Dear Working Mom

By: Ashley Whisonant

Dear working mom,

I know you are exhausted.

You wake up extra early to pack lunches, book bags, pick out clothes, check homework, or gather after-school activity gear. You probably also notice the toys on the living room floor, the left over dishes from dinner last night, or the toy you promised to fix last night. Don’t get discouraged.

I know you feel like a failure most days – same here. The feeling of not being 100% at work or home, it’s a constant battle. The guilt you feel if you do have a successful, full day at work, but then miss an activity at preschool for the kids. Why can’t you finally figure out a halloween-cupcakesway to volunteer at 9:30 in the morning to make stick horses AND get to work by 8:30? Don’t get discouraged.

Let’s not even start on Pinterest. Pinterest is basically a working mother’s worst nightmare. You are addicted to the cute and perfect snacks and art projects. When can I fit this in my already-over-extended day? I would LOVE to make graveyard cupcakes with tombstones for my boys’ preschool classes – sure. Let me try and do this after working all day, cleaning up from dinner, and trying to be present to my boys, after baths and bedtime. It’s okay to just buy cupcakes for the party. Really, it is. Don’t get discouraged.

I know there are times you feel selfish. Wanting just a free night or weekend away. The voice in the back of your head telling you, “How can you leave your precious babies when you are already gone all day?” “A dedicated mother would never do that!” Don’t get discouraged.

Being a working mother is tough. Don’t get discouraged. You are enough for your children. They think you are amazing. Keep reminding yourself that you are amazing.

Sincerely yours,

A fellow working mom

 

The Birthday

By: Angie Sloan

August 26, 2016. Today, my sweet daughter, Ila, turned three years old. Today, another family lost their daughter to leukemia. She was four. I never met her, but she lived here in birthdaythe Midlands and I’ve followed her story for several months on Facebook. Her name was Kaylin.

Tonight, as we sat around the dinner table, laughing and celebrating little Ila’s big day, I reflected about how Kaylin celebrated her last birthday. I wonder what kind of cake she had? What was her favorite gift? Was she sick then? Did her parents have any idea, as she blew out her candles, that this would be her last birthday? Although I smiled and participated in the festivities with my daughter, my heart was overcome with grief for their Kaylin. I felt such guilt for celebrating. Yes, it is my daughter’s special day, but they lost their little girl. Then I felt equally as guilty for not wholly participating in Ila’s celebration. Did this experience not teach me anything? I should be celebrating each and every moment with the people I love.

I have often wondered how parents and grandparents survive the death of a child. I have mentally tried to put myself in their place. I cannot fathom what they must feel. Just thinking about it makes me physically ill. Do they ever recover? How do they go on with their lives? How do they wake up and get out of the bed in the morning? I imagine everything feels empty. I would be overcome with grief and consumed by sadness. How do they do it? How do they go on living?

Then, I think of the siblings and the friends left behind. The older siblings who were once protective of their little brothers or sisters. How do they cope? And the little ones…do they even understand what’s happening? How do you explain this to their friends? How do you explain death to a child?

My daughter seems to sense that something is “off” with me tonight. She’s curled up in my lap, almost as if to comfort me. She knows. As I hold her in my arms, I am so grateful to have this moment with her. To hold her. To feel her warm breath on my chest. To smell her sweet hair. To look down at her long eyelashes, as my tears fall. And I am thankful to have a healthy little girl. Grateful to have three healthy children. Happy to see my house in disarray, because it’s living proof that they are still here. They are here. They are happy. They are loved. Tonight, as we celebrate her birthday, I am so unbelievably grateful.

Because earlier tonight, someone lost their daughter.

In loving memory of Kaylin. May her family find peace as they grieve for this sweet angel. Please remember that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Share this story. Do what you can to make a difference.

Tough Love

By: Crissie Kirby

tough love
“Ms. Kirby”, the voice said, “guess what?” I cringed a little when I heard the voice; it was one of the directors of the SC National Guard Youth Camp. My fear was that, after only a day, Pierce had gotten injured. The words she uttered were honestly more difficult for me to hear.

