Let me explain how this marriage works.

A casual observer into my marriage would assume, because I’m the noisy one, that I run the show. They’d see me flapping my lips and my arms and hopping from room to room, coming up with all manner of ideas for our family and also shouting my opinion rather ceaselessly.

They’d see Eric calmly watching the circus that is his wife, and might incorrectly assume that he’s passively letting me do whatever I want.

No.

Not even a little bit.

The man is a ROCK. He is IMMOVABLE. I could pick up my van with my bare hands and heft it to the next city before I could get Eric to do something he doesn’t want to do.

That’s how this marriage works, dear reader. It’s my job to come up with a terrible, ridiculous idea (or two) literally every single day.

It’s his job to deflect that terrible idea every single day. On a weekend when we’re both together and I have more free time, he might literally have to tell me no or stare me down from sunrise to sunset, which is when he finally hands me a glass of wine to quiet me down.

For example, I tried to move our family of four into a tiny house. This assault lasted over a year.

Seriously. Now I want one all over again! (Photo courtesy of hgtv.com)

For example, I tried to talk him into moving to Dubai last month.

Come on, honey! We could get a camel! (Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com)

For also example, I also tried to talk him into buying a $400,000 lake house when he refused the Dubai idea.

I present my ideas and flutter my eyelashes and wait for him to acknowledge that I’m a genius. He waits a moment, phrasing his answer just so, and then gently points out the logic that renders my plan unworkable. “Your logic is ruining my day!” I shout in his direction. He smirks.

I’m sure the man must be exhausted. But I also think he’s amused and finds this circus endlessly entertaining, so he lets it roll onward.


And here’s the thing– I don’t actually feel bad about this dynamic in our marriage. If I didn’t come up with a hundred terrible ideas, I probably wouldn’t get around to the sparkling, amazing, stupendous ideas, either. One of us needs to be dragging us forward, and the other one needs to be the brakes so we don’t run straight off the cliff into a tiny lake house in Dubai.

I know that from outward appearances, my attempts at being a wife probably fail every litmus test for submission, quietness, gentleness, or self control. But deep on the inside, I know my husband. I know when I’ve crossed the line from fun-wife to poopy-head-wife. Out of respect for him, I try to stay on the fun side of that line.

And out of love for me, he does occasionally concede that an idea might be a good one, and we move forward. Cautiously. Oh, so cautiously.

I firmly believe there’s no one perfect kind of marriage. Just like with good parenting, there are lots of ways to have a great relationship. And really, outward appearances count for little. What goes on during the quiet afternoons, the early mornings, and the long car rides– when it’s just the two of you working it all out together– counts more than failing to live up to standards that have nothing to do with you two as people.

“You be you,” as our thirteen year-old says. Your marriage is what you make of it, good and bad, just like we individual humans are what we make of ourselves. Even if what we make of ourselves is kind of crazy, with really terrible ideas.

This is how a marriage works. May our relationships flourish and grow as we care for one another in our deeply individual ways.

 

 

 

Dear Parents: It’s okay if you’re making it up as you go along

Eric and I are parenting two kids in middle school, so basically we’re making stuff up as we go along. Minute by minute, we literally have no idea of what we’re doing.

This is no different than any other stage of parenting we’ve experienced thus far, but what IS different is that the kids now know this. They no longer trust everything we say or blindly believe we’re geniuses who happen to share a house with them.

 

To be fair, I can no longer help with their math, band homework, or technology. Their lack of faith in me is sort of justified and it’s not like I’ll ever understand negative integers, so I’m going to have to live with it.

Technology and algebra aside, recently Eric and I have bumped into a few situations where our guesses and hopes aren’t enough to cut it. We’ve had to share our concerns with friends (who all have kids the same ages as ours) and ask what they’d do in our situation.

Now, we picked our advisors wisely. These friends have all known us for two decades and are parenting with the firm desire to raise children who love God, know the Bible, and one day go out into the world to make a difference for the Kingdom. Their insight was very, very helpful.

Turns out there is no easy answer

But this is what I’m learning– their insights are gleaned from their own situation. Every family has a particular dynamic that comes from a bunch of individual personalities jammed into one living situation. Every family has different goals, strengths and weaknesses, and hopes for their kids. We’ve chosen different educational options and houses of worship.

