Enter your email address:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weekend Links 02.28.14

Links from around the web for your perusing pleasure

Food for Thought
30 is Not the New 20 - "Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital - do something that adds value to who you are, do something that's an investment to who you might want to be next." Clinical psychologist Meg Jay gives a TED talk de-bunking the popular cultural notion that the 20s are a throwaway decade. 

Generation Like - I'm still digesting this one. PBS's Frontline takes an in depth look at the way that social media has changed marketing and questions how the culture of "likes' is fundamentally changing the Millennial Generation.

We May Be Missing Something Very Important - "the sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives." I posted this article on Facebook this week, but I loved it so much I'm including it here too. :) The author, Kristin Welch, also did a podcast on Moody Radio with Chris Fabry this week about the post, listen to Hour 2 here

For the Mamas
10 New Picture Books to Check Out - we're at the library about once a week these days and finding picture books that my children love listening to as much as I love reading is always a challenge. Everyday Reading is one of my new favorite blogs to check in with - she speaks book fluently, which as you know, is one of my love languages. 

The Dress You Will Actually Wear this Summer - I just bought #6 and am loving it. Trying to decide if it's fancy enough for a May beach wedding??

This Image. - can a 31 year old mom of 4 pull this off? 

Crunches Are Not Enough - holding on to this for after #4's arrival

For the Home
100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread - this is the best recipe I've tried so far for whole wheat bread that is ACTUALLY 100% whole wheat. I'm having loads of fun testing recipes out in the new bread machine my MIL just gifted me. 

Layered Photo Frame Decoration - I love this. Might be time to change up our gallery frame wall.

How to De-crystallize Honey - brilliant! This happens every now and then to my honey and now I have a solution.

Monday, February 24, 2014

#4 On Going to the Pool

Originally published on 06/20/2012

I hate taking my kids to the pool. As in, I. Hate. It. I know this makes me a terrible mother. Summertime is supposed to be about flip flops and chlorine and the faint whiff of sunscreen. I know. I KNOW.  But come on.If you have young kids of your own or have seen someone at the pool with toddler-age kids, you must be aware that the effort required by a mother to get to the pool is not in any way, shape or form equivalent to the pleasure received from being at the pool.

All around me my friends are proclaiming the glories of summer. Breathlessly anticipating time at the pool or God forbid, a trip to the beach.  What do these women know that I don't? The emperor has no clothes ladies. Pardon my French - but going to the pool sucks. Don't even get me started on the beach.

Last week I fell under the summertime spell and decided that a trip to the pool was just the thing we needed to break up the monotony. The pool opens at 11 - which meant preparatory activities began at 10. First up - the sunscreen dance. This is the part where you have to locate and strip down your children, hold them in one place and rub creamy white goo all over their tiny bodies so their tender skin doesn't fry under the withering sunshine. It's recommended to do this at least 20-30 minutes before sun exposure. My kids hate this part of pool-prep, so I'm always prepared for battle. Sunscreen makes kids slippery, so the more success you achieve, the harder this activity becomes. It's maddening.

Naturally I'm already dressed and ready to go - wearing the very latest in post-partum pool attire (wink wink) and having generously slathered myself in SPF 50 as well.  Of course I can't reach my back on my own, so I'm prepared to burn - anything for the children.

I also need to be sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks so that we can stay at the pool for longer than 45 minutes. Something nutritious and easily eaten without utensils, preferably not too sticky, crumbly or messy. Organic carrot sticks and homemade hummus would be ideal. I'll just pop that into my small, lightweight cooler with padded shoulder strap (I am after all, the only sherpa coming on this trek. Did we go over that part?)

At long last we arrive at the pool. I unbuckle car seats, grab my purse, diaper bag, slow-walking 18 month old and small, lightweight cooler and trek across the blazing asphalt towards that beacon of happiness - The Pool. I hand my passes to the teenage gatekeeper who interrogates me on the number and type of swim diapers I've brought with me before letting us pass.

Oh yes....The Swim Diaper. Nemesis of toddler mamas worldwide. Pool diapers are ridiculous. They are marketed as enabling your child to pee and/or do #2 while swimming in a public pool without contaminating the water. And yet I and every other toddler mom know that putting a swim diaper on your child any sooner than a millisecond before your kid hits the water means they will pee instantly and a swim diaper can only handle one tiny little pee before it's rendered useless. And #2?! Let's not even go there.

