Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hold Me Up

"Hold me up!  Hold me up, Mama!" My daughter will say at least 20 times a day. I might be eating lunch, folding laundry or going to the bathroom. Regardless, she wants me to stop what I'm doing and hold her.

This began to feel especially taxing last weekend. We had cleaned out our storage unit (more on that nonsense later) and I was on a mission to restore the house to order. As I shoved a bin into our storage closet I heard, "Hold me up!"
"I'm working, baby girl. Can't hold you this minute," I said offhandedly as I rearranged a huge container of wrapping paper. I heard a sob and turned around to see my little girl dissolved in tears. My husband swooped in to pick her up. "Mommy's busy, baby. I'll hold you." 
"Noooo! Mama hold me up!" This time, she took on a more demanding tone. She wasn't going to take no for an answer.

The wails continued as I finished the storage closet and eventually made my way back to her. "Take a deep breath, love," I said gently. She breathed in deeply, trying to control her sobs (this, by the way, is very very cute.) "Better now, Mama! Hold me up?" I lifted her from my husband's arms and she relaxed into mine, comforted.

I was thinking about the whole interaction later. I love her snuggles and I love that she wants to be with me so much but sometimes it can be so difficult. It can feel like I can't get anything done. It is physically demanding and my tasks (which can feel endless) are constantly interrupted. My thoughts continued on this self-righteous rant until I heard a quiet voice say, "comfort her." I suddenly realized that her love language must be touch. While I would rather hang out and talk or do something fun, she needs touch to feel loved. I decided then to hold her up, even when I didn't want to do it.

At dinner that night, she began listing all the people she loves. "I love Lukey and Doo Doo (Drew). I love Granny and Papa. I love Mommy." 
My husband interjected. "And Mommy loves you too! How do you know Mommy loves you?" 
"She hold me up. She love me."

Sometimes the things our children need are hard to understand. Our children are different than we are. The way that they think, react, feel, and see this life is completely unique to them. Sometimes it feels like they need more than we can give. And yet, we do it. We find the patience, the strength, the understanding, and the love. I want to encourage you today by saying that it's okay to think their needs are crazy, too difficult to take on, annoying or even exhausting. It's okay. We all feel that way sometimes. Take a minute to yourself, make sure your needs are being met then get back in there. Meet them where they are and try and see the world through their eyes. They know you love them - You always hold them up.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Four Goals

"What do you need prayers for today?" I asked the kids after our morning devotional time. My oldest, who always talks first, asked to pray for his Grandpa's lungs to get better. My little one prayed that our friend from church would bring her, "Bobby's lasagna" and my middle, Drew, asked for help for something I didn't even know he was worrying about.

"Could you ask God to be with me during my very first soccer game? Could you ask Him to make sure no one is mean to me or hurts me? And if they do, ask that they give me a hug and then say they are sorry and then be my friend after that?"
"Of course, I will ask God for that, love." I reassured him. We held hands and prayed for health, lasagna and protection and I kissed each of their heads. 

On the day of his soccer game, I prayed his prayer again privately and then I added a bit more. I prayed that he would have an opportunity to shine. You see, my middle child is extraordinary. He's kind, intelligent, gentle and intuitive. He's a natural athlete and friend. And yet he is often overshadowed. His brother speaks for him, answering questions before he has the chance to formulate the words. He has difficulty pronouncing "S" and "Ch" sounds and many people don't understand what he is saying when he finally gets a window to talk. And so I prayed that this would be his moment to be the center of attention. I prayed that he would feel proud of himself and feel supported by all those that love him.

Within the first five minutes, he scored his first goal. He ran all the way down the field then up the bleachers to high five each of us then tripped on his way back down the bleachers to the field. We helped him up, and sent him back down to eventually score three more goals. Each and every time, he would run to us and give us all a high five. 

Near the end of the game, the ball was stuck in a corner and all the kids were trying to kick and get it out. Drew got kicked in the shins and started crying. I perked up, trying to decide if I should go to him. "He's got this," my husband said reassuringly. As the kids began to spread out, I saw a little boy go to him and hug him. "Sorry," he said. "That's okay," my son said as he wiped the snot from his nose. He looked up at me and smiled a tiny smile. His prayer was answered and so was mine.

As my husband helped him buckle his seatbelt he said, "Pretty cool that God answered your prayer out there, huh?" 
"Yeah, it was," he said as he slipped on his headphones. Again, that tiny smile crept across his face. 

