When Words Hurt More than Sticks and Stones

So Eli’s anger.  I can see that we’re getting better at managing it, and though every fiber of my being wants to engage, I have seen time and again that if I don’t his outbursts are shorter lived.  There’s a win.

The problem I’m seeing now is that he is getting bolder with his disrespect.  He flat out refuses to do what I ask, and when I calmly give him the opportunity to choose different words, he repeats himself.

“What happens if I don’t?”
“I’m not doing my homework.”
“What’s another reason why I should?”

What concerns me more than all of this is what I feel happening in me.  I can stay calm when he is angry.  I can choose a calm voice and stay in control of myself.  I don’t engage in his vortex of crazy.

Until.

When he is done being angry, and he is back to my sweet boy, it’s like a switch flips in me and I don’t have to be calm and nice and in control anymore.  Walls go up and the damage he has done can be felt.  And it takes me a good long time to come down from this feeling.

This really and truly scares me.  I don’t want to have walls up between me and my child.  I love him, and will guide him through this tricky phase.

I guess this is just a “state of the house” post.  And perhaps a prayer request.  This momma is soldiering on…


 

What Are You Willing to Live With?

Our days are made up of little decisions.  One after another, we determine what we can live with and what we cannot.  Some days, the “I can live with that” decisions catch up with us.

As a general rule, I need to wake up to a clean kitchen so I can start cooking breakfast at 6:30am.  This means going to bed with a clean kitchen.  THIS is where I struggle.  I don’t WANT to do dishes when I’m ready to go to bed.  So really this means doing dishes immediately after dinner.  I’m sure there are many who do this every night.  Bravo.

On one particular night, I was just plain exhausted, and I decided, “I can live with a messy kitchen tomorrow morning.  Tonight, sleep wins.”  Let’s be fair, sleep always wins for me.

So off to sleep I went, at 9pm, because I’m cool like that.  Then I woke up to that same messy kitchen, cooked breakfast, and I was out the door at 7 to sub for an early class.  Done working at 12:30, go get groceries, home at 2:15.  I now have 30 minutes to unload groceries, put away the cold stuff, and eat lunch.  The pantry items will have to stay out.  I can live with that.  Until I realized my kitchen looked like this:

messy kitchenDirty dishes on the right, breakfast pans in the center, groceries on the left.  Too bad, kitchen, I have to get in car pool line!  And I was off.

As I took this picture, and reflected in the car about the fact that the mess would still be there when I got home, I decided I wasn’t mad or overwhelmed.  The night before I needed to go to bed early.  That morning I needed to leave at 7 for work.  That afternoon I needed to get groceries.  All of these things were valid.  I chose to let the mess be less important, and it was.  No stress, no worry.

I was willing to live with it, so I did.

I’m still learning to balance working part-time, and part of the balance is honestly deciding what I can live with.  A messy kitchen in the morning? Nope.  A crazy tornado kitchen that can wait until 4?  Absolutely.  If (when) you feel short on time, decide what you can live with, and shrug it off until you have more time.  And breathe :)


 

 

Practicing Anger Management

Last month I began writing about Eli’s anger problems in an effort to invite you into my world, but also in hopes to make sure no one is going through this alone.  Here’s where we’re at currently.

After a trip to the therapist, we have some new “tools” to use at home.

1. Calming down is the goal.
When Eli is angry, the goal must be calming down.  It is not giving him a consequence for his anger (which is hard for me), it is not reasoning with him (which is hard for me), it is not threatening him with another consequence if he does not calm down (which is hard for me).  First and foremost is getting him calm.  THEN we can have a rational discussion and give reasonable consequences.

2. He’s as confused as we are.
When he has calmed down and says, “I don’t know why I get so angry,” he really means it.   I need to remember that and offer grace upon grace when this is going on.

3. Momma needs a break.
Most of his anger is directed at me, since I am usually the one telling him it’s time to do homework.  I know, I’m the worst.  So our new plan, per the therapist, is for him to do his homework after supper when Chad is also home.  Ahhh, my parenting partner.

