Saturday, September 17, 2016

Seeing Eye to Eye

"Luke, you and I don't always see eye to eye. But I love that you always share your perspective with me and that you are open to listening to mine. We are stronger because of it," said my husband at dinner. I watched my son begin to relax and accept the compliment. Their day had not been filled with easy camaraderie. It had been filled with conflict.

I was getting ready for the day and, like always, three kids and a dog followed me into our bedroom. Rosie spent her time digging through my makeup and putting eyeliner on her cheeks and blush on her lips. The boys chased the puppy under and around my bed squealing with laughter. Sometimes this makes me crazy but this time I just delighted in their joy and innocence. My husband, however, is very sensitive about protecting my time. He opened the bedroom door and announced. "Everybody out! Mommy is getting ready!"

The protests began before the first sentence came out of his mouth. "But Daddy! We were just playing!" Rosie started crying in earnest and fell in a heap on the floor. My husband was not going to put up with their disobedience.

"Get up, Rosie. Out of here. Boys, out-out-out!" He said as he picked up our daughter and ushered the boys and dog back out to the living room. 

I took a deep breath. These situations are hard for me. I tend to defend the kids and make my husband feel as if I'm not backing him up. I weighed the facts. I didn't mind them being in there but they should always be obedient to their dad. He shocked them with his firm voice and so I felt bad for them and worried about their feelings. I decided to hang back and let them work in out. 

My husband took the dog outside and my oldest was in my bedroom within ten seconds of the door closing with tears in his eyes. "What did Daddy yell at me?! Why does he have to be so mean!?"

"I'm sorry your feelings are hurt, love. You need to go talk to Daddy about it. He's a great listener. He asked you to stay out of our bedroom and I'm going to back him up. Please go out there and wait for him."

"But I want you to be there! I'm scared to talk to him!"

"I'll stand there, but you do the talking. Daddy loves you. He wants to hear what you have to say."

But my husband wasn't ready to listen. He simply said that Luke should have listened and that he wasn't yelling. Luke just thought he was yelling. It was a misunderstanding. Period. He was annoyed that I was standing there and so, knowing that my husband is always better with time to think, I left them both to stew.

A few minutes later I heard the first attempt at peace. "Buddy, I really don't think I was yelling but I don't want to upset you. How can I ask you differently next time?"

My seven year old looked up to meet his daddy's eyes. "You could just say, "Hey Luke, can you please get out of our room so Mommy can get ready? That would be a lot nicer."

"Alright, bud. I'll give it a shot."

Watching two people you love argue is a difficult place and yet, when they reconcile, it makes you realize that sometimes the fighting brings them closer. They were both able to state their case and my son learned what it means to reach across the aisle for a resolution. He learned that his dad is man enough to let go of his own point for the sake of the relationship. He learned that telling somebody that they upset you is much better than harboring anger and hurt. He never would have learned that had I fought that battle for him. As a mom, it's not an easy thing to step out of the way but I know he will be a stronger and better man if I show him all he is capable of doing on his own.

Are you ever tempted to intervene during conflict? Are there times when it would be better let them work it out on their own?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

You Sick

My daughter has just begun to pretend. I love this phase. I love all the scenarios they dream up and playing along with the twists and turns of the story line. My little girl seems to gravitate toward all things medical. She has a vet kit and a doctor kit and spends a lot of time making her stuffed animals or family members "better". Yesterday, I got to be sick.

I had woken up at 6:30, walked the dog, gotten ready, helped with breakfast and was getting our school stuff laid out when she demanded that I lay down. "You sick! It time to rest, silly!"
"I'm not sick, baby. Don't worry," I said, not realizing what she was doing. My mind was only half on the conversation as I reread my lesson plan for today, making sure I had all of our materials ready to go.

"Just pretend! C'mon, Mommy! You sick!" she said coaxingly.

Honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was stop what I was doing. My mind already had the checklist in place and I wanted to get it all done. It can feel like I can't even complete a thought without an interruption and I sometimes just want to finish what I started. I took a deep breath and weighed the situation. Was five minutes of pretend really too much to ask? No. No it wasn't. "I do feel sick, Dr. Rosie! I think I have a fever!" I said as I laid down on the couch. Her face lit up and she began digging in her doctor kit.

"Let's check your temp-a-ture," she said slowly and deliberately as she laid her hand on my forehead. "Here, Mommy. Let's cover you up. You freezing!" She pulled a tiny square of gingham from her picnic set and laid it gently over me. She looked at me lovingly and started stroking my hair out of my eyes. "There. Better, Mommy? All better?"

I started to tear up. This worried her immediately. "You crying? Why you cry, Mommy?"

"It's okay, baby. You are just doing such a good job taking care of me. I am so thankful for you."

"Awww! I love you, Mommy. So much!" She wrapped me in a hug then moved on to take the blood pressure of my pinkie. My mind, however, stayed in that moment. I hadn't realized how much I needed someone to stop and see me and my needs. Even though it was pretend, it woke me up. It reminded me that I'm not helping anyone by burning myself out. I don't have to constantly be moving and serving. Sometimes I need to tell the people that love me that I need a break. I need to watch some silly 90's movie in the bedroom with a bowl of ice cream. I need to admit that I need a hug - a long one - and a listening ear. I need to add myself to the list of people that need to be taken care of. And so do you.

Take a minute today to think about what you need. Are you tired? Maybe you can put on a movie and relax for a few. Do you need to get out of the house? Tell your spouse - They will help you find a way. Your needs are just as important as everyone else's. Take care of yourself today. Deal?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Abundance


Joy | Exercises of gratitude for things of this world cannot produce because joy is not a fruit of our work/circumstances/ourselves. Joy is a fruit of God’s Spirit. It is a manifestation of who He is, a result of the power of Christ in us. We are commanded to “rejoice,” “be joyful” and consider trials as “pure joy.” Because Jesus is always worthy of rejoicing. If we label our lives as joyless, it is due to our misplaced hope/ pleasure in things of the world rather than the joy of our salvation.:
I am so thankful that God doesn't give up until I understand what He is trying to tell me. He repeats himself over and over again until I get it, whether it's through music, a verse or just a conversation with a loving friend. Over the past few weeks, I have felt that He is reminding me to be aware of the abundance in my life. I read the verse above one morning and it jumped out at me. My husband used the word abundant later that day when describing the amount of clothes our children have in their closets. I heard a story on the radio a few days later about a food drive for kids that don't have enough to eat over the weekend and the DJ said, "share your abundance with those that truly need it." So I started to pay attention.


We have already invested much of our year shaving our finances and ridding ourselves of the clutter in our home. This year had been about giving things up. It had been about sacrifices. Or was it? I watched my kids eat three different breakfasts over the course of the morning and felt thankful for the food in our home. I walked through our playroom and, instead of feeling annoyed about the toys strewn all over the floor, I was aware of the abundance of toys my children had been given. We have more than what we need of everything.

But abundance isn't just about stuff. It's about the gift of our relationships. I began to think about the incredible friendships I've been given this year. I thought about the growth I have seen in myself and in my marriage. I realized, once again, what a gift it is to stay home and teach my children every day (even on the crazy days!). And then this beautiful reverie was interrupted. 

"We need to cut back a bit more," my husband said as he flipped the pork chop he was frying. 
My head shot up from my phone. "What do you mean?" I asked, suddenly feeling defensive.
"Our spending is out of control," he said plainly. "It's not big stuff, but all the little stuff is adding up. It's not just you, babe. I'm a spender too. We probably should just go back to cash so we know our limits." He smiled turning to look at me. Instead of an agreeable wife, he found a dark storm.
"Our spending is not out of control! I barely spend any money ever!" I took a deep breath, knowing I was behaving like a spoiled child. "Let's just take a look at the account."