“Pierce is homesick and wants to come home”

UGH. That was honestly the LAST news I expected to get from camp. I suppose I went into the whole sleepaway camp idea a bit naïve. My children spend a week to ten days away from home with their grandparents. We are a family that does sleepovers for crying out loud. BUT, this mom totally failed to take into account that Pierce had never been away somewhere with people he did not know. And when he went to camp, he, literally, knew no one. No other campers. No counselors. No one.

I was at a loss. Pierce is my independent, never-meet-a -stranger kid. Even as a two or three year old, he would stand on the balcony in Hilton Head and talk to every random person that walked towards the pool. But, oh the tears that I knew were falling and the despair I could audibly hear in his little voice rocked me to my core. However, my core told me that going to pick him up, to rescue him, was not the lesson we sent him to camp to learn. I told him that I wanted him to stay at least one more night. The director and I spoke again and we agreed that maybe it was a combination of just adjusting and being tired and that staying was to his benefit. We made the decision to talk on Tuesday. On Facebook, I posted a passionate plea for prayers of peace and comfort . . . for both Pierce and me!

Tuesday rolled around and I thought we were in the clear. I posted a grateful message of thanks. At about 7:45 p.m. my phone rang. My heart sank as I heard my son’s tears before I heard his voice. He begged and pleaded with me to come pick him up. He declared that he could NOT stay one more night. I tried being nice. I tried being stern. Finally I spoke with his head counselor who relayed that Pierce had had a good day, until he got mail from home. I got my ex-husband on the phone because frankly, I was cracking. The weight of the tears and the despair was weakening my soul. Still, I didn’t feel “right” about picking him up early from camp. Together, the adults made some tough decisions that night. We decided that unless Pierce was injured, there were to be no more phone calls home. That ability was totally taken off of the table. We also made the seemingly cruel decision to withhold ALL of his mail for the remainder of the week. He would get his mail on Saturday after graduation when we were there to pick him up. I asked his counselor only one small favor . . . could he just text me and let me know that Pierce was ok at night. He was immediately receptive and followed through with this and Pierce was none the wiser.

tough loveSaturday morning rolled around and the two hour ride to Summerton and Camp Bob Cooper felt like it might as well have been ten hours long. We arrived and gathered Pierce’s belongings. We waited on the graduation ceremony to begin. My son beamed when he saw us. My heart swelled to see that other than having a little tan, he looked no worse for the wear. The campers marched in and performed their group cadences. As the sun rose higher and the temperature crept up, the ceremony began to draw to a close; there was only the awarding of the two camp awards left. The first was the MVPeavy award (camper of the year). As the description was read off, Pierce’s dad and I looked at each other and whispered that it sounded like it was Pierce they were talking about. What? It was Pierce. Tears fell from my eyes as my ten year old’s name was called out as having been chosen as the MVP of the entire camp. My child, who had called home twice, adamant that he could not spend one more night there, had just been called out for displaying notable assistance to other campers during activities and for having a positive and helpful attitude. Suffice to say, I was, and am, proud beyond words of my son.

However, my pride is not rooted so much in him having received the award as it is in his overcoming a challenge that seemed insurmountable. What would have happened had I caved on the first night, or even the second, and gone and picked him up? I would have sent him a solid message that I would rescue him at any point in time when life gets just a little tough. Make no mistake, tough love is HARD; I cried that week; I barely slept that week; my concentration was at an all time low that week. Every day it seems that we hear, see, or read some article about the increasing role of helicopter parents in today’s children. We see parents who constantly rescue their children from any level of difficulty or disappointment in life, whether it be in school, on the playground, or even in college of all places!! Was Pierce disappointed in my not coming to pick him up? I’m sure that he was. Was being away from home with no familiar face difficult for Pierce? Again, I’m sure that it was. But, when my son looks at me on a regular basis and tells me “thank you for sending me to camp” and how excited he seems to be about attending camp next year, it makes the tears, worry, sleeplessness, and, most importantly, the tough love completely worth it. Are there some situations from which we, as parents, need to rescue our children? Certainly. But there comes a point in time when we, as parents, must learn what is really helping them out of harm’s way and what is just interfering with a part of growing up and requires just a smidge of “tough love”.

