Speed dating‎

March Madness: Taking Children To The Grocery Store

For the parents reading this- lean in.  You need a hug.  Like one of those long, slow, rub-your-back-a-few-times hugs that eventually makes us sway back and forth but then we stop because we’re strangers and that just got weird.

Grocery store shopping with children has the potential to be… well.. frankly, a catastrophe.  The kind of experience where you made a list (but why?) and people are staring at your kids (go away) and you hope your children can extract all of the appropriate vitamins and nutrition from the eight Chips Ahoy bags they tossed into the cart (ugh).

Some people can take their kids to the store and somehow create this entire Family Field Trip. They manage to promote language and literacy development, further social skills, and develop mathematical understanding, all while staying in the budget and leave energized.  As a former teacher, let me be the first to commend these parents for incorporating such outstanding educational concepts into their errand-running.  (So serious- y’all are amazing)

If we’re being honest though, most of us are team-huddling at the store entrance like, “Gather ’round offspring.  We are about to enter a public place known as a STORE.  If you run away from the cart, I WILL FIND YOU and I will break your spirit with a permanent hand hold.  If you sweep Reese’s eggs into the cart when I’m not looking, Mommy will pay for all of them with your allowance and put them in her Easter basket.  And just to be clear, if I see you licking any produce, I will disown you immediately and call your father.  Ready? Break!”

taking children grocery store

It all started when your kids insisted on riding in the Party Bus Grocery Cart.  You know, the one that’s triple the size of a regular cart and nearly impossible to put on a swivel onto Aisle 4.  Inevitably there are also some sort of novelty race car stripes along the plastic side.  Plus a jankity wheel.  Don’t get me started…

A grocery trip shopping solo would have allowed you to get oriented with your list, the layout, the store’s temperature, the coupons, the sales, and then begin.  That day, your first step into the store was accompanied by your precious little inmates- who, God bless them, could not manage any chill because they caught a glimpse of the 25 cent tattoo machines on the way in.  You were barely in the store thinking, “IT’S NOT GONNA GO DOWN LIKE THIS”, so you promised the three year old he could get the tattoo of a skull wearing sunglasses after check-out to keep the peace.

As you made your way around the store, you mentally catalogued all the ways your children have abused the shopping cart in recent trips.
1.  Standing up in the basket to “surf”
2.  Toddlers trying to do full circle spins in the front seat
3.  Kid standing on the side and literally flipping the cart over while toddler sibling is in the front seat
4.  Sitting on the inside edge of the basket teetering backward toward a concussion
5.  Child “helping” parent push the cart which is definitely code for shoving the cart into shelving units and walls
6.  Kid laying flat along the bottom and paddling along the oh-so-clean floor with their hands

You tried to make the shopping fun.  Like, playing “Hunters and Gatherers” and sending your oldest back and forth to get items from the list.  This was fun until it was not fun.  More specifically- when he gathered someone else’s cell phone from their purse.  Later, it was like “Hey guys!  Look how interesting it is to learn new words on the cereal boxes!”  And those inquisitive early readers yelled, “MOM DOES THAT SAY CORN POOPS” and that’s when Fun Shopping abruptly and permanently died.

There’s no way to predict which products or food items will make kids beg and plead.  This is March Madness, you guys.  Expect the unexpected.  Your toddler tantrummed over a bag of edamame.  And you might’ve even bought it if she ACTUALLY liked it.  But no, we’ve entered the Twilight Zone where hungry, tired children start campaigning for products based solely on the packaging colors, and she only wanted it because it’s green.  If you bought edamame for the crying toddler, this is what dinnertime would end up like: “I would not like them here or there/ I would not like them anywhere/ I do not like green edamame/ I do not like them (unless we’re in the grocery store and you won’t buy me nothin else in which case toddler logic says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth over that green bag of soybeans)”

To many, March Madness is filling out a basketball bracket.  To a parent in a grocery store, March Madness is a child with no Act-Right, filling out a bracket to see which forbidden products can secretly gain entry to the cart…
grocery store bracket

The real fun started at the check-out.  At that point, Mom discovered piles of contraband that would’ve tripled the grocery bill and immediately guaranteed Type 2 Diabetes.  Your feral crew of lovelies traded whining for begging once they spotted the ride-on machine at the exit.  One child was trying to scan the items for the cashier.  Another wanted his skull tattoo.  You forgot to grab juice but there was no freakin way you were leaving that check out lane.

A simple smile and shrug was exchanged with the parent in the check-out lane next to you, because they’ve been there and know you’re an amazing parent with really great kids.  They remember how crazy March Madness can get, along with all the other grocery-shopping months- May Mayhem, Just-Eat-Out July, Self-Destruct September, to name a few.  As that parent passed by you on her way out, she handed you the brochure for Curbside Pick-Up and gave a friendly wink as if to say, “Hang in there..you got this.”

