A Case For Front Yard Living

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

I know most people spend summer on their deck in the back yard, but I want to share about something different.

Front yard living.

At the end of 2013, we moved into a new construction home. When the brutal subzero winter ended, people emerged and we finally met our neighbors.

One of the greatest benefits about living in a new construction neighborhood is everyone is new – especially the first year. There are no cliques – no long-term established friendships.

Everyone seems friendlier and more eager to meet their neighbors.

Since new houses come with dirt yards and gravel driveways, significant time is spent walking the neighborhood and in the front yard. Few homes have decks right away.

Then driveways go in and sod that can’t be walked on.

The driveway is the yard. Initially, front yard living was necessity.

We spent the first three summers in the front. This is our fourth summer and this summer we built a deck.

This spring, when the deck materials were delivered, a neighbor commented in passing – now we’ll never see you guys anymore. Her comment has stuck with me.

With the excitement of having a new deck – we have been spending a lot of time in the back yard. Backyard living has some great benefits –  convenience, privacy, more space, and in our case, a view. But more time in back means less in the front. 

I love our deck, but there is a great case to be made for front-yard living and it has to do with relationships.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

Simply put, front yard living creates opportunities to build relationships with neighbors. 

A Case For Front Yard Living

Meet Neighbors – As people pass by, on the way to the mail box or on a walk, simply being in the front yard creates an opportunity to greet and meet neighbors in a natural way. Even the most reserved or shy people are usually open to a friendly wave and smile followed by an introduction. Some may move on quickly, but others will surprise you and stay to chat. Many of these chance introductions have turned into hours of conversations and cherished friendships. 

Kids – This neighborhood is crawling with kids. They walk, bike and scooter by on a regular basis. Regular friendly waves and hellos or meeting them briefly when they walk by with their parents let them know we’re safe adults if they need something. We’ve helped with minor scrapes, calling parents, and bike chains.  Front yard living has also helped us build relationships with kids who play with our kids on a regular basis. It is amazing how long a child will stand and talk to us while all the other kids are playing – they tell us stories, about their weekend or school day, and what activities they’re involved in. Relationships with neighborhood kids are important to us – these kids are precious family friends.

Fun – In back, kids are usually in the yard and adults are up on the deck. Separate. (Don’t get me wrong – separate can be lovely). In the front, we’re in close-proximity. Our kids are more likely to invite us to join their fun, or join us if we’re all in the yard. More spontaneous water fights, and games of catch, 4-square, and soccer happen in the front yard with our kids and whoever else joins in. A water table, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk are magnets for other kids and their imaginations.

Regular connections – Being in the front means we see neighbors coming, going and passing by. These brief interactions allow for regular, natural connections. We have the chance to enter into real-life with our neighbors. We learn what is on their minds and what is going on in their lives – the good, bad, sad, stressful, joyful and real happenings of daily life. I am always grateful to learn these things from a face-to-face conversation than on Facebook, Instagram, or text. 

Lend a hand – Being out front means we get to see when others need help – unloading or loading something heavy, watching a small child so they can run into the house for something quick, changing a tire, lending a tool or holding a ladder, or providing a missing ingredient. These chances to help are invaluable gifts – relationships are often forged in these types of experiences. We are blessed to be able to step in and help when we can.

We ARE enjoying our deck and the benefits of back yard living. But, front yard living still holds significant value.

Front yard living has allowed us to join our neighbors in real-life. We have been blessed as so many have stepped into the messiness of life with us through the conversations of front-yard living.

We plan to continue making time to be out front, experiencing and building community in our neighborhood.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 (ESV)

To love your neighbor as yourself, you have to first get to know them.

A Case For Front Yard Living | thisgratefulmama.com

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‘Hey, You’re Not My Friend’ – Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

A normally joyful girl leaves preschool happy then immediately succumbs to tears in the car when asked how her day was.

‘Today the kids were laughing at me, but I WASN’T being funny!’

Hugs, encouragement and more questions reveal that several children laughed while pointing at her in line.

Her feelings were hurt. My heart hurt.

