Holiday Traditions- Creation to Blending

Growing up in a family that did similar things each Christmas season, I valued what became traditions to me. Opening one present on Christmas Eve, getting up early in the morning to see what blessings were under the tree, breakfast as a family, baking Christmas cookies, looking at Christmas lights and eating similar dishes during Christmas dinner. 

When I became a single mom, I vowed to create similar and new traditions for my son. I wanted him to be able to look back at his childhood and hold that close to his heart. Creating these traditions were fun for us and kept us feeling as joyful as we could even when some years were difficult. Living over 800 miles away from any family, we had to make the holidays our own because we weren't always going to be able to be with them.

I encourage all single parents to create traditions for your family.  Do something that each child will remember year to year. You'll be surprised how easily it becomes part of who they are during those times. Make sure those traditions don't include spending a lot of money because let's face it, some holidays are more difficult financially.

For my family, this season is new and has been interesting to say the least. The traditions that my son and I are used to are now embracing another person.  As we embrace him, we also are learning to mesh our traditions and expectations together. Decorating ideas and styles, picking the cookies to bake, learning what traditions are important to the other person...those are all areas we are focusing on this year. As you enter this season in a blended family, be sure to talk about what are important traditions for each of you.

Some traditions that we've taken up and might work well for your family are:

1) Drive around and look at Christmas lights. We like to do this on Christmas Eve with hot cocoa or cider.
2) Attend a Christmas Eve service.
3) Read the Christmas Story on Christmas Day.
4) Stick presents under the tree all month long. Pick one to open the night before. Our tradition is to open the PJ's presents the night before so we are all in new pajamas.
5) Sit by the fire (if you have one) and watch a Christmas movie.
6) Frost sugar cookies.
7) Send out Christmas cards.
8) Write joyful notes to neighbors and put them on their door.
9) While driving around looking at lights, place a note of thanks for the hard work that went into giving a show for all to see.
10) Pick one new ornament per person each year and place it on the tree. This is a great way to build an ornament collection for your kids as they grow so that when they move out, they are set with decorations for their own tree.

May you have every joy that this season can bring!

- Meg

It's a Merry Christmas!

This year is unlike any other for my family. For the first time, I will wake up on Christmas morning to a tree full of presents, a wonderful husband and a great son all at the same time!  We will enjoy this time together and give thanks for Christ's birth as well as each other.

While encouraged by the blessings I have this year, I am reminded of how much my life has changed  in just one year.  If I go as far back as to remember my first Christmas as a divorced mother encountering a Christmas alone with a newly five year old I am brought to tears of gratefulness for God's mercy on our lives.

We were living in an apartment that I had recently emptied in sale to afford the rent.  We didn't have a lot but we had plenty in terms of how bad it could have been. We had been living off of .99 chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, peanut butter sandwiches and milk. By Christmas day, we had been blessed 10-fold by various people and life seemed to be looking up. Although there were presents under the tree for both of us from family and friends, I was unable to do much for my kiddo personally. I remember shopping at the dollar store with $20.  I bought 20 items and wrapped them individually. I will never forget how happy my son was with those presents. He felt overjoyed at the thought of unwrapping so many presents and never once gave thought to worth. It was about the gesture.

As I reflect, I smile and laugh a little. I STILL shop at the dollar store for presents and they STILL make him smile. Although I'm able to afford greater priced items, there will always be a fond connection between us and the dollar store items. They are perfect and enough. Everything else is fluff and a blessing.  That year, the blessing was in the seemingly small stuff and I'm encouraged to always remember that.  Happiness does not require a lot of money...just love.

May the feeling this Christmas be that of love and may we also remember that while presents are fun and make us feel good, they are not the reason for Christmas.  May we reflect on the true meaning for this season and enjoy the gifts of life that God has granted us.

Merry Christmas!

Read: Christmas on a Budget

- Meg

Single to Blended

Life has taken a turn for my son and I this year.  After 7 years of living life officially as a single mama, I married a wonderful man. He has been an answer to prayer for myself and for my son.

