Thursday, December 31, 2009

On the Eve of a New Year

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Became a working mom; enrolled a child in full-time daycare; joined Facebook after holding out for a couple of years; began using a budget; had my first (and last) garage sale; and went on a real diet (Weight Watchers).

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes, I had some—I had to go back and look, since I didn’t keep up with them formally.
  • Read the Bible and pray daily—um, not every day. I often take my Bible and a Bible study with me to a school and work on them during my free time. I pray in small bits throughout the day.
  • Get back to exercising 4 times a week. Took the summer basically off because the kids didn’t want to go to the gym childcare and then once I started working, that was all she wrote. We are planning to join the new community center in April and go a few times a week together.
  • Read a challenging book once a month. I probably did this. I read some biographies and Christian studies instead of just fiction and memoir.
  • Write every day and finish at least six short stories. I still write, but don’t have the sustained free time necessary for writing fiction.
  • Clean up the playroom--and therefore the living room--every night before bed. Not EVERY night, but we do this every two or three nights as a family. It helps.
  • Take more pictures. Not really. Does it count that I now get pictures from my mom and two SIL’s?
  • As far as my eating habits, I need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and I want to start eating real oatmeal instead of sugary cereal with no fiber. I do like the oatmeal but only take the time to make it on weekends, about once every 2 weeks. I still need to eat more fruits & veggies for snacks instead of carbs.

I’m not planning to do any “real” resolutions. I want to choose to be happy and thankful in all situations (and if I don’t feel happy, to “fake it till I make it” until an appropriate time to share my real feelings with someone). I want to get outside my comfort zone to be kind to others. Today my friend and I decided we are resolving to make more time to get together with friends.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thank goodness.

5. What countries did you visit?
Sadly, none.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A full-time teaching job. Financial stability.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August 15 was my brother’s wedding. Also, this year’s Christmas was the most fun so far with the kids since they are now both old enough to anticipate it.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making the transition to becoming a working mother, and enjoying it.

9. What was your biggest failure?
The times when I freaked out about money worries, which had a negative effect on my husband and kids because “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This is hard: all of a sudden I can’t remember anything I bought. The weekend Justin and I went to a hotel together (ALONE) was the best thing we spent money on.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My whole family behaved well overall. I mean, sure there were some tantrums and whining and passive-aggressive sniping but in general I am very proud of the way my family treated each other and others.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Anyone who was on a “reality” TV show. I hate the whole phenomenon of reality TV and the type of personality it attracts. I would hate those people in real life, so why would I watch them on TV?

14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage, the car payment, daycare, our church, the electric company, Wal-Mart (where we buy 90% of our groceries because it’s so close to our house), restaurants.

15. What did you get really excited about?
Getting to teach again. Which surprised me. But I realized I do like kids (most of the time!), and I am passionate about teaching reading and writing.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Nothing comes to mind. My favorite songs are mostly older.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier, I think.
– thinner or fatter? Neither; I’m the same.
– richer or poorer? A little poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Gone on more date nights.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about money.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At my mother-in-law’s house in Lousiana.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
This sounds sappy, but it’s true: I fall more deeply in love with my husband every year we are married. He’s such a wonderful man—absolutely perfect for me.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
The Soup and The Closer.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

24. What was the best book you read?
The Likeness by Tana French; Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell; Lisey’s Story by Stephen King; That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo; I’m Down by Mishna Wolff; Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon; Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; and Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
That the iTunes Genius creates some neat playlists.

26. What did you want and get?
I passed my elementary certification test, and none of the bad things I feared happened.

27. What did you want and not get?
A full-time job. I also didn’t get a bigger balance in the savings account.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
An Education. A film about a young girl coming of age in 1960s England.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
 I turned 34 while we were visiting my father’s side of the family in Arkansas. My aunt cooked a nice meal and a low-fat dessert (they’re dieting) and later I made my husband take me out for some Baskin-Robbins because I wanted something indulgent on my birthday!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If we could have traveled somewhere cool. Or, more practically, if I could have had someone else clean my house regularly.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
I started wearing work clothes again, so I couldn’t wear yoga pants every day. I learned that comfortable shoes are a must when you’re on your feet all day. I usually wear jeans and a cute top when I’m going somewhere. Thanks to a few fashion blogs, I’m slowly trying some new looks.