Realize This is the Real World

By: Shannon Boatwright

So there’s this video circulating on Facebook. It’s been out in the web world for over 6 years now. But it’s resurfaced, rightly so, since we’re in total back-to-school mode. I’d seen it before but I recently watched it again, getting a good chuckle. As a good, hardworking teacher, you certainly get the point of the video. Any school employee that deals with craziness from parents will get this video.

Sure, there are unworthy people out there in the education system who should not be granted the privilege of teaching or even be in the presence of students. Sadly, passionless, burnt out, sad sacks exist in the education world. Sometimes you just can’t avoid those types. But the truth is, they are far and few between. There are millions of truly passionate teachers and dedicated folks who do care so very much and try their hardest to do everything they can do to provide the best education for our children.

 

Watching this video again reminded me of the great privilege I have to inspire, educate and hopefully create outstanding, respectable, hardworking individuals that will contribute to society. All that said, as you watch the video and chuckle too, whether you’re a parent, grandparent, guardian or supporter of children and education in any form, please remember that all the weight does not fall on the shoulders of the teachers, administration or support staff. An enormous part of creating, building, and molding a successful student must come from a student’s support system at home AND must be met with an individual student’s own effort and dedication to doing their best.

Like the school voicemail message states, this is the REAL world and “your child must be accountable and responsible for his or her behavior, classwork, and homework.” The answer to why a particular student is failing at anything, may not be due to a teacher’s fault. Always stop to consider this and make sure that your student, your child, is making an honest effort.

My personal mantra for the new school year, as a passionate, Arts-loving Drama teacher, is one of Brendon Burchard’s many fabulous quotes,

“Grant me the strength to focus this week, to be mindful and present,to serve with excellence, to be a force of love.”

Here’s to a successful new school year that will hopefully produce a sea of inspired, educated, standing-ovation-worthy students that will move on to do great things in their lives that will make a positive difference in this crazed world of ours!  🙂

Do We Need a Serving of Humble Pie?

 

By: Lara Winburn

pride

In recent weeks, I have noticed a lot about ego. The good news about writing this is folks with a mega-ego (in politics or otherwise) never know they have one because the mega ego has blinders. First of all, a little ego goes a long way. In my opinion, most everyone with a healthy dose of self-worth also has a healthy dose of ego, self-confidence, whatever you want to call it. I am even attracted to folks that let their ego flag fly – often they are not afraid to try new trends, laugh too loud, and be the center of attention. (If you have ever heard me laugh you know this rings true)

But here is the truth. Humility is the stuff true rock stars are made of. Give me an anonymous donor or a secret Ivy League graduate any day. There is a balance. As I raise both a son and a daughter, I want them to be brave and confident, self-aware and proud of their little individual spirits. But more than that I want them to be kind and thoughtful, patient and loving, and humble.

I do not know whether a yearly helping of humble pie can be mandatory. But I am always striking a balance between building self-confidence without creating a cocky monster. I mean y’all- I have a friend that we have literally joked for years that her momma spent too much time building her up. Her momma must have gone to some “Self-Esteem 101” class but slept through “Nobody likes a Bragger 102.” It is a delicate balance indeed. The best I know is to continue to praise my children for all of their many talents and gifts while also pointing out that this world is full of people walking around with crazy cool talents and gifts. I do not think it is healthy to compare ourselves to each other but it is healthy to look around sometimes and say “Wow – that person is an amazing writer” or “Darn – that girl is so organized, she makes it look easy” or even better to recognize that humble servant that is rarely recognized and seems to be at peace with it all.

