I’ve waited to write about this until we made it through the process and now I’m so excited to share with you the amazing experience our family has had over the last few months!

Sometime last year I was sharing with another mom the frustrations of raise 3 year-olds. 3 year-olds are amazing beams of light shedding amazing light on your life that can instantly, and rapidly, transform into lasers boring into the depths of your brain, and then back to beams of light illuminating the beauty of the simplest things, then back to death rays, then back to light….you get it.

I don’t think that Elijah was any more challenging than many other 3 year olds. And after describing our situation to a professional she agreed that he fell well within the ‘normal’ range for 3 year old behavior. The rub there is that ‘normal’ includes the whole beam of radiance, death ray, beam of radiance cycle – that is NORMAL behavior. Not comforting.

In any case, we happen to have a few professional child specialists in our circle of close friends and family and one of them mentioned that there was a great program available at Burrell Health Center here in Springfield – a parenting class of sorts for your family. I admit my first gut reaction was, “I don’t need no parenting class.” (My grammar takes a back seat when I feel threatened.) But over the next few weeks/months our spiral of joy and agony continued, and one day having exhausted every good and bad parenting tool I had at my disposal I thought, “You know what? I REALLY need a parenting class!”

Actually – it was the weekend after Christmas and we were on our way to see my family when a tantrum ensued that ended in me threathening to cancel…yes, I did, I threatened to cancel Christmas. Once the entire car got quiet, I got my phone out and dialed Burrell and made our first appointment. It was a relief.

It was a relief because it’s hard to parent and admitting that and asking for help, rather than making me feel like a failure, made me feel like a parent. Like a grown parent who realizes that there are streams of research and case studies available on how to parent and it is not a failure to say, “Yes, please. I’ll take a listen to that.” And so we did.

When we first met our sweet counselor she gave us the standard professional introduction explaining that if she bumps into us at WalMart she won’t really acknowledge that she knows us, you know, so we aren’t embarrassed. To which I replied that she could hug me and yell, “How’s the parenting going? Are the exercises we talked about helping?” Because, in all likelihood, if this works out, I’d be blogging about it. No shame. That’s my mantra. I need help and I’m not afraid to admit it.

And then the work began. It was really easy at first, and it made no difference at all – but that’s how it’s designed. We started out by just intentionally building our relationship with our little ones. We intentionally made time to play, and we stopped giving orders all the time, and it all just felt crazy. At first I thought I had fell down the rabbit hole and was in some toddler wonderland. I felt this way because we started out making sure that Elijah had a lot of control. But a humbling thing happened in this process. We realized that we had lost a bit of our joy over the last year or so. We had gotten so pre-occupied with Parenting that we had lost some of the joys of parenting. It’s kind of hard to explain. We always loved our kids. We have always had lots of snuggles and laughter, but we had also gotten into a habit of expecting misbehavior. That makes me so sad to write, but it’s true. And the first part of the parenting classes was a sweet gentle revealing of that skew in our thinking. Through play and praise, the exercises we were given just broke us all open. It reminded Greg and I what amazing kids we have, and it showed the kids how fun we can be.

And in the midst of this beautiful brokenness and illuminating reminders, we still had the death ray, beam of light, death ray, beam of light thing at play. So it was bad. We had been broken open and fell even more madly in love… with a tyrant. Please, we begged, please tell us there is hope. And there was. There was phase two.

The second phase is where you start teaching the tyrant precious child that life is even better if you do the things you’re asked to do. Now during play time we started giving directions to follow, and then having a praise party with hugs and high fives with each compliant response. You would have been terribly confused to see how much praise was heaped onto our children when they handed us the block we had asked for. We were terribly confused, but we were trusting the process.

After a while of practicing giving direction, we started giving directions that had to be followed in real life, and the praise parties felt more genuine – because it really IS like Christmas when your toddler is asked to put on his shoes and he then PUTS ON HIS SHOES. Christmas, 4th of July, and all the birthdays – so good.

