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Picking Up The Pieces of Chick-Fil-A-Gate

DISCLAIMER: THE CONTENTS OF THIS POST REPRESENT MY THOUGHTS/OPINIONS AND NOT NECESSARILY THE THOUGHTS/OPINIONS OF THE OTHER WRITERS OF THIS BLOG.

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To this point, I don’t believe I have ever directly referenced the fact that I am a Christian. This is not because I am trying to hide it or am embarrassed by it, but because that is not the point of this blog. While my faith is the filter for every aspect of my life, this blog is a homemaking blog, and my aim is to provide food for thought, advice, and embarrassing anecdotes from my life as a wife, mother and homemaker. While many of our readers are followers of Christ as well, there are readers of this blog who do not put themselves in that category, and they need to read about the ridiculous messes my kids get themselves into and my advice on what gear should outfit their kitchen as much as the next guy. It’s my belief that bringing every post back to my faith convictions will lead to 4smartypants only reaching people in the same camp, and there are plenty of those blogs out there already. (Not to discredit any such blogs, but that simply is not the purpose of THIS blog.)

That being said, it is with much fear and trepidation that I put this post out there on the interwebs. I am greatly saddened by the events of August 1st. As I watched my newsfeed yesterday, my heart grew heavier and heavier. I am trying ever so hard to choose my words very carefully with regard to this situation, because there are so many people whom I love dearly who fall on each side of Chick-Fil-A-Gate, and I don’t want anyONE of them to feel attacked or degraded by my feelings about it.

The sweet 19 year old kid who lives next door to us is an aspiring musician. He is not just aspiring, the guy’s got chops. This kid is good. He has played some of his recent recordings for us and they are really impressive. (As a stay-at-home mom, I rarely get to use my hard-earned bachelor degree, so I’m going to tout my credentials at this juncture and point out that my opinion is a professional opinion, as I have a degree in music. That felt good to say, thanks for letting me get that out.) In fact, a record company is currently working with him and I believe that before too long, everyone will be hearing his music on the radio. And I’ll have my autographed copy and be able to say, “That guy was our neighbor!” You will likely be jealous of my brush with fame. He is a really sweet kid and he adores his younger brother. He is very good to his momma, who is a hard-working single mom trying to finish nursing school while working 3 jobs. It’s taken about a year to learn this much about him and to get to the point that he feels comfortable coming over to our house. I believe this is because my husband is a church planter (if you don’t know what that means, he is a pastor who is working to begin new churches) and the kid next door is gay. Right off the bat we were at a disadvantage in trying to get to know our neighbor, because the interactions he’s had with christians to this point have lead him to the conclusion that living next door to a pastor is a hostile environment for him.

The thing is, he is a REAL PERSON. In the last few days as I’ve observed the Facebook traffic regarding Dan Cathy’s statement and the recoil from officials in a couple of big cities and the outpouring of support from the christian community, I’ve had a lot of thoughts/reactions/feelings. I’ve composed status updates, only to hit “share” and then delete the post 2 minutes later in hopes the fewest number of people possible saw it before I removed it from the feed. I’ve written heated comments on other peoples’ posts, only to hit “cancel” before going through with my protest to their musings. But I have wondered at every point, “How aware are my fellow christians that their reaction is affecting REAL PEOPLE?”

In all honesty, I have no qualms with the statement made by Mr. Cathy. I do believe in the right to free speech. And in his defense, he was ASKED what he thought. He was put on the spot, and he gave his honest answer. The thing that is breaking my heart over the issue is the solidarity with which christians rose up to defend him in response to the call for a boycott. It was like believers didn’t even need to think twice about taking their stand. I am a big fan of standing up for what you believe in, but I am also a big fan of thinking twice, especially when there is enough time to do so before acting. And there was. There were several days between to call to observe Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day and the day in question. But that time seemed to only garner more and more support from the christian community, rather than cause christians to stop and count the cost.