Many times in 'The Single Parenting Journey' blog, I referenced that it is okay to be single and parenting alone and that it can be successfully done. I still firmly believe that however I, along with many single parents, have longed for someone who could come beside me as a parent and as a partner in life. Not to fill a necessary void that was in our lives, but to add to our lives.  God has been faithful throughout my journey as a single parent and has blessed us with friends, circumstances and opportunities that only He could provide.  All of this, I keep in my heart and treasure the time that I grew and learned so very much about dependence on my Lord and Savior as I raised my son solo.

As I wrote a blog about my life adventures, thoughts and advice for others, I wondered if this day would ever come.  The day where my life story took a sharp turn.  Rather than a single parenting journey now I am in a blended family journey. My husband does not have his own children and was never married. Although it seems ideal to a single mom because baggage seems low, it too presents an interesting array of blending that is required.  Never parented, never married, always focusing on his dreams, goals, new husband is now faced with the challenge and adaptation to a son and a wife. Learning to think for 3 instead of 1.

My son is learning how to adapt to 2 parents in our home instead of 1. He's learning how to figure out this new relationship of "Stepdad" with his relationship of "Dad".  He lives with us and still visits with his biological father. How does this all play out? Feelings and emotions that he never had before are there to try and understand.  He has a daily example of a man which he never had before. A firmer spirit to discipline, chores, routine...the way a man thinks of these things.  Still having his mom who he's known his entire life there but the role shifts and I no longer am "everything" but I focus on "mom things".  It's been quite a change for my young man.  He's experiencing love and respect for a man in our house, not just his mom.  It is a great change for us and I already have a handful of stories to share. Stories that will bring a tear to your eye and stories that will bring laughter to your heart.

For me, this is quite a steamroller of emotions.  At first, the thought of marriage a second time around was frightening and I wasn't sure I had what it would take to make that commitment again. I had become quite independent and was certain that I could remain single if that is what the Lord willed me to do. Through experiences with my now husband, it became clear that he and I were meant to move forward. I've never felt surer of anything else. With this change I have had to pull back the independence a bit, realizing that we both run our household and that sharing in decisions, money and life experiences is necessary.  When I became single, I learned to be single. I have had to relearn how to be married.

My hope in continuing this blog is that I will reflect on times of single parenting while also diving into the daily needs of a blended family. I have changed the title to "The Single-Blended Parenting Journey" and hope that you will stick with me as I blog and document our journey as a family. I hope it helps you in the journey of life you are in.


The Art of Giving

Not long ago, my son and I had gone to a restaurant for a lunch out before we did some shopping. In this one day out experience we had some very teachable moments about giving and discernment. As we drove up to the restaurant, we passed a man standing on the corner with a gas can at his feet.  He was holding a sign that read, "Ran out of gas.  Stranded.  Please help."  As car after car drove passed him, ours being one of them, my son asked me why we did not hand him money.  I told him that it was odd he was far away from any parked car, standing in the middle of a place people can only hand him money rather than just give him gas.  That if he'd come up to me at a gas station with his can, I'd gladly fill it up.  I suggested that he wasn't necessarily stranded.

We then entered the restaurant which can be "to go" or "dine in".  We ordered our food and at the register were asked if we wanted to donated $2 towards feeding hungry children.  I said no, and received a little snarl from the cashier who said, "well okay!".

We then went on our way to the store to complete our shopping. As we walked inside we were met with a donation box for another hunger fighting organization. We walked past it. After we were done shopping, we walked back out the same door to be greeted now by a woman who was asking us to donate towards an organization that helps others. I said, "no thanks" and kept walking as I wasn't feeling good and didn't have any cash on hand.

My son turned to me again and asked, "Why did you say no to all of those people wanting help?" I answered that if I helped each and every person that asked, there would be nothing left for us.  He said, "Oh, okay" and we got in the car and headed home. The entire events of the day kept playing over and over in my mind, as you are likely thinking they should have.

The next day during discussion it was confirmed that people don't have to give in those ways but can give online and be choosy about who we give to.  That we can only give so much and we just can't simply give to all who ask because sometimes people are dishonest.  That the Lord will lead us to give and where.