Another beautiful awakening happened to us during this phase of the process. We realized that we were also a bit tyrannical. We learned to taper our demands and to give more choices. We were able to better appreciate how frustrating it is to be three and have so many things dictated to you. So humbling.

Soon after we started the second phase, we introduced the only discipline tool we use now. Time out and the time out room. 3 minutes in time out no matter what. If you can’t stay in time out, you go to the time out room for one minute (a bathroom at our house), then back to time out chair and around that goes round and round until 3 mintues in the chair occurs. And we are ‘always’ zen during this process. No reaction, no emotion. (I’m still working on the zen portion of this.)

It was bad. It was so bad. For like 3 weeks it was horribly bad… and then it was good. Once he realized this was it, he stopped going to the time out room, just did his three minutes and then did whatever he’d been asked to do. Not always – but most of the time. And then after another 3-4 weeks or so – he stopped going to time out. He still goes sometimes and we have a few bad days in a row on occasion, but mostly he does what we ask him to do. And we remember to praise him and then he wants to do more of it. It’s like an anti-vicious cycle of good feelings around here. It’s miraculous.

And tomorrow, we expect we are going to graduate. We will be done, and we will walk out of that office with a load of new tools and techniques. Elijah is so much happier now and has a level of self confidence that he didn’t have before. Greg and I are so much happier and we have a level of self confidence in our parenting that we didn’t have before, and Grace is happier because of all of the above.

I’m so glad we took the time to do this. I’m so thankful. Greg and I have different parenting styles – most people do – and this really helped us get on the same page, use the same language, and have the same expectations. That synchronicity has helped Elijah and Grace know what to expect regardless of which one of us is doing the disciplining and direction giving.

If you find yourself reading this and thinking that you are so glad you never needed anything like this…well, I would have felt that way too if I’d only had Miss Grace. Some kids are just more compliant natured than others – congratulations on the lottery if you have more than one of those :). On the other hand, some kids are a bit more strong willed – still incredibly awesome, but they need a different type of parenting. So if you are reading this and thinking that it sounds interesting and maybe your house could use some of that, I totally recommend you go talk with someone. The methodology we were instructed in is called PCIT – and there is so much more to it than I am qualified to explain, but this is at least a layman’s review of the process.

One final note….if you see me out and about and one or more of my children are having a total meltdown in public – it’s not a commentary on the effectiveness of our help. They’re kids and this isn’t a magic fix – but we are pretty certain it’ll happen less often, and we have some ideas about what to do when it does, and that’s pretty much priceless.

 

 

Hey! I’ve been pretty quiet the past couple of weeks. Those of you who also are on Facebook know that I had a little health issue that made it impossible for me to type. Not only did it make it impossible to type, it also meant I couldn’t do any photography, either. I’ve been going a bit stir crazy really. But after finishing my second pack of steroids a week ago, my hands are feeling pretty good. I’ve been working hard to get caught up on a lot of different things.

Quick background on the health stuff: We were camping a couple weeks ago and it was, quite possibly, the longest night of my life. I was freezing and could hardly move to roll over. I wrongly attributed my condition simply to camping, but by Monday morning my hands were so swollen I couldn’t close them, so I went to see the doctor. She diagnosed me with adult onset of Fifths Disease. This is a childhood illness that both my kids had a few weeks earlier. It does not typically impact adults, but in rare cases it can cause acute arthritis type symptoms, along with swelling and profound fatigue. After two days of a prescription pain reliever that didn’t touch the pain, my doctor prescribed a steroid pack. That, finally, got the pain and swelling under control. By the time I finished the second pack my symptoms were gone completely. The scary, stupid, interweb has stories of this being a chronic or long term illness, but I think that is even more rare than getting it in the first place, so I’m thinking (hoping and praying) that I’ve seen the last of it. Fingers crossed, prayers said, salt thrown.

The Monday that I went to the doctor, I also went on Facebook and asked for prayers. I started to do so on Sunday, but I held back. I can’t even tell you why I waited. What I can tell you is what an incredible help it is to see comments of encouragement and prayer just flood in. Friends asking what’s going on and telling me they are praying — I love that.

