Monday, February 27, 2012

Deleted post and some Monday thoughts

Welp, I had a really lovely post scheduled for yesterday. But when it went up, for some reason it was completely blank. I went into "edit" and nothing was there. My whole post got deleted somehow and I was/am so bummed out about that. It was an important one to me, and so when I get over the disappointment of it vanishing, I may rewrite it.

As for now, I just wanted to share what's on my mind this morning.

I'm thankful that our God is one of action. You will never hear Him say these words to you:

My hands are tied. I can't help.

I'm too busy to concern myself with that.

I just don't know what to do. Try someone else.

I really wish I had an answer for you.

Can we reschedule our time together?

Today, I'm basking in the fact that HE IS ON THE READY at all times of day to listen to me, to help me, to comfort me. It's amazing.

And then, what's even more amazing is that whether I bring Him my heart or not, He is at work all around me, all the time. Moving. Acting. Powerfully writing my story of faith, page by page. Most of the time, I just can't see it.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

But He is at work. Because He loves me. I have faith in this.

I don't always have patience for the timing of His plans, but I have faith that He has some, and that they are good.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you...
2 Peter 3:8,9 

I don't want to overlook this one fact. The Lord is not slow; He is at work in His perfect timing. We can take heart in this knowledge, friends!

Last night, as I went to bed, I read a bit from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers (entry for Feb. 27th). This spoke to me.

Think of the depths of human nature, of human life, think of the depths of the "wells" in you. Have you been impoverishing the ministry of Jesus so that He can not do anything? Suppose there is a well of fathomless trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes and says, "Let not your heart be troubled"; and you shrug your shoulders and say, "But Lord, the well is deep; You cannot draw up quietness and comfort out of it." No, He will bring them down from above...

We impoverish His ministry the moment we forget He is Almighty; the impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus as Comforter or as Sympathizer, but we will not come to Him as Almighty. The reason some of us are such poor specimens of Christianity is because we have no Almighty Christ. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult cirumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying, "Of course He cannot do anything," and we struggle down to the deeps and try to get the water for ourselves. Beware of the satisfaction of sinking back and saying, " It can't be done"; you know it can be done if you look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness is deep, but make the effort and look away to Him.

Am I walking through my struggles today in faith that I have an Almighty God on my side?

I'm trying.

I don't want to simply believe in God. I want to believe Him. He is love, and He is at work in a mighty way in my life. Today I'm thankful for that.

bits of splendor monday

Friday, February 24, 2012

Insta-Friday, Valentine's recap

Well, I remembered for the second time in two months to link up for Insta-Friday with Jeannett!

Here is a flashback recap of our Valentine's Day family dinner, a tradition around these parts (that I wrote about here).

LOOK at these pretties. They are better than Sprinkles cupcakes, and are made by my friend!

She has super secret recipes and sells her specialties strictly in order to support the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research. She is incredible. My fave on this platter was the chocolate peanut butter ones, but my not-featured fave is her salted caramel cupcakes. If you live in Orange County and need cupcakes, I have a sweet, super-inexpensive hook up!

Once in a great while, I remember that I have my grandma's china high up in a cabinet I never open. I decided to bust it out. I really love it.

I didn't register for any for my wedding because hers was basically what I would have chosen. And now that I no longer have my grandma around, it's even more special. I should use it all the time.

This dish holds a donut, because my little guy hates cupcakes. For his last birthday, he had a donut pyramid instead of a cake. Every year, we have to get creative: what will he like that can also hold some candles?? (Hint: this May, we're lookin' at churros.)

My family always requests Chicken Pot Pie for special dinners, but this year, we switched it up and I made Shepherd's Pie for the first time. Ya know...mashed potatoes spread on top of a ground beef and veggie stew? It was a hit. Yay for hits.

And here's me. After the cooking, cleaning, and decorating which took most of my day, I was tired. But in keeping with tradition, which is dressing up a bit for V-day dinner as well, I busted out a bit of remaining energy to fluff up my hair, and put on lipstick and a necklace. (I still resisted the mascara, as you can see.) Just that little effort actually made me feel energized to celebrate love with my people. It was all so worth it. This was one of those nights where nothing dramatic or disastrous actually happened. Amazing, right?

Last but not least, check out this card I gave to my cupcake-maker friend to say thanks....

I love it. And I did. (TMI?)


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: in Katy's words

I'm so happy to host Katy's words today here. I love what she has to share. I can SOOO relate to her words, and I'm sure many of you will be able to also. In fact, her subject matter fits quite nicely into my current series and many thoughts about discipline and our reactions to our kids. Motherhood is so challenging and humbling, and gives us so many opportunities to learn about grace. Please show Katy some love for her transparency and brave testimony today about her journey as a mom.

Hello! My name is Katy and I blog over at Scottyboy and Katygirl where I blog about my journey as a wife to Scott and a mom to Miles (and baby girl coming soon!) and everything in between. I'm so honored that Leslie asked me to share today!