This conversation AND the topic of giving of course is still swirling in my mind. I have a little mending to do. Explaining to my son that giving is good! Giving is what God wants us to do and although sometimes it isn't safe, if we feel a nudge, we are to listen. I need to explain that not helping 4 out of 4 people/organizations within 2 hours time is not okay. That I could have reached out to at least one.  Seeing those situations through the lenses of my son's innocence to help others has taught me a valuable lesson.  I have been blessed and should use my blessings to help others when possible. One need is not more important than the next but that is where God will lead and provide the nudge we need to act.  Our choice is whether or not we choose to listen to the nudge.

More Privacy Please

There is an epidemic in our society and I believe one of the main causes to be social media. As much as I love the world of social media and use it personally and daily, what it has done is create a window into everyone's life.  You see the good, the bad, the joy, the details and quite a lot of things that really shouldn't be public at all. I blame social media for a lot of the reason marriages and relationships are deteriorating. 

The temptation to do or say things on social media is causing an "open diary" and people overshare too often. Not only do people share too many details with their "friends" but people also have developed an entitlement to know each and every move that their "friends" are making. Back when I was a kid there was a lot of privacy. I didn't have to worry about my mom putting up picture after picture of me on Facebook and catching those embarrassing moments for all of her friends to notice, comment on and laugh at. It was private and I was able to grow up with a sense of security in my surroundings and with trust for those that I confided in.  I was also choosy with who knew what and when.

I have a deep concern for both aspects of the spectrum. Parents put up numerous pictures of their kids on Facebook without privacy settings, comment about private conversations with their children, rant about their children/relationships/feelings and just simply post too much. Knowing that social media is forever, what you say about your children, their other parent, their situations, etc will follow them, and you, for the rest of your lives. When you are struggling as a single parent, sometimes our feelings are clouded by our overwhelming emotion or just plain stressful situations. The intimate thoughts we have are just that, intimate and should remain private. Have a mentor, yes but please keep your personal information and feelings private. You'll run into judgemental people who then feel owed an explanation for how you feel rather than just supporting you.  That will be stressful.

Then there is the other side of the coin. People need to mind their own business. Who you date, how you are coping with this or that and the details and decisions of how you raise your children are your private business. Be careful what you write on Facebook and keep your situations clear of anything that will interfere with your parenting.  Others should not have the ability to get to your children with details you are still figuring out how to parent them through.

Example:  You lose your job and don't know what you are going to do financially.  Make sure you've parented your children through this and that you are emotionally stable for the multitude of questions you are going to receive and play interference for before you post on social media.  It will only add to the stress of the situation to draw numerous people in with their "good intentions". 

What I'm getting at is that we need privacy now like we did 30 years ago. 

Be choosy. Be careful. Most of all, use good common sense when putting anything up online.

What Children Need to Succeed in School

Everyone around me is eagerly awaiting Fall and the aroma of pumpkin spice can be smelled in most coffee shops. As much as I love this season and the peaceful feelings of the holidays nearing, it is certainly a time for my family that has started out by jumping from one stress to another. Most of the stresses have been good, some not-so-good, but all of which we will be able to look back on and see God's hand.

Along with the start of a school year at a new school for my son, who is now freshly in middle school, we have moved into our new house and are living in boxes. It's a delightful time of making memories and building our future, but I have to admit that the stress felt overwhelming last week when my son brought home a less than ideal progress report card.  Reality quickly set in that my focus has not been exactly where it should be. I was depending on him to self-manage with homework and studying while I focused on all of "life" that was happening around us. In my efforts to keep the house and activities in a forward progression, I neglected one very important element; my son's focus and environment. He didn't even have a good place to sit down and do his homework, let alone focus on his studies.  Now, I will admit that I felt terrible at first but I quickly turned that guilt into determination to do better for him and us.

He has a desk.  He has a work area.  Best of all, he has my undivided attention while he does homework, organizes his backpack and prepares for his day at school.  I feel a lot less stress now that I've refocused my attention.  I believe he also feels less stress with being more prepared.

This wasn't easy, though. I mean, we are literally living among boxes that need to be unpacked, chores that need to be done and so much to prepare for in the coming weeks. To sit and just "be there" for him is very difficult.  I find myself up later than I should and scrambling to do the other items. BUT, my priority is that my son is on the right track and that he is enabled to be the best he can be.  In my opinion, even greater than an area to work is that he knows I am standing right beside him as he, himself progresses forward. To me, what our children need to succeed is the support, encouragement and accountability of their loving parent(s). Without that, no amount of a great work area set up will be worth our investment. Our children need us. He will eventually be enabled to work more independently, but for now my time is the greatest gift.

