My name is Leslie and I am an Enneagram Type 6. I am mom to four children, Alyssa 19, Maya 14, Caleb 10, and Kate 8. My son Caleb has mild Autism, which comes with many challenges, but he is very high functioning. thing that I have learned about parenting is that it is not a one size fits all thing. Each child is very different, and that means that what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another….
Today I am guest posting over at clarity with charity, read the post here.
The other night, I went to bed feeling defeated and like I was failing at being a mom. As my son oh so aptly reminded me, “It is the usual schedule that I watch Garfield and then I turn on the fireplace to get to bed.” “Yes, baby, it is, but it’s late, and we just can’t stay up any longer tonight,” I replied. In my mind, I thought “Yes, and if I had gotten off my butt and not watched that last episode of Sharp Objects,then you would have been able to stay on your schedule. And you wouldn’t be crying right now. But I am a terrible, lazy, mom and I should really be ashamed of myself.”
You may be thinking, um kid, get over it. But what you may not know is that my son has Autism. Kids with Autism like routine, and when the routine is thrown off, it is really hard for them to understand why. Even the soundest logic cannot remedy having their routine thrown off. The best you can do is wait for them to calm down, give them a hug, tell them you are sorry, and don’t forget about Garfield the next night. Unless you want to go to bed feeling like a crappy mom. Again.
Now, I know that I am not a bad mom. Am I a perfect mom? No, absolutely not! But I am a good mom. I am disorganized, forgetful, scatterbrained, and generally all over the place, but I love and take care of my kids. But this really got me thinking, what about the other moms that I see who seem like they have it all together? All of the moms who I am sure are doing better than me?
Then, I wonder, do any of my friends or acquaintances think that I have it all together and am doing it better than them?
Wow, I really hope not! But if they do, it gives me hope. Hope that it really is true that no one has it all together. No one is doing it all perfectly. Hope, that everyone feels like a failure sometimes, and that it isn’t just me.
So, I wonder what it would look like if we stopped being so hard on ourselves and gave ourselves the credit we actually deserve. All of my kids were fed today. All of my kids went to school with clothes on today. Hey, I actually knew that PE was today, and didn’t send my kid in sandals! (like I did last week) (I mean technically it was the first week of school, and I was mentally unprepared to be on a schedule again. So, whatever. That doesn’t even count as an actual mistake.)
And why do we feel the need to be perfect anyway?
Is social media that is driving this? Or has it always just been that we are way too worried about what other people think? And why is there such a nasty voice in my head that gets to tell me what kind of mother I am anyway? Who the heck does she think she is? And where was she when I ironed everyone’s church clothes, and got to church on time yesterday? She sure didn’t have ANYTHING to say about that!
Y’all, this isn’t the first time that I have beat myself up for any number of things that I thought that I wasn’t doing well enough at. And honestly, it probably won’t be the last. But I really hope that in the morning light, I can see that I was just really tired yesterday, and Sharp Objects is really that good. Also, my son didn’t die from missing his nightly Garfield episode last night. He was fine, and he got a good nights sleep.
Perfect is a myth!
None of us is ever going to be the perfect wife, girlfriend, mom, sister, employee, etc. Perfect is a myth. A lie that we have believed for so long, that we often can’t see the truth. The truth is that we are all special in our own unique ways. God gave us all strengths, talents, and gifts. We also ALL have weaknesses, and things that we just aren’t great at. I could name a few and probably with way more confidence than I could name my strengths.
That last statement really says so much about the state of mind that so many of us have. Why is it so hard to confidently name the things we are good at, while we can come up with a list of things we are bad at? Let’s try something here. Make a list of all the things that you are good at and post it where you can see it. Read it. Read it again. Every time that nasty voice tries to tell you who you are, read the list!
