Friday, June 29, 2012

We Can't Afford to. We Can't Afford NOT to!

We've all heard it said that (so forgive me if I don't actually look up the statistic) that the major area of strife and fighting between married couples is in the area of finances.


My parents did it.
(I remember hiding in my room on Saturday mornings. They used to sit down at the kitchen table with the bill box between them.)

The couples who come through my line at the store do it.
("You said there was $20 left right?" said the wife to her husband with her debit card poised ready to swipe.)

My girlfriends tell me they do it.
I know my in-laws have done it.

And sometimes I want to do it.

Sometimes I want to kick up a fuss when I can't do this or that because of the numbers that are missing from the checkbook.

Like this week in particular.

The upstairs bathroom is leaking. The proof is on the family room ceiling. I want it fixed. My darling husband wants it fixed too but he wants it paid for (CA$H - thanks a lot Dave Ramsey). I just want it fixed.
Home equity loan.
I don't care. I want it fixed.

And so we are at a stalemate.
Which means nothing gets done.
Which in my mind means he wins.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Miss Understood

If I feel misunderstood (& boy, do I hate felling that way) is it because I am a poor communicator? Do I have unrealistic expectations - I mean is it really believable that just because you love me you'll 'get' me? Or am I making your acceptance matter more than it should? But isn't there some relationships that makes that feeling of connection unavoidable? If you're misunderstood by the people you love how do you deal? Advice welcome ....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Smile! You're on Candid Camera!

image source

(This article appears in the 6/26/12 edition of the Daily Review Atlas)
Want to know how athletes get better? Well, I'm sure the hefty paycheck professionals collect is a bit of motivation but I'm talking about players who are serious about improving their game. They all know after a performance the single best way for self-improvement is to sit down and review the tape.
Ah, the power of a recorded image.
Public speakers review tapes of themselves. So do actors, police officers, dancers and Dr. Phil forces his guests to do it. Why? For improvement of course! It's one thing to give a performance and evaluate how it went based on the audience's reaction, your personal feeling or the scoreboard but there's something valuable about sitting down and witnessing yourself in action.
This is precisely why I think parents should - on occasion - be randomly subjected to video tapings.
This would however be very difficult to accomplish, as mothers are historically, extremely camera shy. We are not actually camera shy, per se, we are simply weight-shy. Woman don't want proof of how much weight we've put and kept on since the birth of our children. We've made you think we are the better picture takers but you are fooled. We just can't stand to see our own image. Think I'm exaggerating? Go through some old family photos and see if mom got her photo taken. Chances are if she did, she's hiding behind her child.
But I digress. I’m not sure my idea would work in this age of reality TV. Anybody who knows they are going to be taped can’t possible behave authentically. I mean right? We all know reality TV is in no way reality. In the real world nobody lives on or gets voted off an island, people don’t jump in a tub with snakes and housewives are desperate but not THAT desperate.
No I’m not looking to produce any television show where bad behaving parents get caught in the act. I just wish parents could see what the public sees. What their child sees. Surely, if they could only see themselves in action, they could improve their parenting skills.
My heart always breaks when I see young children dragged by the arm through a store while the adult says something like, "Why are you always so slow? I'm sick of you making me late!"
I want to stop the mother and point out how much longer her legs are compared to her child's. Perhaps I could get her to consider her little person isn't deliberately trying to be slow but instead it may be physically impossible for them to keep up? And why is it the child’s fault you have undercompensated the time you need to run errands? Shouldn't you, the adult be a wee bit better at time management than, oh say, a preschooler?
What would you do Mom if you saw for yourself what you look like when you are treating your child like a nuisance? What if you had proof that your exasperation looked more like disgust? What if you came face to face with yourself when you were bent over, hovering and scowling at your child? Could I get you to hear what you sound like when you use that condescending tone of voice or would your eyes be open to the recoil on your child's face every time you tease and name call?
Maybe if you saw for yourself what this exchange looked like you would parent differently. If faced with yourself would you lighten up? Would you be more considerate or practice patience? Would you scare yourself? Could you see what your child sees?
Well, rest assured world. I won't do it. I won't secretly tape you in the store and then corner you with the playback. I don't feel like getting sued anyway. I do, however, feel like reminding parents and caregivers to lighten up just a bit. 
Let's remember that kids are children. They are a gift to us. It's our job to build them up, equip, teach and train them so that when they have grown they have the faith to believe and the skills to make the world a better place. Not a harsher one. If mommies and daddies don't show their children all the love, support and security they need to grow up into kind adults who will? Discipline is necessary. It just doesn’t have to be so cruel. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!
Stephanie is a mother to five children, blogs at and can be reached at She is a certified Parent Educator and she promises she is not going to do any video taping anytime soon.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Somebody I used to know.

