Parenting

Royal Teenagers (And I’m not talking about their pain in my @$%)

Just the other day, one of my girls said to me, “Mom, your blog used to be cool. Now it’s all boring. You never tell any good funny stories anymore.” I laughed. Agreed. And then threatened her to go public with her latest shenanigan. She immediately understood what I meant when I said, “I can’t tell everything about you guys anymore and you guys are all my funny stories.”

I thought I was the only one who had quit telling stories about my kids.Then it was brought to my attention that there is a lack of material about what it is like to parent teenagers on this here web. I can’t find the first article I read, but here is another one. It’s a legitimate concern. As a veteran blogger I get the very real struggle. As your kids get older, you can’t just air their dirty laundry. I mean, really, now their dirty laundry is actually bras and underwear. And boys. And other people’s kids. And raging hormones. Bad decisions. The list goes on. Any good parent should be careful. (Unless their kid is making millions in the movie industry, of course. JOKING)

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My two teenage daughters and the one coming right up on 12 would NOT appreciate me being totally honest. I can’t tell you everything. I can only tell you the good things. This is a problem for me because I am all about making the internet an honest place.

I can tell you that this meme

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is not exaggerating.

When it comes to raising teenage girls, a hurricane does hit the bathroom every single morning without fail.

Raising teenagers is hard.  Personally, I think taking care of babies is harder. I should know, I have both right now. Ha! Babies are physically exhausting, but teenagers are engaged in emotional warfare at all given times. It’s not that they want to be bad, it’s just that they need so much reassurance. You know the saying, “Those that need love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Well, it’s true. Teenagers are some of the worst culprits.

Teenagers ask for love with eye rolls, insults, self-depracation, rebellion, etc. They make stupid decisions because of their overriding programming for belonging. They are desperate to know that they matter. They want to be told everything is going to be o.k. They just need to feel safe. (Kind of like us adults but add in lethal doses of hormones, acne, and bullies.) Makes me think of this skit.

Yet, when teenagers act like they do, they make everyone around them want to run for the hills instead of giving them hugs. I actually like the mental challenge that they present. Call me crazy, but I’d take the mental marathon over the monotony of diapers and feedings any day….except yesterday. Yesterday was really bad. Sometimes your teenagers will make you wonder if they have any brains at all….that was yesterday. As a parent who is left screaming, “Have you heard anything I have told you for the past 15 years?” I can assure you that like with all phases of parenting some days are way better than others.

Getting to the point of the post in 3,   2,   1.

In all my three years of teenage experience, I have actually figured something out. My job is to OVERLOVE my kids. I need to love them to the point that they won’t need to ask for it in the most UNLOVING of ways. It’s so hard to do. It requires a lot of sucking it up on a parent’s part. A lot. It feels good to have figured out my job: to train my teenagers out of asking for love ineffectively, but it is also a daunting task…especially when they “hate me.” (That was yesterday.) I am supposed to 1- help them inherently know that they are worthy and loved. No matter what. And 2- If and when they are feeling unlovable, downtrodden, and like a screw-up, they need to know how to effectively ask for and *receive the love that they need and it is my job to teach them. (*We all know those people who need way too much love. I think this is a result of them not learning how to receive what is given to them.)

[You should read that last paragraph again because I honestly think it’s the secret to a happy life. Not just for teenagers.]

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When all else fails, and I am ready to ring my kids’ necks, I remind myself. They are royalty. They are princesses. Even if they are acting like evil stepchildren, I remember that I am going to have to answer to the King when I get home. He is going to ask for a play by play. If I pass, I will earn a place in the royal family. Not just any old place. I will be adopted in and be made a queen. I don’t know about you, but I desperately need to be royalty.

wpid-photogrid_14248156443752.jpg.jpegOne way I give myself this daily reminder is when I play taxi. Every time I pull up to the school, the field, the kids’ friends’ houses, the church…wherever I am picking them up, I text them an acronym.

YCA

Your carriage awaits.

They are royalty.

wpid-wp-1424969976432.jpegYesterday, I employed a new tactic. It’s called the special dinner. I thought, “If she is acting this bad, she must be really desperate,” so I pulled out the linens, the glassware, and flowers. I made a nice dinner. We all toasted her. We wrote down what we loved about her. Just because she is grounded for five weeks it doesn’t mean that we should quit loving her. If I’ve learned anything I’ve learned that they need the most love when they are in trouble….which is often as a teenager.

I guess we’ll be having a lot of special dinners.

When I explained the reason for the new tradition of a special dinner, one of my kids declared, “So, when we are slamming doors, crying, breaking rules etc…we are going to get a special dinner….l guess I am getting a special dinner every night.”