Book Club On The Blog: In Honor Of “Read Across America” Day

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated what I’ve enjoyed from my reading list.  “Read Across America” Day is celebrated annually on March 2nd, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  In honor of this nationwide celebration of reading, I bring you this blog post.  These are a few I would recommend:

good reads the chemist
The Chemist // Stephenie Meyer

[Fiction: Thriller]
So, so good.  The Chemist is an ex-agent who could’ve easily stepped right out of the Bourne movies.  She is constantly on the run from her former employers and must sacrifice any sense of normalcy to preserve her own life.  She is offered an opportunity to take one last job which appears to guarantee her an “out”, but only complicates things and endangers her further.  Find this book and read it ASAP.

good reads harry potter
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child // JK Rowling

[Fiction: Fantasy]
Some people expressed disappointment in the newest Potter book released, however I read it in 24 hours on a kid-free vacation and passed it off to my husband who did the same.  We both really liked it.  Easy to read because it’s entirely written as a script for the play.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all grown with children.  The main character, Harry’s youngest son, Albus, is a sulky misfit at Hogwarts and ends up wondering how the past could have been different.  Someone described this as the wizarding version of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, and I agree.

good read the scars that have shaped me
The Scars That Have Shaped Me // Vaneetha Rendall Risner

[Nonfiction: Memoir]
Excerpt from Desiring God -“Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce… In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.”

good reads small great things
Small Great Things // Jodi Picoult

[Fiction]
Just finished this one and it was one of those I was trying to read sentences/pages while dinner was cooking on the stove with a one year old putting stickers down my pants leg.  I got sucked in and really wanted to see how it ended.  Ruth, an African American labor and delivery nurse, is caring for a newborn, doing a routine check-up, when his parents- white supremacists- demand that she is reassigned and doesn’t touch their baby.  Later in the nursery, the baby goes into cardiac arrest and when she hesitates to provide medical care, she ends up facing very serious criminal charges.  The author addresses important and relevant perspectives on racism, discrimination, “white privilege”, and justice.  [Disclaimer: The story is told in alternating perspectives, some of which contains strong language that could be offensive.]

good reads treasuring christ
Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full // Gloria Furman

[Nonfiction: Christian Parenting]
The subtitle to this is “Gospel Meditations For Busy Moms”.  Really, really good thoughts- especially liked this quote,

“By God’s grace I can resist the temptation to treat my children as interruptions to my will for my life.  Instead, God’s enables me to treat my children as precious gifts he is using to shape me into his image according to his will for my life.”


Currently Reading:
Present Over Perfect // Shauna Niequist (I tried highlighting her sentences while I was on the elliptical if that gives you any sense of my current feeling for/dedication to this book.)
The Girl Who Drank The Moon // Kelly Barnhill (Heard of this Juvenile Fiction book via @readaloudrevival on Instagram)

Coming Up:
Idaho // Emily Ruskovich
Circling The Sun // Paula McLain

BOOK CLUB ON THE BLOG (2)

If you’re interested in seeing other books I’ve recommended in the past, enjoy clicking through past posts:  Book Club 1 or Book Club 2
What have you been reading lately? Always love hearing about a great book!

Family Road Trips: The Best Of Times, But Also The Worst Of Times

Family road trips, you guys.
Why are they so amazing?  Why are they so traumatizing?  How did we all fit into one woodchuck station wagon?  Will there ever be a day we all agree on the same playlist?  (Or mix tape, depending on the era of your road trip memory..)

family road trip

I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you have, at minimum, one vivid memory associated with a family road trip.  Or perhaps like me, your memories are divided between the distant past of growing up and the current reality of road tripping with your own children.

Layers of factors that predict the success (or the complete breakdown) of a family road tripping together:
The Level Of Crazy In Your Family:  Families have an infinite combination of dynamics, as you well know, and when you put them all into the same car for seven+ hours, people gon’ get scrappy.  How many are in your family?  Are they feisty?  Are they in your personal space?  Are they little? Is your dad trying to eat his reheated Chinese food in the car as y’all pull out of the driveway?  Does Grandma have Coco the Poodle on her lap?  Y’ALL KNOW COCO GETS CARSICK.

Road Trip Route & Destination:  This is the difference between playing the Alphabet Game on billboards and signs or having to resort to counting hog farms, the difference between the scenic view of Big Sur or the repetitive passing of corn fields and power lines.  Your route, full of winding curves, could cause the little one to get carsick.  On the other hand, your journey could also result in the most stunning iPhone photos, tangible reminders of time spent with family in a larger-than-life location.

Vehicle Of Choice: The best road trip stories seem to involve an Oldsmobile, a station wagon that lets you sit backward, or the tried-and-true minivan.  If you were cruising down I-40 sprawled out in your Suburban with an Airstream hitched onto the back for your bathroom breaks, then good for you.  Others of us were buckled into a Ford Windstar peeing into coffee tins because leaving the Interstate by 0.6 miles “took too long”. So, there’s that.