*This is my first post in a new series called First Friday. On the first Friday of every month, I will be writing about something that is on my heart, and that I hear my friends struggling with. I hope it will encourage you! If you have an idea for First Friday, I would love to hear it. You can email me at email@example.com, find me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.*
At the beginning of 2018, I had this idea that I wanted to spend the year being intentionally grateful. It was my hope to write about my experiences and journal through what that looked like in my life. What I found out though, was that it was a lot harder than I thought to write about something that I was experiencing in real time. I quickly realized that I really had some growing to do, and I wasn’t ready to share that with the world just yet.
This year has been a particularly complicated year for me. It was the second half of my oldest daughter’s first year of college. It was my middle daughter’s first year as a teenager. It is the last year that my son will be in elementary school. My baby girl is no longer a baby, and she hasn’t been for a while. Things are changing, and sometimes things change so quickly that it will make your head spin. I could tell you so many stories, but those aren’t my stories to tell.
My story is what I have learned that it means to be intentionally grateful when life has you all mixed up and you just don’t know what to do next. One of these days, I may write a book about how to survive the teenage years. As of now, I have one down, one in the beginning and two to come, so we will just have to see how this all turns out first. But for now, I can tell you what standing in the middle of all this beauty and mess and trying to find something to be grateful for has taught me.
The first thing I learned is that I was not always very grateful.
I learned that I am often dissatisfied, frustrated, and exhausted. To be fair, I am a very glass half full kind of person. I try not to be negative. I try to build others up. But, in our culture, stuff or lack thereof can be a huge obstacle in the way of being grateful. So, what do you do when your life doesn’t really look like what you thought it would?
My thirty’s seem to have gone by pretty quickly so far. I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was 33, and now I am suddenly 37! It seemed like my 20’s lasted forever! The thing about getting older is that you start to measure your life against what you have accumulated. Like how big is your house? How many degrees do you have? Is your home beautifully decorated? Do your kids rooms look like a Pottery Barn ad? Are your clothes fashionable? Do you have a nice car?
Unfortunately, when you aren’t able to tick a bunch of stuff off the list, you start to feel like you may have failed in life. When your life seems stuck in one place and you aren’t moving forward as quickly as you hoped, it can be very discouraging. It is very easy to get stuck in that mindset and become ungrateful.
When you stop being thankful for what you do have, and start wishing for things you don’t have, you run the risk of losing sight of what’s really important.
And that is the biggest issue that I have had to wrestle with this year. Where does it stop? I think we somehow draw an imaginary line where we say, “If I can just get here, things will be okay.” But when we get there, are things really okay? Is it really all that we thought it would be? Do we really believe that the line will truly satisfy us in the long term?
So, one thing I am trying to learn is where to place my value. Is it more important to have a huge house or to have good friends around you? Is it more important to give your kids everything you didn’t have or to love your children well? When times got hard for me this year and I felt as if I was trying to stand up in the midst of a hurricane, I was not glad that I had beautiful decorations to go home to. That wasn’t even on my radar.
I was grateful for my friends.
I was grateful that they cared enough to text me and check on me. I was grateful that they kept my kids all day long. I was grateful that when I was ready, that they were there to listen to me.
I was grateful for my husband.
Josh and I have been through a lot together in the last (almost) 20 years. I was glad to have him to walk through the tough times with. I was grateful that we could discuss everything, and even if we had no solutions, we knew that we had each other.
I was grateful for my church.
I was grateful for the love and support I recieved from our church staff. God really pushed me this year to get out of my comfort zone and serve as a Group Leader at my church. It was scary, but it made our big church smaller and more personal. It is nice to have a place where you don’t go out of obligation, but a place where you truly want to be. A place that fills you up and encourages you to keep pressing on.
What I learned this year is at the end of the day, it’s not the stuff. It’s never the stuff. It’s the people. The people that God has placed in my life.
I love reading, and I love getting new perspectives and gaining knowledge on almost any subject. But, I don’t read How – To books on parenting. This is not because I think I have it all figured out, trust me I don’t! But guess what I know about parenting: There is no one – size – fits – all box when it comes to raising children. Once you think you finally have it figured out, you don’t! If you didn’t already know that, I am sorry to be the one to break it to you.
