Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Back to school blues

Sending my kids back to school is bittersweet

At the end of next week, my kids head back to school. I’m not ready for it. I never am.

This year I have a 1st and 4th grader, which seems impossible since they were just born a few months ago. But alas, here we are.

The joys of summer

I really do enjoy having them home for the summer. Yes, there are times that they bicker and it drives me nutty. And other times I long to eat my lunch and read my book in peace for 10 minutes.

But there are also extra snuggle times and belly laughs as they play. There are smiles as they show me what they learned in swimming lessons.

The truth is, I had babies because I wanted them. God blessed me with these two precious lives and has entrusted me to care for them. My children aren’t a burden or annoyance; they are my greatest masterpiece. And I will miss them when school starts.

The good parts of the school year

I will also be glad to get back to a schedule and routine a bit because that’s how my personality is. I know it will be easier to get work done once they aren’t interrupting me. But I still will miss them.

However, another big part of parenthood is putting your children’s needs before your own. In my head, I’d love to just have them home all the time and hang out — and not in a homeschool kind of way. More in a summer-break-we-aren’t-doing-much-productive-many-days kind of way.

That wouldn’t be best for them, though. They are so smart and know so much, yet, they have so very much left to learn. I don’t want to rob them of that.

They love being together and with my husband and me, but they also love being with their friends. They are learning how to navigate friendships, which is important. I don’t want to rob them of that either.

I know I can love on them and pour into them completely, but I also know they are at an awesome school full of adults trained to pour into them in ways I can’t. I don’t want to rob them of that chance to have role models and be challenged by adults other than my husband and me.

How I handle the first day

So that’s why the end of next week, I will put on my excited face, take photos and walk them into school with a grin. I want to give them the world. I want them to learn and grow and continue to make the world a better place in bigger and bigger ways.

I will pray for a sunny day so my sunglasses can hide my watery eyes. I will wave and give hugs and wish them the very best of days. And I will mean every part of it, even as I continue to let them go more and more each year.

They are my heart. They are my babies. And I will miss them when they head back to school, but I also know that’s what is best for them. What’s best for them is what I want most.

Covering them in prayer

I also know I am not leaving them alone. I will cover them in prayer for the new school year. I pray they make and grow friends who are both good to the and good for them. I pray they learn and grow. I pray that they are surrounded by adults who care about them. I pray they are able to navigate friendship issues and handle any stress that comes their way.

I pray that they remember they are never alone and God is always with them. I pray that they proceed with the confidence that comes from being loved so completely by their parents and by God. I pray that they are kind to those around them. I pray that they make good choices and stand up for what they know to be right, even if it isn’t popular.

And, of course, I always pray that God protects them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually everywhere they are.

It’s easier to send them off when I know they aren’t going alone. It’s easier when I know they are covered in prayer. I will still miss them. But I know back to school is good for them.

I am so proud of the people they are continuing to grow into. Sending them back to school is bittersweet like so many things in parenthood. I will miss them and am overwhelmed by how much they are growing up, but I also can’t wait to see what the year has in store, what they’ll learn and more of who they are outside of being my babies.

Teaching our kids how to handle the unexpected

How to help our kids when plans goes sideways

Last week, my kiddos and I took our Lhasa Apso puppy for a walk. Our goal was to get in a decent walk for him, come home make and eat dinner and then be off to swimming lessons.

My husband, who has injuries from falling down the stairs early in the morning on July 5 when taking the puppy out for a bathroom break, would be home alone with the puppy during swim lessons. We were doing our best to wear the pooch out before we left.

I knew rain was forecasted. I noticed half of the sky had some deep gray rain clouds. But, I checked the radar on my phone and saw there was a pretty large gap in the rain and decided we should be clear to take a walk.

As we worked our way down our street, we had a few very light sprinkles. I told the kids we would go ahead and change our route to be a bit shorter. When we were on our way back, about a half block away from being home, the rain started.

When it went sideways

It went from light sprinkles to a hard, blowing rain. The kids and I ran and screeched all the way home. The puppy joined us in the running until he couldn’t, so I then picked him up and we continued our way home.