Obviously #1 is the hardest for me.  When he’s being disrespectful and I just stay calm and don’t issue a consequence I feel like he’s getting away with it.  So this is when I walk away and repeat to myself over and over that he needs to calm down.  And breathe.  And pray.  And remind myself that my sweet boy is in there and will return shortly when the Hulk has gone.

This is undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve worked through as a parent so far.  So I’m sure I’ll be writing more about what works…and what doesn’t.


 

Orlikowski Family Christmas Card

I really, really love Christmas cards.  I love picking out the paper, the photos, writing the letter – all of it.  This year it’s just not going to happen.  I decided that if something that isn’t required was causing me stress, I could cross it off my list.

But then your lovely Christmas cards started coming in and I felt so guilty!  So I’m cheating and using my blog :)  So here goes.

IMG_0084Ada is in third grade and will be NINE the day after Christmas.  I can’t even believe it.  My baby is going to be nine.  She is so stinking smart.  She seems to be able to clear every hurdle that comes her way at school.  She is currently taking piano lessons at school, as well as in the girls’ choir and an maintain class.

Along with the school smarts comes her sassy, stubborn smart.  She can dig in on an argument and her trench is DEEP.  She loves all things soft and fuzzy – stuffed animals, blankets, pillows.

 

IMG_0126Eli is in fifth grade, and is thriving!  He is playing the violin for the third year and was invited to be in a special artist class at school.  He excels at math and is starting to actually like reading! :)

And there are still the same things…Legos, Star Wars, video games.  He is growing so fast, it’s amazing to watch him turn into a little man.  I’m thankful he has his daddy to learn from.

 

IMG_2711Grace is in sixth grade, and I’m so impressed with how she’s handling middle school!  She is getting more independent and self-reliant.

She is so gifted in all things creative, here you can see she made a dress out of a leftover piece of fabric.  All she wants for Christmas is fabric :)

Eleven is a tough age, but we’re all growing so much and learning together.  She’s a great kid and I’m so proud of her.

 

And us.  I’ve been a substitute teacher for just over a year and really, really love it.  I’m still learning how to take care of my home responsibilities, but that’s where Chad steps in and is just amazing.  He’s still working at ENS as the VP of Operations and has recently started a screen printing company called Old Fort Apparel!  I’ve been so impressed by the way he has started this from scratch and is teaching the kids how to run a business.  He’s the best.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Please remember why we celebrate Christmas.  It isn’t the presents and the busyness and the stuff.  It’s Jesus.  That at the sound of his name, every knee should bow.  Let’s all consider this as we’re singing his name in Christmas songs for the next few days.  It’s not just A name, it’s THE name.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.
The Orlikowskis

Harms Family 0004


 

Love Your Identities!

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsMy identity: momma.  This word carries some weight, am I right?  Sometimes it’s the weight of the world, and sometimes it’s the weight we need to keep us moving.

When I consider loving my identity as momma, I can get overwhelmed.  It’s because there are SO MANY sub-identities mixed up in there!  I’m their alarm clock, chef, chauffeur, nurse, therapist, teacher, maid, referee, activity coordinator, event organizer, AND momma.  Plus more that I can’t remember because I’m tired.

I believe we can settle our thoughts if we focus on the ONE identity we are fulfilling at the moment.  When I’m cooking supper, I know that this is currently my main job.  I am feeding and sustaining my family.  So I’m going to do the best job I can.

When I’m driving them to school, and everyone is screaming, I focus on being the best chauffeur I can be.  I turn on some worship music (or Christmas music currently), ask everyone to quiet down and sing along, and focus on arriving safely.

Why?  Because being ALL of those identities simultaneously is too much!!

Obviously my children don’t sit quietly and wait (maybe yours do?) while I’m cooking supper, so I’m forced to do more than one thing at a time.  But I’ve found that if my mind is racing about what’s going on later tonight, what time we have to leave for school tomorrow, who has library day tomorrow?, where IS that library book?, do we have a book out from the public library too?, is there school on Friday?, wait that was last Friday… now I’m a crazy person who snaps at my children because all of those thought bubbles were popped and I’ve burnt my supper.

Or…

I can focus on the task at hand, work intentionally to keep my mind clear, and ready myself for these darlings to need me.  Because they will.  I’m their momma.

