Monday, August 17, 2015

What Parent Type Are You?

When I was growing up, there were only 2 parenting styles: strict and lenient.  It did not matter whether you were that parent's own child or someone else's. If you got into trouble or did something wrong, you received an immediate correction by whoever's parent was closest to the center of activity.

Growing up, my brothers and I learned the hard way never to misbehave in the car. We were sure that during childbirth, God gave our mother a second set of eyes which were located in the back of her head. When she napped, we would pick at her hair trying to find those eyes.

We knew they had to be hidden behind somewhere in that giant 1970's beehive of a hairdo, but we never could find them. No person, without a set of eyes in the back of their head, could see the way she could.  She always knew which child was instigating trouble. She could drive the car perfectly while backhanding any misbehaving kids in the backseat faster than Superman could change clothes in a phone booth.

Between our mother and the other mothers in the neighborhood, all the kids in the neighborhood were watched to see what we were doing. This scrutiny meant we learned right from wrong at a very early age.

Things have changed dramatically since I grew up.  One of the biggest changes has been the creation of so many different parenting labels. There are so many different labels used to describe how a mother chooses to rear her child(ren), it could confuse Dr. Spock.

Tiger, Helicopter, Free-Range, Elephant, Little-Emperor, and Lighthouse Moms are just to name a few. The labels all seem to have a defining characteristic: you are either an animal or a machine.

Personally, I don't want to be known as an Elephant Mom. The older I get, the more I battle ankle wrinkles. I've also heard as you age, your ears and nose never stop growing. Put these issues together and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may send me an invitation to join the circus.

While I may be a redhead with a fiery temper, calling me a Tiger Mom might get you a close-up view of my retractable claws.

Since I grew up believing I was a princess, raising my child like a Little-Emperor would totally be a conflict of interest. I'm really not prepared to share my tiara.

When I hear people discussing the Free-Range label, I don't imagine kids playing outside on their own and growing through self-exploration. I see a bunch of hens pecking for feed around a chicken coup. It takes me back to the 1970's Saturday morning television shows featuring the Looney Tunes cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, who is always playing pranks on the Barnyard Dawg, and is usually on the losing end of his own prank.

If parenting labels had more flair, I might be more inclined to associate my style with them.  There could be the Audrey Hepburn Mom - one who not only teaches their children to have a classic personal style and speak 5 different languages, but to be gracious and give of themselves to help others. I could definitely get into wearing chic sunglasses and big hats, but am thinking the mismatched hodgepodge clothing style of my son may exclude us from this label.

There is also the June Cleaver Mom. She not only keeps her house perfectly clean with two sons tracking heavens knows what into it, she would shoo her boys out of the house daily for exercise and sunshine.  Dinner was served promptly in the dining room where no electronic devices interrupted the dinner conversation, and she always wore pearls.

The children's homework would always be complete ahead of the due date and their rooms would be clean.  They may even get their children to shower daily without begging and pleading. Considering my children's penchant for waiting until the last minute to do 3 weeks worth of homework projects the night before they are due, and that the only way my kids' rooms will be clean is if the empty snack pouches are carried away by the Godzilla size dust bunnies, I'm thinking our admission application for this parenting label will be denied.

In reality, I probably fall into the Slacker Mom label. I don't create a schedule for my children's projects because I require them to do it. I am not very creative or inventive and never made sandwiches into animals or pancakes shaped like Disney characters. I slapped food on a paper plate, said "Mmmm.... Yum! Eat up!", and they ate....... usually.

My children aren't overscheduled. I sign them up for one sport at a time and I'm doing good to remember what days/times to get them to their activity. If I'm really on the ball, my kids will have finished eating dinner before we are in the car on the way to their sporting event.

I would love to be the mom who is ultra-organized and has everyone's schedule entered into the calendar on her phone, which is synced to her computer, laptop, and tablet. I admire the woman who sorts her children's daily school paperwork and immediately addresses each item, versus letting it pile up until it becomes a fire hazard.

