Monday, July 30, 2012

Money Matters!

Dear Dollar Tree Cashier,

Thank you so much for patiently ringing up my oldest 3 children. This trip to the store was the conclusion of a rather involved lesson in math, financial affairs, and life. For you see, it all began when Maw-Maw sent them mail...

"Hey guys, there is mail in the mailbox for you!"
Children run hurriedly to the door...
"Who is it from?!" "What does it say?!" "Can you help me open it?!!!"
Each child began to rip open the beautifully decorated envelope, sealed with tape for double safety. As shreds of paper filled the floor, they each handed me their card, anxious to know the identify of the secret mail pal.

I began to read each child their own individually wrapped card, with a hand-written note for all, signed by their beloved grandmother. Appreciative. Excited. Truly thrilled by the fact that Maw-Maw thought enough of them to send mail. That alone had these 3 souls jumping up and down and yelling, "Maw-Maw sent us mail! Maw-Maw sent us mail!!" The excitement was evident. Soon the discovery of the money that was included.  And like most children would do, they immediately concluded, "We can go to the store and spend our money!"

My children, ages 2, 4, and 5, are old enough to understand that money spends... but I desired to teach them how to spend money. So I quickly agreed to their plan, but on these terms - let's. talk. math.

"If you have $5, and everything at the Dollar Store costs $1, how many things can you buy?"
The older 2 thought for a second, then almost simultaneously shouted, "5!" I was so proud of them. Therefore, we are going to go to the Dollar Store, as they desired, but not right now. Not today. Self-control.

5 days later, we ventured to the Dollar Store. Sitting in the van I asked, "If you buy 5 things, how many dollars will you have left?" They looked somewhat puzzled and then sadly concluded that they won't have any money left. I continued, "If you buy 4 things, how many dollars will you have left?" ... "If you buy 3 things, how many dollars will you have left?" ... Still new to the concept, I counted with them, and watched as they began to understand this concept of spending and saving.  Then I asked each child, "So, how many things will you buy at the Dollar Store?" Each one wanted to spend, but also wanted to have money left. They concluded 4 items to purchase- a decision that was made on their own, prior to entering the store. Budgeting.

Then the fun began!! As we walked in the store, I knew I needed to guide them away from housewares and cleaning products, and steer them toward that which would excite them most - toys! Naturally they wanted everything they saw.  However, they became more thoughtful in their selection, as they watched their self-imposed $4 budget begin to shrink. Shopping.

Calculators, hats, bouncy balls, princess action figures, hair extensions... yes blue hair for my girl! Decisions were made. Time to check out.

That's where you greeted us with a very patient smile. You waited on each child, one by one, as unbeknown to you, this was the final step in a mathematical journey for them.  So again, I thank you.

Oh, and by the way... thank you for the friendly service you extended 5 minutes before the store was scheduled to close.  I'll be more aware of that next time!

Precious MOMents...

P.S. Each child put $1 in the their piggy bank.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's Celebrate.... OHHHH!!!!!

Drumming... rapping... chanting... laughing... This is how we celebrate! Listen closely, and you'll hear me forget my child's name - (what else is new?!).  Look carefully, and you'll see the mess that was made. Clearly we are not a perfect family.  But guess what?? We still celebrate!!

Creating a celebratory environment in my home is not always easy. Often times, I have to choose to the find the good, amidst all the screaming, the fighting, the tattling, and the constant nagging. I have to release the vision for my "perfect children", embrace who they really are, guide them with discipline and love... and celebrate!

Every day. A choice. An intentional, deliberate effort. It's never forced. It's never made up. We simply celebrate something.  We celebrate when a child clears the table. We celebrate when one sibling helps another with the seat belt. We celebrate when we find that lost toy. Sometimes we just celebrate who each child is. Period. And my favorite? Oh, my favorite is when the kids are playing independently, and I overhear them celebrating each other!

Celebrate... Just a little something I do to survive in these mean streets of homemaking!

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
~1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, July 20, 2012

How did we get HERE?!!

Like many newlyweds, my husband and I desired to one day be parents. In fact, we came into the marriage having already decided that we would wait the customary year before beginning our family.  Our plans were dreamy.  We would have a few children, perhaps 3... or 4 at the most.  They would be 2 years apart, and I would be done by the age of 35 - for sure!  Would I continue teaching? Perhaps. Or I may decide to stay at home for a few years. That part was never etched in stone. All we knew is that we wanted to have a family... some day.

"Some day" became sooner than later, stronger than ever, and seemingly all at once.  We managed to squeeze 5 kids in 5 years, and we were immediately thrust into this category called "family".  This was not our plan!! How did we get here??

Finding myself in a whirlwind of children, I would often sit back and evaluate my life. I'm an educator to children, a mentor to teens, but I DON'T DO BABIES. They pee, they poop, they project huge unsightly things from their wee little bodies.  They wiggle, they jiggle, they don't sit up straight.  They are so delicate, so fragile.... so needy!! There is no way I could handle 1, 2,... 5 of them??!!  Sigh... I continued to wrestle with my own thoughts... What have we done??!! This was not our plan... How did we get here?? 

"Haven't you heard of birth control?"... "Don't you guys have a TV?"... "Man, y'all are like rabbits!"... We've heard it all!! And time and time again, I have found myself explaining, rationalizing, justifying our children to close friends and strangers alike.  I wanted to be sure that people knew that this was not our plan, that we really are "responsible", that I don't want to be barefoot and pregnant for the rest of my life! But even in constant explanation, I still found myself overwhelmed by it all and left with this question... How did we get here??

Then the light bulb... the epiphany... the ah-ha moment, where something you "know", suddenly becomes so clear! Psalm 127:3 reads: Behold, children are a heritage (blessing) from the LORD.  The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Blessing. Reward. Wow.  We live in a day and age where children are considered to be a burden... where we plan them according to how they best fit into our life goals, careers, and finances... where people operate with this unspoken expectation of a "socially acceptable" amount of offspring... We live in a time where people often forget that children are a blessing and a reward.

I finally had to stop explaining, stop rationalizing, stop justifying our life situation long enough to simply embrace the TRUTH. For God has blessed my husband and I... and rewarded us with 5 of His prized possessions. He has loaned 5 souls to us. He has entrusted 5 hearts to us. God has given us 5 beautiful children... to give back to Him.

Now when I think, "How did we get here?"... it is from a place of humility and appreciation. For I now know, we are blessed and rewarded.