Healthy Fighting

It may come as a surprise when readers see the smiling faces on Instagram or Facebook, but our family doesn’t always get along.  My wife and I have been known to argue, and there have been those occasional moments when the kids get into a verbal battle.  We aren’t perfect.

Fights and arguments are part of life.  Even a family that enjoys being together (like ours does) doesn’t always like each other every moment of every day.

What makes it work is when you lay some ground rules for how you fight–or disagree, if the word fight causes you to think of a bout of fisticuffs or a street brawl.  When you agree on how to disagree, you’ll help each other and your kids deal with those moments as they come.  (Because they will come.)

After a particularly ugly fight early in our marriage, Robyn and I agreed on some rules for how we would fight from then on.  Here are a few of them.

 + Don’t Get In the Car.  This may not work if your fight starts in the car, but one thing we learned after that really ugly fight was that we should never get in the car and drive away mad.  One reason is because you may damage the car (ahem, I don’t know this from personal experience, ahem), and another is because if you drive mad you drive crazy, and you don’t want to get in a car accident while you’re angry at each other.  You don’t want your last words to be your angriest words, do you?

+ Learn Each Other’s Styles–and Respect Them.  I like to talk through an argument, Robyn likes to process.  Because of that, I have often made our fights longer than they needed to be because I wanted her to talk while she wanted to process.  This only made things worse, and it wasn’t until recently–nearly 17 years of marriage later–that I think I’ve finally respected that difference.  It makes a world of difference, and keeps the fights shorter than they used to be.

+ Don’t Fight to Win.  You don’t get a medal for winning a fight with your spouse.  What you get is hurt and resentment.  Arguments in marriage aren’t about defeating your partner, but finding a suitable compromise that is the wisest choice for you both and for your family.  You don’t win when your partner is hurt by your victory–you both win when you find ways to work together toward a good solution.

+ It’s Okay to Fight In Front of the Kids.  Some parents never argue in front of their kids.  They don’t want to let the kids see the ugly side of marriage.  But if you’re fighting with the rules, agreeing to work together, not trying to win, it’s okay if you don’t always agree in front of the kids.  They need to see you argue–because they need to see that a healthy response to a disagreement can be found.  You model for them how to respond in their own fights, and if they never see you fight ever, they won’t see how you solve it when tensions rise.

There are a few more: don’t throw things, admit you’re wrong if you are, avoid swear words, and if you are both yellers, be careful how much arguing you do with the windows open.  Yes, it’s tongue in cheek, but knowing how to fight and still go to bed loving each other and not angry is not only what God wants for your marriage, it helps your kids see how to handle it when their tension moments come along.

What are your rules for those tension moments in your marriage or family?  Share them in the comments below!

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ME Time

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 18 years of marriage, parenting, working, etc., it’s how much I value my personal time.  When you don’t make time for yourself, you quickly lose yourself.  I know from experience.  Is carving out an hour or two a week easy?  Not always.  But is it necessary?  Yes!  There’s a reason so many SAHMs get jealous of their husband’s lunches out, meetings, and even time alone in the car.  Sometimes a mom’s (or SAHD’s) time spent in the car is listening to the Disney Junior Soundtrack.

The reason I decided to go back to work 5 years ago, was because I needed some alone time.  I know that seems like a strange reason to work outside of the home, but with 4 kids, a desire to find out who I am, and desperate love of adventure, this seemed like the most logical decision for me and my family.  I needed to be away from my family, just for a few hours a week.  Without the distractions of a sink full of dishes or kids tugging on my clothes, I could figure out what I really wanted and who I was created to be.  So many people lose sight of this went they get caught up in their work or families or even in themselves.  In the last 5 years, I’ve come up with 3 ways to help you reclaim your ME time.

