Life isn’t Fair, Broken Balloons, and a Good Father

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show my daddy!" And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Life isn’t fair!” she sobbed from the backseat, holding her broken balloon. “I wanted to show my daddy!”

And in that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

We were sitting in the van following PWOC, a wonderful military-related fellowship and bible study program.

They have fantastic childcare with bible lessons for our children. I’m not sure what part the balloons played in their lesson, but my sweet girl had been SO excited to show me her ‘hugantic’ balloon.

She blew it up all by herself and had the biggest balloon in her class!

What she couldn’t understand was how inflating her balloon to that size had weakened its structure. Sure enough, moments after getting seated, a tiny hole appeared and then another, and the balloon began to deflate before her eyes.

“Why did MY balloon break? The other kids’ balloons didn’t break!” She wailed.

In a way that only a young child’s heart can, it broke with disappointment. Tears poured down her cheeks and she shook with sobs. She held the tiny balloon corpse in her palm as if begging me to resuscitate it.

Despite being unable to perform balloon CPR, I had such compassion for her broken heart. I immediately remembered a post from Minivan Ministries about teaching our children to bring their needs to God in prayer.

So I told her to just start praying. Talk to God like He is right here with us. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to help you. With her tiny little voice still breaking between shallow breaths and sobs, she prayed.

"Life isn't fair!" she sobbed, holding her broken balloon. "I wanted to show daddy!" In that moment my minivan became a place of ministry to both of us.

“Dear God, I am really disappointed. I wanted to show my daddy my balloon and it broke. And it isn’t fair. Please help me get my feelings under control. I am so sad.”

A few moments later, “Mom, it didn’t work!” She said, still clearly upset.

Honey, you can’t pray like it’s magic. You have to let God work in your heart. Sometimes, he doesn’t change the situation, but changes us in it.

Prayer doesn't work like magic. Sometimes God doesn't change the situation, but changes us. Click To Tweet
“But life isn’t fair,” she said again.

and I said, “You’re right. It isn’t. And aren’t we so grateful for that?”

What?

All the kids were given balloons. Some balloons were perfectly inflated. A few balloons had already popped explosively. Some kids had sad, little, barely inflated balloons. One tiny girl adorably was still walking around sputtering with all her might into a stubbornly flat balloon. No two were the same.

And I immediately saw myself.

Life isn’t fair! Why don’t I have the perfect house, family, body, life?

We all get balloons, but they aren’t the same because we all make different choices and because God has different plans for each of us.

My imperfect body has taught me humility. I’ve learned find my comfort and identity in Christ alone. My imperfect house has reminded me that my eternal home is the one I need to focus on. My imperfect family has reminded me how much I have still to learn about grace and how to love.

I was reminded how wonderful it is that life isn’t fair.

How wonderful it is that life isn't fair, that God extends His grace and love when we don't deserve them. Click To Tweet

I began the drive home and explained,

Oh, my sweet love, we celebrate that life isn’t fair because Jesus paid our price. God’s grace and forgiveness are things we don’t deserve because of our sin, and yet He gives them freely because of His great love for us.

As we talked, I could hear the tone in her voice change. Her disappointment faded, and she realized that it wasn’t truly the end of the world.

But that wasn’t the end of the story either.

I texted my husband about how disappointed she had been about showing him her HUGE balloon. He was going to be home after she went to bed, and I wanted to share this bittersweet moment with him.

When he did get home, he barely said hello, rushing past me towards her room. A few minutes later, he came out smiling.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“I bought her a jumbo balloon. She just finished blowing it up.”

And it’s ORANGE! she shouted from her room. Orange is her favorite color.

What a good father!

Minutes before closing, after a very long day, he raced into our local store to buy her a balloon.

I cannot tell you how that moment ministered to my heart. I saw God working in her life, giving her back a moment she lost (and a new balloon), answering her minivan prayers through her dad.

Watching my husband love her like that was a gift from my Father for me because I pray over their sweet relationship.

If this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us! Click To Tweet

I also heard God reminding me if this is how a human father loves his children, how much more will He have good gifts for us.

Matthew 7:11 ESV / If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And I’m so grateful that life isn’t fair.

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Do your Kids need Help Focusing – Meet KazuTime

Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it's heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder. Thankfully we discovered KazuTime

Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it’s heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder.

She is highly emotional, easily distracted, impulsive, and tremendously sensitive. She gets caught up in the moment and doesn’t always have the internal ability to rein herself back in without external support and discipline.

Watching her struggle with an attention disorder is hard, helping her focus doesn't have to be. Click To Tweet

While most children need help focusing at some point, teaching her how to monitor herself is a daily struggle in our home as her parents, but as her teacher, I’ve seen how being distracted has become a wrecking ball for her education.

Difficulty with focus affects every aspect of her education.