Parenting is a Humbling Experience
We all want to be the best parents that we can be. We want to raise our kids up well, and not make the mistakes that our parents did. Those are great goals, but guess what? You are going to make mistakes. You are going to get it wrong. You are going to need to learn to apologize to your children when you are wrong.
What!? Yes, you are. And no, this does not undermine your authority. This does not excuse their behavior, it corrects the way you responded to it. What it does is teach your children something very valuable: How to acknowledge when they are wrong. This is something that that will help them tremendously in their career, schooling, friendships, marriages, and parenting.
Having to be right all the time, and never conceding your mistakes will stunt your growth as a person. This is not a trait you want to pass on to your children!
Have you ever heard that saying that God laughs when we make plans? Well I don’t know if God actually laughs at us, but I bet he chuckles the same way a seasoned parent does when their new parent friends start talking about schedules.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Schedules and routines are great things. But they are not EVERYTHING. All of your babies will be different, and you will make yourself crazy trying to make them all the same. So your first baby slept all night at 2 months, napped three times a day, and potty trained at two? That’s wonderful, mine did too. My second baby screamed at bed time, took maybe a nap a day until she quit, and would poop in her pull ups and take them off and leave them there.
Kids need routines.You need a routine! But you have to be flexible. Learning how to roll with the punches is key!
Children are going to have very different personalities. There will be similarities in all of your children, but be prepared for the differences to be much greater. Some kids are really sensitive, some are stubborn, some are easy going, and some are very dramatic. Unfortunately, as much as you may want to, you just can’t parent them all the same.
On a side note, be prepared to have a child whose personality conflicts greatly with yours. You need to recognize this, and be gentle with the way you treat them. It can be easy to fall in to the trap of “why can’t you be more like…” with this child. This will only strain your relationship and damage your child’s self confidence.
Be prepared to re-evaluate your parenting strategy with every child.
Ages and Stages
Enjoy the ages between 5 and 11. Generally speaking, this will be the least complicated, least exhausting time with your kids. The ages between birth and four are great in many ways, but they can also be exhausting. You have never gotten so much done on so little sleep.
You will spend the years between birth and 13, working, molding, teaching, and really feeling like you have made some great parenting decisions. Then 13 comes, and it will hit you like a ton of bricks. God help us all through the teenage years. I have a daughter who is almost 19, and one who is 13. (and the 9 and 7 year olds) They are polar opposites, and I am just doing the best that I can. If you have teenagers, you know what I am talking about!
Just go ahead and get used to learning something new EVERY day.
I am not a parenting guru, but if I could give you one piece of advice it is this: Pay Attention This does not mean that you have to be all up in their business and helicopter hover around them. Just pay attention to what is going on with your child, while giving them the space to become who they are. It’s never an easy balance, and you are going to mess up sometimes. That’s okay. Humility and Grace. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost. Proverbs 22:6 MSG
Life and aging have been on my mind quite a bit lately. I’m not sure exactly what has sparked this, but I suspect that the fact that I am turning 37 soon may have something to do with it. I have found myself feeling like I wish I could have another baby.
In my sane, rational mind, I know that this is not something that I actually want. It has more to do with the children I have than fictional babies that I don’t. They are all growing up, and a chapter of my life is beginning to close.
Since last year when Kate started Kindergarten, I have loved having all my children in school. Until recently, I haven’t missed them at all. I enjoyed the quiet house, and the ability to get things done in peace. All of a sudden, it has crept up on me that I miss them. A lot.
I think what I dislike the most is the fast, frantic pace at which our days go. Mornings can get really crazy at our house. I am tired. They are tired. They are grumpy. I am trying to get a child with Autism to take his medication and feeling the frustration that we go through this same song and dance every day.
“Bud, we both know this only ends one way. You take the medication, and then we all go to school. So why are you making me want to scream like a mad woman at you for being so ridiculous?”
Literally. Every Morning.
The last thing I want is to have to yell at my kids in the morning before school. That is not how I want to start my day, and not how I want to start theirs either. Can you imagine if I tried to add a baby to the mix? Please. You would have to cart me off to a mental hospital. I’m not even kidding.
