Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When the Parenting Manual Fails to Prepare You for the Situation You Face...

She came up stairs dressed and ready for the day with a big smile painted across her face.

“Mom, I’m ready for you to put French braids in my hair.”

I hugged her and got out the comb while she took her place in front of the mirror.

In a matter of moments I parted her hair and prepared to braid.

“Mom, I have a few coughs.”

“Okay, sweetheart, when did that start?”

“Just now.”

Her head sways slightly to the left and I know her braids will be crooked if she doesn’t hold still, which is certain to cause six year old heartbreak.

“Please let me know if your coughs get worse, honey. And, please keep your eyes forward of we can’t do your braids.”

“Okay, mommy. My tummy kind of hurts too.”

Annnnnnnnnnnd drop. My arms desperately reach for my sweet girl crashing towards the hallway carpet but they fail.

Dear God, what am I supposed to do? This was not covered in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting?” Do we go to the ER? Can I wait a half hour and call the pediatrician?” God what is going on? Please, PLEASE protect my girl.

My husband picks her six year old body up and carries her to the couch...

To finish reading my post & discuss how you balance protecting your child with letting go, please visit MODSquad

Monday, March 26, 2012

Teaching the Easter Story: {DIY} Resurrection Eggs

This year for Christmas we were very intentional about teaching the girls the Christmas story and we wanted to do the same for Easter because it is so easy to get wrapped up in the commercialism rather than the meaning of the holiday. Now that they are old enough to be influenced by what they are seeing and hearing, we want to make every effort for them to understand the “why” behind these cornerstone Christian holidays. After all, a deeper understanding will touch their heart and hopefully influence them to choose God’s best as they grow.

While browsing the online Christian bookstore I came across the idea of Resurrection Eggs. Interested, I did some more research and basically found them to be much like an Easter Advent. It is a countdown to prepare for the “big day,” but it helps teach the Easter story in the process. Since our girls loved our Christmas Advent this year, I jumped on board with the idea. If you are looking for an activity but don’t have time to make something, these are orderable (although I can’t tell you what the 12 items are). However, they are a very easy do it yourself project and I loved the flexibility of choosing what we would choose to emphasize for our girls.

There are SO MANY components to the Easter story that you could choose to incorporate, but my goal was simply to piece together the story that is spread across church Sundays and teach faithfulness to the father, sacrificial love, and the gift of forgiveness. Things that I didn’t include in our 12 that I did see in some Resurrection Egg sets were perfume (for Mary), dice (for casting lots), vinegar & a sponge, a whip, a spear, linen fabric (for the cloth Jesus’ body was wrapped in), etc. I didn’t see the idea of the heart for the two criminals in any of them, but for me it was critical because it shows a genuine repentant heart and how Jesus responds when we admit our sin – something I want my little ones to appreciate. The point is that there is not a “perfect 12.” You can make it to emphasize what you want.

Here are what went in my eggs:

Egg #1
Object: Blade of grass/palm
Message: Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Discussion Emphasis: People cheering on Jesus

Egg #2
Object: Small piece of soap
Massage: Jesus washed the disciples feet
Scripture: John 13: 1-17
Discussion Emphasis: Humility. Our lives are meant to glorify God and serve others.

Egg #3
Object: Cracker/Passover bread
Message: Jesus ate the Last Supper with the disciples
Scripture: Matthew 26: 17-19, 26-28
Discussion Emphasis: God is present with us in the communion meal

Egg #4
Object: Flower
Message: Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane
Scripture: Mark 14:32
Discussion Emphasis: Importance of being honest with God about our feelings and praying through everything

Egg #5
Object: Dimes
Message: Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver
Scripture: Matthew 26: 14-16, Matthew 27:3
Discussion Emphasis: Sometimes we might feel like doing the wrong thing (betraying what Jesus would ask of us), but if we do it hurts Him and we don’t feel good in the end.

