Monday, December 1, 2008

edward cullin it is

I am far too old to be crushing on someone born in 1986 (although Demi Moore has done much for the Cougar Movement), but let's just say if I were to be crushing on someone thirteen years younger than me, it would have to be Edward Cullin of Twilight fabulosity. I read the book in two days thanks in part to the Young Adult writing style and also in part to the fact I spent two glorious days sans children. The book left me full of those wonderful feel-good dreams of young love: "It will ALWAYS be like this!" aahhh.... So I convinced Matthew to go to the movie: Why wouldn't he want to spend his birthday taking me to a love story? It had action in it.

I spent the next day running from packed store to packed store (darn those early Christmas shoppers) to get a copy of the second book of the series only to be let down time and time again. Who knew everyone else in the world has already read it? Who knew the 4th book was being released?

I will get the book... in the meantime, I'll just have to envision my own story for Edward to follow....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

That's an option.

Last night I was attempting to shop in the grocery store. One of those trips you hadn't planned on making. I picked the girls up, Matthew was with me, he wanted to get to Open Gym at 6:00pm, and rushing home I remember we're out of toilet paper and tampons. Sorry, but that's a stop we're making. Run in, run out. Sounds simple enough, right?

Then the temper tantrum struck. We've all been there: a desperate to control the situation overreaction to having to do something you don't want to do. (Except mine is 13.) I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her out of the store reminiscent of when she was two. The exagerations (pained look, pleas of "Please don't hurt me" strategically voiced as we passed fellow customers) continued until we were in the car and once home she was sent to her room for a much needed nap. That's when the threat came in (and they all threaten). "I'm going to go live at my dad's!" My calm response: "That's an option." She was silenced for half a second before she continued, "At least HE lets me do what I want!" I shrugged, "that's one way to solve your problem." Silence again, followed by, "What do you mean? You don't even care if I go to my dad's and NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN?!" (I continued working about the kitchen...) "Even though I love you more than anything in the world, it's time for you to decide for yourself how you're going to live your life. Choosing to live at your dad's is an option." More silence. (I'm sure she was trying to gauge my sanity.) "What about Dotter? I'll never see her again...that's not fair to her." "I'm sure you've thought about that. You're smart; I'm sure you'll come up with a way where you can see your sister if you choose to live at your dad's." It continued on for a few more minutes before I explained that her choice of behavior in the grocery store resulted in the consequence of her going to her room. She went in her room.


I had forgotten all about the "That's an option" statement. Oh, how many times it saved me when they were younger! Threats are made by children in attempt to emotionally steer you off course. Toys that needed to be picked up were met with a cool "I don't care" when I explained they would be removed from the house if they were still there in five minutes.

I've heard things ranging from "I'm going to scratch you!" to "I don't want you to be my mommy anymore!" to "I'm going to run away from home!" (Ironically, each time was when they wanted to do something contradictory to what a house rule was.)

When they were little I'd say something like, "That's an option. You could scratch me, but then you would get a time-out for hurting me, and you would still lose your toys because you haven't picked them up. Or... you could choose to pick up your toys and keep them to play with them later."

I realized the "That's an option" statement is probably more pertinent now than ever. THEY need to do all the thinking to get them out of the situation they're in, and THEY ultimately need to take ownership of the problem. For better or for worse the decisions they make in their lives are ones they will have to accept. Somehow I've got to get them thinking about the consequences of their choices. Somehow I've got to get them to think "If I do this, what logically comes next for me? And can I handle that?"

Personally, I had a much easier time dealing with picking the toys up off the living room floor...

Monday, November 10, 2008

NINE TIMES?! Are they crazy?!

Did you know that kids will ask an average of 9 times before a parent gives in. NINE TIMES!!

Two things stand out to me:
(1) that a child can be so strong-willed as to ask 9 times.... and,
(2) that I give in somewhere around 4 or 5 (my kids have it easy).

"Parents have this illusion that if they give their child the reason why they can't do what they want, the child will stop wanting it."

Oh, boy. Didn't I learn that a tad too late.

Raising the Jellybean (my oldest, now 13) I felt strongly that I wanted to give her a voice. (Probably because subconsciously I felt I didn't have one growing up.) I wanted to give her the words to use to defend herself and to explain herself. I wanted her to see that when you made a decision you should be able to back it up with why you chose what you did. I wanted her to have her beliefs and yet be able to explain why she believed what she did. I explained every decision I made in order to help teach her to be verbally responsible for her choices and actions.

Now, at 13, I find myself wondering why she just can't respect me as her mother. Why does she question, debate, unfold, remix, battle every decision I try to make? (Because I taught her to.)