I'm not young.
Neither am I old.
At 40 years of age I am right in the middle.
I am middle aged.

I am no longer quite naive and am just learning to recognize the mantle of wisdom gained only through my life's experiences.

I long to become wiser. But I believe only time will grant me such a wish.

However there is one thing I doubt I will ever understand.
The human relationship is a complex one.

Somebody You Used To Know, a song you made have heard on the radio lately by the band Gotye sings:
"But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough ...
Now your just somebody that I used to know."

I get we aren't in each others social circle anymore.
I don't think just because we were friends once we always have to be.
But what happened ... happened.
I was there with you when your child was born. You celebrated with me on my happy day. We made great memories together. Those were good times weren't they?
So why, now when you see me you pretend you don't.
Why do you go the other way in the grocery aisle?

History can't be changed.
You can't uncross paths.
We were there together.
Why do you pretend we weren't?

It's ok if we don't walk forward together. Really, it is ok. Lives move on. Seasons change. But I know you see me. Now you're just somebody that I used to know.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tent Maker

It's Finance Friday on my blog. The day I dedicate to oversharing discussing some of the financial challenges my family has faced in the last year. Because I live in a town where everyone thinks they know your business that's small in nature, I've been seen working a second job at our local retailer. Often (and especially by former parishioners) I've been given a silent stink eye as they wonder what I'm doing working at the store. Well, I've got a story about that....

I have found a cause I believe in.
I found a place where I can make a difference.
I found work that invigorates my soul.

It's incredibly refreshing to find such a thing.
I know how special this is.
And that's why I treasure it.

It is also why I am TENTMAKING.

Not literally.

According to Wikipedia:       Tentmaking, in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while functioning as a minister, receives little or no pay for her church work, and supports herself by additional, unrelated work.

Annually, for the last five years, I have traveled to various parts of Central Europe to be a part of EMERGE, an international team of women who are raising up & equipping a generation of church & marketplace leaders. We do:
  • Mentoring
  • Teaching
  • Leadership Training
  • Online Community Creating
  • Conference Hostessing

It's been an amazing journey!

My next assignment? To go into the heart of Roma Gypsy ghetto in Cachtice, Slovakia and train parents with young children the importance of:
  • play & interaction
  • bonding
  • child development
  • homemade toys & game

while leaving them with an interactive "parenting tool box kit" full of supplies for giving their children the best possible start in life. I will be working with Next Level International, a child development professor from the University of Notre Dame & using Parents As Teacher curriculum to design a workshop that will not only provide families with information and resources but will make a marked difference for these children who are currently entering school at a staggeringly inappropriate developmental state.

How can I get there? How can I do this? I'm a mother of five children with only a part time job! My American life is so busy! Well for years I've asked for donations and support from friends and family. Many of them have so faithfully and generously given to me. I, and the people of Czech & Slovakia, are eternally thankful for these gifts.

This year, rather than tackle the very difficult and taxing quest of always asking for money (I mean at some point I expect people might start running the other way when they see me coming) I decided to MAKE TENTS.

I work 5-15 hours a week at my local retail store as a Customer Service Manager. My entire paycheck is then set aside and dedicated to purchasing Parenting Tool Box Kits & my travel expenses.

This supports my cause.
This gives my work great meaning.

Am I still looking for support? Of course I am. It is good work that needs lots of support to make it successful. And perhaps you've been looking for a place to make a difference as well!
You can!
You can give a Slovakian family a Parent Tool Box (approx $25 USD)
You can sponsor a day of my trip ($100 USD/day)
see the donate button in the right hand margin

So that's why I've been at the store. That's why I take time away from writing, being with my family and all the other gazillion things that pull at me.
It is a glamours job? Hardly!
Truth be told I don't even really like it.
But I like going to Europe more.
I like helping people more.
I like making a difference more.

