Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Demanding Excellence.

I admit it. I'm a pretty demanding Mom.

But before you start imagining me as a General in the military, hear me out.

As human beings, very few of us are actually self-propelled as adults... even less of us are self-starters and self-motivated as children.

I cringe when I hear horror stories of adults who, as children, were punished for their beds not being made to military code. (I actually know a woman whose mother used to beat her if a quarter couldn't bounce off of her made bed every morning.) I hate to hear about children who actually gave 100%, but 101% was expected and they were crushed in the process.

That's not the kind of excellence I'm talking about.

What I AM talking about is instilling in our little ones (through high school age) that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. See, in modern parenting, we are too afraid to hurt a child's feelings to make them do whatever they are doing well. We are afraid that by demanding hard work we are somehow squishing them into boxes. COME ON, PEOPLE! They won't rise to a level of success if they don't know where the level is. Period.

Example. Abi is in kindergarten. She has little homework sheets to do most evenings. The other day, I was cooking dinner and I just walked over to the counter where she was sitting and checked up on her progress. She had written VERY sloppily, very half-heartedly, and although the answers were right, the care she took to do her homework was less than satisfactory. I just said to her, "Please erase your work and start over. You are able to turn in work that is much neater than this." Abi rewrote her work, and had a GIANT smile on her face at her finished product.

Example #2. The other day, she came into the office asking me for cereal. No problem. The problem was, she was asking in a whiny baby voice that made my skin crawl. I said, "Abi, please go out and start over with your real voice." She had to try five times. On the fifth time, she was actually laughing at herself and how ridiculous her baby tone had been.

As parents, we have to be aware of what our children are capable of producing and contributing in life. We can't expect a "C" student to turn in "A" papers. However, we can expect "C" papers done with excellence. What child actually loves school work, day after day? (Well, I did, but I'm a freak.) You know what? Demanding excellence in school work is a life tool. The likelihood of them ever using Algebra in real life is slim to none. But they WILL use the skill they REALLY acquired... diligence. Does it really matter if the bed isn't made perfectly? No. But what does matter is that we are teaching our children that whatever their hands find to do, they need to do with all their hearts.

This also applies to extracurricular activities that they join. By allowing a child to drop out of a sport because they don't like it or the coach is unfair, we are teaching our kids that when life gets hard enough, you can quit. (Which we all know we can't.) Reality is, life is FULL of people and situations that bring injustice to our lives. Bailing is failing. Period.

I guess what this all boils down to is that we HAVE to know our kids! How do I know what I can demand from Abi if I don't know what she is capable of giving?

Oh, one more thing. Every morning when I drive Abi to school (and I mean every single morning), here's our conversation.

ME- Abi, can I pray for you?
ABI- Sure, Mom.
ME- Thank you, Lord, that Abi is...
(We chime in together) Smart, safe, healthy, kind, and obedient. Amen.
And then, I say: Abi, you're a winner. You're gonna have a great day! (She ALWAYS smiles on that part.)

One day, when she's wanting to quit, it's my desire that she hears my voice, confessing that over her on a daily basis, and remembers that she's a winner. That she's not a quitter. That she lives in excellence.

Because it's just the nature of the beast that at some point, she'll have to be reminded. She'll want to take the easy way out. We all do. But we don't all choose to take it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Did I Say That OUTLOUD?

So, when you're at your high school graduation, you see yourself in adulthood driving a red sportscar, with Bon Jovi blasting through the kickin' sound system you could afford because of your lucrative job. Your car is filled with friends, and you're headed to the beach for the third day in a row, because you're an adult and you can do whatever you want. You can sleep in when you want, eat when you want, and wear what you want, when you want, and how you want.

(Car tires screeching to a halt here.)

Then you wake up.

Fast forward a few years. Ok, more than a few. Just fast forward, ok? I never did get that sportscar. But I do have a mini-van that has crushed up goldfish behind the booster seat! And that Bon Jovi music? Um, not so much. But I do get to listen to endless Disney Princess music as I drive to the grocery store, post office, and to work. (Yep, I catch myself listening to it even when she's not in the van... just because I don't even notice it's playing anymore.) Oh, and the car filled with friends? Yeeeeah. My friends are all doing the same thing I am... shuttling kids here and there, working all day, and heating up Lean Cuisines for lunch. We don't even get to use the bathroom when we want, much less sleep when we want!

But before you think I'm gonna spend this blog complaining, let me say...

I love it. Every. Single. DAY.

See, life doesn't always end up looking like we thought it would. We do things we never thought we would. (Remember seeing THAT kid... the one with the dried snot on his nose and mismatched shoes, and thinking "I will NEVER do that when I have kids!"??? Well, now that's MY kid.) We eat things we never thought we'd eat... ("Yes, Abi, I'd love to taste that gum you've been chewing for an hour that you think tastes like strawberry glue!") And for today's reading enjoyment, I thought I would give you a list of "THINGS I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD EVER SAY IN THIS LIFETIME." Riveting, I know.

"Abi, why are your jeans in the toilet?"
"Please spit out the Skittle you just ate from the parking lot!"
"Get the dog's foot out of your mouth!"
"Abi, we don't call people 'Oh My God.'"
"No, you may not go to church just wearing your underwear."
"Cheetos do not count as cheese."
"No, boys cannot have babies out of their privates."
"Why are you wearing your dress in the shower?"
"Did you brush your teeth at all this week?"
"No, you can't punch a baby because he's crying."
And most recently...
"You cannot cut your hair with craft scissors because craft scissors do not cut hair very evenly." (Crisis averted.)

What a ride! I wouldn't trade one single bizarre question for all of the teenage dreams I ever had. This is SO much better. Crazier, yes. But better. Certainly more fulfilling. Tiring.

And a better life than I ever imagined.

Monday, March 29, 2010

OLD vs. NEW. The showdown.