Here's to better grades!

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Were you sitting at home watching television? Were you at work agonizing over the tragedy along with your co-workers? Did you fear for people who were in harms way or for those who had already been killed? Maybe you even knew someone who was affected and maybe you, yourself were directly affected as a result of the terrible events that unfolded that morning across the United States.  Today seems like the perfect day to write about using every breath and ounce of my being to sing praises to the Lord for all he has done and will continue to do!

I distinctly remember what I was doing on that otherwise sunny and beautiful morning.  I had just sat down with my cup of hot tea to prepare for the day at the office and my then, husband had just left for work.  I never usually turn on the news, but for some reason this day I was inclined to waste the last few moments of my morning watching the television before heading to work. I tuned in just in time to see the second plane hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center.

As many of you can relate, utter shock, horror and disbelief came at me all at once.  Not understanding the meaning of anything I was seeing, my first instinct was to cry. Cry for those affected and cry in fear of how this would affect my world as I knew it.  My first instinct was not prayer, peace or turning to the Lord in any fashion whatsoever.  Fear, worry and a feeling of being unsafe in a once seemingly safe world took over me. Eventually, like many, I did turn to God and prayer mostly asking why and what would be next for our nation.  As the hype of prayer and turning to God faded around our country, I began to realize how easily the nation will turn to a God that it regularly shuns when faced with fear, worry and lack of safety. It felt to many like no other option.

The reaction of that day the weeks following are a good example to me of how I am NOT supposed to be living. I am not supposed to turn to fear or worry but am to turn to God. I am to teach my son through my actions that despite the world crumbling around us, whether literally or metaphorically, that God is the answer and that He is where we find our refuge. May we never forget that our ultimate peace is found in Him.

Watch for the "Red Flags"

Stopped at a red light I realized that I had enough room in front of me to scoot up a bit and allow the person who was sideways in the lane beside me to fully merge behind me into my lane. As they moved into the lane behind me, the car that was hindered from driving through their lane without pause honked their horn. For a split second I thought about how rude that was and how people lack patience.  That was until the passenger in the truck that I moved up to help, flipped off the driver that honked his horn. The passenger laughed and then looked at his girlfriend for approval, whom was seated in the crook of his arm in the middle of the truck.  She laughed too.  As we drove off, they changed lanes and went ahead of me.

I felt sadness for that couple.  Sadness for the men and women who aren't taught respect in every circumstance and for those who lower their standards to accept such terrible behavior. How I wish I could tell all singles how important behavior is.  Settling for bad behavior when dating is a red flag to what is to come.  In that particular situation I wondered about how that couple argues.  Do they curse each other out? Do they flip each other off? If he so easily treated a stranger that way, how much worse would he treat the one who is closest to him? You've heard the saying that you hurt most the ones you love and that is because you are comfortable. How much worse does he treat her? How much worse does she treat him?

This made me think of all of the red flags that can pop up in the dating scenario. Especially as we choose to date as single parents, we are to be on guard for behaviors that can cause agony later. We are not only choosing our future mates but we are setting a standard and example to our children.

Do you have the same moral and spiritual beliefs?
Do they make smart financial choices?
Are they trustworthy? Would you trust them with your deepest thoughts?
Are they someone that you would want your son or daughter to grow up to be or be with?
I've also heard to watch how they treat a waiter/waitress.  Did they tip and say please and thank you?

These are just five but I encourage you to have your own standards and stick by them. Don't settle for what is anything less than best for you and your children.

Too Much "Stuff"

In my previous blog I told you that I was in the middle of packing and moving. In this process there is about 1 month where we will need some of our things to continue the day-to-day living. I chose to pack up everything that we wouldn't need for the next month to make the move day that much more smooth. As you can imagine there are boxes upon boxes stacked up in my house.

I realized something very convicting while packing. When faced with the choice of to pack or not to pack, I found that I have way too much stuff! For example, I have 7 skillets of various sizes. I can't remember the time that I used each of those sizes because let's face it, I have my favorite. So I kept that one out. Why do I need 6 more? What purpose will they serve sitting in my cabinet awaiting the day that I grab them instead of the other? Then we have glasses and cups.  They are coming out my ears! Why so many? Do I really host that many people in my home where I need to prepare like that?