  1. Schedule your ME time.  I talked a couple of weeks ago about how important keeping to a schedule is.  Put some ME time into that schedule.  Seriously.  Even if you have to schedule in a mall sesh and hire a babysitter. Do it and stick to it. This should be as important as your work schedule, grocery shopping, or doctor appointments. Make your schedule and stick to it.
  2. Find something you love and do it often. I have several loves. I love to work out.  I don’t compromise my workouts.  I love to spend time outside.  If I have a free hour during the day and it’s nice out, I spend it outside on my patio. I love pedicures. I try to save $20 out of my budget each month (only $5/week, so it’s a no-brainer) for pedicures.  But you better believe that it gets scheduled!  What do you love?  Even if you have to start small, figure it out, do it, and do it often.
  3. Give back to someone else.  Ok, you’ve found yourself, you take care of yourself, now it’s your turn to help someone else. If you have friends or family members that are struggling to figure out what they need, offer to help.  If you can watch your sister’s kids so she can take herself out to to a movie, do it.  If you see that your best friend is too busy at work, invite her over for dinner. Once you figure out what you love and you make it a priority, help someone else find their time and passion, too.

 

3 Rules Every Family Should Live By

Since my eldest was born 17 years ago, my wife and I have realized there are many things people say children should learn, many things parents should focus on to ensure their kids turn out great, to have a happy family.  We’ve tried a few of them.  Some of them have worked, but many of them have been real stinkers.

We’ve done our best.  We’ve had some highs, and we’ve had some lows.  We don’t focus a lot on grades, we don’t sign up for a lot of extracurricular activities.  We may have yelled more than we meant to, and I’m pretty sure we’ve frustrated our kids’ teachers more than once with those middle of the school year vacations.

Yet, in spite of our mistakes, I’m told quite often, “You have great kids,” or “Your family always seems to have so much fun.”  I like that.  I love it when someone compliments my children and says nice things about them.  It means a lot to me when someone notices the smiles on our faces.  As a parent, we know all the ways our kids screw up, so when someone stops and says something nice, it makes me stop.  When they compliment our family, it makes me pause and wonder–maybe we’re doing something right?

Recently, I think I discovered what my wife and I are doing right. In our flawed but fun way of doing things, I think we’ve hit on the right formula for having a great family, and some pretty good kids.  Here are our family’s three rules.  I’m hopeful these will work for you, too.

Rule #1: Create memories.  Wherever you can.  Whenever you can.

Whether it’s a National Park, a trip to Disneyland, or just dressing up like pirates for free donuts–memories are a lasting gift we can give our kids that will outlast us.  Do we go to Disneyland a lot?  Yep.  Have we worn out vehicles by driving on long road trips to National Parks across the West?  You bet.  You can save a lot of money, have a great plan for retirement, and have nicer things.  But I’d really rather have the memories, because these will stick with me–and them–for the rest of our lives.  Because of these memory-making adventures, we’ve created an incredible familial bond.  The bonus?  We actually like being together.

Rule #2: Serve others.  Individually. Collectively.

As a pastor, my kids are stuck at church.  A lot.  This could either be a cause of resentment, or it could be a way to help my kids discover ways they can make a difference in the life of someone else.  When we serve others, we get the focus off ourselves and start thinking about others.  All three of my oldest kids serve in some capacity at our church.  My oldest kids have acted in various Vacation Bible Camps, lead worship, run media, and lead small groups of elementary age kids.  My youngest daughter serves every week leading 2 year olds.  There’s nothing better than seeing them leading kids younger than themselves, and finding ways to use their talents for the good of someone else.  And to be honest, my favorite moments in ministry have been those days when we all get to do it together.

Rule #3: Show honor.  At home.  At school.  Everywhere.

We are all inherently selfish people, and we all naturally think of ourselves first.  When we focus on honoring others first, in our words and actions, we remember that “It’s not all about me.”  We use an honor chart to keep track of whether we are acting honorably or not (even the parents), and it really helps us put others first.  If I can teach my kids to live and act and speak honorably to others, then I will have done something good for the world.

There you have it.  Our three family rules.  If you do #2 and #3 right, go out and celebrate, which leads you back to #1.  Repeat as often as possible.

There are Enough Hours in the Day.

How many times have you heard or even thought, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” I have. Usually daily. And I’m sure most of us like to think, “Yeah, but I really do have more to do than most moms.” There goes my hand up in the air.  I don’t know what makes us think that our lives are busier than the person across the street or next to us in line at Costco. Let’s face it, as moms, or dads, we all have busy going on.

imagesSo, how do you make enough time for your kids, spouse, pets, house, work, self, etc?  Honestly, I don’t know. But I want to give you the 5 top ways that have helped me stay organized and able to tackle the chaos that comes at me daily. If I can do these, you can, too.