I pulled up our bank account on the computer and was stunned at the numbers staring back at me. Our spending had doubled over the last three months. I wish I could say I was contrite but I wasn't. I was angry. I felt that I had already given up so much. How could we cut back more without keeping my kids out of the activities they wanted, eliminating date nights or getting rid of other things that helped us all maintain our sanity? I told my husband I needed to let all this sit for awhile.

The next morning as I prayed I heard the quiet voice in my heart say, "abundance". Immediately I began to feel more peace. I realized that God had been preparing my heart for that conversation. He knows my weaknesses and wanted to remind me to stop focusing on the sacrifices and start seeing the gifts that he has blessed us with. We can still do all the free activities for kids. We can still have date nights under the stars with a bottle of wine. I haven't lost anything. The Lord's abundance never changes, no matter what my bank account says. And for that, I am thankful.

Is there a certain message that you keep hearing? Listen to it. It just might be God's voice leading you.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gimme a Shot

My two year old has recently decided that naps are for babies. "Me no sleep. No need nap, Mommy!" She assures me as she rubs her little raccoon eyes. "Oh really," I say casually. "Well, you can always just rest for awhile like the big boys. Just make sure you close your eyes."
"I just read. Me read, okay?" She asks.
"You can read for a little while, love and then you need to lay down and rest.
"Sure, Mommy. Sure!" She smiles a winning smile as she snuggles into her bed with a princess book.

And then she doesn't sleep. She reads, jumps in her bed, sings, talks to her Pooh bear then finally screams, "Mommy! I'm awake!"

I was patient the first two days but on the third day, I knew how badly she needed to sleep. She had spent most of the morning crying and it was so stressful. I decided to take a tough mom approach. I marched into her room determined to lay down the law.
"Rosie, lay down. Enough of this. You have to sleep," I said firmly.
"You scared me!" She wailed and fell into a fit of tears. 
"I didn't mean to scare you. I love you. Now go to sleep." I closed the door gently and headed back downstairs.

This whole routine repeated itself another time as my oldest son looked on. "Mommy, why don't you let me give it a shot?" He asked. I was frustrated with the situation (Mommy needed a BREAK!) and so I told him to go ahead. I turned on the monitor and watched in awe as the scene unfolded.

"Hi baby girl! Hi! Are you okay?" He said gently.
"Me sad!"
"Oh, I'm sorry you are sad. Would you like me to read you a book? Is this one good?"
They began to read together and I heard her take a deep breath, visibly calming down. "Okay, Rosie," he said as he closed the book. "It's time for your nap. Here, let me cover you up. Do you need Pooh bear?"
"Yes pwease!" He handed her the bear gently and she said, "Tanks, Luke."
I smiled and opened up my book. Two minutes later the crying began again. I sighed deeply, feeling the frustration build again. And then I heard her door crack open. 
"Uh oh! What happened?" He asked her.
"I have a boo boo!" 
"Let me get you a bandaid!" He ran to the bathroom and bandaged her scratch from two days ago as if it was brand new. "Better?"
"Better! Tanks, Luke"
"Your welcome! Night night!"

And guess what? That baby girl went right to sleep. My son taught me something that day. He taught me that it's always better to be kind and merciful. It's always better to seek to understand and meet someone where they are instead of telling them what they should do or feel. He reminded me the value of selfless love. I am so thankful.

When our children frustrate us, we have a choice. We can act out in anger and annoyance or with mercy and kindness. I pray that you have time to take a deep breath today and choose the loving route, no matter what. Will you say the same prayer for me?



Friday, August 12, 2016

Escape Plan

"What are you guys doing?" My husband asked with a smile. He had found them huddled together laughing on the bathroom floor. 
"Planning!" My oldest said then turned his attention back to his brother.

