Category Archives: Parenting

A Reading Rundown: Good ideas from Great Books

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I have been a plugging along reading these last few months, and what fun it has been! I wanted to share some of what really stuck with me after the books were closed and put away. After all, there are scores of reviews found on books on the Internet….I wanted to share something different. Be advised that these are not necessarily main thoughts, just the leftover parts…like the fat build up on my thighs after I’ve eaten too many skillet cookies, or something like that!

JanuaryEducating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

  • Rest is for mommas, too! I don’t like to admit I need rest, and I think naps are overrated. But I have discovered, especially as I homeschool, that a short rest (for me that’s reading a book or scrapbooking) is just what I need! I get the kids all settled, and enjoy about 20 minutes of undisturbed peace and quiet. And, what’s more, I don’t allow myself to feel guilty for it!
  • Instead of a movie night, try cuddling up with popcorn and other snacks for a “reading night!” We gave this a try and loved it! I am anxious to try it with an audio book – I was too busy reading to eat popcorn.
  • Limit phone use (and other technology) to really “get something done.” This is pretty basic, but served as a good reminder to leave my phone away from the area where we do school. It was so helpful! I need to try that again!

FebruaryGood and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

  • “Come when you’re called” is pretty self-explanatory. But I love the way the authors encourage you to get near to your child and for them to get near to you to discuss things. How often are we yelling, “Would you clean up your toys?” from the kitchen? And then we wonder in amazement that our kids annoyingly holler at us! We’ve been practicing having the kids come to us when we say their names. We’re still a work in progress on this.
  • The authors introduce the term badgering to refer to a kid pestering, relentlessly, to get a parent to change an answer. My kiddos, as young as they are, try this technique now and then. After explaining to them what badgering and bullying were, I now simply say, “Mommy said you can’t do that right now. Since you’re asking again, I am feeling bullied.” They actually apologize on their own, and move on to other things! This one has been so useful in our house!
  • When you give a child a task, it’s so important to follow-through, or check in with them. You can ask them to let you know when they’re done, or you can simply watch them accomplish it. This has been helpful in helping our boys follow through with our requests, instead of finding out hours later that a bed was never made. Reduces momma’s blood pressure just a bit!

MarchWordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

  • My favorite quote from this book is, “Read until your brain creaks.” Man, I love that thought. It makes me just want to read and read. He encourages readers to have 20 books going at once – a dangerous thought for this half-book-reader-who-doesn’t-always-finish-the-book! But it’s encouraging, too, that you can pick up a book – from an array of choices – that best suits your mood!
  • Stretch yourself – write a genre you wouldn’t normally write or read something you wouldn’t normally read. You’ll be stretched and maybe enjoy something more than you thought!
  • Don’t worry about the fact that you will forget most of what you read – rest in the thought that you have been shaped by it

April For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan S. MacAulay

  • Forming good habits with the kiddos is so worth the time. Having good habits for the everyday and mundane frees up a kiddos mind (and a momma’s!) to think about more important things! I have been making a list of the habits I want to better instill in my kids (like what to do when we finish our work early, how to best leave the table after dinner, etc.) so I can focus on bigger ideas with my kids.
  • Kids need to be outside – often. The best education comes not within the four walls of a building, but in the world around us – God’s creation. As much as I don’t like bugs, letting the kids capture and examine a grasshopper can teach far more than any textbook on the subject.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The words of Jesus. Simple ones that I have heard hundreds of times. But I have never been encouraged to apply them to my life as a mom. So powerful.

I hope you’re keeping up with reading a book or two each month of your own! I would love to hear how a book has recently impacted your life as a woman, a wife, or a mom!

Stay tuned – later this week I have a fun craft to share!

 

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Good Grief

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This past week, we endured the passing of another dear family member, the third grandparent lost to us within the past year. In this time of grief, a great amount of family warmth, laughter, joy and memories were shared. The grief was real, and the reality was sad, but the time was good.

Today, as I was dealing with the poor attitude of one of our boys, I endured another time of grief, much less profound. And yet, this grief was also very real.