1. PREPARE.  I am a note taker and list maker. Sometimes to a fault. I have lists for everything from meal planning to grocery shopping, from workout plans to vacation preparation. Preparing and planning helps me stay on top of my game and helps me feel like I have some sort of control in a sometimes chaotic environment. So, what’s the best kind of list? Whatever it is that helps YOU feel like you’re in control. Personally, I like the old-fashioned clipboard, paper, and pencil method. But you can use anything. Use your notes tab on your smart phone. There are now even apps you can download to help with whatever planning you need. But use whatever best works for you. I’ll have more on menu planning, shopping, and saving money on next week’s blog.

2. STICK TO A ROUTINE.  This one is not easy for me. As much as I love routine, I thrive on spontaneity. So often I want to ditch all my housework, keep the kids home from school, jump in the Montague van and just drive to somewhere remote for a milkshake. Obviously, this isn’t daily reality, so keeping to a routine helps me feel like I have control. So, when a day does come and no one has to work or go to school, we can do something fun and spontaneous. We live by the rule “Work Hard, but Play Harder.” Keep your routines tight so that you can have even more fun on those days off.

3. EXERCISE. You had to know that was coming. Why is exercise so important? Well, for one, it keeps our bodies healthy and when we have healthy bodies, we have healthy minds, homes, and kids. Exercise also, believe it or not, gives you more energy. All it takes is an extra 30 minutes out of your day. I know 30 minutes feels like an eternity when we already have such full days. But think of it this way. You could get up just 30 minutes earlier or go to bed 30 minutes later. If you’re not exercising, you’re probably tossing and turning in bed at least that amount of time. Exercise helps you stay more rested at night and focused during the day. So, you’re not actually losing 30 minutes of sleep, but gaining 30 minutes of activity. Exercise is also where you can blow ofF steam or stress and pull yourself together when you may feel like things are falling apart.

4. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF . Please hear me when I say how important this is. You are giving most or all of yourself to your family. But who’s giving to you? Sometimes you just need to spend an afternoon at the movies or take yourself out to lunch. Maybe you like a warm bath, a book, and a glass of wine. Sometimes a massage hits the spot. One of my favorite things is just to sit on my back patio, listen to music, and scroll through Pinterest. Whatever you enjoy doing, treat yourself weekly. It will recharge your batteries and help you realize that you are more than your kids’ mommy or daddy, more than a house cleaner, more than a paycheck.

5. SLEEP. Yes! You need to sleep! Most doctors will recommend at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Sometimes you can get by on 6 or 7, but don’t make it a habit. Set your body clocks and get in the routine of getting a full 8 hours of sleep per night. Again, this will help you get to your full potential during the day. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, then try to power nap during the day. I’ve trained myself to shut my brain off for about 20 minutes during the day if I need a little boost of energy.

I also want to add that I have an amazing support system in my husband and kids. I certainly couldn’t do anything without them. If you don’t have a support system at home, then find one somewhere either a moms or dads group, church group, best friend, or counselor. Parenting is hard, but you also want it to be fun.

Over the next 5 weeks, I’m going to break down each topic even further, so watch out next week for what my prepping and planning looks like!  And thanks for reading!   – RM

Two Is Better Than One

IMG_1343There are lot of great blogs out there written by moms.

There are a few great blogs out there written by dads.

Our goal at Montague Adventures is to give you the best of what we have both learned in our nearly 18 years of marriage and parenting, together.

What has made everything work for us, through a lot of good and some bad, is that we realize we are in this together.  And when we work together, both as a couple and as a family, we are able to actually accomplish a lot.  The verse from Ecclesiastes makes clear that we all need someone to help us make it through this crazy thing called life, and we certainly aren’t in this alone.

Two is better than one, and at Montague Adventures, you won’t just get a mom’s perspective, you’ll get a dad’s.  You won’t just here what a dad has to say, you’ll hear from a mom, too.

We’re just a crazy couple who love each other deeply. We really enjoy being with our kids.  We don’t sweat the small stuff, and try to make every moment of our lives count for something.   We can’t wait to have you join us for the fun.  We aren’t perfect, but we are fun.  And we think you’ll have fun, too.

If you join us, then that will make it even better!  Because if two is good, three has to be great!