Raising My Daughter to Be More Than Just Pretty

The other day, this commercial grabbed my attention. It so perfectly encapsulates how I do NOT want to raise my daughter.

Did you watch it? Did it move you?
It moved me – to tears, even.

According to the statistics at the end, 66% of girls in the 4th grade say that they like math and science. However, by the time they are in college, that number has drastically dwindled. Only 18% of the engineering majors are girls!
As a fourth grade teacher, this means that maybe 6-7 of my girls would like science/math, but maybe only 2 by college would do something with that passion. Incredible!
I know there are many, many more factors that go into those decisions, but our words DO hold power.

I don't ever want my daughter to think she's only pretty!

I DO tell my daughter she’s pretty – because she is. Personally, I think she’s one of the prettiest little divas around and I am incredibly blessed to have her prettiness in my world. But, I certainly don’t want her believing that her beauty defines her worth.

So, yes, I do tell my daughter she’s pretty, but what I DON’T do is leave it at that. I don’t tell she’s “such a pretty girl” and walk away. I don’t tell her every day how beautiful she is, unless I counter it with how sweet she is, how smart she is, how silly she is, etc. I want her self-worth to be in who she is, now how she looks. I want her to know that her tastes, interests and hobbies do not have to be dictated by her gender. Granted, I catch myself catering to her feminine side more, but I do try to find a balance in our home.

I do my best to encourage messy, imaginative play outside. We have a transportation themed sand/water table sitting beside a pink and purple Cozy Coupe. There is a pink swing hanging on a blue and yellow swing set. A girly set of gardening tools are sitting in the dirt, ready for her to dig up worms. This little girl wears red cowgirl boots with a Cinderella ballgown and chases birds and butterflies or plays with plastic snakes. We have watched Frozen and Cinderella as many times as we’ve watched The Jungle Book and Thomas the Train.

As we begin her schooling in a few years, I want her to be driven to learn and discover her passions. They may be math and science; they may be writing and reading. But, regardless, I want those passions to be dictated by her, not what the world says she should like. I never, ever, ever want her to look at a science project, a math problem, or an activity and think, “I’m a girl. I can’t like that.”

In my own way, I guess I have taken the infamous scene from The Help to heart – the scene where every morning Aibileen reminds Mae Mobley that she is kind, she is smart, and she is important. I want my daughter to know she is kind, she is smart, she is important. I want her to know she is beautiful, that she is pretty – but I want her to know she is beautiful because of who she is, not how she looks.

This sassy, independent, strong-willed, adventurous little diva I am raising is going to move mountains. This child is fierce – and I never want to diminish that spark with a dousing of “pretty”.

7 Tips for a Strong and Happy Marriage

7 Tips for a Strong and Happy Marriage - Joy in These Moments

My parents recently celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. They started out so young – my mom at 18, my dad at 21. They have literally spent over half their lives together!

But, it hasn’t always been a fairytale. Life has a way of making sure that doesn’t happen.

When I was a toddler, nightmares from my mother’s past were brought to light. And in the light, everything was made ugly. Things got so ugly, in fact, that my dad was planning on leaving. But, he stayed. He stayed because of me. It’s the hard decisions like this that determine the success of a marriage – do I stay or do I go? My dad stayed and he fought hard for their marriage.

Obviously, things are better since they are on their 37th anniversary. But, they have had their fair share of storms and trials. They have stood in the face of job successes and failures, business ventures and business endings, times of plenty and times of barely enough, and recently some very scary health issues.

Sometimes it seems like some people hold the secrets to happiness. That MAYBE, just maybe, they found the perfect one and nothing is going to tear them apart. Maybe, they just lucked out. But, marriage isn’t about lucking about. It isn’t about finding the “perfect” someone or harboring some great key to the secrets of love and happiness.

But, there’s no secret key. There’s no special formula. Marriage is about…it’s about…Well, I’ll just refer to one of my favorite quotes on marriage from the movie Just Married.
“Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album… but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next.”

Marriage is about working through the hard days. It’s the decision to put one foot in front of the other until you get past the tough times. Marriage is hard work. They should really be considered synonyms. Because it’s HARD and each day presents it’s own challenges.