Egg #6
Object: Feather
Message: Jesus predicted Peter would deny him three times & the rooster crowed
Scripture: Matthew 26:31-35, 69-74
Discussion Emphasis: Jesus knows the choices we will make. Let’s try and make choices that honor rather than hurt Him.

Egg #7
Object: Cross
Message: Jesus carried His own cross
Scripture: John 19: 16-17
Discussion Emphasis: Sometimes we have to endure tough, painful situations in life.

Egg #8
Object: Thorn
Message: Jesus was mocked, beaten, and wore a crown of thorns
Scripture: Matthew 27:19-31
Discussion Emphasis: He was willing to take so much pain because He loved us so much.

Egg #9
Object: A heart
Message: There was a criminal on each side of Jesus
Scripture: Luke 23: 39-43
Discussion Emphasis: With a repentant heart for sin we are shown undeserved forgiveness.

Egg #10
Object: Nail
Message: Jesus died on the cross for our sins
Scripture: Luke 23: 44-46
Discussion Emphasis: Jesus stayed on the cross because of His intense love for us. Because of His power, He could have come down (if that would have been God’s plan), but because He knew we too would sin and hurt God’s’ heart He stayed on the cross and died for every one of our sins so that in repenting we could be washed clean and reconciled with God again. Talk about importance of not taking sin lightly and prayer for doing what is right.

Egg #11
Object: Small rock
Message: The stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was rolled away.
Scripture: John 20:1
Discussion Emphasis: God is up to something. When we think we know the end of the story we are not always right. We need to keep listening.

Egg #12
Object: Nothing :)
Message: The tomb is empty. Christ is risen!
Scripture: Matthew 28: 5-6
Discussion Emphasis: God is bigger and more powerful than any situation. Death does not get the final victory.

All of these items were things we had at our house. In fact, I told the girls we were starting an Easter activity but didn’t tell them what. They did a Scavenger hunt for the items and I prepared it after they went to bed.

I spent a total of $4 to make this priceless set that we can keep and use year after year. I probably could've spent $1.50 for the eggs alone, but the cute basket was on sale and my girls wanted pink and purple confetti in it. Go figure, they are girls through and through. :)

If you are going to give this a try, gather your things (it took my girls about a half hour to do the scavenger hunt) and be prepared to start this Wednesday so the final (empty) egg is opened on Easter. I’m so excited. Nothing melts my heart more than the sound of my 6 year old reading Scripture.

Shared at Pintastic Monday, Gussy Sews

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Conversation All Parents Must Have BEFORE Their Child Carries a Cell Phone

I will never forget my 13th birthday. I wore a dress and glasses that I now abhor but can still remember the sense of elation that came in opening my very own phone. Not only was I getting one for my room, but it was THE phone. You know, the clear kind that had colored components inside. It was uber cool and it was mine.

If my parents wanted, they still could have chosen to listen in because the phones were corded. After all, in those days (and I’m pretty young) phones were actually used for talking…voice to voice communication. Welcome to 2012. THE phone is no longer a corded phone with colored components that you are lucky enough to have if you had the proper jack to plug it in to in your room. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of today’s teens haven’t seen corded phones. THE phone would probably be named the iPhone, which actually doesn’t even require people to press buttons. They can speak and Siri will do it all for them. Oh how quickly times change…

As you can imagine, the change in technology has ushered in a change in how teens are communicating. And, this week yet another reminder has surfaced reminding we parents that we need to talk with our kids before trouble begins. First news of cyberbullying allegedly leading to a teen’s suicide and now information on the frequency of teens texting.

I’ll take a moment to let you take a gander in your mind as to how many texts today’s teens send on average. Got your number?????

According to the Pew Internet & Family Life Project, teenagers today send an average of 60 texts per day.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love text messaging. It offers a quiet ease and wonderful convenience for simple messages and plan making.

However, this too is a privilege and WHAT we text matters.