This means every family gave us a different answer. This isn’t what I wanted– I wanted one clear, correct answer. A foggy, stressful situation became even foggier.

Until this morning, when I realized there isn’t any such thing as one clear, correct answer in parenting and the fog suddenly dissipated. I’m responsible for these two kids I have. I have to choose their schools, church, and neighborhood because that’s what parents do. What our friends do is great and helpful and often helps me keep my sanity, but in the end, Eric and I get to choose.

We all get to choose

And so do you. You know your kids. You know your family’s needs and hopes and strengths. So you get to choose what’s best for your kids at the end of the day. Pray over it, make the best decision you can, and rest in the fact there will always be a lot of ways to raise a great kid.

Your friends will do some things better than you. Your friends will do some things worse than you. Their kids might turn out great or really terrible. In the end, all our kids will make decisions we have no control over anyway, which means that we can parent them until the end of time and still get totally wonky results. We’re dealing with humans here, not robots.


We’re all making it up as we go (even our kids!), so let’s just do the best we can, support one another, and enjoy long talks over the table where we confess that we have no idea of what to do next.

All my teenager needs is a pound of butter

I thought parenting teenagers was going to be full of angst and fights and possibly weeping.

Turns out it’s mostly full of butter, with sudden outbursts where I yell about practicing instruments or taking out cat poop. Hardly what I expected at all, frankly.

“Mom, I think we used too much butter!” Audrey called down the stairs to me on Saturday morning.

I was in the middle of a project in the basement, taking out our unused craft desk and sorting through scraps of paper I’ve saved for (I’m not kidding) seventeen years, while Audrey and her friend Lydia were using up all the baking supplies in the whole house, lightly coating everything in powdered sugar and gluten free flour.

By the time we had this conversation it was too late– the cupcakes were already in the oven and there was no repairing the butter issue. “It’s fine, they’ll just be extra delicious!” I yelled up the stairs as I hefted a box full of old glitter glue and rubber stamps from 1999. I hoped I was right, but there was no guarantee.

The cupcakes, I’m glad to announce, are indeed delicious. The girls soon moved from the cake to the frosting, working together to make sure the color of the frosting was just the right shade of yellow. There was lots of giggling and joking. I think I have frosting on my kitchen ceiling. Whatever.

I poked my head upstairs and started a sink of dishwater for them, gently ordering them to clean up their glorious mess, then headed back downstairs with the vacuum to suck up ancient glass beads that had escaped their container. The laughing and giggling continued in the kitchen, with some occasional swishing of hot, soapy water.

After I’d taken four loads of junk to the dumpster and another four loads of donations to the van, the craft area was finally empty and ready for our new addition– a snack bar for the kids and their friends. Eric has this grand idea to make our basement welcoming to the kids, so we can be the place they want to hang out in in the years to come.

Our friends, Tall Caleb (not to be confused with our son, Short Caleb) and Megan, pointed out that the teen years were, oh, right now, which is a solid point. Aud and her friends will be in high school next year.

HIGH SCHOOL.

And with high school comes heroin and pregnancy, I’ve been led to believe. We’d like to avoid both of those at all costs, so if this means we need to make some changes in the basement and buy a metric ton of butter, then so be it.

cupcakeButter and powdered sugar are much cheaper than heroin and rehab, I believe.

We already have the old comfy couches and carpet that won’t mind teenagers. We have plans for a larger TV, a way to play music, and the aforementioned snack bar. What else to do we need? If you have suggestions for us, we’d love to hear them.

More butter, less heroin. Amen.

 

Romantic Ideas for Every Budget and (Every Kind of Couple)

Dearly beloved, Valentine’s Day is nearly here again, and of course we’re panicking. We have no idea of what to get our loved ones and we’ve saved no monies. This means we’re clueless AND cashless. We need some romantic ideas and they need to be very, very inexpensive.

Every year I ask Eric what he wants for Valentine’s. Every year he responds with the same answer, and I will leave you to your imagination because this is a family friendly blog and I cannot type that sort of thing out.

So I guess we’re not completely out of ideas when it comes to special, romantic events. But sometimes we’d like to spruce up the usual festivities, yes?

Yes.

And this is where a normal blog would give you a list of great ideas for your special night. But I’m not a normal blogger, honestly. Assuming I could come up with a hundred romantic ideas, they could all be terrible for you.