I had an inside view of my parent’s marriage. And as my sister and I brainstormed about what made their marriage work, we continually went back to these things:

1) Make Time for Each Other
It doesn’t have to be an all out date night every Friday or even every other week. But, taking time out of your day to just talk to them, hold their hand, or listen to their frustrations goes a long way.

2) Be Willing to Forgive Each Other
1 Corinthians 13:5 states that love keeps no record of wrongs. Easier said than done sometimes. But, forgiveness isn’t about the other person being wrong and you being right. It’s about you making the choice to forgive, regardless of the wrongs committed against you. And, if you say you forgive, then don’t bring it up in an argument later. That is not forgiveness! Forgiveness forgets and continues to forget because it’s a choice, not a feeling.

3) Be the Champion of Their Dreams
My dad is a dreamer and he goes for those dreams. Some dreams, my mother does NOT understand. Some she’s hesitant to embrace. But, she supports my dad. And likewise, he supports her endeavors.

4) Find Hobbies Together (or Be Willing to Partake in Their Hobby)
I will speak from my own experience here. My husband is an avid fly fisher. I think fish are stinky and slimy. But, if he mentions going to Bass Pro to get fly tying material, then I tell him to swing by and we’ll go in. If he wants to show me a new fly pattern, I ooh and ahh (because I really do find that part fascinating).
For our anniversary one year, I gave him a guided fly fishing trip. He was happy, but mentioned several times that he wished I could go (considering my daughter was just a few months old it was going to be difficult). Still, I made it work. We didn’t go as long as he would have liked, but I went with him. Regardless of the length of the trip, he was happy and mentioned over and over how happy he was that I went.
Was it my cup of tea? Absolutely not. But, I went because it made him happy.
Find what makes them happy, or find something to do together. It can make all the difference.

5) Respect the Other Spouse
Whether you agree with them or not, whether you’ve heard the story or joke a thousand times, whether they embarrass you with their crazy antics, never tear them down in public. Just laugh and roll with the punches, but never call them out or put them down in front of your friends.The same goes in the home. Don’t criticize your spouse in front of your children. Always build them up, especially to your children.
The book Love and Respect is a phenomenal guide to showing love and respect within your marriage. I highly recommend reading it if you are struggling in this area.

6) Serve Together
Working alongside your spouse, especially serving in the church or community, can open your eyes to a whole new side of your spouse. I know that in the times my husband and I have worked alongside each other, I have seen the ways he is a great problem solver or just willing to jump in and do anything. These I probably wouldn’t have seen had we not served together.
Additionally, serving together promotes unity since you are a united force working towards the same goal.

7) Pray Together and Pray for Each Other
There is a reason why books like The Power of a Praying Wife have been so popular. Praying specifically for your spouse keeps them in the forefront of your mind. It ensures that you are not acting selfishly, but acting selflessly as you are focusing on the needs of your spouse (spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally). And, above all else, it keeps the enemy from sneaking in and planting seeds of doubt and dissension.
The same is applied when you pray together. Just like with serving, when you pray together, you present a united front against the devil. His ultimate goal is to rip apart marriages that bring glory to God. Praying together, uniting in prayer together, and fighting for your marriage together is probably one of the most important things you can do.

I know there are many, many more things that can help build a strong marriage. Some I am still discovering in my own marriage, but these are at least a great jumping point.

As for my parents, I know they don’t have the perfect marriage. Because, marriage is a constantly changing scene. Things arise and partners get on each others nerves or just simply make the other angry. Sometimes things arise that beat down and exhaust the couple. But just like the movie quoted – it’s these hard times that make the way for the happy times.

My parents have weathered so many, many storms – some that people probably don’t even know about – because they weathered the storms together, through prayer and with strength and dignity. Their example of a godly marriage is inspiring; and I can honestly say that, if I have a marriage half as great as theirs, I will have a wonderful life with John.

The Measure of a Mother: Focusing on the Numbers That Matter

The Measure of a Mother: Focusing on the Numbers that Matter  @JoyinTheseMoments.com

I was recently asked to review a book for a speaker I have followed for years. I was excited because it was  a book I thought I could sink my teeth into, a book that would give me some great guidance. A book about godly motherhood. A book about finding joy in the moments of mothering our children.