So, just in case you're still in doubt if Old School is for you... Here's a little piece of persuasion to help you in your decision making journey. I just saw this little nugget online, and HAD to copy it.

Let's call it "How To Raise a Juvenile Deliquent"
1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.

2. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be so shocked when the home is broken up later.

3.When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute.

4. Give the child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own.

5. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let "him decide for himself".

6. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink, and comfort. See that his every sensual desire is gratified.

7. Avoid the use of "wrong". He may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.

8. Let him read any printed material, and listen to any music he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.

9. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.

10. When he gets into real trouble, apologize to yourself by saying, "I could never do anything with him."

11. Take his side against neighbors, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.

12. Prepare for a life of grief. You will likely have it.

WOOT WOOT! Whoever wrote this is my new hero. I should have claimed it myself.

Listen. No one's saying Old School is easy. But the way I see it, we can put in the hard work NOW, and reap the easy times later. Or, we can go the easy road now and reap the MISERABLE times later.

Since someone so eloquently wrote 12 ways to raise a juvie, I thought I would write "12 Ways to Raise a Winner."

1. Say what you mean, but more importantly, mean what you say.

2. Mandate things like "Yes Ma'am," "No Sir," and "Thank You." People notice kids with manners. And kids who are noticed with manners gain great favor from others.

3. Enforce looking in the eye when you talk to your child, or when they talk to you. This teaches them that people matter.

4. Pray together, every day.

5. Make church a non-negotiable function.

6. Point God out in the blue skies, falling leaves, and warm summer sun. By doing so, we teach our children to bring recognition to Him all along the way... not just when we need Him.

7. Periodically make them call their grandparents, and if they're fortunate enough, their great-grandparents. Yes, I said make them.

8. Be the fun house. Create an atmosphere where even though you're a dork, your kids and their friends want to be in your presence. If you involve food, it's a sure thing. If you feed them, they will come.

9. Praise them often. But praise your spouse even more. This teaches them the world doesn't revolve around them.. specifically YOUR world.

10. Say I'm sorry as needed. (UGH)

11. Reserve the right to say NO. Use this right as often as you see fit.

12. Communicate very clearly that you are NOT your child's friend. You're not their buddy, compadre, or amigo. Wipe that train of thought out of your brain. There will come a day when we can be friends with them... That period is called adulthood.

So, the other day, I had spent the majority of my time with Abi frustrated at her for this or that. I had reprimanded her ALL... DAY... LONG. At the end of our day, we were playing a game and she said to me, "Mom, you're a great Mom. Don't ever stop."

In that moment, I realized. She's getting it. All the blood, sweat, and yes, tears. She's getting that it's all about me loving her enough to do what I have to do to get her to adulthood with as few regrets as possible.

I love this glorious, emotional, militant, exhausting, rewarding, loving job of mine.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Celebration of...


I was born to be a girl-mama.

Now, I know, I know. My boy-mama friends tell me that life is better parenting a boy. That boys love their moms and boys are special. And I also have the sixth sense knowing that I will be the mom of a boy in the not-too-distant future.

But let me tell ya. I know a thing or two about girls.

And I love them.

There are days when Abi is held hostage by her ovaries, like the rest of the female race... when nothing is good enough, when tears flow from not being the first one out of the van, scratchy underwear, or other random causes. But there are also times of giddiness that only a girl's laughter can bring. I love knowing that regardless of the sex of the rest of my children, I am guaranteed a front row seat to at least ONE of their wedding plans, childbirths, and parenting journies. I love it that as her mom, there will come a time when I will be the only person on earth who "gets" her... woman to woman.

And I love it that she's so durn cute. (Yes, durn... it's an Alabama thing.)

For those of you who have daughters, this is a post to celebrate their girliness. For those of you with boys and no girls, this is to give you a glimpse into the world of pink.
And for EVERYONE reading, this is a shameless plug for my favorite girl of all time. Abigail Ruth Elaine.

Girls come out with three definite things.

and the ability to wrap her Daddy IMMEDIATELY around her tiny finger.

As she grows, she will quickly develop the fine art of:


and relaxation.

She will quickly learn to communicate (often things you wish she wouldn't communicate to others...)

and she especially loves telling boys what to do.

She is innately domestic


...and complicated.

She's a rock star,
a princess
and a hopeless romantic.

So, expect sassiness,
LOTS of friends,
and frequent visits to her fairytale world.

But most of all, be ready for HER. In all of her glory.

One of my favorite days of all time... I was lying on an table, having THE ultrasound done. The technician monitored our baby's lungs, heart, brain... measured the head, length... guessed the weight.
And then the question. "Do you want to know what you're having?"


I grabbed Rod's hand.

"It's a girl." My heart lept.

Six years later... it's still leaping.

I love you, little Abigail. You make your Mom very happy.

Every single day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Answers to Tough Questions.

"Mom, have you ever lied to me?"

Yep. Abi asked me this the other day. Ugh. And of course, I wanted to lie and say no. But I didn't.

Abi has her PhD in tough questions. She's never really been the "typical" kid with the trains of thought she follows (I have NO idea where she gets that from...), and from the time she could talk, she has kept our mental abilities firing on all cylinders.

I am a HUGE believer in being open with children. Rod and I made a commitment that the words, "We'll talk about that when you're older" will never come out of our mouths. I once heard Dr. Dobson say that as parents, we need only answer the question they ask. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. So, really, in the end, there is no "big" talk about sex, dating, etc... the idea is that by answering the questions that are asked along the way, we are creating an open relationship with our kids where they know they can approach us with questions and concerns and not get awkward put-offs and blank answers.

Believe me. It's not as easy as it sounds.

Abi is a question fanatic. She thinks of things I didn't even care about until I was in high school. Let me just share with you SOME of the questions we have answered.
"If God has all the money, why do we tithe?"
"Why do some people give their kids up for adoption?"
"What do I have to do to go to Heaven?"
"Daddy, do you love Mom more than me?"
"When someone gets a divorce, do they not call each other 'honey' anymore?"
"Can boys have babies?"
"Girls shouldn't marry other girls, right?"
"Is Santa real?"
"Why do people kidnap kids?"