I couldn’t help but ask friends to chime in on their most memorable family road trips.  While each story was its own masterpiece, I was surprised to notice a few themes and take-aways:
1.  Naps took priority over seat belts.
Some of y’all got LAID OUT in your minivan to get beauty rest.  Like, laid flat on the floorboards in a sleeping bag because the seat belt was too confining.  Others strategically positioned a “trash bag of clothes” on the floorboard as a make-shift bed.  Maybe you called dibs on the bench seat which meant your sibling was banished to sleep on the floor of your Plymouth Sundance.    Perhaps you never, ever removed your seat belt but slept sitting up in the seat, with your head rolling all around because you couldn’t get your neck to lock up.  Shout out to all my people who napped with their mouths wide open and woke up with their photo on the Internet, thanks to the exploitation of a family member.

road trip

creative sleeping quarters

2.  Things got interesting when it was time for a bathroom break.
Nothing like pulling off into one of those gas stations where you gotta get the key from inside and hearing Dad yell, “DRAIN EM IF YOU GOT EM”.  You’re like “ohhhh awesome, so this is how it ends. Lemme drop a pin on this location and text it out so everyone knows I died from tetanus at the Citgo.”  Maybe you lived luxuriously and got to stop for a two hour bathroom break at Cracker Barrel that included country fried steak, a quick game of Checkers, and winning that triangle with the golf tees.  Some families don’t mind long breaks out of the car.  Some families require long breaks out of the car, especially when you’re driving with a four year old and a two year old, whose collective pee-pee-potty times are 20 minutes, plus getting them food, plus nursing the baby, which rounds us up to an extra hour and a half per stop.  On the other hand, some families barely skid into the rest stop parking lot and set up the kid potty for their five year old to poop at the “pet area”. *Fingers crossed* she’s an efficient little five year old.

3.  The driver’s plight: staying awake and keeping everyone alive.
God bless the driver who must push through lunch coma and pay attention to road signs and stay 10-and-2 through extreme weather conditions.  Hail?  DRIVE.  3am?  DRIVE.  Vomit in the backseat?  For the love, pull over this exact second.  Ain’t nobody need to see those Arby’s onion rings more than once.

Sometimes the driver gets a bad rap, but they do what they gotta do. If Dad spit out the window and it happened to reenter the car through the back window, then maybe we should at least pause and appreciate that Dad’s spit tasted like Dr. Pepper.  If Mom grinded the tires on the rumble strips across five states just to stay awake, so be it, hush that fuss.  Staying awake as a tired driver is the worrrrrrrrst.  Dad would know.. he’s the one slapping his face out the window to wake up.  Or that time my friend’s dad was so exhausted, he thought he was in the wrong gear, so he threw it from Drive to Neutral at 75mph.  That’ll wake everyone up…
road trip

4.  Parents got creative maintaining order in the back seat.
We’re all familiar with the empty threats that parents call out about turning the car around and threatening to “come back there”.  You could tell Mom was preemptively strategizing how to keep the peace when she gave all the siblings “Seat Buddies” like this is a bus field trip to the planetarium, instead of a nine hour drive to Yellowstone.  When sibling chaos erupted from the backseat, some parents would Go-Go-Gadget their arm around back and start swatting until the fussing stopped.  Other parents went straight to an armory of weapons… The wooden yardstick that was effective for reaching any delinquents on the back bench.  My friend Brendan told me his mom kept a water gun in the front seat to break up fights.  “That worked until we brought our own water guns.. that was the day we learned to not squirt dad when he’s driving.”

5.  On a related note, many family road trip shenanigans stories tend to end with: “My parents were not amused”.
When you get bored in the car, anything can happen.  Which means, more than likely, parents are not happy to see how you’ve chosen to entertain yourself.  Including, but not limited to:
-That time you and your brother made water bubbles using Big League Chew + water and popped them over and over again, all down the front of you..
-That time the left blinker went out on the car so you hung out the window with a light saber to signal a lane change…
-That time your brothers kept farting in their fists and throwing it in your face…
-That time your sister made a sign that said “HELP” and held it up against the car window..
-That time you snuck a bucket into the car after a day at the beach, full of water and a sand crab, which eventually became a dead crab…
-That time you and your sibling had a contest to see who could pull a tooth faster…
-That time your brother pulled your hair from the back seat, so you promptly pulled his elbow right out of joint… road trip to Myrtle Beach became road trip to the hospital
-That time your family finally made it to Mount Rushmore but your sibling insisted on staying in the van to watch Shania Twain videos…
All of the above, I repeat: PARENTS NOT AMUSED.