Before I became a mother, I had these preconceived notions about how my children would act in every circumstance. I remember judgmentally thinking in certain situations, "My kid will NEVER do that....." and then proceed to tell myself how I will go about it when something comes up in public. When Miles was younger - he is 20 months now - I really prided myself on how well he obeyed and listened to me, regardless if we were in public or in private. And I didn't mean to be prideful or come across as thinking I was better than anyone, but when I saw other mothers in stores and their kids weren't behaving, I was very naive and didn't quite understand how someone could allow their child to behave that way.

And then my kid got his little personality. And while I love every little inch of that boy, he sure keeps me on my toes every second of the day. When he turned a year and a half, he knew what he wanted in this world, and he stopped at nothing. I love it because he is determined and he is a thinker and a planner. But boy, some days it is TOUGH and I just wish there were books that would give me a step-by-step instruction guide of how to deal with every single circumstance. This pregnant mama is tired and struggling to keep up - and some days I feel defeated and discouraged.

About two weeks ago, we were in Target and we were finishing up and getting ready to pay. Miles had a bag of Valentine's candy in his hand and I knew it was going to be a struggle to get it back from him. I had my iPhone in one hand trying to figure out where we were going to meet Scotty for lunch, and with the other hand, I gently tried to take the bag of candy away so I could put it on the check stand. Every line was long; there were lots of people around, and Miles picked that moment to start screaming "NO!" with every ounce of energy he had inside of him. He would not hand over those Hershey's Kisses if his little life depended on it. And every firm, "Miles, listen to Mommy right now..." wasn't working. I was already humiliated and flustered...and just when I thought the situation couldn't get any worse, he grabbed my iPhone from my other hand and chucked it hard - as far as he could. Every eye was on me - and being that we were in public, I had to work hard to keep my composure and swallow my anger and pride. When I picked my phone up, the entire screen was shattered. My eyes were instantly filled with tears - not because my phone was broken, but because I was so embarrassed by my child's bad behavior. I paid as fast as I could and got the heck out of dodge.

The funny thing is that Miles is too little to even grasp what had just happened in the store. So by the time I made it outside, he had already forgotten what he had done. He had no concept anymore of what made Mommy so angry and embarrassed. He was more excited about all the birdies that were flying around to even care that my expensive cell phone was now ruined. Its not like I could discipline him; he truly had no idea what was going on. While I drove to meet my husband for lunch, I really had to pray about the state of my heart. What a huge humbling experience for so many ways. And what a huge lesson I had to learn on grace...on myself, on my child, and on other moms.  I can honestly say that I just never thought I'd be the mom at the checkout line with a screaming, disobedient child...and yet, there I was. I'm not sure there is much that I could have done to prevent it - but I know there is a lot that I can learn from it.

The next time we went into Target, I purposely chose to be a different person. I purposely chose to stop looking down on other moms who did things differently than me and started to look at them with the mindset that majority of us are just doing the best that we can. And when I got to the checkout line that day, another mom was having a really hard time with her daughter. Instead of inwardly rolling my eyes like I think I would have in the past, I just silently prayed that God would give her the grace to get through it. Because I am 100% certain that will be me again someday. And I'll need everyone else's grace to get me through that moment too. And I certainly need God's grace to make it through every minute of this parenting adventure. The minute I think I've finally got it figured the very minute that it starts all over again. Without God's grace, I am just no where. And I really pray that I can extend that very grace to others around me who desperately need it like I did in Target that day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Don't Make Me Count to 3," Part 4

Okay. I want to say a couple quick things first. I have not forgotten that not all of you are parents. I'm sure this series is soooo boring for you. So this week, I'm interspersing my usual posts - Grace on a Thursday, and Insta-Friday so top of the page is not all mommed out.

Also, my email link on the sidebar wasn't working and I know some of you wanted to email me. My email is Lnp0202 at aol dot com. Those are zeros, not Os. So fire away. No hate email please.

Finally, I took down the new commenting format because within two days, it was not meshing well. The coding was not supporting the mobile version of Blogger so when people commented by phone, it accepted the comments in the original format, and deleted the comments from the new. Lame. Over it fast.

I think as I approach the tougher issues of discipline, we should go chronologically. Because that's how we all experience its challenges. As our kids age. The first time I started significantly freaking out over the willful defiance of my child is when my daughter was about 18 months. Her strong will made an appearance in a big way, as she grew into toddlerhood, and the first thing I did was reach for books.

First, I read the classic, Dr. Dobson's Dare to Discipline, simply because it was what my parents read, and I thought I turned out okay. It gave me a great start, and very sufficiently scared me into action by describing what happens when a child is not ever disciplined. His philosophies behind discipline were compelling, and I was fully motivated to push through my feelings of inadequacy because I wanted to avoid the consequences of failing to get this right.

But one big lesson this book taught me was that you can't just go by a book. Every child is different, and it is wise to pick and choose and change and try all kinds of different approaches to find what works best in your family. Some of the ideas in his book worked like a charm, some didn't. I don't agree with every single word either. The more books I read, the more I am reminded that books are only resources. You go to them when you need a new idea or a fresh perspective. None are the Bible.

