When Your Marriage Goes Through a Busy Season

 

A couple of days ago I was unbuckling Charlee when she looked up at me and said, “Daddy’s never coming back.” “What?” I was so confused. Then through tear-filled eyes, she whispered, “He’s always at work.” My heart broke into a million pieces. It was true. He had just worked a 90+ hour week and she was usually asleep by the time he got home. I promised her we would take him lunch the next day at school so she could see him. She nodded her head and said, “Okay. That sounds good.”

Clark and I are in a hard season. We knew it was coming, but this kind of thing is hard to prepare for. You can say, “This is going to be hard” a million times but when life is actually BEING really hard, it’s tricky to know how to make it un-hard.

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cred: myfabulesslife.com

Being a football coach’s wife has its plusses. You become a part of a network, a family of coaches and their wives, something of a club. You watch your husband spend thousands of hours pouring motivation and encouragement, wisdom and strength into young men that may or may not ever have a positive male presence in their lives again. You experience the high of a win as if you were actually padded up.

But most days are not characterized by these things. Most days are just me. All by myself. Or scratch that. With three little hoodlums that I have to take care of … all by myself.  During the day, I am not thinking of the excitement of playoffs or the impact my husband is making on his players, but mostly how my 1-year-old keeps waking up at 5 am coughing and how my three-year-old won’t take a nap and whether or not I should call a therapist for my four-year-old or when I’m going to make dinner because I can’t afford not to cook. Again.

The grand things — the lessons and the friendships and the influence and the being-apart-of-something — they make it so worth it. But the daily grind blurs my vision sometimes.

I know I am not the only woman (or man) with a spouse that has a demanding job. Spouses of military, pastors, firefighters, police officers, lawyers … I see you. I know you understand this internal battle. Your spouse is doing something that matters, that demands so much of him, so much of her, so much of their soul, that sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s anything left for you.

And sometimes your leftover life, everything he has left behind, the slack that you’ve had to sacrificially pick up, the cross you didn’t necessarily choose to bear, demands so much of you, so much of your soul, that you don’t have much left for him either. I get you. I get you so much. You are both drained. You are both exhausted. You can only do so much.

And sometimes you get used to life without that person. You adjust your schedule to fit the needs of the rest of you, not him, because that’s what survival looks like. Life goes on, incomplete, but it goes on.

And sometimes, it’s harder when he’s there. Everyone has gotten into a routine. Expectations have been set based on the ones that are always there, so things get confusing when there are new expectations present.

And you can creep into a really scary place. Wives become head of household. Husbands become outsiders in their own home.

We have so been there. And while we were there, I learned a few things.

Let him lead. Not because men are better than women at leading their families, but because in the depths of a man’s being, he craves respect. He needs it more than anything. So he has been at work all day where people look up to him and follow him and think he’s really good at what he does, and then he comes home and feels incompetent, like he can’t do anything right… where would you rather be? We show him respect and assure him that we trust him by letting him lead our family.

Just because that’s the way you usually do it, doesn’t mean that’s the only way. “But Mom! You always let me!” “But what did Daddy say?” “He said no.” “Then the answer is no.” This is so hard. I tend to think I parent better because I parent the most, and therefore think I should be in charge of all things parenting. But I cannot contradict his yeses and nos (and vice versa). You have to show a united front, lest your children get the idea that what Dad says doesn’t matter.

Go to him. Be a part of his world. Go to practice. Go to the field house. (Obviously, this is specific to coaching… insert appropriate places here). Go to pep rallies. Take him lunch at school (if you don’t work). He can’t leave, but maybe you can. Even if he doesn’t say it, he needs to see his family. He needs to feel supported and cheered for and being present is a good way of showing that.

Communicate. Text him. Email him. Send him pictures and videos of the kids throughout the day. Tell him you’re proud of him and you love him. Give him those compliments you’re too awkward to say in person. The beauty of this day and age is you can still talk to him even if you never see each other.

