Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

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At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

What My One-Year-Old Taught Me About Fear

My sweet child is young and is still learning so many things about this great, big world. Just this week she learned that if food is hot to the touch, it will also burn her mouth, so she should put it back down and wait before eating. This was a lesson learned by trial and error (and many looks that said, “Why did you let me eat that?”). Currently she is learning just how much she can irritate the dog (i.e. pull his ears, legs, tail, poke his eyes, yell at him, etc…) before he loses patience. She’s also learning the delicate timing of how fast she can get away from him when he’s had enough.

But there are plenty of things she doesn’t know about. Like sharks. She doesn’t know about sharks. She has pictures of fish in many of her books. You can ask her to point at the fish and she will. But she doesn’t know that some of those “fish” grow to be very large and have very sharp teeth and can eat you.

We took our sweet girl to the beach this month. She had only been in water a handful of times so we were prepared for some natural fear of the water. We were also prepared for a downright paralyzing fear of the sand, due to her being OCD and never wanting any dirt on her hands. She will literally spend 30 minutes picking invisible specks of dirt off her hands and feet. She carries wipes with her at all times, just in case there’s dirt somewhere and it might get on her. We can’t explain this phenomenon but we do take full advantage of it.

So we were a little nervous about the sand and the fact that it would be completely covering her at all times. As kids often do, she surprised us and immediately loved digging in the sand. The ocean, on the other hand, took a little more time. We tried over and over to put her little feet in the water and she would pull her legs up as fast as she could and wrap them tightly around us.

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But I was determined. I wanted my baby girl to have fun at the beach and I wanted to show her that she didn’t have to be afraid. The problem is, the ocean is downright scary. She doesn’t know it, but there are plenty of things to be legitimately afraid of in the ocean. Like sharks. Ok, so obviously a shark is not going to attack in three inches of water, but the ocean is seriously a breeding ground for danger. Stingrays. Jellyfish. Crabs. Oil spills. Undertow and riptide. (And when you’re 2 1/2 feet tall, you can add plain old waves to the list of really scary things.) This stuff is real! I know when I was kid, I would swim in with reckless abandon as kids do. But I can’t remember the last time I went further than knee deep in the water. Because, sharks.

So I had a major, pivotal, decision-making moment while holding my terrified one-year old in ankle deep ocean water. I’m afraid of what I can’t see in the water. And rightfully so. There are plenty of dangers lurking. I can choose to stand here, ankle deep, and let our experience with the ocean be shallow. And my daughter (eventually) will learn to let fear control her. That’s not what I want. I want her to be wise, discerning, informed, careful even…but not fearful.

So I nudged her along. I carried her along the shoreline and every three steps would dip her and sweep her legs through the water and tell her to kick the scary waves back into the ocean! She kicked and kicked and laughed and laughed. Mom’s arms and back got more and more sore. I would put her down for a second to stand on her own and she would reach back up for me. Then, finally, I put her down and without warning she ran full speed into oncoming waves. They knocked her down, rolled over her head, she laughed, got up and did it again. And again. And again. And again.

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So Mom had another choice to make. I can let my one-year-old have more fun at the beach than me…or…

I broke a very long streak of basically never putting anything more than a kneecap in the ocean. And I have my daughter to thank for that. I wouldn’t say we overcame our fear. I would say we found joy in spite of it.

I know there are healthy and appropriate fears. It’s ok to be afraid of snakes and spiders, particularly poisonous ones. It’s not ok to never go outside because you’re afraid of snakes and spiders. Scripture tells us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “Happy is the man who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10a and 112:1a HCSB, respectively) To fear the Lord certainly doesn’t mean to avoid Him or to stay away from Him because He is big and terrifying. There are unknowns and plenty of danger lurking, but our fear should make us run straight into Him. Like the ocean, He is vast and mysterious, but He still offers us a chance to know and enjoy Him. We fear Him because if we are really following Him into unknown places, He won’t always be safe and comfortable. But there will be joy. So much joy.

 

What You Do When You’re a Compulsive Perfectionist

Compulsive: Someone who feels compelled to do certain things.