The problem I face is that I KNOW so many of these people who proudly made their stand yesterday, and I know their hearts. They are good, wonderful people, whom I have loved for years. They are people who have been good, and kind and generous to me and my family. I know that when they spent 3 hours waiting for a chicken sandwich in the heat yesterday, it was because they felt they were either A: defending Dan Cathy’s constitutional right to freedom of speech, or B: defending family values in America. I sincerely don’t question their motives. But I am COMPELLED to say something. (At this point in the blog post, if you are not a christian, you may want to skip ahead. This is directed at those readers who share my faith and are bound by the same convictions.) Where do we get the notion that we are entitled to a government that supports our beliefs? What has given us the idea that whether or not the people of our nation AGREE with what we hold true, they should be forcibly bound to uphold our values? How on earth is THAT biblical? And what’s more, if we were truly concerned with defending “family values,” we would be FIGHTING TOOTH AND NAIL anything and anyone that advocates DIVORCE, because that is a force that is doing FAR MORE to destroy family values than gay marriage. Where is the solidarity on that front?! I’ll tell you where it is, it’s nowhere, because each of us has loved ones (or ourselves, even) who have faced that ugly giant, and we’d rather pretend that we’ve forgotten divorce is wrong that to confront it. If you believe that God defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, then how does the American government recognizing marriages between 2 men or 2 women affect you? It doesn’t!! If God defines something, you have no reason to feel threatened by anyone else’s definition of it. As far as you’re concerned it’s just a formality that allows certain legal rights to 2 people. We were never promised that the laws of our country would reflect our spiritual convictions. Why do you feel so entitled to that? We were actually told to expect things to be difficult for us, but we throw whiny fits everytime everyone doesn’t want to do things our way.

The biggest problem that comes from this mess is this: we are out of line. Yes, freedom of speech is our RIGHT. No, Dan Cathy was not in the wrong. But we overstepped our boundary when we made it about defending him. Because in doing so we flip-flopped the order of importance. If we believe what the bible says, then we know we are here for a purpose. There is a reason for our existence, WE HAVE A MISSION and it is love. There is no tiny bit of the love of Christ that was shown to the world yesterday as a result of our actions. Instead, we showed a group of hurting, dejected children of God that “You were right, christians are more concerned with their rights than with loving you.” You know how the saying goes, “They will know we are christians by our incessant demand for our rights.” I remember one guy from the bible who found himself being horribly mistreated and sentenced to his death unjustly, and not once did he say, “That’s not fair! What about my rights?! You can’t do this to me!” Because he LOVED more than he cared about his rights.

Yesterday, christians all across America chose to stand for their rights above pursuing their mission. And the message was received loud and clear. When we put rights above mission, our mission fails. And defending our rights isn’t even close to why we’re here. Priorities, people. I’m all for defending our rights as long as it doesn’t compromise our mission. And now we are left with an even longer road to travel if we hope to even have the chance to show the love of Christ to those hurt by our “stand” yesterday.

And now I can’t enjoy a Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-Fil-A at least until the dust settles for fear one of my gay friends will think I’m making a statement to them by doing so. What about me? What about my rights to a freaking awesome chicken sandwich? Thanks a lot.

So I gather that a lot of people went to bed last night, proud of their contribution. And while I know in my heart that they are wonderful people who love Jesus, I am now left to clean up their mess. There’s a REAL PERSON next door whom I hope will still talk to us and not assume that the pastor living next to him is in the same camp as the hoards who chose defending rights over loving people yesterday.

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Happy Independence Day!

The 4smartypants know how to celebrate with style.

Bectoria here. My family chose to  celebrate the 4th by being in a parade together and then watching a great dance show in the park courtesy of Olmsted Performing Arts (www.olmstedperformingarts.com).

Tonight we will host a huge messtravanganza (see my post “Host a Messtravanganza” for ideas) at our home. For us, it just isn’t the 4th of July without good friends, great food and ridiculous games including a shaving cream slip’n slide, a waterballoon toss and a cake fight.

