Sunday, January 31, 2016

Expecting Perfection

One of the coolest things about homeschooling is the field trips. We go on some sort of field trip almost every week and my kids and I get to see all sorts of interesting things from dental xrays to farm animals. But I have this nasty habit of imaging a utopian experience. I see my children enamored with this new and exciting information. I see them holding hands and smiling with gratitude at the end of each experience. The reality, however, is far from my vision.

"Can't we just do whatever we want?" my six year old said as we pulled into the parking lot of the nature center. 
"Bud, I told you already. We're going on a farm tour to learn how settlers farmed in the 1800's then we're having a picnic. We're not going on the adventure trail today." 
"Oh man! Why do we always have to stay in a group and listen??" He said the word group the way I might say a disgusting word like snot.
"Because we can learn something from the people who lead the group. Now, is there anything you want to make sure to ask about while we are here?"
"Yea, how to find the zip line..." he said under his breath.
"Luke. Enough. If we finish the tour and picnic by noon, we can explore. Otherwise, we can't do it. Got it?"
"Okay, okay."

I took a deep breath, unbuckled car seats and set out to learn about sustenance farming. What I learned instead was how to be a sheep dog with my three wandering children. "Where's Drew? Oh! There he is. DREW!  C'mon babe! We're going to the garden! Wait...Rosie? ROSIE! Stay with mommy! You have to stay with Mommy, okay?" Simply repeat this 432 times and you will have a rough idea of my experience on the farm. When we finally got to the picnic, I was done.

"Mommy! It's 11:54! That means we can go on the zip line!" My six year old bounced around like he was on a pogo stick as he awaited my response.
"Okay bud. Fair is fair. Let's go find it."
We walked and walked and walked and we couldn't find it. We asked other people on the tour. We asked the tour guide. No one could give us the right directions (or, more likely, I couldn't follow them!). Forty five minutes later, I gave up. I was defeated. Done.
"Guys, this is it. We've got to get home."
Hearing these words, my four year old promptly fell on the ground in tears. "BUT I WANTED TO GO ON THE ZIP LINE!!! IT'S THE ONLY THING I WANTED TO DO!!"
The self talk started in my head. "You can do this. You can do this. Don't lose it. Don't lose it."
"Drew, I need you to stand up and walk to the car. Now."
Twenty minutes and many tears later, we made it. The boys began their complaining anew but I wasn't about to listen to it.
"I took you on a field trip where you got to play outside all morning, pet baby chicks, gather eggs, and pet a horse. I understand you are disappointed about the zip line, but I only want to hear gratitude or silence."
"Thank you mommy for the field trip," they said half-heartedly in unison.

As parents, we want to expose our children to the amazing things in this world but we cannot expect a picture perfect experience. Every minute of every day is an opportunity to build their character and ours. They test us. Push us. And it's really hard not to lose it. It's really hard to not give in and just do what they want so they just. stop. screaming. But if we do that, it will only be worse the next time. So go easy on yourself (this job is stressful!) and stay tough on them. Someday we'll be so glad we did.

Are there certain things that you expect perfection but only experience trials and exhaustion? How can you reframe it and see it as an opportunity to build character? How can you stay firm when it seems like they have beaten you?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Be the Person...

My husband and I attended a marriage seminar a few years ago and one action statement has stayed with him. "Be the person you want your children to be". He has lived with it in the back of his mind, sure he wanted to do it but unsure how to execute it. I was completely unaware of all of this until this week when he came back from a business trip.

"I need to talk to you about something," he began.
I froze for a moment. I never like conversations that start that way.
"At our training, they asked me, 'What are you for?' In other words, what do I care about, what am I passionate about in regards to family. That statement from Weekend to Remember..."Be the person you want your children to be?" That's the one that jumped out in my mind. I realized that I'm really good at that in certain areas but not in others. I know I'm really hard on Luke. He wants my approval so much and I don't think I'm great at giving it. And I get so distracted by the iPad or work...stuff that can wait, you know? I don't want to do that anymore. I want to be more positive, more present."

I realized I had been holding my breath. This is something I had hoped for and prayed for for longer than I can even remember. "You are already an amazing dad but this change will make a huge impact on their lives. How can I help you?"

