The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

The Mom Project Chapter 13: Shower Your Kids With Grace

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

My daughter Anya has crossed that mysterious threshold, called middle school. I refer to it as the tween twilight zone. I had taken for granted the innocence of elementary school, the fairy forts being built in the backyard and listening to the endless stories of her class fishing with bamboo sticks in the creek. I was completely unprepared for sixth grade and the change it would bring to our home! Anya on the other hand is living her best tween life with one small exception…missing homework. I am certain my daughter completes her homework, because I have the unfortunate experience of wracking my brain trying to help her figure out what the slope of xy is if y is -4! Did I mention my strong disdain for algebra? Oh, and we haven’t even reached algebra this is pre-algebra! Since, she excelled in math in fifth grade she was placed in pre-algebra two levels higher than the average sixth grade math course, which has caused somewhat of a rift in our relationship!

Some of our discord is my fault. I have a new- found obsession with the online grading system that allows me to check the status of homework and grades at any time of the day…which I do…multiple times. I don’t check because I’m in training to be a tiger mom. I check because first, I’m perplexed that work is missing and second, I’m concerned. I never had issues with her handing in homework. I’m fully aware that Anya is responsible for her grades, but my momma heart can’t help to be a bit worried.

I decided to lower my blood pressure and put a stop to my new found unhealthy habit of visiting RemWeb. It was working, until one evening when she asked me to check if her math test was recorded. I eagerly agreed, after all my resistance was wearing weak! I put in the password, pulled up pre-algebra and there it was…a D, and to make matters worse, the overall grade was a D-. If she didn’t understand the material that’s one thing, but just not handing work in, well that’s another.

My eyes scanned the grades and it was apparent that she was in real trouble and partly because of missing work! I was ready to lay down the hammer, then I saw her eyes filling up with tears. I knew that anything I said in the heat of frustration would only result in a big blow out. Instead I gave her a goodnight kiss decided it was time to dive into the, “Mom Project.” I needed help!

The project, “Shower Your Kids with Grace,” immediately caught my attention. It was time to try a different angle, one that was completely opposite of what I felt like doing, which was dropping the gauntlet. After reading the project, I knew the best lesson wasn’t going to be a lecture, but a good dose of grace.

The next morning, I let Anya sleep in for a bit and woke her up with her favorite homemade waffle breakfast with whip cream and blackberries. She looked at me quizzically and cautiously. I told her we were taking the day off and having a mother daughter day in Washington, DC. She loves photography, so I planned a relaxing day of visiting her favorite spots to let her take photos. It would be a day free of grades, judgment or blame. We hopped on the metro and began the day in our Nation’s Capital. Watching Anya so care free, doing cart wheels on the National Mall, practicing her photography skills at the Botanical Gardens, and grabbing a sweet treat at Georgetown Cupcakes was a perfect way to shower her with the grace she needed.

While hanging out at the National Gallery’s Sculpture Garden, Anya said, “Thanks, mom. This has been the best day,” and she opened up about some feelings and even fears that I had no idea about. After our excursion, without my prompting Anya asked me to drop her at school at 7:30 am to get tutoring in pre-algebra. She handed in the missing work and pulled her grade up to a C. I have no doubt that day of grace made a difference for the both of us.

I learned that a little bit of grace goes a long way. This project made me think of my too many to count colossal screw ups and the grace upon grace Jesus so graciously gave me. Jesus has loved me unconditionally through every stage and I had to make sure that I was showing that same grace and love to Anya as she goes through her many stages, even the twilight teen years.

If you want to try this project, find ways to incorporate simple and spontaneous grace in your family’s life to create a home that emphasizes your love for them in all circumstances. Maybe show up at school to take them out to an impromptu lunch, give them a free pass on chores for an evening, or simply don’t dole out a much-deserved consequence as a way of showing grace. Sewing grace into the fabric of our homes create kids that know how to accept grace, but also freely give it to others as well. Who couldn’t stand a little more grace in their day?

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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This is written by Chere Williams, a passionate single mother who encourages women to make God their partner in their single parenting journey through her blog, “A Single Christian Mom’s Advice on Making Life Easier” Read an excerpt of her upcoming e-book,  “15 Tips on Avoiding Single Mom Burnout.” Click here for a free download.