My son has been testing the waters of parent follow-through. Today, exasperated, I explained to him that he would lose a privilige this evening if he continued to react to others in so poor a manner. As soon as the words left my mouth, I was frustrated with myself for offering so thoughtless a punishment. For, in using this withdraw of privilege, I was offering something costly to both him and me. In that instant I couldn’t help but mentally plead with him, “Please don’t go there.”

But, sure enough, he did. It was not as on purpose so much as out of habit, for he has been in the habit as of late of not following directions. Sometimes, in these moments, I would “rescue him,” by offering a lesser sentence. But I have since realized that this is likely how we came to the place where he has little regard for obedience – for the punishment often did not end up hurting all too much.

And so today, I explained to him that he would have to endure the loss. He was upset and shed tears. Hearing him from the kitchen, I was sad at his loss. And we both grieved.

Sure, this is a temporary loss, unlike that of my grandfather who will forever be missed and live on in our hearts.

But there is real grief as a parent when your child hurts.

But, in the end, this small, temporary grief will be worth it. Someone said this weekend to me that all death leads to life. Plants die and give birth to seeds. Animals die and give nourishment to soil. We die and give way to a new life with Jesus. And, in the same way, the grief of our children, caused to purpose them to better lives as adults, gives way to life with better reason and preparedness.

In my son’s tears, the seeds of obedience spring forth.

And, in the words of Laura Ingalls Wilder, “There’s no great loss without some small gain.”

And so, we press on with our kids, giving them “good grief.”

Anger’s Bitter End

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It hit me yesterday like a ton of bricks.

A small sentence. A minor statement in the book Good and Angry. A dad says, “I had developed bitterness toward my kids.”

It took my breath away as I sat in the realization of it all.

Most everything I do is for my kids. I wake up and tackle the day to help them learn and grow and mature. I cook two or three meals a day, all the time considering their health and wellbeing. I read, read, read to them, bathe them, groom them, manage them, discipline them. I teach and explain and correct, always debating in my mind how to handle the issues in the most God-honoring, for-their-betterment, least-need-for-counseling way. I spend the hours after they are tucked in mulling over the events of the day, preparing for the next. I love my kids.

But I was “keeping a record of wrongs.”

No, I wasn’t tallying whines, hurtful words, complaints, and problems. There was no list of good and naughty, no journal accounts of their offenses.

But, unknowingly, I was starting my day with a tankful of anger, ready to pounce. Because I was full.

Full of no one being ready when it was time to leave. Full of picking up toys. Full of putting away laundry. Full of cooking and cleaning. Full of sibling rivalry. Full of disobedience. Full of anger. Full of thinking it all over. Full of self. Full of guilt.

And full of records.

“They always…”
“They never…”
“When will they learn to…”
“I’m so tired of them always…”

So today, after much prayer, I attempted to see my kids without past offenses. They needed a fresh start to the day. I needed a fresh start to the day.

Sure, they repeated some of their trademark issues, and I repeated some of mine. We are all works in progress, after all.

But, as I leaned on the Lord for strength and resolve, my kids and I were able to relate without as much anger wedged in my heart. And, for the first time in quite a while, I fully and deeply appreciated what Paul was saying to the Corinthians in that famous love chapter, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Because the freedom and privilege to love lies in the absence of records.

Lord, let me be full. Full of love.

When Mom Calls In Sick…

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When I peeled myself out of bed yesterday morning, I discovered I had gained a headache, a sore throat, and an earache through the night. No matter. I had four kids waiting for me to be mom, so we moved on with the day.

I taught school lessons, made meals, cleaned messes, and started laundry. But it all took so long as I dragged slowly on through the pain. I have given birth four times, with almost no pain meds. I can handle anything, right?

Or so I thought. As the day went on, and aches and chills crept through my body, I realized I was going to need more than willpower to survive. I was going to need prayer and some ibuprofen.

I thought I might be better after a good night’s rest. But alas, today I woke up to an exaggerated version of my previous day’s “gifts,” and I realized I was going to need to get to the doctor. This is one of the rare moments I deem absolutely necessary to call in for back-up.

But “Back-Up” had jury duty.