Faith isn't something you can teach. Faith is something that fills your heart, like falling in love and knowing you will be loved completely for the rest of your life. Watching my son's faith growing is the most incredibly beautiful thing. Somehow he already knows God loves him and he's seeing Him working in his life. I only hope I can facilitate the growth of that faith so that he knows there will always be someone who loves him as much as I do.

What do your children pray for? Try pointing out how God has answered their prayers this week. It just might help plant a seed of faith.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Great Time

We had signed up for a really cool program called the "Little Naturalist" at a local park and I was excited about bringing the kids. They planned a short lesson, a nature walk to find a specific bird and then an art project. When I called to sign-up, however, they seemed less than welcoming. 

"You do know that the program is for preschoolers. You have a two year old and a seven year old that don't fit in those parameters." 
I took a deep breath, tried to be patient and said, "Yes, but I'm sure they would enjoy it. I'm not worried about it." But she wasn't quite ready to let it go.
"Are you sure you're going to be able to control all three children? Maybe you could bring someone to help you."
Control my children? Was she serious? "Ummm...I will control them as much as it's possible to control three children. I don't need help. I'm with them every day."
She paused for a moment, deciding whether or not to push this further. "If other children in the proper age group sign up, I will have to bump your seven year old's spot."
"Fine. That's fine. Just call if you do."
I hung up feeling very put off. Should I even go? Yes, I decided, we should. Forget her negativity - This is something my kids would love.

I unbuckled my daughter and told them that they needed to be good listeners. I told them it was important to follow directions then set them loose on the playground near the nature center. Just as the class was about to begin, I corralled them to the pavilion. The boys sat down to listen but my daughter wasn't too interested. "Snack?" she asked. "Me, eat?"

I, of course, had left the snacks in the car. "Sure, babe. Let's go. Boys, I'll be right back," I whispered.
We trekked to the car and back to the pavilion to have a snack. But then all the kids wanted a snack. Every preschooler perked up at the sight of string cheese and began interrupting the teacher. "Can I have a snack?" And "I'm hungry too!" I mouthed an apology as I scooped up my daughter.

"Pee pee now!" My little girl announced, dropping her string cheese and clutching her privates. 
"Okay! Okay baby. Let's go!" We hiked to the bathrooms and, thankfully, she made it. But as we made our exit, I realized the kids were no longer in the pavilion.
I spotted my four year old tailing the group and hustled to meet up with them. "He was really worried that you wouldn't come back," one mom confided in me. Great.
"Buddy, I will always come back. Let's go find the scrub jays!" The boys held my hands to be sure I meant it and my daughter begged to be held. "I can't, love. Let's just walk a little bit, okay?!" I heard my voice taking on that high pitch quality that only comes out when things get stressful.
"Mommy! Wait! I can't keep my shoes on!" my four year old yelled. He struggled to put his new flip flops back on and I muttered under my breath about letting him wear these shoes. Poor kid can't walk ten feet in them without them falling off. 
"Just go barefoot, honey. You'll be okay on the sandy trail."
"Umm, I would be careful," said yet another helpful mom. "There are lots of prickly patches of grass on this trail." Great.

Finally, we made it to the end of our adventure. We came in covered in sweat and 100 yards behind everybody else but we had found two scrub jays and a gopher tortoise. My oldest had taken countless pictures and he was breathless in his excitement. "Great time," my daughter said quietly as we rounded the corner to the pavilion. "What did you say, love?" I asked her, thinking I had heard her incorrectly.

"Me...Great time. Tanks, Mommy." She wrapped me in a hug and suddenly the experience was reframed. It didn't matter if the organizer thought I couldn't "control" my children. It didn't matter what the other mothers thought of me. What mattered was that my kids had a great time. We had made a memory together, even if it was filled with craziness. It's something to look back on and laugh about together. It was an opportunity to learn something new.

If there is someone in your life that is questioning your decisions or making your feel insecure about your abilities, throw their words away. Embrace what is important to you and what you know God is calling you to do. Their opinions are just that - opinions. They do not define you. So go on, get out there and have a "great time" today. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Show Me

"I think I am stuck in a negative place about Luke," I shared with my husband.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I am working really hard to say the right things but I'm thinking all these really critical thoughts. I don't want to feel that way about him."
"So don't. He's a great kid."

