Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sharing is Caring...Most of the Time

"Mama!  I have a booger!" my three year old yelled from the backseat.  I peered back to see him proudly holding a giant booger on the tip of of his finger.  Nice.  

"Oh man, buddy!  Let me get you a kleenex."  I rooted around in my bag but I couldn't seem to find my pack of kleenex.  I did find toddler underwear (a must), receipts from everything I have purchased in the past year and four chocolate chip granola bars.  Visions of what might happen to the booger flooded my brain as I searched in vain.  Boogers on the window.  Boogers smeared on his car seat.  Boogers in his mouth..."Just don't eat it, okay buddy?" I said, hoping to choose the most likely scenario.

Shocked that I would suggest something so disgusting, he immediately replied with, "Mama!  I don't eat boogers.  That gross!  Who eats boogers?"

My husband tried to hold back a smile.  "Luke eats his boogers, don't you, Luke?"  

My oldest had no shame.  "Yeah, I really like 'em.  Salty," he replied.

My husband and I fell into laughter and a series of, "Oh that is so gross," and "Buddy you really shouldn't eat your boogers!" but my considerate three year old had a different line of thinking.

"You can have my booger if you want, Lukie," he said as he extended the mass of snot to his brother.

"Nah, that's okay, Drew.  I only eat mine."

Disgusting?  Yes.  But thoughtful?  Absolutely.  When my three year old realized his brother enjoyed something that he had, he was willing to share it.  You have to appreciate the love in that gesture.

Do you have anything that you can share with someone you love today?  An article that pertains to their interest, a shirt you no longer wear or maybe an inspirational quote?  By all means, do.  Just don't share your boogers.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I Have Bad Days, Too

It was time to head up for bed and my three year old had to relinquish his bag of Tootsie Rolls.  My husband had taken them on a spontaneous trip to CVS to stock up on candy and he had been holding the bag for a full hour.  He wasn't eating them; he was protecting them.  I knew he wouldn't be happy about putting the bag in the pantry.  I considered letting him bring them to bed (His bed the place that his brother can't touch so it is is full of treasures like golf clubs and cars and window gels.)  But I couldn't let a three year old go to bed with a bagful of candy so I squatted down to eye level to let him know the bad news.

"Hey bud.  We've got to put your Tootsie Rolls in the pantry for bedtime.  I will make sure to keep them safe for you."  
He clutched them closer to his chest as his eyes welled up with tears.  "NOOOOOOO!!!  You can't take my Tootsie Rolls!"
"I have to, love.  You can have them in the morning.  You can either hand them to me or I can take them out of your hands," I explained.  This only made it worse. 

"AAAHHHH!" he screamed.  "I'm so mad at you!"

"Drew," my husband said firmly.  "Give your mother the candy and go to bed or else you won't be able to eat any tomorrow."

Drew thrust the bag at me then marched to the stairs, still crying loudly.  I was determined not to react to the tantrum.  "I'm going upstairs to read to Luke.  Feel free to join us when you have calmed down," I said as I stepped over him on the staircase.  

The crying continued as he trudged slowly up the stairs and into his room.  He tucked his little body behind a curtain I made for his bottom bunk so that he could hide.  I sighed and grabbed his pajamas from the drawer.   When I turned around, I saw his older brother trying to make some headway with a different approach.

"'Sometimes I have a bad day, too,' Robot said.  'Are you having a bad day?'"  
My oldest had gotten out a robot and moved it behind the curtain to talk.  
"Yeah, I having a bad day because Mommy took my candy.  Why did you have a bad day?" my three year old asked.
"I have bad days when Lukie forgets to play with me and I sit up here all by myself.  Everybody has bad days!" my oldest said as he moved the robot's head back and forth.
"Yeah!  Everybody have bad days!" my three year old agreed as he emerged from the curtain.

"You guys ready to get your jammies on?" I asked.  They were.  I kissed both of them on the head before they could escape my grasp.  "You guys are lucky to have each other, you know that?"

"Yeah.  It's good to have a brother," my three year old agreed.

Sometimes we just need someone to meet us where we are at.  We don't want them to rationalize with us.  We don't want to hear logic or intolerance.  We just need them to say, "I get it.  I've been there, too."  My son reminded me of the importance of being there for someone completely. 