I'm wary of the bandwagons, and any parent who "swears" by any one method or parenting philosophy based on a human-originated idea (and much more the moms who condemn and malign others for choosing a different way). All things get held up to God's word. And fortunately, His word allows a LOT of wiggle room in terms of parenting. Some mothers are totally appalled that God's word allows for spanking, and others are appalled that it allows for co-sleeping. Let's just agree that BOTH of those practices could go really wrong. But they could also go really right, and God allows for them because He commands certain coverings be in place in the home to begin with: encouragement, healthy family structures, and overarching, unconditional love provide a safe environment for these kinds of things to take place in a positive way. I catch myself sometimes being "appalled" at someone else's choice, but in my heart, I don't want to be that mom. I want to remember that our job as mothers is to find the best, wisest fit for a given child, in a given circumstance, and most importantly, for a given period of time. Because nothing stays the same for too long. Right? A healthy dose of humility is all I need to remember not everyone should discipline in the same way.

So my toddler was having issues! She arched her back and screamed when I tried to put her in the car seat or the stroller. She screamed when she didn't get her way. She got mad that it was naptime and would pull every book off her shelves, every day. She ran away from me in public every chance she got. Oh my goodness. All that doesn't sound so bad now, actually, but because she was my first, and she was willful, I was a sweaty, stressed out wreck every time she pushed back like that. She needed boundaries and consequences for crossing them. Fast.

Toddlers need discipline mainly to keep them safe, and to begin to teach them to obey your voice. However, they can't digest a lot of explanation. Consequences need to be simple and effective. Effective can ONLY be defined by how much the child hates the consequence. If they don't hate it, it's not effective. Period. If they don't care if you take away the toy, it's not working as discipline. The two things that worked best for me in the toddler years I'm going to call separation and swats.

1. Separation: I'd state a simple "NO," then pick her up, facing away from me, and carry her to her crib or someplace boring. If we were out, it was the stroller. This worked for times I needed to physically move her out of the situation for some reason. Maybe a big mess was caused, or physicality was involved, like kicking. Her consequence is missing out on interaction with me and others for a short time, even five minutes. She is a social girl and so she hated that (= effective). (I can imagine a child who is more independent, and would NOT hate to be left alone for a few. If that's your kid, this won't work. It could even feel rewarding to him or her to be put in his bed, if that's his favorite place to be. My daughter's favorite place to be was with me, and was not so fond of her bed.)

2. Swat: This wasn't a spanking (I'll talk about that later), because it was a quick "get your attention" kind of thing, usually on her hand. I'd put her hand in the palm of mine, and then clap my other hand over it. It made a noise, and shocked her enough to get the message. This worked great for times she was using her hands to do something that was not okay. I'd say something like, "We do NOT throw toys." Once in a while, when she would disobey with her body, like screaming and wrestling me to escape being buckled into her car seat, I would give her a little swat on her thigh. Part of my problem was that when she was screaming, she could not hear me tell her what I wanted. And I refused to just "win" the wrestling match and force her into her seat. I actually felt that was disrespectful to her. What I wanted was that she obey me. A quick little swat was one thing that helped startle her out of the fit, and into following my lead.

I can see how some would have issues with any sort of spank or swat, no matter what. I totally understand that, and again, I reiterate that different methods work for different families. If you have a history with someone misusing a corporeal type of consequence with you or in your family of origin, then don't use it. Don't go there. It may be too weird, and cause more trouble than it's worth. I don't have that history. In fact, both my husband and I were raised by parents who very selectively used spanking, and we both had loving, secure homes. We have no negative memories or feelings about it whatsoever. I'm just saying to use SOMETHING. Choosing to not spank your kids should never be an excuse to not discipline them some other way. There are lots of ways to do this; the challenge is finding the effective way for your kid. More on this later... 

{And hey, if you don't agree with me on anything in this series, that's cool. Feel free to say so. I only want to initiate respectful conversation and keep an open mind to all types of situations and families. I hope you'll allow me the same grace, because I'm certainly don't have all the answers. Thanks.}


Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Don't Make Me Count to 3," Part 3

So she lost her purse. At first, I reacted, in my weariness, in my frustration, and disappointment. (I talked about that here.)

Then I parented. (Better late than never, right? Just keepin' it real.)

These are the inclinations I willfully pushed down:

1. Continuing to act inconvenienced. That is just about me, not about her. Love lays its life down for another. The world won't end if the plans change because we had to spend an extra thirty minutes looking for the lost purse.

2. Making rash judgements, such as, "I'm not allowing you to carry a purse when we go out anymore. You're obviously not old enough to be responsible with it." This was tempting. (In the right timing and in a much more loving manner, this kind of decision may have been appropriate, but for my nine year old, I knew it wasn't.)