We arrived on the front porch dripping wet. Seriously wet. All four of us (the pup included) looked like we had just been thrown into a swimming pool. My kids felt a little unsure about the whole thing, my 6-year-old son especially.

But I could only laugh. Yes, it was bad timing. I had planned our schedule so that we’d have the right amount of time to include cooking dinner, eating dinner, taking the dog out again and then getting on swim gear.

I’d also just given the puppy his first bath at our house. And the rain water was sure to make my curly hair frizz, having washed out at least some of the no-frizz products that I use. I also realized I had just made more laundry for myself as we each had to do a complete outfit change.

But still I laughed. Because of all the walks we will go on this summer with our puppy (and we are going twice a day), this is one that all of us will remember long after summer has gone and even long after the puppy has turned from a puppy into a dog.

As we stood in the entryway dripping water and drying off, I made a joke. My daughter told me that she liked that I still had a sense of humor at such a time.

Using it as a teaching moment

So we talked about how being grumpy and irritable about the situation wouldn’t change it one bit. I could laugh or I could be grumpy, but either way I’d still soaking wet, holding a soaking wet dog and giving instructions to my soaking wet children on where to put their wet clothes and what to change into before they go get soaking wet again at swim lessons. I chose to laugh.

I’m not always great at choosing laughter over irritation, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to laugh way more. There are so many big things in this world that deserve my worries and irritation that getting wet in a downpour on a warm summer afternoon isn’t such a big deal. It was out of sorts and unplanned, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

My husband and I often tell our kids that they get to choose their attitudes. They can’t always choose or affect their circumstances, but they can choose how they react to them. Of course it’s OK to get frustrated, upset and sad. Those are all very human and very real emotions! But we can choose how to move forward when something goes sideways.

It’s a good skill to have, because I have also learned that something is always going to go sideways. I can plan as much as I want, but life throws curve balls unexpectedly. Getting upset about something I cannot control or change does nobody any good.

These are the lessons I want to teach my kids. I want them to remember how we went for a walk, got soaking wet and screeched while running home. I want them to remember laughing in our entryway as we dried off together. Because life isn’t always so serious. Life sometimes needs to just be fun, even when it goes sideways.

Getting some perspective

We can find adventure in the everyday and in the mundane. We can find it in the mishaps. And isn’t it better to look at an adversity as an adventure rather than a huge irritation?

Because I can also tell you that in five years, we may look back and joke about this walk, but nobody will remember what I was even making for dinner that night or how frizzy my hair was when we went to swimming lessons. Those are small things that don’t matter. And if I totally lost my temper and yelled at the kids for dripping water and made a fuss over how the rain threw a wrench in my plans, we might remember that in five years. That’s the kind of memory I want to avoid making!

No matter how I reacted to the unexpected downpour, my kids were watching and learning from it. Just like every other moment with them, they learn by seeing how I handle things. I don’t want them to stress over the small stuff. I want them to laugh when they can and know what really matters — we were warm, safe and dry in no time.

I want my kids to have perspective on life that hard times happen and plans go wrong, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. It doesn’t mean we can’t make good memories or make the best of a bad situation. Those are lessons I’ve fought hard to learn myself through layers of anxiety. They are hard-won lessons that I prize. Those lessons are what God has taught me as He has helped me through one sideways plan after another.

I get all these ideas in my head and make all these plans. In the past, I have gotten upset when things didn’t go as I had planned. But God has reminded me that whether my plans work or not, He always has one.

That’s what I want my kids to learn, too. It starts in small lessons like laughing through a literal downpour and carries over into big lessons like laughing — or at least finding some silver lining — in the midst of a major life storm.

Today we get to choose how we react. We model that for our children. We are teaching them by what we say and do how to respond to the world around them. What are we showing them?

6 thoughts on puppy parenthood

Being a puppy parent is exciting, exhausting and so many other things!

Though we had puppies twice when I was a child, I wasn’t in charge of them. When my husband and I got our first canine friend 14 years ago, it was a different story. We learned about taking care of and training a puppy with all the patience it takes.