I am unable at this point to simply say, "No. End of discussion." And have it stick. Instead I have taught her to Problem Solve.
Can't go to McDonald's for dinner? Why?
- Is it because I have no money? I'm sure she has some at home in her piggy bank she'll offer to use.
- Is it because it's unhealthy? I'm sure she'll order the fish sandwich instead of the Big Mac.
- Is it because we haven't eaten dinner together as a family in a long time? I'm sure we can all eat inside together, or we could order to go and eat together at home.
- Is it because I just don't feel like it? I'm sure I could get something in a different drive through more to my liking after she gets her meal at McDonald's.

So how does a parent maintain that balance between teaching a child their voice of reason and teaching a child that sometimes they just do what Mom says because they respect her decision as an adult & parent even if they don't agree with it?

Boundaries. Setting clear boundaries. It's ok to say, "This is not a decision that is discussed with you in our house." It's ok to say, "This is a decision that Mommy makes, not you. When you are a Mommy you can make this decision, but not right now."

For example, the child can pick out her clothes for playtime, but for church Mom makes that decision. (Dotter wore bright pink snow boots every day two summers ago, but those were set aside for sandals on Sunday.)

For dinner, I've started a night each week where one child decides dinner. But whatever they decide they're responsible for. If the food is in the cupboards they can make it. If they want to go out to a restaurant they have to be ready to be financially responsible for that decision. (Amazing how McDonald's loses its appeal when you have to pay for EVERYONE.) The rest of the week it's MY decision - and mine alone - to make.

Try a little challenge today. Keep track of how many times you're asked for the same thing you've said no to. Simply state, "no" and when asked why simply state "this is the decision I am making." Say this the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th time - no matter how long it takes until it ends.

You aren't going to convince your child not to WANT what they want, no matter how much explaining you do, but perhaps you'll be able to further establish that as the Mom you can make decisions without having to explain "why" ... and having them approve.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Choose Happiness

"An old Cherokee was teaching his young grandson one of life's important lessons. He told the young boy the following parable:

'There is a fight going on inside each of us. It is a terrible fight between two wolves.
One wolf is evil. He is anger, rage, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, lies, false pride and ego.
The second wolf is good. He is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, kindness, empathy, truth, compassion and faith.'

The grandson thought for a moment, then asked, 'Which wolf will win the fight?'

'The one you feed,' his grandfather replied."


It's easy to feed the evil wolf. The world encourages to nourish the traits he thrives on. We're bombarded with gossip magazines and "news" stories exposing the dirty laundry of someone famous. When feeling slighted "friends" may encourage us to 'get even.' The Jones' seem to always be doing better than us, flaunting their sucesses in the form of new cars and fancy homes.

In time, however, the evil wolf will begin to feed off what makes you human. God brought us into the world filled with only good. We are born full of joy, peace, love.... He knew the exact ingredients needed to make us human, which he filled within us. It is unfortunate that over time we choose to replace that goodness with evil. At birth we are 100% goodness. Would you be able to honestly state your ratio now? Is it 75% good 25% evil? 50/50? More? Less?

You must make the choice to feed within you the good wolf or the evil wolf. It is our choice alone to make; no one can do it for you. Not even God. Well, he could - but He wants us to choose the right way because WE WANT to.

I received a letter once that ended not in the typical "sincerely" fashion, but with the words "Choose Happiness." Choose Happiness. Choose. Every day, every situation, every thought - choose happiness. Want. Decide. Opt. Select. Pick happiness. It doesn't matter how you say it, it means the same: you are the only one who controls the happiness you let in to your soul. You are the only one with that power. You are the only one with that control. You are the only who chooses what enters into your being.

We've all done this... we've had a bad day, the kids gave you hassle in the morning, you forgot your lunch, your boss blamed you for something you didn't do, your hair looks horrible, you come home to find the phone disconnected when you swore you paid the stupid bill, dinner gets burnt, the kids are fighting, and your mom calls with the sole purpose of making you feel like a failure (you're quite sure of that).... your spouse walks in cheerful, tries to kiss you on the cheek (but your're really busy - can't he see that?) and announces, "Steve and his wife invited us out to dinner tomorrow night; let's ask your mother to watch the kids." And you erupt. The house is a mess. There's so much grey hair on your head there's no way you're sitting next to Ms. Hoity-Toity I get my nails done twice a month because I don't have to work I'm so rich. The kids need to get to bed early for a change because their attitude sucks and there is NO WAY you're going to ask your mother to watch the kids after how she was on the phone with you earlier - she was practically screaming that you're a failure (you're quite certain of that).

It was YOUR choice to not accept that happiness. It was YOUR choice not to see the kiss as a wonderful example of how we should all greet the loves of our life. It was YOUR choice not to see the kindness of an invitation of a friend. It was YOUR choice not to look forward to the joy of spending time with someone who likes you for you, not for what your hair looks like.