*Let me just say, I want to sometimes say these things. We're never coming to the park again if you don't follow me right now....If you throw that train, I'm taking them all away...From now on, you'll have to hold my hand in a store because you ran away from me. Waaaaait...that one sounded maybe okay, didn't it? Well, the "wrong" part, in my mind, is the "From now on," because you don't mean FOREVER. It's too extreme. It's better to say, "Next time we're in a store, you'll have to hold my hand because you ran away from me." That sounds reasonable and fair.

Be wary of any extreme promises or decisions that include a "never" or "from now on." What if you want to go back to that park next week, but your child "lost" that? Then what? I heard a mother say to her child the other day, "If you don't start behaving, we're never coming to this restaurant again." My rule of thumb is that I make sure the consequences I set into motion are not punishments for myself too. I LIKE going to restaurants. I WANT the convenience of allowing food and drinks in the car. If I'm really excited about going to a movie as a family, then I no longer make the rule, "Clean your room or you can't come to the movie." Because once, someone didn't clean their room, and guess who had to follow through with the consequence? It was such a bummer!! Same thing with taking away reading time at night. I LOVE reading to them at night. Why ruin the things I really value? I guess that's one good thing about having an Xbox. I never have trouble taking that away! Ha.

3. Getting angry at a peripheral issue. Part of me wanted to make it about money, as if she doesn't know the value of things enough to take care of them well. Truth is, she doesn't understand the value of things because she's a child, and it would be a waste of energy to try to make her. That speech is not what she needed, and that peripheral issue tried to distract me from the matters of the heart.

4. Acting above making that kind of mistake. In short, I found my humility. Um, I've lost things before. End of story.

These are the skills I willfully pulled out:

1. Starting with affection. I put my arm around her shoulders and squeezed as we walked back empty handed. I almost always try to start here, because it softens my heart too, and I don't have to use words. When I can't yet find the loving words, I start with loving affection. (That reminds me of this post - remember, on using affection to offer grace?)

2. Inviting her feelings and giving them names. I asked how she felt, and then I helped her out a little. I do this a lot. There's no evaluation of her emotions, just labeling and validating. When she replied, "Sad," and continued to cry, I said, "Gosh, you're really disappointed about losing your new purse. I remember how hard you worked to buy it with your own money. That must feel so frustrating."

3. Empathizing. We went over the list of things inside the purse. At each item, I empathized, put myself in her shoes, and tried to imagine how I'd feel if I were nine, and lost my new wallet, my allowance money plus $5 from great-grandma for Valentine's Day, and a bracelet that I had made for her. "Oh no! What a bummer! And you just got that money from grandma! I'm so sorry about that."

4. Relating. This one was harder because it required not only bringing some serious humility, but also reliving an incident where I felt really sad and disappointed. It was painful, but I forced the words out:

"Remember when I went to Italy with daddy a couple years ago? Well, it was our favorite trip together ever. And do you remember seeing any pictures from that trip? Nope, you didn't. Because on the last day of the trip, I lost the camera. I think it got taken out of my purse when we were in a big crowd. I was so disappointed that I went back to the hotel room and cried for four hours. I could buy another camera, but I couldn't ever get back the memories in all the pictures I'd taken. I was so heartbroken."

She listened quietly. And I knew nothing else needed to be said. I had seen her and related to her as a fellow human being, flawed, and frustrated. Her mistake was unintentional, it was not disobedient, or defiant, and what she needed was comfort.

What comforted her was knowing her feelings mattered, and that she wasn't alone. You know, it does me a world of good to know the verse that says Jesus is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses because He lived on this earth too. He gets me. That concept means everything to me, on certain days. God knew that I needed empathy so badly that He sent Jesus to live here. Think about it. He could have redeemed mankind in some other way without ever having to step foot on our soil. But He showed up to be Immanuel, literally God with us. Talk about challenging, humbling, and painful.

And I'm just trying to follow His example, in my human, flawed, way.

Next, I'll talk about when the mistake my child makes is not so innocent.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Don't Make Me Count to 3," Part 2

Hi friends.
I decided to take a break from Grace on a Thursday this week so I can continue with my thoughts on discipline. Fortunately, my regular life provides me with ample material to write about with respect to this topic!

A couple days ago, we had a situation. And as I said I would in my last post, I observed myself, my reactions and my feelings without trying to force them any which way.

My daughter and I had a mom and big girl double date with friends, and we went to an outdoor mall area in the afternoon. We strolled around for a couple of hours, and my plan was to then hit the grocery store and then go home to start dinner. We planned to leave at 4 p.m., which turned into 5 p.m. When we got back in the car, my daughter asked, "Mom! Do you have my purse?" I answered, "No, why would I have your purse? You don't have it?" Um, no. She didn't. It was lost.

Knowing her newish purse contained her newish wallet with ten bucks in it, as well as some other trinkets, first, I reacted. I heard myself say her name in that exasperated tone. You know the one. If I typed it, it would have an exclamation mark at the end. And then my lack of words said the rest. With a big sigh, I got out of the car and trudged back to the mall. She was expected to follow. I acted so inconvenienced, so pouty. And so much of that reaction was simply because I was tired and knew we'd now be ditching the dinner plan and resorting to take out. My plans had to give way, and I was annoyed.