Even though puppy parenthood isn’t exactly the same as child parenthood, it’s definitely a good starter course to being responsible for someone else who relies on you for everything and tries your patience.

After our beloved Lhasa Apso passed away three years ago, we needed time to mourn. Then we were building a house and moving and it just wasn’t the right time. We decided that we are now ready.

Last Wednesday, we drove a couple of hours away and picked up an 8-week old Lhasa Apso puppy. He is a ball of fluff and so tiny and so adorable! While we had been through puppy parenthood before, there are a few differences this time around, including that he is a couple of weeks younger than our other pup was when we got him, we are older and we now have two human children.

Over these past few days, I’ve learned a few things about puppy parenthood that I needed to share.

1. Puppies are like newborns, toddlers and preschoolers rolled into one.

Our little guy is so little that his bladder certainly can’t make it through the night. So we are up every couple of hours with him to go outside — much like when our babies were newborns. The difference is that my husband and I can take turns unlike when I was nursing. And the puppy sleeps better than my youngest who basically refused to sleep at night for the first three months.

And they are also like toddlers because they are into everything and up to mischief wherever they can find it. They also like to put everything they find in their mouths like socks, cords, rocks, shoes and weeds.

Finally, they are like preschoolers when it comes to mobility. Other than being too short for some things like steps, our puppers can run and get into things and all sorts of stuff just like our kids were able to as preschoolers.

2. Puppies are adorable for their own survival.

There were some early days of human parenthood when my husband, and I commented about how God surely made babies cute because it made us want to keep them in spite of how exhausting they are. The same is true of puppies. Middle of the night potty breaks are irritating when we first get woke up, but picking up a ball of fluff eases some of that irritation!

3. Puppies are good for the soul.

A month after we got our first Lhasa, Buckles, back in 2005, my dad had a bad motorcycle accident that resulted in six weeks in ICU. I remember one long day coming home from the hospital for a couple of hours and just sitting on the floor soaking up some puppy love.

Fortunately we haven’t had a tragedy this time around, but our puppy is so good for my soul. He just makes me feel happier. It sounds silly, but having a canine companion is something that I really enjoy and almost need in my life.

4. Puppies remind me what adoration for God looks like.

This one seems out of left field, and I am a bit sleep deprived, but hear me out. We tend to go along with Caser Milan’s way of training and treating dogs. (Remember the “Dog Whisperer” show on National Geographic?) So, one of the ways we have comforted our puppy is just by being there for him. The first night he had a bit of anxiety as he went into his crate after bathroom breaks. We discovered the crate wasn’t bothering him, but being alone was. We sat beside him on the floor until he fell asleep and found he calmed down quicker that way.

By the second night, we heard barely a whimper if we sat beside him. He was in his crate and we weren’t touching, but our mere presence was enough for him. He knew we were there and could relax and go to sleep. It was only our second day in, but already he had seen proof of how we were going to take care of him and meet his needs and he was starting to trust us right away.

As I sat beside him on the second night for a few minutes, I marveled at his trust and adoration. I felt a prick in my spirit about how this little 8-week-old puppy can trust me without having much experience with me. How much more can I trust God with whom I have decades of experience of His faithfulness and goodness?! Yet, sometimes I behave just like an anxious dog alone in a new house — whining and carrying on.

5. Puppy love can start at first sight.

I can’t explain it, but when I saw the picture of our puppy for sale online, I knew he was meant to be ours. There were other puppies. He has a brother and sister, in fact, who were also for sale. We had only casually talked about getting a new puppy. Though my husband and I spent two days praying about it and talking in hypotheticals with our kids, I just kept coming back to he was supposed to be ours.

When the farmer who had him placed him in my arms and he immediately started covering my chin in puppy kisses while wagging his tail, I was smitten. And now he’s part of our family.

6. Puppy names are almost as hard as baby names.

Last but not least, coming up with a puppy name can be hard! We didn’t have trouble our first time around because there was a street we drove past sometimes named Buckles. We had commented a few times that it would make a good dog name. And it just fit for our first puppy.