I told her how sorry I was. We talked about possible reasons they laughed – maybe they weren’t laughing at her.

We discussed what to do if it happened again – ask them why they are laughing, and if needed, tell them she doesn’t like what they are doing and to please stop. Then if needed, find an adult to help.

She calmed down and didn’t bring it up again until dinner. This time she told the story differently. She decided someone else must have been funny. We may never know for sure, but for now, she’s not hanging onto it.

Phew. Crisis averted.

But maybe not?

The thing is, this is not the first time she’s been upset after school. Several other afternoons she sadly told me no one would let her play with them. Further questioning revealed that in those instances she did play with one or two other kids, but not in the group.

Initially, my husband and I figured it was the result of little misunderstandings. But the repetition and escalation of hurt feelings made us decide to ask her teacher about it.

The next class day, I spoke to her teacher. Our concern was well received. Apparently the kids often play in groups with one or two ‘leaders’ who like to direct play during free time. She explained our daughter is easy-going and often bounces between groups. She does often play one-on-one outside of the group. They had not observed her being upset or any direct exclusion but agreed to be watchful going forward.

I felt heard, and we had a plan – I felt relieved. 

Then, a child still in the hallway looked directly at our daughter and declared,

‘Hey! You’re NOT my friend!’

Thankfully, our daughter was not paying attention. She was busy entertaining her baby sister, so we quickly left. I was so grateful to hear the child’s shocked mom intervene behind us. I am certain she addressed it well.

Now I was the one choking back tears in the car. All those other sad moments were validated with five powerful words.

I feel deep sadness that at the age of just three, we need to teach our child how to deal with rejection.

Truthfully, I’m not sure why the age surprises me so much – I’ve heard our kids say things like ‘you can’t play with me’ to each other and to other kids before. No age is too young for other kids to try to exclude another – they are testing boundaries. We address it and move on. I think what saddens me most is that it seems to be happening to our daughter repeatedly and is causing increasing hurt.

Rejection is a feeling most adults can identify with – we’ve all felt rejected to a varying degree. We have adjusted our behaviors and internalized feelings in positive or negative ways after feeling rejected – whether deserved or not.

Regardless of the cause, rejection leaves a stinging wound – one I am sad our children will experience.

We can’t prevent it, but we can proactively EQUIP our kids to cope with rejection.

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

Over the past week, I’ve been pondering and praying about how to do that. Another day I’ll flush these ideas out – for now they are best summed up by these three main points:

  1. Encourage kids to share their feelings about circumstances and relationships with us – whether those moments were joyful, hurtful, concerning, confusing, or exciting. We WANT to listen, validate, comfort, encourage and help.
  2. Our words and actions matter. Knowing what it feels like to be hurt helps us remember not to treat others that way. Teach our kids to be kind, defend others if they can, and be quick to apologize. Also, to change their behavior if they cause another to be hurt.
  3. Instill and confirm who they really are to us, and to God.  This experience confirms that no age is too young to start. They need to know these truths about WHO they are deep in their hearts:
    • WHO made them – and who HE is
    • HOW loved they are – by us and by God
    • No person determines your value – only God
    • Jesus knows about rejection and offers comfort and understanding

'Hey, You're Not My Friend' - Equipping Kids To Cope With Rejection | thisgratefulmama.com

 

“Thanks-Getting”?

Thanks-GETTING? | thisgratefulmama.com

Today I enjoyed a quiet afternoon – football in the background, kids napping, husband nodding off on the couch.

While prepping food for dinner, I reflected on how God is so good. And on how much a day of rest is needed. Sunday afternoons at home are a lovely gift.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV but I still heard it. The end of a Verizon Wireless commercial for Thanksgiving specials. It wasn’t the great deal that caught my attention, it was the slogan.

Thanks-GETTING“.

Barf.

It struck me as gross the first time I heard it. Later, while our son watched football, he heard the same thing. He looked at me with a smirk on his face and said, “ThanksGIVING, mom”. I think he just thought they said it wrong. I am grateful the pun went over his sweet 5-year-old head.

Not funny Verizon. Not funny at all. Some day we’ll struggle to undue what our consumer-driven culture is preaching to our youth.