I’m probably considered an over-sharer by some. I do it very deliberately. I even make myself do it sometimes. I do it because, for me, keeping things private is not about protecting other people, it’s about protecting me. For a long time I thought, if I keep my struggles to myself then I can put on a mask and be who you think I should be. But what I learn every time I ask for help is that there is strength in letting people love you. There is strength in asking for help. Not only that, but I know what a privilege I feel when someone asks for prayer. What an honor to be able to join together with people and pray for a common need. I love it when I see comments come in from across the country. Along with my lifelong friendships, I have friends who I can count on two hands how many times I have met with them face to face, and I have friends who I have never met in person. It doesn’t matter; they will wrap me up in an encouraging comment, and their love lifts me.

I haven’t always felt this way. For many years I lived far away from my family, and I kept my business very private. It was an isolating and lonely time in my life. I had a few close friends who God sent to carry me through that time, but I was very much alone. A lot of that stemmed from my shame and embarrassment over my choices in life. This is an understatement: I married poorly. Then I divorced. Then I kept on making poor choices. And I isolated myself.

Having lived both ways — in isolation and as an over-sharer — I can tell you with confidence that living your life out loud and surrounding yourself with a circle of encouraging friends who love you is a fantastic way to live. Letting people lift you up, giving people space in your life to see your struggle – it’s a compliment you give the people you love.

I said earlier that I don’t know why I waited to post what was happening on Facebook, but I do know. I didn’t want to complain when I knew there were people out there dealing with far worse. I didn’t want to ask for prayers when I knew there were people out there that weren’t asking, but needed them far more than me.

We do that don’t we? We try to minimize our experience because there are others out there seemingly minimizing theirs. Who are we to complain? But you know what? Asking for help is not complaining. Admitting that you are having a really hard time does not negate the fact that others have it worse. There is not a finite amount of love, and just because I know that there are people who don’t ask doesn’t mean that I can’t. On the contrary, we never know who might be inspired to raise their hand when they see you raise yours and say, I need your help right now.

Life is hard. Sometimes I need support because the kids won’t stop fighting. Sometimes I need support because my grief is overwhelming me. Those are two different spots on the made up scale we have created – but when you are in the midst of either one, you need someone to lay a hand on your back and say, “I’m here.”

I have surrounded myself with physically present friends, and virtually present friends who have my back. A circle of people who, I know, when I’m down and I throw out an SOS they will surround me with life preservers. I’m thankful for each and every one of them. I hope I return that feeling. I hope they know that when they are hurting, I’m praying and trying to figure out if there is any way I can lighten their load for the moment. ‘Cause why? ‘Cause we belong to each other.

I encourage you to find the people in your life who love you and then let them love you by sharing your life with them. Maybe it is just one or two that you call, maybe it’s a whole Facebook gang. Either way I promise, it’s a deeper way to live, and it provides a color to your life and theirs that you miss if you live life alone.

Much love to you. And a huge thank you to my facebook gang.

 

I'm not often quiet. I'm not often still. I'm not often not thinking.

I think about what I have to do at work, what needs to be done around the house, and what to make for dinner. I think about whether or not I'm a good mom, or a good wife, and I think about how we can make a dent in poverty. I think about how to be a better photographer, when I can write more often, and what my life would be like if we became kind of Amish.

I think about how to raise a sensitive boy and a strong girl. I think about gender stereotypes and where they come from and what they really mean for my kids future. I think about all the littles in the world who aren't well loved and how we must figure out how to help them. I think about all the bigs who are angry and hurt and how to help them. I think about all the myriad of ways that I am short-sighted, short-tempered, and straight up wrong, and I wonder how to help myself.

If I stop thinking I pick up my ipad and I read about poverty and child development, and ancient cultures. I try to, on a daily basis, read my bible, work out, and play with my kids. Inside my head, and outside my head, it is a busy life.

And then one day I went on vacation, and I didn't think at all. All week. Seriously.