When it comes down to it though, does it really matter what kind of parenting style you have, so long as you are actually involved and parenting your children? Do we really need one more label in this world?

Christie Bielss

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Legend of PrayerBear

You may be wondering what happened to this crazy redhead the past few months.  This summer my daughter underwent major surgery. It was an extraordinarily stressful time for my husband and I. Leading up to the surgery, my stress levels were so high, I could not think beyond how many days were left until surgery, much less think of writing a single word for the blog.

While we were confident our daughter had the very best surgeon and was in the best hospital to attend to her needs, the doubts and "what ifs" still somehow crept in. In the days leading up to the surgery, I could not fathom how I could possibly handle watching as the hospital staff wheeled my daughter away. I did the only thing I knew to do during this time:  I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. 

My little girl made me make a promise a few days prior to surgery. She made me promise I would not cry in front of her when they wheeled her off to surgery. I agreed, even though I wasn't sure I could keep that promise..... but I was determined to give it all I had. 

As she was wheeled back for surgery, her prayers were answered and I did not shed a tear. For the next nearly 7 hours, I prayed, and chatted with one of our church's ministers. And then I prayed, and walked to the hospital's chapel and prayed some more. As I walked back to my seat in the parents' surgical waiting area, the surgeon walked through the doors beaming from ear to ear. Our baby was on the road to recovery.

One day while she was still in the hospital recuperating, she had a particularly rough morning. The nurse gave her some medication to ease her symptoms, which also had the side benefit of helping her sleep. While she napped, I stepped out into a parent lounging area to update my parents on her condition.

I was on the phone with my parents and watched as hospital volunteers quietly dropped off a teddy bear to her room. They giggled as they came out of her room, thrilled a child would wake up to their surprise gift. I smiled and got a bit choked up at the delight these 2 women took in bringing cheer to sick and injured children.

A short time later my husband arrived with our son, so he could visit with his sister. As we walked in, our daughter was just rousing from her nap. She immediately laid eyes on a lovely creamy white teddy bear which had been placed on the bed tray in front of her.

She squealed with delight over waking up to this adorable stuffed creation and, upon lifting it up, discovered a book had come with the bear. I read aloud the name of the book "The Legend of PrayerBear" by Annie Miller. My daughter said immediately "That's my bear's name. PrayerBear", and then asked me to read the book to her.

I sat down and read this beautiful and touching story of a bear that just wanted someone to love and hug. I was doing a great job of holding my tears inside over this heartwarming tale until I got to the last page.

I barely made it through the first line on the page when all of the tears I had held so tightly inside started escaping the vise-like control I'd kept on them. I stopped reading for a moment and took a deep breath, trying to get hold of myself. 

The story had taken a twist when PrayerBear had been given to a young girl who was in the hospital and was sad because she wasn't well enough to be able to get up and about. This story was hitting so close to home, I was having no success controlling my emotions. When I got to the final 2 paragraphs of the story, the proverbial floodgates opened wide:

          "I thank you for my PrayerBear,
            And for the friend so dear
            Who cared enough to send it
            To remind me God is near.

            Every time I feel afraid
            I'll hug my PrayerBear tight
            For I have friends who care for me,
            And I will be all right."

Christie Bielss

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Standout Teacher

When I was in high school a long, long time ago, I had the honor of having a couple of teachers who stood out from the rest.  Yes, these teachers were getting paid to teach, but they had also made it their mission to make a difference in children’s lives. While I can pinpoint the contributions each of these teachers worked so tirelessly to make, there was one who was a force to be reckoned with. She was a hard taskmaster and she did not accept halfhearted attempts at homework.

Mrs. Betty Stapleton

She was known for prodding, pushing, and shoving you, kicking and screaming if need be, into digging deeper inside of yourself. She was the teacher that when you picked up your class schedule and you saw her name, you would groan at what was to come. When your friends saw whose class you had been placed in, they would pat you on the back while telling you everything would be okay.