Fifteen minutes later, the boys raided the drawer filled with printer paper and ran to the dining room table with markers and paper in hand. They laughed and whispered as they went through page after page of printer paper.

"What in the world are they doing?" I asked my husband.
"Being brothers," he replied.

When the "plans" were finally complete, I asked them to tell me about them. They were strangely quiet about it. "Oh, they are just escape vehicles we are designing," my four year old shared. 
"Escape vehicles, huh? Why do they need to escape?" They looked at each other as if I had asked the stupidest question ever asked. 
My oldest decided to enlighten me. "Everything! Volcanoes! The ocean! Poop! TNT!"
Obviously.
It was then that the stories began to get richer and richer. What had appeared to me as scribbles were apparently elaborate adventures. "See this guy, Mommy?" My four year old began. "He's a monster truck and he's got HUGE tires and he drops TNT like poop so that nobody can follow him! Somebody tried to get him but he was too fast. He went ZOOM then BOOM and nobody..NOBODY would follow him! He's too tough!"
"And my guy lost his train car because the coupling broke," my seven year old explained. "But he figured out how to make a rope into a new coupling and he lassoed the train car RIGHT BEFORE it plunged into the ocean!"

They went on like this, drawing after drawing, and I was amazed at their creativity. They bounced ideas off each other, making their stories and vehicles and adventures weave in and out to make something totally new. I just sat back and listened less to their words and more to their enthusiasm and camaraderie. They were more than brothers at this moment. They were friends.

As I write this, my boys are fighting about who gets to rip apart a puzzle my daughter worked for twenty minutes to put together. They will fight in a moment about whose turn it is to pick a show to watch or "that cup" that they must have or else they will surely die. But this is the fabric of brotherhood and friendship. They are filled with some moments that are rich and full of love and laughter and others that involve more bickering than connecting. 

Today I will choose to focus on the hope I have for the friendship they are building rather than the fighting. Will you do the same? Watch for the moments your children connect rather than fight. Watch for their laughter, the way they help each other, the way they work together. Tell them how wonderful it is to see. Your heart will be grateful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Better Choice

Let me start by saying I love our puppy. I really do. But he is a puppy and therefore gets into a lot of trouble. My son captured this Kodak moment when I was trying to play a game with my kids and Charlie kept biting my ear. These kinds of things happen all day long and most of the time, I roll with it. But after my husband had been out of town for a week and I had been running the show solo, I lost it.

My husband had gotten home at 2 AM and I tiptoed around trying to get the kids and myself ready for Charlie's 8 AM vet appointment. By 7:15, one kid was dressed, one was half dressed and not making any effort to finish the job and my baby girl was still in jammies. I hadn't even brushed my teeth. The entire morning had been one interruption after another. As I poured coffee, Charlie peed on the rug. When I took him out to pee, my middle child fell and started to cry. You've had that kind of morning, right? I set out breakfast for them hoping to keep them busy while I threw on a coat of mascara and some lip gloss but before I could put toothpaste on my toothbrush, I heard screaming.

"AAHHH!!! CHARLIE IS BITING ME!"
"AAAAHHHHHH!! CHARLIE IS ON THE TABLE! HE HAS MY CEREAL!"

I threw down my toothbrush (so mature, right?) then marched out to the kitchen table. I saw upturned cereal bowls, juice dripping from the table to the floor and a lab puppy standing on the table happily lapping up milk and Golden Grahams. I felt a rage rise up. "That's it!" I grabbed the dog by the collar and pulled him down. "I've had it with you!!" I locked him in the lanai, left the mess and I went to compose myself in my room. I rarely act out in anger and I was ashamed of myself and frustrated with the situation. Tears started to fall. 
"What's wrong?" My husband asked groggily.
"I've just had it! I've had it." 

He jumped out of bed to help out which made me feel better and worse at the same time. The whole purpose of this nonsense was to let him sleep. He corralled the kids telling them that I needed a few minutes then began cleaning up. I spent a few minutes calming down then went out and found my son, Drew, crying.