Notice NONE of those reasons had to do with my daughter. She did not do anything defiant or naughty. She did something childish. Because she is a child. And incidentally, we've all left our purses somewhere before, even as adults. Common mistake, right? Yet look at how my emotion and my circumstances totally interfered with my parenting. So far in the story, I've done ZERO parenting. I've just pouted for being inconvenienced. Not my best work, people.

She remembered putting her purse down in a certain store, but they did not have it. It wasn't in the same spot, and it hadn't been turned in. The store manager and I exchanged phone numbers, and we headed back to the car. When the reality of her lost things started to set in, she began to cry. I then realized I'd contributed to the problem, and needed to turn this ship around. 

But I'm going to tell you what I did right tomorrow. For now, I want to look at just this:

At the beginning of any "situation" with our child, first asses if what they've done is actually defiant, or simply childish.

Sometimes, the thing that drives me the most crazy is just childishness going on around me. Sometimes, my grown-up brain can only take so much. Here's a text I sent to a friend the other day when I was over it

The kids were playing sorta loudly, marbles followed by little hands and feet scrambling after them kept rolling into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner, Legos were on all my counter tops, and they were both singing crazy, made-up songs. So yeah, at the moment, I would have preferred quiet, and was getting irritated. But I pushed down my negativity and distracted myself with eating gummy colas (which are so yummy, btw). I knew I was the problem, not them, and knew they were not doing anything worthy of discipline. So I texted my friend to let out my frustration, and silently ate my candy.

Now, there are times that innocent childishness can cross the line, or break a rule, if you have one in place. And that would be grounds for discipline. For instance, let's say your three year old is just being silly and screaming his head off inside your house because he likes to hear his own voice. Instead of just reacting negatively (since no one enjoys hearing screaming indoors, really), here are some things to ask yourself: 

1. Do I have a rule in place about screaming indoors? If not, do I want to have one? In other words, is this a big enough deal to me that I want to consistently curb the problem? Or is this rare behavior and I can just ask him nicely to pipe down? 

2. Have I ever made it clear that there was such a rule? Have I done a decent job communicating what I expect?

3. Has it been a really long time since we talked about it, or yesterday? (The older the child, the more likely they may remember such a rule) Here, you're deciding if it's reasonable to expect them, based on their age and maturity, to recall and obey the rules. A toddler may need daily repetition of a rule, whereas a ten year old should know certain things are not okay.  

4. Have I made the consequence for breaking the rule also clear? (This is where I get myself in trouble!) If not, then a warning with a clear consequence for breaking the rule again is necessary. 

In my best parenting voice, for young offenders, I would get eye-to-eye with my child and firmly say something like this:

"The rule is, 'Inside the house, we use talking voices, not screaming ones.' If you want to use a really loud voice, you can go outside. If I hear you use a screaming voice in my house, then you will have to stop playing and sit quietly in this chair for five minutes." 

Stated rule. Stated "If-Then" statement about what happens if you break it.

In our house, I often use a warning - just one - or I give what we call "second chances." I know that God is a god of second chances, and so I want to model that. Sometimes I say, "Try again," if something was not quite right the first time. The backpack thrown on the garage floor, or a rude demand for milk gets that reply. At times, my six year old will appeal for a second chance when I don't offer it, and most of the time, I concede, because I can see he is not trying to get out of something. He sincerely wants to make the better choice. 

The later in the day, the less childishness I seem to be able to tolerate. That's okay, as long as I'm not being punitive to my kids for being kids. Sometimes, I tell them to take the playing upstairs. Or if the singing of the songs from the school play is making me nuts, I suggest we put on a Pandora station that they like. If childishness becomes dangerous, like throwing things up to the front of the car while I'm driving, I take a much stronger stance on the rules and consequences than if we're talking about something that I just don't prefer, like screaming indoors. The big thing, for me, and maybe for you, is to just stop myself from having a negative reaction to childishness when I haven't laid out my expectations first. That's not fair.     

Okay. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what I tried as my weepy daughter and I walked to the car, purseless.


Monday, February 13, 2012

"Don't Make Me Count to 3", Part 1

Before we talk about disciplining our kids, we need to talk about separating parts. We need to be freed up to function as loving, wise parents. And for me, and maybe for you too, here's what gets messy.

Whenever a conflict or a problem arises involving one or more of my kids, two things simultaneously happen in me:

1. I have a desire and instinct to be that loving, wise parent.

2. I have my own (usually negative) personal reaction and feelings about what is happening.

These two things get tangled really, really quickly. I have a keen awareness that these two things happen and that they are separate things. I realize they need to be separated. I realize also that more often than not, they WORK AGAINST one another. My #2 really messes with my #1 in a bad way. But even though I know these things in my brain, I am not yet able to compartmentalize well enough - that is, to exert self-control enough - to keep them apart, and allow #1 to override #2 every time.