But back to our arrival - after a quick scan of the crowded deck, it is obvious that ONLY ONE LOUNGE CHAIR REMAINS. The kids make a break for it and we all squeeze together on the sun-scorched plastic slats and unload our gear. Out come towels, off with shoes, I pull on swim diapers, tug up suits and re-lather faces with sunscreen before giving the blessing to enter the water.

Are you still with me? This adventure has only just begun...

Inevitably, 5 minutes after the kids start swimming the whistle blows and it's time for adult swim. Seriously? At 11am on a Tuesday morning we need to have Adult Swim? At the YMCA. Really? Every mother drags her kids out of the water and we all huddle at the fountain splash pad until the break is over.

Repeat the above scene twice- stopping to do the sunscreen dance at least one more time- and it is noon. Time for some food and a potty break. Trying to get Squirt's swim diaper (yes he's fully potty-trained, but again, the swim diaper is required by the teenagers at the gate) down off his bum and back up his pool-wet legs again is an exercise in patience and self-control. And what's that face Sweet B is making?? OH NO. She's pooping. Yup. In the swim diaper. Awesome. Now I have to take both children and a diaper bag to the tiny pool bathroom stall, get a wet swim suit off my girl, continually admonish Squirt NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING, clean her hiney and get a fresh swim diaper on. Have we talked about the humidity levels in this tiny little bathroom? Oh my word - on par with a rain forest.

Two hours into this performance I'm cooked, the kids are looking a little too-pink and I decide it's time to surrender. A mom with older kids might just throw towels at them and trek back to the car -but a toddler mom must prepare for nap time. I change the kids out of their swimsuits and of course - swim diapers - and put them back in regular clothes again. Never mind doing this for myself, I'll just deal with a wet butt in the car.

Mercifully we're home 15 minutes later. The tots have fallen asleep in the car, so I lug them off to their beds and collapse on the couch - my hair a tangled mess, my cover-up plastered against a lobster-red back. I pray for long naps and drift off to dreamland with the kids (never a given despite the morning's madness). 

And so dear friends if you call and invite me and my brood to the pool one of these days, please don't be offended if I decline. We'll be playing in the sprinkler for the rest of summer.

If you liked this post, subscribe and keep reading! Or just check out these posts for more of the same: Grocery Shopping With Three Little BearsDropping the Bomb

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Weight Gain and Pregnancy

14 weeks along

I don't talk about pregnancy a whole lot in this space because, well - I don't love it. Maybe it's because I've been pregnant so much in such a short amount of time, or maybe it's just the controlling side of me feeling out of control, but it's hard. I miss my wine, I miss my abs, I miss seeing my toes, I miss sushi. I miss wearing cute and comfortable clothes (maternity clothes seem to come in 2 styles - cute or comfy - not both), I miss sleeping on my stomach, I miss sleeping on my back. I miss digesting food like normal non-pregnant humans do for the love of Pete.

All this is terribly ungrateful as pregnancy is a beautiful miracle and all. I know I have it pretty easy from a physical standpoint. I've had friends who were hospitalized from nausea on multiple occasions during pregnancy, friends who have been on bed rest for MONTHS during their pregnancies and friends with pregnancy complications that mean they have to get weekly shots, take additional medications and go to even more check-ups than regular pregnancies require. My body seems to take pregnancy pretty much in stride and so yes, I try not to whine (except to B Daddy) about how much I dislike it. And yet, I do. Except for the part at the end where you have a sweet baby.  I really like that part.

One of the things that is hardest for me (and I assume for every woman) about pregnancy is how you almost entirely lose control of what your body is doing. While there are definitely things you can do to help yourself out (such as not eating an entire sleeve of Oreos in one sitting - I'm talking to you self) it seems to me that each girl's body kind of does its own thing while pregnant. Some girls barely gain any weight except in their bellies while other girls' entire bodies expand from face to feet. Some girls gain their weight in acceptable, small increments from Week 1 to Week 40 while other girls (that would be me) gain in fits and starts throughout the 9 months.

Sidebar: Have we talked about my control-freak tendencies? Yes we have. I have them. I am working on them. 