And I love my identity.


 

Less is More

I tend not to follow trends or what other people are doing just because they’re doing it.  Really sometimes that’s my only reason for not doing something.  Just because everyone else is.  Being stubborn is like a full-time job.

In this particular case I’m talking about my kids’ activities.  Their school activities can get sort of crazy, but manageable.  An hour before school (at school), 10-ish concerts a year, but that’s about it.  Also God blessed us with non-athletic children, this helps.

In the summertime, however, we shut down.  We go swimming, play in the sprinkler, go to church camp, walk to the ice cream shop, and hang out with friends.  My kids really don’t function well with busyness and hurrying, and quite frankly it stresses me out.  So if no one is happy…why would we do it?

What if, at their ages, the best thing they can do with their time is play outside?  Get into arguments with their friends and learn to resolve them?  Make new friends with someone who just moved on to our street?  Invent a new game?  Play a neighborhood game of front yard baseball?

What if our schedule was free so I could say “yes” more?  Yes, let’s drive around and look at Christmas lights.  Yes, let’s go get donuts on this lovely Saturday morning.  Yes, go see if your neighbor friend can play.

This is what we do.  I’m not forcing it on anyone or saying it’s the best.  Perhaps your child has found a sport/activity/instrument that they LOVE and can’t get enough of!  Great –  encourage, support, sign up.  But maybe let’s consider the value in free time, for us AND for them, to just be.  To play.  To pretend.  To imagine.  So we can say “yes”.


 

Being a Substitute Teacher

Last fall I wrote that I was leaving my job, and didn’t know what was next.  If you don’t know, allow me to fill you in.

For almost a year now I have been a substitute teacher in our school district.  There are 50 schools in the district, but I only sub at the two my kids go to so that I can get to know the teachers and administrators there better, and quite honestly I believe it would be too lonely for this relational extrovert to hop all over the place never forming relationships.

When this all started last fall, Chad asked, “Are you sure?”  And I didn’t know if I was.  I’m not a teacher, I have zero interest in homeschooling, summer vacation at home nearly kills me…none of these would go on a resume.  But somehow, for some reason, there I was at orientation.

What I’ve realized is that being a substitute teacher is THE most amazing ministry I’ve ever done.  I’ve hugged kids who are crying from deep emotional pain.  I’ve hugged kids who are crying from physical pain.  I’ve hugged kids who are happy from a good grade.  I’ve tried to talk to kids to get through the big emotional wall they’ve built.  I set boundaries and reinforce them over and over.  I teach them how to be good friends to each other.  I don’t know their stories, but I don’t need to know their stories, I just love on them.

AND I’M ONLY A SUB.  Teachers go so far beyond what’s in a book.

There are days that are SO hard.  Days when I watch the clock and just want to leave.  But on those days, I remember that I’m giving a teacher the day off.  Sometimes that’s the only redeeming value of the day, but that’s still a pretty great reason to go.

People.  Thank your teachers.  Know that they are patient, and love your kids.  Know that they want so badly for them to succeed.  Know that they go early and stay late to be the best that they can be, to provide the best environment that they can.  And when they do go home, they take work with them – either literal work or mental work, thinking about their kids.


 

Anger Management

Having a blog has been so helpful for me.  I can look back through past posts and sort of get a read on where our family is now and where we’ve been.  Creating a new category called “Anger” tells me something about our current state of being…

I love my boy.  Eli is sweet and intellectual and honest.  He has a great moral compass (as long as his sisters aren’t involved).  But he has always had an anger issue.  I remember very clearly when he was about five, he was mad at me about something.  He glared at me and pulled his fist back like he was preparing to punch me.  I calmly squatted down so we were eye level and told him to think r-e-a-l-l-y hard about what he does next.  He let out a yell and walked away.

Five years later… he stomps, kicks, throws, scratched my car, broke the lock on the bathroom door, screams.  It’s quite unnerving, and worst of all, scares the girls.

I’ve stayed calm.  I’ve yelled.  I’ve given consequences.  I’ve walked away.  I’ve sent him to his room.  I’ve sent him outside.  I’ve made him run laps.  I’ve done nothing.  I’ve emailed the therapist (probably not soon enough…).