"I'm so sorry guys. I wasn't angry at you. I was frustrated with the dog. But even he doesn't deserve to be yelled at. I lost control and I shouldn't have. I'm so sorry."
They hugged me fiercely, glad to have their sane mother back again. I saw my husband out of the corner of my eye grinning a bit at my outburst. I felt my heart begin to lighten. Drew pulled away from the hug and said, "Mommy, next time, praying would be a better choice than getting angry, right?"
This wisdom from a four year old blew me away. "Yes, baby. Yes it would. Would you pray for me now?"
"Okay...Dear God, help Mommy to remember that you are her friend when she is mad. Help her to pray instead of yell. We know you are stronger than anyone in the whole world and you can fix anything. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Amen. God is so much more powerful than our emotions. He will fight every battle for us, no matter how small.  If you have something that is making you feel crazy today, say a prayer before and as you deal with it. Drew is right. God is stronger than anyone in the whole world. 

P.S. He's also the very best at forgiveness. If you messed up today like I did, please know that we are both already forgiven. XO



Friday, July 29, 2016

I Will Not Help

We all want our kids to succeed. We want them to be happy and fulfilled. And we often think we know the shortcut to that happiness. Help. We want to help them because we love them. My oldest and my youngest naturally tell me when to stop helping. "Don't worry, Mommy. I got it," my two year old will say as she struggles to carry something heavy or put her straw in her juice box. But my middle child continues to accept and expect help for everything. I have begun to see that I can help him more by saying no.

"Mommy!! I need help!" 
I heard my four year old screaming and ran to the garage to find him with tears in his eyes. "What happened, bud? You okay?"
"I can't do it!" He said, kicking his workbench. 
I relaxed knowing he wasn't hurt but then began to feel the familiar wave of frustration that fills both of us during these interactions. "Can't do what, love?"
"I can't build the skate park!"
"Skate park?"
"I'm building a skate park out of wood and it won't stay together!"
"Hmmm...What could you change to make it work better?" 
This kind of statement gets my oldest thinking but only serves to frustrate my middle further.
"I don't know! You need to fix it!"
Crossroads. To fix or not to fix? I took a deep breath and prepared for the tantrum. "You've got this, buddy. Maybe you could take a break then get back to it. Sometimes your brain solves problems while you are busy doing other things." My groundbreaking and insightful words were drowned out by his wailing. He was now on the garage floor sobbing.
"I can't do it! I don't know how!"
I bent to kiss his tear streaked cheek. "Yes you can and you will. I love you. I'll be right inside if you need a hug and some encouragement."

He followed me inside, clearly having given up. I sighed and said a quick prayer that he would try again. We all piled on the couch for our kids devotional and then some reading and a video about Thomas Edison. The movie showed Thomas Edison trying hundreds of different filaments for months at a time to try and get the light bulb to work. "Wow, Drew. Look how many times he failed before he got it right. Even the guy that invented the light bulb got frustrated. But can you imagine if he had quit?" I asked him.
We began to imagine life without light bulbs. "No closet light at night when we get scared!" "No headlights on cars!" "REALLY dark nights!"

An hour or so later, Drew emerged from the garage smiling. "Mommy! Mommy! I figured it out! I had an idea and I tried it and it worked! Come check it out!"

We all ran out to see his creation and it really was cool. His smile was brighter than I've ever seen. He was so proud of himself. "You didn't give up, bud, and it was worth the effort. You figured out how to make your own toy! I love it!" He hugged me hard and I said a quiet "thank you" for this little boy. 

I pray that saying no will give him the gift of perseverance and confidence. I pray that I can continue to say "no" so that he can see himself the way I see him: intelligent, capable, strong and creative. And Lord? Could we cut back on the tantrums? Thanks.

How could you help your children by helping less? What are they capable of doing with just a bit more practice?

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