32. What kept you sane?
This blog, laughter, Justin, my kids, prayer.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I don’t really get celebrity crushes. I mean, I think George Clooney and Johnny Depp are hot, but I don’t think too much about any celebrities in that way.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The healthcare debate. I don’t have the answers, but the problems (on both sides of the issue) bother me because I know there’s no great solution.

35. Who did you miss?
My late father-in-law, who would have had so much fun with my kids. My friends, whom I didn’t get to see as much because of working.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
My hairstylist. She’s fabulous and not expensive.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
It is possible for me to control my emotions even when it is not easy or pleasant-feeling to do so.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
No particular song lyric, but this anonymous poem contains some of the things I tried to learn this year.
Fear less, hope more
Whine less, breathe more
Talk less, say more
Hate less, love more
And all good things are yours.

I got this quiz at All & Sundry's blog.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I'm Proud & Thankful for in 2009

I got this idea from Killing a Fly with a Ukelele is Probably the Wrong Thing to Do and I thought it was a good way to provide a retrospective on the year. So without further ado...

1. 2009 was definitely a rollercoaster year for us financially (as I know it was for many people). Two different times we were on the brink of having to go out of business but then we managed to keep the cabinet company afloat. That's definitely something to be thankful for. I would dearly love to be more stable financially (we are still juggling bills) but for now we are making it and I am grateful.

2. Another major change in 2009: I went back to work as a substitute teacher. I looked for a full-time position but no one was hiring much, and honestly I am now glad that I got to ease into working again. If I need to take a day off for an appointment, or the kids are sick, or I just need a day off, I can do it. I have made a lot of good contacts and impressed some people, so I am trusting that the right job will come along at the right time. I'm proud of myself for putting myself out there and making sure I introduce myself and hand out cards at each school I go to, since in the past I wouldn't have wanted to promote myself.

3. I'm thankful my children are happy and healthy. (In fact I'm thankful that we are all so healthy!) I'm proud of them for doing so well in school. They both enjoy learning, get along with their peers, and are well-behaved at school (NOT that they are perfect, especially not at home, but neither one has ever gotten in trouble at school.) I couldn't ask for more as a mother!

4. I'm thankful for a wonderful husband who has stood by me through all my emotional storms, which in turn has motivated me to be able to control my emotions better for the good of the family. I can truly say that we are closer than ever at the end of 2009.

5. I'm thankful for my family and my church family. What a blessing to have such awesome people in my life!

6. I'm proud of myself for the way I balanced all of my responsibilities once I started working. We all stayed fed and clean and clothed, and I was actually surprised that the house wasn't noticeably messier than when I stayed home all day. This could have been because I used to procrastinate all day to do something that ended up taking 20 minutes. I know it will be more challenging once I am working full-time and the kids are in after-school activities, but I'm sure that it will all work out once we get there.

Happy New Year to all of you--may 2010 be the best year ever!


Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Merry Christmas

Here I am again! We were out of town for the holidays, and I was so busy I didn't have time to even get online, let alone post. But it was a GOOD kind of busy. Here's a brief recap:

1. We celebrated with my family--my parents, and my brother and new SIL--on Tuesday night. Miss Pink received an American Girl doll from my parents (among other things) and now refuses to be parted from her new friend. She's never played with dolls much, but I think the difference is that this one isn't a baby doll and it looks like her. We even ordered glasses for the doll to wear which don't match Miss P's (they didn't have pink ones) but still, with the matching hair color and style, they make the doll really look like her new owner. I'll see if I have some pictures but right now I'm trying to finish this post quickly.

Mr. Blue's big present was a race track. In fact, he got a lot of race tracks and vehicles, and he loves them all.

My husband got a Keurig one-cup coffee maker because he always uses the one at my parents'. I got gift cards and can hardly wait to go shopping--I already ordered 4 books with my Barnes & Noble card.

2. On Wednesday we went to Lousiana. I had had all the gifts shipped there via, which worked out perfectly since our car is small. I was worried we wouldn't have room to fit everything in coming back, but Justin is a packing genius. Anyway, LOVE Amazon.

