Fences

Which side of the fence are you on?

You know, those fences that somehow go up as soon as your pregnancy test shows positive.  Are you getting an epidural?  How much TV do you think a toddler should watch?  How much time should kids spend playing video games?  (PS – I totally hate the word “should”)

Those questions tend to make me feel trapped, like it’s not really a question but a decision as to whether or not you should be trusted.

I’m deciding to take the fences down.  

I’m going to make a conscious decision not to ask those kinds of questions unless I really, genuinely want to know for myself so I can gather information to make my own informed decision.  But do I need to know if you’re getting an epidural?  Probably not.  Sure it seems like making conversation, but that’s one of those things that people seem to be on one side of the fence or the other about.

I’m thinking about the articles I’ve seen on Facebook, the first saying that no children ever should have screen time (that might be a paraphrase), and the second being a rebuttal saying that it’s no biggie (again, paraphrase).  Well…maybe we’re all just doing the best we can, whether that’s zero screen time or hours of it.  And maybe “doing the best” can be good enough and we can just love each other where we’re at.

If there aren’t fences, maybe we can just all hang out together instead of being separated by these personal decisions.  Like a big awesome playground.  I like playgrounds.

You’re doing an awesome job.  Let’s go play.


 

 

10-Year-Old: The New Hardest Stage of Parenting

There are goods and bads in every stage of parenting.  We always come out the other side stronger, smarter (hopefully), and sometimes with a few emotional scars.

We’re nine months into figuring out how to parent a 10-year-old, and I’m not exaggerating here – something changed the moment she turned 10.  This is slightly worrisome for me because in June we’ll have another 10-year-old, and another 18 months after that.  So…

I’m learning that I have to shift the way I parent, which is not an easy thing to do.  She wants so desperately to be grown up but she just isn’t.  I’m trying to bring her alongside me more, into the decision-making and into my reasoning.  When she seems to be having a fit about something, I am trying so hard to stay calm and decide whether she needs more explanation about why I said no, or whether I need to reevaluate my no.  When she was little I didn’t give in to fits, but now the times they are a’changing.  And it doesn’t feel like I’m giving in, but rather taking her ideas into consideration more and valuing her input. It’s the weirdest thing ever ;)

And sometimes…well sometimes she needs a good, calm, momma-at-eye-level-reminder of who the momma is.  Disrespect and rudeness won’t ever change my mind or earn any new privileges.  I try to keep those moments few and far between, and she knows when they happen that she needs to step back, calm down, and try again with a different tone.  And I let her come back again with a different tone and continue the conversation.

This parenting deal is NOT for the faint of heart.  For real guys.

But, I know that the work we are putting in now is shaping the adults they will be, and that is sooner than I think.  So I will take a breath, pray out loud, and keep fighting for them (and sometimes with them) because they are worth every second of it.


 

Temporary Exceptions

We have goals.  We have the bar set.  We have expectations and limits.

And sometimes there need to be temporary exceptions.

As parents, of course we want what is best for our children in every area of their lives.  Chad and I have been on a journey to teach our kids about healthier eating and a major part of that is just not having the less healthy options in the house very much.  Their breakfast options are eggs or oatmeal, and their snacks have been replaced with fruit and yogurt.  I haven’t bought cereal, freezer waffles, granola bars, or crackers this year so far.

Until…12 flipping snow days happened.  I broke down and bought some frosted mini-wheats (the strawberry kind, so fruit – check!) to have on stand-by for snow days.  I’ve learned that I have a limit for how many snow days I can handle before I really want to throw my phone across the room when I hear a text come through pre-7a.m.  So cooking is probably not a good idea.

And now my little darlings are at school for an hour longer each day for 5 weeks to make up 4 of these snow days, which means more snacks are needed because they were already starving at 3:30, now it’s 4:30, and on Thursdays Eli gets home at 5:30.  These lovely balls of energy need food.  They are asking for 2 snacks a day, so I just bought Walmart’s version of goldfish (those penguins are so good) and granola bars.   I am making them take one fruit and one of these new exciting snacks, just so we don’t completely derail.