Learning to focus on a task, pay attention, manage distractions is tough stuff in early brain development. Yet, most children are able to build these skills as they mature.

But kids with attention disorders need external support to gain these skills internally.

We use this great program called IXL. It even uses a visual timer for each section, but she will still waste time because she can’t pay attention to it. I’ve watched her get distracted between answering a question and pressing enter.

While new advances in ADHD medication might help focusing, I would rather start with behavioral strategies.

Counting has often worked to help her maintain focus on a task. I have her race to beat my count to finish a chore, which worked really well with her little competitive spirit. However, counting isn’t as effective now that we’re working on longer assignments and tasks.

I bought some kitchen timers, but I still found myself having to remind her often to pay attention to the timer.

Even with a kitchen timer, my distractable babe gets off task. We needed something better… Click To Tweet

She was still getting off-task and finding herself getting distracted.

I had to reassess my strategy for both of us.

That is when I discovered KazuTime.Giving my daughter help focusing has been a priority since we started homeschool because it's heartbreaking to watch her struggle with an attention disorder. Thankfully, we discovered KazuTime

Barbara Wichmann and Karine Pepin created KazuTime to help young children manage time better. Realizing that children often struggle to grasp the concept of time, much less manage it, they strove to develop an interactive app that would be fun to use and empower children.

The KazuTime app features puppies playing along a path for set amount of time that I choose. Kids can choose from three friendly puppies for each task and a different background color for each timer. Parents can also purchase a couple alternative backgrounds.

Tasks are repeatable, which is nice for daily chores. I can set the time for an activity, and she can watch the puppies progress or listen for the barks. What is neat is that the barks come at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 of the set time to further build the internal sense of time. It is a gentle timer compared to loud noises and alarms.

For my six year old, KazuTime helped conceptualize amounts of time.

Even after just a month of using the app, I can see she has a better grasp of time, but still needs the app for help focusing.

I received a free download of KazuTime which is $2.99 in the app store for my review, but the opinions are mine.

My six year old LOVES it. She gets really excited about racing the puppies to the igloo and pressing DONE before they get there.

From my perspective, the dogs don’t do much and has very limited in customization, BUT this is probably intentional. The app is supposed to help kids accomplish other tasks on time, not distract them with activities.

And it works!

My daughter already is finishing tasks much faster with much less distractibility. I am glad KazuTime reached out to Heaven Not Harvard with their helpful app.

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The Epic Tantrum that Changed my Perspective

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

My daughter and I had been in a small car accident. We were rear-ended, and I needed to replace her car seat.

Rather than sit in the small service waiting area, the dealership offered me a loaner until it was finished.

Thinking I was being smart, I decided to buy her new car seat while waiting for my van, that way we could make the 45 minute drive home without further stops.

My daughter was three. The van was supposed to be done by lunchtime.

Lunchtime came and went.

Realizing she would get hungry, I had brought snacks, but she was still hungry after my purse stash was gone.

Being a cautious mommy, I was putting her in each display seat, checking out the straps, headrests, safety features, seeing which were easy to buckle, but not easy enough for her to unbuckle, checking cup holders, etc.

I had finally made my decision . . . around an hour past lunch and well into nap-time, but my van was still not ready.

My best worst parenting day, I learned real compassion for an EPIC tantrum. Click To Tweet

I should have known better.

Kids do not deal well with being tired or hungry. Three and hangry ain’t pretty.

In order to purchase a car seat at Babies R Us, we had to walk through about 50% of Toys R Us to use their open register.

What do you get with a tired preschooler and shelves of beautiful Christmas and Halloween displays?

Three years ago today was both one of the worst and one of the best days of my parenting. In fact, because this toy store tantrum went so horribly wrong, I learned so much.

A gigantic “Mommy, I want this!” meltdown.

She was inconsolable when I explained that we didn’t have the money for any toys today, but would happily put things on her list for Santa.

You know what else a three-year-old doesn’t understand?

Delayed gratification.

It got ugly at the checkout.

She started screaming and crying, throwing herself around. And I realized then, I might have been able to make some different choices before we got into this situation, but for the most part, we were both coping as well as we could.

And she couldn’t cope. Epic tantrum!

I didn’t ignore her tantrum, just spoke in low deep tones to her. I picked her up and held her, through the judgmental stares of the cashier, but rather than feel vilified, for the first time, I realized HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent.

HER INABILITY TO COPE was not a reflection of my value as a parent. Life is messy. Click To Tweet

In that situation, stuck far from home, it just was what it was.

I got her out the door, managing to stay calm, then the car seat box didn’t fit in the loaner car’s trunk. I had to reinstall her emergency seat to fit the box in the back seat.

While I was bent over, sweating, and burning my fingers on the metal buckles, she realized she had to use the restroom. The tantrum escalated as she feared having an accident in her pretty skirt.