Perfectionist: A person who is displeased by anything that does not meet very high standards.

Here are two things you need to know about me. One, I’m not crafty. Two, I’m so not crafty that I recently attempted a project that required using superglue with toilet paper rolls, which are more or less paper, and I basically accomplished nothing but gluing my fingers together. Multiple times. So essentially, I’m so bad at crafts that I cannot superglue paper together. So knowing this, here’s what you do when you’re a compulsive perfectionist:

It starts with your only child and their quickly approaching first birthday, which of course, should be perfect. So balloons just won’t do. You need to make something. Those puff balls that people make out of tissue paper are so cute.

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How hard can that be? So you purchase the supplies and get to work.

Then you think maybe you got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you go back to The Dollar Tree (where all real crafters shop, obviously) and buy different paper.

Then you think maybe you still got the wrong kind of paper.

Then you cut the paper you have into varying sizes.

Then you think maybe you need something different to tie it with. And different paper.

Then you bravely decide to go to Hobby Lobby (on a Saturday afternoon with your almost one-year-old who has just had the time of her life at a birthday party but is now quickly growing louder in expressing her desire to go home).

Then you have the brilliant idea of taking one of her favorite toys into the store. It’s a precious little owl that her daddy picked out and it hooks onto the shopping cart so she can’t throw it on the ground over and over and over. And over. This will guarantee enough shopping time to identify why the puff ball experiment has gone so epically wrong so far.

Then you spend a good 10 minutes deliberating over colors and patterns on paper plates, cups and napkins only to decide to purchase them later at, yes, The Dollar Tree – because you hate to waste money.

Then you realize you’ve now lost 10 minutes of “happy baby shopping time”.

Then you make your way over and through aisles containing 1,372 kinds of thread and other tying devices, 64 colors of tissue paper, 589 styles of card stock, cake decorating tips, cake toppers, party favors, ribbon, balloons, streamers…wait, what did you come to Hobby Lobby for again? (This is the “compulsive” part.)

Then “happy baby shopping time” is definitely over.

Then you quickly make your selections and head to the front of the store. You are confident that this time the puff balls will be a success.

Then you load your purchases into the car and make your way back home with a relatively still happy baby and you debate whether or not that happiness will last long enough to go to the Dollar Tree and pick up those paper plates, cups and napkins.

Then your relatively happy baby is increasingly less happy and you say, “Honey, play with your owl that you love.”

Then your heart sinks because the owl that she loves (that her daddy picked out and bought her) is most definitely still hanging out on the Hobby Lobby shopping cart. All cute and alone.

Then you call daddy frantically and tell him that you’ve left the cute little owl at Hobby Lobby, but you are already almost back home and is it worth it to go back and get it? And he is patient and explains that “it’s just a toy” and “she has other toys” and it is indeed not worth the trip back to Hobby Lobby. And you reluctantly accept this answer. It would take 30 minutes minimum to get to Hobby Lobby and back, dangerously cutting into baby dinner time and it would cost almost as much in gas as you paid for the owl in the first place and remember you don’t like to waste money. But isn’t it wasting money to leave the toy at Hobby Lobby? No, he’s right, it’s not worth it. He’s right. He’s right.

But the owl is so cute. And she loves it. And her daddy picked it out for her. And it’s so handy in shopping situations because, well, it hooks onto the shopping cart (the very trait that caused its demise). And it’s so cute. Nope, he’s right.

Then you try to forget about the owl, but might lose a tiny bit of sleep over it that weekend.

Then you leave work on Monday afternoon and think, “Hobby Lobby is on my way home. Maybe the owl is still there.” And you call and it’s there and you are on your way to pick it up.

(Then you almost run out of gas because it’s 20 cents cheaper per gallon at the Rivergate exit versus downtown and, remember, you hate to waste money.)

Then you return to Hobby Lobby and are reunited with the owl. And while you’re there, you pick up balloons because you’ve finally accepted the reality that the puff balls are not going to happen. Which is a small victory in your compulsive perfectionist ways because you are accepting defeat.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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