Make your minutes precious. We are so bad at this. We are so dead at the end of the day that the only thing we want to do is nothing. But this is your ONE CHANCE to connect without having to order commands and instructions on who needs a bath and who needs a meal. Put away the technology. Stop looking at your phones. Make what little time you have together matter.

 

I have learned that for me, this is a season of sacrifice and service, which is incredibly draining. And it’s so hard because I am naturally a selfish person, and the refining process is a very painful one. It’s like God is taking a huge torch (called football season) and burning away all the crust that has coated my heart (called this-life-is-all-about-me). Which also means my husband better not think this life is all about him, either. It goes both ways. We are both being refined. We are both learning what it looks like to be more like Jesus.

And at the end of the day, I know he is showing Christ to a couple hundred men every single day, and that makes it so worth it.

5 Preschool Activities for the Underachieving Mom

I am a stir-crazy mom. I like to get out of the house if at all possible. I am happier. The kids are happier. Everyone does better when we have a little variety in our daily lives.

However, other than the 3 days of Texas fall and the 7 days of Texas spring, the weather in my homeland is extreme. 107 degrees? Nope. Not gonna do it. 42 degrees? Am I trying to get hypothermia?

The past couple of years, we’ve lived in small towns where the indoor play areas were NON existent. There were ZERO indoor playgrounds. No McDonald’s (with a playground). No Chick-Fil-A. So I was forced to Google “preschool activities” … nay, “EASY preschool activities” almost daily. Not because my kids need to be the smartest or the craftiest, but because I need them to GET OFF MY BACK for just one mother-loving second.

Now, there’s a time and place for parent-assisted activities, but maybe today you are just not feelin’ it. Maybe your coffee maker broke or the baby was up all night or your kids have been up since 5:30 am and you’ve entertained them for 2 hours straight when you realize everyone else’s kids are just now waking up and WHYYYY does the clock move so slowly and HOWWW is it JUST now breakfast time? If that’s the case, let me do you a solid. Here are some activities that keep all three of my kids (4, 3 and 1) entertained for at least 30 straight (almost) uninterrupted minutes.


POTS, PANS, & PASTA

At about 5 o’clock (and still 2+ hours before Daddy gets home), when it’s time for me to cook dinner, my 1-year-old just can’t do life anymore. He NEEDS to be held for the rest of the day lest he die of dehydration from all the tears he has shed. It is very sad and makes cooking dinner THE BEST.  Here’s my solution: get out a bunch of pots, pans, bowls, spoons, measuring spoons, mixers, spatulas, etc. and fill them with something. I usually use dried pasta… the bigger the better, because it will be everywhere. Bowtie is my go-to. Rice is never smart. Cheerios and Goldfish are my backups but they tend to disappear. All three kids will cook and mix and stir and create a huge mess BUT THEY WILL BE QUIET.

 

COLORED ICE

I have an ice crusher on my fridge door, but if you don’t, big cubes will work too. I usually use a little of both because the crushed ice melts super fast. Just fill up several bowls with ice and take them outside with spoons and cups inside, or even small figurines or toys that they can pretend with. For added excitement, put a couple drops of food coloring in each bowl. They will love mixing the ice to create new colors. THIS IS FREAKING EDUCATIONAL, Y’ALL. And requires pretty much zero effort. Annnnnd they can eat it without spoiling their dinner.

 

SCISSORS AND PAPER 

Listen, guys. They are preschool scissors and are about as sharp as a spoon. Call me negligent, but this keeps my kids entertained for days (minus the one-year-old). Before we had an iPad for road trips, I would give my kids a pair of (preschool) scissors and a notebook full of paper in their carseats and just let them trash the backseat. They cut and cut and cut and cut and little tiny pieces of paper covered the floor of the car but, once again, they were quiet and I wasn’t fielding 18,000 questions from the backseat. When we are at home, they will cut stuff out of the magazines and glue them to the paper with their glue sticks. Yes, it’s messy, but since this thing is my co-wife, it’s okay.

shop vac

 

RICE CONTAINER 

I can’t handle sand. It has this weird property where it doesn’t come off at all yet comes off everywhere. I don’t do sand. However, I love rice. Just buy a big bag of rice from the grocery store and fill up a plastic tub, throw in some toys (sand toys if you have them) and you’re done. I put mine on the back porch or in the grass.