Here’s the thing about being in a relationship– what counts as romance and caring varies wildly from person to person. What speaks love and delight to me might make a normal woman throw her husband out of the house for the week. I’d probably clap my hands with joy if Eric came home with the vacuum I want.

(Note to Eric: don’t actually buy it. It’s $500 and once I’m done being happy I will take that thing back to the store for a full refund.)

So we’ll skip all my crazy ideas and get right to the point where you find what your spouse needs, without my interference.

How to find romantic ideas for your beloved:

Sit down casually with a magazine or two. Be near your dear one.

Casually peruse the magazine and pretend like it’s full of very interesting articles.

Say something like, “Picnics. Such a nice idea,” like the magazine has an article on them. (See how tricky I am?)

Notice how your lover responds. If he wrinkles his nose and starts lecturing on ants and food spoilage, then you know he’s not into picnics. Move along. Find another “article” and gently murmur something about trips to San Francisco, the temperature at the top of the Hancock Center, or how delicious the new restaurant in town sounds.

(I found this blog post, and it actually has some pretty good ideas if you have zero of your own.)

Continue suggesting completely random things until your help mate finally, finally indicates some interest in a subject/event/activity.

You are now getting closer. You’re discovering what this wonderful creature in front of you finds exciting and romantic. Now you just need to dial it back until you can afford it this year.

But wait. We’ve already determined there’s no money this year.

Okay, maybe you can’t actually get what your beau wants this year. But you at least have an idea, the slightest direction, to head. If nothing else, you can say, “Honey, I love you so much. And I’d love to buy you a monster truck for Valentine’s Day, but it’s not in the budget. Here’s an adorable toy version!”

Of course this isn’t as good as a real monster truck, but it’s waaaaaaaaaaay better than a tie he doesn’t want.

But wait again! Now you know what he loves, and you hate it!

Ah, here’s the terrible truth about being in a relationship. Sometimes you literally loathe what they adore. This is where the love comes in. The love part goes with what makes them happy, not you.

I know. It’s painful.

You may mail me hate letters when you’re out in a deer blind, freezing off your toes because your husband wanted a “romantic” hunting date. Or, feel free to mentally shoot darts at a photo of my face while you hold your wife’s purse and wait outside the women’s dressing room at Macy’s.

I’m sort of sorry. But the whole point of this exercise was to make our loved ones feel loved, right? Some times that means you freeze your butt off in a deer blind or have to go shopping. But here’s the thing– if we do this right long enough, then eventually we become those sweet old couples who hold hands and walk through the park. It takes lots of sacrifice to get there, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth it.

Eventually. Maybe not today. But a thousand small choices on their behalf will eventually lead to a life of love.

An Advice Letter to My College Self

Dear Jessie, circa 1996:

I’m here with unsolicited advice, so hang on to your hat. This is yourself, I mean me…I mean Future You.

Wait. You’ve watched Back to the Future at least 400 times. It’s like that. I’m typing to you from the future on a laptop computer. You know how you go to the computer lab on campus when you need to type a paper or check email? It’s like that, except times a million.

(Seriously, you can’t even imagine the technological nightmare we’re about to create for ourselves. When you see your first iPhone your head will explode.)

Now that we have those awkward introductions out of the way, I want to say it’s now 2017 and everything’s okay. Be nice to that guy who answered the door the night you went to Bible study– you marry him and have two kids. Don’t blow it.

I know you’re studying hard and working at least one job, and trust me– this pays off. You might be tempted to quit the dumb job and just sign for more student loans, but just hang in there. At the rate you’re going you’ll graduate with just over $8,000 in student loans, and this will feel like enough of a burden in the days to come.

There will be job losses. The economy will get really, really crappy. And then you will hate the job you have. Trust me, keep working now to keep your loans low, and then work like mad to pay off those loans. This advice is true and right. You will not regret this.

Apparently you and Eric will be extremely fertile in the days to come, and you will have those two children like lightning. I cannot overstate how much children cost. Diapers? Formula? Those things cost the earth. Car seats, tiny baby shoes, and trips to the doctor are enough. Don’t make your life harder by adding debt from school.

Also, you will look into those cute little blue eyes (both kids have them!) and you will realize you don’t want to leave them forty hours a week to go to a regular job. This will be an actual option if you don’t take out the student loans you’re considering.