I didn't plan, I didn't read, and I didn't think deeply beyond a deep and abiding gratitude.

I didn't worry about work, or think about what to eat. I didn't read or try to solve anyone's problems, apart from the occasional sibling drama.

Not thinking really got me thinking. And now I think the enemy, bad karma, whatever you believe negative forces to be, I believe they thrive in busy. It's where we lose our relationships.

There is a great meme going around – wait, side note:

meme /mēm/

1. An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation.

2. An image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

(I've been pronouncing that wrong and wondering just exactly what it is for some time. Now I feel better.)

Anyway, there is a great meme making the rounds. Well, here it is:


I'm going to have to go make one up for me and it's going to say:

“Don't let yourself become so busy trying to create a great life that you forget you already have one!”

It's ok to stop. We are biblically directed to rest. Our culture has become so obsessed with productivity that we have forgotten that it requires periods of inactivity. At least I had. Maybe it is less that I had forgotten but more that I didn't think I had time.

I am going to do a better job of unplugging. Unplugging not only my electronics, but unplugging my relentless thinking. I'm going to go on 'vacation' at least once a day. Just take some time – 15 minutes, and hour, two, and just be. I'm going to plan more day trips for the family where we get away from our responsibilities and just let them wait. It will all be here when we get back, that much is certain.

Sometimes it is easier to work at creating something that it is to sit in the midst of it. But it is time that we all learn how to stop and listen. Rest and pay attention. Honor the people that are in our midst and forget about the chaos that is in our minds.

Vacation was new to me – not something we did a lot of when I was growing up. I didn't really understand the value of it. But it is incredibly valuable. It will be a priority for us going forward. It's a full week away together to remember what the busyness of life is so adept at making us forget.

We are enough. Full stop.

 

So a few weeks or months ago I signed up for 5k Color Run with some family and friends.  It sounded great a few weeks/months ago…but now it is 3 days away.

I decided yesterday, if I was going to run a 5k on Saturday, I might should start training.  So yesterday (yes, yesterday) I went for a run.  I ran/walked two miles – a little shy of the 3.1 I will be doing on Saturday, but a good start.   I felt pretty good – had I more time I could have went the full 3.1.  Really.  I could have.  Yesterday.

But TODAY, I can barely walk.  I mean, literally, I can barely walk.  I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this sore.  It’s pathetic.  I thought, since I do an hour on my elliptical 3-4 times a week sometimes that I would be in pretty good shape.  I was very wrong.

So now, instead of planning my run/walk strategy for Saturday, I am just praying that I will be able to meander across the finish line before dusk.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I will get back on the elliptical and try to work it out a bit.  I do know that will help, this week.  But, I am traveling next week which means I will be in heels two days after the race.  🙂  Life is so funny.

So I’ve learned a valuable lesson or two.  First of all, my elliptical is great cardio but not so much on the muscular.   Secondly, one should begin training for a race prior to the week of the race (to be honest this isn’t so much a new learning as a nice reminder for my procrastinating heart).

I’m sure there are more lessons to uncover, but to be honest I am just in too much pain to learn.  At least it doesn’t hurt to type.

Be on the look out for a new post tomorrow night as we continue our discussion on poverty.   In the mean time, any prayers for a miraculous muscular healing is much appreciated!

 

I have had a busy few weeks. Two weeks of back to back travel, followed by some time away from work and home for personal reasons, and added in there was Memorial Day weekend. Life has thrown a lot at me lately – a lot of fodder for those still moments in life that seem to grow fewer and fewer. I like coming here, each Wednesday, to think. That is basically what this blog is – it is setting aside time and holding myself accountable to think about more than what’s for dinner and when is the next deadline. It’s my time to be fully human.

