Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Love Your Heart

My daughter and I have a goodnight routine that is different than my other children. We do the normal, bath, teeth brushing, jammies and books then I lay her down in her crib. But then, she asks for one last hug. She stands up and hugs herself as she sways back and forth (having a small vocabulary has given her amazing miming capabilities). "You want one more hug?" I ask.
"Mmm hmm!" she says, nodding enthusiastically.
I scoop her up and she lays on my shoulder, relaxing completely. I tell her all the things she is to me and all the things I love about her and, usually, she agrees with each statement.
"I love your heart."
"mmm hmm!"
"I love your smile."
"mmm hmm!"
"I love your hugs."
"mmm hmm!"
We go on like this for awhile and then she lays down peacefully. But last night, something changed. I said a few things then she shot up and looked at me. "Mama!" She said, pointing at me. She laid back down and started rubbing my back. "Mama, nice. mmm hmm! Mama, love. mmm hmm! Mama, fun!" she said as she fell into giggles. I soaked in the moment, so incredibly grateful for the love that she was giving back to me.

As a mom, I give so much of myself. More than I even knew that I had to give. In those sweet moments when I get to receive, it fills me up completely. It shows me that they are secure in my love for them and, because of that, will be able to share their love with the world. Christ said, "This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35 MSG) If other people will understand God's love because of the way my children love others, I will have fulfilled my purpose.

How do your children show love to the world? As we enter into the Thanksgiving season, look for the ways they are already giving love back to you, their friends and the community. You might be surprised how much you have already taught them about how to love.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Do You Have a Flashlight?

"Mommy! Mommy! Drew broke Papa's flashlight! It's completely broken! It won't even turn on! EVER AGAIN!" my oldest announced as he ran into the kitchen. He repeated this exact phrase three times without breathing before I could interject. Drew followed sullenly with his head hung low. 

"I...didn't...mean...to...break...it!" he said, finally erupting into sobs.
"Okay buddy. I know it was an accident. Give me a hug - accidents happen."
He sat on my lap on the kitchen floor until the sobs began to ebb and his breathing returned to normal.
"I know it was an accident but you still need to replace Papa's flashlight. You can work toward that by helping me do some extra work around the house. What would you like to do?"
This, apparently, was his worst nightmare. The sobs returned along with wails of despair. "I...don't...want...to...do...any...more...work," he screamed. "That make me so sad!"
"I know, bud. But when you break something, you have to fix it or replace it. You can do it. You are a hard worker," I said, hoping that at some level he would begin to live up to that character trait.

Eventually, he settled down enough to set the table. Minutes later, my dad popped in to see us. I saw Drew pull him aside and perked up my ears. 
"Excuse me, Papa."
"Yes, Drew."
"Do you have an iPhone?"
"Umm, yeah..."
"Well, you already have a flashlight then!" He smiled to himself and went back to setting the table. 
My dad looked at me with a question in his eyes. 
"He's saying that because he broke your flashlight. He's trying to figure out how to get out of buying a replacement."
"Wow, that was really smart!" my dad said over Drew's renewed tears. "Very creative problem solving!"

I love that my dad saw that good in what Drew was doing. I saw it as a way to get out of work (which it absolutely was...) but it was still smart. In his mind, his papa needed a flashlight. As long as he had one, the problem was solved. But my husband and I still have the hard work of teaching him to care for other people's things. We have to teach him that there are consequences to his actions. Sometimes I wish I could take the easy way and let Drew off the hook. The tears alone are enough to weaken my resolve on a good day. But if I do, he will not be the man I know he can be. 

Do your kids ever tempt you to take the easy way out? How can you stay strong about all you have to teach them when they do?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Nostalgic Glances

There's a face that older people give you when you walk by them with small children. It's a mix of nostalgia touched with joy. You can see in their faces that they would love to trade places with you, even it if was just for a moment. They would love to go back in time and sit with their daughter during a tea party one last time. They wish they could get in a tickle fight with their little boy again, just to hear his giggles. I always seem to get those looks from people on days that I would give anything to trade places with them.

