It’s None of Your Business

In our house, our kids get paid to do chores. We started enforcing “child labor” when our son began wanting to buy everything in the toy aisles at Target (well, mainly the ones that have sounds and lights or transform to become something really cool). So, now instead of us paying for their gadgets, they buy their own. Whenever they help out (ie. wash the car or mop the floor), I reward them in the form of praise and coins while hubby gives out bills (yes, he’s way more generous than I am). 

One day after the kids had finished working and gotten paid, our son came over to me with a pensive look on his face.

“How much did you give C?” he asked.

Two thoughts rose in my mind. Uh, what? and Hello, it’s really not your business, dear.

His question kind of threw me off, though it really shouldn’t have surprised me. Our son is and always has been detailed and rule-based and dare I say it, square. On this particular day, he had noticed that he and C had been given different chores and that she also hadn’t done her work as quickly as he had (she had been a little whiny about it at first). That’s why he wanted to know whether or not they had received the same number of coins. 

Image courtesy of posterize/freedigitalpictures.net

Good question, kid. But I chose not to answer his question. This is what I said.

“You don’t need to worry about C. It’s up to me how much I want to give her. You just do your job and worry about yourself.”

“But how much did you give her?” he persisted in asking. Haha, did I mention he’s stubborn, too?

I just repeated my answer and moved on to another topic.

This incident however really made me think. It first reminded me of the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 about some workers in a vineyard who grumbled about how much they got paid in comparison to some other guys who hadn’t done as much work as they had (sound familiar?). Then, it got me thinking about how we humans just like to compare. We have this need to look at what we have and do and then look at what other people have and do. We then make assumptions and judgments not only about ourselves, but also about those other people, based on our comparisons. These assumptions may sound like: They must be so much happier than me, They must not have any problems, They don’t deserve what they have, Why can’t I have what they have, etc. 

But, and this is a BIG but – comparing gets you nowhere. Actually, let me rephrase that. The only place that comparing will take you is to the land of greed, envy, discontentment and unhappiness. And who wants to go there?

Instead of comparing (and complaining), we should focus our concerns on ourselves.

This is something I’ve been learning as a mom. Moms can be some of the most judgmental, harshest, yet insecure people out there (speaking from experience of course). We each think (or hope) our way of parenting is the best and we secretly compare ourselves to other moms to try to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes we do feel better, but most times we feel a lot worse.   

What I’ve realized though is that we are each on our own journey in life. We are all learning as we go along and there’s no use comparing our journey with someone else’s because we can only walk our own. We are only responsible for our own life, for what we’ve been given. So, why waste a second of it by worrying about what other people have and do? Let’s focus our time, energy and thoughts on our own journey. Celebrate how far you’ve come, the ways your experiences and abilities have shaped you, and continue making your journey the best it can be. 🙂

I had a hard time coming up with a song to go with this post, but I think Michael W. Smith’s “Place in this World” comes close to relaying the message of focusing on your own journey. It’s seriously an oldie, but goodie as you can tell from this video. 😉

In what areas do you compare yourself with others? How can you turn those comparisons into celebrations of your own personal growth?

Monday Mentionables: Meaningful Jewelry, Thanksgiving Crafts & Serenity Prayer

Hi everyone, is it me or is this month passing by a little faster than usual? Anyhow, Monday has arrived again so here are today’s mentionables…

1. Meaningful Jewelry. I picked up these bracelets from Kohl’s for free last week. That’s right, free. Thanks to Kohl’s and their sneaky ways, I got a $10 off anything over $10 coupon from them, which got me in the door just as they hoped it would and out the door with my “freebies”…and a skirt for C… and a work shirt for hubby. Haha. That coupon gets me every time. But you have to admit these bracelets are super cute and meaningful. 🙂

They also had other colors with the words Peace, Faith and Mom on them. I was so tempted to buy them all… maybe if Kohl’s sends me another coupon. 😉

2. Thanksgiving Crafts. So, have you ever wondered just how many ways there are to make a turkey craft? Well, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I’d help answer that question for you. I found this website with tutorials on how to make a turkey from a toilet paper roll and coffee filters, a handprint with candy corn, a juice box and a painted pumpkin. Now that’s a lot of turkeys! But if you’re looking for something a little more meaningful than a bird that goes “gobble gobble”, check out this thankful scroll and thankful mobile

3. Serenity Prayer. Since we’re on a roll with meaningful things, I’d like to share with you something I repeat to myself on days when I really need a reminder of what I can and cannot do and how to get through those “bumps” in the road. 