And my personal favorite, at age 4...
ABI- "Mom, where do babies come from?"
ME- "God."
ABI- "You know what I mean."
ME- "Uh-oh."
ABI- "How do they get in your stomach?"
ME- "Well, before you're born, part of you lives in Daddy, and part of you in Mom. So, Daddy gave his part to Mom, and together it created you."
ABI- "Is this why girls don't have the same privates that boys have?"
ME- (gulp) "Yes."
ABI- "Ok." (left the room)

I gave her just enough information to answer the question she asked. She has no idea how the "parts" work... she just knows that she got the info she needed at the moment.

In essence, I built a bridge, so that when the next question comes up and she needs more knowledge, she knows she won't get awkwardness and the run-around from me. Because in reality, when we push their questions away, thinking they are "too young" to need to know certain things, we create a gap between us. And let me tell ya, they will get their answers from SOMEONE.

I want that someone to be me.

I'm not saying we need to bring our three year olds into the delivery room in order to expose them to real life. I'm not saying we need to march around looking for huge issues to introduce to our kids. Yes, sometimes we have to be preemptive and address issues before they are noticed by our kids. But most of the time, if we just sit back and follow their lead, answer the questions they ask, and show them candor when they ask for it, we will raise children who know we are approachable and willing to listen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kissing the President.

DISCLAIMER: This post will irritate many and probably cause me to get quite a few emails. But hey, I'm ok with that.

So, recently, I heard Abi say to a friend of hers, "I love President Obama!" Big gulp and bite my tongue.

Let me say, right up front. I did not vote for Barack Obama. I agree with just about nothing that comes out of his mouth. I am a die-hard Republican, 100% pro-life, and one of the most politically conservative people you will ever meet.

But I support the President.

Yep, you heard me right.

Respect is a BIG thing in our home. We respect each other with our actions as much as we can. We pray for each other openly every day. We thank eack other, compliment each other, and encourage each other as a way of life. To accompany that attitude, Rod and I decided a long time ago that our children would never hear us talk negatively about leaders in their lives. This includes their teachers, their pastors, their relatives, and certainly the President of the United States. I am actually VERY protective of that office, and with good reason.

I don't want to raise a child who has an attitude of ungratefulness and disrespect about her country. Let me explain.

There is a HUGE difference in respecting the office someone holds and respecting the actual person him or herself. I recognize that President Obama and I will never see eye to eye on any political matters. However, I also know that he is the Leader of the government that I live under. As a Christian, I am charged to pray for him. To believe the best about him. To FIND the good in him. Because it IS there. (somewhere...heehee) By talking trash about him and letting my child hear it, I am teaching her that disagreeing with someone means that you don't have to respect them... that respect is given based on us believing the same way.

Now, with that said, trust is most certainly earned. Has President Obama earned my trust, based on his track record? No. But the office of the Presidency certainly has. A President saw us through a Civil War and helped abolish slavery. A President guided troops through two world wars and assisted in freeing the Jews from generational torment. A President sent my father-in-law to Vietnam and brought him home to a country to didn't appreciate his service. A President helped end the Cold War. A President saw us through the darkest days of our nation's history after airplanes crashed into buildings and the sky fell around us.

My dad instilled in me that in life, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Complaining, fault-finding, and bad-mouthing certainly plays a huge part in the problem of raising a generation with no respect for our leaders. See, when my father-in-law went overseas and fought a thankless war and came home to a country that didn't validate his sacrifice, it was simply because our country forgot that we don't have to respect the cause... we respect the people who lay their lives down FOR the cause.

So, how do we instill respect in our kids when a President we didn't vote for is in the office? We refer to him as PRESIDENT Obama... not Obama. We pray for him. We talk about his responsibilities. We talk about the things we don't agree with, but that America chose him and we want him to be safe and healthy. We talk about how he's a dad to two little girls. We talk about God's love for him. Basically, we try to offer her facts without a great deal of emotion attached. As a result, we are raising a little girl who loves her President. She said she'd give him a kiss on the cheek if he came to her school. Far be it from me to tear her innocence away. That will come soon enough, through a vast assortment of people who don't speak well of him. All she knows is he has the highest office in the world, he lives in a big white house, and we pray for him. Alot.

And for now, that's enough.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

And the Oscar goes to.....

Remember my "high" with Abi a couple of blogs ago?

Yeah. It vanished last night.

Abi had a drama episode in the shower because soap got in her eyes. And from there, her world fell apart. The water was too cold. Her towel wasn't long enough. I rinsed her hair too long. It was too dark in her room and she couldn't see her pajamas.

Of course, I disciplined her. Then, after she boo-hooed endlessly, I walk into the guest room to find her laying face down on the bed.

ME- What's going on, Abi?
ABI- I don't deserve ANYthing. Just take my sheets off my bed and let me sleep on the mattress!

Oh. My. GOODNESS. I had to walk away. I laughed until I hurt in another room.

Now, before you think I'm the meanest person alive (if you don't already), you have to understand. My daughter is without a doubt the MOST secure, confident, and loved child I have ever seen in all my years of ministry. She is doted on and praised continuously, and always has been... every day of her life.

So, of course, I didn't fall for it.

Her Dad, sweet thing, spent some time reassuring her of her worth and how just because she had a bad attitude doesn't mean she's a bad child, etc. (He's the best Dad for a little girl EVER.) Daddies love their little girls, and I am so thankful for that tenderness.

I, however, am a female, and I have played her game before. I just had to leave the room until the drama was over.

So, this morning, I was on my way to work, and my sister called me. She said, "I found out what Abi said about the mattress. She saw that on Full House the other day while I was watching her." Then she proceeded to recall the entire scene, verbatim to what Abi had performed for us last night.