So what is it that has me feeling this way? I think 40 is creeping up on me and I am realizing that my life is finally to a point that I can actually start doing some of the things I have put off for so long. And that is really scary, because I have only done for others for such a long time.
I know I can raise a baby. I have managed through four, so I have got that down! The things that I have dreamed of doing for so long, are things that I don’t know if I can do. They are scary things. As long as I keep them in a little box labeled dreams, they are safe. But if I open the box, what happens next?
I don’t know, and that is the thing! It is so much easier to stick to what you know, but how will you ever know what you can accomplish if you don’t open that box?
So if you are holding on to the things you know, like me, and afraid to move toward the dreams that God has put on your heart. Stop.
Step out in faith, and say Okay, God. Here I am.
And see what he does.
I find that when I read, it gives me so much inspiration. If you are someone who struggles with fear like me, here are some great books to read. These are all books that I have read, and I very highly recommend them!
Spring Break is next week here in Nashville, and I have been planning ideas for how I am going to keep my kids entertained.
First, we are going to college!
This coming weekend, we are traveling to Harding University to visit our oldest daughter for Spring Sing. It is a huge deal at her school, and she is really excited for us to come experience it. This means that we will be spending Easter out of town for the first time since we moved away to Virginia a few years ago. Only this time, the Easter Bunny is coming to a hotel room. This should be fun!
We are coming back Sunday night and I am trying to plan some fun things for the kids for the rest of the week. Since I am already on the hunt for things to do, I thought I could save you the trouble and share what I find here with you!
Now, Spring Break in Nashville can go one of two ways, it is either beautiful weather or Spring has decided it isn’t quite ready to be with us yet, and it’s miserable. So I am looking for back up indoor plans too!
Here are my outdoor picks:
Bicentennial Mall State Park – this is one of my favorite parks here in Nashville. It is quiet, and there is plenty of room to run around. The amphitheatre is great for sitting, playing with toys or a picnic. (Bonus points for the splash pad that is open for the summer)
The park is also right next to the Nashville Farmer’s Market, which is really fun to take the kids too as well. They usually have some vendors there every day and inside there are a bunch of cool places to eat, including crepes and ice cream.
On the other side of the river close to Nissan Stadium is Cumberland Park. This park has a couple of different play areas (including a splash pad), a climbing wall, and a sand area. There is plenty of room to eat a picnic lunch. Also, if you feel comfortable you can walk your kids down to the river and let them throw some rocks.
Our family has a membership to the Nashville Zoo , so that is always a great option. We have a pass that includes my parents and all the grandchildren, so we can also bring some friends along. Walking the entire zoo can be a little bit much for my kids sometimes, but we often go just to play on the giant playground. It is huge, so be prepared to have to go looking for your kids. But, my kids love, love, love this place.
If your kids are into hiking, take them to Radnor Lake and make an adventure of it. Pack a picnic lunch, and go check out the trails and the lake. There is also an aviary with owls and bald eagles you can hike to. There is a trail map on the website, if you want to plan ahead.
Plan ahead for some fun at home and order some sidewalk chalk at Crayola. They have some cool sets including Minions! Through April 2nd there is a deal for National Crayon Day – Free Box of 24 count Crayons with $10+ Order with code AFFRBOX18.
Here are my Indoor picks:
The Frist Center is free for anyone under 18. It is $12 for adults and if you are a mom who happens to be a college student, like myself, it is $9. I have always wanted to check this place out, so I am excited to put it on my list of things to do.
Laser Quest is a fun indoor option and right now Living Social has a discount deal. We took my youngest two a few weeks ago and had a lot of fun. Then, we ate at the Old Spaghetti factory down the street. Afterward, we found a candy/ice cream shop on Broadway and let the kids pick out a couple of things.
Another cool local place is Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I have never been, but it looks like it would be fun and that the kids would find it interesting. Living Social has a discount for here as well!