God, give me the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

So on that note, I’m going to try to tackle this Monday with serenity and hope you do, too! 🙂

Justice, Kindness & Humility

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past 7+ years, it’s that parenthood is one looong, continuous lesson on love.

Just as it takes a whole lot of work to maintain a good marriage, it takes a LOT of work to be a loving, patient, kind, understanding—insert all the warm and fuzzy adjectives you can think of—parent.

I love my kids, don’t get me wrong. I can’t imagine my life without them. I love how I am probably the most important person to them in their lives right now (sorry hubby!)—and yet I also cringe at that thought. I cringe because every word I say, and especially the manner in which I say it, has great power. My words can either inject light and approval into their little hearts or instill gloom and doom. And once my words are out there, I can’t take them back. Sure, I can (and often do) apologize when I “lose it”, but the damage has already been done (sigh).

To be truly loving towards our children all the time may not be possible (we are only human), but it is something we can strive for – and believe me, there are plenty of chances to practice. Just the other day I had the unfortunate opportunity to show love to our dear son. I say unfortunate because it’s always easier to love our kids when they say and do what we want, however this time was not one of them.

For some reason which I can’t remember right now, he had a major meltdown 30 minutes before bedtime. The fact that he was very tired probably explains why he was sitting on the couch crying with his head thrown back, eyes clamped shut and mouth wide open. When he cries like this, it’s like a dam has opened and all of Niagara Falls is gushing out of him. It’s hard to calm him down or reason with him about anything at this point.

In my head I was thinking, Aiya, what now?!?!?! and starting to feel like a pressure cooker about to burst open. I looked at hubby who was already exhausted from a crazy week at work and saw that he was getting frustrated, too (which is rare because he is very patient with the kids). Before I knew it, my own dam cracked and I was spewing out some harsh words at our son, until hubby shook his head and said, “It’s okay.”

What?! It’s not okay!! I wanted to yell. Instead I shut my mouth and stomped into the kitchen. After a while, our son ran out of steam and tears and stopped crying. We then convinced him he was tired and needed to sleep, and off we went to bed.

The following day hubby and I had a chance to debrief, meaning I had a chance to vent. I asked him how in the world he had stayed so calm and he admitted he almost lost his patience, but reminded himself not to go there.

“He didn’t deserve it,” hubby said about our son. “He just wanted some attention. He needed compassion.”

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/freedigitalphotos.net

WOW.

If you can imagine, I totally moaned in frustration and disbelief at hubby’s comment. That was such a classic “give me a pencil so I can poke my eye out with it” kind of moment.

Of all the things I wanted to give to our son during his meltdown, compassion was NOT one of them. What I thought he deserved at the time was a good scream-fest about how unreasonable he was being – because he was. I thought I had the right to feel frustrated and impatient over his behavior – and maybe I did. But I missed an important point. Even if I was upset over how he was acting, I didn’t need to give in to the moment. The very thing I wanted him to do – control his emotions – was something I needed to do myself. But why? Simply because my love for my son should be bigger than his temporary meltdowns.

If I could have taken a step back from the situation, I would have realized that pouring fuel on a fire never puts the fire out. It’s only when you douse the flames with water, does it die down. Yes, our son neither deserved nor benefitted from me pouring my wrath upon him. What he needed was my patience and understanding.

Oh, how I hate it when hubby is right! 😛 But I am oh so thankful that I learned something more that day about love. This verse from Micah 6:8 came to mind:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you,
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I usually see this verse used for social justice issues, but I believe it applies just as much in our homes. Do we treat our kids justly? Do we show kindness to them? Do we acknowledge our weaknesses as parents and ask God to help us?

Sigh, sigh and sigh. So much for being a perfect parent! (I’m kidding, I know I’m not!)

I am really challenged by this verse. I almost feel like I have to go back to the “drawing board” and reevaluate the way I parent. At least I have a better idea of what I need to work on now and that’s justice, kindness and humility.

I just love this song by Chris Tomlin, “Kindness”, which speaks of our ultimate example of kindness. 🙂

What ideas and thoughts do you have about “doing justice” towards your children?

Monday Mentionables: Pumpkin Cranberry Scones, Stage of Life & Veteran’s Makeover

Happy Veteran’s Day! 

This post is going to be super quick cause I have two munchkins vying for my attention on their day off from school! 😉

Today’s mentionables are…

1. Pumpkin Cranberry Scones. I tried this boxed “recipe” from Trader Joe’s and got good results. I substituted the one stick of butter with coconut oil and it still worked. The kids liked it (although briefly, haha), but I thought it tasted more moist than the other boxed scones I tried before. 

Watching them bake!
The finished product!