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Chapter 11: Go Outside

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

The Project

Go outside. That’s the depth, height, and difficulty level of my activity for The Mom Project. And those two simple words are precisely why I love The Mom Project so much. Why? Because the simple task of spending intentional time with my children – of being present with them – works. It actually works! No extra time, fancy equipment, or expensive outings required. And that really appeals to a busy, budget-aware mom like me.

The Plan

The plan was to go to the local park and do a scavenger hunt. As I drew scavenger hunt maps and started grabbing an extra this and a bonus that to make the experience extra-completely-perfect, I felt my shoulders tightening up. The kids were getting antsy for their lunch and dangerously close to naptime, so I knew I was about to miss my one-and-only window. And as a work-from-home mom, naptime is essential.

I suddenly remembered that the instructions for spending time with my kids were simply: “Go outside.” Go outside. So simple, and yet, as usual, I was trying to over complicate things to the point of discouragement. So we grabbed our less-than-perfect stuff and headed out the door.

Results

We arrived at the small local park armed with our scavenger hunt maps. Once there, we met another family who was eager to join in on the fun. Together, the kids raced around, buckets in hand, searching for various nature items on the list: something purple, something soft, something lovely, etc. After all the items were collected, we huddled in a circle to examine our finds. As I held up each of the spring-fresh discoveries, ranging from flowers to sticks to pinecones, I interjected a few statements about God’s beautiful creation: “Did you know that we can see evidence of God everywhere we look? When we find something LOVELY, it points to its Maker, God.”

It was a fun time. We finished things off by making nature bracelets. I wrapped a strand of packing tape (sticky side out) around each little wrist, and set them off to attach bits of nature to their bracelets. After the excitement of the scavenger hunt, the kids were eager to set back off on the trail in search of more loot. The results were beautiful.

What I Learned

So what did I learn? Turns out, I’m the holdup. I get in my own way. Remember earlier in the day, when I was racing back and forth, packing the perfect items, trying to make the perfect day? Did you catch it? That problem word? Yep, that’s the word… “perfect.” By doing this simple project, I learned that my perfectionistic tendencies trip me up, discourage me, overwhelm me. Friends, I almost canceled the whole trip to the park! I was stressing myself to the max, when all I needed to do was “Go outside.”

My kids just want to spend time with me. The scavenger hunt didn’t need to be sketched in multi-colored markers with 3D relishes. I wasn’t required to do a scavenger hunt AND a treasure hunt AND a nature bracelet AND make a scrapbook of the experience the same day. Through this project, I learned to let less-than-perfect be enough.

This applies to all of life, too. Sometimes it seems as if I live my life waiting for the perfect moment…when all along, the moments are happening right in front of me. I just have to engage.

Extra Tips

If you’re doing this activity with littles, think simple. It doesn’t have to be a Pinterest production. It really can just be a blanket on the ground outside for lunch instead of at the table. After all, who would’ve thought my kids could have fun in the same environment, with the same things they see on a daily basis? (They did.)

Apparently, The Mom Project is all about tweaking my everyday routine, just a tad. It’s about incorporating this purpose, this focus, this worshipful moment into what we’re already doing anyway. It’s about making the everyday mundane special. It really doesn’t take a major schedule overhaul – just focused effort on what’s already going on.

In my perfectionist tendencies, I’d always thought I needed to wait until I could “Martha Stewart” a project with my kids. Turns out, they don’t care what it is or how pretty it is. They just want me to show up. To be there. And to love them well.

It calls to mind our mandate for telling our children about God: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV) When should I be speaking about the saving, transforming power of Christ’s love in my life? When I have time? Nope. I never really will have that “perfect” time. It happens as we go: in the van, when I lay them down for nap, in the drive-thru, in the carline. Not when I finally have time to do it perfectly.

Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Kelli Pavlovec draws from her experience as a work from home mom to help smart moms get unstuck and find their best self at www.TwoHourMom.com. For a free worksheet on 7 Ways to Pursue Your Life Dreams, Even While You’re a Mom, click here.

 

Trading in Comparison and To-Dos for Meaningful Traditions

Trading in Comparison and To-Dos for Meaningful Traditions

Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:

When I first became a mom over 20 years ago, I had this perfectly reasonable idea that if I could just follow a certain list of things that “good moms” did then surely I would ensure that my kids would turn out OK. The problem was that the hospital must have forgotten to give me a copy of the list because I left with a tiny baby bundle and no clue what I was doing. As a young mom I quickly fell into the comparison trap. I thought that if I could just copy what other successful families were doing then we’d be fine.