I went for a check-up (16 weeks! I'm ONLY 16 weeks along) on Monday and the scale shows I've gained 16 pounds so far. While part of me was excited it wasn't more, I was about 5 pounds over my happy weight when I got pregnant, so when I do the mental math, that makes...21 lbs I need to lose and I am NOT EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH.  Every time I go to the doctor and step on that scale I have to give myself a pep talk about how I've lost the weight before and I can do it again and this is just how my body does pregnancy. I've had that mantra on repeat for a few days now - but I know from past experience that looking at myself in the mirror from here on out will be a struggle. Watching stretch marks that had mostly faded re-appear, saying goodbye to my waistline and feeling FAT even though I know it's baby, not fat, are all things that make it feel as though each day is an uphill battle to find the self-esteem I usually have in over-supply.

My weapon of choice in the battle against the bulge has always been and will likely always be working out. Give me a choice between a plate of brownies (accompanied by a 30 minute CrossFit workout) and abstinence and the brownies win every single time. I'll gladly hit the gym 4 days a week if it means I can eat what I like for the most part.

The first time I was pregnant we didn't belong to a gym and I would typically run or do yoga for exercise. After 15 weeks I stopped running completely (it hurt) and did yoga and modified pregnancy workout videos (snooze...) for the rest of my pregnancy. I gained around 35 pounds with #1 and was back to my happy weight sometime within 4 or 5 months. When you just have one baby and you stay at can work out A LOT. At least I did.

With #2 I had little time for regular exercise (thanks Baby #1!) and still didn't belong to a gym. I needed to spend my early mornings in prayer and meditation rather than exercising in order to survive the day. I did manage to keep up my pre-pregnancy routine of doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred a few times a week for as long as I could (around 20 weeks this time.) I gained 38 lbs this time and was down below pre-preggo weight in time for a trip to the beach that summer (7 months later).

When I was pregnant with Blue Eyes (#3) we belonged to the YMCA (cue angels singing) and I went with religious devotion several times a week. I remember attending Zumba class until about 35 weeks and then walking on the treadmill from that point until delivery. I know I gained very close to but definitely less than 40 lbs that time around and it was gone much sooner than the previous time thanks to the Y.

This time around I've been keeping up my now usual routine of hitting the gym 3 or 4 days a week.  Free childcare + all my friends go there = no brainer. Throughout the week I go to a kickboxing class, a Dance Battle Build class, a bootcamp class and a Barre class. The variety is interesting and keeps me from getting too sore. This time around I am determined not to quit exercising until my body begs me to. (Hopefully it never will.) The workouts I do now are more intense than I have ever done regularly before. Before getting pregnant I think I was physically the strongest I've ever been. Push-ups? I love them. Seriously.

While I'm hoping that maintaining this routine means I have less work to do after the babe is born, it doesn't seem to be making a difference in what the scale says. When I look back over my pregnancy history, 35-40lbs seems to be what my body does, exercise or no. I had to miss Monday at the gym because of my doctor's appt and I'll miss my work-out today because of a this week I'm dealing with some anxiety about my lack of exercise. which is just dumb - but true.

All that to say...being a pregnant girl is tough. You can send chocolate to ease the pain if you like.

Thoughts on exercise while pregnant? Did you do it? Did you not do it? Did you regret your choice either way? Any helpful products you would recommend? I'm considering purchasing one of these...

Monday, February 17, 2014

#3 Why I'm Not a Nurse

Originally published on 01/07/2012

*Warning* If you are squeamish like me or prone to preggo-nausea, you may want to stop reading now. It's your call. But really - maybe you should stop reading.

We had a lovely three day getaway in the mountains this past weekend. My favorite in-laws watched our children and B Daddy and I snuck up to a cabin with my parents and sister/brother in law to relax, play games and eat. This was our 8th annual trip over MLK weekend and it was perfect.

B Daddy brought his bike. He never used his bike. But he brought it. Along with two fishing rods and a paddle board. The man has never happened upon an adventure unprepared in his life.

So after the kids were in bed late Monday night, we were busily working to put away the mountain of outdoor gear that we had taken up with us. I was stowing the fishing gear and B Daddy was pulling his bike down from on top of the car. He was fiddling with the front wheel, trying to lock it back into place when I heard a loud CLANG! followed by a deep sucking intake of breath and turned in time to see B Daddy awkwardly drop his bike, grab his hand and groan as blood dripped down onto the garage floor.