Teenagers!children of god

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Had I Remembered {a reflection on motherhood}

 

wpid-wp-1424717239819.jpegHad I remembered…..

the nights that I have to retrieve a pacifier at least every hour

and the mornings where I just want to read a single chapter of my book but the multiple feedings, epic dirty diaper, bath-time and the fact that for whatever reason he won’t go to sleep without being held make me give it up all together because it’s already noon

the teething

the whining and crying whenever I put him down

the poop that spills out of at least every other poopy diaper and up his back

the cost of diapers, wipes, and formula

the expense of changing wardrobes every three months

the spit up on every imaginable surface

the nap-times that are always too short

the date-nights that happen less frequently and for shorter spans of time

the little fingers that want to help my type

the impossibility of going to a movie as a family

the sex that only happens in a state of pure exhaustion

the weight of 20 pounds in my arms all day every day

the lugging of a car-seat everywhere I go

the sacrifice of about 90% of my free time

the difficulty of finding the time to just keep the house clean

the regular appointments to the pediatrician

and the fussy days after immunizations

the inconvenience of cooking a meal with a monkey on my back

the drooling like a puppy

the frustration of unloading a dishwasher when he grabs at everything

the impossibility of eating a meal with him in my lap

the fact that no matter how hungry I am he always needs to be fed first

the walking around like a zombie feeling that never goes away

the arduousness of Sunday mornings

{the list could go on and on}

…..but I’m so glad that I forgot. Had I remembered I probably never would have had him, and without him I would have missed out on….

his huge smile (that cheers everyone he sees – including the ornery old guy at church)

the fun times that his sisters play dress-up (see video below)

the cute way he sucks his lower lip and looks like a turtle

all the times he learns something new (he’s playing the piano below)

watching his face light up every time he sees his daddy

the euphoria of peekaboo (cutest video ever to be shared in the future whenever I get it off daddy’s phone)

his love of music

his fascination with the TV

the way he covers his eyes with his arm when falling asleep

rediscovering the softness of baby blankets and the way he likes to hold them against his face

getting to smell baby scent any time I want

watching him kick and squirm like crazy any time he’s naked or in the bath

his stubbornness and laziness that surfaces every time he refuses to hold his own bottle

his piqued curiosity every time he catches eye of our dog walking close by and how he loves to grab his ears

the way he screams instead of talking

the feeling when he finally relaxes and falls asleep in my arms (and sometimes sucks on his invisible pacifier like below)

his chubby cheeks….and legs…and fingers

his adorable laugh

The 3 Keys to Managing Your Kids’ Emotional Hypersensitivity

I am not a licensed therapist,  but write this post as a very experienced mom who understands emotional sensitivity.

Some people say to do nothing at all if you have a child who is overly-sensitive. They argue that to tread on a child’s emotions is to kill their spirit. Others try to break their kids of it as if they are a rodeo horse. As an overly-sensitive adult and a mom of 5, I say the best thing you can do to help your child with their hypersensitivity is to give them 1- awareness, 2- tools, and 3- model healthy behavior.
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1 – Awareness sounds like it should be so easy, but it can be really hard to approach a sensitive child about their sensitivity. hurtyfeelingsThat’s where Hurty Feelings by Helen Lester comes in. It’s a cute and fun easy-to-read picture book that will keep your kid’s attention. It is also packed with an emotional-wellness-punch. Fragility the Hippo is super-sensitive. This book explores what happens when one takes offense too easily and it also offers a great outcome in overcoming the problem…I’ll give you a hint….the answer has to do with Fragility finding her own voice. You can find the book at Amazon, here. I highly recommend it for its entertainment value as well as for the great opportunity it will provide to approach a sensitive (ha!) subject with your sensitive child.

My only other piece of advice with awareness is DO NOT approach your child with this subject when they are in hypersensitive meltdown mode. Wait until things have calmed down….way down. Maybe even broach it over a special dinner. Definitely make sure you are showing love and support and not criticism. Ideally it should be a constant dialogue. “Uh-oh, here comes that flood of emotions. What should we do about it?”

2 – Tools. There are all kinds of tools that your kids can learn when it comes to over-sensitivity. I’ve been going to therapy for years to learn and really internalize them. Here a few of the ones that I have found most helpful:

1- Self-esteem. This is NOT giving your child something to be proud of. That can help temporarily, but will not solve the problem long-term. Self-esteem is rooted in an inner dialogue which consists only of the message, “I am worthy.” Period. Every individual has worth. Not because of what they accomplish. Not because of who loves them. Not because of anything except for the fact that they are an individual and they are of worth. Religious people might call this being a child of God. I am not sure what atheists call it, but whatever you teach your child, just teach them that they are of infinite worth just because THEY ARE.

2- Order of love – This goes hand in hand with the self-esteem. It is something my current therapist harps on in every single session. It is a principle that has slowly changed my life and the life of my husband. The order of love should be like this: from God, from self, for others, from others. Many people get this screwed up and they seek to find their worth from the latter places first instead of giving it to themselves. It screws them up. Royally.

3- The victim triangle – In the triangle you have a victim, a pursuer, and a rescuer. Learn about it. Change it. If you are being bullied or your kids are being bullied, congratulations, you have perfected being the victim. Change.

4- Boundaries – Usually your kids are struggling with this because you haven’t taught it to them with your own behavior. Boundaries can be tricky, but I have found they are VITAL to emotional health. Essentially, you have to learn to say no. You also shouldn’t be an over-pleaser. You need to honor other people’s boundaries. Here is a good place to read the basics. I also highly recommend the book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud.