This time, we didn’t have a name in mind. We perused the Internet, talked to the kids and compiled a list of possible names. We took a family vote to narrow it down to our top favorite names. We still didn’t decide until we had him with us. Then we knew that of all the names we liked, Pixel is the one that fit him best.

Just like a pixel on a computer screen or television, he is small, but his light matters greatly. When a pixel goes out, you notice. His light has certainly brightened our lives. We have been happy to welcome Pixel into our family along with all the challenges and patience having a new puppy requires!

Being a sweet little pup is so exhausting!
And one more, because Pixel is too cute not to share!

Lessons for my kids about being American

What I want my kids to know about our country

Part of being a parent is teaching our children. And on days like tomorrow, when we celebrate the 243rd birthday of the United States, I think about what I am teaching my kids about being an American.

Through my years as a mom, I’ve learned that some lessons come through example rather than words. For instance, when we are out and the national anthem, my children see my husband and me stand and put our hands over our hearts. They do the same. It shows respect for our country, flag and all the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Teaching about the sacrifices made for freedom

I will continue to tell them about those men and women. They know that their Poppy got sent to a jungle when he was just out of high school. He went and did his duty and our family is so proud. They will learn even more what all of that means as they get older and learn more about that war.

I have also shared how their great-grandpas, both of whom passed away before my kids were born, served in World War II — one as a solider and one as a medic. We’ve also talked about how their Great-Great-Uncle David gave his life in World War II.  They understand this as much as they can at 6 and 9 right now. One day they will understand even more. And I hope that it will continue to make them proud to be Americans, just like has does me.

In school, my children will learn about the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and this country’s history. They’ll learn of the dark things that our country has done as well as the victories. They will eventually learn about how terrorists attacked our country on Sept. 11, 2001. My husband and I will tell them what we were doing and what we remember of that day. And our kids will start to understand why security is so tight at airports and sporting events. They won’t know anything different.

Teaching the good things about America

But, I also want my children to learn more than just war and sacrifice and fear. I want them to learn about all the good things in this country. I want them to understand and appreciate that we have the freedom to say what we want to say, live how we want to live and serve God openly. And I want them to know that it’s OK to not always agree with government leaders (it’s a wonderful freedom) but at the same time, it’s important to always respect the positions they hold.

I want my kiddos to know that they have great opportunities in this country. They can chose to be whatever they want to be when they grow up. They’re not limited by government or societal restrictions. 

Teaching them civic duty

I want them to learn the importance of having a voice in the way the country runs through voting. I will continue to tell them the stories of those who fought for the right to vote so they understand the progress that’s been made and needs to be maintained.

They have learned as well that people have been treated poorly in our country based solely on their gender or the color of their skin. We talk about these stories and the importance of remembering that all people are the same and should be treated well no matter what.

I want my children to learn that along with the opportunities and freedoms they have as Americans they also have a responsibility to leave this world a better place than they found it. They have both already made my world better just by existing, but they are also slowly working to improve the world around them as they get older. I want to do everything I can to foster that growth. I know there is so much more they’ll do as they grow up. 

Teaching them faith

Above all, I want my kids to thank God for all of these blessings of being an American and all that comes with it. I want them to continue to learn they can also affect change through prayer.  If God can move mountains, He can certainly move governments.

We’ve made a start on teaching our kids what it means to be an American and will continue to do so. For this Independence Day, they’ll both dress in red, white and blue. We’ll celebrate by hosting our first gathering at our new house as we cook out for our parents.

We’ll take the kiddos to see fireworks after spraying them down with bug spray and letting them wear glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces. We have a lot for which to be thankful.

Happy Independence Day!

How social media impacts moms

Social media can be a breeding ground for mompetition and complaining

The average internet user spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes each day interacting with social media, according to a report on Digital Information World in January 2019. That equals equals 16 hours and 36 minutes each week and nearly 800 hours per year!

That’s a lot of time on social media. It’s definitely a newer frontier considering that Facebook wasn’t even created until 2004 (MySpace was created the year before). Twitter came along in 2006 and Instagram and Pinterest both debuted in 2010.

