Category Archives: Parenting

Pants on Fire

Tonight I discovered a spot where my child had written on a table at church with a permanent marker. I had no doubt that it was hers because not only was it in her handwriting but she also signed her name. I was upset with her and went to speak with her. She said with complete confidence that it wasn’t her. She didn’t do it. Even when we were both looking at it, she held fast to her (false) statement. After an excruciatingly long staring contest that I refused to lose, she finally admitted to writing it a few weeks ago. She and I went to our youth pastor and our children’s pastor and told them about what she’d done and let them know that we’d be back to clean it up later. They were kind and gracious and after a few hugs, we left with a smile.

We told her that she would get two separate punishments – one for writing on the table and one for lying. The first one was easy to decide. We took away points. (Just like ‘real’ school, we have a behavior system that gives points for good behavior or helpfulness or acts of kindness or things like that. You can also lose points, if need be.) But the consequence for lying? I’m stuck. We considered taking away TV time, but they don’t watch that much TV. We considered losing her iPod, but the battery hasn’t been charged in a week anyway so that wouldn’t work. We considered making her do something like and extra chore or something, but she doesn’t seem to mind doing chores. Well, except for cleaning her room and (shockingly for once) their room is currently clean.

So we’re stuck. I want it to be something memorable, but not something too drastic. What are ways that you’ve dealt with this?

The First Last Dance

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They’d been working hard with the promise that if they finished everything before Daddy got home then I’d buy the new Sofia the First soundtrack. They were getting close to their goal and the excitement was infectious. We were all working frantically and we even cheered when the last toy was put away. The big two crowded around me, waiting for those first notes. We turned it up as loud as it would go and we all began to sing along.

When it moved to the second track, I reminded Carter to go to his room and get his things together for his overnight lock-in at church. The girls and I danced along to words that step beyond come-save-me-prince-charming princess lyrics. “I can do anything…You can be anything…And I know with you by my side it’ll be a better ride…”

As we swished and swayed around the room I looked over to see him in my chair, half covered with his pillow and a bag of Cheese-Its. Holding my hand out, he shook his head no. No, he didn’t want to dance. I never missed a beat, but my heart missed a few.

See, he’s always been the first to swirl around with me. He’s always been the one who laughed when I tried very unsuccessfully to tango. He’s always been the one who joined right in. And now…he’s not. I could almost see it on his face, this struggle between boy and man:
I love this episode!
Yeah, but she’s a princess. Boys don’t like princess stuff.
But this song. It’s one of my favorites.
Really? Sounds kinda girly to me.
Maybe just one dance with my mom.
And it was there that the little boy won. He took my hand and we swayed a bit. Then he cried “Up! Up!” like he did as a little baby, and I perched his too long legs on my hips and danced and danced. His head resting on my shoulder, I squeezed a little tighter than I should have and tears prickled in my eyes. He sang and I swirled, arms aching with his full weight upon them. I wished the song to go on just a little longer and couldn’t help it when a few tears spilled over. Biting my lip, I set him down and turned my face away.

Brushing away bittersweet tears, my heart ‘swole’ up and my mind flushed with thoughts of now and then and later. A baby in my arms, not quite normal but perfect none-the-less. A toddler rattling off big words with a little boy sound. A boy stretching out towards double digits, but still cuddling with his Mama. But as I began to think of what is to come, I had to force a stop. Instead of looking forward, I soaked up every ounce of now that I could and tucked it away. A day may come when I need this moment again: when my big little boy danced with me for the last time in the living room.

Another first last. I think maybe I’m turning into a collector of those.

Lord, Hear My Prayer

There are pictures of the Boston Marathon bombers everywhere today. And as hurt and angry as we are as a nation, as people, as individuals…I look at those pictures through a mother’s eyes and my heart breaks. Those boys are some woman’s sons. Sure, she may be a vile human. She may be a big part of the reason why these boys acted in such horrific ways. Maybe she even encouraged them in this endeavor. I don’t know. But she also could be seeing the faces of her little boys, her babies on some static-y TV screen in rural Russia (or wherever she may be) with tears streaming down her cheeks. “How did this happen? How did my boys do this? How did it get this far?”