I was ROLLING laughing.

The word MANIPULATE means "to play upon by artful means, especially to one's own advantage."


See, all kids do it. It may not be in the form of Full House episodes. It may come in the form of sullenness, hurtful words used to make you second guess yourself, pity parties, and it can even come in the form of buttering you up with sweetness. But, we have to be wise. And preemptive. It starts at infancy, and continues forever. People know how to manipulate at every age.

When Abi was a baby (probably around 9 months old), and the attention wouldn't be on her, she would fake cough or fake sneeze to get us to say, "God bless you" to her. Yep. She couldn't even walk, but she knew how to play the game.

So, what's a parent to do? Be wise. Be gentle. Ask God to show you what's really going on in the situation. By playing into their game, we are bringing long term problems to them down the road.

I'm gonna have a little talk with Miss Abi today, and let her know that her plot has been exposed. She's a smart one.

But I'm smarter. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

To make them or not to make them... that is the question...

I had a young married lady (without children) ask me the other day what my opinion is on "making" a child go to church. Should you or shouldn't you?

Oh boy. Don't get me started. Too late. I'm already started.

The verdict: Make them.

But before you get riled up at me, hear me out. Church doesn't equal salvation. I get that. It doesn't guarantee that your child will forever be spared from the wiles of teenage lust and impulsiveness.

But it certainly ups the odds.

Studies have shown that church attendance increases life expectancy by at least 8 years.
It drastically reduces the risk of teen suicide. By 70% in fact.
It actually increases their overall GPA in high school.
And here's a shocker... kids who attend church are more likely to wear their seat belts than their non-churched friends.

Could it be because kids who grow up in church grow up know that they are valued? Could it be that they hear week after week that their worth is found in God's love for them, and not in the world's ways?

I think so.

But for crying out loud, find a GOOD church. (Someone stop me.) Don't take your kids to the most boring, irrelevant church in the world and expect them to jump out of bed with anticipation on Sunday mornings. Find a place that's exciting, filled with younger people, and get them there as much as is humanly possible.

Still wonder if it's right to "make" a child go to church? Let me give you this food for thought.

Abi HATED brushing her teeth until just last year. I'm talking about full on weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth hating it. She'd gag. She'd cry. She'd lose her breath.

But we still made her do it. Why? We know the long term benefits, of course. So, now we have a child who has adopted tooth brushing as part of her lifestyle.

Let me tell you. I am WAY more concerned about her spiritual and emotional health than her dental hygiene. Does church hold magical powers to help us avoid all of life's problems? No. But what it does hold are relationships, purpose, community, answers, and hope.

So, as with school, work, chores, and other repetitive "tasks" that kids complain about, church shouldn't be an option. Kids don't know what's best for them! That's OUR job.

The payoff will be huge in the end.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feelin' the love.

Indulge me a moment, will you?

Confession- I'm feelin' mushy. I've had several great days with Abi (meaning neither she or I have had any meltdowns). I'm seeing such growth in her in so many ways, and the ooey gooey feelings are overflowing today for her. Granted, they may disappear in a flash if she comes running in with something glued or painted onto her skin, a missing Pluffie Puff (her sleep animal), or a clothes crisis of some sort. So, while I'm in this happy place, I thought I'd make a list. (Here I go with lists again...) This is for my sake, so I can look back on it tomorrow or next Tuesday, when the bubble pops and new issues to deal with arise. This is also for you... to hopefully spur you to make your own list of sorts.

I'll call it

Kisses on demand.
Having the best shopping buddy ever, all the time. (I trained her from birth!)
An art gallery, full of one of a kind pieces by a skilled Crayola artist.
Questions to answer that keep me thinking all the time... such as:

If God has everything anyway, why do we tithe?
Have you ever lied to me, Mom?
Why do some people not want their babies?
Are you old, Mom?

Looking at that sweet face every night after her eyes are closed.
Hearing about her escapades in dreamland on the way to school.
How she is always so happy to see me when I pick her up everyday.
The wave that hits me every now and then that makes me say, "I'm not just A mom, I'm HER mom!"
Knowing that while many people love my daughter, I loved her first. I was her first home... I knew her, even if just for a few brief moments, before her daddy even knew she was there.
Hearing her read at night.
Seeing her make new friends.
Eating ice cream with her.
Her sitting on the counter next to me while I cook, chatting my ear off.
Knowing that she was created for God's affection, and seeing that she openly receives that affection, even at this young age.
Being the one who led her to Jesus, in our van, going down the road. *sigh*
How her heart breaks for people who are handicapped, picked on, and left out.
The song in her heart and on her lips all the time.
The fact that she's still at the age where she's "never going to get married."
Weeds given to me as prized flowers.
A letter that says, "You bes mom, love abi."

I know that at some point, my happy place will disappear. It always does, doesn't it? There will be drama again... there will be irritation and shortcomings on her part, and especially on mine. But one thing is for sure. I am blessed to mother this little one. I was chosen to be her guide... her role model... her safe place.

I may need to pull this list back out soon and remind myself of all of the above.

Make a list today... You might need it tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Manners. Part 1.

Here's the thing. I have worked with kids over half my life. And there are few things that make me want to pull my hair out as kids who are mannerless.

Can't blame the kid, really. They're just giving what's expected of them. (did I say that outloud?)

The other day, I was at Abi's school and the office administrator walked by the kindergarten class. One of the boys said, "Hey, Carol!" To which Carol turned around and said, "That's MISS CAROL to you!" I was speechless that a kindergartener actually called an adult, much less a school official, by her first name!


Part of the wave of new minded parenting trends is that everyone is equal. Parents don't want their children to feel "less" than someone else, or not be on the same playing field as everyone else. Well, truth is, we aren't equal.

Don't get mad. It's the truth.