So I started looking around, taking notes on all the things “good parents” did. You know the usual: reading to your baby, getting them into the right pre-school, sports teams and activities, sign up to be class parent for every grade, volunteer with the PTO, and so on. But every year that passed the list seemed to get longer and longer. It was becoming hard to keep up.

One area where there seemed to be a never-ending list of to-dos, for example, was birthday celebrations. We have dear friends and family members who have a gift for hospitality. They love throwing parties for every birthday and holiday. And early on I felt pressure to have big parties too, even though it’s not one of my “gifts”. But after having our 4th child we realized that big birthday parties every year for each child was just not in alignment with our values or our budget.

Our focus shifted from checking boxes and trying to do all of the things to considering what we really wanted our kids to remember about their time at home?

After we gave our family permission to trade-in the to-dos for meaningful traditions, our birthday celebrations became small and simple but meaningful. The birthday person gets to choose the meal and dessert of their choice on their special day and they get to use the red “I am special today” plate. Then we go around the table and take turns sharing what we love about the birthday person.

It’s become a sweet, fun and often funny tradition in our home.

As I started to think more about what memories and experiences we wanted to create together as a family I began to look for ways to make our time together special. Little every-day events have become reasons for celebration.

For example, Friday evenings have turned into “Toto’s Fridays” where we head to our favorite pizza place for dinner, usually after our youngest son’s baseball game, and catch up on the week’s events.

Other ideas for family traditions:

  • Family reunions
  • Annual camping trips
  • Donuts or a special treat on the first day of school
  • First day of summer scavenger hunt
  • Family game night Fridays
  • Ice cream sundae Sundays

There are definitely times when we need to check off to-do lists but when it comes to creating family memories each family is wonderfully different. Let’s choose to celebrate our time together by creating meaningful traditions that are in line with our family’s values rather than consume what others are doing and potentially miss out on some special opportunities.

One small win: We have limited time while our kids are at home, creating family traditions can be a great way of celebrating your family’s uniqueness and create memories together. Consider what special or ordinary events you’d like to find ways to celebrate.

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Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.

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Zohary Ross is a life coach, speaker and author of the Aligned Parenting Workbook. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to let go of the never-ending hustle for perfection and live with alignment instead. Connect with her at zoharyross.com

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

10 Costco Secrets (that Work in Baja, Too)

If you’re a lover of the food court, impressed by ridiculously clean, smooth floors, and slightly addicted to samples… welcome to the Costco club.

It’s pretty much the only place where your shopping cart can contain a $45,000 diamond ring resting on top of a five-gallon jug of cooking oil.

It’s also the only place I’d like to be stuck/trapped/held captive in the event of an alien parking lot invasion. Think about it… grab a mattress, sheets, down comforter, scooch yourself to the middle aisles, bust open a pillow two-pack, choose some cozy jammies, slippers and a good book, plug in a heater and wait for the sample servers to come around with hors-d’oeuvres at five. Rotisserie chicken, bagged salad and artisan bread for dinner? I’ll grab the paper plates, napkins, and plastic silverware. Brownies or pumpkin pie for dessert? Yes.

Before we accidentally start planning this event, let’s get to the Costco secrets.

Disclaimer:

  • I am not an employee of Costco.
  • I am not a secret shopper with the ability to write Costco up for not letting me drive the floor squeegee/rider/thingy.
  • I do not own Costco stock.
  • I have only put one question in the suggestion box. (Why is cornbread seasonal?)
  • I do not follow Costco on Twitter.
  • I have never spent the night in Costco, though I’m not entirely opposed to the idea.
  • I am not member FDIC, mostly because I do not know what that means.

The Secrets

1. Open, Open, Open

Most Costcos in the States open at 10:00 a.m., but if you live in Mexico… 9:00 a.m., baby! Once I arrived early to our Ensenada store thinking I had 15 minutes to wait. When what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a dude with a key and a smile just for me. In I went at 8:45, feeling like I had been given an extra chunk of time in my day. This happens in Temecula, CA, too!

2. Turnover Nights

Ever wonder why the display of rad, crazy-soft blankets moved from the front to the middle and then to the right? Marketing. Costco moves things around to make you take a different route and possibly see new products.