This world seems to be screaming: post that awesome thing you did on Facebook, take a picture of that dinner you just slayed, or add another skill to you LinkedIn profile. I think I will try to give as many high fives as I do pats on the back. And as for that humble pie, I promise to choke it down when the time comes to tell myself that I’m only awesome 85% of the time.

Inventors Wanted

By: Lara Winburn

hulahoopAs summer is upon us there are many things I celebrate. Time outside, time in the pool, time at the beach. I love lightening bugs and snow cones and lazy summer days but there are brief hiccups in these idyllic summer days when I wish I had some summer survival inventions. When we are not Instagramming our perfect S’mores or finding the most perfect seashell on the seashore, there is the occasional short fuse and too much togetherness. For those times, dear friends, please make me one of these.

First of all, I would like a personal space hula hoop – you know, like a parent perimeter or a baby barrier. I love hugs and kisses and snuggles but sometimes I need a little space, particularly in the summer when it is hot, sticky and humidity reaches 198 million percent. I could slip on my breezy hula hoop that would prevent anyone, particularly of the toddler variety, from making contact with me. Maybe a little something pleasing to look at like a hula skirt just with a larger more rigid rim – let’s say a hoop skirt meets impenetrable force field of personal space or a mote around this fortress called motherhood.

The other thing I would like as we hit some summer boredom or one rainy day too many is a recording of my own voice. My voice repeating the phrases that it seems I say over and over again. Maybe if it was a little like the Easy button from Staples except when you push it says things like, “Keep your hands to yourself.” OR “Put on your shoes.” OR “Wash your sticky hands.” You know sometimes it is physically exhausting to utter even another word especially when it is the same word you have said 9 million times. See a squabble between siblings – just hit the “hands-to-yourself”button. Finally ready to leave the house and realize someone is still bare footed? Just slam on the “shoes-now” button! Push it 100 times without ever raising your voice. There is a chance you could look at a magazine and regulate behavior at the same time….maybe.

The other thing I would like to own, while maybe not a new invention, is just not in my possession. I would like the darkest, thickest blackout curtains known to man. You know, nothing makes bedtime easy and breezy like daylight savings time. I need these curtains to provide the pitch-black trickery necessary to put small children to bed before everyone runs out of patience. (And before the go-to-bed-now button doesn’t work anymore.)

So happy summer to all of you out there! I hope your days are filled with smiling freckled faces, ice cream sundaes and daring dashes through the sprinklers, but when things get real – I’ll let you know when these prototypes are ready!

Your Struggle is Not Greater Than Your God

By: Chaunte McClure

Mothers Day

I always find it interesting when I’m invited to preach for a Mother’s Day worship service. I don’t have children, although I do have quite a few who are special to me. I accepted the invitation and when I was meditating and thinking about what my message will be on Sunday, Hannah, Elkanah’s wife, came to mind. She longed to be a mother, but was barren for many years. She prayed that God would change her situation and give her a son.

Mother’s Day is well celebrated to honor moms and maternal bonds. On Sunday, my Facebook timeline will be flooded with public statements of thanks to moms and photos of Mother’s Day gifts. Historically, that’s what typically happens; and we ought to honor mothers.

I kept thinking about the sons, daughters, moms or even husbands who are struggling. Struggling? Yes, the mom who is struggling with caring for a sick child. The child who is struggling because mom is deceased, ill, absent, unattached or unavailable. The mom who has lost a child or whose child has made poor choices. The husband whose wife, the mother of his children, is no longer here. What is the message for those parishioners with these struggles? Here’s what came to mind: The struggle is not greater than your God. It’s a message that is relevant even for the mom who doesn’t have any of the aforementioned issues because the demands of motherhood alone are sometimes a struggle.