In any functional business, government structure, or just in society, there are chains of command, so-to-speak, that must be followed in order to have a smoothly functioning organization. Now, the deal is, the higher up you go in that chain, the greater the responsibility of that post. Does that mean that the boss is more IMPORTANT than the janitor? Absolutely NOT. Does it mean that the President is more important than a mayor? Nope! But his responsibility is greater.

In our family, manners are not an option. We demand (yes, demand) things like "Yes, Ma'am," "No Sir," and "please" as part of natural conversations. One of the challenges for Abi is to remember to call people by their title... For instance, it took FOREVER for her to remember to call Karin (one of our closest friends) MISS Karin, because she constantly hears us call her Karin. So, one day, I just said, "Abi, it's just an act of respect to call people older than you Mr. or Miss when you are talking to them." And from then on, I would softly correct her if she forgot. She finally got it.

If Abi says something like, "Give me that cup," I don't even respond. I act like I didn't even hear it. She may say it several times. Then she tries a different approach. "Can you give me that cup, please?" I immediately respond.

See, we're training Abi to be successful in life. I want her to always be aware that no matter how old she gets, there will be someone in her life who is older than she is, in a position of greater responsibility than she is, and I want that awareness to be an automatic response for her.

Of course, there is no mistaking the fact that sometimes the person in authority is simply not a respectable person... Teach your child to give respect anyway. It's for the CHILD'S benefit. (And as far as that goes, we weren't very respectable, and Jesus gave us the HIGHEST respect in laying down His life for ours, didn't He?)

And lastly, in order for us to see respect and manners in our children, we have to possess those qualities ourselves. Make it a practice to speak with kindness, even if demanding is your natural bend (like it is for me). It's much more natural for me to say, "Abi, go clean your room," than "Abi, clean your room, please." But I know she is a mirror... a sponge. She is soaking up my patterns and repeating them. A while back, a girl from our youth group stayed with us for a week while her mom was out of town. When the mom got back, she asked her how she enjoyed her time with us. Know what the girl said? "Mom, it's the coolest thing! They talk so nicely to each other! They say things like, 'Will you pass the salt, please," and 'Thank you for taking the trash out'!" Wow. Talk about a compliment!

Do we always, 100% of the time speak appropriately? Um, we are humans. No. But the important fact is the AWARENESS that we respect each other, love each other, and want to do our very best to communicate with excellence.

I just heard Abi coughing and I yelled to the other room:
ABI- "What?"
ME- "Excuse me?"
ABI- "Oh, sorry Mom. What, Ma'am?"
ME- "Are you ok?"
ABI- "Yes, Ma'am!"

Happy sigh.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rewards vs. Bribes

A good friend of mine asked me to elaborate on our allowance theory.

Here's the deal. Rod and I decided a long time ago that we will not pay for chores. Ever. At ALL. Our house is for all of us to enjoy, and for all of us to be responsible for. We will not pay for cleaning of any sort, whether it's her own mess or someone else's that she's asked to attend to.

That being said, we will pay for other things. We are not into giving allowance "just because we love her." That's teaching her that money is handed out for no reason, which we all know is not. This is what works for us.

We told Abi that we would start giving her allowance, and it would be solely based on attitude. Doing chores is not an option for her. However, doing chores with a good attitude IS an option. Of course, so is doing chores with a BAD attitude.

Abi has the potential to make up to $5 in her allowance on any given week. As the week goes on, she may lose dollars, or gain dollars based on her attitude. She's ended her week with the full $5 many times. But there's also been weeks where she's not received an allowance at all.

Recently, Abi woke up coughing in the middle of the night. So, we gave her cough medicine (a night time kind) and when she woke up the next morning, she was a sleeeeeeeeepy little girl. I asked her to get up and put her clothes on, and then I got in the shower. When I came back into the room, I fully expected to see a little girl, asleep again, and struggling to get up. Instead, I saw a little girl, fully clothed, and putting her shoes on, barely able to hold her eyes open. I walked over to her and said, "Abi, I know you're sleepy from that medicine. Thank you for not whining and for getting dressed when I asked. You just earned a dollar."

That's a reward. Rewards are earned.

A bribe, however, is something like this. "Abi, if you'll get up and get dressed, I will add a dollar to your allowance." That's called manipulation. That's icky. Bribes are offered to make bad behavior stop.

See, I want Abi to know that good behavior is always rewarded. Is it always rewarded monetarily? Nope. That's why we have a $5 limit. But let me tell you what happens. A good attitude breeds more good attitudes. It's a snowball effect.

Why base her allowance on attitude? Well, think of it like this. Had you rather have an employee who does their job well, but makes life miserable for everyone around them with their nasty attitude? Or had you rather have an employee who may not be as skilled, but is a blessing to everyone with their kindness?

I thought so.

See, in real life, your boss doesn't care if you're sick with a fever and the flu... if you show up to work with a bad attitude, it's a bad attitude. Period.

However, any boss would be more tolerant of a poorer performance if the attitude is good.

Give it a try.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hannah Schmannah.

Yep, I'm going there.

I know some people reading this will think I'm crazy. (As if you don't already.) But you know what? I kinda am.

We don't allow Abi to do the Hannah Montana thing.

Now, before you read any further, please know that I'm not writing about Miley Cyrus's faults and blemishes. Miley is a girl whose parents have apparantly sold her out and let Hollywood shape her. She is a child. The fact that she posed on the cover of Vanity Fair looking like she was selling anything BUT Hannah Montana memorabilia has nothing to do with why we don't do Hannah Montana.

The fact is, Abi is 6. That's why.

See, I already have a child who acts like she's grown. For crying out loud, when she was 3 and a half, we moved her up to the 4-5 year old class at church because she was bored with the preschool class. Know what she did the first Sunday? She stood at the door and greeted kids two years her senior with, "Hi children! Come to class! It's so good to see you today!"

Rod and I decided that we didn't need Hannah's drama... the boyfriends, the gossip, the fashion... all things that are a normal part of adolescence.