And I did. It was such a good book. I loved it. I really, really did – until the email about pictures came.

The speaker was looking for pictures of motherhood which, obviously, isn’t a bad thing. Then, I saw the requirements. I was honestly taken aback by the stereotypical and culture-conscious standards being requested by the marketing team. The one that stood out to me, though, was the age and weight requirement. The moms had to be under 40 and a “healthy weight”.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand how marketing works. It just saddens me that even Christian authors and speakers give in and require the worldly standards of acceptable beauty, especially when this particular author is all about NOT being of the world and not giving in to the world’s standards. It saddens me, because we put up such a fight, saying “God looks at the heart. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside! Don’t give in! Just follow God. You’re beautiful the way you are.” And yet, the same speakers, authors, and Christian leaders that fill our shelves with inspirational and thought provoking books, set a double standard by portraying the model-perfect, beautiful, young, marketable women that we all strive to be like – the perfect mom that has it together, that is perfectly dressed with perfect hair and makeup, playing with her children in a perfectly decorated and sparkly clean home. It’s the subtle insinuations of perfection and the expected numbers (age and weight/size) that ultimately tear us down.

Ladies, the reach of my mothering, whether I am a godly mother or not, is not determined by my age or weight. How I guide my child in her relationship with the Lord is not, and never will be, determined by the fact that I am not a “healthy weight”. I admit, my weight does, at times, hinder things I can do with my child. But, I am aware of my weight; I am working on my weight; and I am purposely guiding my child to better food choices than I made. Does this make me less of a mother? Not at all. Does this mean I am not a godly mother? Most certainly not.

Additionally, I am not a “young” mom. I’m a new mom, but I’m not young when you consider the typical new-mom age group in the church. I had my daughter two months before I turned 31. I have a lot more life experience than some of the younger moms, yet we are still in the new-mom circle together. Would I call them godly mothers? Absolutely. But, I probably wouldn’t go to them for sage advice. I would go to those women over 40, those moms that have been in the battle fields and on the front-line. These women have fought the battle. Some they have lost, some they have won. But, they have fought a good fight. They have kept their eyes on the ultimate goal – being a godly example for their children and seeing their children come to know the Lord. These are the godly women I want to emulate.

Ultimately it’s not about the numbers of years we have spent on this earth. It’s not about the numbers that go up, down, and all around in a frustrating game of weight loss or weight gain. It’s not the number of children we have or the size that is associated with our clothing. These are not the numbers that define us.

The most important numbers of motherhood are the times you’ve kissed your child’s “boo-boos”, the number of hands you’ve held, the number of times you’ve tucked them in and said their bedtime prayers, and the number of times you’ve played at the park. The numbers that matter are the number of times you’ve crawled into bed weary from a day chasing your toddler or playing taxi for your teenage son, the times you have cried out to God for wisdom, the times you have cried while feeling like a failure, and the times you have smiled with triumph and thought “I’ve got this!”. The numbers to remember are the times you’ve fallen on your face before God and cried for the prodigal to come home, the number of times you’ve welcomed the wayward child back into your arms, and the time you’ve laughed through the years.

Count the hours you’ve read the Bible to your child. Count the endless questions you’ve answered about life, God, and the world. Count the sound of steps echoing in your hall. Count the times you’ve gathered around the Christmas tree and read the Christmas story in remembrance of His birth.

These are numbers that should define a godly mother. Not the age. Not the weight. Not the number of children. The numbers that count are the numbers of godly actions, the prayers, the smiles, the times guiding and correcting.

These are numbers that are important. Please remember – and don’t let the world or even a popular author or speaker tell you otherwise.

If you enjoyed this post, check out these other posts on motherhood:
5 Things I’ve Learned about Parenting
Graduating into Adulthood
A Toddler’s Pride and a Raspberry Masque
I Really Said That?