Hannah’s story exemplifies hope in the struggle, strength in faith, and the power to overcome affliction. This Mother’s Day, it is my prayer that the principles and applications gleaned from Hannah’s story will offer hope and encouragement to anyone who might be facing difficulty. Read Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel and remember, your struggle is not greater than your God.

Vanity Thief

By: Lara Winburn

Motherhood has stolen my vanity. (Vanity is only one thing stolen from me – sleep, abs, and my own beating heart are a few others.) But vanity is the one that occurs to me when mirrorI realize the only reflection I have seen all day is on the side of an SUV.

A friend hopped in my car last weekend, glanced down at my makeup bag on the console, and said, “So you put your makeup on in the car, too?” Every single morning. I’ve even considered having multiple makeup bags in cars, offices at work, the church nursery. Just in case I am having a hard time finding a few minutes to actually look in a mirror and apply a little blush. I started applying makeup in the car when the kids were babies because they would be safe in their car seats as I took my eyes off of them for 5 minutes. Now it just shaves time off an already hectic morning.

I cannot remember the last time I was fully dressed, mascaraed and standing at attention in front of a full-length mirror. I mean, to be honest, I have never been very impressive with an iron but I normally had time for a lint brush and mirror pause before racing out the door. I feel certain now that the reason I never look in a mirror is because I would not have time to correct the litany of things wrong – wrinkles, lint, bulges and pulls. You know, ignorance is bliss.

A friend of mine that is a stay-at-home mom was recently talking about her morning routine and like a strike of lightening she stopped and said “Oh my gosh – you have to put on real clothes before you leave the house every morning.” This is not a mommy war, stay-at-home mom vs. working mom statement, this is just the truth. I cannot wear yoga pants and a pony tail to my office. Just a fact. But I would venture a guess, that no matter where your morning takes you, most moms have lost the energy for a certain level of vanity along the way. Maybe that’s just fine. We are raising small humans and all – so lipstick on my teeth seems a little trivial. (But if you see me with lipstick on my teeth, will you please tell me?? It’s some kind of girl rule.)

Sometimes beneath my tall brown boots my socks don’t match because I am tired, they are clean and you didn’t know until just now. I have already admitted to wearing mismatched shoes. I realized the other day as my big, wild, curly hair whipped around, that I didn’t really know what my hair looked like to other people. I felt around and it “seemed” to have a part but I forgot for just a moment that I was not invisible and the people I work with are not blind. Who knows if I look like a lion or a Pantene model? I think I’ll just hope for the later.

I have never been particularly good at eyeliner or the latest Sephora find so this fall from grace was a short trip, but I hope as the kids get older I will reclaim a little of the style I once had. In this season of life, it is hard enough to make sure that my family is clean, fed, and clothed some mornings as we fly out the door.

Just maybe I am a visual lesson for those sweet babies that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. I can almost always promise I am clean, but after that all bets are off. I would like to believe that there are moms everywhere with makeup bags in their car and mismatched socks under their boots with the beaming beauty of love.

Teaching Our Children

By: Brady Evans

My heart broke over Christmas break. I was with my son for two weeks straight because I’m in education and have the luxury of that winter holiday break. And there we were, sitting in the living room, kissing each other, and wrestling, and hugging each other, and talking when I decided that I’d sing some nursery rhymes. After all, at 20 months he seemed of-age. So I busted out the first song that came to my mind, “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I saw my son, standing in front of me, smiling, and he immediately began the hand motions of the spider crawling up the spout, the rain coming down, and the sun coming out.  And initially I smiled SO BIG and SO PROUD because he knew this song and was executing it so beautifully with such a grin and we were having this special moment. And then it hit me: I didn’t teach him this song. I didn’t teach him “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” He learned that from daycare. And tears filled my eyes.

Hanging out in the daycare parking lot after I picked him up because I couldn't stand to just drive straight home without spending quality times. Most days little buddy is asleep when I leave for work so it is nearly 24 hours when I see him again.