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She’s definitely NOT about to grab that out of his hand and make him cry.

 

FOAM

I found this activity here. Grab a blender or food processor. Throw in a little water (like a cup) and a lot of dish soap (the cheaper the soap, the more you’ll have to use). Turn on the blender and let it go (let it gooooo) until it gets really thick and, well, foamy. If it isn’t thickening, add more soap. If there’s not enough, add more water. Keep going until you have found the right consistency/amount. I put it in pans and bowls, toss out some kitchen utensils and medicine droppers and let them at it. It does get slippery if it’s on the kitchen floor, so either put a towel down or put it outside. It also liquefies after a while so you’ll have to make another batch every 20 minutes or so. (BONUS: Just wash off the soap when they’re done and your dishes are uber clean. However, don’t throw them in the dishwasher unrinsed or else your dishwasher will start foaming at the mouth. Or so I heard…)

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Photo Credit: Hands On As We Grow

 

So if you are a mom that needs your children to be kept busy for a bit so that you can check your Facebook in peace for the love of all things fold the laundry and wash the dishes, I hope this helps! Please share your underachieving activities so that I can add them my brain! We are always needing some variety!

When Your Family is Your Idol

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe!”

A couple of years ago, I was driving to my parents’ house down a neighborhood street. Charlee and Hattie were in the backseat, whining I’m sure. As we approached my parents’ street, I noticed a dark-skinned elderly woman, probably in her 80’s, walking down the street the same direction as us. In each arm, she toted a grocery bag, presumably from the convenient store a couple of blocks back. She was noticeably exhausted, walking with a limp, pausing ever few feet to catch her breath.

Since we were going pretty slow, I had a good 30 seconds to make a decision. She clearly needed a ride. Buuut I had my 3-year-old and 1-year-old in the car with me. What if she’s dangerous? What if that’s not really milk in her bag but a bomb? What if she’s pretending to walk with a limp but she’s actually a 25-year-old man in disguise? I have kids in the car. My kids’ safety always come first.

And I passed her. You guys. I passed an 80-year-old woman with a limp carrying two bags of groceries. Because of my kids.

Thankfully, God grabbed me by the neck and screamed, “ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Turn around, woman. She is 80 years old. Turn. This. Car. A. Round.”

I ashamedly swung a U and invited her into the passenger seat. She was so grateful and so precious. I took her about a half-mile down the road to a little shack, couldn’t have been much bigger than my living room, the grass taller than my kids. She gushed her thank-yous and crept to the door.

That was the first time I realized I loved my kids more than I loved Jesus. More than I loved bringing his Kingdom down to this Earth.

That was the first (but not last) time I realized my family was my idol.

 

 

Isn’t the gospel the story of a man who lived in the middle of an affluent neighborhood and hung out with mostly Jews? I mean, he was still pretty nice to the Gentiles, but wouldn’t have pursued a deep relationship with them. Isn’t it about how he REALLY loved all the religious people who went to church all the time? They were his faves. And I’m pretty sure he tried not to associate with too many people who would “ruin his witness”?

Or is it about a man who that calls for us to SELL OUT. Sell everything. Leave our family. To LOVE HIM MORE than our mother, father, sister, brother. More than our FAMILIES. To not let anything get in the way of spreading this incredibly GOOD news. To make fishers of all men, not just our own men.

What does it mean to raise children, to grow a family, in light of THAT kind of gospel?  When my instincts scream, “COME HERE LITTLE FAMILY! EVERYONE JUST HUDDLE TOGETHER SO THAT WE CAN BE SAFE FROM ALL THE BAD, SCARY THINGS!!” and I just want to tuck them under my wing and protect them from the whole world.

 

Should I protect them from all the outsiders, the no-gooders, the “least of these”? Should I shield them from the destitute, the addicted, the desperate? Should I just surround them with “Christian” people who listen to “Christian” music and send them to “Christian” camps?