In life, we always feel we need more of something or we need the next new thing. Why is that? Why can't we be content with what we have? Why do our kids need bins of toys? I remember growing up with some toys but it was never an issue to have a clean room because I didn't have too much to find a spot for. I don't think it is because we buy happiness but I do believe it is because we have the philosophy that "more" means "success".  Success to me has taken on new meaning.

My son is happy and healthy. My home is clean (for the most part) and serves it's function. I have a job and am able to provide.  The "things" in life get in the way of seeing the true treasures and that is our family. As small or large as we are, TIME is most important. Spending money on treasures that we will not use 5 days from now just takes away from the ability to spend time. The more you spend, the more you feel you need to make to keep up with those habits.

Live simply. Live smart and take notice to what you spend your time and money on. If you are still unsure if you have "too much" then do what my friend Daniel Day suggested.  Start at your front door and thank God for each item you see as you walk inside. It won't be long before you realize how much you have to be thankful for.

P.S. I did this with my son and he stopped thinking he was deprived. :)

God Will Take Care of Me

I am in a really cool phase in life. I have taken the plunge after years of renting and decided to buy my first home.  When I made this decision it was both scary and exciting all at the same time. I went through the phases of self-doubt about whether or not I could really afford to do such a thing but after budgeting and analyzing my expenses the answer was YES!

I am currently "in contract" which is supposed to end August 31.  I am busily packing up our lives and the juggling act with this has been a journey in itself to be quite honest.  My son is beginning middle school next week and so all that comes with a new school and new requirements and is coupled with the high emotions of moving from the only home he remembers. On top of these two major life events, my vehicle is needing to be replaced due to a dying engine. I haven't been given much time that it will continue to drive us around.  On top of that are many other little occurrences that would cause one to question their sanity and at times I found myself doing just that. Actually saying to God, "This is it! This is all I can handle. No more!" You know what happened? More. That's right. God wasn't working on my agenda and capacity but His.

That is it! God's capacity. I can't fathom that.  I can't begin to understand what He is doing to provide, protect and love my son and I. He has always been faithful and gracious. Why would that change now? The answer is simply that it wouldn't. God does not change. I change. I move from Him but He hasn't moved. I can go through this time counting my blessings or I can focus on the things that I cannot control and be stressed.

I have a choice. I make that choice as often as I remember and that is to choose to be joyful despite what appears to be concerning around me. God has always provided and taken care of us and He always will. My journey may look different than others but the fact is that He always cares for us.

Fear or Rational Interpretation?

Various life circumstances and situations mold and shape who we are as individuals. We use those experiences as platforms for how we view ourselves, others and how we interpret what is good or bad or what felt positive or negative.

As single parents we deal with emotional struggles as others do, but specifically there are situations that we have found ourselves in that require perspective.  Is this fear talking or is this my rational interpretation?

Being completely transparent, I have endured situations that cause my emotional wall to easily shoot up and block out any remote possibility of being hurt. I have learned through my circumstances what I need and do not need in the relationships that surround me. I keep myself somewhat private and reserved with most but every so often find someone whom I confide and put my trust in. I am also very sensitive to the "warning signs" that this person is no longer able to be in that role based on my previous experiences.  I am forced to stop and think: Is the fear talking or is this my rational interpretation?

Sure, listening to warning signs comes with experience and wisdom. Knowing the difference between fear and rational thinking is key. When I realize that I've been placed in a situation where my emotional wall has shot up, I stop.  I pray. I think of what is prompting my reaction. If it is fear then I confront the "why" question and move toward resolve. If it is a rational interpretation, then I listen and I move away from the circumstance.

This may seem like common sense, but I've met many single parents who were hurt in one way or another and left to parent alone. They act out of fear in most cases and I too, find myself guilty of that reaction.  Find the balance and look at every situation with rational interpretation.  Fear will consume and that is not where you want to live.

No Presents on Father's Day

This Father's Day I didn't receive any presents.  No pats on the back.  No "thank you". No card that says how much I'm cared for.  You know why?  I'm not a Dad. 

