Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In Sickness and Health

I was sick twice last week. Twice. The first time I was throwing up. The second time I had a cold. Meanwhile, my husband got the stomach thing and my oldest got the cold and we were all a hot mess. But there were blessings amidst all the Kleenex and the biggest one was my husband.

"I'll be home at lunch babe," he said as he rubbed my back, looking worried.
"I'll be okay. I'll just put on a movie for them," I said as I ran to the bathroom to throw up my Gatorade breakfast. I wanted to believe that I would be fine. I'm a mom. I'm tough. I've got this. Except I didn't have it at all.

The barrage of requests from my kids was overwhelming. They were hungry and the sight of food was repulsive. They wanted to chase each other and movement made me nauseous to watch. I finally turned on the movie, hoping for stillness. Our new lab puppy, Charlie, wanted none of it. He worked his way through the living room chewing up markers, the couch, the rug and any kids toy he could find. Each time, I would need to get up and give him one of his toys.

I laid back down, closed my eyes and suddenly felt a poke in the eye. "Wake up, Mommy!" My two year old yelled. "No sweep! Great movie, Mommy. You wake up."
"Honey, mommy is tired and sick. I need to close my eyes. You enjoy the movie, baby girl."
Tears flowed. "No sweep, Mommy! It scary! Hold me up?"
I gave up and texted my mom an SOS. I asked her to come after lunch when my husband went back to work and she quickly agreed.

My husband arrived home with soup, crackers and movies. I fell into his chest for a hug, grabbed my loot and headed for the bedroom to sleep.

When I woke up three hours later, I found him working on the lanai with a pool full of our kids and neighbors. I watched from the living room for a few minutes as he fielded emails and phone calls, watched the kids' "cool tricks" and grabbed a wayward water wing out of the puppy's mouth. He seemed to balance it all seamlessly and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I opened the door. "Hey babe! I thought mom was coming so that you could get back to work?"
"I told her to go home. I wanted to take care of you." It's no wonder I love this man.

A few days later, my oldest son said to my husband, "Daddy, I love that you are the kind of Daddy that stays with us when Mommy is sick. Instead of going back to work, you took care of all of us. I love that." My husband and I looked at each other and smiled. He had not only given me everything I needed and more, he had taught our son an invaluable lesson. Family first. I hope it's one that he never forgets. 

Is there something that you need help with this week? Don't be too tough - Ask for the help you need and watch what happens. Receive graciously. By doing so, you will be giving and receiving a gift.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Celebrate Calm

My oldest child and I are slowly but surely figuring out how to minimize the amount of conversations that cause us to lock horns. I attended the most helpful workshop I've ever attended at a recent homeschool convention. It was given by the owner of Celebrate Calm and it felt as if he was speaking directly to me. He is the parent of a strong-willed child and he has developed a methodology that helps parents to manage their emotions but also gets results from kids that want everything to be done their way. It centers around the idea that the parent has to stay calm but in control. This week, I had an opportunity to try some of this stuff out.

"Hey bud! You can play with the hose but you need to turn it way down," I said to my oldest.
"Why?" He said, his eyes shooting up and his heels digging in. 
Take a deep breath. This doesn't need to escalate. "Because the water costs money, bud. Turn it down."
"But I don't want to turn it down. You said I could use the hose. And it doesn't cost that much money, right? I mean, it's just water!" 
He continued to spray the hose full blast, confident that his bullet proof argument had swayed me. I tried to tamp down the need to just rip the thing out of his hand and spray him in the face with it (Is that over sharing?) "Okay, sure. You can keep it running full blast. When I get the bill, I can just split it with you. Cool?"
His eyes shot up again, this time with a look that measured my seriousness. I smiled back at him. "No big deal, bud. You have twenty bucks saved. That should probably cover it." And I meant it. If he wanted to pay for it, I was fine with it. He sensed this immediately.
"Umm, actually I can just turn it down. That's fine. I mean, I don't really need that much water." He laughed nervously and checked my face again.
"Whatever you want to do, bud," I said as I went back to my book, unruffled and cheering silently for this small victory.

I'm realizing that he needs to make the choice himself. I'm realizing that I have the power to give him acceptable choices. "You want to create a bubble solution in the middle of the kitchen? Sure, you just have to clean it all up before you play with it. Or you could just do it outside and avoid that nonsense." Easy choice, right? He's feeling empowered if a little puzzled by my new attitude. He's waiting for me to be upset. He's preparing an argument twenty steps ahead but I'm cutting him off at the pass. He's way smarter than me; there is no use arguing with him. He would win every time. So I'm choosing to back off, be loving, give him space when he's angry and give him more choices. And suddenly he's hugging me more and asking me to play with him more. We're laughing at inside jokes instead of playing a verbal game of King of the HIll. I'm not sure how long all this will work but I do know it's nice to have my boy back. 

Do you have a strong willed child? Check out Celebrate Calm or just begin to see the relationship as more important than the win. Give them choices but make sure you're okay with whichever option he decides to take. Our strong willed children will be the CEO's, the world changers, the innovators, the inventors. Love them for their strength and give them opportunities to use it in meaningful ways. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures of the NICU Babies

I love teacher supplies. Even before I homeschooled, I would buy up pretty pens and cute stickers and fun notebooks every time the back to school stuff appeared. The other day I found some blank books in the dollar bin at Target and brought them home for my kids. I thought it might be fun to do their creative writing in "real" books instead of a boring worksheet. I filed them in our little office to use in the fall. But my kids had other plans.

I walked into the office to find all twelve blank books splayed across the floor. "Okay Drew! My cover is done! It's called the Lonely Diesel Engine!" 
I looked down at my oldest's blocky writing that spelled, "Lonle Dezel Enjen". "Oooh, I'm intrigued! I can't wait to find out why he's lonely and if it turns out okay."
"Don't worry, it does, Mommy," he said as he stopped to pat my leg. "He'll find friends. You'll see!" He turned back to his project, smiling and planning.

"What's your story going to be about, Drew?"
Drew's face lit up as an idea formed in his head. "The Adventures of the NICU Babies!!" He yelled as if he was announcing the latest super hero series. 
"Very cool ideas, both of you! Drew, want me to help you write your story down?" I asked.

Before I could find a pen, he started regaling the adventures of the babies' first trip to outer space. My favorite part reads, "The NICU babies all took turns flying the spaceship and after that they were better than the guy who taught them to fly! And then they went down to their moms and all had a bottle of warm milk." He spent twenty minutes or so illustrating each page with stick figures and rockets and had an idea for their next adventure before he was even done. "Let's do lots of stories about the NICU babies!" He yelled as he ran to show me the finished product.

As I reflected on those thirty minutes, I saw so many cool things happening. First, they wanted to create. I didn't need to make them. I just had to provide the tools and watch what happened next. Second, it's amazing to to realize that they are listening. You see, just this week I did a presentation to their VBS about the amazing strength of the babies in the NICU. I shared with the kids one of High Risk Hope's mottos, "You're never too small to make a big difference" and told them that when they help other people, they are our greatest super heroes. My four year old internalized this and actually made the babies into super heroes. How cool is that?

So, if you're feeling pressured by Pinterest pins about STEM learning or endless enrichment activities, remember that our kids are driven to learn. Give them the tools to create. Expose them to messages about good character. Sit back and watch what happens. And stay tuned for the next "Adventures of the NICU Babies!"

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.
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