Now, I know it is Spring Break, and you are probably ready for warm temperatures, but I have to mention Centennial Sportsplex’s Ice Rink. The admission is not bad, and my kids love to go. They do have the skating trainer’s that you can rent for your child. If you are more into swimming, they also have an indoor pool on the other side!
I am sure that there are many more ideas, but I really wanted to include ones that were on the more affordable side. What do you love to do in Nashville? I would love to see your comments here or on Facebook! And if you don’t live in Nashville, you might think about a cheap summer trip!
*This post contains affiliate links,and if you make a purchase I get a small commission. Please read my disclosure policy here.*
A few weeks ago, Josh and I celebrated 19 years of marriage. It seems like a long time, and honestly it feels like a long time. We have been through so much together.
I decided that it was time to plan something fun for us to do. I thought I was thinking small by wanting to get a hotel for one night here in Nashville. Well…. the downside to being the it city is that hotel costs are outrageous. I’m talking $400 per night outrageous. So that was a big fat no!
I called my mom to see if she would brainstorm a fun cheap idea with me, and she mentioned that she had plenty of airline points to spare. So, we started looking up the cheapest places to fly. Vegas? Too many points. New York? Still too many points.
I began to get a little discouraged, and then a lightbulb went off! Orlando! We had leftover tickets to Universal from the hurricane two years ago, so we could do that basically for free. (Well, prepaid.) The flights were just the right amount of points and I found a hotel for really cheap. (Side note: Maybe spend a little more on the hotel next time.)
So in a matter of an hour, I went from one night in Nashville to two nights in Orlando. I was ecstatic, because I knew that Josh and I needed a little time away together. We have both been really exhausted and burnt out, and we needed to be able to connect. So this was really a huge blessing for us.
Other than the tiny hotel room, we had so much fun. We were just amazed for the first couple of hours that we actually were going to have two days with no kids. I can’t remember the last time that happened. We rode a huge roller coaster together, which was terrifying, but fun. We walked around holding hands and reveled in the fact that it wasn’t our kids that were crying or complaining!
My only complaint is that our vacation was way too short! But even though that was all that we had time for(Could afford!), I am so grateful that we were able to get away. It was refreshing for both of us, and some much needed alone time.
Now that we finally got away for a few days, I can’t wait until we are able to do something again. I am thinking next time it needs to be a beach trip!
Back in the fall, Josh and I finally decided that we were going to join a small group at our church.
We really don’t love to give up our relaxation time in the evenings, so this was kind of a big deal for us. We were also both really apprehensive about joining a group where we knew absolutely no one. The first night we walked in we were both pretty nervous. But, we ended up really liking everyone in our group, and feeling like we had done something positive for our marriage.
*This post contains affiliate links, please see my disclosure policy here.*
We started to notice a theme as we discussed our lives and how we were creating spiritual intimacy in our marriage.
One word that kept coming up was Intentional. Josh and I really had to take a hard look and realize that we weren’t being very intentional anymore about worshiping and praying together outside of church. Josh and I are really close, but there is something about a couple praying together that creates a closeness that you will only find in those moments together.
It is really easy to go through the day and kiss each other goodnight and go to bed, but you have to be intentional about saying “Let’s pray together.” This is not always easy to do, especially when you are exhausted after work and kids activities all day long.
We decided that we would start reading a couples devotional together. The readings are short and we try to dscuss them in the mornings. We do not always succeed at this, and that is okay. But, what we are doing is creating an intentional practice in our marriage that we hope to become a habit in our marriage.
You can learn so much from other couples.
Josh and I just celebrated 19 years of marriage, and we have been married longer than anyone in our group. So we naturally thought that we might have more insight than some of the other couples. In many areas we do, but we have discovered that we can learn so much from other couples. Even couples who have been married for half the time that we have.
So I would encourage you to find other couples or a small group to be in. It has been really good for us as a couple and gotten us out of our comfort zone and brought some new ideas and aspects into our marriage. It has reminded us to be Intentional with each other in our marriage.
