Surviving Back to School

For our third post, we are looking at that great time of year: back to school! Hope you enjoy it:

School. Just the word conjures up memories both good and bad.  Val and I met in high school. I remember classes, friends, and favorite teachers.  I can still picture the spots in our town where we would hang out on Saturday afternoons without a care in the world but when we could steal the next kiss. I remember back even more to riding my bike around the block, playing street hockey with friends, and going to Allen’s Variety Store to buy penny candy and load up a paper bag with two quarter’s worth of Cry Babies. I remember football games on Friday nights, walking the track around the field while the band played and the smells of woodsmoke and hot chocolate drifted on the air.

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I remember being picked on.

When Carter started school, my anxieties kicked in. I prayed he made friends with nice kids. He has a great heart and I wanted to protect him as much as possible.  The first day was so hard for me and emotional for all of us.  I still have the picture on my phone that I took of him sitting in the lobby of the school, lunch box in hand and nervous smile on his face. Somehow, by the end of the year, we all survived.  Now he goes back in one week.  For those of you in our boat or facing your first school year, here’s some ideas how to make it a smooth transition:

1/Organize: You will get a mountain of papers from the teachers, the school, and the district.  Keep things separated and make a space for them in your house. Some papers will need to be returned, others will need to be returned later.  You’ll be surprised how many ways a school can demand your money.  All of these things will come via the mail or your child’s backpack. Keep them under control.

2/Communicate: You will also be amazed at how many ways the school will want and need to contact you.  Our district does automated messages on our home phone. You are required to call to explain any changes in arrival or pickup time.  This is understandable for security purposes but can be so easily forgotten. I’ve exchanged emails with Carter’s teacher, guidance counselor, and principal before and we were encouraged to do so.  Use it whenever possible and make sure to keep an open line of dialogue going with the school. Be nice to the office workers.  They are the gate keepers for a variety of your needs.

3/ Pray: The year will bring challenges on a realm of fronts.  Your child will have homework, social events, and sports.  They will be forced to make choices that, for some, will be made the first time without your input standing at their shoulder.  Talk to them about their day and, if you hear any hints of anxiety or concern, bring them up in prayer. Pray for the school and the teachers.  This will unify you as a family and offer comfort to your child as they think about the next day.  Remember, their issues may be small to you but look like mountains to them.

School changes lives.  You will notice a difference after the first week, month, and year. As you proceed, do what you can to make it easy on your son or daughter.  They will thank you for it and your model will serve as inspiration in the years to come. I know I’ll still get emotional next week as Carter goes back to school. They grow up way too fast.  Make the most of your time, record video, take pictures, save the memories. When they graduate, show them the pictures and celebrate their accomplishments.

When they go back for day one and you go home, take a deep breath and enjoy some free time. You deserve it!

~Matt and Val

 

Divided and Conquered: Staying Unified in Marriage

Here is our second post on marriage and family. We hope you enjoy!

Remember your honeymoon? Val and I went to Mexico and stayed at a resort on the beach. It was all-inclusive.  We lounged by the water and in the pool.  The hotel room had a hammock on the deck overlooking the pool and I remember falling asleep in the hammock.

Falling asleep in the hammock.

That sentence reads foreign to me. Seven years after that beach in Mexico, we’re in our living room with both boys sleeping upstairs. Carter turned six years old today.  He enjoyed his gift, destroyed the house, and clashed with Val. Basically, a normal routine. One of the biggest challenges in our marriage, and any marriage, is staying unified.  You will face life together and must fight to keep it that way.

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Here are some ways to maintain unity in your marriage:

1/ Make a plan: Carter knows how to play us like an instrument.  He tests Val more than he tests me and knows what to say or do to get a reaction. There will be more than one force like this in your marriage.  It can be bill collectors, bad neighbors, your kids, or family members.  Each day take time to identify your conflicts, lay them out, and pick a course of action that you both can follow. When these things arise, go back to your plan and stick to it. There will always be surprises. When you have a foundation, the surprises are much easier to digest and overcome.