And this leads to a conversation that must be had. Shockingly, one in five teens is involved in sexting, or sending sexually suggestive word or photo content. Of those who sent the sexts, 43% were asked, 40% just wanted to have fun, 21% were trying to impress someone, and 8% were hoping to try and get a date. Insert here major heart palpitations. Relationships started this way are sure to end in disaster so let’s divert that train now with some helpful advice on healthy approaches to teen dating relationships.

Some of these voices are shared in Who’s In Your Social Network.

Here’s the even more scary news. 9% say that their photo ended up online where anyone could view it, 12% accidentally sent it to the wrong person, and 30% say their photo was forwarded on by the receiver to someone they didn’t want to see it.

Despite this, 23% of teens feel sexting is fine as long as both the sender and receive think it’s okay and 48% think adults are overreacting about the whole issue, but get this

Sexting is child pornography and those sending AND receiving these texts are being punished by law.

Teens around the country have been charged and put on sex offender registries because they are making mobile device decisions completely unaware of the severe consequences they carry. And, if you think this is just a big city problem, guess again. It’s happening everywhere.

Two decades ago “sexting” was an unknown word my parents didn’t face. Today it is common terminology that I will have to address with my girls before they get their first cell phones. It might not be a fun conversation to have, but MUCH better a little discomfort on the early side than the conversation filled with heartbreak and penalty after it is too late.

Texting is a wonderful feature, but we all need to remember that it is like squeezing toothpaste from the toothpaste tube. Whatever is texted out there is "out there" for good.

Keep talkin' parents!

Statistics shared from InternetSafety101.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Your Child Being Cyber Bullied?

Last week parents everywhere were rattled when national news reported a 14-year-old hanging herself after experiencing bullying online and in the classroom.

Sadly, Eden Wormer's struggle in not unique. According to recent statistics 75% of American teenagers say they have been bullied online but only 10% actually tell their parents.

In a world where the great majority of teenagers are on Facebook, My Space, and/or twitter, opening lines of communication with our children about their experience is critical so they don't silently fall into a pit of pain too deep to climb out of.

Bullies have always had power, but the invention of social networking has made it even easier. In Pam and I's newest book "Who's In Your Social Network" Jesse explains:

People cyber-bully all the time to be “cool” and it’s terrible. People say so many hurtful things to people. Half the time you can’t believe that people would actually say some of the stuff they do but I think they feel more comfortable doing it because they are behind the screen of a computer rather than face to face. It’s totally a cheap thing to do but it is very powerful. I’m in high school and I’ve been harassed. I’m sure it will keep happening more frequently.

As much as everyone hates it, they too can be sometimes hypocrites. I’ve seen plenty of people say, “I hate it when people bully others” but then they turn around and tag team with another bullier instead of doing anything about the situation. People don’t like admitting it, but it’s true. You know how I know? Because even though I have been bullied and hate it and know how rotten it makes you feel, I’ve still done it. Computers just make it too easy.

Now I am trying to fully purify myself with a new, positive attitude. I’m trying really hard to become a friendlier person by getting involved with community groups, and my church.

So what can we do as parents?

1) Make sure your child is ready for social media. According to Facebook rules they should be at least 13 before creating an account and there is importance in honorng this rule. Your teen needs to be more emotionally prepared so that their emotions are less likely to be swayed by social media. And, once they are on they will be hooked. Common Sense Media reports “Online social networking has become such a prime form of communication that 51% of teens admit to checking their sites more than once a day and 22% check theirs more than ten times a day.”

2) Encourage your child to consider how every word they type impacts their character. It's important to think before they post, ESPECIALLY in the cyber world where joking and emotions aren't clear. Use nice words.

2) Before allowing your children to create a social media account talk to them about the prevalence of online bullying or, if they are already on, share with them this news story to open dialogue and create trust about the topic. Encourage them to talk to you right away if they feel attacked. And, if they are being bullied be sure to report it to the school.

4) Remind your children what a friend is. They would not hang out with someone in their day to day life that was threatening them so they certainly don't need to put up with it online. Let them know that if someone is wrting hurtful things they should report it and then "de-friend" or quit following them.