Partner with me! or pray for me! or support me! or .... if you see me at the store give me a wink or a thumbs up. No more stink eyes, ok?


Thursday, June 21, 2012


Encouragement is a necessity in life.
A necessity.

We need it.
We crave it.

And in my opinion, we have a deficit of it.

Unfortunately most of us only offer encouragement when we feel

Which usually isn't very often.

So I have an idea. What if we gave encouragement not JUST when we feel like giving it but instead make a HABIT of offering it freely?

Would the world be a more pleasant place?
Would your community?
Would your home and children?

If we only give when we feel like it, I fear we will miss the best feeling of all.
When we give friendship when we really need friendship...
When we give encouragement when we really wish we could receive it ...
When we show love when we need love ...

You see, you receive in what you've given out.
I really believe that.
I've even witnessed it.

So please don't wait till the mood strikes to show some love and appreciation for your

Find someone, anyone and give them a free gift today - encouragement.

Have you ever experienced the power of encouragement? I'd love it if you shared your story in the comment section below.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Done Breaking

After a long break from writing and blogging I am back.
Did ya miss me?

It's ok, don't answer. I'll just pretend the whole blogosphere world missed me!
I'm happier deluded like that.

I'm waiting to hear from my editor at the paper. (I have a little weekly Practical Parenting column in the Daily Review Atlas.) He nominated a few of my articles to a contest. He said we'd hear back in June. Either I didn't win and he's too afraid to tell me I'm a looser or he hasn't heard back yet.
We'll go with the first for now.

I'm reading voraciously this summer. A wonderful habit of mine! I'm loving Richard Yates, Anne Lamott and next Jen Lancaster, Madeline L'Engle and Tolstoy (whew!).

And every morning when the house is quiet because the kids are sleeping in (happy mommy dance!!) I get to sit and read blogs, write blogs and comment on blogs!

Now I just need the words to flow!
And the bravery to write them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weathering the Storm

(This article appears as a part of my Practical Parenting in The Daily ReviewAtlas)

Watch out when the lightening strikes and the thunder rolls. Summer storms are scary times for young children and, as with most things parenting, how you deal with these stressful moments can either help or hinder situations.   

With a crack reverberating through my darkened bedroom I braced myself for the anticipated pounding of little feet. The twins would be running in in no time. At least, I comforted my exhausted self, I would be awake as opposed to the last storm when they bounced in my bed scaring me half to death. I was the one that night who almost wet the bed.

I, along with every other mother, mentally shakes her fist to the heavens when Mother Nature unleashes a whopper of a storm. The anxiety level  instantly raises 10 notches in our home with the first drop of rain. Great, I shamelessly think, dreading spending the next hours comforting my frightened child.

Oh don't give me that look. Believe me when I say it can be quite exhausting soothing and comforting a child through a storm. 

There are, however, a few important tactics to keep in mind to get everyone through the tempest. First, and most importantly, a parent should never make fun of a child who is afraid. Even if all common sense tells you there is nothing to really be afraid of belitting a child is the last way to convince them of their safety. Calling a child chicken or scaredy pants - yes, some teasing parents or siblings will do this - does not in any way help a child to feel less anxious. It simply makes them feel embarassed and anxious.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Why I never finished reading 50 Shades of Grey

Months ago I saw a small clip on the news about a self published book that was making HUGE waves. I wrote down the title so I could check it out. I had no idea - nor did I care about what the book was about! I just wanted to see if I could figure out what the author, E. L. James knew about publishing that I might want to/need to know as an aspiring author.

So I went to Amazon and read the free posted pages.

I wasn't knocked out necessarily by what I read but I admit I wanted to keep reading just to simply see what Christian saw in Ana. Plus it seemed all the hype was for nothing. There was no hot and steamy-ness in the free preview. So I put my name on it at the library, was told I was 3rd on the waiting list and within a week Mr. Smith from the Warren County Public Library called to tell me it was in.

He gave me a sheepish look when I picked it up. I'll admit it was slightly awkward.
When I had the book in my hand I saw why; the back cover said, "Erotica".

