Saturday, September 29, 2012

Preschool Regrets by Alexandra Kuykendall, mom of four

I sat in the classroom on what felt like a doll-sized chair, my knees up to my ears with the heavy three-ring binder on my lap. I didn’t have to open it to know it was full of school policies (read: expectations for parents to give in many ways) and class rosters. It was preschool orientation. What am I doing here? I asked myself. I quickly counted six years of preschool mothering under my belt. Like I need to be taught how to have a child in preschool.

And this was not just for any preschool. This was our neighborhood cooperative preschool. Despite the three minute drive from our house and the perfect Tuesday/Thursday afternoon class schedule, I was beginning to regret my decision to return to this school where the expectations felt like a second job.
"Helping in the classroom
had sounded quite manageable
months ago."

The classroom helping requirement felt daunting. Once a month I would have to figure out somewhere to send the baby so I could help in my 3-year old’s classroom. Helping in the classroom had sounded quite manageable months ago. What’s one afternoon a month? I’d thought. But I also knew from experience come November with sick siblings home from school and Christmas errands, I’d be resenting the classroom requirement. Why did I sign up for this?
But as well as I knew the scrambling involved to make classroom aiding work, I also knew how happy I was each time I helped. Sitting with my knees up to my ears I remembered as each month rolled around with my previous preschoolers how glad I’d been that I’d made time to see my child outside of our familiar home environment. I looked around the room at the easel, the play kitchen area, the reading corner with its bean bag chairs and display of “back to school” themed books and imagined my newest preschooler exploring it all for the first time. The regrets melted away as I readied myself to join her as she took one preschool-sized step into the big world.

Lord, help me to be present in the mothering duties I avoid. Help me to see them as opportunities to grow along with my child.

Alexandra Kuykendall is a writer and editor for MOPS International and regularly blogs at

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blink, It’s Fall by Tracey Bianchi, mom of three

I blinked. That was my mistake. My lids kissed one another in that way they do some 20,000 times per day. I blinked. Crushed my mascara-laden lashes into one another for a nanosecond and opened them to notice a yellow Aspen leaf quaking on my neighbor’s tree. I blinked and the sun slipped into my yard an hour earlier than it did in June. The aisle at Target once boasting goggles and sun block now peddles pencils. As summer days surrender to fall, many of us lament the loss flip flops. Ready or not, we are careening toward autumn.
For many of us this season brings mixed emotion, the joy of routines recaptured or perhaps an uneasy feeling. Some of us sending children off to preschool or elementary school for the first time — or perhaps our first ever “Mommy & Me” class just started.

"It takes the same time
to crack a smile
as it does to blink."

New classes, schools and endeavors for our children mean that us moms are new on the block too — not one of those seasoned, seemingly calloused moms in the corner whose ease we secretly envy. Nope, many of us are the rookies. The ones desperate for a smile and kind word. The mom who does not know the routine about where to hang jackets or park for pick up. 

We need a friend to show us grace. Will it be you? Me? As you wade through the wonder of fall and lament the speed with which summer melted, take a moment to look around at the women in your new circles. Who are they? Do they need a smile or a warm greeting? Do you need this from one of them?

It takes the same time to crack a smile as it does to blink. A moment, ever so brief yet ever so needed. Moms around us need connections every day. May our fall routines include the giving and receiving of friendship to those moms around us. We are all in this together, let’s embrace one another along the way.

Dear God, help me be a woman who gives grace and friendship, and help me find connections for my soul in my everyday community.

Tracey Bianchi is the author of Mom Connection: Creating Vibrant Relationships in the Midst of Motherhood, the MOPS theme book for 2012-13. Connect with her at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Intergenerational Strategy by Margot Starbuck, mom of three

Before I had kids, I had all sorts of big ideas about how I’d strap them to my back and we’d hop on my scooter and serve the world’s marginalized peoples. Once I had kids, I could barely find time to slip out of my nightshirt, let alone leave the house. Those in rural Africa and America’s inner cities were just going to have to do without me for … the next eighteen years or so.

And while I’m not making any transatlantic voyages for a while, I did start to notice folks who were marginalized in my own community. In fact, I could see Miss Betty’s living room from my front porch. Because her family lived at a distance, Miss Betty was hungry to see children. As God opened my eyes, I started to notice all sorts of ways to serve right under my own nose.

-Elderly Miss Virginia, on a route I often power-walked, sat outside everyday both due to a lack of air-conditioning and also to have some human contact.

-A senior center opened up downtown near the school my oldest attended.

-Everyday, at noontime, aging Mr. and Mrs. Dunham traveled fifteen miles to visit their daughter, with multiple disabilities, who was institutionalized.

"You’ll find plenty of opportunities
to move with Jesus
toward the ones he loves."

It became clear pretty quickly that there was a whole population of “hidden ones,” marginalized especially by age and ability, who would welcome human affection. Here are some age-appropriate ideas for intergenerational relationships:

1. Take advantage of your first child’s early infancy, before separation anxiety sets in, to visit care facilities where older adults can hold your child.

2. Give your 6-12 month old “floor time,” with favorite toys and mobile at the home of an elderly neighbor while you chat.

3. If a neighbor spends time on a front porch, give your preschooler a bottle of bubbles and let her play in the yard.

With a little holy imagination, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to move with Jesus toward the ones he loves.

Lord, as I mother, I long to engage with the world you love. Show me the places where my child might dispel loneliness right in my neighborhood.

Margot Starbuck is a writer and speaker who lives in North Carolina. You can connect with her at
Her book, Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor, explores more of these simple ways to touch your community.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hear Me, See Me by Ashley Larkin, mom of three

I stood knee-deep in grime-filled clothes that smelled like a campfire while the girls played in their bedroom. We'd just returned from a camping trip, so while my husband and second-born finished unloading, I unpacked bags and started laundry.

Though my heart was happy, my body felt drained by the weekend of ground-sleeping, waking throughout the night, setting up and breaking down camp. Not to mention the everyday tasks of mothering that followed me into camp.

While camping, I was amazed to see what our kids could do — carry 60-pound jugs of water from a hand pump and clean the dishes with barely any help from grownups. Wow, who knew?
"The truth is that my words
and actions do matter. I matter."

Back at home, I asked the girls to stop playing and complete one simple task: put dirty "camping pillowcases" in the laundry and replace them with clean ones. It soon became clear that the girls were ignoring me or hadn't heard me. I strained to explain myself calmly, ending with, "Camping is fun, but it's also hard work. We need everybody to chip in."

Moments later, I turned from laundry piles to see my oldest lying on her bed, my youngest rolling on the floor, task undone. Tightness filled my throat while anger pushed through to a full force yell: Just do what I've asked! Do you see what I'm doing? Why do I have to yell for you to pay attention?

Almost instantly, I felt sick for losing my temper. Within minutes, I apologized, but not before recognizing my hurt and wrong beliefs: My words are unimportant. My efforts are unappreciated. I'm not worth paying attention to.
Though my approach was wrong, and I've got better tools in my mothering box, the truth is that my words and actions do matter. I matter. So I will continue to show my children not only the value of work, but also of self-control and, when needed, consequences.

God, please give me wisdom to instill responsibility in my children. Even when I mess up, thank you that you hear every word and see every task. I am grateful you are the God who sees. Amen.

Ashley writes about the beauty of living fully awake to everyday moments on her blog, Draw Near. She and her husband, Michael, are parents to three daughters, ages 10, 7 and 4, and live in Portland, Oregon.