Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Interests of Others

"Is everyone all done?" my three year old asked. He asks this question after every dinner because it's his ticket to dessert. This time, however, he had different plans.

"We're done, bud. You can get down," my husband told him. 

We were at my parent's house enjoying a huge meal after church. My mom decided to start having us over once a month in hopes of starting a little tradition. We see each other often but we are rarely all together at the same time. This was a way to relax together and, as the kids get older, a guaranteed window of time to spend as a family. 

We fell back into conversation and barely saw my three year old's head pop up beside his Papa. He discreetly handed him a toothpick (my dad's must-have after every meal). "Oh! Thank you, Drew," my dad said, surprised. But he wasn't done yet.

He scooted between the chairs and the buffet to get to my mom. "Granny? Would this plate be good to give to Ruby for her snack?" Ruby is my parents adorable and spoiled puggle and she enjoys a plate of leftovers after dinner.

"This one might be better for her belly," my mom said as she handed him a plate with bits of chicken and carrots. "Very thoughtful of you, Drew!"

He smiled a quiet smile then handed the plate to Ruby. He disappeared into the playroom after that, satisfied that everyone had been taken care of completely.

Phillipians 2:4 says, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." I saw that in my son that day. I watched him consider their needs first, before his own. I was warmed by his kindness and inspired to do the same.

Notice your children helping another today and praise them lavishly. Maybe even let them take care of you a bit, too. You deserve it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sprinkler Bike

My oldest (6) refuses to ditch his training wheels. We haven't pushed it - He'll be ready when he's ready - but every once in awhile I will bring it up. I try to make it casual but he stiffens each time he hears the words, "training wheels off."

"No Mommy! I have tried and I fell and I don't want to fall again!" Never mind that this was sixth months ago. I have learned that there are times when we have to believe in him more than he believes in himself. We have to tell him, "I KNOW you can do this. It might be hard. It might take time to get it right but we believe in you." I tried that tact. No dice. "Mommy, it's so much more fun this way. I don't want to do it." Closed subject.

"Okay bud. Then let's head out and splash through through the rain puddles with your bikes!" This was greeted with whooping and cheers as all three kids ran to the garage. We spent the requisite twenty minutes locating shoes and putting on helmets and unfolding the stroller. Finally, we were off.

Within three minutes, we were all dripping with sweat. Florida in August is no joke. My daughter jumped out of her stroller to splash in the puddles and my oldest saw an opportunity. He positioned the bike so that the training wheels were on either side of the drainage gully and his rear wheel was in the air (like an exercise bike). "Want to play in the sprinklers, Rosie?" he asked.
"Uh huh!" she said, nodding enthusiastically.

He began pedaling and the water sprayed up behind him. His sister ran through the spray squealing with delight. She let it drench her completely and giggled the entire time. "See Mommy! I couldn't do that without training wheels!!"

How could I argue with that? There will come a time when he is ready to take a leap of faith and take those training wheels off of his bike. And my husband and I will be there to catch him when and if he falls. But that time is going to be up to him. It's hard to not push it - It's one of those things I think he "should" be able to do right now. But when I look at the big picture, he is doing so many other amazing things that I never expected him to be able to do. If I focus on what he isn't able to do, I may teach him that to do the same. Instead, I will choose to praise and admire him for all that he can do at this moment in time.

Do you ever feel pressure to push your children to "keep up" with other kids their age? I encourage you to take some time to focus on their strengths today. Where do they shine? Make sure you tell them - It will probably make their day.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Enjoying the Little Things

My kids ran out of toothpaste and they had mutilated their toothbrushes (how do they do that so fast?!) so we ran to CVS to get more. I grabbed one that was buy one get one free, not really paying attention to the label. The boys, however, were thrilled.

"There's THREE different toothpastes in one box!" exclaimed my oldest as if he had hit the lottery.
"Do you think they taste different?" my three year old asked.
"It says 'melon' Drew! And 'apple'! I can't read the rest. Mommy will read the rest. Which one should be yours, Drew? Or do you want to just share them? Or TRADE! We could TRADE whenever we want!"
"Yeah! Let's trade! And mix them up with lots and lots of colors. Mommy! Can we open them now?!"

I explained that we had to buy them first and they could open them when we got home. There was a big discussion about who would get what color toothbrush and how it made it very difficult that we had four toothbrushes for three kids. "It's so unfair! Who will get two!?" they bemoaned. I told them I had dibs on the toothbrush and that seemed to settle their nerves. 

They burst out of the car and said, "Mommy! Can we brush our teeth now? Even though it's not first thing in the morning?"
"Of course. You can brush your teeth as much as you want, guys." This proved to be a statement that they took to heart.

My three year old has brushed his teeth at least six times a day and he sleeps with the toothbrush and toothpaste. He even brought it to an elderly woman's house we visited this week and politely asked if he could have a stool to brush his teeth. He used it twice in 30 minutes.