Hanging out in the daycare parking lot after I picked him up because I couldn’t stand to just drive straight home without spending quality time. Most days little buddy is asleep when I leave for work so it is nearly 24 hours when I see him again.

What else does my little boy know that I don’t know he knows? What other vocabulary words, songs, lessons, and more am I failing to reinforce at home? What else did he learn from daycare and not from me?

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I don’t want daycare to teach him. Of course I do. I toured daycares and asked questions about curriculum, lessons, and more (my husband and I are both teachers so obviously it was a priority) but that moment when he sang that song like he’s been doing it for months just hit me hard. I had a feelings of pride, gratitude, jealousy, and hurt all rolled into the tears that filled my eyes.

Watching his obsession with understanding how the wheels on his little bike work - I assume he does this at daycare too - pushing and pulling and analyzing how the wheels turn on their grocery carts and walking toys

Watching his obsession with understanding how the wheels on his little bike work. I assume he does this at daycare too – pushing and pulling and analyzing how the wheels turn on their grocery carts and walking toys.

I know I can’t be the sole teacher of my child and I don’t have a monopoly on filling his brain with knowledge. I know sweet Benjamin will learn from other people throughout his life. I know my son loves his teachers and smiles adoringly at them and I know they love him. They KNOW him. They know when he’s happy or may be slightly feverish. They know what he likes (swinging, books, fans, and lights) and what he doesn’t like (dirty hands, tall slides). And I am thankful for that. I am thankful that I trust his teachers and caregivers to love him, take care of him, and teach him.

Brady and Benjamin

Knowing that even though daycare spends more time with him, nothing replaces mom.

But I never will forget that feeling of not knowing what he knows. Seeing him, at 20 months, have this amazing skill he didn’t learn from his parents. It’s just another artifact of being in a family where both parents work very, very full time jobs.

The 12 Days of Christmas….Books

By: Leah Prescott

It’s no secret that we love books in my family. However, if it’s possible, we might love Christmas even more. We love decorating for Christmas, pulling out all the family heirlooms, baking holiday cookies, and singing carols. But when we lug the heavy suitcase full of Christmas books from the attic, all the hustle and bustle seems to fade away. We are all in rapt attention, mesmerized by the same stories told year after year.

Christmas Books

Here are some of my family’s favorite Christmas books, in no particular order. Some of them may be familiar, but we have a few unusual choices that you might also enjoy:

  • The Golden Christmas Tree by Jan Wahl – A sweet folk tale with beautiful illustrations.
  • Walt Disney’s Santa’s Toy Shop by Al Dempster – Vintage Disney charm that reminds me of my grandmother.
  • The Candymaker’s Gift by David & Helen Haidle – The legend of the candy cane as it tells the Christ story.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs – We just have a small board book, but the story of sacrifice is a beautiful one.
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – A longer story for little readers, but this classic can’t be overlooked.
  • The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer – This is a year-long favorite for my dog-loving kiddos.
  • Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – This is part of the My First Little House book series, which is one of my favorite picture book series of all time. Beautiful illustrations play perfect tribute to the beloved original series.
  • Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O’Connor – Sparkle, glitter, and a meaningful lesson…literary perfection!
  • Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold – Just plain Christmasy cute with flaps, scents and pop-ups!
  • Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry – Charming vintage illustrations with an adorable story about animals sharing Christmas.
  • Lassie, a Christmas Story by Earl Hamner – Another echo from my childhood, this book is reminiscent of the 1950s show with a spiritual lesson as the cherry on top.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren – Mama polar bear tells baby polar bear all about the first Christmas in a gentle way. I love that this book includes mention of Santa (without breaking the magic), but more importantly points to the manger.

Christmas books

In my mind, you can never have too many Christmas books, so you can bet I’ll pick up more this year, even though our house is bursting at its seems. I’ll be watching Amazon’s list of best-selling Christmas books for children and paying frequent visits to my favorite thrift stores, where I often find them for 10 or 25 cents each!

Merry reading this holiday season!