Life happens.  Mommas get sick and the TV might need to be on a little more.  And that’s OK.  It’s temporary.  You need to get better.  Really, it’s about survival.  If that baby is still fed, then my friend it’s been a successful day.  Changing out of pajamas is optional and overrated.

Temporary exceptions don’t have to completely undo all of your hard work, and you can make a plan to get back on track when it’s time.  You’re doing a great job :)


 

 

My Little Big Kids

The stages of parenting are so incredible and vastly different.  I’ve been told all along the way that parenting doesn’t get easier, just different.  True, true words.

So right now, my little darlings are 8, 9, and 10.  I’d say we’re about knee-deep into the journey of learning to expand their boundaries, grow their independence, and let them into the decision-making process rather than inform them of the final decision.

Here is where I’m floundering…in the same conversation I can be encouraging them and teaching them more responsibility, then calming tears and giving hugs.  It’s just an odd place to be.  Not bad, just odd.  I’m both “mommy” and the one gradually teaching them to fly.  I’m giving laundry lessons, and filling the emotional cup of the one who needs to cuddle.

These kids…they’re still little.  They want so badly to be big, and it’s my job to teach them what it means to be big: making wise choices, being responsible and kind, being a part of Team O.  So it’s a tricky place to be, and it’s tricky to remember what size they actually are – these kids who just won’t stop growing up on me.


 

Wedding Plans

I felt the need to capture this for my own purposes, for someday when my girls are wedding planning and I can show them what their plans were in 2014…

Ada’s dress: purple
Bridesmaids: red and pink

Grace’s dress: white
Bridesmaids: red
Groom & Groomsmen: blue


 

“Do This in Remembrance of Me”

I sat in church on Sunday listening to one of our pastors prepare the congregation for communion.  He said the words that are so familiar to me, “do this in remembrance of me“, and I really started to think about those words in a new way.

I thought about how the disciples would have shared the passover meal together after Jesus had died, risen, and returned to heaven.  They would have remembered Jesus during this meal – specifically the last one they had celebrated together, then maybe shared stories of him (He had some great stories!).  Maybe it would grow quiet, they would smile a little, perhaps cry.  This meal in particular would remind them of Jesus and the words He spoke to them at the last meal they shared together.

I thought about how I remember people who are no longer here.  When my friend Mike died, we sang “How Great Thou Art” at his funeral, and for years I couldn’t sing that song at all, or at least not without crying.  I sang that song remembering him.  The wedding gift from Mike’s mom reminds me of him whenever I see it.

I thought about my Grandma Helen.  Doris Day, peppermints, drinking coffee with one elbow on the table, and her laugh that still echoes from my aunts.

I thought about Pastor Stan and the great list of things that still remind me of him, some of which I expect, and some of which catch me off guard.  Some make me smile and some make me ache.

And I thought about Jesus.  I wasn’t at the Last Supper.  I didn’t hear his last words to the disciples.  But they were recorded for us, and we get to hear them every time we have communion.  I know the feeling of remembering someone when you perform a task, hear a song, catch a certain scent, see a car.  I know that feeling.

This is how I want to approach communion - remembering.  Remembering Jesus, his sacrifice, my inadequacies, my deep need for him.


 

BEING a Mom

My friend Heather wrote a great post about giving first-time moms a break, and I’ve heard a lot about this lately, and even been convicted of it myself.  I think, “Oh she’ll learn when she has a second.”  And while that may technically be true, it’s also completely dumb to say.  OF COURSE she’ll learn more upon having more children, but she’s also learning an insane amount just by having one.

Nothing prepares you for being a mom, Heather says in her post that not even being the oldest of 8 children managed that task.  You may learn through life experiences how to do the tasks of a mom, but nothing, NOTHING can prepare you to be a mom.  You just have to be one.  The fear, anxiety, guilt, heart-bursting love, joy, excitement, pride, and seeing your husband as if for the first time again when he holds that new baby that didn’t exist in the world just two minutes ago!  Nothing prepares you for this.

My children are now 8, 9, and 10, and I look at those with younger kids and I just want to soothe those mommas and let them know it is oooookaaaay.  You will survive.  Your baby will survive.  You will sleep again.  Meanwhile I’m staring down the barrel of middle school and nearly have to take anti-anxiety pills if I sit in that thought for too long.  I have friends who are navigating the waters of parenting adult children.  Regardless of what stage you’re in as a parent, your next one will be new to you.  And you will figure it out because let’s face it, you don’t really have a choice.