5. Get rid of the shame! Feelings are feelings. No one should be made to be ashamed of how they feel. They literally can’t help it. Always validate feelings (for others and yourself) and teach your kids to process them healthfully. One of my daughters processes well when doing sports, the other by painting. Sometimes we all just need some alone time.

One of my husband’s cousins contacted me a while back and asked me for advice about one of her kids who is highly sensitive. She said, “You seem to have a good handle on processing your emotions.” I busted a gut. If she only knew! The reason I have a handle on it is because if I didn’t learn to process my overabundance of emotions I literally would have been locked up years ago.

As a mother I completely get her concern. One of my daughters is overly sensitive too. {I won’t say who or things could take a downhill real fast.} As a mother it is very very concerning to see her create this huge black hole around herself. Even as her family we are afraid to approach her a lot of the time. This daughter takes everything to heart and she gets hurt by the most random stuff. You have to walk on eggshells around her. She doesn’t fully realize that because she is so sensitive she is actually hurting her ability to connect with others. She is holding herself hostage with her emotions all of the time. Because she is sensitive she is perfect prey for bullies and the equally emotionally unhealthy. We are constantly trying to raise her awareness and give her tools to help.

This brings me to my last point: 3 – Modeling healthy behavior. If your child is struggling with being emotionally healthy it is very likely that you are too. I get my overly sensitive daughter. I am just like her. Over the years I have learned how to manage the sensitivity. I’m always practicing at it. I’ve also learned that being sensitive is not always a totally bad thing. In some ways my sensitivity is a huge blessing: I can see things going on around me that others don’t. I tend to appreciate beauty more. But more often than not my hypersensitivity has caused me trouble.

Recently after being in a social situation with some friends, one friend lamented to me that two of the other friends were making fun of her. I hadn’t noticed it. I asked the friend, “Are you sure they were talking about you? Could you just be overly-sensitive? Whenever I see two people talking, I always think they are talking about me. No matter who they are. Even if they don’t know me I think they are out to get me.”

I’ve learned to calm my sensitive inner dialogue in these types of situations. Awareness of my over-sensitivity has probably been my greatest aid in overcoming it. The second best technique I already mentioned above. I have worked hard on loving myself and letting go of whether or not others love me. I’ve had to stop living my life to please other people. It was literally making me insane.

As I’ve learned to be emotionally healthier I have noticed my kids improve also.

The good news is that your sensitivity makes your beautiful self even more beautiful. You can learn to manage it and as you do, you will have greater happiness and so will your kids.

I recommend going over here and testing yourself. And here and here you will find some good suggestions on managing your emotions. Here is a great list of what NOT to do. Here is a great list of what optimal emotional health looks like. If all of this isn’t enough, do not be afraid to find professional help. For you Utah County Utah locals our therapist Joyce is really great. For the rest of you, ask around. Make sure you get a good therapist. There are a lot of quacks out there.

I’ve been fixed.

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So it’s 12:30 and I can’t sleep. I’m here at the hospital. Yesterday between 10 & 1 my doctor cut me open and removed my prolapsed uterus and stitched up my bladder. It’s pretty weird that I feel so peaceful about not having any more kids.

It’s strange knowing that I will never give birth again. I’m not sad about it as I’m 41 and have a 3 month old who is kicking my old dragging butt. I have five kids and that’s enough for me. In fact it may be a little more than I can handle.

Funny as I lay in the hospital, where my kids aren’t allowed to visit, there are still reminders of them that help me remember WHO I am: I’m mom.

Last night I watched Abigail’s concert via live stream. It was pretty hard to focus as I was all drugged up, but seeing my oldest beautiful teenage daughter singing joyfully warmed my heart more than anything could.

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I was super worried about leaving my youngest Baby Maximus for three days, but I was placed in a room with a portrait of twins that look so much like Max.

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I have very tender feelings about motherhood right now. Being mom is who I am. It’s what I choose to do every day.

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This guy may just be three months old, but I’ve been mom for almost 16 years with an eternity to go. I absolutely adore my children.

My doctor assured me that I wouldn’t have hormone issues since we left my ovaries, but he said some women get very melancholy because of the psychological effects of knowing they can no longer bare children. I told him
I’d be fine. I feel very secure that I’ve brought all the kids to the world that I was charged to do. It’s a great feeling.

Being a mom is the third best thing I’ve ever done in this life. The first is living the gospel. The second is becoming a wife. Funny, how all these things are connected to each other…as part of God’s plan.

His plan for me to be a mother, just as He is my Father is so very humbling. I want to be the kind of parent He is. I want to be the kind of child that makes Him proud. I think my role as mother brings him joy, just as it gives me joy.

Parenting is God’s gift to us. It serves as a constant reminder of His love for us and His trust in us.

I was touched by my dad’s Thanksgiving speech this year.

Dad’s thanksgiving speech 2014:

^^^I just watched this after having it posted for a month and realized that I missed the “touching” part of the speech. It came before I started videoing. Yes, I am an airhead sometimes. The touching part was when my dad said something to the effect of, “You are all loved. You were all wanted.”

All 49 of us minus a few on missions, one grandkid who led the way to heaven, and a couple celebrating with their dad got together at my oldest brother Erick’s house. It was such a beautiful gathering.