Once again, Mr. Cut-to-the-Chase makes it clear. I let that percolate in the back of my brain for the rest of the day then prayed about it in the morning. I prayed that God show me all of my son's goodness. I prayed that I would see my son's light and sweetness shining brighter than all the things that frustrated me. "I know you made him perfect, Lord. You designed him for a purpose. Help me to guide him toward that. Help me to see all the incredible beauty in him."

I got ready then we all headed outside to do some science experiments about wind. "I'll be right back!" My son yelled as he ran inside. Frustrated that he was leaving at the beginning of a lesson, I sighed. But then I was reminded of my prayer and waited to react. 

"Here you go guys!" He said with a broad smile. "It's so hot that I thought everybody could use a popscicle!" 

Time and time again throughout the day, I saw his kind and generous spirit. He got a snack and a glass of milk for me while I went through my email. He offered to read books to his sister when I was busy teaching Drew. And at the end of the day, he helped his brother when I couldn't.

"Drew, I know you're sad about going to bed, love. But it's time," I said gently.
"But why does Lukey get to stay up?!" He wailed from the bottom bunk.
"Because he took a nap this afternoon and he isn't tired just yet." Even as I gave the reason, I knew it would just lead to more arguing, more crying. "Bud, I love you. Get some rest." I started to walk away, hoping that would take the wind out of his sails.
I felt a small tap on my leg. "Mommy, is it okay if I go talk to him for a minute?" Luke asked.
"Sure, bud." I watched as he climbed into bed next to his brother.
"Drew, I love you," he said quietly. "I promise you won't be alone long. See this clock? When it says 8:00, I will be here with you. It's okay. Everything is okay."
"Okay, Lukey. G'night."
"Night Drew!"

I have realized that my husband is right. How we see the people we love is a choice. We can see them through eyes of love or we can focus on their faults. I am not saying that we can let bad behavior or rudeness or hurtful things slide; I am simply saying that when they do happen, we can give that person the benefit of the doubt. We can reach across the aisle and try to understand from their perspective. We can look for their goodness and all the joy they bring to our lives. I am so thankful for the reminder.

Is there someone in your life that is bugging you? Ask God to help you see the light they bring to their lives. Look for it. Embrace it and be thankful for it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Coming Home

We listed our house roughly five months ago with dreams of a big yard and a neighborhood overflowing with young families. We spent those five months in my parent's home and they spent those five months in ours. It was a crazy arrangement and yet, it taught us so much about ourselves and what really matters to us.

We left with fifteen or twenty boxes and a pile of clothes, put the rest in storage and figured we would be out of my parent's house within a month or two. But the weeks piled up, one right after another, as we waited for the perfect buyer. My parents advertised, had open houses, brought other agents and brokers and cleaned our house before each and every showing. They worked harder than I've ever seen them work to get us to our goal of a sold house. Each person that looked at our home would say, "It is so beautiful but..." The "buts" varied, however they were enough to deter a buyer.

We began to feel discouraged but tried to look for the silver lining. There must be something God is trying to teach us, we would say to each other. And so, every once in awhile, we would bring up something that might be the reason for this experience. "I think it's happening so that we can learn true patience for God's timing," one of us would say. Or, "I'm sure it's happening so that we can build relationships with all these great neighborhood kids." Later, my husband brought this small thing to my attention.

"Do you even remember what we have in storage?"
I giggled a little. "Not really. I just know my winter coats are in there. And my sewing machine. Those are the only two things I miss."
"Me either," he said, clearly deep in thought. "I can't say I miss a single thing. I can't believe we are paying $150 a month to store stuff we don't even need or want."

This conversation continued in various forms throughout our time at my parent's home and when it came time to move back home, we decided on a strategy. "Let's just move the stuff from mom and dad's and we'll see what we really need. We'll try it out," my husband suggested.

We have been home a month now and the only thing I have wanted out of storage is my sewing machine. My house is a thousand times easier to clean, my home feels calm and ordered and I don't miss having a houseful of stuff to take care of. We have realized that we can focus more time on each other and we're less apt to spend money on all the little things that grab our attention at Target or in our email inboxes. (Unless I find some amazing deal that is irresistible on shoes or something else I can't live without. Nobody's perfect, right?) What's more, we're at peace with what we have. We are learning to resist the temptation of buying "the next best thing". We're content. And to me, there is no better gift.