3. Justin and I had been given orders to make (and teach his sister to make) the family's favorite pastries for Christmas. My MIL hasn't been able to make them for several years, and we learned to make them here, last year, so the rest of the family was anticipating eating them. One of the recipes, Cherry Bonbons, is made with crescent roll dough (the importance of this will become clear soon). They take a fairly long time to make because you wrap the dough around each cherry and then you ice each small bonbon after they're baked. So on Christmas Eve we finished both recipes--it took about four hours--and decided to taste the cherry bonbons. Justin and I exchanged a puzzled look. Why did they taste odd? I picked up the can of crescent roll dough and there it was: Garlic Butter Crescent Rolls. Our aunt had bought the rolls and gotten the wrong ones! When we'd smelled garlic while they were baking, we attributed it to the pot roast cooking next to the oven. What could we do but laugh? We made another batch the next day. I bet we never forget the year that we made Garlic Cherry Bonbons.

4. On Christmas morning, we actually woke up before the kids. We didn't wake them up, though. Before long they came in our room and we told them to see if Santa came. Mr. Blue went then came back quickly saying sadly, "I don't think he came." We went and pointed out the pile of presents. "He DID come!" he exclaimed, eyes shining. "Santa Cwaus did come! And he brought pwesents!"

Miss Pink's big gift was a 1/2 size guitar. She's very excited about learning to play it. And Mr. Blue received an electronic drum set. Headphones can be plugged into it. I don't mind hearing a little noise, though, as long as they're playing with things and not screaming at each other.

4. My husband's brother had a friend who owns a restaurant deep-fry a turkey for us. And...oh. There are no words for how moist and delicious that bird was. We literally picked the bones clean. All night I kept going back for "just one more slice." I've never before passed on extra carbs to eat more turkey, but I did this time.

5. We got to see all of my nieces and nephews when they came over that night. My MIL loved having all of her grandchildren there, and there was a lot of laughter. Especially when my 20 year old nephew fell asleep and Miss Pink put lip gloss on him.

It was a wonderful Christmas for us. I hope you all had a magical holiday as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #155 (With an Explanation of Why I Haven't Been Online This Week)

Wow, a whole week without posting and now I hardly know where to start. Obviously I survived Miss Pink's slumber party. At 12:30 a.m. I finally got the girls bedded down and I read books to them--it was the only way I could think of to keep them still and quiet enough to let sleep overtake them. (Can you tell I am a substitute teacher? When all else fails, read them a story!) Eventually the last pair of eyes closed and I was able to call it a night.

This week was busy, but not impossibly so, because I only got to work two days. I used the other days to bake treats for teachers and finish Christmas shopping. Now I am done except for a gift card for a nephew. Today I went to Mr. Blue's school and took pictures of the Christmas party and then we picked up Miss Pink from school. On Wednesday I got to eat lunch with Miss Pink. I was glad to get to spend the time at their schools because I don't get to do that much anymore.

I had a tough week, though, with anxiety. I won't go into details, because with this type of anxiety, unlike "normal" worrying, the event that sets off the anxiety is not really the point. Once the panicky feelings start, they hang around like unwanted guests and I have to work hard to not let them affect everyone around me. I am determined not to let this control me. So please remember me in your thoughts and prayers. I know I have so much to be thankful for.

This week's Friday Fill-Ins:

1. No, we will NOT eat or drink anything potentially messy on the freshly cleaned living room carpet!
2. I used to do my homework at the old kitchen table.
3. I watched the steam rising from the hot cup of coffee (or tea) and thought: I'm going to burn my tongue on this like I always do.

4. This week my mantra is "It's all going to be okay." (Seriously, this is what I kept repeating to myself.)
5. I'll take Manhattan!
6. I have the best husband in the world, at least from my point of view.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to eating the sausage-corn chowder simmering on the stove, tomorrow my plans include doing some cleaning and present-wrapping and Sunday, I want to go to Pei Wei after church!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #154

1. Good times: listening to my children's laughter, when they get along (which doesn't last very long, these days.)

2. You are welcome in my home. (But please call first since I might need to throw a pile of junk in a closet straighten up.)

3. Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

4. It feels like my children are not staying little very long.

5. Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more. (That's Shakespeare, Henry V, as no one except me probably wants to know. I had to look it up or it would have bothered me all night.)

6. I wonder how my thirties will end?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finishing cleaning the living room carpet, tomorrow my plans include hosting a slumber party for Miss Pink's 7th birthday and Sunday, I want to catch up on the sleep I'll miss Friday night!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The First Christmas

Today I was going to post about Justin's marvelous idea to get started on redoing Miss Pink's room the week before her birthday--and how my house is now covered in dust, for the second December in a row, and there are next to no decorations out and we are hosting a sleepover on Friday night--but I started working on a lesson I'm going to teach in our kid's church tonight and I thought it might be a little better for me to do what I'm asking the kids to do: to stop and remember the real reason for Christmas rather than stressing about the details.