Here's proof:

"What were you thinking?"
"Oh my gosh, I can't believe you just did that!"
"Knock it off!"
"You left it at school AGAIN?"
"You guys are making me crazy!"

All these kinds of statements are my personal, emotional reactions, usually stated in exasperation or even, at times, anger. They are statements being influenced by my circumstances, my mood, how filled up I am spiritually, how many other things are on my mind, how I was parented, how I feel about myself, and fifty other things. However, regardless of their roots, they are still careless words which do not benefit or parent my kids in any way. This may sound harsh, but for me, it's lazy parenting. I know better, and I still sometimes vent my feelings in this way.

Clarity in my job description helps. My kids have been entrusted to me so that I parent them. Not for me to burden them with my emotional baggage, neediness, or arbitrary expectations. And all this matters SO VERY much when we talk about discipline because it is done best when we are functioning as intentional parents, not as women simply reacting.

This week, try to go about your parenting business as usual, and observe yourself. That's what I've been doing. How much of your parenting is simply reaction, and how much of it is intentional communication motivated by love? How often are you filled up enough to allow your good parenting instincts to override that desire to react and indulge your negative emotions?

And think about this: how often does your guilt and shame from doing the latter interfere and exhaust and demotivate you? I'm guessing as often as it does me. But this is not Grace on a Thursday. Maybe I'll address that in a few days (or click on the "shame is my game" tag on the right for more on this running theme in my life). For now, just notice it. Watch and listen to yourself.

Let's try to be more mindful of the two parts of our responses to our kids. And maybe that way, we'll be able to see our choices more clearly.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Discipline. Let's talk.

The other night I was lying in bed drafting this. (Do you ever do that? Compose blog posts while you lie in the dark?) And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much there was to say about disciplining our kids. How much I wanted to say. And share. And ask.

For me, the subject of discipline is like playing tennis. When I was younger, I was a tennis player. I played for years, and my parents invested a lot of money into private coaches. I have a great base of knowledge, now, about how to play tennis. The rules, the form, the equipment. But no book or coach can tell you exactly how the ball is going to come at you one moment to the next. What the other player is going to bring is totally unpredictable. And of course, one’s success at tennis is measured by how well one uses that knowledge and those tools to react, shot after shot.

In the same way, my kids are throwing something new every day, it seems. Envelopes are pushed, lines are crossed, and attitudes bubble into actions, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. I’m now nearly ten years into parenting, and I realized the other night while lying in the dark that I do have a good basis at this point for knowing how to react. That doesn’t mean I do it right all the time. But now, as opposed to when I was a new mom, I nearly always know when I’ve made a mistake, and what I should have or could have done instead.

So I'm going to spend some time and posts writing about discipline, I want to share some of the equipment I’ve come to rely on. I know a lot of readers here are young moms. But also, I want to be vulnerable about how there are days when I have no idea where to go next in teaching and shepherding my children. I need your input too. As my kids age, they are continually entering new territory, facing new challenges, and even experiencing new emotions. And it’s my job to react in love and truth and grace. It is not a small deal. As I’ve said before, we are not raising children here, we are raising healthy, capable, confident adults. So let’s start up the conversation and learn together.

And to make it easier, I’ve installed a new commenting format so that I’m not just talking AT you. Phew. I’m so glad. So please. Talk to each other. Encourage each other. And hopefully, we can all get a little wind in our sails.

{And if you want to see more of the really amazing photo shoot the kids and I did with Shauna and her kids last week - totally impromptu - check it out here. It's so awesome. I'm thankful for a friend who can capture us mommies and children in such a special way.}


Friday, February 10, 2012

My first Insta-Friday!

Wait, capture this moment.

I actually managed to email my photos to myself and get them up here for my first Insta-Friday link up!

{Hello Jeannett! I sat next to you at Blog Sugar, 'member that?}

Exhale. Here we go. My week in Instagram, possibly my favorite iPhone app ever. I mean, out of the three I have.

First up: Yum. (And who else noticed that even though the Girl Scouts of America changed the name of this cookie to Carmel Delights like five years ago in an effort to be more P.C., Dreyer's continues to walk the risky line of offending an innocent Samoan. Delicious and edgy.)

Next, wow. So we've been doing spontaneous love notes in our dollar Target mailboxes ('member this post?) This is the one I got from my daughter this week. I don't know if I'm more touched by her thoughts towards me, or more in awe of her 9 year old poetic soul.

This tree took my breath away. So many blooms already, so much promise of spring. And spring always reminds me to hope. Something new is in bloom.

Ok, something frivolous. New cheapy sunglasses. $11. Now maybe the wrinkles on my brow will stop deepening from my constant squinting!

Oh and look!
I forgot to post the winner for the Rob Biagi CD and it was comment #21! Hannah Singer! Yay. No one will be mad at you, Hannah, for winning. You are way too cute and we all love you. I'll get your prize out to you soon.
I took this while helping in the library at my kids' school. That's what I do weekly. Both my kids love reading. My daughter is engrossed in The Borrowers, at the moment.