If you stop working now, you’re never going to be able to stop working later. Sure, you’ll eventually live in a little house with some odd neighbors. There will be summer days you sit around a tiny baby pool in the backyard and sweat because the house doesn’t really have enough air conditioning and you will pray desperately to the Lord above for a real job.

But you won’t actually have to leave the babies to go to work if you don’t want to. That’s the freedom you’re buying for yourself later.

So, to summarize: I know you’re really busy and want to quit the job so you don’t have to juggle your schedule all the time. But you’re actually saving your future, so keep at it, sister.

Amen and goodbye,

Future Jessie

 

Want to be truly content? Memorize these 5 Bible verses.

5 Bible verses on contentmentToday I present some Bible verses on contentment just for you, my tender internet reader. You might want to bookmark (Pinterest!) this post for the days you hate everything you own and you want to set fire to the house and move to St. Thomas to live in a yacht with no screaming children.

Not that I have ever personally fantasized about this. I have no idea of where this extremely detailed dream originated.

Moving on, then. Let’s get to the verses that keep me from lighting the fuse and looking for yachts.

1 Timothy 6:6-8

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content (NLT).

1 Timothy 6:6-8. ContentmentI love how this passage reframes our expectations for us. We worry endlessly about the future and material possessions, but after having food clothing (and a safe place to live, I would add), what do we really need? Not much.

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11. ContentmentThese particular Bible verses on contentment have been bandied around for years, right? We tend to gloss over them because we’ve heard them so many times, assuming Paul was a nut who lived so long ago his opinion hardly counts.

But Paul wasn’t some Super Christian with Super Strength. He was just a normal guy who had been totally transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who now lives in us. He was, however, totally focused on one goal: glorifying God and spreading the good news to anyone who would listen. We could benefit from his focus, which would put our discontentment into perspective.

Hebrews 13:5

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

Hebrews 13:5. ContentmentYes, Lord. Yesyesyesyes. I will try to remember. Amen.

John 14:27

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:27. ContentmentJesus came to bring us abundant and full lives, but we often miss it because we’ve taken our focus off of him and his provision and put it on… well… everything else. Setting our minds firmly back on Christ with these sorts of Bible verses on contentment will always lead us back to where our desires should be.

1 Chronicles 29:13-14

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!”

1 Chronicles 29:14. Gratitude and contentmentThis passage comes from King David’s prayer of praise as he surveyed the materials gathered to build the Temple. Everyone had given willingly to build this glorious place, which was still just a shadow of what God deserved. With joyful hearts everyone sacrificed to show their gratitude for who God was and what he had first done for them.

David and his people recognized God’s abundant blessings in their lives. I guarantee we’ll feel more content when we do the same.

***
I could go on and on if you had hours to read this post. What ones did I miss? What Bible verses on contentment are your favorites? Let me know where you turn when you need a good reminder. I’d love to know!

 

The Nester vs. Melissa Michaels: An Epic Battle of Christian Home Decorating Books

Christian home decorating books
Home decorating books have moved into the church, my friends. Consider Joanna Gaines, the Nester (Myquillyn Smith), and Melissa Michaels, all women who love Jesus and hate ugly rooms.

And frankly, this is a welcome relief. I’m a little tired of fighting over the big theological issues like predestination and the dumb things like the temperature of the women’s bathroom. I think we’re all ready for a little neutral territory, a little bit of fun in the middle of this crazy church lady life. So while some may roll their eyes at Christian home decorating books, I’m all for them. 

Christian home decorating books
So let’s take my two favorite home decorating books and put them head-to-head in an epic literary battle, shall we?

(This is probably where I should apologize for many of the pictures in this post. I’m guessing photos of book pages are probably some sort of copyright infringement, but since I’m basically begging readers to go out and buy these books from legitimate sources, I’m taking my chances with the Christian publishing world’s legal teams. Please don’t sue me. Amen. Also, be prepared for affiliate links below.)

The Nesting Place: by Myquillyn Smith

Quirky. The Nesting Place is quirky, and hand to the heavens, that is my favorite part. The Nester (because Myquillyn is hard to say and– apparently– impossible to type) is fond of using stumps for side tables and deer antlers for just about anything.