My dad nailed the tender feelings of a parent. We are all loved by each other. That’s what family is about.

Life isn’t about anything but learning to be one big happy family.

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Having major life-altering surgery has caused me to reflect on how blessed I am.

Not only has my immediate family stepped in to do my job while I recover, but so many friends have helped in so many small ways. The love is tangible.

I may not be giving birth ever again (giving life to my children is the greatest thing I’ve done with my life) but I can always continue to love.

I’m sorry, mom.

I haven’t blogged since Father’s Day. I feel like I haven’t even breathed since Father’s Day. Life has been nuts. Between moving, summer visitors, and being pregnant, I have felt totally depleted every. single. day.

And then today it somehow got infinitesimally worse.

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People ask why I don’t blog like I used to. I give them various reasons, but one reason towards the top of  the list is that as my kids have gotten older it’s very shaky business blogging about family life. As a mother, I don’t want to disparage them, and let’s face it, they just don’t do things quite as cute as they used to.

Yesterday we had a family pow-wow that consisted of LG and I wrangling the kids in for the recurrent lecture about sibling kindness, taking personal responsibility…yadda yadda yadda. LG whispered to me after the half hour of torture that “everyone has to suck at parenting.” At least he still makes me smile every day.

The older your kids get, the more your weaknesses manifest themselves in your kids. It sucks. Big time.

[Let me start out this story with a disclaimer that my kids are pretty good. They each have great strengths but like every other sucker in this world, they have weaknesses. I need the readers of this post to know that I love my kids with all my heart. I believe in them. I am proud of them. I have faith in what they will accomplish in their lives. I wish I was a better mother equal to their greatness. I also just feel a need to write honestly. I hope this won’t cause harm.]

Well, after a really rough 24 hours where our last night’s lecture didn’t seem to do anything but make things worse, LG came home tonight as my knight in shining armor saying he wanted to have an emergency family meeting. (This could or could not have been prompted by my cry for help via e-mail earlier today.)

Just an hour ago, we sat down with our kids and LG talked about things we need to do differently,  improving individually and collectively. The kids all responded in their own way. Abigail takes after her dad and I in a lot of ways. One thing that she instinctively does is point fingers at others in a way of avoiding her own overwhelming emotions of self-doubt and disappointment. Somehow, I became her target tonight. I am always the target. They never go after their dad…he’s just too nice.

She laid into me, “If you would just stop talking about how horrible it is being pregnant and start doing some more fun activities with us. …. if we could just have a real summer, like all the other kids…we need to have fun…we need a vacation…” (Tell me about it!!!) At the end of my rope, I came unleashed. Out of my mouth, came the exact words I remember hearing from my own mother so many times. I hated that also accompanying the words were big huge heavy sobs.

“Abigail, you have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t know what it feels like to be forty and pregnant. You have no idea what I’ve done just for you this summer. I’ve sacrificed mornings for soccer, money for physical therapy, time for your two stints at girls’ camp, and money and time that could have been used for a family vacation for you to go to EFY. You need to get out of your selfishness. I have given up my ENTIRE LIFE for my children. Everything I do is for you and your sisters.”

I said a few more things, and then stopped myself and sat sobbing into my palms as LG quickly finished up the family counseling session. Second parent-fail in two days. I had no smiles to give in secret this time around. I sat badly hurt and frustrated not just with my teenage daughter but with my life and even my husband who always seems to escape the fury even when he holds as much responsibility for it. Five-year-old Caroline kept asking, “Mom, why are you crying?” LG saved me more talking and told her that I didn’t feel appreciated and rightly so.

I hurried to my bedroom afterward and sobbed into my pillow some more. “How did I get here?” I thought. “How did I become my mother?” Years ago, when I was Abigail’s age I promised myself I would never lay into my kids like that…I remember how horrible it made me feel when she did it to me. But, by golly, Abigail needed to hear it. She’s an adolescent becoming more wrapped up in herself every day. I’ve given her everything I’ve had to give this summer (even if is has been pathetic) and the fourteen others before that.  Why didn’t my rant make me feel any better? Was I solely in the wrong? Is she totally right? Am I really not giving enough?

And, you know what. I don’t have the answers. And it sucks. Big time. I hope we can find them together.

I do have one thing to say though, “Mom, I am so so so very sorry for ever saying anything or doing anything or not doing something that made you feel how I did an hour ago. You matter. Your sacrifices are known. I love you. I appreciate you. And the longer I live, the more I want to emulate you as a mother. Yes, there are ways that you let me down, but there are so many more ways that you supported, sacrificed, and loved unconditionally. You were the BEST mother you could be. Not perfect, but the BEST. Motherhood mattered to you more than anything, and I take that example into my life every day. I love you eternally.”

But, mom, I also have a question….if we are such good mothers who both sacrifice so much for our kids…….how the heck did you and I both end up with such a rotten ungrateful selfish daughter? Is that just part of the journey? Do I just need to hold on for another twenty years until she writes me my very own apology? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share with me all of your mothering secrets! I feel so clueless.

What Superdad does.

