Nothing To Complain About

When I overhear children or teenagers complaining because they don't have a certain toy, or their parents won't buy them the newest iPhone, I just want to shake some sense into them. If only they could understand how privileged they really are. Most of the children in this country have food to eat every day. Most of the children in this country have clothing to wear, and a roof over their heads. Most of the children in this country have at least some toys and books with which to entertain themselves. Most of the children in this country have at least someone in their lives who loves about them. And most of the children in this country are safe from harm.

However, there are children around the world who do not have enough food to eat. They might get to eat today. There are children around the world who are naked, or poorly clothed. There are children around the world who are homeless, forced to live on the streets. There are children around the world who have never had a childhood. Have never played a game of soccer or own a book, let alone know how to read it. There are children around the world who have been betrayed by their own family members. Abused, or sold for little money into slavery. And there are children around the world who are in constant danger--sometimes put there by people who were supposed to love and cherish them.

When I hear people in this country say that they've had the worst day imaginable, I am incredulous. Because what could be worse than some of the things women and children the world around have been forced into? On our worst days, odds are that we still have something to eat. On our worst days, odds are that we still have a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. On our worst days, odds are that we still have people who love us to come home to. And on our worst days, odds are that we are still safe from harm. Free to live our lives. Free to have a better day tomorrow.

There are women and children in many countries, sold into the sex trade, who do not have that guarantee. Every day is their worst day.

We have absolutely nothing to complain about. It's time we took a hard look at ourselves and asked what we can do to help.


Some Advice From the Voice of Experience

Hello. This is the Voice of Experience calling. I thought you might be interested in some nuggets of wisdom in helping your child prepare for siblings.

(1.) Expect to have some jealousy from your oldest directed at the new baby. Even if that child is excited to have a new brother or sister, there will be a moment when he or she is insanely jealous of the attention that sibling is receiving. Beware. It emerges at unpredictable times. For example, due to an illness, our oldest was barred from visiting Mama and her new baby brother at the hospital. The result was that she was furious with both me (for abandoning her) and her newborn brother. Less than 24 hours after arriving home from the hospital, our 13-month old stomped on her brother's head as he lay on a blanket spread on the floor. After that, she loved him. It was as if she was having her say, and then she was over it. (She was, however, furious with me for far longer.)
This behavior also manifests itself in older children (four and up) who are used to being the center of attention--particularly first borns who are also the first grandchild, niece/nephew, etc. Our nephew altered his baby brother's perfectly nice name into something that wasn't, all from changing one little letter. In that one tiny change, it was obvious to all how he felt about the new addition to the family. Amazingly, when our eldest child--the first girl on my husband's side and the first grandchild on mine--appeared a mere three weeks after her cousin, our oldest nephew became her biggest fan. He would sit next to her and hold her hand. We often wonder if, in the beginning, he would've preferred it if we had swapped babies.

While you should plan for the inevitable, there is something you can do to circumvent it: bribery. Purchase a toy that is from the baby to the big brother or sister. It is not from Mommy & Daddy. It is not from Grandpa & Grandma. It is not from Aunties or Uncles. It is from little brother or sister. And it works. Especially if it's a toy the oldest has long been eying.

(2.) To help children get excited about welcoming a new sibling home, allow them to show some pride in as messy a way as possible. We've all seen those adorable "I'm the Big Sister!" or "I'm the Big Brother!" shirts. Avoid them like the plague (they really are overpriced, anyway. Particularly hospital gift shop t-shirts). Unless your child is still really a baby herself (as in the case of our eldest, who was, as I said, only 13 months old when little brother came along), let him or her make their own shirt or onesie. Get a new garment and some fabric paints and let your child design the shirt. Unless your child is a young prodigy, you will need to write the words for him or her. "I'm the Big Sister/Brother", along with any other writing your child can think of. We added little hearts with the names of that particular sibling with the new baby's name in them, but of course this only works if you know ahead of time what the baby's gender is. Leave all coloring and design aspects to him or her. Then set this aside for the first time he or she visits their new sibling in the hospital. Our kids still have all of their shirts (mainly because their Mean Mama, yours truly, only let them wear them a couple times before packing them away). For our youngest daughter, who was not quite 2 when little brother came along, we decorated a onesie for her to wear.

(3.) Many people videotape messages to their child while Mama is in labor (or while awaiting the c-section). Why not include older siblings in this ritual as well? You'll have some precious memories recorded of the excitement everyone felt as they prepared to welcome the newest family member. One of our favorite video clips is of my oldest son, who was just shy of 3 at the time, welcoming "baby Tohwe (Tori)".

(4.) Do not refer to the baby as "my" baby. Refer to the baby as "our" baby. Allow the older child some ownership and pride in the newest little one.