That very same week author E. L. James and 50 Shades had inundated media with her book dubbed "mommy porn" interviewing and confessing it was her midlife crisis/hobby to write out her personal fantasy in 50 Shades trilogy.

O crap! What sort of book had I checked out from the library?

Two things to note:
A.) I'm super private about private things and
B.) I'm a sorta prude

Also, oh yeah,

C.) I got kids. Kids old enough to know their mommy had picked up the sordid popular book. I was either going to have to hide the book from them or explain what porn is. Neither of which I was really interested in doing. (I can't even use the bathroom in private - how could I expect to keep an entire novel I was reading to myself?)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Diane

I said goodbye to Diane today.

I don't know her last name. I don't where she lives. All I really know is:

  • she works at my neighborhood grocery store and
  • that she's had a hard life

Diane has been ringing up my groceries for well over a decade and every time I would go through her line I made it my intentions to bring a smile to her face.

You see, I never want to be one to make people's day harder - I really live in a way that when other's paths cross mine their day is better - I have for years purposefully picking Diane's line (even when hers was longer than the others) and looking for something kind to say to this weary looking, downcast soul I encounter every week.

Once - and only once - did I see Diane outside of the store. We crossed paths at a Little League baseball game. I said "hello!" as did she. A little barefoot, dirty child followed me after I said my greetings. With stringy hair and a smile full of cavities she poked me and said, "Hey! How do you know my Mom anyway?" Knowing instinctively I was looking at Diane's daughter I said the first that popped into my mind, "Oh! Your mom is my faaaaaaaa-vaorite cashier at the store!"

I've never seen a child physically beam. The grin that took over her face was genuinely heavenly. I had the distinct feeling I gave that girl a little gift that night. Her mamma is worthy of praise!

And it was true. Diane had become my favorite cashier.

Over the years, while she rang up my milk, bread and eggs, I found out bits and pieces about Diane's life: her son was in prison, her job was often on the line and she had a bad back that required a surgery she couldn't afford.

Two weeks ago I was picking through the bananas at the store when Diane approached me. I knew immediately that something was up  - she never left her post at the register to greet me. Our unwritten rule of conduct always demanded no exchange of words until I was in her lane.

"Hey" she said as she kindly touched my back "I just wanted you to know I quit. I'm leaving the store. But don't say nuthin', I'm only telling a few customers." and she walked on. I wanted to engage her more, to find out why or where she's going but as I looked into her face I couldn't form the words. Was she crying?

I shopped on anxious to get my items so I could get to her lane and ask some questions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NOT Thanking my Lucky Stars

     Sometimes, on the rare occasion regarding my children, I've been told "You're soooo lucky!" I like hearing that phrase although I admit as a mother of five children, including twins; it's not usually folk’s first reaction. Mostly people say things like, "Wow! Five? That's a lot!" or "Oh my!" Sometimes they don't say anything at all. Sometimes their eyeballs fall out of their head or they sort of spit out their drink. I don't go around announcing, "Look at me! I have five kids!” Instead I've noticed my friends or coworkers will use it as a way of introduction, "This is Stephanie, she has five kids! (witches!)

     I guess there are worse things to be known for - octuplets or taking my child to a tanning bed being two of them. 

     While I do indeed have more than the average number of children I also happen to be pretty stubborn. What that means is when I was thirty two years old with an eight, five, four year old and newborn twins I was determined that while I may be outnumbered, I would never be outwitted. 

     That's when I became serious about parenting. I read books and attended seminars on the subject. I collected data on all forms of parenting styles and worked out a method of raising kids that neither drove me insane nor broke the bank. A little over the top you say? Perhaps, but the way I saw it was not going to be known as the woman who, in the words of Mother Goose, "has so many children she didn't know what to do".

     Five kids were not going to rule me or run me down. I was the parent, the adult, and I knew I had only one shot at doing the mothering thing. I was not going to spend the next eighteen years with my fingers crossed hoping someday they'd leave the nest. Oh no! I was going to work and put in all the effort required to maintain a successful launch. 

     I did this, am doing this, with a two-pronged approach; I take care of me and I take care of them. 

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