And not only did my dear hubby have jury duty, he was hand-selected to be a juror. I had advised him to wear a shirt with a don’t-pick-me-slogan, like “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” I would have gladly stitched up such a shirt for him last night. Hindsight is 20-20.

And so, as my dear husband is text-checking on us, I am sitting in an urgent care facility waiting with my 20 kids. (Okay, I only have four kids, but a two-hour wait with four kids and crawling germs everywhere feels like 20 kids!) Actually, they were well-behaved. (Lots of prayer went into that!)

When we were finally admitted to the exam room, and they had asked the typical hundred questions, we waited yet again. As my toddler walked about the room investigating which buttons she would push to entertain herself, I did the unthinkable. That thing you always wanted to do but never had the guts. Yes, I inflated an exam glove, much to the delight of my toddler.

When we had exhausted the fun of the “balloon,” the doctor was finally in. I didn’t have strep, and I didn’t have the flu. She took one look at my throat and my ears and said I had a severe sinus infection with “bulging ear drums” in both ears. And then she said the word I had waited all morning to hear…

Antibiotics.

Please, get them in me, make them work fast, and restore me to full-on mommyhood.

Well, as it turned out, it took a little while for the meds to make a difference. But tonight, as I started to feel better, it was as if a veil was removed from my eyes.

I surveyed the damage. It was something akin to a tornado that swept through the house. Grocery ads torn and scattered, matchbox cars littered the floor. Socks were strewn about, blankets thrown to and fro, shoes separated from their matches, books piled high, crumbs dotting the counters. I couldn’t believe it.

It’s funny. Sometimes I wonder what I do all day that keeps me running through this house like a “chicken with my head cut off.” Now I know — I’m a grocery-ad-protector matchbox-car-picker-upper sock-hamper-putter-inner blanket-folder shoe-matcher book-shevler crumb-sweeper. That is what I do.

And now I have sufficient drugs with which to do it.

Unemployed

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I was recently at the doctor’s office, answering questions on those lengthy health forms, when the lady taking my information asked where I was employed. When I told her I stay at home, she wrote in large print: unemployed.

I felt so deflated! I wanted to say – hey wait! I have a bachelor’s degree! I could “work” if I wanted to! I plan to work again someday! I wanted to validate myself. And then I thought…but I do work! I work very hard, all day. I don’t sit around eating ice cream and watching soap operas! In fact, I hardly sit at all, and I only watch one hour of TV a week.

Now, I don’t fault the lady at the desk. By all technical accounts, I am unemployed. I don’t have a work phone or my own insurance or anything else that would matter for their collection of fees.

But I decided to have a little fun with this concept and looked up the definition of unemployed on Merriam-Webster’s site. In the explanation it says:

“Condition of a person who is able to work, is actively seeking work, but is unable to find any.”

I agree with two-thirds of that statement as I work at home. I am able to work, and I actively seek it. (Although I sometimes I actively run from it — I run away from the windows that need washing so I do not have to see the dirt on them!)

The last part of the sentence is the fun part! “Unable to find any work..”

As a mom I find work as a…
Nurse to kiss and bandage the wounds
Teacher as I teach a child to multiply, another to read, another his colors, another her animals
Chauffeur as I them drive to and from their sports and social events
Chef as I make two to three meals a day
Fashion consultant as I nix the idea of wearing polka dot pants with a striped shirt
Judge as I mediate the latest conflict
Counselor as we problem solve how to not get into conflict in the first place
Personal shopper as I go to the store to pick up whatever is needed
Professional organizer as I stack and label the kids’ items into tubs
Seamstress as I repair buttons on pants
Dental hygienist as I help them brush and floss their teeth
Entomologist as I help identify (via the internet) the latest bug caught
Exterminator as I kill those crazy bugs
Hairdresser as I wash and comb hair
Detective as I try to figure out who really had the toy first
Maid as I pick up, clean up, and wash up many, many messes

So, no. I am not really unable to “find work” as I work at home as a full-time mom. But neither am I unable to find payment. I would take smiles, hugs, and kisses from my kids over any salary, any day.

What I Didn’t Expect When Expecting Boys

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When I was pregnant, I had the cutest little shirt that said “Bundle of Boy.” I proudly wore it during portions of three pregnancies.