Raising children can be terrifying, not only because this world is scary and the responsibility is HUGE but because at some point in the last couple of decades, Christian parents got the formula wrong. Kids aren’t buying it anymore. Why are young adults leaving the church in droves? What did we miss?

Maybe, they realized they couldn’t believe in something they’ve never seen. And maybe, just maybe, they’ve never seen God. Sure, they’ve seen church. They’ve seen praise bands. They’ve seen Bible Bowls. They’ve seen preachers. But they’ve never actually seen God. How could they? They’ve been tucked under our wing the whole time.

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe in Him!”

 

On our way to my parents’ house that day, Charlee rattled off question after question about that sweet old woman. Who was she? Why did we pick her up? What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she have a car?

I got to explain to her that this is what people do when they follow Jesus. Sure, we’d read bible stories about it. We had talked about taking care of people who needed help. But that was the first time she got it. That was the first time it meant something to her.

And I’d almost let it pass me by. For her. Because I’d rather her be safe than saved.

12 Ways to Cut Costs on One Income

When Clark and I first decided that I was going to stay home, he didn’t have a job. He had just graduated from college and I had been our sole provider for two years. But I desperately wanted to stay home with Charlee so we began trying to figure out how we could financially make that possible. Four years later, we are entering into our first year of feeling like we can breathe a little, where finances aren’t quite so tight and we might even be able to splurge some. But before those number-crunching days are too far behind me, I thought I’d offer some encouragement and advice to those currently in the throes of (or just considering) a one-income household.

Disclaimer: I wanted to stay home because it was right for me. In no way do I think that it is the best way or only way to raise children. I occasionally think I might want to go back to work, and then I envision getting myself and all three children dressed and out the door by 7 am … and look down at my pajamas I’m still rocking at 3 pm and decide that it’s altogether impossible. All Hail to working moms. Y’all are amazing. I also realize that my situation is very different than others’. We don’t have thousands of dollars in student debt or medical bills to worry about. Some people literally can’t afford to stay home.  

HOWEVER, if you are wanting to stay home but are nervous about making ends meet OR if you already do but are barely scraping by (solidarity, sister), here’s a few tips and tricks from someone who has lived on one income all 7 years of marriage.

Let’s start by getting a few realities out of the way. I had to come to grips with a few things early on (and pretty much everyday since), some of which are really hard and some very relieving.

  1. I will not have the cutest _______. Fill in the blank. Clothes. House. Kids’ clothes. Decor. Hairstyle. When I feel myself “needing” something that I can’t afford, I have to remind myself, “In this season, I will not have the cutest _____. And that’s okay.” Sometimes it feels really important (because Pinterest) but if staying at home is more important, some of those things just can’t be.
  2. I am going to have to make some sacrifices. Not just me, but everyone. I am going to have to cook a lot, paint my own nails, buy less presents for Christmas, cut out some “major wants” from our budget. Everyone will still survive. And, dare I say, learn a few valuable lessons along the way.
  3. In the grand scheme, I am pretty rich. It’s really, really easy to look around and think, EVERYONE HAS SO MUCH MORE THAN US. And lament over all the things we are sacrificing. But I mean, let’s be honest. This post could probably be renamed “First World Problems” because the things we are giving up, are usually not, say, food.
  4. This is (most likely) the poorest we will ever be. Barring outliers, most people make more money the older and more experienced they get. So you might have to make a few sacrifices right now but it won’t be like this forever.

So now that we’ve gotten those basic principles out of the way, let’s get to it. I have wracked my brain to think of all the ways I’ve cut costs the past few years. I present to you,