The most important part of today is sharing in the celebration of our country’s independence. We are so blessed to live in such an amazing country where we can exercise such freedoms as the right to vote. We are entering another Presidential voting season during which I am sure we will all, once again, be saddened by the truths of the state of our nation. Before this happens, let us remember that we are still living in one of the greatest nations on the planet. It is still a country that is strong and just and good. On this day and always, let us say it and pray it… God Bless America.

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A Stupid-Easy Summer Schedule Everyone Can Live With

Time to play in the garden can be magical to a child

Okay. So now the kids have been out of school for a couple of weeks and you’re running out of ideas. You may also feel the urge to lose a few marbles wondering how you’re going to get it all done whilst surrounded by the kiddies.

Don’t fret. Rest assured that these 4smartypants are happy to help! Instead of reverting back to television, video games or spending huge amounts of time, sanity and money on camps, outings and amusement parks, why not put some savvy into your schedule? Here’s what we do…

Instead of allowing the day to be wasted, we at 4smartypants organize each day with meaning. For me, I allow for some structure, like naps, learning time and meals to be surrounded by loosely organized activities. Within this structure, I allow for opportunities to get my household tasks done without taking time away from my kids. This is what a typical day looks like in my home…

Breakfast/Getting Ready (I put in a load of laundry while kids are dressing)

Learning Time (Home schooling books are great for this! I can do dishes while I help)

Arts & Crafts or Trip to the Park or Pool

Free Play (While I switch a load of laundry and make lunch)

Lunch

Reading Time

Nap (I pick one chore item to do each day then fold & put away laundry)

Free Play (While I check emails or write)

Dance Party (Use your imagination!)

Outdoor Play (I usually study lines for my play or go over edits for my book at this time)

Game or Outing

Clean-Up (They can pick up while I vacuum and sweep)

Coloring (While I Cook)

Dinner

Family Time (Everything’s done or can wait ‘til tomorrow. Time to enjoy the family)

Bible

Bath

Story & Bedtime (I do my shopping after the kids go to bed)

Playtime with your children is a treasure that should never be wasted

I realize that the above outline looks like just a lot of common sense. When I was an activities coordinator, I learned that writing down a simple outline of structured, daily activities allowed me to get the most out of my day. I have since incorporated the same practice into my home life with great success. With this schedule, the kids are content to have some structure mixed with nonsensical free-play and I am happy to have time built in to get my daily tasks done.

If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend tugging up those smartypants and giving it a go with a schedule that works for you!

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TYRANNY ON DOMESTIC SOIL (Teaching My Children to Work)

ImageLast week I suggested that you throw away all of your kids’ toys. Cruel as it was, it was surprisingly well-received. As if that challenge wasn’t pressing my luck enough, this post runs the risk of proving to everyone that this crazy mom of 5 is a slave-driving tyrant opposed to all things fun.

My sister-in-law Amanda observed my toy purge via Facebook from her sleep-deprived end-of-pregnancy state in St. Louis. She chimed in once to say, “No. No I will not get rid of all of our toys. I might hide them for awhile, but I won’t get rid of them.” Point made. I didn’t engage her in witty banter as usual since she was days away from birthing a 10 lb 2 oz bundle of joy to add to the 3 toddlers she was already busy with. I went on to post several other updates regarding the purge and then blogged about it without comment from Amanda (who was busy with diapers and feedings and healing from her 3rd c-section in 4 years.)