Family road trips are ultimately about memories made and time spent together, which is easily the cheesiest platitude I’ve ever typed.  But really.  There’s something fascinating about a person who can look back four decades and remember the road trip snacks they ate at a rest stop at four years old.  And someone who can look back on the van breaking down in Colorado, when Dad slept on the cabin floor outside the bathroom, and say “That was by far the best two week vacation we took as a family”.

Travel with family requires bravery and flexibility and, like, a million snacks.  But it shapes the stories that will be told around the Thanksgiving table years from now.  Stories of utter chaos in the most scenic places.  Laughs, tears, games, photos, mischief.  The most unpredictable road trips are the ones taken with family, full of memories that now start with “Remember when..”.  The ordinary times, the worst of times, the best of times- all in the name of family bonding.

How Fatal Is His Man-Cold?

It’s a wonder that modern medicine has not yet found a cure for the debilitating illness, the “Common Cold” that plagues men.  Never in my life have I seen so much distraught whining from a grown man than when he gets the sniffles.  He can handle getting hit by a 6’6″, 325lb lineman on the football field or shoulder the stress of an entire company, but give him a sore throat and congestion and he’s crawling down the hallway wearing your bedroom slippers looking for the Neti Pot.

man cold meme

{photo: Katie Murray}

Man: “I FEEL AWFUL”
Woman: “What’s wrong?”
Man: “MY HEAD HURTS MY THROAT HURTS I THINK I HAVE A FEVER ARE MY LYMPH NODES SWOLLEN HOLD ME”
Woman: “Pretty sure you coughed like twice this morning and your head feels fine.  I think you’ll be ok.”
Man: “DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT I COULD HAVE PERTUSSIS RIGHT NOW”
Woman: “Mkay, actually, you just have a little congestion.”
Man: “I LITERALLY CANNOT FEEL MY FACE AND MY EARS KEEP POPPING WHEN I SAY WORDS WITH CONSONANTS”
Woman: “Do I have your blessing to fall in love again when you die?”

Rather than having the above conversation, I suggest you take this 6 question quiz “How Fatal Is His Man-Cold?”.  I made sure while creating it that it was entirely research-based, unbiased, and full of immense compassion for the plight of men with a scratchy throat.  (Author’s Note: After taking this quiz, scroll to the very bottom of this post because 1) BREAKING NEWS about his possible fate, and 2) life’s too short to be wasted on free-website-end-of-quiz spam.  Trust me, we’re friends.  Quiz. Scroll. Read. Done.)


As he battles his man-cold and you battle his delusion and drama, keep in mind that he sincerely believes he might actually die.  He just doesn’t realize you might be the one to take him out before the Man-Cold does.
How Fatal Is His Man-Cold-

Questions Asked By Southerners When It Snows

When it snows most places in America, people calmly put on their down feather jackets, lace up their Sorel boots, and head out the door to work with coffee in hand.  Life goes on.  It just happens to go on colder and whiter.

And then there’s the South.

The moment there’s a snowflake anywhere in the ten day forecast, everyone gets really intense and involved with their local weather app.  People sprint through grocery stores buying all the food from all the aisles.  The hype gets built up and starts trending online.  Everything gets shut down before the weather even gets bad.  And then you end up with a day off from school when it turns out to be a chilly rain.  Or, you get the rare snowfall that paralyzes everyone and causes pandemonium, as seen here:

snow

{photo credit: Lindsay Webb}

So here I write this from my couch on a Snow Day.  This is a list of the outrageous questions that Southerners ask when it snows, because we just don’t know any better and because bless our hearts.

    1.  How can I obtain the meteorologist’s personal cell number?
    2. When will they cancel school?
    3. When will they cancel work?
    4. When will they shut down the city so I can re-watch every episode of This Is Us and feel my feelings?
    5. Babe, can you look in all of the closets until you find the box with my snow clothes?
    6. What are the driving rules in inclement weather?
    7. More specifically, how does driving work?
    8. Do we have enough food to feed us all for the month of January?
    9. Will my children like experiencing frostbite?
      (Based on her facial expression, SURVEY SAYS NO)
      hayden-snow
    10. Does snow cream count toward the Raw Food Diet?
    11. What hashtag are we all using for our snow Instas, you guys?
    12. When the meteorologist said 6-8″ yesterday, does that mean 6-8″ of lies or………………?
    13. Wouldn’t it save time to just announce “ALL FIRST BAPTIST CHURCHES IN THE CAROLINAS ARE CLOSED” instead of scrolling every individual FBC closing across the screen?
    14. Will I look like a loser if I’m pouring kitty litter to gain tire traction?
    15. What are the food essentials I need to buy at the store?  (strawberry toaster strudels…Swedish fish…party size bags of Chex Mix…)
    16. If my kids are driving me crazy, am I allowed to lock them out the next time they go play outside?
    17. Why is snow SO FREAKING COLD.
    18. How homeless should I look on this particular snow day?
    19. Does that weatherman know he is not helping my trust issues with men?
    20. *opens pantry during power outage* What meal can I fix my family using leftover Christmas candy, lemonade powder, and crunchy peanut butter?
    21. What would Olaf do?
    22. Is there anything worse than sleet?
    23. How much food is too much food to eat in one day?
    24. Are there babies in little tiny snow bunting outfits in heaven?  (I have to assume yes)
    25. If we lose power and my phone dies, will I die too?  (I have to assume yes)
    26. How many filters do I need to put on a picture so it looks like I showered recently?
    27. Was the entire purpose of this snow day that I should rearrange our living room furniture six different times?
    28. Is today the day I find out if my Schnauzer could have made it racing in the Iditarod?
    29. How is the weather forecast taking us from Arctic tundra to spring fever in five days?  Explain yourself, EL NINO.
      snow-forecast