B Daddy is no wimp (and clearly I'm no hero) so I gave him a minute or two before addressing the situation. Hey babe....are you ok? Do you need something? You look kinda pale. (I'm thinking he cut himself - like a paper cut - like a really bad paper cut.) Paper towels, he grimaces.  I ran into the kitchen, grabbed a wad of paper towels and prayed my nurse duties were complete for the evening as I hustled back out to the garage. He grabbed the wad I extended and it was my turn to suck in my breath as a gush of bright red blood pooled at his fingertips and soaked the towels quickly.

I am not the nurse in the family. My sister is. And for very good reason.

As I type this I'm sucking my breath in through my teeth and shaking my hand back and forth in the classic ew-ow-oh-my gosh-yuck weak stomached person kind of way. Never mind actually being on the scene. God help the person in need who has the unfortunate luck of my presence as Good Samaritan.

He came in to the sink and ran his hand under warm water until we could finally see what happened. (And by "we" I do mean "he"... I was on the floor in the corner, hugging myself tightly and rocking back and forth.It was not exactly a paper cut. More like a disc brake slice. Across the tip of his finger. Straight through his nail. As in - he now had two very distinctly separate index finger nails. (Pause - frantic hand wringing - full body shiver.) 

I asked from my corner, so what do you think? Is it deep? Should you go to the ER? Do I need to drive you to the hospital? B Daddy dismissed me (after all - not a nurse) with a speculative, what are they going to do? I don't think you can stitch this. He's busily prodding the tip of his finger with a steak knife (oh my gosh we are SO not medical people) and determining that he still has feeling and can move his finger.

Phew. A wave of "no big deal!" relief washed over me and I bravely offered to bandage up the nail, which was accomplished by squinting my eyes and singing This Little Light of Mine to myself. Then I got the man a beer. (I may not be a medical professional, but I'm a VERY qualified wife.) Before turning in for the night B Daddy texted a picture of the nasty finger tip to my sister (always wise to get a second opinion!) and I made sure we re-bandaged the finger so he wouldn't bleed all over our nice white sheets.

Tuesday morning my sister determined (via highly graphic severed nail text message) that B Daddy should seek medical attention. And we discovered some nurses and doctors and hand specialists had slightly different opinions of the disc-brake-sliced finger than we did.

You're shocked.

I was too.

Wednesday morning (aka yesterday) B Daddy went in for SURGERY to remove his nail, clean up the sliced bone (!) and sew back up his nail bed. Is this too gross? It turns out that if you cut your bones, there's a good chance they might get infected. And that, my non-medical professional friends, is a VERY bad thing. Also, sever your nail bed and your nail will never grow past that point. Who knew? Clearly not us.

And so yesterday I had a drugged up hubs at home and two kids who were really excited to watch movies and eat cookies on the couch while climbing on top of Daddy. I was excited B Daddy finally got to see what I do all day.

And today I am once again EXTREMELY grateful for those in our community who did go to medical school. Thank you for the years you spent learning to look at grossly severed body parts. Thank you for putting better-paying jobs on hold so that you could work at urgent care clinics and take care of the lesser-medically inclined.

And most of all, thank you for not disdaining your family members when they text you graphic images at 11pm to ask for a medical opinion. There will be more to come in the future, of that I am certain.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love One Another

"Love one another, as I have loved you." 
John 15:12

Valentine's Day is tomorrow! I remembered much earlier this year than I usually do and decided to get fancy with some computer paper. That banner up there took me ten minutes and cost 0 dollars. My kind of decor. 

Flowers from B Daddy and handmade Valentines from the kids complete our household nod to the holiday. (Full disclosure: I did not make these with the kids. When my kids ask me to make crafts with them these days I usually pretend I can't find the glue sticks. We have an AMAZING sitter every Sunday night who has the endurance to tackle things like this with them. God Bless Her.)

The kids and I did roll out some cookies to pass around to their little buddies in the neighborhood.  They rolled and cut, I decorated. Clearly.

As far as what we're "doing" for Valentine's Day - B Daddy and I were supposed to be attending an event called Married Life Live at our church tonight, but all this ice means the event was cancelled. Luckily for us we had a day date set up for Saturday afternoon anyway.  Some friends are going to watch our kids for us and we'll return the favor for them in a few far we've thrown out the idea of getting massages, getting tattoos and going rock climbing - we haven't settled on anything quite yet, but if we get tattoos you'll certainly find out about it.