Are you struggling with wanting things you don't have? Do you feel that your life will be better if you just get that next best thing? Take stock of what you have. How can you foster a feeling of contentment?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Power Struggle

As I mentioned in a previous post, my oldest and I have been in the midst of a power struggle. I have tried all kinds of things to smooth things out. I have tried more one on one time, more affirmations, harsher consequences and looser consequences. Nothing was really changing.

"I can't do this, babe. Why does he have to control everything? Why does he care what color Rosie colors with or the fact that I said '7:30' instead of '7:29'?" I fell back into the couch, exhausted from a day of arguing.
"Because he's a pain right now," my husband said as he scrolled through his phone.
"I know but why?"
He put his phone down, ready to tackle the problem with me. "Well, he's the oldest. He wants to be in charge. He's a leader with some rough edges."
"No kidding."
"Check online - See if you find anything about strong willed kids. He can't be the only one."
I grabbed my iPad and googled "controlling and bossy children," feeling just a little bit like I was calling my kid a name. Immediately I was flooded with words like, "Your child is a born leader but it's up to you to show him how." No help there. But then I found a website about bossiness in gifted children that completely changed by perspective. 

It said, "When most people think of bossiness, they probably think first of control. It is certainly possible that a gifted child may just want to be in control of a situation much like anyone else. However, this is not the typical cause of bossiness in gifted children." I had always thought that the problem was a need for control. I read on and learned that he is actually seeing interactions play out and developing complex rules for games we play or things we cook or pictures we color. He's simply trying to execute his plan. They recommended giving the child some leeway to make rules but also sharing some information about what makes a really great leader. Guide them so that they know that other people might have great ideas as well even if they seem simpler at first glance.

The next day, I tried it. "Hey bud, we still have some toys to organize in your closet. Here are the bins. Could you come up with a plan and get it cleaned up sometime today? I just need it done before bedtime." Without the restrictions of timing or method, his eyes brightened. 
"Can I start right now?" 
"If you want to. Sure. Let me know if you need any help."
The closet was completely organized within an hour. He proudly gave his brother and me a tour and showed us where to find things when we needed him.
"Wow. Wonderful job! Drew wanted to play street hockey so let's give him a chance to make up the rules of this game."
"Okay! Drew - How should we play?!"

My son felt respected and challenged when I gave him real responsibility without micromanaging him. Because of that, he was more open to listening to his brother about the hockey game rules. I have realized that it's one more step of letting him grow into the person I know he's meant to be. He won't grow if I hold him back. I have to give him a little bit more respect and become a little bit more open to his ideas on how to do things. It won't be easy - I have a bossy streak in me too - but I am going to try. I know he will do amazing things if I just get out of the way.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sense of Adventure

"Mommy, you make everything seem like an adventure. Even if we're just going outside or taking a walk you make it really fun," my oldest shared during dinner. I was taken aback by this pronouncement. This was coming from the child that wants everything exactly the same every single day. The one who fights me on every new meal, new experience or even a new type of art project appreciates new adventures?

"Wow, love. That makes me feel really wonderful. I feel that way - Like everything has the potential to be a new adventure. I just didn't realize that you appreciated that about me. Thank you for telling me!" I reached over to hug him and he fell into the embrace.
"You just always know how to make things more cool," he said as I held him close. I kissed the top of his head, grateful for this moment.

I worry, like we all do, that I don't do enough. I worry that we don't spend enough time on academics or enough time playing. I worry about what they eat and how much they sleep. I worry that my discipline is too harsh or too lax. But time and time again, a small voice reminds me that it is much more powerful to be than to do. 

I am myself with my children. I am imperfect. I cry when things get overwhelming. I say the right thing sometimes and the wrong thing sometimes. I need time alone and I need time with my family and I need time with my friends. I have really bad days and really good days. Just like you. 

My son reminded me that our children somehow are able to see the big picture. They don't focus on all the times we don't do it right. They focus on the averages and appreciate it when we're real. They learn that it's okay to be human when we let down our guard and tell them that we're having a rough day. They see our hearts more clearly than we do and appreciate all the little things that make us unique. They love unconditionally.

If you are feeling especially hard on yourself today, try to zoom out and look at the big picture. Are you a great parent most of the time? What do you do really well? If you're children are old enough, ask them what they appreciate most about you. You might be surprised how much they can see.

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