If you are in a point of your marriage where you don’t think your spouse would even go to church or a group with you, here is a book that I read a few years ago. This book worked on my heart in a way that really began to change my marriage: The Power of a Praying® Wife
So I started out the year really excited for my new series, which I started but never continued. That is not so awesome if you are trying to be a consistent blogger. But plans changed and I had to take on another job, school, etc, and the series just got left in the dust with all of my other brilliant ideas that I never follow through on.
It is so easy to blog about meals, and grocery deals, but it isn’t always easy to be authentic on the internet and share details of what is going on in your life. When it’s easy, I can write about it all day long, but when it’s hard I avoid it like the plague. So here is the real truth: It wasn’t the job, school, etc. It was just that I didn’t make time to do it. Plain and simple.
But don’t we all do that? How often is it easier to scroll through Instagram or Facebook, when we have stuff to actually do? We have lives to actually live and relationships to nurture, but we stare at our phones or televisions because it is easier.
I have always had these huge dreams to write a book, and to be a blogger whose blog is actually read by other people. But that is really hard work and it’s easier (but maybe a little soul crushing)to go work in an office for a steady paycheck. (not that you can’t do both!)It’s easy to ignore your calling and dreams when you tell yourself that it’s crazy and irresponsible.
But even though they often seem crazy, irresponsible, and unattainable, I am GRATEFUL for huge dreams. I am grateful for the ambitions that I have and I want to try to be a better steward of the gifts that God has given me. I am grateful for the hard stuff, because it helps me to grow as a person. Even if it is never more than a hobby, you should be grateful for the things that you love to do and I should too. These are the things that give us joy and we need to make time for them!
What thing that you love have you been avoiding and know you should make time for?
For the last few years I have had many friends talk about what their word for the year was. I have always loved the idea of having a word for the year, but I have never bothered to actually do it. This year, I have a word and truth is I sort of came upon it by accident a couple of weeks ago.
These last few months have been a little difficult for Josh and I. We had some things happen that set us back a bit in the fall. So needless to say, we have both really struggled with the why’s of it all. It has been very frustrating and made us wonder if we will ever achieve the goals we have set. Mostly, it has brought on a great feeling of dissatisfaction with our lives right now. To be completely honest, I just feel so tired of feeling this way and allowing life’s struggles to make me feel this way.
I think where this all started for me was on Christmas Eve. Josh and I were up late wrapping the Christmas presents, and I remember worrying that we didn’t get enough for the kids. I imagined their disappointed faces when they saw that there wasn’t quite as much under the tree this year. I went to bed that night hoping that they just wouldn’t notice.
All of my fears and worries were completely put to rest the next morning when (at 7 am, I finally gave in after telling Caleb to go back to sleep at least 5 times since 4 am) all of the kids were really excited about their presents. There were oohs and ahhs even coming from the two tired teenagers. They were grateful for what we had been able to give them, and not disappointed at all. As I watched them open and smile, it just really warmed my heart and I wondered why I had ever been so stressed out in the first place.
That evening, I really began to wonder what my life would be like if I started being more intentionally grateful in my daily life. Instead of focusing on all of the things that aren’t going the way I had hoped, what would happen if I spent more time being grateful for the things that are going right? Right now, I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I hope with every week I can come here and tell you stories of how it has made an impact in my life.
These last weeks have been very frustrating and stressful. However, I was able to think of some things that I am very grateful for this week.
I am grateful for my family.
I am grateful to have a home and heat, especially right now during this cold spell. I am reminding myself that there are many who don’t.
I am grateful that I have the opportunity to finish my degree. (And excited about finally getting it done in the next year and a half.
So instead of ending up with just one word this year, I ended up with a phrase: Live Life Intentionally Grateful”
We’ll see how this goes…
P.S. I created a free printable journal if you would like to follow along with me during this journey. Scroll down and look to the right. Enter your email address and click both sign up and subscribe. You will be signed up for my newsletter and receive your free journal. (And don’t worry, I promise not to email you constantly!)