Her rooms are goofy and fun and she’s not afraid to show you the dark underside of her decorating, like chairs that are missing a leg or fabric that’s frayed.

home decorating books
It’s old, okay? The poor sweet chair has some issues, but we still love it.

My own house looks like this, so I feel right at home in her book.

But wait. There’s more. My other favorite part of the book is where the Nester goes explains all thirteen homes her family has lived in, why they moved, and the financial challenges they faced. Real life, in other words. Home decorating books don’t have to be full of fantasy and debt!

The Challenger: The Inspired Room, by Melissa Michaels

I didn’t think there could ever be a decorating book that might come close to The Nesting Place, but I was wrong. The Inspired Room landed on my front porch last week and I was smitten. Her decorating style is freakishly similar to my own, and now I’m desperate to use old maps to wallpaper (I use that term loosely) a small wall.

christian home decorating books
Maps as wallpaper!! Genius! She also has practical things like color palettes, a resource list, and seasonal decorating.

The Winner: Both of them.

I know, that’s cheating a little. An epic battle can’t come out in a tie, but this is my blog so I get to set the epic battle rules.

I love both books because both authors have a firm commitment to decorating with contentment and joy. I refuse to accept that I can only love my home if I gut the kitchen and then borrow money for a $70,000 remodel. That’s dumb and irresponsible. Both the Nester and Melissa understand that our homes are places of refuge, and that comes slowly.

They understand that a beautiful, welcoming home comes one little step at a time. We slowly work our way to something prettier, more functional, and valuable– we don’t just run to the store and buy it all on credit.

But please do run out and pay cash for these two books. You won’t be sorry!

Impulse Furniture Purchases: Maybe They’re Not Really So Terrible


The Clemence budget has been blown asunder recently, due to two separate incidents where we lost our minds and made impulse furniture purchases.

Twice. This was not one isolated incident.

And now, if you’re in the mood to listen, I shall give a long and rambling explanation of why it’s okay to blow the budget sometimes, especially if the purchase in question is very perfect. My ramblings will help you decide whether your purchase is worth it for you own situation. (Or you will decide I’m nuts, which is okay too.)

Here’s why impulse furniture purchases might be okay in specific circumstances:

We’d been looking for these items for a long time. I mean YEARS.

In our eighteen year marriage, we’ve never owned a solid set of dining chairs. Everything we’ve had has been picked up at garage sales, antique stores, and even off the curb. Our chairs have recently become so sketchy that a complete failure was becoming a real possibility. As in, a guest might get dumped to the floor as he took a bite of lasagna.

impulse furniture purchases
A peek into your blogger’s phone– this is one of the photos I took in Kalamazoo Kitty as I deliberated for 45 minutes about whether to buy the table or not.

When Eric handed me a spindle to a chair a few weeks ago, what had been a casual search became serious business.

The second purchase, a leather chair for Eric’s library, has been an ongoing search for several years. We love the Manhattan chair at Pottery Barn, but we just can’t justify that kind of money for one chair.

Impulse furniture purchases
Now Eric’s library has TWO leather chairs, both purchased for way less than the $1700 Pottery Barn option ($150 and $195). Technically both were impulse purchases, but Mama ain’t no fool. Buy them when you see them!

So while these purchases might seem like impulses, in reality they were just sudden appearances of something we’d been hunting for a long time.

We found high-quality pieces at resale shops, which means we spent $500 instead of $4,000.

While I don’t turn up my nose at old or cheap furniture, I really do prefer the stuff that’s well-made. I find new furniture to be hideously expensive for something that will be out of style in five years, plus so badly built we’ll be using it for kindling in those same five years. I turned to my two favorite shops in Kalamazoo, which both sell used furniture.

Boomerang for the Home has really nice stuff. If I want a sofa or dining room set to last two decades, I go here. But that high quality often means higher prices even for resale furniture. Also, the folks who can afford to get rid of these nice things to replace them with nicer things often have a… how do I say this politely… impressive sense of style. Think dark wood, four poster king-sized beds, and enormous buffets.

Nevertheless, sometimes a seller has the same casual, funky style we prefer, and Eric’s leather chair was waiting for us in a corner.

When we bought it, a matching sofa was sitting to the left. But I bet that’s been gone for weeks now.

Kalamazoo Kitty has a much wider range of furniture, accessories, and chalk paint. They have old and new, funky and fancy. Coming into this store is my son’s worst nightmare, as it’s guaranteed to take me at least forty-five minutes to see everything. On the day I found our new table and chairs he wasn’t with me. Hallelujah and amen.