I'm sure to stir up some controversy with this because I often see posts on social media or hear comments of how a single parent has to play both the mother and father role and therefore should be recognized on both holidays.   I believe however, that there is a reason that we have Mother's Day and Father's Day as two separate holidays in two separate months.  They are two completely separate roles.  Just because there is not a father in the picture does not automatically make the holiday default to me as someone who is filling both shoes. 

Sure, single parents may carry 100% of the emotional, financial and household burdens but the role of Mother was created by God to be filled by a woman.  The role of Father can only be filled with a man.  There are specific qualities that reside in each of the sexes to be able to fulfill their role as intended.  Although I may do things that one could claim as the father's role, I perform these tasks the way a woman would and not a man.  There are things in life and about my son that I will not be able to teach him. There is a necessity for a man to teach a boy how to grow into a man. 

Moms, hear me out. I celebrate you and the tremendous responsibility you hold each and every day. Just be very careful about how you position yourselves on the topic of being both a mother and a father. There is nothing in the Bible that supports that stance.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 
"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your 
house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Combating Loneliness

As single parents we can often find ourselves in situations that can cause feelings of loneliness. Sometimes they affect us and sometimes they do not. Although we are strong and push through with our "brave face" on, there can still be feelings deep down that we are forced to deal with and overcome.

Some of these situations include:
Walking into an awards ceremony at our child's school, alone.
Showing up to a family day at church, without a spouse.
Wanting to join a marriage class to learn how to love properly, but we are unattached.
Tucking our children into bed then sitting in a quiet house, alone.
Going to a restaurant and hearing, "Just one adult menu?"
Sitting in church during a marriage series.
School meetings for "parents of" and you show up alone.
Celebrating Mother's Day or Father's Day without the attributing parent around. 

Whichever circumstance you find yourself feeling alone in, shame, guilt or loneliness are not fun feelings.  I am not a scholar or a learned professional with what goes on in the mind of someone during these times, however from personal experience I have a few tips to help combat those feelings that often accompany single parenthood.

1) Join up with another single parent of the same gender and be a support system.
2) Start up your own single parent group to engage on topics that are important to singles for discussion without discomfort.
3) Pick up a hobby that you enjoy doing after hours when the kiddos are in bed. It will keep your mind busy and your heart full.
4) Bless someone else on special holidays that make you feel lonely. The best way to combat loneliness is to love on someone else.
5) Most of all think of the blessings you have in your life instead of what is missing.
6) Realize that you are not the first nor the last person to encounter the feeling of loneliness. 
7) Hold your head high and acknowledge that you are likely noticing your "aloneness" more than those around you.
8) Journal or have some sort of outlet for expressing your feelings.
9) Exercise.  Physical activity is proven to boost your happiness.
10) Eat right.  Food plays a huge factor in depression and negative feelings.

Have more tips? Write them below!

Enjoying The "Wait"


This word and I have had a love and hate relationship, lately.  Face it, we definitely live in a "microwave" culture.  Waiting for something we are longing for is difficult at times and we just want it now.  Actually, sometimes we want it "yesterday".

I had a genuine and lovely friend a couple years back who is still very precious to me in my memory. Her name is Claudia and one morning, she taught me a thing or two about the word, patience. I recently recalled her talk and was reminded of something very important that God laid on my heart that day she spoke.

She so eloquently said that in exercising patience we are in a "wait".  In the "wait" is when God can do amazing things!  Why would we want to rush through that time? Why wouldn't we absorb all that can be learned and felt so that when we reap the reward of our "wait", we feel the journey that led us there?

After remembering these wise words it became very clear to me just how much God has done in my "wait". We encounter so many situations as single parents that have us in a time of waiting. What "wait" are you in right now and what could God be teaching you through your journey?  


Age Appropriate Chores

It is no secret that children need to learn how to care for the house and themselves.  Year after year, they are to be gaining greater independence and the way to invest for them to be clean and tidy adults is to give them chores as children.  It doesn't take much on our end to teach and then obtain help but when are responsibilities appropriate to pass along? I did a little research on my end and also reached out to you all on my Facebook page.  Together we have quite a great list of ideas!  They are listed by age group of what you can add to their list as they grow.