Then, a few days ago she tags me in this gem. It took me a couple of days to read it and sort through my thoughts on the matter. Assuming you didn’t just stop to read the whole article, I’ll sum it up for you. Researchers concluded after observing families in other countries as well as several in the US that our kids are spoiled and have no sense of independence or responsibility. While 6 year olds in other cultures are voluntarily cooking for and serving meals to other families, 6 year olds in America are expecting their parents to untie and re-ties their shoes. While 3 year olds elsewhere in the world are cutting grass with machetes and heating/preparing their own food, 3 year olds in our own neck of the woods are being told repeatedly and to no avail to do simple tasks like “throw this in the trash can.” While 8 year olds somewhere out there are carrying out major responsibilities that contribute to the welfare of everyone in their home without being asked, 8 year olds in our own homes are rudely asking “How am I supposed to eat?!” when seated at the dinner table without flatware, prompting their parents to get up and retrieve the utensils from a drawer, the location of which the child was well-aware. The connection was made from American parents’ lack of instilling responsibility while their children are yet teachable to adult children still living with and relying on their parents, and epidemic that doesn’t seem to exist in other cultures.

ImageHonestly, I hadn’t considered the idea that my 3 year old and 4 year olds are capable of learning to do things for themselves apart from jobs like putting their shoes away when we walk in the house and putting their books back on the shelf. (Let’s face it, I don’t expect them to clean up toys, we don’t have any!) So this really got the gears turning in my brain. What could my kids be learning to do right now that will prevent them from expecting everything to be done for them in the coming years though they are able-bodied? And I’m not talking about chores to give them that they will moan and whine about and protest and have to be reminded of constantly. I’m talking about training them to recognize when things need to be done and then take the initiative to DO THEM. The possibilities are endless, and I’m just scratching the surface! I have only just started and already I’m realizing that I have ENTIRELY UNDERESTIMATED these kids. I sat them down and had a talk with them. It went something like this: “Kids, it has come to my attention that you are very capable of doing a lot more things than I previously believed possible. That considered, we are going to make some changes. I don’t know what the kids at your preschool are expected to do at home, but here in the Politte house, we are going to be kids who know how to do things! We are going to be kids who HAVE JOBS! Mommy is going to teach you how to do a lot more things, and we aren’t going to play or watch any shows unless our jobs are done. You are 3 and 4 years old, so it’s time to start pulling your weight.” Blank stares. “So…. what are we? We are kids who……?” After a moment Adeline chimed in, “HAVE JOBS!”

And then we got to it. THAT DAY I taught them how to unload the dishwasher. (Don’t touch the sharp knives.) Adeline pulls dishes out of the dishwasher, Campbell hands them to Anderson who is on his knees on the counter having used a chair to climb up, he puts them in the cabinet. I taught them to use the washing machine, with the help of a stool. I taught them how to use the dryer. I taught them to make their own peanut butter (and sunbutter for those with peanut allergies) and honey sandwiches and to use separate knives so as not to contaminate the sunbutter. I taught them to use the microwave. When I say I taught them, I mean I stood there and talked them through the process, without ever touching anything myself, and my little children completed these tasks, themselves. I haven’t gotten around to teaching them to cut the grass with a machete, yet. All in good time.Image

This is not an effort to work myself out of a job (though it may turn out to be a lucky side-effect). Rather, I  am convicted that I don’t want to be faced with a house full of teenagers (and mine will all be teenagers at the same time) who are accustomed to having me do everything for them. That would most certainly bleed into the kind of adults they become and what they believe they are entitled to.

 I’m realizing that I have ENTIRELY UNDERESTIMATED these kids.

Part of the training I’m instituting involves NOT REWARDING them. I will occasionally reward them for their good work, but I’m not setting up a system that encourages them to believe doing things that need to be done = getting a treat, or money, or whatever. Unexpected treats are great, and we already do a lot of those, (because contrary to the way I am presenting myself, I am not a tyrant, I DO love my children, and I like to make them happy). But every task does not result in reward. Things need to be done, and we don’t get a cookie for doing what’s expected of us. We may decide to employ an allowance system, but it will be for jobs that benefit the whole family: emptying the bathroom trash, setting the table, yardwork, emptying the dishwasher. Jobs that pertain to individuals to not constitute payment: putting your own shoes away, making your own lunch, washing your own clothes, putting away your own books, putting your dishes in the dishwasher. I don’t know. We aren’t at the stage of promising payment for anything, yet. I’ll have to stew on that one. I want to encourage responsibility with money, so I see value in some kind of payment system. I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Now, maybe you think I’m the meanest mom on the face of the planet. If you do, that’s ok. But don’t come crying to me when your 28 year old is still living in his childhood bedroom, eating your food and occupying a line on your cell phone plan. I’ll have my own problems, (like re-learning to load the dishwasher and do the laundry.)