Because they were at resale shops, it’s not like we’re going to find these exact things at every furniture store in Michigan.

When you find what you want at a resale shop, there’s a high probability it’s going to be sold very quickly. Our purchases were excellent and we knew it; other shoppers would have recognized the same thing. We bought them before the competition scooped them up.

second hand furniture store
I didn’t buy the china set they displayed on the table, but I thought about it. It had more pieces than I’d ever seen in china, including several pieces none of us knew how to use.

The purchases didn’t do permanent damage to our finances.

While we hadn’t saved the money specifically for the impulse furniture purchases, we did have the money in savings. Our budget had recently loosened up because of a vacation reschedule, so we were able to buy them without endangering the overall finances. No debt, no panic over the credit card bill next month.

So that’s how it worked out for us. Do you have the information you need to make your own decision? I hope so! If not, let me know below or at my Facebook page. I’ll see what I can do for you!

 

I want to do better for my own kids

It is possible to do better than our parents did.

It’s possible to erase generations of wounds, raising our own children in homes of love, support, and stability. If you fear your kids are destined for a life of the same pain you grew up with, let me be clear. You can do better. Your family can have a different story. 

I know because I’m living proof.

My own parents both had difficult childhoods, and together they made specific, conscious choices to raise us differently than they had been raised. While our own family life was far from perfect, we grew up with love, laughter, encouragement, and grace.

I don’t mean to demean my grandparents or air sixty year-old dirty laundry. My four biological grandparents have long since passed, so I can’t ask them what caused them to make the choices they did. I have a feeling they were doing the best they could for their time, financial ability, and education. Nevertheless, things were difficult and my parents were not about to make the same mistakes.

Don’t you love the retro-hipster dad? He cracks me up.
Some days I think it cost Mom and Dad nearly everything they had– money, time, and sanity. But they stuck it out, no matter how grim things became, and now my siblings and I can still call the same phone number we’ve been dialing all our lives. Our two parents still pick up the phone in the house where we were raised.

Not many people can say that anymore, and that speaks to their dedication. Also, their pure stubbornness. But that’s another story for another time.

Here are the choices that changed our family’s future, plus a few I’ve seen work miracles in other families:

Get your family in church, and get involved.

Please don’t just drag your people into a pew at 10:30 on Sunday, then drag them back to the car at 11:32. I mean really go to church. Get to know your congregation. Sign up for ministries and a small group. Be part of the solution, not just the crabby people who gripe in the back row. Make daily Bible reading and prayer a part of your life.

The Holy Spirit has been mending broken families and relationships for a long time now, and your family is offered that same healing and love. If you have no idea of how to find that, a good, Bible-teaching church is the first place to look.

Get yourself help if you need it.

Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? Get some help. Your mental health is key to parenting well, and you aren’t doing this for you– you’re doing it for them. Your community has counselors, pastors, and psychologists who are trained and able to help you sort things out. Wouldn’t it be great to get through a day without the clouds of gloom or the shredded nerves of anxiety?

When you do get the help you need, follow through. Take the meds; keep going to counseling. Mental health is just like our regular health– it falls apart really fast if we don’t pay close attention.

Make your marriage a priority.

Our spouses cannot (and will not) survive decades of neglect while we focus on the kids. At best you’ll grow apart and find yourself sharing the house with a shocking stranger when the kids go to college. At worst you’re looking at years of fights, affairs, deceptions, and divorce.

Look at your spouse. Really look at him or her. Do you know what matters to them? What makes them sad, happy, or furious? Now ask yourself– do you even care anymore?

You will be doing your children a huge favor if you care, and then actually do something about it. Love your husband or wife for the person they are, not who you are determined to force them to be. Finding things in common, reasons to laugh, and joy in the daily drudgery will be something your children will take with them into their own marriages.

And do not underestimate the importance of time away together. Your kids will survive with Grandma or a friend while you go out to dinner or away for the weekend–lo, even a whole week. Do it, please. Your kid may scream a little while you leave them at the door, but a crying fit never killed a kid. But many a marriage has died because the kids became the priority.

Relentlessly prune selfishness.