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We just had Father’s Day, which means once again, I’ve missed the window of opportunity for this post to go crazy viral. Ha.

Ours was really low-key. LG sent his dad an e-book and I sent mine a gift-card to KrispyKreme. LG gave me just a $10 budget for himself and so I did what we do best – I let the girls each pick something at the Dollar Tree. (Don’t feel too sorry for him, with the leftover cash I bought him a new t-shirt and a bath loofah. The man loves to scrub!) LG ended up with not just a loofah and a t-shirt, but a Spiderman piggy bank, an FBI kit, a bag of bubble gum, and a jumping bean racetrack toy that Caroline just couldn’t give up for he Ninja set she knew that dad would have liked better.

I was on my feet all day Saturday and so when Father’s Day Sunday morning rolled around, this 28 week forty-year-old pregnant wife could not move. All the girls came and tried to coax me out of bed. “Mom, it’s father’ day!” but it just wasn’t happening. My body was done. So, what did LG do? He told them to leave me alone and got them all ready for church and gave me the morning to sleep. He’s a gem. A total gem.

We did lunch of grilled cheese and fruit (that I somehow mustered the energy to make) and presents later and LG never complained. In fact, he acted totally stoked with his Dollar Tree loot. Why? Because that’s what good dads do. And LG is the best. This brings me to the point of the post.

You know I read a lot about parenting. I could list you a million requirements of a good dad. I could then put a star next to 80% of the list indicating that my husband and the beloved father of my children has mastered the large majority. Yet, if I did that, he would still focus on the 20% he wants to do better. Because like any good parent, he wants to be perfect for his kids. He wants to give them the moon.

So, this post is for all the dads out there, like my amazing LG, who feel like they just can’t be enough.

I am here to make a final parenting declaration. No more books necessary.

The #1 (and ONLY) thing a SuperDad needs to do is keep showing up.

That’s it.

Tell your kids you love them and that you want to be there for them and do your darnedest to follow through.

My girls adore their dad. In fact they constantly tell me to be nicer to him. (I have work to do.) They think he is the bees knees. What does he do special? A lot. What does he do not so special? Even more than what he does special.

  • He goes to work and hands over his whole paycheck for their needs and wants.
  • He comes home every day after work.
  • He helps them with their homework.
  • He keeps loving their mom, even when she is impossible. Especially when she is impossible.
  • He plays video games with them.
  • He involves them in his marathon Netflix sitcoms. (Why does the library have to take so long to get us that Season 3 of Veronica Mars?)
  • He takes them to the park to practice their batting.
  • He fixes their bikes.
  • He teaches them to cook the basics. They each have in turn mastered everything he can cook: frozen pizza, hamburger helper, mac-n-cheese, ramen, eggs, and pancakes.
  • He shows up at their stuff: plays, concerts, games, church activities….everything.
  • He takes them camping.
  • He teaches them how to respect the electronics and tells them about all the latest technology.
  • He has the hard conversations.
  • He says he is sorry.
  • He reads to them (and always falls asleep on the floor next to Caroline’s bed when it’s his turn because she always suckers him into staying with her.)
  • He cheers them up, makes them laugh, and teaches them corny jokes.
  • He gives them hugs and kisses.
  • He prays with them.
  • He reads scripture with them.
  • He tells them to be nice.
  • He compliments them.
  • He lectures them incessantly about modesty.
  • He lets them invade his personal space every time he sits down.
  • He takes them on daddy daughter dates.
  • He tells them that he loves them.

The best dads in the world lets his kids know that they matter to him in all the unspecial ways, but those ways become the special. The accumulation of his million little things scream 100% louder than anything special he could ever do just one time.

In a world of declining dads, I am so grateful for the father of my children who simply chooses to love. Every day. No matter how exhausting.

LG, I was just thinking it would be fun to plan for each of ours girl a really special first date with their dad when they turn 16. That way they can each have the perfect example of how to be treated. Then I realized, they already have that. They’ve had it their whole lives.

Happy father’s day to the best of the best.

Ordinary is Extraordinary

Who else struggles with perfectionism, comparison, feeling insignificant? It’s bad when I feel it for myself, but it’s downright criminal when I project that onto my kids. And I do project. All of the time. I want the best for them, therefore I want the best of them. I get totally competitive. All of the time. Oh, how unfortunate of a mother I have been. My oldest, Abigail, has born the biggest brunt of it. In fact, the other day after a low-achieving track meet, I was concerned when Abigail wouldn’t tell her slower-than-usual-finish-times to her friends. When they asked, she  just acted like she hadn’t checked her time at all. I knew she had checked it. It’s just that my perfectionism has become a part of her, and she couldn’t let herself admit the obvious…she was having a bad running day. I tried to comfort her on the way home, “Abigail, sometimes we just have off days. It’s o.k.” This morning I read this poem (Make the Ordinary Come Alive by William Martin) on the facebook page of a family member. Even though the wisdom of it stems from Taoism, which I don’t really practice, I believe it is universal. (And, I also believe I am going to study up some more on the way of the Tao – is that how you say that?) The simplicity of the wisdom blew my mind. I’ve been pondering on it all day. It struck me to the core. I couldn’t wait to share it with you. IMG_5065Do you see all those boys back there watching my girl? Yeah, she’s actually extraordinarily beautiful…even though ordinary is beautiful enough. Or they could be looking directly at me…the crazy lady with the camera cheering louder than all the rest of the crowd. ha.
 