2. Stage of Life. I got an email today saying I won my first writing contest hosted by Stage of Life! Whoo-weeeeeeeeeeee!  😉 The topic of the essay was “I am scared of…”. You can read my entry here. My winnings include a $50 spa certificate and a pen! 😀

3. Veteran’s Makeover. I love makeovers of all kinds – hair, clothes, homes, etc. – but my most favorite kind of makeover is that of the heart and mind. This video I saw online totally reflects both. I have started to appreciate how much veterans have sacrificed for our nation and wish life wasn’t so hard for many of them. I’m thankful there are great organizations out there that try to help them get back on their feet. 

Happy Monday to you all! 

Making 3rd World Problems 1st World Concerns

I was trying to enter my passcode into my iPhone yesterday when it froze up on me. I heard the usual click after I put in the numbers, but the screen didn’t respond. I let out a deep sigh of frustration and thought to myself, “Noooo!!”

Yes… 1st world problems, I know!

I almost wanted to laugh at myself for reacting so dramatically to such a minor, small, insignificant “problem”. In fact, I’m smiling right now as I type this. And I’m thankful I have the resources to own a cell phone, working or not.

This got me thinking about all the material things I have, which I totally take for granted on a daily basis.

~ clean water
~ electricity
~ more than enough food
~ more than enough clothes
~ feminine products

Yes, you read that right. I’m talking about those lovely products that we females get to use once a month. When I see a box of those items, all I get is a nagging reminder of “Aunt Flo’s” never-ending visits. But to girls in Uganda, having access to sanitary pads is like having a boat come to your rescue when you’re floating aimlessly in the ocean.

I came across this need recently (thanks to this amazing website) and was just shocked to learn that there are many young girls in Africa who are too embarrassed to attend school during their menstrual periods because they can’t afford pads! This means they fall behind on their schoolwork and eventually drop out and are then forced by their families into an early marriage. This then translates into teen pregnancies, possible exposure to HIV and broken dreams. Without an education, they cannot pursue a career and will have to be dependent on someone else for their survival.

I can’t imagine what these girls go through. I can’t even bear to imagine what it would mean for my daughter if she was in the same situation. No girl should have their lives thrown off track because of something that can be solved rather easily.

That’s why I was so excited to find out there is an organization that is providing these girls in Uganda with underwear, soap and sanitary pads (eco-friendly ones made from papyrus leaves) so they can stay in school! The girls also receive mentorship in life skills and character development. Support systems are put in place within the community to emphasize the importance of educating girls.

Image courtesy of africa/freedigitalphotos.net

Isn’t this cool?! 🙂 And to think that we, all the way around the world, can be a part of the solution to this PROBLEM (in caps because it is major, huge and significant).

There are so many 3rd world problems that can become our 1st world concerns. This is one of them for me. What are yours?

I thought Alicia Keys’ song, “Girl on Fire“, would be appropriate for this post. When girls are empowered through education, they are on fire!

What global problems are you passionate about fixing?

Monday Mentionables: Pomegranates, Monterey, Parenting Express & Beautiful Day

Hi everyone! Just happy to be alive this day and thanking God for everything He has brought me through. Hope you are getting a good start to this week, too. 
 
Here are today’s mentionables…
 
1. Pomegranates. In case you like pomegranates, but have no clue as to how to get those seeds out, here’s a super easy way to do it (I listened to my mom on this one and it works!). 
 
Yes, this is one fruit where you actually eat the seeds! There’s lots of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants in them!
The secret is in the spoon! You first cut the pomegranate in half and place one half face down in a cup that is about the same circumference (thank you high school math!) as the fruit. Then, using a metal spoon, start hitting the pomegranate! Turn the cup around as you hit so you get all the sides of the fruit. Keep hitting (and getting your stress out) until most of the seeds fall out and then use your fingers to pry the final few out. Oh, and be sure to wear an apron while you’re doing this so you don’t get pomegranate juice on your clothes.
Here are two pomegranates’ worth of health and deliciousness!
2. Monterey. We took an overnight trip to Monterey this past weekend for hubby’s 30th (plus or minus a decade) birthday. We almost didn’t make it cause he had a work emergency that had kept him working almost non-stop for 3 days. But thankfully, we were able to go at the last minute.
We had a great view at lunch of these sea lions (who are no longer on the endangered species list!). I commented to hubby that they reminded me of us in our family bed. 😛
This poor seagull was sitting outside the window for over ten minutes just waiting for Chloe to drop her corn dog!