I have personally struggled with the whole "Choose Happiness" campaign. It's easy to do when everything is going great! But how do you choose happiness during the really tough stuff? How do you choose happiness when you have a child terminally ill? How do you choose happiness when you learn your spouse has been unfaithful? How do you choose happiness when you find out your sibling has chosen suicide over his wife and three small children?

You choose God.

You choose God.

You turn to Him. You ask Him to hold you in His arms and you ask Him to allow you to feel His love. He will show you the way; He will show you how you can choose happiness if you trust in Him and believe in Him. You simply choose God.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Weeding Our Personal Gardens

"The only thing you have to do to let weeds thrive in your life is nothing. And doing nothing is a choice."
~ Alicia Britt Chole


I have a friend who purchased a new home about two years ago. She bragged (and I mean bragged) about the beautifully manicured lawn and immaculate gardens. I must admit a twinge of jealousy the first time I made it over. The grass was the most beautiful green velvet I'd ever seen. The sidewalk to the front porch flanked with tiny white flowers (for some reason it made me think of Alice in Wonderland). The shrubbery was nicely clipped and sculpted. Tulips proudly stood in an arrays of bold colors. Everything just looked perfect!

I stopped by again near the end of this summer. The shrubs had limbs poking out all over, weeds grew up amongst the tulips, grass was growing in the sidewalk cracks: "What did you do to the lawn?" I blurted out. "Nothing," she answered.

Nothing. She chose to do nothing. Here she was given this beautiful precious gift and she chose to do nothing to maintain it or take care of it.

There is a much bigger sin than letting your garden get overrun with weeds... and that is letting your LIFE get overrun with weeds.

Take stock of your personal garden: Can you list the flowers? (Spouse, children, good friends, your job.) Can you name the weeds? (a bad relationship, jealousy, anger, weight, tiredness.)

We can choose to start weeding our personal gardens: put boundaries on toxic relationships (mother-in-law drives you crazy? Limit her daily phone conversations to five minutes by telling her, "Oh! We were just getting ready to ____ but I've got about five minutes to talk!"); get to bed early; start choosing a fruit or vegetable over a sweet; seek counseling for those really big issues.

The point is, we ALWAYS have a choice. God blessed us with reasoning and judgement and motivation. We can choose to start weeding out the things that block the beautiful flowers that grow up around us, or we can choose to do nothing.

Just remember... doing nothing is a choice, too.

Monday, October 27, 2008

shouldn't it be obvious?

We were blessed with a (mostly) kid-free weekend and absolutely no spending cash. This meant one thing of course: CLEANING. And clean we did.

The yard: The birch (my favorite) sacrificed its life for the sake of a concrete landing pad for the soon to be hooked-up hot tub. The ugly metal clotheslines (and 6' of concrete blocks they stood on) were removed and filled. Dirt was placed around the house and graded in an effort to eliminate water in the basement. The burn pile stacked higher than the house itself.

The main level: I found all my counter space. Yep. ALL of it. The fridge shed more than half of the papers attached to it via magnetic force. The rooms were dusted, swept, vacuumed, organized.

The basement (and most dramatic transformation): The pool table moved to its new location. Carpet was installed, a couch, chairs, entertainment center & television were introduced, and a cozy family room was magically formed. One of the bedrooms was organized and cleaned to form a much needed child's sanctuary (a.k.a. "play room") complete with craft table, cd player, and art work on the walls. The other bedroom that had until this weekend been nothing more than a stoarge room, was stripped of its boxes & cobwebs, cleaned, aired, and sanitized. Carpet was installed, bunkbeds erected, cable run (yes, another television here, too), and voila! Instant "Guest Room." The laundry was washed, folded and put away (all except for that darn last pile of delicates; sweaters that require a drying rack that I don't have).

My body ached. My head ached. My fingers hurt. But, damn, did it look GOOD! I couldn't wait for the girls to see it.

Dotter was the first - it was like seeing her open the perfect Christmas gift. So shocked and surprised was her reaction! We were all downstairs when the Jellybean came in. She came tramping down the stairs and flopped herself onto the couch like it had always been there. Oblivious to the improvements she began talking about her weekend: where she went, funny things her cousins said, who she met, etc. I couldn't take it anymore: "Bean - don't you see anything different down here?" I asked. She stopped, looked around, and after a beat (and in perfect teen fashion) replied, "oh, yeah - looks good" and continued with her conversation. So much for "great job, mom! you did good!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Accountability

With all the finger pointing going on these days, it's no wonder everyone has sore shoulders. It's almost like they all pulled something trying to quickly blame someone else.