And this is what I've been reading to both of them. Because they both read independently now, I was getting bummed that my reading time to them was disappearing. So I started our own "book club," we call it. I'm too tired to do before bedtime, so it is now after school, four days a week, while we have snacks. My 6 year old little guy can get a little fidgety. But if he has a blankie and an arm around his back, he nestles right into the story. I think they love it. I'd read the classics to them until they left the house, if I could.

One more of my pretty girl.

Peace out and have a happy weekend, friends.

life rearranged

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: In Angel's words

You may have met Angel already. I introduced her on my blog in this post not too long ago, where I shared about how much she has inspired me to stay committed and accountable to memorizing Scripture (for those of you who wanted to stay committed with me, are you following Angel's blog and commenting on her Moxie Memorizers posts on the 1st and 15th??). I always enjoy reading her blog because she is not messing around. It is clear to me that she seeks to follow her Lord with an undivided heart and then encourages others to do the same. You'll agree, when you read her thoughts on grace below, that she is a truly wise woman. Thank you, Angel, for sharing your heart (and beautiful photos!!) with us today

Grace on Thursday by Leslie inspires me to think deeply about the different aspects of the grace Jesus offers us. Much to my surprise and challenge, Leslie asked me to guest post for this beautiful series. Thank you, Leslie, for entrusting your readers to some of my thoughts on grace. I do not take your gift lightly! 

Readers and friends of Leslie, my name is Angel. I wear my heart on my sleeve at Living With Moxie. Leading women to love and live for Jesus is my passion. Following Jesus with all my heart is my joy. 
This is my family. My husband (Chad) and I have been married for awhile and we have four beautiful, funny, ornery, stinky kids. I love them so. God has used them to teach me great and unsearchable things about His grace. The more I love them, the more I desire to serve and please them. Is my heart the same for Jesus or do I abuse His grace towards me in continuing in the old patterns of my life? 

Isn't this picture ideal? I'm amazed at what photographers can do. We both look so dreamy and sweet. But, sometimes I'm selfish, do what I want, say hurtful things, live in such a way that I wonder why in the world he would kiss my cheek so tenderly. 

But, this is the truth. We are goofballs who love each other for reals. We work hard to use the example of Jesus' grace to us in our marriage. But this grace isn't a license to be a jerk, or take the other for granted. Grace that Jesus offers me compels me to obey Him more deeply, more fully. Far be it from me to take His grace and live in such a way that shows Him I have no regard for His death on the cross. To know Him and accept His grace towards me challenges me to show Him I love Him through my obedience

Do you know what sometimes happens when Chad and I live with grace towards each other? Joy. God said that if we obey His commands, His love would truly be made complete in us. Can you imagine what God's love being made complete in us must be like? My guess is we experience pure joy!

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on God's love being made complete in my life. I do not want to live for myself, take His precious grace for granted, live with the lame license to keep on sinning only to continually ask for forgiveness with a false heart of repentance. There is no laughter in that...only mockery. No joy, only foolishness.

It amazes me that God sometimes chooses to teach us about His grace through our earthly relationships. If I am unwilling to take Chad's love for me for granted, if I desire to love and serve and please him, if I am challenged to increase my knowledge of how to love my family more fully, than how much more should I seek to love, serve, give, please, know, and understand my God who loves me enough to lay down His life to save me from what seeks to destroy me? And because of His grace do I keep on sinning? "By no means!" His grace beckons me to obey and live my life to glorify Him and seek to deny the icky desires of my old gross self.

Praise be to God!
Thank You, Jesus, for your grace! 

Monday, February 06, 2012

It's never quiet in my head

The other day, we were in the car, and out of the blue, my husband asked me, "Is there ever a time where you are not thinking about something?" I quickly said, "No." Because it's never quiet in my head. He said that sounded like a nightmare. Okay. Well, it's where I live.
And I think that's why I can't decide what to blog about at the moment. So many good options are swirling. (Here comes list #1)

The Star Wars makeover in my son's room.
Parenting issues that I want to ask you all about.
My thoughts on my new phone, how it's interfering with my life and also really fun.
My love/hate relationship with the XBox we got for Christmas.
The new linky I want to start on thankfulness to close out each month.
My 2 year blogaversary which is like in a day or two (or maybe I missed it already).
The fact that I really wanted to link up with Erin and Ashley today with a vlog but my voice is hoarse from a cold, and I forgot about it.
My thoughts on words and love and Valentine's Day that I had as I washed out the dinner dishes tonight.

So I'm picking none of the above because it feels overwhelming, and I'm going to give you a little taste of other random stuff that fits in none of those categories, but is worth sharing. (Here comes list #2)

Did you watch this vlog by my bestie Shauna? She is the bomb at the No Heat Curls. You need to try it like yesterday.

Here is me waiting for that magic to happen.