This is only a small sampling of the questions that Southerners ask on any given snow day and should not be considered a comprehensive list.  There are at least a hundred more.  Tell me- what did I miss?

questions-asked-by-southerners-when-it-snows

A Toddler’s Letter to Santa

toddlers-want-christmas-list-santaDear Santa,

Just because I’m writing you this letter doesn’t mean I like you.  Because you and I both know it didn’t go well the last time we saw each other.

In my defense, you smelled like Vicks Vapo-Rub and Brunswick Stew and barnyard animals.  Mom said I had to take a picture with you but I wasn’t prepared for my nostrils to start bleeding when I got tossed onto your lap.  Plus we both saw Mom run over to JCrew to check the clearance rack, like you’re some kind of geriatric childcare service at the mall.  I clearly experienced a lot of trauma at once, Santa, so please don’t put me on the Naughty List just because I activated an Amber Alert with my Code Red screaming.

I’m still trying to understand who you are and what you do, but people tell me you bring kids stuff.  (And you name call, which will buy you a one-way ticket to Time Out.  But my Mom isn’t here, so if I’m a ho, then you a ho.  Making my haters my motivators since 2014.)

Since it appears to be in both of our best interests that we never see each other again until I turn three, here are some things you can bring me for Christmas.

MY CHRISTMAS NEEDS LIST:

  1. One stick from my yard, no wait- two.  Two sticks from my yard.

2.  Paw Patrol cars to drop into the guest bathroom toilet

3.  ACTUAL DINNER FOOD that has absolutely no resemblance to the food (?) my parents put on my plate every night.  Food I deem acceptable:  bbq chips, pancakes, or Halloween candy

4.  A life-size bulldozer

5.  Dad’s new credit card number, complete with exp date and CVV, dunno what that is but Mom told me to ask you for it ok lol

6.  Teether toy.  This works-
toddlers-want-christmas-list

7.  AAA batteries.  (Dad always tries to say “the toy went night-night” but we all know he snaked the batteries and killed the Singing Picnic Basket.)

8.  Pet cow

9. Or a pet brother

10.  An iPhone7 with unlimited talk and text and enough data to hold 50,000 of the same photo:
h1 h2 h3 h4 h5

11.  A simple character t-shirt with Elmo, Daniel Tiger, Dora, and Mickey Mouse all playing in the Chick-fil-A playspace and Dora’s Mom is climbing up the play area stairs to put Dora in time out

12.  Instruments… maracas, finger cymbals, a tambourine, a triangle  (Building up my arsenal for next road trip.)

I guess that covers it.  Please get me everything on this list and DON’T SCREW IT UP or else I’ll make sure the gas logs are on next year.  Naughty list?  Worth it.
Merry Christmas, ho.

Very sincerely,
An Unnamed Toddler

Being Thankful After Thanksgiving

being-thankful

{This is a devotional I recently wrote for the women at our church, Providence.  It is being reposted here with permission.}  


Literally, no sooner had we cleaned our plates on Thanksgiving Day than the stores opened their doors and the Christmas season commenced.

It’s enough to give anyone festive whiplash.  Our culture subtly whispers, “That’s plenty of gratitude for one day, everyone.  Back to regularly scheduled programming: consumerism.”

Not only do we use December to fill our Amazon carts and empty our wallets, we busy ourselves recreating recipes and holiday décor seen on Pinterest.  We attend the parties.  We coordinate travel.  We make the cookies.  We may or may not Google “couple’s therapy” after setting up the Christmas tree.  Tis the season, fa la la la la!

I rarely think of December as a month of rest- physically, spiritually, or otherwise.  I wonder, though, what it would look like if this year was different.  What if we intentionally slowed down the demands of our calendars and laid down the weight of holiday expectations to find true rest in Jesus this season, giving him thankfulness and praise rather than disregard and grumbling?