It happens on the days that I have tried to put four cups in the dishwasher for a full hour but can't seem to get it done because my daughter dumped out her applesauce all over the carpet or my sons are fighting over who has rights over that shriveling balloon from last week's birthday party. As I work to scrub the carpet and mediate the fight, my daughter will inevitably empty some drawer or cabinet that I didn't baby proof. I sigh then put on a fake smile as I sing the clean up song to help her learn to clean up her own messes. I walk away, proud that I didn't lose my cool and I think, "I really need to baby proof that drawer." Before the thought is done, I find a toilet that is covered in pee from the seat to the floor thanks to little boys with bad aim. I call them in, hand them the Lisol wipes and guide them in their clean up efforts.

I make them take a walk because I simply cannot handle the thought of one more mess. We pass a sixty something that smiles that gentle nostalgic smile. "Beautiful children," she says wistfully. I look at them again, this time with new eyes. Eyes with perspective. I notice my daughter's tiny curls bouncing as she runs and my heart wells up with love. I see my four year old peeling over in laughter over a badly told knock knock joke and absorb his joy. I watch my six year old laying on the sidewalk inspecting a millipede that has caught his interest and am overcome with thankfulness for his inquisitive mind. For the first time that day, I really see them.

I find myself praying, "Sweet Lord, help me to really see them every day. Help me to realize that there will come a day when I will have the cleanest house on the block but I will not have those curls, that laugh, and that mind around me every day. Help me to rejoice in this season rather than weather it. Help me to reach out to you when I feel like I simply cannot do this without screaming or crying or both. And thank you, God. Thank you for the gift of these children and for the gift of perspective. It changes everything. Amen."

Are you feeling as if you need some perspective today? Ask God to give it to you. Ask him to help you zoom out and see the bigger picture. Ask him to show you the blessings rather than the hardship. He will and it will change everything.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It's Like Your Wedding

My husband and I have been busy. Really busy. (Just like you, I imagine) and we have somehow stopped spending as much time together. We see each other all the time but we don't necessarily see each other. Know what I mean? So we started talking about how we could be better about it.

"It's hard because you don't really stay up late, you know?" my husband said tentatively. I am a 9:30 to bed girl on a good night so he knows this is touchy. 
"True. But I can do that. One night a week. Is that enough?" 
He sighed and I knew it wasn't. I knew in that moment that I spend almost all of my energy on our kids and I don't have much left for him at the end of the day. I knew that had to change.

We brainstormed and talked until 11 (GASP!) and we both felt rejuvinated by the secure knowledge that we were both incredibly important to each other. We planned date nights and decided to get back to doing our devotional time in the morning. We worked through some things that had been unsaid and came to the conclusion that no matter how busy or tired we get, we will always make our time together a priority.

The next day, he got home from work and wrapped me in a big hug. He pulled back and kissed me gently. "Awww! I heard my four year old say. It just like your wedding day!"

I saw in that moment how important this marriage is for every member of this family. Being in love and showing that love openly is the absolute best thing I can do as a partner and a parent. I am so blessed by this man. I hope I never take that for granted.

Talk to your spouse tonight about each other. What have they done lately that made you feel loved? How can you make them feel more loved?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Lonely Time

I was taking the preschoolers back inside after playtime and found my oldest in the hallway with his lunch spilled everywhere. A sweet teenager was helping him pack it back up but he seemed incredibly flustered. I looked up and realized his classmates and teachers were nowhere to be found.

"Honey, where is the rest of your class right now?" I asked him gently.
"I don't know! My orange juice spilled everywhere! My bag is soaked!"
"Okay, I'll wash it when we get home. Let's find your class."
"I know where they are!" said a mom from behind me. "I'll take him!"