2/Pray together: Val and I don’t do this nearly enough. Find time each day to pray together. This can be at night, a meal, or any moments you can steal away.  Go to God. Find scripture you can use and pray as promises. We don’t spend enough time building each other up and prayer is an easy way to do it. Come next to your spouse and lift them up. Prayer is the first and most powerful way you can fight for your marriage and family.

3/Stay Open: I, like most guys, have a tendency to close up and not talk about my feelings.  I can block things off with the best of them.  Make sure you keep talking.  This can be over the phone, text messages, social media, or in person. Reach out and send an encouraging thought their direction. Compliment. Praise. Serve. When you stay closed off you set yourself up on an island.  No man, or marriage, is an island. Speak up and listen.  Those two things can work wonders for a relationship.

Marriages are always evolving and growing.  They change yearly, sometimes daily.  They take an effort. In the quiet moments, when you look at each other years from now, you’ll know it was all worth it and your souls are truly connected. You’ll find peace and that’s better than falling asleep in any hammock.

~Matt and Val

3 Ways to Take Back Your Time as Parents

I’m excited to be adding a new addition to this site.  Val and I will be posting together and covering some topics related to marriage and families. We’ve been married for seven years and in a relationship for sixteen years as we met in high school.  She is a hair stylist and a Thirty-One consultant.  You can find her website here. Now for the first post of the series:

Friday morning I asked a coworker how her kids were doing.  We each have two boys, roughly the same age.  Val and I had met her and her husband for once for a play date with all our kids.  She proceeded to tell me a story about the day before and  struggles to get the kids in the car, dropped off at their daycare, picked up, and dealing with them destroying the house at home.  I could identify with every issue.  Her husband works later hours and drives a good distance to get to his job.  She finished her story with this important question that she asked her husband:

“When do I get a break?”

Val and I work opposite hours.  She has the boys during the day and they often find ways to drive her crazy. She needs a break. I know she needs a break and yet the hardest thing is to engineer ways to get it done.  Carter and Aiden love her and want to be around her so any suggestion I have to take the boys on my own is often met with resistance from their end. We talked last night and realized that we needed a strategy, a plan to take back some time as parents.  Kids can rule your world but, only if you let them. Here are three tips to take back your time:

1/Meet at the table: Unity is powerful. Your children need to see you together and a meal is the perfect place.  If you are in a marriage where you work different hours, then pick one of the meals of the day and have it together.  If this needs to be on the weekend, make it happen. When the family shares a meal as a unit, great things can happen. You parent as a team, talk about the day, plan for the future, and touch base on any issues.  Being together as spouses creates valuable time when one party usually has the kids for the majority.

2/Open Communication: American Beauty is one of my favorite movies.  It is a tragic story that hits home on many levels.  In this clip you’ll see an interaction between Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening (husband and wife).

How many of us have had talks like this with our spouses? On the surface, we see the conflicts.  Spacey has traded in their family car for his dream car. He asks Bening why she has no joy in her life.  In the movie Bening is having an affair, thus her response to his question. They are living on two different levels, just look at their outfits.   To combat this in the real world, make sure you have open communication.  Use social media, phone calls, text messages, whatever you can find.  Leave notes around the house of instruction and encouragement. Stay unified as parents and you’ll be able to meet conflicts and solve problems as they arise.

3/ Rewards: We all want rewards. We want acknowledgement of our efforts at work and at home.  Schedule a personal reward each week, even daily if you want.  Make it a hot bath, watching the football game, getting that one ____ that you’ve been walking by on your trips to Target. We need to pay ourselves every now and then.  If you structure in a personal reward, stick to it. Create a goal and your days will have direction and momentum. Create a goal as a couple and you have unity. Create goals as a family and bring everyone on board. Achieve these goals and let the rewards flow.

I’m excited to keep this series going as we head into fall.  Keep your eye out for more posts from Val and I together as we move into that magical time of year, Back to School. Let us know what you think and we look forward to your responses.!

~Matt and Val