Psalm 100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Out of praise to God, the psalmist exhorts his readers using this pattern: “This is what we do (v1,2) because this is who God is (v3).  This is what we do (v4) because this is who God is (v5).”  The psalmist clearly knows who God is and the nature of His character.  In these few verses, God is exalted as being our Creator, our Shepherd, a good God, always faithful, full of steadfast love, and worthy of all of our thanks and praise.  If we too know God in such an intimate way, how can we not respond with gratitude and praise, especially in our celebration of Christ’s birth?

Even though Christmas is commercialized as being “merry and bright”, we know that sometimes “disillusion and chaos” more accurately describes real life.  Fortunately, being thankful doesn’t require you to first be happy.  You can be in a tumultuous circumstance or season of life and still find that the Lord, He is God, and He has given us so many reasons to be thankful.

Consider the impact of gratitude on these aspects of the holidays:

  • When our schedules are busy and to-do lists are impossibly long, thankfulness helps us navigate the chaos with a renewed perspective, shifting our reliance from self to God.
  • When our expectations for the holiday season are built up, only to end up unmet, thankfulness provides a sense of reassurance that God is faithful and good, like he was yesterday, is today, and will be tomorrow, even when things don’t turn out the way we expect.
  • When travel is stressful due to delayed flights, traffic jams, or children screaming in car seats, thankfulness can replace anxiety with the reminder of good gifts, that you have the money to fly, a car to drive, and children safely tucked into car seats.
  • When self-pity creeps in to your holiday season because you aren’t able to celebrate with the people you love, thankfulness offers comfort in loneliness and encouragement in His presence.
  • When relationships with family members create tension and conflict, thankfulness softens our hearts to focus less on feeling inconvenienced, annoyed, or offended, and helps us consider how we can patiently show the love of Christ to someone who is loved by Christ.

Choosing to show thankfulness doesn’t necessarily mean our other feelings have to be invalidated.  However, gratitude works in these refining moments to teach us how to take our eyes off of ourselves and look to God with a full heart for who He is and what He’s done.

This Advent season, join me in setting aside laziness, indifference, unbelief, and distraction, to embrace the call in Psalm 100.  Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, if for no other reason than for this- that He would be compelled by His steadfast love and faithfulness to enter into our broken world and provide the perfect and only way for us to have a relationship with Him.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Five Reminders For Navigating the Holidays

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1.  On average, the busiest time for holiday shopping at the mall is any time you decide to go shopping at the mall.


First of all, maybe just don’t go to the mall between November-January.  But I guess if you really hate yourself and want to experience public claustrophobia, head over to the mall and look for a parking spot close enough to the mall so that you don’t have to squint to make out the shape of the building.  Be sure you take all of your children with you so that your shopping time is doubled with lots of free whining.  I also hear the Apple store has some light traffic this time of year, so you may want to throw a few essentials into your purse just in case (like an air mattress, a toothbrush, and some money to treat yourself to those cinnamon glazed pecans seven days later).

2.   The holidays are busy and it’s hard to fit in EVERYTHING you want to do.  Prioritize.
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For example: as much as I love a good Turkey Trot at 7am on Thanksgiving Day………………………………. in an effort to prioritize, I’ve determined that sitting in my pajamas until noon surrounded by people I love is of higher value than getting frostbite just to lose calories.  Thanksgiving is about being thankful as you accumulate calories, so unfortunately I won’t be at any Turkey Trots, but I can commit to a courtesy “like” to all those on Facebook and Instagram who post a race pic.  I’m so proud of you guys, so proud.  Usain Bolt is too.

3.  Some people are crazy.  Some of those people happen to be your relatives.

Look.  You know someone is going to casually bring up politics as they pass the mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving, as if it’s a completely neutral topic, as if they didn’t blast ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative posts on Facebook all election season.  Ugh, Aunt Brenda.  Pass the mashed potatoes and while you’re at it, pass the talking stick too.  You lose ALL talking privileges for this holiday.  And y’all know if it’s not Brenda, it’s about to be Crazy Uncle Gary rolling up to family dinner like a bat out of hell with his fifty shades of dysfunction.  When everyone goes around to say what they’re thankful for and you say you’re thankful to still be at the kid’s table, everyone knows what you’re trying to say.  They wish they were at the kid’s table too.

4.  Dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one’s listening, but mainly- eat that fried turkey leg like no one’s noticed your elastic waistband.

The holidays almost always revolve around food and meals.  For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  For others, food is your frenemy and since you can’t fathom stringing together that many cheat days, you’ll be the person at Thanksgiving like, “You guys, is there room in the oven for the grain-free Paleo stuffing I made?”  I don’t have many rules for my Thanksgiving and Christmas eating, but the few I do have, I will impart to you:
-Look out for Number One and make a power move to the front of the food line.
-If you can still see the Pottery Barn turkey after you’ve filled your plate, you didn’t do it right.
-Be strategic in your eating, which is to say don’t talk to anyone at the table.  Just eat.  Unless Adele comes to your house for Christmas dinner, then you may say a few things to her between bites.  “Hello.  Can you hear me?”
-Embrace the food coma wherever it may take you.  Maybe it doesn’t take you anywhere and you fall asleep sitting in your dining room chair.  Live in that moment right there.  You’ll be perfectly in place for the start of the next meal.

