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!"
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.


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?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Sickness and Health

I was sick twice last week. Twice. The first time I was throwing up. The second time I had a cold. Meanwhile, my husband got the stomach thing and my oldest got the cold and we were all a hot mess. But there were blessings amidst all the Kleenex and the biggest one was my husband.

"I'll be home at lunch babe," he said as he rubbed my back, looking worried.
"I'll be okay. I'll just put on a movie for them," I said as I ran to the bathroom to throw up my Gatorade breakfast. I wanted to believe that I would be fine. I'm a mom. I'm tough. I've got this. Except I didn't have it at all.

The barrage of requests from my kids was overwhelming. They were hungry and the sight of food was repulsive. They wanted to chase each other and movement made me nauseous to watch. I finally turned on the movie, hoping for stillness. Our new lab puppy, Charlie, wanted none of it. He worked his way through the living room chewing up markers, the couch, the rug and any kids toy he could find. Each time, I would need to get up and give him one of his toys.

I laid back down, closed my eyes and suddenly felt a poke in the eye. "Wake up, Mommy!" My two year old yelled. "No sweep! Great movie, Mommy. You wake up."
"Honey, mommy is tired and sick. I need to close my eyes. You enjoy the movie, baby girl."
Tears flowed. "No sweep, Mommy! It scary! Hold me up?"
I gave up and texted my mom an SOS. I asked her to come after lunch when my husband went back to work and she quickly agreed.

My husband arrived home with soup, crackers and movies. I fell into his chest for a hug, grabbed my loot and headed for the bedroom to sleep.

When I woke up three hours later, I found him working on the lanai with a pool full of our kids and neighbors. I watched from the living room for a few minutes as he fielded emails and phone calls, watched the kids' "cool tricks" and grabbed a wayward water wing out of the puppy's mouth. He seemed to balance it all seamlessly and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I opened the door. "Hey babe! I thought mom was coming so that you could get back to work?"
"I told her to go home. I wanted to take care of you." It's no wonder I love this man.

A few days later, my oldest son said to my husband, "Daddy, I love that you are the kind of Daddy that stays with us when Mommy is sick. Instead of going back to work, you took care of all of us. I love that." My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. He had not only given me everything I needed and more, he had taught our son an invaluable lesson. Family first. I hope it's one that he never forgets. 

Is there something that you need help with this week? Don't be too tough - Ask for the help you need and watch what happens. Receive graciously. By doing so, you will be giving and receiving a gift.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Celebrate Calm

My oldest child and I are slowly but surely figuring out how to minimize the amount of conversations that cause us to lock horns. I attended the most helpful workshop I've ever attended at a recent homeschool convention. It was given by the owner of Celebrate Calm and it felt as if he was speaking directly to me. He is the parent of a strong-willed child and he has developed a methodology that helps parents to manage their emotions but also gets results from kids that want everything to be done their way. It centers around the idea that the parent has to stay calm but in control. This week, I had an opportunity to try some of this stuff out.

"Hey bud! You can play with the hose but you need to turn it way down," I said to my oldest.
"Why?" He said, his eyes shooting up and his heels digging in. 
Take a deep breath. This doesn't need to escalate. "Because the water costs money, bud. Turn it down."
"But I don't want to turn it down. You said I could use the hose. And it doesn't cost that much money, right? I mean, it's just water!" 
He continued to spray the hose full blast, confident that his bullet proof argument had swayed me. I tried to tamp down the need to just rip the thing out of his hand and spray him in the face with it (Is that over sharing?) "Okay, sure. You can keep it running full blast. When I get the bill, I can just split it with you. Cool?"
His eyes shot up again, this time with a look that measured my seriousness. I smiled back at him. "No big deal, bud. You have twenty bucks saved. That should probably cover it." And I meant it. If he wanted to pay for it, I was fine with it. He sensed this immediately.
"Umm, actually I can just turn it down. That's fine. I mean, I don't really need that much water." He laughed nervously and checked my face again.
"Whatever you want to do, bud," I said as I went back to my book, unruffled and cheering silently for this small victory.

I'm realizing that he needs to make the choice himself. I'm realizing that I have the power to give him acceptable choices. "You want to create a bubble solution in the middle of the kitchen? Sure, you just have to clean it all up before you play with it. Or you could just do it outside and avoid that nonsense." Easy choice, right? He's feeling empowered if a little puzzled by my new attitude. He's waiting for me to be upset. He's preparing an argument twenty steps ahead but I'm cutting him off at the pass. He's way smarter than me; there is no use arguing with him. He would win every time. So I'm choosing to back off, be loving, give him space when he's angry and give him more choices. And suddenly he's hugging me more and asking me to play with him more. We're laughing at inside jokes instead of playing a verbal game of King of the HIll. I'm not sure how long all this will work but I do know it's nice to have my boy back. 

Do you have a strong willed child? Check out Celebrate Calm or just begin to see the relationship as more important than the win. Give them choices but make sure you're okay with whichever option he decides to take. Our strong willed children will be the CEO's, the world changers, the innovators, the inventors. Love them for their strength and give them opportunities to use it in meaningful ways. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures of the NICU Babies

I love teacher supplies. Even before I homeschooled, I would buy up pretty pens and cute stickers and fun notebooks every time the back to school stuff appeared. The other day I found some blank books in the dollar bin at Target and brought them home for my kids. I thought it might be fun to do their creative writing in "real" books instead of a boring worksheet. I filed them in our little office to use in the fall. But my kids had other plans.

I walked into the office to find all twelve blank books splayed across the floor. "Okay Drew! My cover is done! It's called the Lonely Diesel Engine!" 
I looked down at my oldest's blocky writing that spelled, "Lonle Dezel Enjen". "Oooh, I'm intrigued! I can't wait to find out why he's lonely and if it turns out okay."
"Don't worry, it does, Mommy," he said as he stopped to pat my leg. "He'll find friends. You'll see!" He turned back to his project, smiling and planning.

"What's your story going to be about, Drew?"
Drew's face lit up as an idea formed in his head. "The Adventures of the NICU Babies!!" He yelled as if he was announcing the latest super hero series. 
"Very cool ideas, both of you! Drew, want me to help you write your story down?" I asked.

Before I could find a pen, he started regaling the adventures of the babies' first trip to outer space. My favorite part reads, "The NICU babies all took turns flying the spaceship and after that they were better than the guy who taught them to fly! And then they went down to their moms and all had a bottle of warm milk." He spent twenty minutes or so illustrating each page with stick figures and rockets and had an idea for their next adventure before he was even done. "Let's do lots of stories about the NICU babies!" He yelled as he ran to show me the finished product.

As I reflected on those thirty minutes, I saw so many cool things happening. First, they wanted to create. I didn't need to make them. I just had to provide the tools and watch what happened next. Second, it's amazing to to realize that they are listening. You see, just this week I did a presentation to their VBS about the amazing strength of the babies in the NICU. I shared with the kids one of High Risk Hope's mottos, "You're never too small to make a big difference" and told them that when they help other people, they are our greatest super heroes. My four year old internalized this and actually made the babies into super heroes. How cool is that?

So, if you're feeling pressured by Pinterest pins about STEM learning or endless enrichment activities, remember that our kids are driven to learn. Give them the tools to create. Expose them to messages about good character. Sit back and watch what happens. And stay tuned for the next "Adventures of the NICU Babies!"

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