We came up with an idea that, interestingly, he had heard in his training and I had heard at a mom's group that week. We decided to spend our dinner time "filling their buckets". We choose one person per night (parents included) and each say one affirming statement about that person. We tell them what we love about them, what is cool or interesting or unique about them and watch their faces light up with these words of truth. 

My husband has stashed his electronics and has been saying yes to playing. He is feeling frustration bubble up, recognizing and bringing it back down before he talks to the kids. "Change is hard, but it makes it a lot easier when I focus on the impact I'm making on the people I love," he shared with me this morning. I teared up, realizing that this is real - He's really going to do this for us. Our family will be even richer in love because of it.

We all want to be the person we want our children to become but the execution is difficult. Have an open conversation today about something you'd like to work on and improve. Find an accountability partner and come up with a plan together. Your family will be richer in love because of it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Can't Do It!

"I can't do it!" my four year old wailed.
"You can do it. You really can, bud. But you have to try," I said, handing the marker back to him. We had been working on a letter matching game and everytime he saw a lower case b or d, he couldn't figure out which one it was. He can't stand to be wrong so if he doesn't know, he freezes. Because this is my second child with perfectionist tendencies, I don't worry as much. But I was running out of ways to keep him feeling confident.

"Come sit with me," I said as I patted my lap. "I have a question for you. What will I do to you if you get it wrong?"
"Don't know," he said under his breath.
"Will I give you an electric shock?"
"No," he said, trying to stifle a giggle.
"Will I put you in the dryer and turn it on?"
"No," he said giggling a little more.
"Right. Nothing bad will happen. It just means that I need to do a better job teaching you and you have to work hard to learn. We can do that, right?" I smiled, feeling like I absolutely nailed this pep talk. His shoulders slumped. "I can't do it."

I took a deep breath and began rethinking my game plan. My oldest however, already had it covered. "Drew! I used to hate this too! It's so hard! Mommy, how old was I when I finally figured this out? Five? I think I was five. Maybe six! Drew! That means that you can learn something TWO YEARS before I did. Want me to show you a trick?"

"Mmm hmm!" he said as he climbed off my lap.

"You know what a big B looks like, right? Well, a little b is just a big B with it's head chopped off! Isn't that hilarious!?"

"Yeah! That's hilarious!"

"So basically if you add a head to it, like this, and it doesn't look like a B, it's a D! Let's try it. What do you think this one is?"

"It's a B with it's head chopped off!!"

"WOW you got it right already! That's so good, Drew!"

I couldn't agree more. Although I was most proud of my oldest. He helped me, he helped his brother and he somehow managed to make it fun. He reminded me once again of the power of homeschooling. It isn't all about the ABC's and 123's. It's about living life together, learning together, helping one another and using each moment as something that will help all of us to grow. It rejuvenated me and made me so incredibly grateful for this journey.

Have you seen your children helping each other lately? Make sure to hug them and let them know what a difference they are making.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Some weeks go by easily without me noticing. Other weeks feel endless; They are filled with commitments and to do lists and discipline issues and messes and...well...too much. This is one of those weeks.

I decided to book a sitter for the entire day so that I could catch up on a bunch of things that had been waiting for my time and attention. I looked forward to it. I made a list of things to do for the next High Risk Hope delivery. I made a list of people to call and appointments to make. I made a list of all I needed to do to plan and coordinate two of my kids birthdays that are coming up. When my sitter arrived, I was off like a shot.

I moved throughout the day at a frenzied pace crossing things off my lists and feeling such a sense of accomplishment. By the end of the day I was tired. Done. Ready to relax. I headed home to see my beautiful kids and make some dinner but I walked into chaos. Popcorn was strewn on the garage floor. Cups and bowls were scattered everywhere. The math work and thank you notes I had left for my oldest to do remained undone. Suddenly, I had so much more to do.

I hugged everyone, took a deep breath then started barking orders. "Luke, you've got to get your math done, bud. Sit down at the table and get to work. Drew! Can you please clean up the popcorn in the garage?"