Fruity Princess Wands

Fruity Princess Wands  @Joy in These Moments
My daughter loves fruit, a fact for which I’m very thankful. However, she can also get a bit creative with her fruit. And, while I’m all for creativity, sometimes I need to gently direct that creativity into something less messy.

She has also started developing an interest in makeup, high heels, tiaras, and Tinkerbell. So, what better way to incorporate her new loves than with a princess wand made of fruit? They’re super easy, incredibly yummy, and fun for any mommy and princess, magician, fairy, or fruit lover. Perfect for a summer day by the pool, a princess tea party, or as my sister suggest, a treat for the 4th of July!

Fruity Princess Wands

1 pt strawberries
1 pt blueberries
2 bananas
2 starfruit
(or whatever fruit you so desire!)
1 package bamboo skewers

Clean your fruit and cut to your preference. Layer onto the bamboo skewers – use your imagination and create all sorts of fun combos.
Top the skewer with a slice of star fruit.
Watch your little enjoy their new fruity wand!

Linking up today with Time Warp Wife and Mandy’s Recipe Box

Graduating into Adulthood

Graduation Into Adulthood     www.joyinthesemoments.com

I graduated into adulthood yesterday.

Well, technically, I was an adult at 18. It’s just taken me 15 years to feel like one, I guess.

I used to think that being an adult would be the most grand and glorious thing. No one to tell me what to do. No one to tell me how to act. I could do what I want, when I wanted it. I could shop all day, have an awesome home, and eat at the trendiest restaurants. I’d have no worries – because I was an adult.
“Well, what about your bills?” I know you’re thinking it. Well…Paying bills? Heck! I’d have an awesome job as a pop singer and someone would be paid to pay my bills. I had all the answers, y’all.

And somewhere along the way, plans changed. I realized that I would not be the next Christian version of Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. (Don’t laugh. I was totally going for that in my mind! Really. It was a great plan. Just poorly executed.)
Somewhere along the way, I traded those dreams of stardom for student loans, 4th graders, a life in a town that’s 10x smaller than where I grew up, and a toddler that likes to spit her unwanted food into my hand (under the guise of kissing my hand). Somewhere along the way, I traded in my childhood and fantastical teenage dreams for those better suited an adult.

And that’s totally ok. I’m not complaining.

Still, somehow, my brain did not catch up with my body and actions. My brain still feels like an uncertain and insecure 16 year old sometimes. Two years into raising a little human and I still sometimes feel like I’m playing house. But yesterday, all that changed.

Yesterday, while in “the big city”, I went to Sam’s Club to pick up a couple of things. No biggie. Do it all the time. However, it’s not every day that a jerk with Napoleon complex tries to run you and your daughter over. Seriously. We were walking in the crosswalk area where most courteous people stop and allow you to walk across with little to no bloodshed. This guy? He smirked at me, then revved the engine of his overly-orange-ugly-as-sin-midlife-crisis-purchase and gunned it past my daughter and I, barely missing us.

I was livid. Me? I can handle it. Scaring my daughter and nearly hitting her? Oh no, buddy. You brought out the mama bear.

Then, somehow, the inconsiderate man parks his automobile atrocity in front of my mom-mobile. It’s like the heavens were taunting me. Y’all, it was all I could do to not go up to his door, bang on the window and give him a piece of my mind. For several minutes, during unloading our purchase and texting my sister and best friend, I seriously contemplated leaving a pretty nasty letter explaining all the things this person did wrong. They were not nice words either. Just ask my sister and my friend. Pretty sure I blew up their phones.

But, I didn’t.
I controlled myself. I controlled myself because my daughter would be observing every minute I wasted on that man. She would hear the less-than-Christian words that would come out of my mouth if I were to speak to him, and I don’t want that to be the example of adulthood that she remembers. I controlled myself, because that’s what adults do. They do the uncomfortable. They control their impulses. They access the maturity that lies deep within them and allows them to do the things they really don’t want to do.

Deep down, I still hope that something scratches that ugly car, because it is in SERIOUS need of a paint job. I mean, Oompa-Loompa orange, guys. But, I can at least sleep knowing that I graduated into adulthood by NOT being the one to “accidentally” push the grocery cart into his passenger door.

Linking up today at Time Warp Wife