I felt torn because I knew he needed me but I also knew I had a class of preschoolers I was responsible for. "Don't worry, bud. You've got this. I'll see you in a few hours."

I saw him a few more times that morning and each time he seemed more and more stressed. He asked me to hug him (a rarity, especially in front of other kids) and I knew something was really on his mind.

I've learned that if I ask him to tell me what's going on too soon, he can't put words on his feelings. After some great advice from my mom, I decided to wait for him to come to me. At dinner, he opened up.

"Mommy, I don't like snack time at co-op," he said as he stared at his grilled chicken.
"Tell me about that, bud. Why don't you like it?"
"Well, it's a lonely time for me." He looked up, meeting my eyes cautiously. "We can either eat our snack or go play and I'm starving by then! I sit down to eat but all the other kids play. I just sit there on the bench by myself."
My heart ached. I was the kid on the playground that no one would play with. I was the one that no one would sit next to on the bus. I could feel his pain completely. I looked up at my husband, silently asking him to try and help.
"What happens when you ask the other kids to play with you?" he asked.
"They say no! Every time! They just keep playing with each other and they don't want to play my game!"
"Let me ask you a question. Do you ask them to change to your game or do you ask them if you can play their game?"
"My game."
"Okay. Next week, how about you try asking them if you can play their game? You can always eat a quick snack then join them."
"You are a such a cool kid. I can't imagine them not wanting to hang out with you," I added.
"Okay, I'll try it." His shoulders relaxed a bit and he sat taller in his chair. "How was your day, Daddy?"

I really really really wish I could solve all my kids problems for them. I wish I could run on that playground and say, "Don't you see how amazing he is?! Don't you know what an amazing friend he would be to you?!" But that will not teach him anything. He has to bravely face the things that scare him knowing that we are behind him 100%. I hope and pray that he will always be able to come to us when life gets hard and that we can always be open, understanding and loving. 

How do you handle it when your child presents you with some adversity he or she is facing? How can y ou give them the confidence they need to fight their own battles? 

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Hostile Dynamic

We are, in many ways, settled at my parent's house. I finally know where to put the dishes away and which light switches turn on which lights. But my kids seem to be doing worse. My boys are less and less tolerant of one another and the fights are escalating.

"LUKE! Look! Mommy got us glow sticks!" my four year old yelled as he ran to find his brother.
I smiled thinking about how sweet it was that he wanted to share the gift right away. But before I could even finish the thought, I heard him scream.
"Give it to me! I want ORANGE!"
The wails of my four year old filled the house. "Time out," I said to Luke. "Drew, you alright?"
"He took it right out of my hands like this!" He reinacted the scene complete with facial expressions.
"Oh man. He will have to ask you to forgive him. Every body messes up sometimes."

I went back to the bedroom to finish putting away laundry then, suddenly, I heard a crash and another scream. This time, it was Luke. I found both of them in the laundry room. Drew was frozen, his eyes wide. Luke was yelling. "Mommy! Help me! He knocked this whole thing over on my head!" 

"This whole thing" turned out to be a six foot metal hanging clothes rack and my six year old was pinned beneath it. I lost it. " What were you thinking, Drew?! You could have really hurt him!! I am so tired of you two being mean to each other. Get on the couch, both of you! This is ridiculous!!" Tears began to flow all around. I righted the rack then stood in the laundry room for two solid minutes. I needed to cool down or else I would say things I didn't mean.

I sat down on the coffee table and gave them a level stare. "Luke - When someone gives you a gift, what's the only thing that's okay to say?"
"Yes." I turned to my four year old. "Drew, is it ever okay to hurt your brother?"
"But...he...was...mean...to...me!" he choked out through sobs.
"Yes, he was. That does not give you the right to be mean to him, does it?"
"No," he said as he dropped his head, defeated.

I walked away, unsure of a proper punishment. I told them I needed time to think and pray about it. That was yesterday. I brought it up to my husband this morning. I asked him to pray for me to have more understanding so that I could get to the bottom of what's bothering them. I asked him to help me take my emotions out and focus on building their character. I asked for an easier day.