Do you, like me, see how the words of this poem, will change “Abigail sometimes we just have off days” to “Abigail it is so beautiful that you can run!?”  How blessed we are. How blessed we are indeed with this ordinary life. So, as my kids age and prepare to fly the coop, I have a few new guideline questions for myself:

  1. Am I teaching them that the ordinary is extraordinary?
  2. Will I be not just o.k. but proud to tell my friends who raised the next president of the United States that my child is a mailman and loves it?
  3. Am I spending my time really celebrating the little things like apples?
  4. Am I giving them all the experiences that I can? (Those poor kids whose parents won’t allow them to have a pet!)
  5. Am I preaching a sermon of following your heart by following my own?
  6. Do I believe that we are not all just equally important but equally blessed to just be on the journey?

I can’t wait to embrace the ordinary with my favorite people. I hope this new philosophy will give them the space to do the same. I know it will bring me much greater happiness and satisfaction that will replace a life-long dissatisfaction because of wrong feelings of inferiority stemming from my ordinary. My ordinary is extraordinary! And so is yours. What a perfect message on a night that we are having breakfast for dinner. Bacon deserves a party.

Flawed Pony Parenting Logic and Home-schooling

2012-05-02 19.50.16Ever since reading this story and that one about the kid with the My Little Pony backpack, my mind has been reeling.

To make a longer story short, here’s the news recap hailing from North Carolina.

This 10-year-old kid was being bullied at school because of his blue fuzzy My Little Pony backpack. His mom went to the school to complain. The school counselor mentioned that the easiest solution would be for the kid to get a new backpack. The principal later called the child’s mother and told her that the child was no longer allowed to bring the backpack to school. The mom flipped out. The mom now homeschools.

I have to say that last sentence, “The mom now homeschools,” does not surprise me in the least. It seems that nowadays the homeschooling road is the most popular for a lot of unsatisfied parents. I am not here to pass judgement on homeschooling parents. In fact, I might end up homeschooling one of mine next year if she doesn’t get her school transfer. I am here however to pass judgement on flawed logic and parents who can’t be honest with themselves.

First of all, let me make two things very clear. One – I am NOT o.k. with bullying. In this instance and in every instance the bully children should have been reprimanded and disciplined. (I don’t know if they were appropriately or at all from the news stories.) However, typically bully children come from bully homes, so there is only so much a school can do to change behavior.

Secondly, I believe children should be given space to be who they want to be. You want to wear a pink tutu and your 12 and a boy? Go for it. Are you a girl who wants to play football? More power to you.

Now, to the point I really want to make that seems to be widely ignored in modern bully stories. Parents, pull your heads out….Every day, you are sending your kids off to war…..and you are not equipping them with the skills that they need.

What skills? The skills of socialization, survival, problem-solving, and leadership to name a few.

Here is some flawed logic that I have seen people use to support their choice to homeschool.

Sweeping generalizations (bad stereotyping)
All the kids at that school are mean. They are all bad kids. I’m pretty sure this is never the case.

Hasty conclusions with inadequete support (more than one personal example for validity for your argument)
In homeschooling this can look like: Well, wow, this kid was homeschooled and went to Harvard, therefore my kid can also.

Non sequitor (It does not follow)
I graduated from high school therefore I can teach my kids til they graduate. Yes, you can, but this logic is really bad.

Casual fallacy (one event merely follows the first and isn’t necessarily because of cause/effect)
My child got in trouble at school today because his teacher was in a bad mood. Is that the real reason? Or is your child honestly having behavior problems that need to be addressed? Maybe your child is causing the teacher’s foul mood and not the other way around.

Ad hominem attack (an argument that is not balanced but based solely on personal opinion)
Common core is awful therefore my kids should not be schooled with it.

Circular reasoning (the evidence and conclusion restate each other)
Schools are failing because teachers are failing.

False dichotomy or false dilemma (Either/or arguments that oversimplify complex answers to two solutions)
I can either keep my kids in a public school I am not happy with or I can homeschool. These are not the only two solutions to a complex problem.

I know of many parents who have used very bad logic as their sole foundation for homeschooling. I also know many parents who are really harming their kids by homeschooling ineffectively.

So what does this have to do with the pony kid who was bullied? I believe at the root of both homeschooling and bullying lies a much bigger problem: parents who are not honest with themselves. Parents who are failing and laying the blame on someone else.

In the case of the boy with the pony backpack, I believe the parents failed to teach their child how to be confident in his pony-touting ways. I would never send my kid off to war without the weapons he would need to fight it, and you can be sure that I also would not let my child walk into a cafeteria of potential bullies without first discussing how to defend himself in his unconventional backpack/lunchbox choices.