5.  Christmas cards are proof that you do shower and your kids can all look at the camera at once.  It’s a Christmas miracle!
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I guess I could just pick a photo from my phone for this year’s Christmas card, but my options are limited to: my 1 year old with her finger straight up her nose, my 1 year old doing something interesting but you can’t tell because it’s a wiggly blur, and screenshots of people’s fair food as reminders for next year.  Now that I think about it, a collage of those three photos would actually be pretty accurate for 2016.

Happy celebrating!  May the odds be ever in your favor.
(Image sources: 1, 2, 34, 5, 6, 7)

Daylight Savings Survival Bunker For Parents

SOUND THE ALARM.
Daylight Savings is upon us.  Humans without small children, enjoy that extra hour of sleep.  I’m so happy* for you.  (*Technically, bitter envy.)  Humans whose small children will be awake at the crack of dawn, read on, this is for you.

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Remembering the good ole days, what life used to be like..
Pre-Parenthood Daylight Savings Time // Order of Events:
1.  Stay up on Saturday night until the clock says 11:30pm which really means 10:30pm.  #mentalmath
2.  Get in bed.  Sleep for an uninterrupted ten hours.
3.  Wake up refreshed and relaxed at 8:30am.  Lay in bed extra minutes ‘cuz you can.
4.  Get out of bed and float through your morning routine: hum U2 during your morning pee, wink at a bluebird, splash a little handful of water on your face like the pretty people on Neutrogena commercials.
5.  Turn back clocks and watches.  Voila!  Daylight Savings Time has been conquered!

Now…
Daylight Savings Time As A Parent // Order of Events:
1.  Stay up on Saturday night until the clock says 11:30pm because the house is so quiet and peaceful.  You are deceived into believing you are about to get extra sleep tonight.
2.  Hear the first stirrings at 4:45am.  Pray that you’re hearing burglars and not toddlers.  Burglars who are able to help themselves to your electronics and other valuables so that you can sleep in until 8:30…. ‘CUZ FALL BACK!
3.  Wake up a second time to a little person gently stroking your arm to wake you up.  Wait, that doesn’t sound right..  More like: they utilize the Aggressive Poking Method to jar you awake and then stand next to your bed looking like Samara from The Ring.

4.  Walk children back to bed and attempt to explain Daylight Savings to them.  It mostly sounds like this, “It is 5:00 in the morning which means you need to glue yourself to that bed until I come get you.  You may play with toys.  You may not take your diaper off.  Goodbye.”
5.  Rooster crows in the distance (from the suburban backyard of neighbors who mistakenly thought their chicks were hens).
6.  Settle back into bed just as baby wakes up in crib.  Go into baby’s room and find toddler next to baby’s crib.  Invoke highest level of discipline and most stern facial expressions.
7.  Bring all children into parents’ bed.  Turn on iPad and pray they don’t know how to navigate to chat rooms yet because SO HELP ME Mama needs 15 more minutes of sleep.

Before we all enter the Twilight Zone, parents, you should know that a Survival Bunker has been created especially for you.  In the days after the fall-out of Daylight Savings when schedules have been thrown to the wind and children are wide awake at ungodly hours, you can slip away to the Survival Bunker to recharge.  This may be your only hope at making it through the next week.

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Entry to the Bunker requires a retinal scan of exhausted parents’ bloodshot eyes.  The doors open and you take a “Before” headshot looking like the Bride of Chucky for a Rodan & Fields rep. They’ll attend to your dark under eye circles with eye cream samples that are probably made of magical fairy whispers.

Take a moment to hook up to your liquid of choice at the Caffeine IV Station.  Coffee addicts can pump in their own shots of espresso, while other stations cater to non-coffee drinkers: Coke, Mountain Dew, and a Suicide Soda mixing five energy drinks into one IV.  It’ll wake you up and make your eyes twitch.

Support groups are available at various meeting areas in the Bunker if you would like to connect with other parents experiencing the same Daylight Savings trauma.  Each support group offers a bowl full of M&Ms alongside problem-solving strategies and encouragement.  Topics covered will include:
-Tricking Your Kids Into Sleeping Later,
-How To Properly Function On The Monday After Daylight Savings,
-Group Celebration That Our Car Clocks Are Right Again.

Before leaving, release all the remaining tension with a deep tissue massage.  Plenty of free sketchy options available, including but not limited to Single File Massage Trains and those Public Mall Massages where the masseuse uses their elbow to cut off your circulation.  (I like to think it’s more relaxing than it sounds.)