CHALLENGE: teach your kids 5 new jobs this week that you’ve considered to grown up for their age. Let me know how it goes!

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3 Things They Don’t Tell You About Going Minimalist

Mac here!  Today, I was reflecting on my recent journey towards minimalism, and I thought I’d share just a few things I’ve learned through the process:

1.  YOU are more attached to your children’s toys than they are.  

Or, at least, I was.  As I worked through my 15 Days to Minimalism (more to come on that), I found the place I purged the LEAST was in the toy department!  Stuffed animals stare at you with their big sad eyes.  You’ll find yourself struggling to part with toys that are part of a set, in which one item is played with and the rest of the items are toy box clutter.

Then there are the cute toys.  The ones where you think, “Oh, but they love these wooden blocks…” and you need a girlfriend there to mock you saying, “Oh, but YOU would LOVE it if they actually loved those wooden blocks!” because your kids NEVER play with the things.

2.  Everyone will support your choice to embrace minimalism, until you tell them what you’re getting rid of.  

You’re reading this and you KNOW I’m talking about you, because the response is so universal:

ME:  Hey! Would you have any use for an old grill (or a tote of kid’s clothes, or some scrapbooking stuff, or some cookbooks…) We’re really trying to get rid of stuff.  We’re going for minimalism.

YOU:  Oh!  You GO girl!  Do it now, before the kids get old enough to stop you!!!  I’m a minimalist at heart, but my spouse (or kid) wants to kill me when I get rid of ANYTHING!

ME:  Ha ha!  Oh, boy, it’s liberating, too!  Just yesterday, I got rid of (X).

YOU:  WHAT?!  You got rid of (X)?!  But (Y)!!!

We can fill in this equation with any variety of nouns and adjectives.  “You got rid of that doll?!  But it was part of your childhood!!!”  “You got rid that purse?!  But it was a Coach!!!”  “You got rid of that dresser?!  But where will you put your clothes?!!!”  “You got rid of that trivet?!  But it was magnetic!!!”  “You got rid of those drapes?!  But you could make something with that fabric!!!”

Obviously, everything in my home was something I loved, or at least liked, or at least seemed like a good idea–at the time.   But we are a growing changing family with needs that change and evolve over time, and tastes that change and evolve over time.  Just because something was valuable to you at one time, doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with it forever.  Your friends might protest, but stick to your guns.  Stuff really IS just stuff.  Bless somebody else with it.

3.  You might be a bit disoriented at first.

Shortly after I finished my 15 Days to Minimalism, I got that unsettled feeling in my guts.  Lucky for me, as someone who’s made a couple cross country household moves, I recognized it.  It’s the “new apartment” feeling.  Over half our stuff was gone, and now, when I pick up all the toys and do the dishes, my home literally looks like it’s staged to sell!  I probably wouldn’t have felt this way had I not torn into the process so suddenly, but it is what it is and the feeling went away after a few days, just like it does when you move into a new home!  A couple weeks later, I’ve adjusted to our new normal, and I regret nothing!

Hope that helps with your summer de-cluttering!

Just a note, I’ll be on vacation for a few weeks.  Double up on your bloggy love for Bectoria and Stephanie!  I recommend this post from Bectoria to spruce up your summer self-care routines and this classic from Stephanie will have you double checking your house for child safety hazards.  

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