We got up from the prayer I walked into the the living room where the kids had been playing. "Mommy!" my oldest said. "I've been thinking about how mean we've been to each other and I have an idea! Let's write down all the things we have to stop doing, you know, like yelling or hurting each other, then have a chore assigned to us if we do it. It's just like the Berenstein Bears! The one about manners!"

I felt as if God had answered my prayer within moments. We spent the next twenty minutes writing out the top four things they would work on (not yelling, hitting, interrupting or ignoring parents). They came up with awful chores like cleaning the toilets and emptying the trash. We hung it up and have tried it this morning. We ran out of trash cans to empty and both toilets were cleaned twice, but they are also showing more love to each other. Luke shared some of his beloved seashell collection with his siblings and Drew ran inside to get popsicles for everyone, just to be nice. There was less yelling and more laughing. Today, I got my kids back.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with our lives. There are times when the demands just get to be too much. I realized today that the very source of the problem can also be the source of the solution. By giving it to God, he turned this incredibly hostile dynamic into one that fostered teamwork. He helped us all begin rowing in the same direction. I am so thankful.

What is overwhelming you today? Pray specifically about what would ease the burden for you then watch to see what God does for you. It might not happen right away, but it will happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Baker Family

Jacob Baker

Full Name: Jacob Lamar Baker
Parents: Edith and Fred
Birthdate: December 1, 2012
Gestational Age at Birth: 26 weeks and 5 days
Favorite Toy: Sock Monkey
After 15 yrs. of marriage I thought my hopes for having a child were gone. Shortly after celebrating my 41st birthday found out we were expecting. We were so excited and nervous about all the things that can go wrong. On Oct. 21, 2012 I went to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital for a routine ultrasound. I was told I had a very short cervix (7mm). A wonderful Doctor on staff talked to us about all the risks we faced because I was only 21 weeks pregnant. I was sent home on complete bed rest. Ten days later, my Doctor decided to admit me to the hospital on the high risk obstetric floor on complete bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy.
We anxiously waited for the 24th week, when I received the steroid injection to help Jacob’s lungs develop. Shortly after, the doctors determined my membranes had ruptured and I was leaking amniotic fluid and I was taken to the labor and delivery. Once again we waited to see if Jacob was ready to meet us but he decided it wasn’t time. I stayed on hospital bed rest with a leaking sack, dilated cervix and gestational diabetes for another 10 days.
On the morning of Dec. 1st I was taken to labor and delivery once again. I had never been so scared in my life. I was about to meet Jacob. My wonderful husband was by my side all day. He was my rock through it all. At 10:09pm, my Sunshine was here. All I could think about was if Jacob was he OK. The NICU staff was working on him and then gave us the thumbs up that he was OK! Jacob was taken to the NICU floor with his Daddy by his side. Jacob weighed 1lb. 13oz. and was 13 inches long. I couldn’t wait to go see him and that first moment was magical. I looked at him and said, there is my baby! He opened his eyes and it was the most wonderful feeling ever. The next day, the NICU doctors met with us to let us know of all the risks Jacob would face, but Jacob surprised us all, and beat every risk. Jacob remained in the NICU for 72 days and came home on Feb. 17th 2013.
I can’t thank everyone enough who helped our family make it through this difficult time. Thanks to all the staff at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital for the great care during our stay. Thanks to our family and friends for the love, support and all of the prayers. Thanks to the wonderful women at High Risk Hope for the care packages I received while I was there. For taking the time to talk and listen to me about this roller coaster ride I was on. Jacob, ‘My Sunshine” is now in perfect health, very energetic, loving, happy and very talkative boy, and we are enjoying this miracle!
Every $35 will help another family like the Bakers through this incredibly stressful time. Thank you for your prayers and donations for these families!

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