Ages 2-3:
Wash Windows or mirrors that are reachable with kid-friendly cleaner.
Set the dinner table with help.
Take plate to sink/counter after dinner.
Put dirty laundry into the laundry basket.

Help clean up spills.
Help pick up toys.
Feed the pets with supervision.

Help collect trash bags around the house and put new bags in each trash can when emptied.

Ages 4-5:
Set the dinner table without help.
Help with dinner preparation. 
Make their bed.
Pull weeds or help with outside work.
Sweep the front/back porch.
Help sort, fold and hang laundry.

Age 6-7:
Get water for family at meal time.
Help prepare lunch/dinner, including packing their school lunch.
Put their own clean laundry away.
Feed/Water pets without much supervision.
Wipe down counters and table after meal time.

Wash Windows or mirrors that are reachable with kid-friendly cleaner.
Clean their bedroom.

Age 8-9:
Help vacuum/mop floors
Put clean dishes away.
Clean bathrooms
Learn Laundry.
Learn to cook simple meals such as toast, eggs and grilled cheese.  Supervise when using stove.

Age 10+:
Mow the lawn with supervision until comfortable.
Wash the car.
Do laundry without much supervision.
Cook their own simple meals.
Stay home alone with siblings for short periods of time (upon maturity level).
Old enough to notice when things need to be cleaned.

All of these suggestions are based on the maturity level of the child and how comfortable you are as the parent.  I personally recommend making a weekly chore list per child so they can visually see what is expected of them.  In my house, there are chores you do because you live there and are a part of the household, and there are chores that can be done as "extra" to earn some allowance.  It is up to you if you choose to pay an allowance for chores or not, but nonetheless it is good for our children to grow up in a house that they have responsibility in. Mom or Dad should not do everything, nor can we.

A HUGE thank you for Suzette Rausch Redd, Andrew Sawyer, and Melissa Pinedo for their helpful suggestions in age-appropriate chores!

You Can't Fix Everything

In this crazy, mixed up world we live in there sure is a lot of "wrong" that I'd like to make "right".  I recently wrote about releasing control, but there is something even deeper rooted within a single parent, or a parent in general, that even when control is "released" we want things fixed sooner rather than later, especially when it comes to our children.

We are eager for them to be okay when situations are less than ideal.  Such as hurt feelings, healing quickly after a broken bone, illness or even the ultimate "fix" of praying them back to the Lord when they have wandered from the foundation you've laid.

I will be honest that sometimes I have a lack of patience with God's timing because I am knee deep in the circumstance. Trusting God's timing can become cloudy when you are living in the need day in and day out.  In those times, listen to the soft voice in your soul that speaks of peace and patience.  Sometimes if you can't hear that voice because you are preoccupied, you'll hear a much louder voice of reason from a friend. God uses many methods to get through to us. 

Rest assured that God knows your desires.  God loves your children more than you do and so despite all of your efforts, worry, and frustrations, He ultimately is in control of each situation. There is no need to doubt that your children are cared for by a Father that can do and be much more to them than you.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

Releasing Control

Throughout my journey as a single mother I have been told numerous times that I am strong.  I am strong for enduring my past and even stronger for placing one foot in front of the other to pursue my future. I never felt I was strong and often wondered just what about me specifically, were people seeing as strength?  What began as a question turned into a motive. I began to feel I needed to be strong in every circumstance.  To act strong even when I wasn't and to take complete control over my situations so that this strength would be noticed.

What I have found after walking in this mindset for a few years is that I am never fully in control. Even when I'd like to be, I am not. Despite my most valiant efforts, God's plan doesn't always line up with my plan.  Guess who's plan wins? Not mine.

I can tell you that fully trusting in the Lord with all of my circumstances is a bit scary for someone who likes everything planned out and streamlined.  As many of you, I like to know what my future holds and I feel safer in the promise of a future when I know just what that looks like. Sometimes God places us in circumstances that we would not have chosen for ourselves but we can rest assured of one thing.  We know who holds our future and it always ends up better than we could have imagined. Not always in our earthly definition of good, but it will for our eternal good.  Relying on God fully is what I would consider the ultimate expression of strength. Strength in Him.