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

#2 This House is Home

Originally published 08/01/11

I never knew what to say when people would ask, "where are you from?" Our family moved around so much... there wasn't a city, a house, a state that I could answer them with. Wherever our family was became home and that was pretty good. It was a great family. And so it never bothered me much, that I didn't have a physical place I called "home".

Most of my mom's family live in the Savannah area and we'd go there for Christmas and Thanksgiving now and then growing up. I think I came to think of it as a sort of home. But then we'd be there and they'd have to give us directions to the Piggly-Wiggly or they'd talk about high tide and I'd realize Savannah wasn't home. It was their home, but it wasn't mine.

Georgia was the closest thing I ever had to a geographical home. I guess that's why I applied to three colleges here even though I went to high school in England and Illinois. I wonder if that's a universal thing, people gravitating towards home, or if it's just something I did out of a subconscious need to belong somewhere.

Once B Daddy and I got engaged we started looking for a home. This house was the 2nd place our realtor showed us, 2nd out of what was eventually dozens. B Daddy felt home right away. It took me much longer.  We came back twice with the realtor and brought our parents and our friends to see it before it was ours. We'd walk up on the back porch so they could peek in the windows and we'd imagine ourselves out there with a glass of wine staring into the trees.

B Daddy moved in before we got married and slept in the guest room. His grandparents gifted us a king size bed for a wedding present and I remember the day we went out and brought it home, strapped to the top of his green Ford Explorer. We finally got it down the tiny hallway and set it on the box springs and jumped on it like little kids.

On our wedding night we came back to this house and B Daddy picked me up and carried me over the threshold and down the same tiny hallway to our room for the first time ever.

That king size bed was where I lay the night we lost our first baby. And B Daddy held my hand and drove to the store at 11pm to get me Tylenol and I curled up in that bed and wept when it was over.

We came here -home- from the doctor's appointment telling us our second baby too was gone and that hot afternoon we knelt and planted red and white flowers in the front bed. To remember.

I cried the night we got in the car and left this home for the last time as a couple with no kids. I cried all the way to the hospital and wore sunglasses while I checked in so no one could see my ridiculous tears. And when we drove back down the street towards home three days later, the first thing I saw were the two signs on the black front door welcoming Elijah Brock home. 

Our daughter now sleeps in the guest room and so there is no guest room. And there is no half bath. And there is no playroom. And we'd like to fix up the porch and change out the fireplace and re-tile the master bath. Friends ask how long will you stay? Will you move when you have a third? Won't you need more space?

For now the answer is that we'll stay as long as we can and the kids will share rooms and they'll play outside instead of in a playroom. Because this place is rich in memories and this place is deep in love. The feeling of belonging is thick in the air.

This house is home.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

#1 Grocery Shopping with 3 Little Bears

The post I published on Tuesday got a pretty hefty boost of readers thanks to a few influential people tweeting about it and sharing it, so we might have some new folks coming around and reading the blog this week. Instead of ignoring them (which seems rude) or trying to write shiny new blog posts to impress them (which seems pretty fake) - I thought I'd take the opportunity to re-publish some of my favorite posts from the past several years of writing about our life. I don't always write about church - I mostly blog in as real a voice as possible about being a wife and a mom, living in a small house and finding joy in the middle of the crazy. 

If you like these posts, feel free to share them - and if not, well thanks for stopping by to visit this space. We'll carry on as we always have. Thanks friends! 

Originally published 5/23/2012

Occasionally I'm asked how I get my grocery shopping done now that I have three little ones in tow. If I were a smart mama I'd probably just go to the store on Saturday or Sunday with my most docile child while B Daddy watched the others. But I'm extremely protective of weekend time with my man - I hate wasting a precious hour doing something like grocery I've developed a system that enables me to go to the store with all three precious darlings. It's working for now. I'll report back in a few months or a year when things change.

Here we go -

We back out of the driveway and arrive at Publix precisely five minutes later.  I only go to this one Publix store. Ever. This means we don't have to listen to more than one VeggieTales song and the children generally haven't started screaming by the time we pull in.