Why do I tell you all of this?  Not to air my dirty laundry or vent about my son, but to give you a real look at what’s going on.  I want to share this for that momma out there who is living in this same situation and feels completely alone.  You’re not.  I’m here with you.  I care about you and will share our journey through this.

I love my boy so, so much.  I will walk with him through this so I can help him succeed and become the man God is calling him to be.


 

Fruits of the Spirit {self-control}

Here I am, at the last of the Fruits of the Spirit.  I must admit, I’m kind of sad.  This has been a good exercise for me to be regularly searching and learning more about the Bible – learning about a topic well enough to explain it to others.  It is good.

Self-control.  This one might be the hardest to exercise on a daily basis.

Proverbs 25:28 says a person who lacks self-control is “like a city whose walls are broken through.”  Without self-control we are defenseless and open to attack.  When my walls are broken through, I am short.  I am irritable.  I have a short fuse.  Every slight mistake and inconvenience suddenly becomes an attack and I must counter-attack.

But this is now how we are called to live.

My walls must be strong, with soldiers at the ready.  Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean I am a fortress to be guarded from my children, but rather from the things they do or say that might cause me to NOT exercise self-control.  When I see these “attacks” coming, I must be ready.  I must breathe, stay calm, and remain the adult in the situation.

“I know you’re mad, but I’m not changing my mind.”
“I’m so sorry you’re upset.  Why don’t you find a safe place to calm down.”
“You absolutely get to be mad right now.  But you do not get to make a bad choice when you are mad.”
“I can’t help you unless you tell me what you are feeling.”
“I’m not mad that you spilled, I just wish you would clean up your mess.”

For real – I say these things almost every day.  They sound so amazingly cheesy when I’m not in the situation, but they help me stay calm.  These are how the Spirit is working in me to maintain self-control.  The Spirit is working in me.  I absolutely, 100% cannot do this on my own.  I pray, and pray, AND PRAY for more self-control.

Lord Jesus, don’t ever stop working in me and filling me with the Fruits of your Spirit.


 

Our Home Systems

I really love systems.  Stop laughing, Chad. I like to know that there is a plan, if you are not on board I will tie you to the boat.  Enjoy the ride.

I may have reached the systems limit in our home.

Me: We’re going to have a new system for screen time.
Ada: AH!  No more systems!  It’s too much!  We have a chore system.  A point system.  We have to earn money.  We have to do homework.  I can’t handle anymore!
Me: Would you like to hear my system BEFORE you have a freak out?

Morning System
I get up at 6 and get ready to go in case I get called to sub.
Grace gets up at 6:30.  I cook her one scrambled egg and toast (her choice).  We leave at 7 for middle school.
Eli and Ada get up sometime, I start feeding them and have them get dressed, Chad continues the process at 7 while I take Grace to school.
At 7:25 I return, then take one of the two remaining children to a before-school music class.  Chad leaves.
At 7:45 I return, have 10 minutes if I’m subbing, 45 minutes if I’m not.
At 8:30 I take the third child to school.
(I know this isn’t anything new to some of you, and some might think this looks like a breeze.  We’re still sorting it out.)

Point/Chore/Money System
It’s my favorite thing ever.  Just here.
Point System – school
chore chart

Screen Time System
No more screen time in the morning.  They don’t hear my voice, and the TV has some sort of freeze ray capability preventing any child who walks by to get dressed from actually walking by.  They stop dead in their tracks and now we’re late.
After school they have to finish homework and chores before screen time.  If they want to play outside for two hours, eat supper, THEN do their responsibilities, so be it.  But no screen time, and it’s not my fault.  Eli has started to do chores before school from preventing this from happening ever again :)

I’m really not trying to overwhelm the little people in my home, but I just don’t know how to get 5 people fed and out the door at their respective times without systems.  I just don’t.  Either I will create adults who love systems, or rock in the fetal position at the mention.  And I will save up for more therapy sessions.

One more thing.  I’m not pushing my systems on anyone, just sharing what’s working in our home right now.  Well, what’s working for me :)