***

A while back, I remember reading a post by Katie Granju about parenting. If you don’t know anything about Katie’s story, her teenage son Henry struggled with drug addiction until his death.  A few years after Henry’s death, Katie wrote a post that stuck with me. She said:

“In those first years of this lifelong undertaking called parenthood, we look over at our own four year old daughter, happily drawing pictures of hearts and flowers at the dining room table, or we watch our six year old son carefully creating yet another brilliant Lego masterpiece on the floor, and we simply cannot conceive of any way in which that child –  the one we’re looking at right in front of us- could become one of those teenagers – you know, the kind of adolescent who would become mixed up with drugs, or drop out of school, or run away.

Early on, we worry about other scary things that could happen to our children – things like cancer and car wrecks and kidnapping and lightning on the soccer field…the things that are essentially beyond our control. These are the terrifying things that give parents nightmares. But no parent I’ve ever met looks at her five year old daughter playing with her princess dollhouse and thinks to herself, “I pray she never becomes a 16 year old heroin addict willing to do anything to get drugs.”  And we don’t generally watch our eight year old son play in his Little League game and wonder whether he might end up in prison at age 20.

It’s very simple, we tell ourselves when our children are little – at a time when our power as parents to direct and protect pretty much every aspect of their lives imbues us with a false bravado:

Good parents end up with good teenagers and successful adult children

Bad parents end up with bad teenagers, and unsuccessful adult children.

Right? Isn’t that how it goes?  That’s what I thought, anyway.”

Even now those words can steal my air, causing my heart to skip a beat. I look at my children and I see the good, the smiles, the laughter. I also see the anger and angst and fear. And the scariest part of all is that those things I see? Are often reflections of my own self, my own doubts, my own insecurities. And that hurts. Like knife in the soul hurts.

***

You probably saw the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video this week. If you haven’t, take a few minutes to watch it here and then come back. I think a parallell can easily be drawn between how we describe ourselves and how we describe our children. We describe ourselves with harsh, hard words. But when we speak of our children, we often use softer, lighter words. Is it because we see hope in them that we’ve long lost? Is it because a momma’s eyes block the bad? Is it because they are fresh and untainted by the past? I don’t have the answers, but I know that I see something in my children that I wish I had. Maybe it’s naiveté, an innocence stolen by time. Maybe it’s the belief that good always trumps evil. Maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe it’s…I don’t know. Maybe it’s something more than words can encapsulate.

***

I wrote just this week about motherhood and how we are all just trying to do our best, and yet sometimes…sometimes no matter what we do (or maybe even in spite of what we do), things end with heartbreak. But it’s up to each of us to keep on trying, to keep praying, to keep doing our best to instill a moral compass that will always point to the good. You won’t get it right all the time. I screw it all up regularly. But I am thankful for parents who taught by example, who showed me that mess-ups happen and sometimes it’s not even the mistake that matters but how you handle the spill. I’m also thankful for children who look at me with big, welcoming eyes when I admit my wrongs, when I go to them and say, “Mommy messed up. Will you forgive me?” I pray that even in my failures they are learning from me – learning grace and forgiveness, love and acceptance, and how to say “I’m sorry.” God, please help me.

***

Today I’m also praying for those Boston bombers boys. I’m praying for the one who died and for the one still running. I’m praying for their family. I’m praying for the families they have hurt, both physically and mentally. I’m praying for the people who are still at work, trying to capture these tormented souls and trying to keep others safe. I’m praying for those who are scared, for those who are in danger, for those who are locked in their homes. I’m praying for our nation. I’m praying that this doesn’t become another situation where we point fingers at one group or another. And I’m praying what I pray when I don’t know what else to pray: Dear God, Love us, protect us, and let us be open to hear your voice. Amen and amen.

We are all StrongMoms.

Take the StrongMoms Empowerment Pledge When I had my first baby, I knew I wanted to breast feed. I wanted it bad and didn’t even want to consider any other option. Then he was born and latched well and did all the things he was supposed to do and it just.didn’t.work. I tried everything. Everything, I tell you. I was heartbroken. I would see other mothers with babies happily latched on and my stomach would turn. I’d get a burn in my chest that was a cross of jealousy, anger, and sadness. Not angry at that mom and baby, but jealous that I couldn’t have the same experience. And so I’d sit with my baby and his bottle and a lump in my throat.