Likewise, I would not just believe homeschooling to be the best thing for my kids if they were having trouble in public schools. As adults, we have troubles coming at us from every direction. We can’t just hide away at home to avoid our problems. We have to face them head on. The really scary part about a larger percentage of the population homeschooling is the fact that all of the home-schooled kids first learned behaviors at home that may be the biggest culprit in them not having success at school. The solution of pulling them out of school to address the problems that are only perpetuated at home is totally counterproductive. Unless, of course, we gain awareness collectively as a family and put change in motion.

Before you feel all judged, let me give you several examples from my life as a concerned mother.

First, we had a terrible experience with public schooling at an inner-city school in Knoxville, TN where we used to live. The principal was bad. Most of the teachers were heroic. The majority of the student population was grossly neglected. The school was neglected. The playgrounds were falling apart. The school didn’t participate in field trips. EVER. Abigail’s second grade teacher was in her first year and totally ill-equipped. Frustrations were high every day. Abigail would come home crying because the teacher made the whole class miss recess again even though she never personally had bad behavior. She no longer could drink chocolate milk at lunch because the principal pulled it off the shelf with the logic that it was causing misbehaved kids to misbehave even more. Violence was taking place in the second grade. One boy threw a desk at another and broke his nose.  Forget the fact that no learning was taking place. How could it with all the other distractions? Yes, I had every right to pull Abigail out and home-school her especially after addressing our concerns with the administration to not have anything change. We didn’t pull Abigail. She survived the second grade and the next year we humbly and gratefully accepted a “No Child Left Behind” school transfer. Abigail’s new school was a haven and we all loved it. When Abigail went on her first field trip in third grade she was in seventh heaven. Abigail is now fourteen. She often talks about her experiences at her first school. They shaped her into what she is: one resilient, tough, and adaptable kid.

Do I judge any parent who pulled their kid out? No. Not at all. In fact I would applaud their courage. However, I do think that if a parent makes a choice to home-school, they better look around and have a very honest assessment of what their child is going to learn at home. When one home-schools they have to recognize that their child is now being influenced almost solely by their family. Are you going to give them all the experience they need to thrive in the real world? Are you going to be perpetuating in them bad behaviors that you just don’t want to fix: sleeping til noon, having bad hygeine, learning as little as possible, not teaching discipline, etc. If you are going to home-school, I think you should ask yourself WHY your kids are (or would) struggling in public school in the first place….the source of their trouble is more than likely YOU, not the school. The kid at Abigail’s school that was throwing desks was more than likely frustrated with his bad teacher, but the reason he threw a desk while Abigail came home crying every day was the difference of what was taught in their home. It is hard to change. Possible, but hard. You better have a really fine-tuned game plan of how you are going to change yourself and teach your children at the same time.

My other experience in still playing out. Sophia is twelve and does not want to have to attend the school in the boundary of where we just moved. She has not a single friend at this new school. We are working with the school district to get her a school transfer next year back to the junior high where her friends will be attending based on the extreme anxiety she is having over the situation. The district asked for a letter from a health-care professional. We went to the doctor last week. I explained Sophia’s anxiety and her shyness and tendency to isolate. I then said, “If we can’t get this transfer, I will probably just home-school her for a year until we move back to our old school boundary.” The doctor didn’t shy away with her response, “If you are worried about her isolating, wouldn’t home-schooling be the worst possible scenario?” She was right! Anyone who knows me, knows that I in no way am modeling shy behavior for my daughter. She came that way. I, however, as her parent, have to make decisions that will help her overcome her weaknesses instead of feed into them.

Wow, this post got long quick. I think the very hardest part of parenting is being able to get outside ourselves and our flawed personal-protecting logic to honestly assess how our weaknesses are promoting the same in our children. And even harder than the honest assessment is changing. The change has to start with us as.  Yes, this can be done, whether or  not we send our kids to public school or if we home-school, if we are teaching our kids to be bullies or our children are being bullied, but by all means, let’s make sure we are doing the hard work. We owe that to our kids.

 

Together we are better.

I just got done watching this great news coverage
on the silver medal win for Noelle Pikus-Pace.

I loved Noelle’s quote:

“Together we are better.  Together we are stronger.
Together miracles can happen and dreams come true.”

Photo Gallery  Kragthorpe Family bonds make Pikus-Pace’s medal meaningful  The Salt Lake Tribune - Google Chrome 2172014 120401 PM

Together we are better as families.
Together we are better as a country.
Together we are better in our marriages.
Together we are better as parents.
Together we are better as citizens of earth.
Together we are better as Christians.
Together: It really is the best place to be.

Just save c3p0

Yesterday I took my car into JiffyLube to get the annual Safety and Emissions Inspections. While I was there, the technician told me that I would need new brake pads on my rear brakes to pass the Safety test. I told him to go ahead and put them on so that I could just be done with the process all in one day.

After a few hours, he called me out to the auto bay, I paid $250 for all the services received (safety, emissions, oil change, radiator cap/top-off, air filter, rear windshield wiper and rear brake pads. ) He said the other technician had perfect timing as he was just walking up from taking my beloved mini-van on the test drive for the brakes.