Is there someone in your life that needs more understanding than logic right now?  How can you give them that gift?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Midnight Snack

"Mama!  Dada!  My neck is hurting!"  
The words weaved their way into my dream.  What was Drew doing on the beach complaining about his neck, I wondered as I drifted back to the scene in my mind. 
"Mama!" he said again, this time through tears.
I jolted awake.  "What's wrong, my love?"  I asked.  I looked at the clock.  12:32 AM.  
"My neck is hurting," he said again.  
Still fuzzy, I stared ahead and hoped that this really was a dream.  My husband, though, was ready to help.  
"C'mon over here, buddy.  Snuggle up and tell me what we can do to help your neck," he said.  Our three year old walked over to his side of the bed and climbed up into my husband's waiting arms.
"Well, I think I should probably have some breakfast," he said as he leaned against his daddy.  He hopped off the bed and marched toward the kitchen.  "You get the milk and I'll get the cereal!"
I waited for the inevitable, "No, buddy it's time for bed" but instead I heard, "Sure, bud."  My husband fed him a bowl of cereal then took him upstairs and snuggled in his bed until he fell asleep.  

My heart was overcome with love for my husband in that moment.  I can be hard on him sometimes for being tough on the boys - I know intellectually that his job is to help them become men but, as a mother, it is sometimes hard to understand.  In these moments of sweetness and nurturing, I am reminded that it's all about balance.  Relationships are centered around deposits and withdrawals.  He can be hard on them because they are so secure in his love for him.  He can expect so much of them because they want to please him more than anything in the world.  He has earned their love and their respect.  And they will be great men because he already is.

Moms, do you ever struggle with your husband being tough on your children?  I encourage you to look for the "deposits" rather than the "withdrawals".  Let him know what he's doing right.  I assure you, it will help you both.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beauty of Homeschooling

I have a skill that was invaluable in the business world.  Focus.  I can get a list together, put my nose down and get it done without anything distracting me.  I love the feeling of being DONE.  I love getting into a zone and not coming up for air until my idea has come to fruition.  This same skill has proven to be useless and even frustrating as a homeschooling mom.

Last week I had an agenda.  We were back at "school" after a two week break and I wanted them to understand that I meant business.  I set expectations with my tiny students (5 and 3) and we got to work.  For five minutes.  Then the baby woke up.  

I wasn't to be swayed.  I grabbed my beautiful girl and a handful of snacks to keep her happy and coralled the kids upstairs in the play/school room.  I locked our food driven puggle (beagle/pug mix - very cute!) behind the baby gate and started reading about Egyptian Pharaohs.  

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH" the baby sang as she slapped the book out of my hands. 
"No no, honey.  Here, do you want your snack?" I asked her as I tried to get back to Egypt.  She smiled and dumped the full bowl of Cheerios and raisins on the floor.  I took a deep breath and started refilling the bowl as I read.  She decided to help and plopped down on her bottom, right onto my full cup of water.  (Why did I put the water on the floor?!)  "Luke!  Can you get me a towel from the bathroom?" I asked as I picked up my soaking wet child to change her.

"Okay!" he yelled back as he burst into action, thrilled to be needed.  But instead of going to the bathroom upstairs, he opened the gate to get a towel downstairs.  The dog ran up and promptly began eating all the snacks I had brought up for them.  

"He's eating our snacks!" my three year old yelled.  As I wrangled the dog, my daughter decided to try out the stairs for the first time.  I grabbed her ankle before she tumbled down then sat down in a heap of Cheerios, raisins, water and frustration.  

All this within ten minutes.  As the day progressed, it didn't get any better.  I felt completely spent by lunch time.  I called my husband.  "You wouldn't believe how awful it was today!!  It was like herding cats!  The boys just want to play with their new toys and run around and Rosie is into everything.  But I did manage to get done with school," I assured him.

"That sounds awful," he said.  He paused for a moment before saying something else and I knew he was trying to figure out the best way to phrase it.  "Now, I know it's always easier to see another way from the outside, but isn't flexibility one of the joys of homeschooling?  I mean, if they were that nuts, couldn't you have just scrapped the morning and tried again in the afternoon?" 

I thought for a moment, trying to weigh the merits of his words.  Flexibility - Isn't that one of the reasons I give for choosing homeschooling?  Wouldn't that, in the end, make it easier on everyone?    Yes, he had something there.  "You're right, babe.  It's just so hard when I see the check list.  I want to get it done.  It makes me feel like I'm doing this well," I explained.

"Well, why don't you look at your checklist a little differently?  You can do it anytime that day, not just in the morning.  On the days they are really distracted, let it go.  And on days they are really into it, just keep going," he suggested.

And so I have.  Or at least I've tried.  We went to this beautiful park the other morning and my oldest and I snuggled on the couch to do our work as his siblings slept in the afternoon.  We have been reading when my daughter is sleeping or at the kitchen table when she is safely snacking in her high chair.  I'm working (always working!) on letting go of the checklist and, instead relishing the moments we have to learn about this incredible world all together.

Do you struggle with the need to control?  Kids teach us so much about letting that go.  How can you let go of some of your agenda today in order to embrace theirs?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

You Were Chosen

As mothers, we are always second guessing ourselves.  Did I make the right decision?  Am I guiding them in the right direction?  Am I feeding them well?  Nurturing their minds and their bodies and their souls?  There are seasons when we feel sure and confident and others when the slightest provocation can lead to self doubt.  Yesterday, I was stuck in the self doubt stage and I found myself in prayer.

My baby girl had woken up at 5:15 am and I let my mind wander as we played by the dim light of the rising sun.  I had spent an hour with my pediatrician the day before talking about the best way to raise a well balanced child.  I had reached out to her for advice because she seems to truly understand and love my children.  She has raised three great kids and I felt drawn to her as a mentor.  

She is incredibly kind and had so much wisdom to share.  She had told me that my children will naturally push themselves academically.  They will hunger for learning.  My job will be to help them learn to prioritize and focus on their school work.  She also shared that kids that are very bright often put a great amount of pressure on themselves.  (I definitely see that every day!) They want to be the best.  They want to succeed.  They do not need us to add to that pressure.  My job, instead, will be to build their character.  My job will be to keep buillding their emotional intelligence so that they can manage their over active minds.  As I watched my baby attempt to put the circle puzzle piece into her wooden puzzle, I started to feel the weight of that responsibility.  

Prioritize, focus, build their character, teach them to be emotionally in touch and equipt, embrace their creativity...Could I do all of that in a homeschooling environment or should I send them to the "experts" at school?  The pediatrician talked of her journey trying to find the right schools for her children and I wasn't sure I was up for that.  I opened up my Guidepost devotional and found a story of a mother struggling with the decision to continue homeschooling or send her children to school.  God was listening to me.  He was ready to help me.  The advice?  Take one day at a time.  Give everything you have to that day and the answers will unfold. 

A few hours later, a friend and fellow homeschooling mom called.  I shared my doubts with her.  "Look," she began in her straight-forward manner.  "I'm no expert, but I do know one thing.  God chose YOU to be their mother.  He hand-picked you because you have everything it takes to give these kids whatever it is that they need.  If your son puts that much pressure on himself, maybe it's your job to help him stay calm.  Maybe it's your job to let him know it's more about his character than his achievements.  You can do this.  You are doing this already."

I felt the doubts slipping from my heart and tears welled in my eyes.  "You have been my answered prayer today.  That was exactly what I needed to hear," I told her.  But God wasn't done quite yet.

I received a text from my pediatrician with a loving and encouraging note a few hours later.  She finished with this quote from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."  I am framing it and putting it in the school room as a daily reminder of what really matters.  Our choices matter far more than our abilities.

Are you doubting yourself as a parent today?  Remember that He chose you for a reason.  You have everything it takes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Little Salesman

My three year old cries like his heart is broken when things don't go his way.  I have learned to steel myself against the torrents of tears and maintain whatever ruling I have made but it is not easy.  He screams, "Mama!  I am so sad!" And falls on the floor with great flourish.  I tell him I understand and I am here for him but I can't change my mind.  This elicits more tears that won't stop until I walk away.  This has been our dance for over a year now.  But he's beginning to get smarter.

He and I decided to take walk and have a little one on one time.  He grabbed my hand and said, "We really haven't had special time in a long long time."  I squeezed his hand back as I agreed and told him I was delighted to be with him for awhile.  Before I finished the sentence, he spotted some neighborhood kids playing together on the sidewalk.  "Mama!  I gotta go play with them!" 

They were playing "frisbee" with pieces of ripped cardboard and having a ball.  I sat down next to their mom and we laughed about the one minute of special time.  She shared how tired she was after a day at the beach with four kids under 8 (say no more, right?) and I took it as my cue to get my three year old out of there.  "C'mom, Drew.  We should head back for dinner," I yelled.  I prepared myself for the usual temper tantrum that accompanies these words but my mental work was unnecessary.

"Okay, Mama.  But don't you want to stay and talk to their mama for awhile?" he said as he smiled sweetly.  
"I would love to but we need to go eat dinner, bud."
"Oh...That okay.  I not hungry.  I just play more and more while you talk to their mama, okay?"
I smiled and hoped he didn't notice.  "I wish we could but we need to go.  Say goodbye to your friends."
"Okay.  Bye friends!" he yelled as he ran down the sidewalk toward our house.

There is something to be said for changing your course.  When something isn't working, we tend to blame everything around us.  People don't understand us or there are too many obstacles in the way.  But my three year old reminded me that all we can really change is ourselves.  If you are not getting the results you want today, try a different tactic.  Who knows, you just might get what you want.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Invention

My children have spent their little lives in the company of two cousins, Brody (6) and Gavin (4).  My three and five year old boys are in love with them and consider them their best friends.  My sister and her family left for Denver six months ago to spend an extended period with a team of specialists for my nephew's myriad of health issues.  We kissed them goodbye, expecting to see them in three weeks.  But that wasn't to be.

The doctors unraveled Brody's case and started from scratch. They provided clarity, answers and a new regimen to keep him safe and growing.  In short, they were an answered prayer.  But one recommendation felt like a punch in the stomach.  They recommended that the family stay in Denver to avoid allergens that exacerbate my nephew's asthma.  And so they did.  They packed up their life to give their son a better one.

They visited for the first time this week and tears flowed down my cheeks when I saw those little boys that feel so much like my own.  My sons and I ran to them yelling like pack of crazed fans.  "BRODY!  GAVIN!  YOU ARE HERE!!  WE LOVE YOU!"  The boys (or the Pack as we call them when they are together) ran into the garage to begin taking out bikes, baseball tees, tennis rackets and anything else they could find to play together.

We spent every moment that we could with them until it was time for them to leave.  We bounced at the bounce house, went bowling and we opened Christmas presents together.  Every moment's joy was sharpened into focus as it always is when you know that it will end.  

When it came time for them to go, I kissed their cheeks and tried to hug them quickly so that they wouldn't see my tears. My sons gave them quick hugs, too, because they had already forgotten they would be going far away.  Or so I thought.

"Will you come up into my bunk bed and snuggle with me, Mommy?" my oldest asked as I closed the last book at bedtime.
"Sure, baby."  I said, grateful for the time with my growing boy.  
"Mommy," he began as he fluffed a pillow for me to lay on.  "I was thinking today about what I'm going to do when I grow up."
"Really?  Tell me about that."
"Well, I'm going to invent something.  I'm going to invent a machine, okay?  It's a machine that you just get in and then you push a button and then BOOM!  You are in Denver."
I started feeling a lump form in my throat.  "What a great idea!  Then you wouldn't have to fly or anything, right?"
"Right cuz that takes so long and it's so expensive.  This way, if we miss Brody and Gav, we'll just push a button and be right there to hang out and play."  His eyes drifted as he fell into thought.
"That sounds wonderful, love.  Until then, I promise we'll make it a point to go see them a lot, even if it's expensive.  We love them too much to let a silly thing like that get in they way," I said, trying to reassure him.
"I love you, Mommy."
"I love you, too.  More than you could ever imagine."

There is always a choice when we are faced with something difficult.  We can focus on the pain and the heartache or we can begin to think about how we can move forward and improve the circumstances.  Sometimes it isn't something we can do right away.  Sometimes it isn't even something we will ever do.  But having hope...that makes all the difference in the world.

What difficulties are you facing right now?  What do you hope for?
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