I am a firm believer that all pain we cause others begins in one place: “Me first.” It’s the relentless kudzu of our souls, causing us to idolize ourselves, our comfort, and our personal happiness.

And listen, I’m the last mom on earth to advocate becoming your kid’s slave. We’re the parents; they’re the kids. We’re not here to meet their every whim until they become self-centered monsters who demand the world to fall at their feet.

Everyone needs time to themselves, a moment to drink a cup of coffee in peace, and time alone in the restroom. I’m not denying my love of tinkling in private.

mom spending time with kids

But selfishness is a greedy, destructive beast. It’s really the reason marriages fail, parents speak words they never should have uttered, and Child Protective Services will never run out of clients.

Before you:

  • speak– consider the effect it will have. Are the words kind, gentle, and true?
  • react– consider the experience of the person in front of you. What could they be facing right now that needs grace, not fury?
  • choose– consider the consequences. Is the decision wise, mature, and the best for all members of your home?
  • buy– consider the family finances. Will this be a blessing to everyone now and in the future?

You get the idea. Every choice has a consequence, and we get to choose our family’s experience at our hands. We have the ability to bring blessing or curses, joy or pain.

Your kids are watching you closely, and they’re directly feeling the fruit of your choices. You can do better for them. Your good decisions can rewrite their future, giving them the tools they need to be happy, successful adults.

Step by step, day by day, your family can have a wonderful, grace-filled life. I have all faith that you can give your kids the life they deserve.

(And I’ll be praying for you.)

 

 

 

 

Bring back the everyday tablecloth: Get more mileage from your old table.

everyday tablecloth
Dear Fellow Lovers of Home Things,

I have been shopping for dining room tables. I have shopped and shopped and shopped until my eyes crossed. So I finally came home and threw a tablecloth on my table, and saved myself $2,000.

Not that our table is really the problem. I love the thing, but with two kids and a ton of guests, it takes a lot of wear and tear. Our chairs are really the problem– they’re getting so rickety that we stand a very high chance of dumping a guest to the floor here pretty soon. One day Eric (who is not a large man) sat back, a spindle popped out, and he handed it to me across the table.

We weren’t sure what was going to fall off/down/apart next, so I started looking for different chairs. (But more about that in an upcoming post.) I found plenty of chairs, but they were either very expensive, very ugly, or just as rickety as the ones we needed to replace. I started to realize that solid chairs often came with solid tables, and I might as well replace everything at once.

Why is this taking so long?

This whole process took months because 1) I am picky, 2) we need just the right size table to fit in our kitchen, and 3) I am cheap.

In the mean time, my tablecloth collection came in handy, protecting the table from further scratches, looking pretty, and growing on me.

Audrey pointed out that our tablecloth was getting so filthy that we were starting to sit at other spots on the table to avoid the crumbs. She was right– you can’t wipe off cloth very well. I tried. It didn’t work. And then I started looking for vinyl, wipeable options. (Like this adorable retro one from Amazon!— (affiliate link.))

The unspeakable cloth: Vinyl

If tablecloths in general aren’t in style at the moment, you can imagine that vinyl tablecloths are even less popular. The options are limited and most of the patterns look like they’ve been on the shelves for thirty years. If you look long enough, you can find some good ones.

They work so well, once you find a pattern you can live with. They cover and protect the table, and you can wipe off spills and crumbs. My own mother has had several high quality ones over the years, often cut from huge bolts at the fabric store. Her table is forty years old and still looks perfect. She had those vinyl covers on for most of our early years (because three children are h-e-double-hockey-sticks on wood). But now that my siblings and I can be trusted not to gouge the furniture with forks, she keeps it uncovered most of the time.


I say it’s time to bring back the everyday tablecloth! They keep our nice tables looking nice, but also, they give us time to save and shop wisely if our table is in rough shape. You could cover a table for eternity and no one would be the wiser if you become dedicated to the Art of Tableclothery (totally a thing).

They aren’t expensive; I’ve found my favorite ones at garage sales and discount stores. And every thrift store I’ve ever visited has about a million of them. Why can’t we get creative?

Sure, our families might wonder about them at first. They might feel like they’ve wandered into an episode of Leave it to Beaver, but they’ll get used to it. Maybe you’ll feel like putting out the good plates, sitting down with friends, and sharing a little longer over your pretty table.

pretty tablecloth

1 2 3 4 5 23