And yet, doesn’t ‘thanks-getting’ adequately describe what the Thanksgiving shopping craze is all about? A retail driven, consumer fed threat to holiday meals.

Have we all forgotten what we learned in school about what the first Thanksgiving was? Two very different cultures, both struggling to survive, helping one another and sharing a meal together. It was about coming together, despite adversity and many disagreements, to build relationships among even those who were very different.

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a day once spent in fellowship, giving thanks to God and one another is now being invaded by the desire to GET more stuff?

I think GETTING is the complete opposite of siting back and being grateful. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more, it is about GIVING. Of our time. Our attention. Our thanks. Our love. And of deepening relationships.

If we’re focused on getting, we are distracted from the joy of spending time together. Instead of reflecting on what we DO have, we’ll be daydreaming of what we can get – for ourselves or others. In most cases, none of us need that item. It may be a deal, but it is more distraction than anything.

Our desire for stuff allows retail to take over a holiday about relationships and gratitude.

While planning for shopping around Thanksgiving, let us not forget that spending TIME with our family is much more valuable than spending our money. Or is it more like saving money by spending it?

Let us not forget that even the greatest Christmas gift may not feel as special if the giver neglects to spend quality time together on Thanksgiving. Or if the giver spends the whole holiday on a phone or computer mapping out retail conquests.

These sales may not repeat until next year. But neither will Thanksgiving.

Are you willing to sacrifice your family holiday and relationships for STUFF?

Put the ads, phone, and computer down and be present. IF you shop on Thanksgiving, do not let the deal planning invade your whole day and conversations. Spend quality time with loved ones. Reflect on what you HAVE. On what God has given. On the people in your life. Eat slowly and enjoy the meal that took so much effort and care to prepare. And linger…this is a holiday about the people, not the stuff.

Be grateful.

Give thanks where it is due.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7:17

Grateful.

Grateful | thisgratefulmama.com

It’s Monday.

Before jumping headfirst into the week, why don’t we just take a moment to be joyful in this moment?

As I consider all that is before me, and all behind me, I am left with one simple yet profound word.

Grateful.

The weekend did not go as planned. A little one had a fever so instead of a weekend packed with activities and friends, it was packed with…us. Just our little family. And it was lovely. I am grateful for moments of extra snuggles, silliness, quiet, and even the tears.

After a month filled with researching and wrestling with a large decision, today I find myself feeling that peace that transcends all understanding. Not ‘peace and quiet’, but that deep peace and rest that comes only when I realize that God has me exactly where He wants me to be.

Right here.

This is where I belong. I am doing what He has called me to do.

What more could a girl want?

As I look back on the past month, I see God’s handiwork in my relationships and circumstances. Woven into daily life, sometimes into the tiniest of details. I see how the challenges of the past month have deepened my relationship with God, with loved family and friends. Challenge has a way of penetrating your soul, requiring and releasing new levels of authenticity in relationships.

The result has been the rich blessing of stronger faith, and stronger, more authentic relationships.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose – Romans 8:28

What. A. Promise.

As I start this Monday. This week. I am grateful for so much:

My Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Who loves me. Died for me. And lives so that I may find life abundant.

My husband and best friend who provides for this family selflessly and generously. He is my favorite person on this planet and I am so grateful I get to live out my days with him.

These sweet children. Their smiles, curiosity, playful joy and even their testing of boundaries as they learn about life. I am grateful for the way their eyes shine when we tell them of Jesus. And for their hugs as their little arms squeeze as tight as they can when they greet me each morning – It doesn’t get much better than this.

Our family. Parents and grandparents who want the best for our family and are helping hands, wise counsel, and listening ears. Siblings who listen and speak truth into situations in ways only they can. And who provide support, encouragement, and who check in often. Family who choose to be more involved than just the occasional family get-together.

Friends. Neighbors. Church. O my.

We are so blessed. People we can be ourselves with. Who know and see us as we are, and still love us.

My friends, this is a beautiful life.

Today is a new day.

A new week.

Let it begin with JOY.

Grateful.