She was Mrs. Betty Stapleton, an English teacher on a mission to educate above and beyond the norm. On the first day of class, your fears were realized. She threw down the gauntlet and challenged you before the class roll was ever called.

Her goal was to challenge you to think beyond the printed words on a page. If, in a piece of literature, there was a scent described, she wanted you to be able to smell it. If there was an emotion, she wanted you to feel it. And if there was a noise, you were to hear it.

To this day I can hear her reading Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” to our class. The way she read the poem made it come to life. It was no longer a required assignment with weird, old world language we were being forced fed. It became a fascinating piece of literature which drew us into its rhyming stanzas and dramatic prose.

Mrs. Stapleton not only drew us into the world of classical literature, she also taught us to reach deep within our souls when we wrote our own essays. It definitely was no easy task for her to try and get me, a guarded redhead, to dig deep and open up my soul for others to see.

Her words of encouragement were very uplifting, but she utterly flabbergasted me when she told me she enjoyed reading my written work. It was the first time a teacher had ever told me they enjoyed my work. I, an overly verbose redhead with a relatively poor grasp of grammar, was left speechless. Her class was one of the hardest I have ever taken, and yet the most rewarding.

The level of encouragement she provided saw me through my college years and sticks with me to this day. While looking for a way to contact her to thank her, I discovered she passed away in 2002. I did not even consider this possibility when I began my search and was surprised at how sad I felt when I made the discovery. I wish I could thank her personally for her tireless dedication and for making an imprint on my soul, but I waited too long.

Do you have a teacher who lit a spark within you? Someone who went above and beyond the norm? I would love to hear your stories! If you have ever felt the desire to let that special teacher know how big of a difference they made in your life, don't wait.  Let them know now.

Christie Bielss

Monday, August 3, 2015

If You Ask A Grandmother Her Age......

Clipart Courtesy of

Back in the 1990's, my husband and I were visiting with his grandmother discussing technology. As we were discussing the latest advancements like in-home Dolby surround sound, home computers, and cell phones, she began to tell us about her latest doctor's appointment.

"The nurse asked me how old I am and I told her 'I am old enough to be your grandmother.' The nurse laughed, wrote down something, and then put me in a room to wait on the doctor to arrive.

After a few minutes of waiting, the doctor came in and sat down and looked at my chart. He asked me how old I am. I don't understand why everyone at the doctor's office is always so interested in my age. I quit keeping up with how old I am when I hit 85.

I looked at the doctor and told him 'I was born in double-aught'. You figure it out.' He replied with a 'Wow! You must have experienced a lot over the course of your life.'

I told him I was born in a time when candles and kerosene lamps were used to light our homes. I grew up with an outhouse as a bathroom and watched as indoor plumbing and electricity were brought into our homes.

When I was young, we got around by either walking, riding on horseback, or via horse and carriage. As I got older, we marveled as cars took over the roads. If we needed to go far away, we took the train....... and we put on our best Sunday clothes for the trip. Now we have airplanes that will get us there in a fraction of the time and people look like they have on their pajamas.

When we cooked, we made everything from scratch. And by scratch I mean we either went to the butcher, or we slaughtered our own livestock or chickens, or we hunted for our wild game. Our milk was fresh, since we had to milk the cow every morning. We churned what we weren't going to drink to get our butter and cream, we couldn't buy it off a store shelf.

In my years, I have watched as hemlines inched up from touching the floor to barely covering the derriere'. I have listened to music grow from a one-man fiddler, to big bands, to songs being played on the radio.

I've experienced world wars and watched as men walked on the moon. Buildings went from being a few stories tall to skyscrapers."

As my husband and I reflect on this memory, it brings to mind all of the change and growth we have seen in our own lifetimes.  40+ years ago, we could have never imagined this world we live in, or the technological growth which happens almost daily.  This growth and change we have experienced makes us wonder what our children will have to look forward to and endure in their lifetimes.  I don’t believe I can imagine that world……… and I’m not sure I really want to either.

Christie Bielss