Our Second Summer Together

Last year I wrote about our first summer together, my first summer not working in 8 years. What I learned from that summer: my kids super hated the schedule I had created to provide some structure.  So now we tweak.

This summer, I’m relaxing with the schedule.  I have some rules, but no schedule per se.  And it certainly isn’t printed out and taped to the cupboard.  Someday my kids will be planners, right? :/

Here’s what I’ve decided for this year.  At 9am, I feed anyone who hasn’t already eaten, and all screens are turned off.  We all get our chores done.  If they choose to waste time instead of work, I don’t nag them.  But when a friend comes knocking, they will be turned away if work isn’t done.  Then we play.  All day.  At 5pm screen time is back and I cook supper.

That’s it.  Everyone is happier.  I have also budgeted a certain amount of fun money for each week of the summer for ice cream, donuts, cheap theater, etc.  When it’s gone, it’s gone.  This has created some great opportunities for compromise and understanding a budget!

And here is our chore chart for the summer.  I even added mine so they don’t think I get to be lazy all summer :)

Happy summer, friends!

Email *

Listening With My Eyes

Recently I found myself in a classroom with this one boy…

He was grumpy all day.  He clearly didn’t want to be at school, and didn’t want much to do with me.  I gave him his space but continued to be kind.  OK, I am overly gushy with sweetness when a student doesn’t want me around.  Anyway.

After lunch, this boy’s attitude was noticeably worse, so I quietly asked him to come to my desk.  Here’s how our conversation went.

Me: What’s wrong?
Student: (whispered mumble that vaguely resembled “nothing”)
Me: Well, your mouth said “nothing” but your body, your face, and your voice tell me something’s wrong.  I want you to have a good day, and I really want to help but I can’t if you don’t tell me.
Student: (silence)
Me: Are you mad?
Student: (nods head)
Me: Ok.  Are you mad about something that happened at school or at home?
Student: School.
Me: Ok.  Did something happen this morning or at lunch?

And then, this tough boy put his head in his hands and began crying, telling me that he got hurt at recess.  I pulled him in for a hug, and let him stay as long as he needed.  We talked about what happened and walked down to the nurse as a precaution.  Then, for the entire afternoon, that sweet boy was by my side whenever I needed anything.  “Miss O, can I pass out those papers?”  “Miss O, do you need any help?”  “Miss O, can I collect the papers for you?”

Listening – really, truly listening with your eyes and everything – makes such a difference.  Yes, I know we don’t listen with our eyes.  But I’m guilty of listening while looking at something else.  So listening with my eyes is a much higher level of paying attention.

Since I became a substitute teacher, I’ve worked on bringing lessons into our home so I can be a better mom.  I need to listen with my eyes so my children know they are worthy of my attention.  I need to notice their body language and dig in to find the truth rather than just hearing their words of “I’m fine”.  I need to stop dismissing grumpiness when there could be pain.  Physical or emotional pain might ooze out in many other forms.  I pray I don’t mistake or ignore (intentionally or not) my children’s pain.

So there’s my current goal.  Listening with my eyes.  Go explain that one to a literal preschooler.

Email *

Savoring Life

Ada is 9, and moves at her own pace. All the time, every day of her life. It’s quite maddening, really. I mean, this is how she eats…
Ada eatingShe really and truly closes her eyes for every bite of every meal.  She savors it like it’s the best thing she’s eaten in her entire life.

Then finally it dawned on me…this is how she approaches life.  She moves slowly so she can enjoy everything.  She is more observant than anyone I know, and that’s really hard to accomplish when you’re rushing around, too busy to look.

There is so much we can learn from our kids, and right now I’m trying to learn to slow down and live life a little more at Ada’s pace so I can enjoy the view.  I want to savor every. single. bite.

Email *

You Did What?

Here’s the scene.  It’s after church, I’ve been talking with friends for a little while, and it’s time to put eyes on my kids to make sure they’re behaving.  They’re 9, 10, and 11, so I wasn’t being completely careless as a parent.

They’re not in the usual places, so it’s time to look outside.  Since it’s only 40° out, that’s not a usual place yet.  A mom tells me she saw them outside, and her daughter follows with, “They were walking on the ice.”  I pause, look at her, and no words form.  Surely they weren’t walking on the ice, it’s been too warm for that.

I find them outside near the pond (I know), and tell them it’s time to come inside, and they probably shouldn’t go outside without telling me.  I then casually ask, “You weren’t walking on the ice, right?”  Yep.  They were.