I can only imagine the picture we made as I raced this excruciatingly hysterical child all the way back through the entire store, back past the judgmental cashier, to make it to the restroom just in time.

But we could not yet claim victory, I had to walk her past all the toy displays, again.

Hysteria engulfed her as we got closer and closer to the door without a new toy.

But I was not going to give in because she threw a fit.

I knew this wasn’t fair for her. She didn’t ask to be stuck running errands waiting for our van or way past nap-time with nowhere to sleep.

But I had no choice that day, and I learned that her reaction was understandable. In her little mind, the world had fallen from its axis. Nothing made sense outside of her little routine.

While I chose not to buy her a toy, I did choose compassion.

Sweet, sweet loves, I know this is hard. I’m so sorry this day has not gone our way, but I will do my best to get you some lunch and a nap as soon as possible. You will be okay. Mommy loves you. We’ll get through this awful day. 

And we did.

A fistful of chicken nuggets and a milk and a repaired van put our day back on track.

Honestly, I’ve never personally seen a worse tantrum than the one she threw that day. Though her behavior was unacceptable, it was all she knew how to do. I could feel embarrassed and angry or see she needed my calm.

Again, I chose compassion.

As a parent, I learned to always carry back-up back-up purse snacks, and to seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Empathizing got better results than demanding she correct her attitude.

Seek the source of the tantrum not just the catalyst. Compassion got better results. Click To Tweet

As a woman, I learned that reality is sometimes messy. Own it.

But as a Christian, I see myself in that tantrum.

All the times I thought I had prayed enough but God didn’t give me the answer I wanted. All the times life broke my heart, and I thought God didn’t care or wasn’t listening. I realized I’d been wrong.

I couldn’t hear Him over my tantrum.

I’ve learned to seek Him, knowing His perfect gifts trump whatever I thought I wanted.

He chose compassion for me each and every time, inviting me into His stillness, offering His peace for my panic.

When I throw an epic tantrum of my own, God reminds me, that I don’t have to cope on my own. I just have to . . .

Psalm 46:10   ESV  “Be still, and know that I am God.

and calls me His – His sweet love, His daughter.

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What Mom did while you were sleeping . . .

Mom, you've crept across that toy littered floor to your child's bedside to watch them sleeping. But do they know all mom did while they were sleeping?

If you’re a mom, you’ve crept across a toy littered floor to your child’s bedside to watch your baby sleeping. You’ve smoothed stray locks, wiped warm foreheads, and whispered I love you one more time. Those are savored memories, stowed away treasures.

But our kids have no idea. Most of the time, they sleep right through these moments that only we hold.

The childhood of my daughter, for whom I waited and waited, is beyond precious to me. And like a wonderful novel, I’m constantly balancing between wanting to savor every page and racing to see how it all turns out.

Because someday, she will be an adult and sleeping somewhere else, I wanted to freeze these memories in my heart, for her to know how much I treasure these midnight moments.

Every night while you were sleeping, the last thing I do before bed is kiss you once more.

While you were sleeping . . .

I have kissed your face about 87 million times, conservatively.

I have wished I could hold you one more time without waking you up. And then picked you up anyway.

If kids knew the things moms do while they're sleeping. How many kisses you have slept thru. Click To Tweet

When you were not quite a toddler, I would pick you up and rock you in the glider, trying to memorize the weight of you on my shoulder, the way sleep makes your face even more perfectly angelic.

Sometimes, it didn’t break my heart if you woke up and I got to soothe you back to sleep.

I have cried over how fast your babyhood went and simultaneously celebrated your miraculous growing up.

I’ve held your hands, marveling at your still chubby baby fingers on little girl hands.

I have wished you were still small enough to scoop up and snuggle. And then picked you up anyway again.

While you were sleeping, I’ve heard your murmured voice and listened in on your dreams. Some nights your face has danced with smiles, but others was covered in tears.

I’ve whispered brave words against the monsters and nightmares, Mommy’s right here. You’re safe.

Mom, you've crept across that toy littered floor to your child's bedside to watch them sleeping. But do they know all mom did while they were sleeping?

I've listened to your dreams, picked you up, covered you in brave words against the nightmares. Click To Tweet

I’ve smelled your head: deep breaths of baby, toddler, little girl. Scents of baby powder and lavender were replaced by green apple and watermelon, then cotton candy.

I’ve sung to you. You are a promise . . . you are a possibility and Sunshine, you are my sunshine . . .

You always need more tucking in, because this blanket is thrown one direction, that sheet wrapped around one foot, pillow on the floor.

I’ve taken pictures of the myriad strange ways I’ve found you.

Almost 2, you snaked your hand through the crib slats to reach the hamper, pulling on an additional pair of pajama pants halfway. Then fell asleep, wearing both pairs.