Ok. I get it. I'm too "black and white." I think things are either here or there. My lines are all drawn permanently with Sharpies... none of this "in the sand" stuff for me.

But when something is YOUR responsibility shouldn't you man up and take that responsibility on?

Friday, October 10, 2008

"How are you?" "Good. And you?"

I was listening to a discussion about feelings this morning. The point was made that so many people cannot adequately answer the question "How are you?" The speaker went on to say it was his opinion that we simply don't know ourselves well enough to answer the question; that we aren't in tune enough to know the many different feelings we're capable of, much less how to explain it.

I agree - but I also think we're in a society that doesn't exactly value "listening." We rush, rush, rush around - breezing past people in hallways or on the sidewalk; we multi-task to the point of insanity - cooking dinner, tv on in the background while the children ask us questions about homework and our husbands explain how they're going to help their brother cut down a tree this weekend (wait, is that really what he said?).... anyway... that's another discussion for another day.

When someone asks me "How are you?" I can honestly say I don't consider it a question that someone put forth because they honestly care to stay and listen to the answer. But the speaker had a point: How would I answer that question if I wasn't permitted to reply with the obligatory "good! And you?" response that I'm used to?

Happiness is definately defined by a person's individual standards; it's certainly not universal. Case in point: If I told you happiness is a dog curled up in your lap would you agree? You would if you loved dogs. But for the person (me) who is highly allergic and submits herself to two shots a week in an attempt to someday breathe like a normal person, I can honestly say that would NOT be happiness. To me, that would be torture. (And I'm not even going to get into the dog hair that would be stuck all over my clothes - ick!) What if I told you happiness is balancing your checkbook at the end of the month and finding out you have a positive balance of $1.17? Would you be jumping for joy or severely depressed? I remember the day I balanced and saw I had $1.17 left over after all the bills were paid. I was so ecstatic - I called everyone I knew! To me, that moment was so much better than winning a lottery. I had single-handedly reclaimed my independence. I, alone - just me - had paid all my bills, had fed my daughter, had fed myself - and I had $1.17 still in my pocket!!

We define "happiness" in the way that makes sense for ourselves, no one else can do it for us. So, I say - Go out and do the things that make you HAPPY. Enjoy the things that put a smile on your face. It doesn't matter that no one else "gets it." It may be a hot cup of coffee, a good book, a 45 minute shower with the kids locked out of the bathroom, a walk, hanging the children's artwork all over the house (even though someone else might say it doesn't match or isn't meant to go there). It may be taking a ride in a car, or watching horses in a pasture, or writing in a journal, or doing yoga, or playing Scrabble with your 90 year old grandmother. The point is, do something so you can answer that question in a better way:

"How are you?"

Great!
Wonderful!
Awesome!
Excited!
Refreshed!
Amazing!
Fantastic!
Superb!
Magnificent!
Glorious!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

houdini hound

Our dog, (I'll call her Satan), has the unique talent of escaping her kennel. Every day we put her in the cage, every afternoon she greets us at the door eagerly waving her tail. (No wonder she goes in so willingly; she's only in until she's certain we've driven away.) It's not for lack of trying on our part - we've put her in, swung the kennel around so the door is facing the wall, and PRESTO CHANGEO! The dog is out and the kennel is found in the middle of the room, door still locked shut. We've tied the door. "Tied" as in laced a thick tow rope like a garter all around the sides of the door to make sure it can't open enough for her to squeeze through. Alas, it fails.

It wouldn't be so bad if she just went to hang out on the couch and drink from the toilet. But she's still in that "let's see how much damage we can cause with just my teeth" stage. The rugs (yes, both of them) have their edges gnawed, the couch has a chunk out of the bottom and the recliner is not so comfortable now that the stuffing has been removed.

I'm beginning to think we'd have better luck if we locked the furniture up when we left and just kept the dog out.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

more than i can see

I so didn't want to get up this morning - it was dark and rainy and well, just miserable. The kind of day you could disappear into the thick folds of a comforter and not care when (or if) you woke up. But then, sure enough - without taking into consideration my mopey mood, God whips out a paintbrush and paints such a brilliant blue sky and bright sun -- it seems like every leaf is dancing away to a song I can't hear - swaying green, shimmy-ing gold and waving yellow.

Sometimes I wonder how it's possible not to see beauty.
Sometimes I wonder how it's possible to miss the good things.

Oh, but that's life, isn't it? Challenge after challenge until we're fed up to our eyeballs.... and then the unsuspecting gift of a beautiful sky, or a smile from a stranger, or a hug from a friend... and then - even though it doesn't explain everything - we just somehow know that there's so much more out there than what we can even begin to imagine.