So I thought I'd share it here. (Obviously I'm leaving out all the times the kids will interrupt with random thoughts and observations and my attempts to get back on script!)

* * *

Last weekend I was tucking my little son into bed and he wanted me to read him a Bible story. I asked him if he wanted me to read to him about Baby Jesus's birth, and he said yes, so that's what I read. Afterward, I asked him, "Now who was born on Christmas?"

He looked up at me with big shining eyes and said with total confidence, "Santa Claus!"

So we had to talk about who was really born on Christmas. But you know, sometimes I think all of us may forget what Christmas is supposed to be about. I think we might remember with our minds, but forget with our hearts.

Sometimes kids get so excited about the presents they're asking for, and the parties and lights and trying to stay awake to listen for reindeer--that they might forget what Christmas is really about.

Sometimes we parents get so busy buying presents and decorating and baking and traveling and reminding kids that they'd better watch out and not pout or cry--that we might forget what Christmas is really about.

Sometimes we forget to think about what happened on that first Christmas.

On that first Christmas, there were no decorations--just a smelly stable and a manger full of hay.

On that first Christmas, there were no crowds of busy shoppers buying presents, but there were crowds of people who had come to be counted and taxed. There were so many that there was no room anywhere in town for Mary and Joseph to stay, except in the stable.

On that first Christmas, there was not a star on top of a tree, but there was a star in the sky.

On that first Christmas, no one sang Christmas carols, but a choir of heavenly angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to all people!"

On that first Christmas, there were some gifts, but they were not toys or games--they were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

However, there was an even better gift on that first Christmas. What was it?

That's right--it was Jesus! Jesus came to be the best gift ever. Why do you think Jesus is the very best gift?

Jesus came to take away our sins and live in our hearts so we can have true peace, joy, and love. This Christmas, let's not be like the people in Bethlehem who were too busy to realize a King had been born in their town. Let's take time to celebrate Jesus' birthday because that's what Christmas is really about.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins #153

1. You get a stomach virus when you are in 1st grade and it is going around your class. (Poor Miss Pink!)

2. You gotta fight for your right to party. (Where in my brain did THAT come from?)

3. It's almost Christmastime.

4. I wish the attention-seeking people on "reality" TV shows knew they are ridiculous!

5. I feel more hopeful about my future teaching teenagers.

6. When it's 11:00...goodnight!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Miss Pink starting to feel better, tomorrow my plans include supporting my husband as he finishes scraping the walls of Miss Pink's room and Sunday, I want to see my friends and family at church!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Teacher Update and Prayer Request

Miss Pink's music teacher emailed me back as soon as school was out. He remembered the incident with the "Thriller" video. He'd had some extra time in some classes, so they were watching videos of their favorite Michael Jackson songs (they study influential American musicians, and Johnny Cash was another one they were studying.) When someone asked for "Thriller," he hesitated and warned the kids that there were some scary parts and asked if anyone didn't want to watch the video. As he said, he made the mistake of thinking the younger kids could understand what he was saying and make a good choice for themselves. During the video, he noticed Miss Pink crying and he stopped the video and tried to comfort her. He apologized to me and said he felt terrible that he had caused her to miss sleep. This was enough for me; he took responsibility and promised to be more careful in the future.

As for the movie, I was glad I had asked IF they had watched the movie instead of assuming they had, because they had NOT watched the whole movie. The only parts they watched were clips of the songs--no speaking scenes. This was fine with me because it would help the music come alive for the kids. (And in fact Miss P recognized the real Johnny and June singing "Jackson" on the radio while we were traveling). The teacher explained that all movies have to be G-rated or they have to get parents to sign a permission slip. This made me feel much better, of course.

The teacher also echoed what you all kindly told me: that I was not being That Parent who makes his job harder, but a parent who wants the best for my child He always wants me to come to him with any concerns. It was a good exchange all the way around.