When my second baby was born, Marshall was knee-deep in residency. We rarely saw him and when we did see him it was through a haze of sleep deprivation. Our families weren’t super far away, but they weren’t close either. And the baby screamed. A lot. Several times, in complete desperation, I packed the kiddos up and went to the store. I was that mom – the one who you think, “Get that kid outta here! No body wants to hear all that.” But I was lonely and exhausted and at my wits end, and I promise I wanted her to stop screaming as much as everyone else did.

When my third baby was born he was easy going and almost always happy but he was big. As in is-he-going-to-pop-out-of-his-skin big. He liked to eat. And he fit beautifully on the growth curve, so we weren’t worried…but some other people seemed to be. Luckily I had enough experience under my belt by then that it didn’t bother me too much.

By the time my fourth baby was born, I quit paying attention to other people all together. Not because I didn’t care (because let’s be real…we all care what others think of us) but because I can only pay attention to so many things at once. Someone could have told me that she was the ugliest baby on the planet and I wouldn’t have noticed because I would have been too busy telling the bigs to stop spitting at each other and trying to get Asa to stop eating grass.

But there are times – even some recently – that I have felt judged for my choices. When we decided to homeschool, for example. I never had any idea how many people would have such strong opinions. And when I let my babies play on the iPad. Yes, I hear you mumbling under your breath over there at the doctor’s office. Oh, my goodness gracious! When I let my kid be a little bit wild on the playground? You’d think the world was about to end if you could gage it by looks. (For the record, our playground rule is that you can be wild and crazy as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others).

But there are other times, too. There are times when I have been the judger, when I’ve been the person rolling my eyes at your choices or lack of discipline or your demeanor. That’s the truth, ugly though it may be. The reality is that none of us know what others are dealing with. I don’t know if you haven’t slept in weeks or if you’re about to default on your mortgage or if you and your spouse are having problems or if your child is struggling with his or her own hurts and pains. I don’t know if you just found out that your dad has cancer or if you have a toothache that has been nagging you for weeks. I just don’t know. And you don’t either. And it’s time for us to all stop taking everything at face value. It’s time for me – and for all of us – to be more aware of our choices, of our actions, of our words. It’s time for us to come together and stop quibbling like children in the schoolyard about vaccinations and breastfeeding and cosleeping and whatever-the-next-big-brouhaha-happens-to-be. Now, maybe more than ever before, we need to create a community to support us as mothers, as women, as humans. Gone are the days when proximity dictated your community, and it’s up to each of us to cultivate a group of people that provide the love and care that we crave and need.

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photo credit: liivii

At Blissdom I was able to spend a little time with the folks from StrongMoms Empower. What a great initiative they have – trying to bring together moms who will support each other. (I think it’s safe to say that we could all use a little less judgment and a little more support from other moms). If you’re interested in adding your name to the list of women who pledge “to create a more supportive and less judgmental environment by empowering moms to feel good about the decisions they make for their children and their families,” just go to StrongMomsEmpower.com and sign up. You won’t get spammed nor will you get any kind of accolade, but I can attest that your promise will pop into your mind at just the right moments and maybe even remind you to offer a sympathetic smile instead of an eyeroll.

*I am participating in a blog campaign with One2One Network.
I have not received any compensation for this post.
As always, all opinions are my own.

Spring Break is Breaking Me

When I first thought about homeschooling our kids, I worried that I would run into a major problem: I would hate it. (Or they would hate it). (Or both).

See, I love my children very, very much. I’m often a hands-on mom. I like to roll in the grass and have races and color the driveway with chalk and play CandyLand and read kid books and make crafts and color and build with Legos. I can be a super fun mom and we do super fun things. But I worried with school that I would turn into a Learning Nazi. I am task-oriented and I am driven by checking things off of my to do list. I’ll push through almost anything to finish checking off a list. And so I worried that with all the lists that come with our curriculum, I would force my need to check off all the things onto my children. I didn’t want that and I’ve been hypervigilant about it (although I’ve failed a time or two).

We quickly fell into a good routine. We started out by having a timed schedule where you only worked on a certain subject until the time was up, much like ‘real’ school (as my kids call it). But as things progressed, I got a little more loosey-goosey about our timeline. I stopped writing out exact times for each class on our To Do Board, and just made a list of things that needed to be accomplished by the day’s end. Sometimes the work was done by lunch. Other times we were still working when Marshall got home. But we all got used to having the list. If one child finishes an activity and I’m working with the other, they know to check the list and see what they can do on their own. (Anything that requires help from Mommy has an asterisk beside it). It works for us. And they’re pretty good about making sure they don’t waste too much time when they think I’m not looking.