We park the car (same aisle every time) I unbuckle the Squirt, plop Blue Eyes in the Moby Wrap and grab Sweet B (my runner/least predictable child) last. We slowly make our way into the store and grab the only acceptable race car cart. Not the one with the loose steering wheel or the one with the broken buckle. Grab either of those carts and my children will COMPLETELY FREAK OUT. 

Once seated, both Sweet B and Squirt steer their little hearts out while Blue Eyes and I navigate the unwieldily cart down each aisle. Did I mention all children went to the bathroom/were fed/got fresh diapers before we left? Critical component.

I maneuver the race car around the store adhering closely to my list for the week. Along the way I will pick up my keys (dropped by Sweet B)six times, re-buckle Squirt twice, reprimand Sweet B for standing up in the cart once and remind myself of Rule #2 constantly.

Oh yeah - the rules. Each time before we begin our nightmare shopping trip I go over the rules:
Rule #1 - Listen and Obey. 
Rule #2 - Be Kind and Loving to Each Other. 

There is a very special privilege attached to following these rules while at the grocery store... receiving the free kids' cookie at the end of the trip. Break Rule #1 or #2 and there is NO COOKIE. No exceptions. No whining. I'm confident the only reason I've successfully managed multiple children at the grocery store hinges on the few times I've had to enforce this penalty. The very first time was oh-so-memorable...

I was making a large deli purchase that day and needed to speak to the guy behind the counter for more than the usual 2 seconds. This was plenty of time for Squirt and Sweet B to start a show for the patrons around us and the other deli lady working the counter. After a minute or two of escalating conflict, I made an obvious show of turning and calmly reminding my darlings of the rules: If you guys can't be kind to each other there will be NO COOKIE. Now sit down and behave. 

I turned back around and tried to pick up where I left off when out of the corner of my eye I saw deli lady's eyes widen. I followed her gaze in time to see Sweet B poking Squirt in the face with my keys. I quickly snatched the keys from her, laid them in my purse (just behind her - still within reach...a mistake I have not repeated) and sweetly reiterated the rules for everyone's benefit.  

As I was reaching for my turkey, not five seconds later, I heard a shriek of,"He's getting her! He's getting her with the keys!" from deli lady. I turned to see my eldest standing up and pummeling Sweet B with my car keys. On another day I might have merely threatened to take away their blessed cookie yet again, but on this particular day I had an audience.


The wails that followed echoed all the way back to the stock room. 

Had we not been surrounded by a dozen on-lookers with gape-mouthed stares, I'm sure I would have administered several spankings then and there. 

And long last we'll end up at the check-out aisle, my patience always wearing thin. And this is the main reason I come to Publix and to this Publix in particular. The employees at the register will always cater to my children's whims when my strength for a fight is exhausted.

Yes my children would like a balloon! How thoughtful. What color balloon? The only color you don't have at your register of course. Yes the Squirt would like you to walk down to register 8 to grab a blue balloon, thank you. And sure you can push the cart out to my car! Obviously it's the mini-van. I'll just walk slightly ahead here while you dodge the blue balloon my son is beating against his sister's head. Hang on a sec here... need to grab the keys that my daughter just threw overboard! Yes you can load the car up for me. Don't mind the double stroller that takes up my entire trunk, thanks so much. I'll wrangle my kids into carseats in the meantime. Pay no attention to the screaming! -Big Smile-  No tip? Are you sure? Well we'll see you next week!!

The drive home is mercifully short. Once  there, we all collapse from exhaustion and gear ourselves up for a repeat performance in six short days. And that my friends, is how I get it done.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

5 Ways Volunteering Regularly Has Benefited Our Marriage

B Daddy and I spent this past weekend with 2000 high school students at a retreat Northpoint Church puts on called MyLife. We only get to go on retreats three times a year, but every Sunday night we get to hang out with a small group of Junior students that we have been leading since they were itty bitty 6th graders.

Every now and then when I talk about being involved in high school ministry, someone responds along the lines of, "oh that's so GOOD of you," and I feel really uncomfortable. Doing this each week is pretty much the farthest thing from good OF me.  I LOVE high schoolers (in particular, MY high schoolers...) I love their hearts, their goofiness, their style, their music, pretty much everything about them except their drama and their phones.