I wanted a set of these Valentine placemats at Pottery Barn Kids, but they were pricey for thin pieces of printed foam. Mmm hmm. So my smartie mom suggested I buy only two and make two more to match. Yesss, good idea mommy. I traced one of the hearts onto double layers of heavy red ticking stripe fabric I already had, and top stitched them together after sticking some red lace in between the layers. It took minutes.

Also, look at this picture. I love it. My husband brings praise into our home. (And I'm guessing he's able to because it's not so noisy in his head and so he can make room for something so beautiful even at the end of the night.) Thank you husband. I love that my kids have this.

And here's something I need to share. That I don't want to share. Guacamole, that is.

And after feeling resentful that the cup was so small and I'd have to give most of it to my kids, I made the executive decision to BUY MYSELF another one. I guess I've never considered it before because guacamole is not cheap. But my perspective changed. Paying nearly $2.00 for guacamole is pricey. But paying nearly $2.00 for a happier heart after a day of parenting by myself and managing a child who started to cry because the choice of restaurant was Chipotle ("It's my most hated one!" = news to me, but we were already there, hungry, and tired) IS A STEAL, I tell you!

Moral of the story: Free yourself. Get your own. Because I know you mommies. I am one. It is not easy to share every single thing with our children, without complaining, including our own bodies. Daily. You deserve your own guacamole. 
Finally, this is my kids' new favorite thing to watch over and over. The Ewok dog is a hit at our house. As is anything affiliated with Ewoks.

Hope you're having a great day today.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Mentoring #2 with Casey

{I write a monthly mentoring post for my beautiful friend Casey and her blog Casey Leigh. When she posts the newest one, I post last month's here, just so I have it in my archives. In case you missed Post no. 2 over there in December, here it is. Post no. 3 can be found on her blog here.}

Going to the flea market is one of my favorite things to do.

I usually go without intention to find a particular thing. The fun, for me, is in the hunt for something special and unexpected. It’s like a surprise when I find it. A sweet, surprising reflection of me or my family that fits like a puzzle piece in our home.

I went to one a few weeks ago. When I got home, I was happy with my few finds. It was strange to think they were owned by someone else, or perhaps several people, before they fell into my hands. Bits of dust and fingerprints hinted at a history.

As I was thinking about the hands that have passed on the flea market treasures, I thought about the popular love for old things in our culture. We even call them “vintage,” giving an impression that the old things are increasing in value as they age, like a fine wine.

It occurred to me how similarly popular it is to have vintage faith, beliefs that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

I know many who possess these vintage treasures, who practice the traditions of their parents or loved ones with reverence, but find it hard to anchor themselves personally to God. The teachings of our parents are sometimes placed on a shelf in our hearts where we may appreciate them well enough, but neglect to make faith our own, to wipe off someone else’s fingerprints. My parents taught me many wonderful things about God and the Bible. But that gives me no more reason to depend solely on their teachings, and neglect growing my own relationship with the Lord. We are all at risk of leaning onto the traditions we learned early on and calling it faith.

And we are equally at risk of passing down our beliefs to our kids without teaching them how to grow apart from us. We will, in fact, one day be gone. I have friends who grew up with one set of beliefs and now hold totally different ones. I don’t want that future for my children. And so I need to remember that as I pass on my beliefs to them, that I also spend plenty of time teaching them to walk with God on their own.

My child’s faith cannot be about me, or after they start to grow, continue to revolve around me. I should not always be involved, meaning sometimes, it’s OK for them to pray alone at night. Sometimes, we can read our Bibles side by side, instead of me managing all the spiritual instruction. I’m called to teach them and train them in the ways of the Lord, but I also must leave room for God Himself to speak to my children. To help prevent them from leaning on a vintage faith, I need to wean myself off of playing mediator between them and God as they get older. Possibly my main goal as a mother is that my children would become comfortable with depending not on me, but on Him.

I regularly have to refresh my own sense of dependence too, wiping the fingerprints off from any hands that have passed down an example of faith to me, no matter how valuable. All the time, I’m discovering how influenced I’ve been by someone else on a matter that needs a second glance. My perspective on prayer, my thoughts on marriage, my beliefs about who Jesus is…I must spend time holding up what I’ve been taught and what I’ve absorbed out in the world against what the Bible itself says.

I must work out my own faith with God alone.

I can be encouraged by the examples of others, and no doubt God has put many great teachers in my life to reveal truth to me, but ultimately, I must walk my own walk. And I can’t walk strongly unless I’m letting go of everyone else’s hands and holding tightly to God’s.

I try to do that by reading His word and spending time talking to Him. I try my best to keep up my end of the connection, often listening, sometimes venting, sometimes pleading. Whatever challenges or blessings that come my way, I try to give God my first thoughts. He doesn’t need them packaged in any certain way.
He just wants regular, messy me.

I do love vintage things. But I like my faith brand new. Fresh out of the box, ready for action, carefully assembled by God and me as we walk together through life.

The only vintage love I have in my heart is for typewriters and tablecloths. And, of course, a few more things that I haven’t found yet.