On your way out the door, the Rodan & Fields paparazzi will capture your “After” shot looking all refreshed and bright-eyed and caffeinated.  They’ll print out your souvenir pictures with the proud tagline, I SURVIVED DAYLIGHT SAVINGS WITH SMALL CHILDREN.

It’s a tough week ahead of us, parents.  Let’s stick it to Daylight Savings and take care of business this week.

See you in the Survival Bunker.

Our Forgetfulness, God’s Faithfulness

our-forgetfulnessMost days when I sit down to write, I have a week’s worth of snark and sass that unloads into a blog post.  The goal is to entertain, to elicit a smile, maybe even a giggle or, on a good day, a reader’s burst of laughter in a quiet public place.  If you’ve come for humor, then I’ll reroute you to Co-Parenting With Google, because I’m boutta drop a word on y’all.  *kiss, kiss, hug, hug*

The blog has been quiet for a few weeks, mainly because fall is insanely busy, but also because today’s post has been churning for awhile.  An idea that I’ve meditated on for a few months, had to learn and re-learn.  It’s simple and it’s this:  When we are forgetful, God remains faithful.    

Awhile ago, I spent some time reading through Exodus, in the Old Testament of the Bible.  Moses is the key player in this book and he had the really small job of convincing the Pharaoh to let the enslaved Israelites leave the country.  By the way, there were over a million Israelites (Exodus 12:37) and they kind of did a ton of work for Egypt, so Pharaoh wasn’t too excited to let them just walk away.  Ok, spoiler alert, turns out God wins and Pharaoh loses.  God delivers his people from Egypt and Moses is in charge of leading this massive exodus.

That’s only the first third of the book though.  The rest of the book details the journey of the Israelites and their wandering in the desert, the laws and commandments that God establishes, and creating the Tabernacle.  What really stuck with me was the recurring complaining and grumbling of the Israelites, a people group who were time and again provided for, and continued to fix their eyes on themselves rather than on the Lord.

Exhibit A:  God has just delivered an entire nation of people from slavery to freedom in Exodus 14 and also managed to destroy the entire army of Pharaoh in the meantime (14:28).  The Israelites are singing and celebrating and saying things to God like, “Who is like you-  majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders” (15:11).  Then, the music stops like SCCCCCCRRRRTTT.  They get to a place called Marah, experience thirst, and grumble.  God in His goodness provides for them.

Exhibit B:  They are only seven miles south of Marah, now in Elim (Chapter 16), and the whole community grumbles because they’re hungry.  Look- I get it that hangry is a THING- and it’s no joke.  But I read this story like, “Did y’all not just cross an ocean?”  God hears their complaints and displays his power by providing food in a miraculous way on that day, and for the next forty years.

Exhibit C:  New chapter (17), old complaint.  The Israelites are thirsty again.  Grumbling again.  Guess they forget to fill their Yeti thermos up in Marah.  Once more, God hears and provides.

We could play this game for chapters upon chapters.  Especially in the book of Numbers.  The Israelites are noted as complaining and grumbling in Numbers 11:1, 11:4, 14:1-4, 16:3, 16:41, 20:2-3, 21:5, which probably isn’t even an exhaustive list.  If I were God, I would’ve been like, “I’M SO DONE WITH Y’ALL.  For real.  BYE.”

It’s so frustrating to read about the Israelites.  They continued to be spiritually short-sighted and full of unbelief.  They just didn’t get it.  The extent of the Israelite’s forgetfulness, however, causes the faithfulness of God to be emphasized even more.  He extended grace, mercy, deliverance, provision, and guidance- unconventional at times, in the eyes of the Israelites, perhaps- yet, given freely and generously to a forgetful people.

Is this not the story of the entire Bible?  A God who extends mercy and kindness to people who have rebelled and forget who He is and what He has done… over and over and over again?

Turns out I’m not so unlike the Israelites after all.  I grumble because I’m dissatisfied and God graciously meets a need.  I complain because I think the time table should be different and God gently reminds that His paths are beyond tracing out (Romans 11:33).  I stubbornly choose my own way and God displays unlimited patience to draw me back.

So today, written for you and for me, when we are forgetful, God is a faithful God.
For you, young Mom, caught up in chasing munchkins and organizing carpools.
For you, weary believer, who needs a reminder to endure and rest in who He is.
For you, who walked away from faith long ago.
For you, whose busy schedule doesn’t allow for an extra moment of reflection or spiritual rest.
And for me, today, right now.  Because even the one (especially the one) who pens the post needs to be continually reminded of God’s great faithfulness.
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The point isn’t to acknowledge we’re forgetful and carry on in our half-hearted allegiance, distracted forgetfulness, or even willful rebellion.  Let’s confess our shortcomings to the God who already knows, who stands ready to forgive.  Let’s press on and pursue Jesus.