3. Parenting Express. Just wanted to share a story of mine that got published on Parenting Express’ website for this month. You can read about my adventure going down a very tall, tubular slide with my kids and how that experience relates to my journey as a mom!

4. Beautiful Day. This song by Jamie Grace is cute and catchy, just what I need for a Monday! Enjoy!

Have a wonderful week!

You Don’t Listen!

lis ten

 1. to pay attention to sound <listen to music>

2. to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration <listen to a plea>

3. to be alert to catch an expected sound <listen for his step>

 

“You don’t listen!”

One minute my dear friend/college roommate had been trying to give me pointers on how to cook and the next minute she had turned and walked out of the kitchen.

I continued pushing the rice cakes around on the frying pan with a spatula the only way (and best way, in my opinion) that I knew how and let out a deep breath.

Me, don’t listen? I wondered. Okay, I admit I could have tried flipping the rice cakes the way she had suggested, but why would I want to do that? I had been fine all my life doing things the way I wanted to do them, why change now?

Yes, I was a stubborn one. And yes, my friend was right.

For someone who prides herself on having good listening skills (that’s part of the reason I wanted to become a counselor), the truth is this: I don’t listen very well. Not in the sense that I don’t hear what people tell me about themselves (I could listen to people’s stories all day long), but in the sense that I don’t take into consideration the things they say about me. When it comes to hearing about my shortcomings and the areas in which I could improve upon, my ears are quick to close up shop and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Image courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net

The incident with my friend happened over fifteen years ago and I still think about it today. Back then I was shocked and taken aback at her admonishment; now I just shake my head and cringe when I think about how impossible I must have been – all because of a spatula!

I could blame my poor listening skills on a decade of “only child syndrome” or on my controlling tendencies; either way, there really is no good excuse for being so hard headed.

What I’ve learned since then is that God gave us two ears for a reason. Listening is important. Heeding other people’s advice is crucial. Receiving input is necessary for personal growth.

For much of my life I lived based on my own (limited) perception of reality. Then I met some trustworthy friends and learned other people have good opinions, too. Then I met hubby and endured an ultimate boot camp in keeping my ears (and heart) receptive to another person on a daily basis. It’s required a lot of humbling on my part – and a lot of patience on my friends’ and hubby’s parts! – but it’s been worth it. I think it’s safe to say my ears take fewer siestas these days than they used to. 🙂

I decided to put my listening skills to the test recently by joining an online writer’s critique group. I really hesitated at first to put my work (and my fragile ego) out there, but decided that if I want to become a better writer, I need to get feedback. The first time I submitted an essay to the group, it took me half a day to get the courage to read the emails I received back. Thankfully, the ladies are all very gracious and encouraging in their critiques, which makes my part as a listener so much easier. I know they have my best intentions in mind when they correct my grammar and suggest ways I can use stronger verbs to bring a story to life. I now look forward to sharing my work with them and reading their feedback because what they say makes a positive impact on my writing.

I’m proof that stubborn people can change and that we all need a little help from our friends!

Here’s the perfect song for this post – “With a Little Help From My Friends” – sung here by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

What makes it easier for you to swallow other people’s feedback? 

Monday Mentionables: Braided Necklaces, Faces of America, No-Carve Pumpkins & The Beatles

Welcome to the last week of October! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and are ready to tackle today.

Here are today’s mentionables…

1. Braided T-shirt Necklace. After being inspired to make a T-shirt scarf last week, I decided to try my hands (plural because both are necessary for the task!) at making braided necklaces from old T-shirts. This four strand braid was my first attempt; I used the directions found here for a T-shirt belt. 

The two colors work well together, don’t they?
The outfit I wore it with this weekend.

Here are two other tutorials I’d like to try: this one uses regular three strand braids and this one incorporates a sailors knot with four strand braids. If you want to get even more complicated, you can try a five strand braid (I never knew they existed before)! The cool thing about upcycling T-shirts this way is that you can easily make a necklace, bracelet, belt or headband, depending on the length of fabric you have – and how long you want to keep on braiding! 

2. Faces of America. I happened upon this article on National Geographic’s website about the changing faces of America. The accompanying pictures are beautiful and speak of the melting pot that this nation is becoming. I am fortunate to live in a very diverse area of California where I am exposed to people (and food!) of all backgrounds every day. It just makes me appreciate the beauty that diversity brings and how creative God is!    

3. No-Carve Pumpkins. Halloween’s around the corner! For those of you who don’t want to deal with cleaning out a pumpkin’s innards, check out these 18 no-carve pumpkin ideas. My favorites are #4 (Thumbtack Pumpkins) and #7 (Candy Corn Pumpkins). Which do you like?