All of that aside, B Daddy and I believe that serving each week is incredibly good FOR us and for our marriage.  Our relationship has been blessed tenfold by volunteering with this ministry - here are a handful of reasons why.

1. We have a weekly date night we can't back out of.

If you're married with kids (we have a 4yr old, a 3yr old, an almost 2yr old and one on the way...) everyone tells you that date nights are critical to keeping your marriage healthy. The problem is that a weekly date night is darn near impossible to commit to. Between the cost of a sitter, the logistics of working out a night away from the kids and the fact that we're usually exhausted by 7pm, date nights seem like a really wonderful idea in theory, but they can be hard to make happen regularly.

By volunteering each Sunday night at our church, we have something to look forward to at the tail-end of what is usually a very full weekend of KID TIME. It doesn't hurt that our church helps reimburse the cost of a sitter. Nope, that doesn't hurt at all.

We've got a group of people expecting us to show up somewhere each week and that goes a long way towards making sure I book the sitter and we save up some energy to get out of the house. We get a 15 minute car ride down together where we change out of our mom and dad costumes and put on our Katie and BJ attire. And as anyone who's been married a while knows, it's not really so much about what you do on date night, it's that you're doing it together. Doing this together is like sharing a really significant hobby. We get to share the experience of small group each week, talk about what's going on in our students' lives and hang out and enjoy the worship, the teaching and dinner together each week.

2. We stay connected spiritually.

We are part of an adult small group through church as well and that is HUGE for staying spiritually connected, but we've had seasons in our marriage where we weren't in small group for different reasons. And through those seasons - our volunteer commitment has been there.

Serving students requires some serious authenticity. You can't fake it - their BS detector is highly-tuned and amazingly accurate. We talk about tough topics on an almost weekly basis: drug use, sex, divorce, pornography - and also Christian disciplines like reading the Bible, how to pray and living a life of faith.

I'm amazed at how many times we've gotten in the car on Sunday night and had in-depth discussions on subjects that would otherwise not come up between us. Striving to be authentic with our students means we have to be willing to be authentic with each other and stay intimately connected on things that it's usually easier not to talk about.

3. We have access to mentors whose marriages we admire.

We get to meet a lot of new people through our service commitment at church - people whose marriages are on pretty open display thanks to the conversations we have with their teenage children. Did you know that parents-of-teenagers?? It's true. We hear the good, the bad and the ugly about what's going on in these students' lives each week.

While we definitely take what is said with a grain of salt, it's pretty obvious which students' parents have a healthy relationship with each other and with their kids. We have sought these folks out and we have been able to gain incredible insight from them. B Daddy regularly meets with the dad of one of his students and I have been able to lean on the support of several of the mothers of our students- whether it's helping me with my own kids or offering up their valuable wisdom and experience from parenting older children.

4. We've gained a new network of friends.

We live in a bubble. B Daddy works all day and does Dad-duty all night. I am in mommy land 24/7. This means that B Daddy knows the folks inside his office and a few of our neighbors. I know the girls at the gym (for the most part also moms) and my mommy friends.

We attend an urban church with a high percentage of single people, so hanging out there gets us out of our little suburban kid-centric world. It's refreshing to hang out with a diverse crowd on Sunday nights. They give us perspective and remind us that potty training and sleep schedules are not hot topics in everyone's world. They keep us connected to what life is like as a 20-something and I like to think that we give them a bit of hope about life as a married-with-kids-something.

5. We're learning what teenagers are like. 

We have a unique role as small group leaders in the lives of these students. We're not their parents and we're not just their friends. We have this awesome privilege of relating to them on an in-between level. Sometimes we're just singing karaoke with them and other times we're walking them through a crisis of faith, or giving them advice on how to choose a college. We have learned so much about what it's like to be a teenager these days. It's A LOT different than it was when we were in high school - and at the same time, it's EXACTLY the same. I love that we won't be thirty years behind the times when our own kids are high school age...just 15 years removed thanks to these students. And there's always the chance that our students will grow up and be mentors to our own kids or their friends if we stay in this area. That is priceless.

So this is basically one very long PSA encouraging you to get involved in something bigger than yourselves if you're married. It's been amazingly beneficial for us and I can only imagine it would be for you too.

Have you and your significant other ever volunteered together? Did you find similar things were true of your experience?

site design by designer blogs