Social media and mompetition

While social media has a variety of pros and cons, one of the issues it’s definitely enhanced is mompetition — mom competition. When I was a kid back in the 1980s and 1990s, my mom’s biggest source of mompetition came primarily from the moms of other kids in our school.

Now, we moms compete with moms everywhere. We log onto Facebook and see how someone we’ve never met across the country has a toddler who can ride a unicycle while our toddler trips walking to her tricycle.

Or we fire up Instagram and see the happy beach family vacation a mom a state away is on while we blow up a small kiddie pool and wrangle arguing children who are trying to walk through the house dripping wet.

And don’t even get me started with Pinterest. I love Pinterest, but it can definitely be a huge pressure cooker for moms. You don’t have to be on it long to learn that every other mom on the planet has a picture perfect clean house that only takes 5 seconds a day to maintain and children who spend their summers doing intense housework, extensive schoolwork and hours of community service before spending only 15 minutes of screen time a week on educational apps.

Of course I’m exaggerating — a little. But, mompetition certainly has grown with the use of social media. Even if we spend much less time on social media than the average user, it’s easy to get sucked into the comparison game. It’s easy to feel mompetition. And it’s even easier to throw our own highlight reel up on social media and feed the fire.

Social media and complaining

Then there’s the other side of social media. There are the posts that are perpetually negative. There are the posts that poke fun at other parents or even children. Sarcasm is found in abundance on social media. Snarkiness abounds.

While I do appreciate jokes about the challenges of parenthood, some can go too far. They can keep us focusing on what’s hard about motherhood and not all the loads and loads of good stuff. They can make us feel irritated and frustrated instead of uplifted and encouraged.

The purpose of Families with Grace

And all of this is part of why I created Families with Grace. I want the FWG blog, social media outlets and general community to be a safe place to be honest about struggles. My goal is to be real. However, you also won’t find posts about how frustrating my children are or how much my husband annoys me.

Because while those feelings are real sometimes, they aren’t the feelings I have the vast majority of the time, and I don’t want to dwell on them. I also, though, don’t want to give the impression that I know everything and my family is perfect. I don’t want you to think that I always talk to my husband and children with grace and patience. I don’t. I fall short.

I do keep trying, though. That’s the journey I want us to take together. Let’s try together to be better and do better for our families — not just try impress one another. Let’s find ways to keep our priorities in the correct order: God, spouse, children.

Because no matter what someone posts on their highlight reel of social media, the real issue is whether they are doing their best for their family. If I try to deceive you into thinking my children, home, marriage and even Christian walk are perfect, I’m only fanning the flames of mompetition. I’m only working to make you feel worse.

If I try to commiserate with you about how awful everything is in my life, I’m only fanning the flames of griping. And I’m making you feel worse.

But if I share with you the lessons I’m learning through my mess and imperfections, then maybe you’ll remember that not all of us are perfect. Maybe then you’ll give yourself some grace and get some ideas for what could work in your own family. My prayer is that God will use some of my words to work in your heart.

Learning to be more like God

I love what I do. I love writing. I love being a mom. I love being a wife. I definitely love Jesus and His redeeming love. But, aside from Jesus, I don’t fully love all of those things all the time. I’m doing my best. When I fail and fall as I do, God gives me grace and pulls me up and dusts me off.

He doesn’t roll His eyes. He doesn’t post on Facebook about how annoying I am. (Can you imagine if God was on social media?!) God just loves me and gives me all the grace I need.

His example is I want to draw from in my own life as a wife and mom. That’s the image I want to portray in my life and on social media. Life isn’t perfect. It’s messy and scary. It’s beautiful and good. And it is so very much more than what shows up in our social media news feeds.

Join me on the journey to creating homes filled with grace, love and faith. Come along and learn from the mistakes I make and lessons I learn. I can’t promise you that I’ll be perfect, but I know the One who is. God never fails, He always loves and I want nothing more than to honor Him in my words whether they are coming out of my mouth, posted on my blog and typed into my social media accounts.

This post is part of Families with Grace’s Social Media Savvy series that covers a commonsense approach to handling social media as a parent. Check out these other posts from the series: