Sunday, December 4, 2016

Keep it Up!

"I was just telling someone the other day about your sweet son, Drew" a sixty-something neighbor said to me as I walked my dog this morning.
"Oh really?" 
"Yes, I was telling my friend that I had never met such a kind child. Did you see what he did at Halloween?" she asked.
"When you spilled your candy bowl?"
"Yes! He helped me clean it up and when I tried to give him extra candy, he said, 'I can't take any more - That's your candy to enjoy.' I couldn't believe it! Most kids would just take it all and run!"

She left out the part about my daughter coming right behind him and asking for a third candy bar but I let that slide. "Thank you so much for letting me know! He truly does have a kind heart."

"You must be doing something right, honey. Keep it up!" She smiled at me as she resumed her walk and I was left feeling so wonderful inside.

I work every day to make sure my kids' character is strong. I pray every day that I can teach them kindness and strength and resilience and faith. But this parenting journey is a long one and I spend more time than I should second guessing my choices. This sweet neighbor gave me a gift today. She told me that I am, indeed, on the right track. 

I am going to make an effort this week to seek out parents and let them know something I love about their children. I want to pay it forward. I encourage you to do the same. Tell them a story about their child that made you smile. Tell them that they are doing a great job. We all need to hear it - Be the one to give that gift.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Simplifying Christmas

We had a calendar full of activities on Saturday. Watch the Ohio State/Michigan game with friends, get family pictures taken then go to our community's annual Christmas parade. I geared up for a busy day, not realizing that they would be completely derailed.

"Keith and Sandy canceled the football party," my husband said as we drank our coffee and looked through the Saturday paper. "I guess a bunch of people couldn't come." I was disappointed but also relieved to have our schedule let up a bit. I used the time to take a short nap and watch the game in sweatpants. 

Around 2, the photographer called. "Could you come a little bit earlier? Say 3:00? I had forgotten that we are shooting the Christmas parade tonight as well." I told him that two of the kids were sleeping so we probably couldn't move it up but maybe we could just reschedule. "Really? That would be so great," he said, sounding relieved. 
"Of course. No rush on our end," I said.

A few hours later, I started feeling a little off. I took my temperature and realized I had a fever. "Babe, you should just stay home," my husband suggested. "Luke and I will walk the parade with Sertoma. You just stay with Drew and Rosie and take it easy." And so we did. I made hot chocolate on the stovetop with cinnamon and Hershey's syrup like my mom used to do and we sipped it in our jammies. We watched Charlie Brown Christmas and then decided on a whim to take a walk in the dark to see the stars and look for Christmas lights. It was positively magical. 

As I tucked them in and kissed their pink cheeks, I felt so grateful for all the cancellations that made me slow down. Spending those few hours at home was like opening a beautiful and unexpected gift. It was everything I wanted the holidays to be for my children. Quiet, reflective and full of quality time. I will be shaving down our December schedule, saying no a little more often to the parties and yes to the Hallmark Channel's Christmas movies. I will be making popcorn garlands and ornaments with too much glitter and embracing this time when they still believe in the magic of Christmas. I will be intentionally thankful instead of rushed as I embrace the beauty of this season.

Is your December schedule already packed full of obligations? Take a moment to evaluate it and get rid of things that don't bring you and your family peace and joy. Simplify.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Hours

"I just need three hours by myself and I'll feel a lot better," I said to my husband as we unpacked from our weekend in Miami. For those of you with small children, you understand this is almost like asking to win a million dollars in the lottery.

"Well, maybe next weekend I can take them out for a bit and give you a break," he suggested.

I wanted to say, "Or you could just take a vacation day! No big deal, right!?" but instead I thanked him for offering.

We had had an awesome time in Miami (Congrats Jen and Alec!) but after three days in a hotel room, I needed some space and so did my kids. They were exhausted from traveling and staying up late and none of us were in top form. On Monday morning, they thoughtfully took turns having meltdowns giving me at least a 30 second break between each of them. We threw in the towel on school after my oldest cried about being asked to write a bit more neatly and headed to the library. (There's something about the calm atmosphere that's like slipping my kids a Xanax). It worked. Everybody did their own thing and I even ran into a friend that lent me her listening ear.

We buckled back into the car and the crying resumed. "Me wanted more princess books!" my daughter wailed.
"What are we having for lunch, Mommy?" my oldest yelled above her screams. "I think we have breakfast sandwiches. Do we, Mommy?"
"Just a minute, bud. Let me talk to Rosie, first."
"I can't reach my headphones!" my five year old said through tears.
"Okay guys - let's just get home and I'll make sure everybody gets what they need. I promise."

Just then, my mom texted. "Is Luke up for hanging out with me this afternoon? I had a cancellation and I can come over now."

I don't think I've ever texted anyone back so fast. "Yes!"

She arrived just as I was tending to my daughter's "boo boo" and swept in to finish so that I could make lunch. My middle cried about eating lunch and I was officially done with being patient. "That's it buddy. I can't listen to this anymore. I need you to sit down and calm down. When you can talk instead of scream, I can get you what you need." This only escalated the screams and intelligible speech. I walked away, leaving him in a puddle on the floor.

"Come here, baby," I heard my mom say in her most soothing voice. My son picked himself up and curled into her lap. She stroked his hair and his back and slowly his breathing returned to normal. She waited patiently as he calmed down. She looked at me with compassion. "I'll take Rosie to bed. Why don't you take Drew. Luke and I will get out of here once everyone is settled."

Rosie and Drew slept soundly for four hours and Luke enjoyed some time with his Granny and Papa. I took a nap, did some Christmas shopping and finished the mountain of laundry from our trip. God had heard me and had given us all the gift of not three but four hours alone. We were all renewed and the tears and frustration stopped.

I read Mark 6:31 later that day. "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” I love that God is listening and responding to us all the time. We only have to ask.

Is there something that you need today? Voice it. Ask for it. Trust that it will happen.

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?



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