I had papers, keys, and receipts in hand ready to be reunited with my car. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on as tech2 walked behind me and said to tech1, “Dude we have a problem. You need to call ________.  I _________ (I didn’t quite hear what he said as I didn’t know he was reporting on my car)_____. The whole front side of that Honda is all messed up. I perked up at the mention of Honda as my mini-van is a Honda. I turned around and faced the guys. Tech2 looked a little shook up and immediately apologized, “I’m so sorry, I just crashed your car.” I replied, “Are you serious?” as tech1 said, “You’re messing with me.” “I’m not dude, it’s over on the other side by Beto’s. Ma’am, I’ll walk you over there.”

We took the two block walk from one end of a large parking lot around the other stores to the other and this is what was at the end of it. The brakes had failed at the nearby stoplight. The ambulance was just pulling up as the people who my guy had rear-ended had called 911. They were a couple in their 70’s and so very sweet. Their grown daughter was in the back seat resting her head on the front seat and was all shook up. (I am tempted to say she was faking, but that wouldn’t be nice – I mean really though her parents  who are 25 years older were perfectly fine,  but maybe she really is just fragile?)

honda2 honda

The poor kid (tech2 from JiffyLube) who had just crashed my car was on the verge of tears. While staring down at my most vital transportation, I forced a smile,  grabbed his arm, gave him a half hug, and told him, “These things happen. It’s just life. Don’t be too upset with yourself. I’m not mad at you, at all. I kind of needed a new car anyway.” And then I got embarrassed and almost as an afterthought I inquired, “Are you o.k.? Are you injured?” He said he was fine and admitted he was shaken up and worried about being fired. He said, “I’m going to cry right now.” I told him he could cry in front of me any time, “I’m a mom” and then insisted, “I’ll go to bat for you; they better not fire you. Accidents happen.”

I was proud of myself for staying calm and gave myself an invisible pat on the back for being mature and keeping perspective that people matter way more than things. Period. No contest. I was also silently thanking my old therapist John, Glennon Doyle MeltonBrene Brown, and God for teaching me about shame (the damage it causes) and the value of souls.

The paramedics started loading the fifty-something-daughter onto the stretcher. She was a waif of a thing and seemed not all quite there. I would be tempted to say she has problems with drugs, but that would just be because I lived in TN for so long and dealt with so many of my husband’s drug clients. If I find out she has cancer or something I will feel really bad for passing judgement and for my honest admittance of my crime. I really need to practice NOT SHAMING and give her the benefit of the doubt. I hope she has cancer instead of a drug addiction. (Man, that is just wrong.) It could be that she really was in shock which would explain her shaking and incoherence. {I openly admit I am still working on making my first assumptions about people the good ones instead of the bad.} I got on the phone with LG to have him do the pre-school pick up for me and then called our insurance agency. I then got all my paperwork together for the officer who pulled up at least three minutes after the ambulance and firetrucks. Funny, the police department is located right across the street.

I’ve been extremely happy with the way that JiffyLube has taken care of the situation and can honestly say that this incident won’t keep me from using their services in the future. They immediately reimbursed us the $250 of services without us even asking for it, got us a rental car less then 24 hours later, and have insurance to cover our car damage. They’ve always been good to us in the past, and you know what? People screw up. Like my brother said, “The best you can hope for when people screw up is that they will make it right,” and JiffyLube has gone above and beyond at making it right. Trusting them with my vehicles in the future may make me stupid , but I think it makes me more forgiving then anything and that is way more vital to my emotional health then my IQ level.

So, today I picked my kids up from school in the rental van, and we headed over to retrieve our belongings from our crashed van. The whole way to the collision shop Bella and Sophia said all they cared about was saving C3p0. He’s had a spot on our dashboard for the better part of 8 years and is quite handy when it comes to identifying our vehicle among the hundreds of other minivans in the parking lots of the many family-friendly establishments we frequent. You know: church, wal-mart, the city pool, library, grocery store, sporting events, etc.

Bella was one happy camper when they retrieved C3p0 from under the front seat of the car.
Sophia was even happier, but refused to pose.

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Now I know they are kids and don’t get all the ramifications of securing a new car loan and locating and purchasing a new car, but I have to say that I was proud of my kids and their concern for c3p0. In the past 24 hours they haven’t complained about me being on the phone constantly or having to ride everywhere squashed in dad’s sedan. They’ve just rolled with the punches and showed concern for the drivers involved in the accident; they’ve been helpful and have joined us in laughing about the whole thing. My most parental pride came, however, from their main concern being for a $5 sentimental trinket. They embraced it way more then the brand new rental with all the bells and whistles. It’s days like today when I pat myself on the back and say, “Way to go Alice, you aren’t totally failing as a parent.” Maybe someday they will grow up to care more about the crasher of their car then their car too. I hope so.

The best news today was from JiffyLube’s District Manager. At the rental car place he told me that they would most definitely not fire Mark the driver. The insurance company low-balled our offer and we really really don’t want to go back into a car payment after 10 years without one, but as we figure out the details, I am going to set C3p0 next to my laptop to help me remember what is really important. Once again the kids are the teachers and the mom is the student.

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And here is a great argument for why when your kids start driving you should want them in a vehicle with a trailer hitch.

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other car

Here is the other car. Barely a scratch.