Keyword- adolescence.

If we give children privileges that they are too young to inherit, we end up with children who are mini-teenagers before their time. Elementary school students should be thinking about when's the next time to go outside, what's in their lunch boxes, boogers, and poop.

And the fact remains that just because the world deems something acceptable, doesn't mean it's appropriate. Seriously. There are some PG-13 movies that 13 year olds have no business watching.

But somehow, we think because Disney says it's ok, then it must be ok for our first graders.

Um, nope.

Is it that Hannah Montana, iCarly, and the Cheetah Girls are vile and terrible influences? No.

Is it that their shows are filled with sex, awful music, and barely dressed girls? No.

It's the fact that in elementary school, life shouldn't be about middle school drama. That kind of drama will come soon enough.

So when Abi asks why she can't watch Hannah Montana, I just tell her, "If you get to do everything now, there won't be any fun stuff for later."

And oddly enough, that's satisfactory to her.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jayden is finally gone.

A moment of silence, please. Our dearly loved (not) imagninary friend Jayden has seemingly left the Windhams forever.


Since Abi was a baby (and yes, I mean baby), she has had two imaginary friends. One is Scruffy (also known as Snuffalupagus from Sesame Street) and the other is Jayden. Apparantly Jayden is a boy, Abi's age, who is basically on this earth to take the fall for all of Abi's misdeeds.

My child is brilliant.

I mean, you gotta admire the creativity of a 2 year old who will blame all of her disobedient acts on a freckle faced, red headed, overall wearing little boy... who is never seen by anyone but herself.

A few of Jayden's "actions" are:
*trying to flush Abi's jeans down the toilet when she was 2.
*calling me stupid when she was 3. (so weird... his voice sounds JUST like Abi's)
*sticking stickers all over Abi's playroom door when sweet, innocent Abi was 4.
*saying "I wish you had other parents" when Abi was 5. (again, it's so uncanny how much his voice sounds like my daughter's...)

When Jayden did mischievous things, we would "send him home" to his mom. We'd insist he wasn't welcome at our house unless he could behave. But somehow, he'd keep coming back.

Until recently.

Rod and I have been really drilling home the fact to Abi that she can tell us ANYthing, and the repercussions will be much less than if we find out some other way what she's done. We tell her, don't think there won't be consequences, because there are consequences to every poor choice. However, we stress that honesty is a very forgiving prequel to those consequences. We constantly say things like, "You can tell us anything, anytime." And, "We will love you even if you did the worst thing ever." And then we give her chances to test our word.


Many of you have seen on facebook how Abi has recently had an obsession with her middle finger. I'm talking about a real, bonafide obsession. Well, not long ago, I was in the kitchen, and I turned around to find Abi, looking very suspicious and nervous, standing beside me, looking at me.

ABI- Mom, I did something. At school.
ME- (gulp) What's that?
ABI- Well, I don't want to tell you.
ME- Yes, you do, or you wouldn't have brought it up. What's up?
ABI- Will I get in trouble?
ME- I don't know the answer to that. But it won't be as bad since you told me the truth.
ABI- Ok. Well, today, when no one was looking, I stuck up my middle finger. On purpose.
ME- ( a silent whew) Abi, thank you for being honest with me. If I had found out from your teacher that this happened, it wouldn't have been good for you! But, we have talked about this. It's really rude to stick up your middle finger. Since we've already told you that you aren't allowed to do that anymore, and you did it anyway, no coloring for you tonight.
ABI- Is that all?
ME- Yes.
ABI- (big hug) I thought you would be SO mad at me. Thanks, Mom. (runs off)

Now, there was a time when Jayden would have told her to stick that middle finger up. I know, I know. Part of the deal is that Abi is growing up and doesn't need imaginary friends quite as much anymore... but strangely, Scruffy (the sweet one) is still around. I don't find it a coincidence that as she has learned to trust us with her faults, she has less of a need for Jayden.

On a daily basis, I have to remind myself that Rod and I will do a million things wrong, and a million things right. So will Abi. But love covers a multitude of wrongs. If I teach her what my parents taught me... that there is no sin too big to change my love for her, she'll find it easier when she's 15 to come to us with the big stuff. If we foster an environment where she can come to us about anything, all three of our lives will be better for it in the end.

Oh, and speaking of the end... Once, Jayden fell into a crawdad hole and died, then became a Zombie in Africa with Shannon and his missions team.

But I like this ending much better. Abi has discovered that she doesn't need Jayden anymore. The end. *happy sigh*

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's a miracle!

I've noticed a trend in Abi lately that I am SO happy to report. No, it's not her clothes (though that's certainly a trend in itself), and it's not her latest food pattern. Hold on to your seats.

She... gets... ready... with... no......... DRAMA!

Let me give you some history. Please follow me on a little adventure I like to call "Mornings With the Drama Llama, starring Abi Windham."

7:20am- Me- "Abi, good morning! Time to get ready for school!"
7:25- Me- "Abi, I will not tell you again. Get up, please."
7:30- Me- "Abi, sitting up in the bed does not qualify you as up."
7:32- Me- "Why are you still wearing your pajamas?" Abi- "Because I hate this shirt." Me- "Then, you may pick another one." (keep in mind she wears uniforms to school so all of her shirts are identical.)
7:34- Me- "Seriously, Abi? GET A SHIRT ON."
7:36- crying erupts from her room. Abi- "I HATE THESE PANTS! I HATE THEM!" Me- "Get them on, Abi!" Abi- "They feel too squishy!" Me- "Pants cannot feel squishy. Get them on!" Abi- (crying hysterically)
7:38- Abi- (now gasping for air) My shoes feel like scorpions are in them!!!!!
7:40- Me- "Grab your lunch box, please." Abi- "I WANTED SCHOOL LUNCH!"
7:41- Abi- "This is the worst life ever!" Me- "GET IN THE VAN!"