5) Make sure that you are your child's friend so that you can see their wall and what they are being tagged in. Times have changed and today this is an additional parenting responsibility necessary for watching/protecting our children. Talk with them about anything that causes alarm.

6) Pray. You can't force your daughter or son to tell you everything, but you can show them that you care, talk with them LOTS, and pray over them.

Teens often feel alone or embarrassed when walking through this experience. Showing that you care and opening conversation and a safe place to discuss "what is new" on their social networking sites and how it impacts them will go a long way.

If you need additional resource help in your home, Pam and I's new book "Who's In Your Social Network" will bring new awareness to you and empower your teen to handle this sadly common experience. You can order here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Counting Our Blessings {Despite Influenza A}

I'm not going to lie. It's been a rough week. Wednesday began with Grace suddenly passing out while I was doing her hair for school and Thursday ended with Ava (10 months) being diagnosed with Influenza A. Since my mommy heart had to snuggle my baby I too ended up with with this horrible flu (despite all getting our yearly vaccine. Apparently they didn't have the serum quite right for the strain this year). Today we're all fever free and I'm feeling somewhat normal again so I thought it would be good to count my blessings because, in the midst of the chaos, there have been many-

* Grace didn't hit her head on the door when she passed out. She came within an inch.

* The fact that Grace passed out - as odd as that sounds. She had no fever or any other indicator of illness. If she hadn't passed out she would have gone to school and stressed her body out more.

* A GREAT pediatrician's office. We called right when they opened and they saw Grace immediately. Xrays revealed inflammation in her lungs and air around her heart from a virus.

* The pediatrician bummed Grace out when she said she had to stay home from school for the day but ELATED her when she printed copies of the xray for Grace to show her class. They just finished a unit on the body.

* Our incredible school. Naturally I was nervous about Grace going back and they completely put me at ease and kept me updated on how she was doing.

* Our pediatrician's office. AGAIN. When Ava suddenly spiked a high fever Thursday afternoon and I descrived her symptoms they felt she should be seen and I set an appointment for first thing Friday morning. I thought we were done but then the nurse called me again to say she spoke with the other nurses and doctor on call and felt I should bring her in right away. Since I had an appointment set, she could have let it be, but she took the initiative to make sure my baby got the care she needed when she needed it.

* A smart acute care doctor. He wanted to test for Influenza and I basically suggested it wasn't necessary since we were all vaccinated. He said they've seen a lot of positives in the vaccinated community this year and sure enough, my baby was added to that group. :(

* My in-laws. They graciously took Hannah on Friday so that she could be away from the germ pool and I could care for my sick baby. Knowing they were both getting the attention they needed was invaluable.

* The faithful prayers of family and friends...even sweet Western North Dakota folk we don't even know thanks to my sister in law.

* My in-laws. AGAIN. My asthmatic lungs couldn't hold a candle to the wicked flu bug so they took the older two to an event our immediate family had been anticipating for months.

* My husband. He is an incredible caretaker. While I shook in bed with a fever & endured a headache that seriously felt like someone drilling into my head he made me chicken noodle soup, brought me meds, played with kids, did laundry, and cloroxed the house.

* My bed.

* TamiFlu. Both my baby and I qualified for this because of age and lung issues and neither of us had the fever for more than 24 hours. It's worth the money.

* Chicken noodle soup, 7-Up, and monster cookie ice cream.

* Little Nebbie. That is the name we gave my nebulizer when we were first married because it went basically everywhere with us since was asthma was so bad. It's since gotten so controlled that I'm on very little meds and rarely need it, but this week 3 out of the 4 females in this house have needed it. We've labelled the masks so that we don't share germs :)

* Pinterest. I added lots of new recipes and craft ideas for the kids to my boards while breathing in the albuterol goodness.