Then enter Spring Break. BAH! My children are going wild! You’d think it be great to have free time to just play or read or color, but they’ve lost their stinkin’ minds! As I type this they are all playing together in one room and there are things banging around, lots of shouting, and talk of something exploding. I’m praying that the exploding thing is a Ballistiks toy*. I try to let it all just roll off my back, but they’re driving me insane! My tolerance for crazy is pretty high, but whew! They are wearing me down. We have one main rule in our house: If it’s not yours, don’t touch it. You’d be surprised to see how often that rule is applicable. But there seems to be an all-time high of forgetting that rule around here the past few days, and I’m convinced that the root of that is that without a schedule to guide them, they are doing whatever comes to mind…whether they should or not. (Mostly not).

I don’t really know how to solve this.  I was thinking that maybe I needed to go ahead and plan out something for every minute of every day and try to avoid this schedule-less issue all together, but you know what? They’re kids! They need time to be wild and crazy. They need time to pick what they do. They even need time to be bored. Some of my most creative moments come when I’m completely bored out of my mind. Boredom gives my brain room to roam, and that’s a good thing. I know they need the free time and free space, but how do I control the chaos? How do I nudge them towards positive, constructive play without taking away too much autonomy from them and without going stark-raving mad?

*not an affiliate or sponsored link

 

Proud Mama Moment

I sang my first solo before I started school. I have a minor in music.
Marshall plays bass and sightreads like a beast.
My brother’s in a band. A really good one, at that.
My parents are both singers.
My grandmother led the church choir for years and years.
Marshall’s dad and brother have been known to sing in a show or two.
His grandmother was a master pianist and harpist.
Point being: music is our thing.
We really, really love it.
So last week when my shy little 6 year old asked me if she could sing in big church, I nearly cheered.
I was surprised that she wanted to do it and told her she would have to talk to our minister of music on her own.
(I wanted this to be her thing. I would support her, but I wanted it to be 100% her decision.)
So she asked and he said yes and we found the accompaniment track from the musical she learned this summer.
And then she did it.
It took a little nudge when the moment came, but she did it!
And did it wonderfully.
I am so, so incredibly proud of her.

Pardon the shaky video. It was recorded by her very proud and excited big brother!

The Valentine’s Day That Was (Part Two)

I am beyond exhausted and pretty darn happy.
Today I played more games of CandyLand than I’ve ever played in my life.
I’ve also laughed and smiled more during a game of CandyLand than I ever have in my life.
I highly suggest buying a $4 pack of paper and a few rolls of tape.
Hours and hours of fun!
(Also? This kid makes the best faces ever. EVER.)

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And I know that moustaches are soooo 2012, but I still find them quite amusing.
As do my children.  (Dang, they’re cute!)

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People brought goodies.
Friends came to play.
Cupcakes were made and eaten.
We laughed and danced and sang.
It’s been a really lovely day.
Many thanks to you all.
Goodnight, friends.

Did you miss Part One of our Valentine’s Day?
Click here to see more about our fun.

 

The Valentine’s Day That Was (Part One)

When I told you of our little valentine dilemma, you were all quick to help.
We got cards in the mail and people rearranged plans to be with us for our after-school party.
One friend even bought an entire box of cards and sent them to school with one of her teacher friends.
The teacher let each of her students write a science fact on the card and seal it up.
The big three loved it. The little one decided that chocolate was way more interesting.

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The children really wanted to do fun valentine cards/gifts, so they helped me comb Pinterest for ideas.
I was planning on doing cute little printables for each one, but they wanted to do them by hand.
Also? My children are as corny as we are. Lydia in particular.
She snorted when she saw the “You’re just WRITE for me” one.

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They are so excited, they can hardly stand it!
And I must admit that – even for a girl who doesn’t really care for Valentine’s Day – today’s going to be just lovely.

Give and Get

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I went into their room for something else and noticed his red-rimmed eyes.
“What’s wrong, buddy?”
“Nothin'”
She interjected, “He’s sad because of Valentine’s Day.”
“Because of Valentine’s Day? Why?”
“Because I won’t get to give and get valentines this year,” his voice cracked.
“Because I’m homeschooled.”
Oof.