And it’s time to go home.

The conversation in the car started with dying, then hypothermia, then getting stuck in the potential mud, then the fact that there weren’t with any adults.  I never yelled, but my heart wasn’t calm either.

Then I realized…they didn’t know.  They’ve never learned the dangers of walking on a pond in early spring when everything was beginning to melt.  This simply wasn’t information they had available to recall.

Why is it that I’m gracious with them when they’re learning to multiply fractions, but when their safety is in jeopardy I suddenly expect them to have the common sense of an adult with a life time of experience?  It’s not fair, and it never ends well.

So I pulled back, taught the new information, and listened.  Of course I then explained why their logic was so incredibly flawed, but OF COURSE IT WAS.  Their little brains don’t have they information mine does.  I seem to think they DO have all of my information, they just CHOOSE not to access it in an effort to make me crazy.  Well, that might happen sometimes.  I can’t rule it out quite yet.

Email *

The Courage to Be Yourself

IThird-Thursday-Thoughts had the opportunity last weekend to attend my third Hearts at Home conference, and as usual it did not disappoint.  I heard great insight from so many speakers, took page after page of notes, and was inspired to continue to be a better mom.

One thing I noticed (and appreciated) about each speaker is that they weren’t pushing me to be like them.  They were merely sharing their journey and encouraging me along my own.

We are each on our own journey, with our own map and our own equipment, and let’s not forget our own unique traveling buddies.  We can’t travel down someone else’s path because we don’t have their map.  What we CAN do is encourage each other and share some tools along the way.

I was able to share my Hearts at Home weekend with 5 great friends, and my dear sister.  Do you want to know a secret?  None of us parent the same way.  None of us are in the same stage of parenting.  Some are blissfully done having children, some are done but kind of sad, and some are still growing their family.  Some have chosen to work outside of the home and some have chosen to stay home full time.  What we shared was a desire to be better.  With seven different personalities and seven different backgrounds, we all had a common goal, and the confidence to be ourselves in the process.

And interestingly, I believe the confidence to be yourself also brings the courage to give others the freedom to do the same.HAH2015

Thank you to my friends who joined me last weekend, for letting me be myself, and for being yourselves.  It made for many more laughs, I’m sure!  (That’s me on the left with my face half cut off!)

Be confident, mommas.  You’re doing a great job.

Email *

Finding a Rhythm

As we soldier on in this journey with Eli’s anger, I took some wise advice from a friend and started keeping track of his good days and bad days.  Guys, I’m so excited.

It turns out Eli has three good days and then one bad day.  Over and over and over.  It’s like a break through, without actually being a break through.  I know when it’s coming!!!

I didn’t tell Eli at first about the discovery, because he tends to have the attitude that this is all happening TO him and he has no control over it.  I was afraid that this information would only add to this idea.

Here’s where it’s getting tricky.  A couple weeks ago, on a really bad day, Eli lost all electronics.  His idea to earn them back was 4 good days for video games, 5 good days for television, 6 good days for the computer.  I wasn’t going to be that harsh, but sure.  Then I learned about his rhythm!  So he hasn’t earned anything back because of that darned fourth day.  I decided to tell him, because he was feeling like he would never earn electronics back.  “Your fourth day IS harder.  I have a chart to prove it.”  But he’s not doomed to a bad fourth day, we just have to work harder.

So that brings us to yesterday.  Yesterday was the fourth day.  I didn’t alert him, I just knew.  And he was picking fights ALL DAY.  I worked and worked and worked to keep it under control and redirect and remind and not engage.  Then at bedtime, I told him that he did it.  He made it through the fourth day.  That boy jumped up and hugged me the biggest hug.  Now he knows he can do it, and we will continue pressing on through these “fourth days” until they fade into the rest.  These are the first tears of joy I’ve shed for this boy in months.  I will not give up on this boy.  And today God has given me fresh wind in my sails.

Email *

Waving the White Flag

Today, I am waving the white flag.  I surrender.  I give up.  I quit.  However you want to word it, that.

I called a friend to take a child.  THE child.  The one who makes me want to shoot lasers out of my eyes, and then hug him tight to let him know I won’t ever give up on him.

Please make sure that you have that friend – the one who sees your white flag and will answer with an open door, no questions asked.  And you will gladly reciprocate should the need arise.

That’s it for this post.  I just needed to tell you, have that friend.



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.


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.