12 EASY WAYS TO CUT COSTS ON ONE INCOME:

  1. Drink water. Don’t buy juice, coke, wine, beer, lemonade, tea. I know, I know. It sounds cray, but this is one of the biggest ways I have saved at the grocery store. Drink water. Not only is it healthy, it’s cheap.
  2. Buy in bulk. I use Amazon Prime Subscribe and Save. I buy all my non-perishables through them — diapers, wipes, ziplocs, trash bags, toothbrushes, face wash, shampoo, soap, detergent, etc. — and have them shipped to me whenever I need more. You get 15% off your entire order if you order 5+ items (20% off diapers and wipes). Yes, there is a Prime yearly subscription, but if I cut out cable (we’ll get to that in a minute), the Prime shows and movies more than make it worth it.
  3. Use cash back for holidays. I know Dave Ramsey would not approve, but we buy everything on credit cards that have rewards programs. Two years ago, I didn’t pay for a single Christmas present. We had accrued enough points to cover all of them. Last year, we used them to go on a trip for our anniversary. BUT, that being said…
  4. NEVER pay interest (if at all possible). We pay cash for everything. Pay your credit cards in full every month. When we remodeled our home, we paid cash. When we bought our cars, we paid cash. When we bought a new couch, we paid cash. If you don’t have enough money to buy something, don’t buy it.
  5. Buy necessities for holidays. My mom told me this trick. At Christmas, use stocking stuffers to buy things your kids already need — socks, underwear, pacifiers, sippy cups — things you would have bought them anyway. Wam, bam. Two birds. One stone. Merry Christmas.
  6. Use gifted money for splurges. This is my chance to splurge on myself. Two years ago, I used my Christmas money to restock my closet. Last year, I used it to redecorate my daughers’ room. This way, nobody questions how much money I am spending and whether or not we can afford it. It’s basically free, right?
  7. Do hair care on the cheap. MasterCuts and Family Cuts, y’all. Haters gonna hate, but they do good work. Also, box color. In 5 years, you can spend $150 on a haircut & color. But today is not that day. I promise, you will look stunning with your $15 ‘do.
  8. Cut the (cable) cord. It didn’t take us long to realize CABLE IS FREAKING EXPENSIVE. Here’s our solution:
    – pay for wireless only
    – get a streaming device (we have used AppleTV and FireTV and loved both)
    – subscribe to Amazon Prime and/or Netflix and/or Hulu (we do Prime and Netflix)
    – get an antenna for local channels
  9. Get rid of stuff. I am always amazed at HOW. MUCH. STUFF we have. Every time we move (once a year, duh), I end up with boxes and boxes of giveaway items. I’ve made some pretty good #cashmoney at places like Swap.com, Craigslist, and Facebook, but there are also the VarageSale and LetGo apps where I have bought stuff… and speaking of….
  10. Shop second-hand. Here’s the problem. I want my house to look like a high-end magazine. Here’s the second problem … I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to make my house look high-end on my low-end budget. My budget is an antique/shabby-chic/distressed-look budget. SO that’s my style… because that’s my budget. Second-hand shops (specifically the ones mentioned above) are a great place to find home decor. And did you know, a can of spray paint can work WONDERS.
  11. Make a budget. Budget is not a bad word. It’s actually very freeing to be on a budget. Bought a new shirt? Don’t worry hubs! I have a $25 clothing budget this month so I’m actually UNDER BUDGET. No arguing. No accusing. Everybody wins. AND GUESS WHAT? There’s an app for that. Mint.com is the bomb.com. This website/app will allow you to import all credit cards and bank accounts so that you can see all your expenses in one place. You can then create budgets and categorize each expense so that you know how much you are spending on each category each month. It’s also super convenient during tax season to have everything categorized and searchable. If not for any other reason, make a budget so that you can see what you spend most of your money on.
  12. Don’t stop giving. Budget tithing and giving first. There’s no better way to be reminded of how MUCH we actually have and how faithful God is than by giving SACRIFICIALLY. Buy gifts for needy children before your own for Christmas. Sponsor a Compassion child. It’s amazing how much further your money goes when you steward it well. There is no better way to live by faith, than by trusting that God will take care of you if you take care of his people.

I am by no means an expert. I still spend an exorbitant amount on groceries, and I have JUST GIVEN UP. I don’t understand coupons. They make me feel stupid and angry.

However, I hope these are somewhat helpful. AND PLEASE if you have ways that you save money, I would love to hear them! I am always interested in how other people cut costs!

Happy budgeting!