I’d never thought about valentines before.
I am always asking if they like homeschool, if they’d rather be in public school.
The answer is almost always yes they like it, unless they think about the new playground at the school.
Yes, we love homeschool, they tell me.
And I believe they do.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss some of the “old ways”, the things they did when they went to public school.
The music classes where they learn songs and then sing them at a concert.
Recess on a fancy playground.
And Valentine’s Day.

Unsure of what to say or do, I assured him he’d get at least one valentine, probably more.
Valentine’s Day has never been a big deal to me.
I’ve never put emphasis on it for them, and had this not come up I probably wouldn’t have gotten them anything at all.
I might have made heart shaped pancakes or something.
But now I sit here with his hurt in my hands and I’m fumbling around with how to fix it.

We’ll have a party!” I suggest.
We can invite your friends to come after school and we’ll have snacks and games.
What do you think about that?”
A smile crosses his face and goes up to his eyes.
“Let the planning begin,” he declares.
(He is so my child).

 

I’m write. Your wrong. (sic)

It’s nearly 10p.m. and my big kids just got into bed. Carter got a new telescope for his birthday and was excited about looking at the night sky (even if it really was too cloudy to see much at all). We meant to go out after dinner, but decided to wait for the little two to go to bed.  So by the time we made it outside, it was already past bed time and we spent more time outside than we meant to (or than my icicle toes would have liked). This is one of the perks of homeschool for us. If we had to be up and out the door by 7:45 in the morning, I never would have dreamed of letting them stay up so late on a school night. But we had a chance to study the sky while the little kids were in bed and while Daddy was home, so we took it.  (And maybe, just maybe, everyone will sleep a little later in the morning).

This kind of flexibility is one of the main things that I love about homeschool. Get done with a lesson quickly? Either move on to the next lesson or take a break. Struggling with a lesson and just not getting it? Take a break and we’ll come back to it later. See an opportunity on a Saturday that fits in with an upcoming lesson? Do it on Saturday and check it off then. A trip to the doctor/dentist/orthodontist? Ask questions and turn it into a real learning experience. Grocery shopping? Make sure you check the labels and do price comparisons. Reading, comprehension, math, problem solving. Have errands to run? Take your book with you and read in the car.

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We are having such a great experience with homeschool that sometimes I want to do a little dance at the end of the day. While other parents are having to help their kid pound through spelling words again, rushing to get everything done before gymnastics or soccer or piano, I’m in the yard reading a book while the kids play. I have to admit that there are moments like those when I get a little smug about our choice. I think, “Ha! I sure am glad I’m not having to do homework like they are.” And low-and-behold I catch myself being a homeschool snob. It’s embarrassing, really. I know better than that. This homeschooling option is a good options for us for now. It may not be a good option for us for always and it isn’t the best option for many people ever. And that’s okay. Ultimately, I don’t care if you homeschool or if you don’t. I don’t care if you think I’m nuts or not. (If you think I’m nuts, chances are I give you plenty of opportunity to prove your point without adding homeschool to the mix). I don’t care if you ask me about what we learn or how our days go. I don’t care if you ask me details of testing and lesson plans and how we deal with the little kids while the big kids work. I usually don’t even mind if you ask me how I do it all. (I don’t have an answer for that, but I don’t mind if you ask). But I do get my panties in a wad when people try to take their preconceived notions about homeschool and try to fit them on my family like a too-tight pair of jeans. My kids are socialized just fine thankyouverymuch. They experience a wide variety of people and of beliefs and ideals and ideas. They learn the same things that they would be learning at a brick and mortar school. We don’t skip the stuff I don’t understand. (I just have to learn it with them). We don’t shelter them from the world (any more than I did when they were in public school). We don’t homeschool to keep them away from worldly influences. We aren’t bible beaters or have any plans to live in a commune with the other hippies or any thing like that. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a super-fervent Christian or living in a commune, if that’s your thing). 

It just makes me sad to see the negative stigma so many people have about homeschool and homeschooled kids and homeschooling parents.  As a homeschooling parent, all I want is for you do to what is right for your family and for me to do what is right for my family. I want both of us to be able to see and appreciate that what works at my house may not work at your house. I want us to be able to celebrate our diversity, not hide behind it. I want us to play nice and not bicker about one way being better than another. I felt the same way when we talk about breastfeeding and co-sleeping and baby-wearing. Oh, Mommy Wars…I’m so weary. Let’s just drop the whole thing and hold hands instead, shall we?