                "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you 
                              and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 
                                                            Jeremiah 29:11

Spending: Set An Example

Kids have so much these days. It’s a balancing act to provide for needs but also allow for the wants in life.  How do you teach your children to be wise with money and grateful for what they have?  The surest answer I can give is by teaching them through your actions.  Saying "NO" can be the best thing you do for them sometimes. Thrifty spending and conservative purchases are great examples of being frugal but they also will need to learn it’s okay to splurge every now and then as long as the needs are taken care of.  There are specific techniques that I do with my son and most of the time it works well. 

1) Toys are rewards outside of celebrations like Christmas and Birthdays.  Using this technique will give confidence and build them up with praise for a job well done.  We work hard and get a paycheck at the end of a workweek.  It's the same philosophy.  Attaching the reward to an action implements working toward something.  I'm also an advocate for treating to something special; just keep it as something special and not the normal.

2) Give allowance for chores.  In my house, there are chores you do because you are a part of the family and then there are extra chores that are thought up to earn some cash.  This teaches that the regular life accomplishments don't always get praised but that there are natural consequences that are good for keeping a clean room, taking out the trash...etc. Extra chores are the added effort to earn toward something wanted and go above and beyond the regular.  This in my house is giving the tub and extra special scrub, organizing the books on the bookshelf, cleaning out the car, etc.  We negotiate a price for completing such task and once it is finished I get to gaze upon the face of a very proud child who knows he truly worked for that money.

3) Create incentive to save.  Consider a savings plan for your kids. Whatever you save, I'll match up to X dollar amount.  For example, my son really wants something that costs $300.  He is saving his money and once he reaches $150, then I'll match it and he'll obtain his accomplishment. It makes the task of saving feel less daunting while teaching him the general principal.

The main idea is to be an example.  If you are spending money without reason, your children might just follow in your footsteps.  Ask yourself, what do I spend my money on? Do I spend frivolously or is it well thought out? What spending habits are my children witnessing?  Do I share those thought steps with them?

You are your children’s best teacher.

Sex and Single Parenting

Sex was created by God. Sex was created to be enjoyed. Sex is something that is a natural progression to the plan of marriage. Whether you were married before you had children or not, sex is something that we are all geared to desire.

Sex is also a very socially taboo subject. To talk about the enjoyment of this activity can be viewed as inappropriate and is expected to be completely off the radar for a single person to even discuss. The bottom line is that we are geared to want and enjoy sex. Just because we are single does not mean that this feeling turns off. Needless to say, as parents, we have enjoyed this activity at least once before. We know how we feel when we partake and we want to feel that feeling again. We want to be in someone's arms, if even just for a moment of feeling like we are wanted and loved.

Here's the problem. Many single parents are having sexual relations in or out of relationships and it is causing more damage than the good of that momentary feeling. Putting aside what the Bible speaks of, the damage that it can do emotionally, physically, and mentally are enough to give some pause to the subject and visit the reality of such decisions.
  • Inviting sex into a relationship bonds you to this person. You may not end up marrying the person you are sexually active with. By participating in such an intimate activity, you will never truly rid yourself of that person from your life if things don't work out. It also makes it much more difficult to walk away when you need to. You are connected to them.
  • You put yourself at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. The more partners you have, the higher your chances. This is a lifetime consequence.
  • According to the Bible, sex outside of marriage is clearly defined as sin. Sin separates us from God. The bottom line is that if you are having sex outside of a marital union, you are separating yourself from God and will find it more and more difficult to grow in your faith. You can't simply ignore the scriptures you don't like.
  • You have taken up the torch to raise your children according to God's direction and you have taken that task very seriously. The main thing to remember is that your children are looking to you as an example. If you are having sex outside of marriage, why shouldn't they? Be who you want your kids to be and live how you want them to live. Don't be a hypocrite, even if it is in secret.
  • An unplanned pregnancy is not going to help your situation. You are already raising children in a single parent home and despite the amazing life they may have, you realize that children need both parents. Why would you risk bringing another child into your situation?
Although my reasons were blunt, I understand the natural desire for sex. I know what it's like to feel lonely and to wish that you had a companion. Be careful with your understanding of those feelings and remember that God can help you overcome any obstacle in your walk with Him.