4. The Beatles. Who doesn’t like The Beatles? I love boy bands and they were pretty much the original one, way before ‘N Sync or One Direction were born (literally). They had so many great hits, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think “Here Comes the Sun” is the perfect one to start us off on this Monday. I found this acoustic cover of it by The Moon Loungers (funny that they should be singing about the sun). Enjoy the beautiful guitar strumming! 🙂

Have a lovely week everyone!

Lovin’ Your In-Laws

If you’ve ever watched a Chinese soap opera, you would know there is always a cross-generational battle going on between family members, more specifically between the mother-in-law (MIL) and daughter-in-law (DIL) – and the poor son gets stuck in the middle. This story line is so popular probably because it’s based on reality and like they say, fact is sometimes stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction. I would venture to say that regardless of what culture or background you are from, you have experienced or heard of such conflicts occurring in your family, too.

With this in mind, I was having lunch with some fellow moms the other week and we happened upon the topic of in-laws. We were actually talking about our kids getting married (crazy I know, considering our kids are ages 7 and under!) and one day becoming a MIL ourselves. One mom said, “Yeah, that’s why I started praying that I would love her (her future DIL) more than I love him (her son).”

Image courtesy of 10incheslab/freedigitalphotos.net

What?!?!?!?! I had to pick my jaw off the floor for that one! I looked at her and saw that she was totally serious. And I was humbled. Wow. What a prayer to pray! She was basically asking God to help her NOT be one of those dreaded MIL’s on TV. More than that, she is already opening up her heart to accepting and treasuring her son’s future wife. She even wants to love her more than she loves her own flesh and blood!

Yes, it’s been weeks and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what she said.

Now, I have been blessed with a saint of a MIL. I can honestly say I feel like she loves me as much as she loves my hubby. She happily cooks for us twice a week, cleans our bathroom and fridge when she stays over, and has never said a mean word about me to me or behind my back. So I know it’s possible to have a good MIL-DIL relationship. But even still, it’s hard for me to imagine getting to know some stranger that your son (or daughter) met and loves and inviting that person into your family and ultimately, your heart.

But I am willing to try. I want to break all the MIL stereotypes that society and the media (ever heard of the movie Monster-in-Law?) have ingrained in our minds. I want to make life easier for whoever marries my son and daughter – cause marriage is already hard enough as it is! I want to pass on a legacy of love for my kids, grandkids and the generations to come.

Because if fact is stranger than fiction, I want to make our family’s reality, and my role as a MIL, mind-boggling – in a good way! 🙂

P.S. The mama friend who blew my mind is 8 years younger than me – more proof that young’uns can really inspire us!

Here’s Carrie Underwood’s song, “Mama’s Song”, to get you thinking about that big day in the future when you will gain a son or a daughter in law. (Get the tissues out!)

What are your hopes for your child and his/her future spouse?

Monday Mentionables: MomLife Today, Egg & Pancake Molds and T-shirt Scarf

Happy Monday everyone! I’m getting a bit of a slow start to this day (and the cloudy weather doesn’t help!), but here we go… 🙂

Here are today’s mentionables:

1. MomLife Today. For all you moms out there, MomLife Today is a one-stop shop for moms. I discovered it just this year and I appreciate all the articles they have on parenting (of course), relationships and faith. What’s especially cool is that you can sort the articles by your “season” – whether you have babies, teens, adult children or even grandchildren. There are also craft and cooking ideas, such as a “Book of Me” for kids and snowflake cocoa for those cold winter days. 

P.S. I’m also happy and honored to have had one of my articles published there last week. 🙂

2. Egg & Pancake Molds. I bought this set from a friend’s daughter’s school fundraiser and tried them out this weekend. If you can’t tell what animals they are, the top one goes “oink” and the bottom one goes “moooo!” (Can you tell I read a lot of farm animal books to my kids?) The eggs didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, but they looked cute while they cooked! Next time I’ll fill in the molds more so the shapes will hold better. 

If you want to make your breakfasts more oink-tastic and moo-vahlous, you can look online for similar molds.  🙂

 

3. T-shirt to Scarf. I did some fall cleaning of my side of the closet this week and found tons of shirts that are ready to retire (ie. worn out and starting to pill up). I decided to try to upcycle them and found this very easy tutorial for a cool scarf. It took four shirts and about half an hour to make (depending on how anal you are!). My son had fun helping too – he stretched out the rings and made them into loops. 

There’s his hand in the upper right corner. This is the “during” photo.
And voila – here’s the finished product!

Alrighty, off we go now! Time to face a new week. Till next time… 🙂