overwhelming feeling of “Good grief, where did I/ we go wrong?” 

There is a constant supply of dirty laundry, dirty dishes, toys on the floor, paper that needs to be filed, lawns that need to be mowed, garbage that needs to be taken out, home repairs to be done, toilets to be scrubbed. My husband has shared with me that when the to do list gets so long, he shuts down, because he doesn’t know where to start. I’ve always been the chipper “Start anywhere! Get something done!” As of late, I’ve been feeling just as he does. Overwhelmed and I don’t know where to start. It certainly doesn’t help that I can easily flit from one task to another, without completing what I was already working on. 

Have you ever heard of the mom who says she is going to bed, then makes lunches for tomorrow, folds the last of the laundry, starts a load of dishes, lets the dog out and an hour later, her husband says “I thought you were going to bed?” The wife is probably thinking “Well, I am, I just have to get ready first!” I’m not like that at night. If I say I’m going to bed, I am. Unless the baby has other ideas!

So my son, my baby girl and I are getting ready to head out to the store. I look around and have that thought of where did we go wrong. Then I just start feeling this deep despair because I don’t know where it went wrong and I’m not sure how to fix it. Is it the five kids, homeschooling the kids, me staying home, not having enough money? I can come up with a myriad of reasons why things don’t go exactly as I would like them to. Chad and I have always chosen life over work and money. Meaning that our lives together and our lives with our kids will always take precedence over a job or money. We have so much joy in life, but some of that joy comes at the cost of the struggles we feel. Even though I would never trade the joy for a cushier life style, it doesn’t negate the fact that we do struggle. 

We have unfinished projects and a long list of to-do’s. While I try to remind myself that life is constantly changing and the struggle we feel today may very well not be a problem tomorrow, it can still feel crushing to my spirits to not get it all done today. More often that not, I can’t see far enough past today to think that any of this stuff will ever get better or be finished. Then I get in the vicious cycle of blaming myself for where we are, instead of rejoicing for the life that we have chosen. 

I know that some people have been very successful in choosing a different kind of lifestyle, whether it’s working outside the home, sending kids to a traditional school, limiting themselves to just two children, but the thing is that right now, none of those options work for us. (Obviously we can’t ever go back to just two kids, nor would I ever want to) We have chosen what is best for us and our current situation, but there are times that I feel that we have chosen incorrectly. Maybe there was a different path we were supposed to take, or different choices we were supposed to make. 

I can’t even wrap this up in a box, put a shiny, twinkly bow on it and relate this back to, well, anything. I don’t know that there is a great lesson to learn. Sometimes I am so paralyzed by where we are that I am not sure if I am choosing this life or failing to make a better decision because I am scared of what I don’t know. 

I’m not really looking for advice, but I would certainly take some hugs and words of encouragement. 

How can I encourage YOU today? Leave me a message in the comments or visit on my FB page. I’m looking forward to hearing from you! (Especially if you haven’t quite figured out life, just like I haven’t!) 

Frustrations and decisions

Yesterday I was a lot frustrated about a decision my husband made without input from me. The details of the decision doesn’t really matter much. Well, it did to me. 

I have this problem, though. When I am frustrated, I shut down. I find it hard to concentrate or attend to my family like we all need. (Anyone else this way?) Honestly, I felt as if my insides were exploding, because I just couldn’t believe that he didn’t consider my feelings. 

I posted on my FB page, confessing that despite our great marriage, my husband and I really suck at communication. We talk about the small things, but anything over the size of a bread box gets swept under the rug. Even when we say we will talk about something later, we don’t. My question to my 12 or so friends who listen, was “What area could use improvement in your marriage?”

Sometimes, our online lives and marriages and children look a lot healthier, happier and put together than they are. (Or we have the other extreme, where our lives and marriages and children really suck, but those make me feel sorry for THEM, not me!) I like to talk about the hard stuff. If I don’t who will?

The most common answer was “Communication”. This led me to ask why communication is such an issue in so many marriages. How come we can get naked with this person we married, but we can’t talk to them? No one really answered that question.

Listen, I want to be one of those bloggers that I admire who seem to have an answer or they’ve been through it already and have moved on to talking about it, so they have the voice of experience. Or they can relate their experience biblicaly. I don’t. I don’t have the answers and I haven’t gone through it and I don’t have an experienced voice. Unless you want to know how NOT to do something, and we rarely ever google how to not do something. If you did, I’m sure you’d land on my blog. 🙂

So, the hubs and I, after a day of frustration, talked a bit. We didn’t really come to an agreement, but I did feel a lot better because he heard me and he listened. I’m positive he thinks I am a lunatic for the way I think, but that’s his problem. He knew it when he married me. 

So, why is it hard to talk about the hard stuff? I hope you came here because you have the answers, not because you need them. Could I interest you in a few problems? 


The other day, I shared with a relative that I had just received notification from my doctor that my cholesterol levels were sky high. I was frustrated because I have been watching my diet for the past 2 years and it was disheartening that the numbers hadn’t budged. My disappointment in my cholesterol numbers turned to irritation with a relative when she immediately gave me diet and weight loss advice. (She had been on one for 10 days at the time) 

“It’s so hard to lose weight”

“Dairy and bread puts pounds on”

“If you want something sweet, add a tsp of honey to your green tea”

“Remember protein and tons of veggies”.

While I certainly appreciate and applaud her because this is what was working for her, I never actually asked for advice and I certainly didn’t indicate that I needed to lose weight. If she had listened to me, she would have realized that high cholesterol runs in my family. My paternal grandmother had it, despite her best efforts. This woman was as skinny as a rail and had cholesterol levels triple what she weighed. 

I typically eat a balanced diet and I exercise frequently. (Just Dance is amazing, a great workout and so easy to involve the kids in!) I really didn’t want or need diet advice, she just assumed that I did and the underlying message that my sensitive self got was “You’re just doing it wrong. Do it my way and you will be fine”. Sure, she didn’t say it and maybe she didn’t even mean it, but I said I was feeling sensitive. 😉

It made me think of how many times we jump in with solutions, instead of just listening. When a friend says “There’s too much month at the end of the money”, do you automatically assume she has poor spending habits? Or when a brother in Christ comes to you expressing frustration because he is having a hard time believing, do you respond with “You just need to pray more! Get in the word!”

All of these, for a person who feels they are in crisis, sends the unspoken message “You’re doing it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!” Sometimes a person just wants a listening ear, a hug and a “We’ll get through this together. Let me know what I can do for you”, not unsolicited advice. In fact, offering advice that was not asked for can often shut down the conversation and prevent that person from coming to you again when they are feeling defeated. 

Who wants to feel defeated and then be told they are in the situation they are in because they are doing it wrong? Not me and I am guessing you don’t either. 

And here is my promise that I am going to watch myself and try not to give unsolicited advice. I am sure I have been guilty of it a time or two or thirty. 

Has anyone ever give you advice you didn’t ask for that hurt your feelings?