Finally, in a completely unrelated incident, I would like to ask for your thoughts and prayers for the family of our youth pastor, whose 28-year-old brother pulled a gun on a police officer. Apparently the officer got the gun away from him but the brother pulled out another gun and pointed it at the officer, who then shot him. Later, the young man died. Tragically, the guns were actually replicas--but of course the officer didn't know that. I think about my children, whom I love so much, getting mixed up with drugs (this seems to be the case here) and making mistakes that lead to their death, and my heart breaks for their family, especially with this happening right before the holidays. I pray that they will find strength and comfort in knowing that people across the world are thinking and praying about them.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When Good Teachers Make Bad Choices

As a teacher by profession even when I was staying at home, I have always been averse to being That Parent. You know That Parent, the one who drives the teachers crazy by complaining about everything that goes on in the class when That Parent isn't there to protect their delicate flower--I mean child.

I have had 11th grade teachers tell me that parents complained that their teenager was asked to read The Crucible because "it's about witchcraft."

This type of parent annoys me because they are not well-informed. I think it's safe to say that The Crucible is not pro-witchcraft; it's simply anti-witch hunts. I can't be sure without a copy in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that there is nothing definitely supernatural in the play; there are merely accounts from eyewitnesses who claim they saw Goody So-and-so dancing with the devil, and so forth. Miller's point is that people can get caught up in group hysteria when their only hope of exoneration is condemning someone else, as was happening in 1950s Hollywood when Senator McCarthy was accusing everyone of being a secret Communist. There are important lessons we can learn from the play that are applicable to modern-day hunts for what our society considers evil, and actual devil-worship is not really a problem these days.

But the 17-year-old students whose parents freak out because OMG! Witches! are not going to learn to learn from history in order to keep it from repeating itself. Sad.

Believe me, you don't want to get me started on people who rail against Harry Potter. My feeling is, "If you have READ the books and still feel it is inappropriate for your child, fine. If you have just HEARD that it is pure evil, you have no grounds to complain. You're the parent; presumably as an adult you can handle reading/watching the potentially harmful material and DOING YOUR JOB as a parent to decide if you are going to let your child read/watch it."

Whew. You didn't even get me started on that topic; I just went off on it, all on my own.

Even though I try to support teachers and their right to decide what to teach, I felt compelled to write the following email to Miss Pink's music teacher. He is an enthusiastic teacher and Miss P loves him and his class. However, I thought about it and realized I couldn't let these lessons go by without saying something. If I did, I would be remiss in my responsibility to make sure my child is not exposed to age-inappropriate concepts. Seriously, what was he thinking to let kindergartners and first-graders (including kids up through 5th grade; they have several weeks of music class together per year) watch the "Thriller" video and the movie Walk the Line?

Here is my email.

Dear Mr. ______,

I realize I should have contacted you right away, but with the holiday I let it slip my mind. However, I did want to let you know that after Miss Pink watched the "Thriller" video in music class, she had trouble sleeping for several nights because she couldn't stop thinking about the scary images. She is pretty imaginative and I guess it was just too scary for her. As a parent, I'm sure you understand how hard it is to get a freaked-out child to calm down and go to sleep. I realize you only wanted to introduce the kids to the music of Michael Jackson, but in the future, you might not want to show that type of video to classes that include younger kids.

Also, I could not figure out from what Miss Pink told me if the students watched the whole movie of Walk the Line, so if they only watched clips of the music, please ignore the following. I love Johnny Cash and the movie based on his life, but my husband and I feel the themes of drug addiction and infidelity were too adult for our first-grader. We would have liked to have had a note home so we could have opted out for that lesson(s). Trust me, as a teacher I understand it's hard to find interesting films that relate to your subject, and I hesitated to complain because I don't want to be That Parent who makes life hard for teachers who are doing their best, but I felt you would want some constructive feedback for the future. Please believe that I only want to help and that I am not angry because no serious harm was done; I am just asking you to rethink using these materials, or at least check with parents and/or the administration before using them in the future.

If you feel you need to meet with me in person or over the phone, you could call me at ______. Simply letting me know via email that you've heard my concerns would be enough to fix the issue from my point of view, however.

Alison ____

I tried to be conciliatory because I know teachers may get defensive when they perceive a parent is attacking them. I also went to the teacher directly rather than going above his head to the principal right away. In my opinion, parents should give the teacher a chance to apologize, explain, and offer a solution to the problem before they bring in the big guns. If the teacher responds appropriately, I will let it drop because I honestly don't think any real harm was done. Miss P finally forgot about Michael turning into a werewolf (although it took 3 or 4 nights) and she probably didn't even know drugs were being used in those scenes. Notice that I didn't jump to conclusions based on what my child had said since I really don't know if they watched the whole movie. Parents should remember that what their child says is from a kid's point of view and may not be 100% accurate, so we should give the teacher a chance to explain before we freak out. (There are exceptions to what I'm saying, such as when something really bad happens and you have to demand that something be done right away.)