They gave my daughter some toothpaste on her toothbrush while I was putting away laundry and screamed out loud cheers. "MOMMY! ROSIE KNOWS HOW TO BRUSH HER TEETH!" I walked in to see her happily munching on the toothbrush as her brothers cheered her on.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect five bucks to bring them so much fun. I started thinking about all the things I think they need and all the places I think I should take them and I realized that it was my own baggage. The tiniest things give them great bursts of enthusiasm. If it give them huge experiences and huge presents all the time, I think I may dampen that enthusiasm for the simple things. 

I am going to try to learn from them and embrace the simple things in my life. I want to watch the way the light dances on the lake behind my house at sunset. I want to feel the softness of my daughters hair as I brush it away from her face. I want to absorb my boys' fascination of a water droplet found on a leaf or their exhilaration over the crack of a baseball bat. We are so rich if we take the time to notice.

What simple things make you feel rich in this life? Take notice today of the smells, the touches and the sounds that make you feel alive. Thank God for those gifts.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Giving and Receiving

My mom came over for our Wednesday project with a huge picnic basket in her arms. She began unpacking the contents and it looked more like the ingredients for a stew than a project. Onions, asparagus, beets, and corn filled the table. Next came her set of little craft paints. Some looked brand new, others I recognized from painting flower pots as a little girl. Finally, she pulled perfectly cut squares of white fabric. "We're going to paint with vegetables!" she said with a proud smile.

We brewed some coffee and sat down at my kitchen table to slice the veggies, paint them different colors and stamp the fabric that would become pillows. I'm not sure where she found the idea but the results were incredibly beautiful. The lines of the asparagus looked like a flower blooming and the onion stamps looked like suns bursting with color. As we worked, we talked freely about all of the things happening in our day to day life. We asked advice, told funny stories and worked in companionable silence. It was soothing to the soul.

I so often plan out projects for my children. I provide all the materials, make sure they have a snack or a drink in hand and then stand back to watch them create. I try not to have anxiety as they paint my table and chairs or their own hands and faces. We giggle about their mistakes and celebrate their creativity. But it's been a really long time since I've been the recipient of such care. I didn't have to worry about preparing anything. I didn't have to shop or cut or pack or lay it out. I was just able to enjoy the creative process with my best friend in the world. 

We give our children that gift all the time. We plan fun outings, pack picnics and organize craft projects. But I had forgotten how good it feels to receive. We all need to be taken care of every once in awhile. It doesn't have to be a big deal - Just a cup of coffee and a kitchen table can sometimes be the answer to a calm and nurtured heart. If we are open to receiving and giving, balance will be restored.

If you could spend an hour at the kitchen table with anyone in your life, who would it be? Call them and set it up today. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wreck It Rosie

My sons had a friend over and they were working hard at buidling a marble maze.  They had built a three story structure when their sister made her way over to their creation.  "THAT!" she said loudly as she reached for a marble.  "Guys, you may want to put that on a table before she crashes it," I said, hoping to save their tower from imminent destruction.

"Will she break it?" their friend (and only child) asked.  
"Oh yeah," my oldest said. "That's why we like to call her 'Wreck it Rosie'.
Before the words could completely come out of his mouth, she had crashed the entire structure down to the floor. 
"Oh man!  Rosie!!" the boys said in unison.  She looked at them innocently as if to say, "Who?  Me?" and I picked her up to redirect her. 
"C'mon, sweet girl, I will build you a tower you can crash."

My husband and I laugh at the nickname that came from one of their favorite movies, Wreck-it Ralph.  It is apropos. And, interestingly, it has caused a bond to form between my two boys.  They often fought about things that are "MINE!" and still do.  But they have begun to work on projects together, in their room, to keep them safe from Wreck-it-Rosie.  They have developed a system where one of them works while the other one "protects" their current project from their sister.  In short, they have not let her bring them down.

There are often things in our lives that are broken by others.  I thought about how the boys approached it and learned something from them.  They were upset with her as they should have been but they didn't just sit there, angry and brooding.  They banded together, came up with solutions and didn't let her get in the way of what they were doing.  I admire that.  I hope that when challenges and roadblocks come into my life, I can be a creative problem solver. That's so much more appealing than being an angry quitter.

Is there a Wreck-it Rosie in your life?  How can you be creative about your approach and move forward to make things happen?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Clouds Over LegoLand

My friend from our homeschool co-op, Nikki George, writes beautiful devotionals on her blog. I am always uplifted by her words and they often seem to come at the perfect time. She wrote one a few weeks ago about her children's behavior. She said she saw a direct correlation between her kids' behavior and how much time she spends actually playing with them. She recommended taking twenty minutes a day (per child) and focusing that time on one kid. They pick the activity and you just roll with the punches. No sibling interruptions allowed.

It was a sweet thought, although I figured I already spent a bunch of time with them. I stay home with them, right? But I have seen my middle and youngest display some attention getting behaviors (screaming, throwing, crying, etc.) so I decided to observe for a few days and see what I could discover.