New products are stocked on Saturday during the night shift, so if you want to see the latest and greatest, shop Sunday. But first, go to church and pray for patience because there tends to be a bit of gridlock around the TVs and Nearly Naked Popcorn.

3. Some Prices Will Never Change

Behold, the all-American hotdog, and soda combo, alive and well in Baja, too. Same price since the day Costco opened… just a mere $1.50. Friendly reminder: just because something is super cheap and makes your mouth dance does not mean it’s healthy for your insides.

Did I just ruin it?

Sorry—I ruined it.

4. Costco Membership = Discounts on Cars, Vacations, and Coffins

Not much to explain here. If you plan on buying a car, going on a vacation or kicking the can soon, shop costco.com first. 

5. For Real Bargains, Shop the Perimeter and Middle

According to Lifehacker, the middle area of the store is referred to as “action alley” because of the high traffic. “Makers and distributors often pay for the privilege of being there, and the prices are aggressive,” the site says. The flashy displays at the end of aisles, where lucrative samples are given, tend to be the worst bargains in Costco.

I love lucrative samples.

6. Price Adjustments

Besides having an amazing return policy, Costco also offers a 30-day price adjustment guarantee. If an item gets marked down within 30 days of when you bought it, take your receipt to customer service and get the difference reimbursed. Badda-bing, badda-boom.

7. Cheapest Prescription Drugs

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that, when it comes to generic prescription drugs, Costco’s pharmacy is the most affordable on the market.

Extra Bonus: Did you know Costco membership is not required for Costco Pharmacy purchases online or in the warehouses? Annnd… they offer home delivery. Ding-dong!

8. Ninety-Seven-Cent Tags are Your Friends

Most regular priced items end in .99¢, and sometimes .49¢, .79¢, and .89¢. But the real bargains end in .97¢. They’re the items that have been marked down to the lowest sales you’ll find. They’re throughout the whole store, even on food items. Score, score, score some more.

9. Asterisks Mean “Bye Bye”

If you see this symbol (*) in the top right corner of the price tag then you know the item will not be restocked. What you see is all they have, and it won’t be returning, so if it’s something you need, stock up. Exception: popular seasonal merchandise might be returning, but not for a year. Don’t panic though: Christmas decor now arrives in August. #sweatysanta

10. Think Outside the (Costco) Box

The clear, plastic container that holds a 12-pack or 14-pack of apples perfectly fits Christmas ornaments. Fa-la-la-la-la!

What’s your favorite Costco bargain?

Besides maybe pita and hummus, what do you think Jesus would buy at Costco?


Carrie Talbott

Originally from the redwood forest of Mount Hermon, CA, Carrie lived in Baja, Mexico for the past 12 years. She and her husband, and two very white, bilingual boys just moved back to the States and are gradually adjusting to traffic and taco prices.

In the middle of a non-profit ministry and surrounded by dust and mud, she wrote a children’s book about bullying. She is now collaborating on a nonfiction book about loss, guilt and grace.

Carrie is dedicated to Jesus and avocados, and blogs regularly at carrietalbottink.com. She can also be found on Twitter @carrie_talbott and on Facebook at Carrie Talbott Ink.

 

 

God Speaks When We’re Listening

God Speaks When We’re Listening

Prayer can be a challenging practice, but Amy shares a simple but profound method she was taught that has reminded her to listen. God speaks when we’re listening! Want to try something new to reinvigorate your prayer life? Watch Amy’s short vlog, print the downloadable and spend some time with God. He’s waiting just for you!


 

Amy CarrollAmy Carroll is a speaker and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She’s the author of Breaking Up with Perfect as well as the director and coach of Next Step Coaching Services.  As a woman who loves a great story and a challenging idea, co-hosting the Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast has become one of her favorite things.

Amy and her husband live in lovely Holly Springs, NC.  You can find her on any given day texting her two sons at college, typing at her computer, or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner.  Share life with Amy at www.amycarroll.org and find out more about her speaker coaching services at http://www.nextstepcoachingservices.com/.

 

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

Surprising Clutter: You Will Never Guess What I Found Under My Couch

I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.

The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.

Surprising clutter 

I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.

I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.

It was just that we could only see the mess.

It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.

How to clear out the surprising clutter

As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.

My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.

Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.

 


You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.