I don’t quite remember what I expected out of my sweet little boys, but I can, in retrospect, say that there were things I did not necessarily expect out of those sweet little bundles! I decided to jot down just a few things that my boys have taught me. This list is by no means comprehensive, nor am I saying these things apply to all boys or only to boys.

Just a little of what I didn’t expect when I was expecting boys…

Mud puddles have invisible targets on them. It is most exciting to “hit the bulls eye” when wearing church clothes.

All rocks belong in any nearby body of water, puddles not excluded.

Fences are not to keep people and pets out or in. They are for hurdling.

Knock knock jokes are way funny. Made up ones are even better.

The words toot, bottom, and poo (or any variations of these words) are funny. Always. Especially in knock knock jokes.

Teaching boys to go potty requires the teaching of two positions: standing and sitting. Technique and aim are important.

The toilet (and surrounding area) need to be cleaned every day or two. Cleaning the floor around the toilet is essential.

Even with good technique and aim, and with good cleaning practice, an air freshener in the bathroom is a good idea.

Going potty outside is desirable. A bush is the perfect go-to potty spot.

Sometimes, even when indoors, it is necessary to go out of the way to run outdoors to utilize said potty bush.

Moss does not grow under bushes frequently watered with potty.

Sometimes it is best not to say, “Let’s not do that. We do not have time for a trip to the ER.” Self-fulfilling prophecy is a beast.

Wrestling is always fun. And once someone is established as a wrestling buddy, that person is always viewed as fair game for wrestling.

Dirt and mud are fun. They taste good, too.

Belching is an art. And it makes a good punch line for knock knock jokes.

Conflict? Just whack your brother on the head with a slinky. He will slug you back. Problem solved.

Grandparents should be asked not to purchase toy light sabers for Christmas. See above.

Moms of boys should be encouraged not to scream at the sight of bugs so as to help their boys be manlier.  When a bug is brought into the house, this rule does not apply.

Spitting is considered cool. Emphasize spitting is only allowed when teeth are being brushed.

Little men need food, water, shelter, clothing, and Legos – in that order.

Legos and hot wheels are sometimes strategically placed so as to make parents do a funny dance when stepped on.

Matching means wearing a dark green shirt with light green shorts. It is also perfectly acceptable to wear a pair of shoes that is a different shade of green altogether.

Deep thoughts often come out at the dinner table: “If everyone had a bottom where their head is, then you would have to go to the bathroom by putting your head in the toilet. Then you would have to flush with your foot, and you would flush yourself down.”

It is a good idea to have a couch boys are allowed to jump on and one they are not allowed to jump on. Freedom and limits are both necessary.

But the best lessons I’ve learned?

Little boys cry sometimes.
Boys need hugs and kisses, too.
Boys love their mommas.
And no words can describe the deep, deep love that mommas have for their boys.

What an unexpected world. What a bundle of boy.

Driving the Kids: The Soundtrack

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The day is happy. For the most part, everyone is getting along. School is going well. Meals are healthy and thought-out in advance. I am showered and dressed, and I have makeup on. Everything is going well. Cue the song “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”

We lose track of time as we prance about the house all day singing our song when the clock strikes 3:45. We have to be somewhere at 4.

Then panic sets in, and I become a drill sergeant barking orders:
Change your shirt! (You can’t go in public in *that*!)
Put on your shoes!
Where is your coat?

Then the kids get cranky and whiny. They start yelling across the house, bickering, and fighting. Socks, shoes, and coats seem to fly through the air.

And the baby looks at me and grins. There is a stench in the air. Toddler Law says they must always poo as you’re walking out the door.

We make it to the van. One still doesn’t have shoes, one has a crusty face, and one is missing.

We are in our seats, but no one feels settled. We are all spent, tired, and cranky. It is 3:59.

Cue “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

I’ve come to realize that some of my weakest parenting occurs during the rush to get out the door. It’s a pattern I know I need to fix, giving myself more time and praying for more patience. I’m going to work on that.

Because it would sure be nice to “Hit the Road, Jack,” with a smile on all of our faces.