As you can imagine, this scenario equaled a stressed out kindergartener and a frazzled mom. And we did this every day.

Until it hit me.

I have to get her where it hurts.

I was praying, and the thought came to me. I have to diffuse the situation. Not distract her on to other things. Not try to explain how she must make good choices because it's the right thing to do and I know what's best for her, and blah blah blah. In that moment, when her temper is high (and mine is even higher), I must throw water on the fire, so to speak. Here's how I did it.

7:20- Me- "Abi, please wake up and get dressed."
7:21- Abi- "I'm tired! And I don't want to get dressed." Me- "too bad, kiddo. It's time. Let's move!"
7:22- Abi- (whining) "I HATE THIS SHIRT!" Me- "Abi, you just lost coloring privileges until tomorrow morning. Get your shirt on."
7:24- (still crying from the coloring privileges thing) Abi- "My shoes feel too big! I hate them! (Crying) I hate my pants, I hate my hair." Me- "You just lost tv privileges until tomorrow morning. Please go get your lunch box."
7:27- Abi- (with a terrible whine to her voice) "When I get home today, I'm not speaking to you!" Me- "You won't talk to me like that. You just lost your Nintendo privileges until tomorrow morning. Please get in the van."
7:30- (silent ride to school) Me- (kiss her) Have a super day! I love you, and I believe in you!" Abi- "Hmph."

So, after a long night of no entertainment for Abigail, the following morning was something like this.

7:20- Me- "Abi, time to wake up!" Abi- "Yes, ma'am."

End of story.

Has every morning been seamless since this? Nope. Every once in a while, I have to pull the plug again. But those times are becoming more and more rare.

I have discovered that trying to make sense of the madness in those temper times only increases her frustration, and infuriates me because what I am trying to communicate to her is not being received. What DOES make sense to her is that her current poor attitude equals no fun after school. At all. I remember telling her, "Abi, I will do this every day until I train you to choose a good attitude." And I did.

So she did.

See, if we have a bad attitude at work, we get fired. If we are rude to people everytime we feel like being rude, we have no friends. If we give in to every emotion we feel, we are snapped back into reality when reality bites us in the rear. Parents, we have to diffuse the bomb in times like that. Without warning. Warning a child, "I'm going to take your tv privileges if you don't stop," shows them that we are willing to negotiate, which we are not... when it comes to attitude.

So, are you aware of an area that needs instant diffusion? Do it. It may take a couple of times to show them you mean business. But do it.

And then mean what you say.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I find I operate with much more peace if I live by lists. I make menu lists, grocery lists, housecleaning lists... And lately, I've been compiling a "What I Want My Daughter Know or Know How To Do" list. These are things that, when her car is packed for college, I have to know that we taught her... things I know she caught from us. And since I'm airing alot of laundry out on here, I thought I'd share them with you. (I know you're on the edge of your seat with anticipation. *smile*)

Things I want her to know:
1. She was fearfully and wonderfully made.
2. She was made in the image of God Himself.
3. Nothing she will ever do will change His love for her.
4. Or mine.
5. Or her Daddy's.
6. That we are humans, and we will fail her.
7. That the world is full of wrong, but there is WAY more good than bad.
8. That people sometimes just won't like her.
9. And sometimes I won't like her. But I will always love her.
10. That no matter where I live on this planet, and no matter where she lives, she will always have a key to our house, and a room to call her own.
11. That somewhere in this world, there is a young man whose family is praying for her, just like we are praying for him. And God will bring him to her when it's time.
12. I want her to know that she'll never succeed if she doesn't take risks.
13. And just because you take a risk doesn't mean you will succeed.
14. That's why they're called risks.
15. That boys just stink sometimes.
16. But we can't live without them.

Things I want her to know HOW to do.
1. Change a tire.
2. Make homemade biscuits.
3. Make choices without me and her Daddy involved.
4. Sew.
5. Play the piano.
6. Fill out job applications.
7. File her taxes.
8. Balance her checkbook. (God help us all.)
9. Drive safely. (Jesus take the wheel.)
10. Love her husband.
11. Check her oil in her car.
12. Fly by herself into the Atlanta or JFK airports.
13. Follow her heart.
14. Find her way home. (sigh)

Some of these things are instructional things. Some are things she'll learn in a classroom. But many of them are things she's absorbing into that little heart of hers by observing the way I wife and mother... by the way her Daddy kisses me first when he gets home and then her. Everytime we pray over a meal, she's catching it. Everytime she's party to my cell phone conversations in the car, she's writing on her heart how to live a successful live.


See, part of the result of making a list like this is that when it's in black and white in front of me, I can see where I'm achieving and where I am failing her.

I have some work to do... Some areas I'm passing with flying colors. There are some things I can check off this list. But there are also some apologies to make to her at times, and some areas I have to get busy in. My window is getting smaller with her. But it's still open.

And I'm still adding to the list.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

So, I'm sitting here, listening to Abi explain my iPhone functions to two teenagers. (Hey, better my iPhone than my bodily functions, which she has also explained to teenagers in the past.) Pregnancy somehow inadvertantly comes up in the conversation, and I hear one of the girls joke that if she got pregnant, she'd "get rid of it." I then hear Abi say to one of them, "If you had a baby and if you'd let me have it, I'd take care of it. You can NOT kill babies. Because killing babies will get you under arrest."

I smile.

She is SO my child.

You gotta love a six year old that will stand up to teenagers.

One of the ten million things I adore about my Abi is just that. Her ability and desire to stand up for what she believes in. She HATES when someone makes fun of someone else. She NEEDS to make sure all animals with fur are well fed, loved, and played with. She LOVES Jesus, and when she meets someone who doesn't, she asks them why.

Let me get to the point.

Part of Abi's ability to speak her mind is just found in her genetics. She comes from two very animated, opinionated, and stubborn gene pools. But even that aside, we strive on a daily basis to let her know that her voice is important and her convictions are legitimate. We praise her for standing out in the crowd and encourage her to think outside the status quo.