So there you have it. Probably the best advice you'll ever need with regard for preparing your children to be big siblings. It is a big transition going from no children to one and from one to two. After that, it's just addition. Enjoy!


Just Keep Swimming...

Just like my favorite little blue fish, I need to just keep swimming in this giant sea of creativity. (Now you're gonna have that song stuck in your head, aren't you?) If I have not posted with regularity here, or on any of my other blogs for that matter, it doesn't mean that I'm not writing. Because I am. Really.

The last couple weeks my time has largely been consumed with writing my manuscript. I've spent hours at a time immersed in the lives of my characters, letting them take shape on paper. Er, on the computer screen. The story has already taken a different direction than I anticipated, but that's okay. The characters themselves are now the ones telling the story, which is very interesting. I'm learning so much about them and what they've been through, that it's hard to tear myself away. But tear myself away I must. We have neither a live-in-nanny nor a housekeeper, and so those tasks are relegated to moi.

So, until the day we either move into a house with an office, or can afford to hire said professionals, I am thankful for the--mostly--helpful assistance of my family and for the sage advice of my favorite little blue fish. To just keep swimming.


Interesting Development

Up until now writing has been strictly something I do for enjoyment's sake, and has tended to be infrequently done. I've been working (off and on, of course) on a story for about the last year or two about a woman who loses her husband on the night of her high school reunion.

Last month while we were attending CROSS training, a thread was started in the Amazon Kindle forum asking if there were any readers who were secretly writing books. Through some encouragement from the woman who began the topic (I'd originally only wanted to post a link to this blog, given how many people feel about Christian fiction in the forum), I went ahead and posted the prologue to my story.

Almost immediately, another woman expressed some interest and even referred me to her boss, a woman who works at a new Christian publishing company that is geared toward CF e-books! I've been in contact with her and she invited me to send her my finished manuscript!

I've met enough struggling writers in the last year to know that being published is definitely an uphill battle. And once you're published, there's often a ridiculous amount of self-promotion that needs to be done in order to get folks to buy your book. So I know this is not necessarily a guarantee.

With that being said, this is more than I had going into July. I am not even close to being finished with the book, having only about 1/3 of it finished at this point. To that end, I am working hard, trying to write at least a little bit every day. I've also asked five ladies whom I know will give me honest feedback to read what I've completed so far.

I have no idea where this path will take me. All that matters is that I've begun the journey.

In Between a Marshmallow and a Jalapeno

If you know me only through my writings, my blogs or Facebook statuses, you might have the preconceived idea that I am a confrontational person when it comes to things I don't like or injustices that I see. And you'd be sorely mistaken. When it comes to confrontation, I am a marshmallow. A big, soft, fluffy marshmallow. I'd no sooner approach an adult who'd done something wrong than poke myself in the eye.

For instance, yesterday as we were leaving the Walmart, I spotted a man park in the last handicapped parking spot remaining in that row. Why? I suppose it's because he didn't feel like walking from farther in the parking lot. Why does anyone do things like this? Selfishness, plain and simple. Did he consider that an actual handicapped person might actually need that spot? Probably not. And maybe he did, but didn't care. Just to make sure I wasn't making a snap judgment (and because I couldn't see the license plate--I could only see that he didn't have a handicapped tag hanging from his rear view mirror), I sat there and waited for him to get out. Neither he nor his female passenger were handicapped. Now, I know there are plenty of handicaps that are hard to detect. But if you're able to drive and walk away from your car without any assistance, you probably don't need to park in that space. And while we're at it, if you are driving a car belonging to a handicapped person, and they are not with you, that does NOT give you the right to park in a handicapped spot. Glad I got that off my chest. But see? I'm all bark and no bite. Did I actually say anything to the couple? Nope. I'm not even sure I made eye contact enough to give them a good self-righteous glare. Marshmallow.

As a missionary, I may very likely be approaching strangers and asking them if they know Jesus as their Savior. There will be opportunities for me to befriend people before talking to them about Him, as well. But at some point, I will need to ask. I will need to be bold in my approach.

We've all seen people who are far too bold for their own good. Most of the time, these people tend to turn others off. Nobody really enjoys confrontation all of the time, right? These people are kind of like jalapeno peppers. They are spicy and have quite a kick to them. Most people enjoy a little spiciness in their lives. But not all the time. Spicy cereal? Spicy ice cream? Spicy watermelon? Some things are just not meant to be spicy.

What if I were to give up some of the marshmallow and adapt some of the jalapeno? I'm not entirely sure what food that would make me, but let's just consider for a minute what that would look like. I'd be bold enough to speak up when I need to, yet sensitive enough to the situation to be gentle or quiet when I need to be. I'd be bold enough to witness for Jesus without fear, yet careful not to push people away who are not ready to hear about Him.

May I grow to be in between a marshmallow and a jalapeno.