Mom, you've crept across that toy littered floor to your child's bedside to watch them sleeping. But do they know all mom did while they were sleeping?

Once, you scared me to death by not being in your bed; however, I found you in the far corner under it, behind a carefully constructed wall of toy bins.

Perpetually, you sleep like a chalk outline on a detective show. I would need a chiropractor to get out of bed.

Your room magically has been cleaned while you were sleeping.

I’ve reorganized the toys and books that have mysteriously found themselves out and about post-goodnight and wondered about the late-night adventures you were having. Teddy bears wearing costumes sitting with dinosaurs at a picnic or a pile of books next to your nightlight.

I’ve stepped on magic wands, doll high heels (and I thought Legos were bad), and stubbed my toe on a mis-timed step past the glider. Do you know how hard it was not to yell?

Some nights, just needing to share your quiet space, I’ve sat in the glider reading a book, listening to your sweet snores.

But mostly, while you were sleeping . . .

I have prayed over you.

I have prayed for your life, your health, your heart, your salvation. Praying for five minutes more of patience than you have energy, to end everyday with I love you and kisses.

God, make me a better momma. Give me a gentle spirit and a heart to listen to my child. Even when I’m busy, give me joy in each season of motherhood.  

I have thanked God for the blessings of you, how I’ve learned to be a better person through raising you, for the laughter you bring.

Life will break your heart. You will have sickness and tragedy, and someday I’ll leave you, but ultimately, I’ve asked God to work everything that happens in your life for your good, including my failures, praying I’m learning humility and grace fast enough to be the mom I hope you’ll remember.

But mostly, I've prayed for you, ultimately, for God to work all of your life for your good. Click To Tweet

I’ve prayed to watch you grow up, to see you choose faith, a career, to marry, and to hold your babies in my arms.

But there are no guarantees, so I’ll treasure every moment I get and continue to kiss your face and pray while you are sleeping.

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When is it time to shut up?

Shut up isn't very nice. We try not to use it in our house, but sometimes it is the only way to get someone's attention. God used it to get mine.

Shut up isn’t very nice. We try not to use it in our house, but sometimes it is the only way to get someone’s attention.

God used it to get mine.

This month has brought me some personal challenges that have broken my heart, left me wracked with sobs wondering if things will ever be okay again.

And in my little external processing way, I start trying to use my words to grapple with my tornado emotions and thoughts that keep me awake and make my blood pressure skyrocket.

But in this hurt, I can’t even hold onto the words. Nothing is making sense. I feel completely discombobulated.

My prayers are mostly groans, but I’m begging Him to tell me what to do.

And again, He guides me through my parenting moments, loud and clear.

My daughter was having a day her emotions were too big for her to handle. She was exasperated at everything and not doing a very good job of letting small frustrations slide.

She came to me sobbing and proceeded to go on a tirade about her toys, exploding verbal diarrhea so violently I could barely understand her. I struggled to get her attention over the storm she was brewing.

She was so loudly upset that she couldn’t hear a word I was saying even though I just wanted to comfort and calm her.

I looked at her and YELLED – “STOP! You’ve got to shut up.”

Shut up isn't very nice, but it can be the only way to get someone's attention. God used it to get mine. #BeStill Click To Tweet

I wasn’t harsh, but I was loud enough she paused, a tad stunned. When she got quiet, I said, “You can’t listen while you’re talking.”

Shut up isn't very nice. We try not to use it in our house, but sometimes it is the only way to get someone's attention. God used it to get mine.

The words had barely left my mouth when I realized what God had been trying to tell me all week.

I had to shut up to hear Him, too.

I had been so loudly upset and exploding in my own way that I couldn’t even hear Him, much less be comforted and calmed by Him.

Job 6:24 ESV “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray.

I couldn’t hear God’s instruction through all the noise I was making in my head. All the mental scrambling to get past the hurts wasn’t bringing me any peace and the pain kept getting louder.

It was time to put up and shut up.

If God is my refuge, my portion, I needed to prove it in the midst of distress, not just when life is easy.

I was reminded of one of my favorite verses when my emotions get out of whack.

Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God . . .”

I got still. Despite my hurt feelings, despite the panic surging inside, I just sat still for awhile, physically and mentally, ready to listen.

What I heard was just grieve. It’s okay to be sad for awhile. The image of Jesus weeping over Lazarus flooded my mind. Even though He knew He would restore him to life, Jesus grieved His loss.

Be sad about the conflicts and failings, humbly do your part in this world to get along with everyone, but leave the rest up to Him.

Exodus 14:14 ESV / The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Again with the shut up. 😉

But God is reminding me that in the quiet, He is there. In the silence, I can hear His instruction.

And when I shut up instead of letting my hurt feelings overwhelm me, the quiet will solve more conflicts than arguing back ever could.

When I let a gentle spirit speak for me, God will be glorified more than my words could bring.

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