Here are three unrelated things that have been on my mind…

Safe:

Over the Memorial Day weekend Grace and I were saying her bedtime prayers, and I prayed for the safety of all of our soldiers. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought – it was something on my mind and it came naturally – but the response was one of those defining moments. Grace listened and added in her prayers and after the ‘amen’ she asked me, “What are soldiers?” I cocked my head to the side like a puppy and thought, really hard and kinda panicky. “Well,” I said, “they are the policemen for our country and they keep us all safe.” Whew I thought, good save. Simple, age appropriate, high fi… “What is safe?” she asked. And my heart dropped into my stomach and I couldn’t breathe…

In a matter of miliseconds I realized that in order to define safe, one needs to understand what is not safe. In that brief moment I experienced a profound gratitude. Profound. My daughter has no experiences to draw from – how thankful was I that there was no way to explain ‘safe’ to my daughter for she had no reference of it’s opposite. I had recently read a book set in the slums of India and I saw those children – living in the slums with danger in the forms of hunger, rats, cold, disease. I can define humbling – but I had never been quite so humbled as I sat and realized how incredibly ‘safe’ my daughter is.

“Being safe is like being happy, honey.” That’s what I told her. She smiled because she understood. My girl, she knows happy.

What is Family:

I spent some time with a family recently that really just blew me away. You see, this is not your traditionally ‘built’ family – these folks are a family because they chose to be a family. There is a lot of uncertainty in their situation and sometimes uncertainty can tear relationships apart. Sometimes though, sometimes, you get to see a couple who God brought together, face adversity and uncertainty, and it is a thing of wonder.

These two parents are one – they are a single, loving, living organism. They love one another, they support one another and they love this little one that they picked out especially to be a part of their family. What they have done is incredibly selfless and loving, but if you say that they respond with, “What else would anyone do?”

And that got me to thinking, “What else would anyone do?” Most would do the same thing, the right thing, right? Most would step in and try to be there for a child, wouldn’t they? I would argue that not everyone would do the same thing, but many would. I will concede, many would. I guess it is the way they do it, because when you see them together, it is heroic. Their love IS heroic.

What is heroic, is the fullness of the love in spite of uncertainty. The fullness and totality of the commitment in spite of uncertaintity. What is heroic, is the fact that they have made a family out of sheer will, love, and desire. There is no sense of obligation, no resentment. There is just an overwhelming gratitude for the blessing of what they are to one another.

Families can choose to exist where there was no family. Love and commitment can create a family as surely as biology. Of course it can, I’ve witnessed it. Love can do anything.

The body as a temple:

I got a massage this afternoon and it was the first time that it really became an act of worship for me. I think any other time I’ve been self conscious about my body, or felt self indulgent. Today I just really felt good about it. It was a gift for my 40th birthday so that alleviated any financial guilt. I have had a really busy few weeks and had spend a lot of time focused outwardly so I was ok with a little ‘me’ time. It actually started with an hour long facial (a first) and then an hour long massage. So for two hours I was tended to. In the beginning my inner critic did rise up and remind me what an indecent indulgence this would be to some people. I told her to hush.

Then I started praying for the woman doing the tending. She uses all organic products, sources locally, and makes many of the scrubs and cleansers that she used – it was obvious that this occupation was one she took seriously. What a blessing, I thought, to bring such luxury to people and to do it with such care. My skin has never, to my memory, felt as soft as it did when she was done with the facial.

By the time the massage began, I was reciting the Lord’s Prayer as a kind of mantra in my mind and then the thought came to me: My body is a temple. I realized that I was simply appreciating, and caring for, what was a temporary gift to me. As long as my time is spent focused on the outside more than it is focused on the inside – it is ok to focus on the inside on occasion. It is not only ok, it is required. A temple needs tending.

As the massage went along I thanked God for the legs and feet that carry me to my friends and chase my children, and exercise each day. I thanked Him for my arms that hug my husband and cradle my children, and reach out to hold the hand of my friends when they are in need. I thanked him for a strong back that allows me to work and play and live with joy. I thanked him for healthy skin and strong bones and a healthy heart.

Our bodies are a temple and I forget that. Today was a good reminder that my body had seen me through a lot these last few weeks and it was more than ok to say: Thank you body, well done.

Now – go book you a massage.

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