So what is it that changes us so much from the first child to the second, to the third, and so on?  I think it’s about learning where to realistically set the bar for ourselves and our family.  When you’re entering a stage for the first time, regardless of how many children you have or how old they are, there is no clear answer for where the bar should be set!  Everyone does everything differently today, and with such conviction.

Conviction is good, unless it means we think everyone else is wrong.  We don’t get to decide how everyone else should parent.

So.  Where do we set the bar?  Well if we don’t know, then obviously we should set it as high as we can, that way we know we are doing our best.  That can’t go wrong, right?  That is what I think happens when we’re in a new stage of parenting.  (Not 100% of the time.)  As we live into the stage a bit, we learn where the bar should actually go, and set it more accurately.  This is how the oldest child gets mad at the youngest child for getting away with more and getting to do more :)

So, experienced moms, you can tell a new mom what you know, but she still has to be the mom.  And she will only learn that by, well, being the mom.  Give her time, let her figure it out, give her grace, and know that you’ve got a stage coming that is new to you, too.  We’re all in this together.


 

Wednesday Wit

Kindergarten student: Can you put my keychain back on my book bag?  I got it at church.
Me: Which church do you go to?
Student: The one where Jesus was born.
You win.

Eli: What part does Doris Day play in “The Sound of Music”?
Me: She’s not in that.
Eli: Sandy Duncan?
Me: No…how do you know about Sandy Duncan?
Eli: Scooby Doo Meets Sandy Duncan.


 

Rising to the Occasion

I’ve been on the couch for 3 days with a strained back muscle.  My perspective has been, “It’s not as bad as labor,” which means Chad has had to force the couch time on me.

Most Part of the problem is that I’m stubborn, but also that I just have so much work to do at home, and I don’t feel right asking people to do things for me when I’m perfectly capable of doing them myself!  Anyway…

My children know I have to rest, and I am so proud of their response.  They come right away if I ask them for help, get anything for me that might be on the floor or low shelf (bending is problematic), and have done a lot of my laundry today.  They have not once complained or whined.

I always find it amazing when we set a clear expectation for our kids, maybe even raise the bar a bit, and let them know that they are a vital and needed part of this house.  They love to help me and I think in these last three days I have felt more cared for and loved on by them than ever before.  They have really blessed me.

And let’s not forget Chad, who as we speak is at an 8-year-old birthday party with Ada making gingerbread houses.  He’s a keeper.


 

{kindness}

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

“love is kind” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Being kind shouldn’t be a struggle with my children, after all they are children.  It is a struggle though when they ignore your advice and then come to you when there is a problem,  It’s a struggle when they are tattling for the 82nd time today.  It’s a struggle when they are crying about the immunizations they will have to get in NINE MONTHS.  They simply aren’t rational beings, so responding with reason and logic doesn’t seem to work.  It instead increases their worry or fear or emotion exponentially.  Then I get more worked up, and now we are spinning out of control.

So I breathe.  I pause.  I remember that they are children and I am their mother and I must respond to them with kindness in order to calm the situation.  I regularly live out the situation in Proverbs 12:25 with my oldest daughter Grace.  She has a lot of anxiety and simply telling her, “don’t worry” never, ever, EVER works.  I have to listen.  I have to be patient.  I have to respond with kindness and empathy.  I have to reassure her that she will be ok.  I have to use kindness to cheer up her heart.  I love that lesson from Proverbs.

And I’m guessing most of use are familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 as the “love chapter” and have heard it in many weddings.  I don’t often pay attention to just one part of it though, in fact I didn’t even realize that “kind” was in this chapter because I’ve just always seen is as a lump sum.  But love IS kind.  Sometimes loving my children means disciplining them, or letting them learn the hard way.  It also means being kind.

I have seen that the more I am kind of them, the more they trust me and know they can come to me.  I haven’t completely changed the way that I parent, I am not a push-over, they still have consequences.  What I have changed is my reaction to my children.  I breathe, I pause, I listen, I yell less.  I am learning to be kinder.