"What popcorn?" he said as he spun in circles in the middle of the kitchen. 
"The popcorn in the garage. Here's a bag. Go clean it up, please." I sighed and started grabbing the ingredients for dinner.
"UP! Want UP!" my daughter screeched. I hoisted her onto my hip and then plopped her onto the counter while I started cooking. I looked up and saw my oldest staring at the chandelier and not focusing on math. "Bud - You've got to focus. What does the next problem say?" 
"Mommy? Um, excuse me Mommy. I can't find any popcorn on the floor." my four year old said, still spinning in circles.
My shoulders tensed until I felt this gentle little baby cheek on my shoulder. My daughter's little arms wrapped as far around me as they could go and she began rubbing my back gently. I felt the tension begin to seap out of me.

"You know, don't you? You know just what to do to make Mommy feel better." I pulled her in for a real hug and whispered, "thank you." When I released her from the hug, I saw the scene differently. I saw three kids that had missed their mom instead of a bunch of messes I had to deal with. "Guys, I'm sorry I was so crabby."

"That okay," my four year old said as he fell into my leg for a hug. 

The math got done, dinner was prepared and the popcorn was cleaned up but it all happened at a much gentler pace. There was conversation as we worked and encouraging words for their accomplishments. There was a play-doh break and a race track break. There were more hugs and less frustration. All of this happened because my little girl met me where I was at and loved me through it.

She taught me so much in that little moment. She taught me that sometimes, you just have to understand. You have to reach out and hold their hand, rub their back, wipe their tears. And she taught me how important it is to focus on people rather than tasks. Yes, it gets overwhelming sometimes. Yes, we do have to do the laundry and answer that call and cook that dinner. But, as my mom always says, attitude is everything. If we approach these things with a sense of frustration, that will bleed through into our relationships. I'd much rather get less done and have a happy house. Wouldn't you?

Do you feel a lot of pressure to get things done? How can you bring your eyes up from your list and onto the people you love the most?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Giving Soul

My daughter is somewhat obsessed with her blankies. She has three that she simply cannot live without. She piles them all up in her bed a certain way and when she wakes up, she has to bring her "bips" with her. We find them all over the place - Next to the toilet, in the pantry or just jumbled up on the floor. But they rarely make it to the washing machine.

I try. I really do. But she catches me every time. If one is missing, she immediately finds me and screams out, "BIPS!!" then runs to the washing machine. If it is spinning in washing machine, her world crumbles. She falls to the floor sobbing dramatically and becomes inconsolable. We kiss her head gently then try to redirect her attention to something else. My sons, however, cannot handle seeing her upset.

Yesterday was a rainy day and the kids were itching to play outside. We told them that they could play in the lanai under cover. Rosie gathered up her pile of blankets to take outside with her and my husband warned her that it was wet outside. "Baby, if your blankies get all wet, we will have to wash them. Are you sure you want to take them outside?"
"Mmm hmm!" she said sweetly. "MINE!" she said, not so sweetly as she turned toward the lanai with determination.
Ten minutes later, she walked in with sopping wet blankets. My husband and I looked at each other, not wanting to be the one that broke the news to her. "Let me have your blankies, baby. We have to wash them. They are all wet," he said as he stroked her fat little cheek. Tears began to fall. 
"I have to, baby. I told you that would happen if they got all wet."
At this point, she was beyond reason. She screamed, wailed, fell on the floor, and choked out sobs. I let her steam run out then picked her up. "Done?" I asked her.
"NO!" she said defiantly and resumed the tantrum.
"Ro Ro," my four year old interjected. "Ro Ro, here. Here's my monster blankie. You can have it til your blankies are all clean!"
The tears dried up like a faucet being turned off. "Oh. Tanks."
"Your welcome!" 

I couldn't believe his generosity. His monster blanket is one if the most important things to him. He sleeps with it and cannot sleep without it. He could've gotten any one of the ten other blankets we have scattered around the house but, instead, he chose to give her the one thing that brings him the most comfort. 