Of course, along with that line of thought comes challenging authority. I actually love it. Yep, you read that right. I love it when she challenges me. Let me explain why before you think my cheese has slid off my cracker.

I love it that she is confident enough in her opinion to voice it.
I love it that she has the backbone and fortitude to dig her heels in.
But mainly, I love it that she is secure enough in our love for her to know we're okay with her if she disagrees.

But let me tell you, we love her enough to be the final say.

Parenting old school doesn't mean we shut down our kids' opinions. However, it does mean that all that ridiculous mumbo jumbo of talking an issue into the ground is redundant. The bottom line is, if we love our kids and establish ourselves as loving authorities in their lives, respect and allegiance will naturally be there. If we say what we mean and mean what we say, they see integrity in action. No child respects a parent they can manipulate! So when they dig their heels in, they can indeed know that we want their voice to be heard, but they will also keep an awareness that WE are the parents. WE make the final decision. And our job is to be their parents... not their friends.

I just heard Abi tell one of the teenagers that they just cheated at some game they're playing.

I just smiled again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Look out because...

I'm indeed on a warpath. Hopefully, after reading this, you will be, too.

So, I am relaxing at Books A Million with my man last night, and I picked up a copy of a popular parenting magazine. I was admiring all the coolest gadgets and recipes, when I came across an article about how to get kids to participate in housework more often. My interest is peaked. I mean, what parent wouldn't be interested in the magic bullet that will stop murmuring and complaining and increase participation in the mundane torture of housework?

Then, I saw it.

The author, (well meaning, I'm sure), said that if you're having a hard time getting your child to make his bed in the morning, tell him, "Let's cover up the bed with your blanket so it won't get lonely while we're away today!" ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?

I, very loudly, said, "Seriously? ARE YOU SERIOUS?"

So, you're telling me that in order to get my child to make her bed, I must lie to her and TRICK her into doing her part in our family? Um, no. Miss Article Writer, you don't know me!

Now, I personality lends itself to be a bulldozer. (gasp!) I get that. I tend to be a "just do it and don't ask me why" kind of mom. I have learned that barking orders doesn't get results, and it causes questions and frustration on Abi's part. It's not fair to tell her to do something without explaining why. But dadgumit, I will NOT tell my children to make the bed, (or any other chore) for ficticious reasons, just to get more productivity out of them!

In our family, we don't pay for household chores. Rod and I will not give a single penny for housework. At all. Why? Well, the way I see it, Rod and I make the house payment. We do the maintenance. We provide the food, electricity, cable, Internet, and other miscellaneous luxuries. Our kids get to enjoy the fruit of our hard work by literally having a roof over their heads and food on our table. We are a family. A f-a-m-i-l-y. We are a team. We work together. It's just a given that we each do our part. We work hard to instill in Abi that our family unit is something we are proud of. Out of that love and commitment, we are responsible to each other.

Back to the article.

The train of thought that the author of the article was taking is EXACTLY why I started this blog. The way I see it, my generation has fallen prey to a line of thinking that is more concerned about making a child angry and somehow disrupting their psyche than teaching them the merit and honor of doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. By going around through the back door, we are teaching kids that authority doesn't matter, and that they only need to do tasks that have a reasoning behind it that they deem acceptable.

We do pay Abi. But it's for attitude. We had much rather reward her for choosing a good attitude than for making her flipping bed or cleaning her bathroom. But, that's a whole other blog for another day.

So, when your little darling asks why they have to make the bed or pick up trash that's not theirs, look them straight in the eye, smile, and say, "Because you're a part of this family. Isn't that an awesome reason?"

Sooner or later, they'll understand that THAT is the only reason they need.

Monday, March 1, 2010

So much to say...

Ok. So, you're reading this because you know I am a world renowned parenting expert, with three degrees behind my name, and even online courses proven to solve your child's issues by Friday.

Or not.

See, the thing is, I'm just me. Jill. Born to a recently married, barely adult couple in the 70's in rural Alabama. The big sister to a little girl ten years younger than me. Married to the love of my life at age 19, and jumping into the real world with both feet really young. My education in parenting has been that of over a decade of pastoring children.

And then, along came Abi. Sweet, innocent Abigail. She's the perfect mix of her daddy's sweetness and her mom's sourness. Since her (long coming) conception, Abi has been nothing but a joy. Her eyes are addicting. Her smile contagious. Her laugh comes from her soul. She always knows what to say, and most of the time, she knows when to say it. But of course, Abi is also a six year old girl.

Her clothes NEVER match. She hates her hair pulled up. She goes through cycles of phobias- such as: hating her armpits showing, pants being too tight, pants not tight enough, fire ants getting into her shoes, and (my personal favorite) alligators getting into her second story bedroom. Oh, and let's not forget her quirks. Like wearing socks pulled up to her knees with dress shoes (they were orange Halloween socks and it was Easter), carrying around a pink comb for weeks at a time, and her major aversion to all things denim.

Abi knows how to dig her heels in like a professional. She can cry, arch her back, and gasp for air, all in a tantrum of rage. She can look me square in the eye and defy me. But she doesn't. At least anymore. After much prayer and advice from my parents (who know a thing or two about raising strong willed children), coupled with the long suffering and stamina of her daddy and I, we are seeing strength and leadership in our little angel, where we once saw frustration and drama. Is our house drama free? Nope. She is female, after all. However, we've found our rhythm.

What should you expect from this blog? Just my current ponderings. My trials and errors. My failures as a mom, as well as my victories. If you're looking for words like "rationalizing" or "processing," that's not my parenting style and you won't find it here. If your child is best buddies with Hannah and Zac (yeah, those ones), you might find me Amish. But I'm a self-professed old school mom, who believes that raising kids can be a little easier than this world has made it out to be. But for it to become easier, we have to do the hard work.

Let's go. The adventure begins!