It turns out that I am not spending as much time interacting with them as I thought. We do school projects together but they are not choosing most of the projects. I watch them swim or race their cars or build their Legos but I was only actively playing with them for tiny snippets of time, if at all. When we did play, we played together which often ended up with some conflict I would have to resolve. I had (have!) a habit of sneaking out of the room once they are engaged in a game to get some things done. Nothing wrong with that - A girl has got to get things done - But I wondered if their behavior would change with a little more investment on my part.  I decided to try Nikki's plan.

Day 1 - Disaster.
My three year old wanted to play baseball but his sister kept stealing the baseball and running away with it. Lots of tears.

My oldest wanted to do a bead project and his sister grabbed the bucket of 1,000 beads and dumped them all out on the floor.

My baby girl wanted to go down her little slide and the boys continuously pushed her out of the way to do "cool tricks".

I was discouraged. I would rather fold laundry then deal with all of this turmoil, but I soldiered on.

Day 2 - Consequences.
"Any one who interrupts special time loses theirs. Got it?" I announced as we wrapped up our school work.
"Baby girl, that goes for you, too," my oldest said.
"Yeah! You too!" my three year old echoed.

I encouraged the boys to give her a little grace (she's only one after all) but I set up their special time during her nap time to minimize destruction and distraction.

And you know what? It was beautiful. My three year old and I played baseball and cheered for his "home runs". We laughed and I really had fun. He hugged me over and over again and said, "Mommy this is great. I really like this."

When I asked my six year old what he wanted to do, he rolled around the floor with a dreamy smile on his face. "I want to make some clouds."
"Clouds? Um...okay. Any ideas on how to do that?"
At this, he straightened up and started waving his hands wildly. "We could, you know, get that stuff that you put in pillows to make the fluffy and then we could, you know, stretch it out and make it really fluffy."
"I'm game. Where are these clouds going to go?"
"Over LegoLand, Mommy" he said as if I had momentarily lost my mind.
"Of course. And where is LegoLand?"
"Okay. Let's hang some clouds over LegoLand."

We made the clouds and used thread to tie them to the ceiling fan. My son had set up an entire town of Lego cars and buildings on a car mat (hence LegoLand) and we turned on the ceiling fan to see the results of our creation. As the clouds spun around the sky, he leaned back and said, "Pretty cool, huh?" And it was.

The behavior has improved and I can honestly say that I enjoy them more. When I give them their time, they repay me with their calm hearts. I connect with them in a doable way (who doesn't have ten or twenty minutes to spare?) and I feel closer to them after our time together. Everybody wins.

Are you seeing negative attention getting behaviors in your children? Take a day or two to analyze how much time you spend one on one with them. Set aside 10 minutes today to let them lead. See what happens.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Truth Behind Facebook Posts

I took this adorable picture of my kids while we waited for the library to open. We were there for story time and I was excited about spending time with my little ones. I looked at the picture and started to post it to Facebook with some witty caption (although those always seem to evade me!). The doors to the library opened so I gave up on the post and headed inside. That's when things really got interesting.

My boys knew right where to go and sat down dutifully to hear the stories and sing the songs. My daughter, on the other hand, checked out after the first two minutes. If I looked away from her for more than two seconds, I would discover that she had completely escaped. I would run out of the room and find her doing things like standing on a rocking chair or pulling 35 books of the shelf simultaneously. I told her firmly but kindly (I hope) that she had to stay in the room. That was when she decided to touch the eyes of all the babies that were smaller than her then run away screaming happily.

Somehow we made it to craft time and she sat calmly with me as I laid out the materials. I opened up the glue stick. "Here baby. Just wipe it on the flower and we'll stick it to the page!" She looked at me, ripped it out of my hand and proceeded to put it on like lipstick. "No, no, Rosie. That's not lipstick. It's glue!" At that, she threw down the glue stick and ran away to find more books to tear from the shelves. Meanwhile, my boys are saying things like, "Mommy! I need help!" and "Mommy! I have to go pee!" I yell behind me as I chase my daughter, "Sure bud! Be right there!" while I think, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DEALING WITH HERE????!"

Somehow we managed to check out our books without incident and we made our way to the bathroom. My daughter is terrified of the hand dryers in bathrooms but my oldest insists on using them anyway. Each time, she cries. This time was no exception. I comforted her and asked him for the millionth time not to use the thing as we walked out of the bathroom. My three year old bent down to pick up his book and slammed his head into a counter. He screamed. Loudly. Howled, actually. I bent to comfort him and as I wiped his tears, I watched my daughter slowly walking away from me. "Rosie," I said firmly. She smiled her sweetest smile then high tailed it in the other direction. I literally had to run to catch her.

We walked out with a crying three year old, a screaming, wiggling toddler and a six year old trying to negotiate when he could eat the cookie he had just gotten. Now there's a picture for Facebook.

So the next time you see those beautiful pictures on Facebook or Instagram, understand that it is only a moment. We all would rather present the world with all that is a beautiful and perfect in our lives but there is so much that we don't share. Our lives, especially our lives with children, are messy and complicated and stressful and beautiful all at the same time.

If you need a giggle about the craziness of life with kids, check out this video from comedian David Wolfe. Enjoy!

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