We should all be that geneorous. We should all be willing to give the one thing that matters most to us to someone else if they need it. What good are possessions if they don't provide some means of comfort to us or others? As I stare at all the "stuff" that surrounds me, I am inspired. Who might need it? Who can I give it to? I saw a post on Facebook encouraging people to fill up one trash bag of stuff a day for 40 days. What if we all did that with the mindset of giving to others instead of just decluttering our homes? Let's start today.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Little Firm

Have you ever read the Olivia books? The main character is a piglet who loves to dress up and has dreams of being a ballerina. She's also rotten and relatable and one of my daughter's favorites. As we read the original Olivia at bedtime, I listened to my boys screaming in the next room.

I yelled over the ruckus. "Guys, if you want to play rough, please close the door. Rosie is getting ready for bed."
"OKAY!" they yelled as they slammed it shut.
"After she brushes her teeth and moves the cat, Olivia gets dressed," I continued. Their door reopened. I looked up to see the my six year old holding my smiling four year old in a choke hold. 
"Stop! Lukie STOP!" he screamed through giggles.
"Guys, I asked you to stay in your room. Please go sit in time out until I'm done with Rosie."
They ran toward time out while my four year old pelted his brother with a paper towel roll. The giggles continued. They were obviously not in time out. "Sorry, Ro. We have to go get them," I said as I hiked her up onto my hip.

"You just added 2 minutes to your time out. Luke, you stay there. Drew, you sit in the living room." They didn't move. They stared at me as if I hadn't even said anything. I tried being more succinct. "Now." Drew scrambled to his feet and ran into the living room.
"Okay, little girl, let's finish Olivia. We settled back into her rocking chair and began reading, "Olivia has to try on everything..."
"No...Mama," She grabbed the book from me and turned the pages back to the one that read, "Sometimes Olivia has to firm.
She pointed over and over again as she said, "Mama...Firm. Mmm hmmm!"
"Sometimes Mama has to be firm?
"Mmm hmm!"
"That's true, baby. That's very true." Relaxed now that she knew I understood, she flipped back to where we left off and listened to the rest of story quietly.

Sometimes we do have to be firm, don't we? I wish I didn't. I wish that they would just do what they are told the first time without questioning me, don't you? Much less frustration. But this interaction showed me that they are watching how I handle my own frustration. My little girl sure reminded me of that.

Are you proud of how you handle the moments when you have to be "firm"? How can you ensure obediance without resorting to anger?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The First Delivery

There have been times during this journey of helping other NICU and bedrest moms that I have been sieged with self-doubt. Could I fundraise enough? Could I stay organized enough? Could I manage yet another ball in my juggling act? I would shove the doubts aside and envision all the moms at the hospital hoping and praying that they would go home with a healthy baby. That gave me a renewed sense of purpose. And on Friday, after a year of working, I was able to deliver our first batch of NICU bags to Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

My mom and I arrived with a mini-van full of thirty canvas bags stuffed with neccessities for the moms. We were greeted by the NICU nurse manager and she was absolutely astonished by the number of bags. "I thought you were only going to bring five or six bags! This is unbelievable!" We hugged and then loaded up two carts to bring to antipartum and the NICU. My heart was hammering in my chest - It was surreal to be there.

The nurse manager scanned us into the NICU and we scrubbed in. "Would you like to deliver the first one?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye. I nodded and followed her to a darkened room with a tiny baby in an isolette. The mother couldn't have been more than twenty and her eyes were tired and drawn. I held her hands and looked into those weary eyes. I told her I was there two years ago and I know how scary it is. I told her that I brought not only a bag but an army of women who have been through this and have come through to the other side. We were all there, ready and waiting to support her through the High Risk Hope network. I told her she is not alone in this fight. 

As we all wiped away tears, I saw a flicker of light return to her eyes. "Thank you. Really...thank you." I hugged her and silently prayed that God's peace would fill her soul. 

I have begun to believe that we experience hardship so that we can give comfort and understanding to all that will experience it in the future. Comfort is a simple and quaint word but it has a profound impact. It's something that we can all do, each and every day. We can tell our husbands that we are right alongside them during this stressful time. We can hold our children after a disapointment and tell them that you have been there and will be there as they work through it. We can hold a friend's hand or a one of a stranger and say a few simple words, "You are not alone." Those words can move mountains.

Is there someone that you've been led help? Maybe you've had a tough experience but you've come out on the other side. How can you give comfort to those that are still in the thick of it?
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