What do y'all think? Is this a letter that will probably get the results I want--or was I even too wishy-washy? What should I do if the teacher blows off my concerns? And do you have any stories to share of how to approach--or how NOT to approach--a child's teacher?


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's the Principle of the Thing

Part IV in the story of how I stopped adhering to the traditional Pentecostal lifestyle. Here are Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Sorry if I left you hanging with my announcement to Justin that I had been cutting my hair for years and that I apologized for keeping it a secret from him (and thereby potentially damaging his trust in me) but that I felt fine about trimming my hair. I gave some of my reasons why I had started to believe that God was not requiring me to follow those guidelines.

If the first big surprise of the night was that I'd blurted out my secret, the second surprise was that he wasn't angry with me. He thanked me for telling him and asked for some time to process it.

Later, Justin told me that his mind had been changing as well. (How like our God to work on two people at the same time, without either of them knowing about the other's journey!) He later told me that he thought, "I know Alison's love for God and her spirit has not changed. So obviously cutting her hair did not change her spiritual life--and therefore it must not be as important as we were taught." He shared these thoughts with me and we decided to study and seek God for ourselves rather than blindly following church traditions. We were still open to keeping any standards that we felt were appropriate for our family, if there was truly a Biblical basis for them rather than "we've always done it this way." At the same time, we were willing to accept other Christians who didn't have the same beliefs. Above all, we were determined not to be judgmental, sour believers who gave Christianity a bad reputation.

One of the first steps we took was to talk to our pastor--who happens to be my dad, but we have great respect for him as a pastor and not just as my father. After 34 years at the same church, he has a LOT of wisdom, which in my opinion he showed by allowing the people who didn't conform to the standards to continue attending our church despite the protests from long-term members who wanted everyone to look and behave alike. In all those years, Dad didn't preach about the standards (they were more of a social norm, an unspoken rule) and as people started to change, he simply didn't say anything and treated them just like the other church members. This meant that we lost quite a few people who thought our church was abandoning the truth. That was painful for my parents, but Dad didn't revert back to the old ways because, like us, he had come to believe that the standards were not essential to being a Christian or even a Pentecostal. Therefore, he encouraged us to pray and study for ourselves and he gave us a book written by a friend of his that allowed for a more moderate interpretation of the Scriptures the conservatives always trotted out as "proof" that God's will involved looking like you belong in the nineteenth century.

I won't provide an exegesis of the Scriptures we studied, but suffice it to say that Justin and I saw clearly what we believed those Scriptures to mean. We saw that the principle of the thing is what God is after, not specific items of clothing or hairstyles which can change over time and between cultures. Does God want people to be modest? I believe so. Do different people interpret modesty differently? Yes. I hope to teach my children that when they are showing certain parts of their bodies to get a reaction from the opposite sex, that's a problem. We have to internalize the principle of modesty and not wear things that make us feel immodest. I realize there is a lot to this topic that I haven't answered here, but if you're interested in discussing it, ask a question in the comments and I will answer you in another post to the best of my ability as long as you ask respectfully, even if you disagree. In fact, ask anything you'd like to know about these posts!

As for where we are now, we feel completely happy with our decision. I have long hair by most people's standards--to my shoulder blades--but it's that long because my husband and I like it that way, and every stylist I've had agrees that I should keep the length, with some layers to give it shape! Fixing my hair is so much easier now that I don't have to hide split ends. I wear subtle makeup and am pleased at how it defines my best features and gives natural color to my pale skin. I wear pants, shorts, sleeveless tops, and jewelry. By the way, pants are MORE modest than a skirt when you're caring for small children, especially if you should have to climb into a plastic tube at Chick-Fil-A to rescue a screaming child! As I said, I do feel I dress modestly, with camis under super-low necklines and skirts to the knee or right above. But that's just age appropriate, too! I am NOT interested in showing off my cellulite. Anyway, it's all a personal decision which I don't impose on others because I am DONE with trying to play God. It's amazing how much more freeing it feels to stop trying to be the Judge!

Of course, my in-laws don't feel the same way at ALL, which makes visiting for the holidays about as relaxing as a stroll through a Vietnamese minefield! But that's another story for another day.