* Laughter. In true form my brother texted me this after hearing the news, "You people need to stay away from society for a while and then hire intek to come clean your infested house." Literally made me laugh out loud.

* Better abs. My stomach hurts from blowing my nose so often and coughing so hard. I don't care to make this a primary form of exercise but I'll take whatever muscle tone I can get. :)

* Healing. We've all been fever free for the last 24 hours!!!!

* Perspective in God's Word.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him." Psalm 28:7

Please join me in praying protection over my husband and 4 year old who have so far dodged this mean bug. And now, I'm off to take a nap. I'm not 100% but we're all most definitely on the mend!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oh, The Places They'll Go

Last week was Read Across America in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. If you have children you would be hard pressed to miss it. Schools everywhere celebrated with their own unique flair.

I was blessed to be a part of the party in Grace’s class where their party included eating green eggs and ham.

They got two thumbs up!

One of Dr. Seuss’s most popular books that encourages children and adults like to dream is “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” In fact, my pastor used it in the sermon last Sunday to challenge us to follow God’s call over our lives, knowing there will be challenges but recognizing the will immense fulfillment that comes in living out the life He has designed for us.

Clearly each of us has different gifts and society functions at its finest when we each serve in the roles we do best.

As I observed the teacher in Grace’s classroom again, I couldn’t help but stand in awe. She is patient with a group of little people that have diverse personalities. Her innovative ideas make learning fun and her acute awareness of each student’s level ensures that each child will be met where they are at and challenged to grow. And, her heart for all the boys and girls that fill that classroom shines through in each interaction with them. Because she is so great, Grace can’t wait to go to school in the morning. The first year of full day school has been a smashing success and the groundwork has been laid for many more.

I was once told that finding the right school is like finding the perfect home. You just walk in and you know that it is for you.

That was most definitely true in our preschool and when we prayed about elementary schools and walked in to ours we felt the same sense of peace. A friend from church’s beautiful smile greeted me at the front desk. The extreme organization ensures the safety we desire and the parent involvement is a dream-come-true for those of us who want to be involved in the learning process but don’t possess the gift of being primary teacher ourself. Grace’s classroom has a parent in it every day. Sometimes more than one. And the principal is incredible. When we first met her, she introduced herself to Grace as a friend and boy has she lived up to that. My daughter doesn’t see her as an authority to be feared but a compassionate mommy who makes sure everyone is safe, happy, and successful…and word from Grace is that she’s a pretty great hugger too. :) I can’t speak to that, but I do know that I emailed her a simple safety question today expecting a easy email response and was shocked to receive a phone call because she cares so much. In a demanding job with lots on her plate, she certainly didn’t have to, but she did.

We wouldn’t want our children any place else. When we drop Grace off at school, we know that she will be safe, academically challenged, and have fun because the people there love our children as much as anyone who is not their parent feasibly could.

So, for all my parent readers, I want to encourage you to somehow thank the people that you’ve entrusted to help educate your kid(s). Their additional influence has helped your children dream of going the places they will one day go – a fun discussion you may have been fortunate to have in your home last week. I know that my sixth grade teacher is responsible for the way I balance my checkbook to this day and some of my high school English teachers had a big influence in developing my writing skill that helped land some exciting book contracts. School workers help students learn to better function in this big world and identify the gifts God has planted within them so they can go to unimaginable places and achieve extraordinary success. I myself am going to try and give back by co-chairing staff appreciation next year. As a newbie in an extremely organizing PTA you might want to offer up a prayer that I don’t mess up that gig. :)

And, to all my readers that have been called to work in a school, THANK YOU for helping shape futures. Your influence is invaluable.

I saw an idea on pinterest to get an “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” book for each child and have their teachers from pre-K through graduation sign it to give as a graduation. I’m totally going to go out and buy three to do this (adding a few more roles signatures in) partially because I want them to look back in that grand moment of life and see all their cheerleaders along the way, but also because I know each of those people will forever hold a special place in their hearts.

School workers invest in our children and that investment changes lives.
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