Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Good Reads

I've been reading today (in my spare time... when I'm not fighting kids, or copy machines, or instructing staff, or making meals, or...)

I wanted to share some excellent articles from today's browsing.

Grace Full Mama wrote about 20 things women should know.

The Better Mom shared about ways to overcome the "yelling mom".

Here is a Bible Gateway article about the power of scripture.

I read about "Good Listener Papers" on Gratefully Growing in Grace.

There is some fun rock art on Confessions of a Homeschooler (we'll be doing this tomorrow).

I love green smoothies.  Kathy's Blog, Healthy.Happy.Lifehas a fantastic salute to green smoothies.

Happy reading.

Fun with Birdfeeders

We love watching birds!  At the cottage where we have been staying for the summer, there is a large window.  Outside the window we have a hummingbird feeder designed by a 3 year old.  It's so much fun to watch the hummingbirds come and enjoy our little snack.  Manasseh is very proud of his meticulously designed feeder.

At first, I was not overly fond of the color combination or the shape of the flowers.  He was insistent that this is what he wanted.  So, we ordered it.  When it arrived, it was perfect.  He was super excited.  You know what?  It has grown on me (although I still like purple flowers).

Perky Pet offers a variety of choices in their Design Your Own Feeder.  They have several colors, and styles to choose from for each component of the feeder!  The best part?  It's only around $11 for this fun feeder.  

Thank you Perky Pet for the opportunity to design our own feeder.  We love having it outside our big window!

Check out their choices.  What would your feeder look like?

This post is sponsored by Perky Pet.  We did receive a product free in exchange for review.  All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Take a deep breath and reframe your thoughts

I've shared before about some of our sleep time struggles.  I even shared recently about my attempt at bed time boot camp.  (1 more week of camp and we'll mostly be at hour house - that will make things easier, maybe).

Over the weekend we were traveling.  It was a fantastic weekend filled with family time.  My boys were exhausted and overwhelmed.  For Cassius, especially, this makes it very hard to go to sleep.  We always try to let the boys go to sleep on their own before we offer "help".  I chose to sit in the room with the boys so they could relax in the confidence that they were not alone.  (This also cuts down on play time).  Friday night,  as I monitored my boys at bed time, Cassius crawled into my lap for a snuggle.

Truthfully, at first I was annoyed.  I just wanted him to go to sleep.  I was right there - he could see me - why couldn't he just sleep.

As I held my sweet boy, I began to reframe my thoughts.  See, these restless bed times are not going to last forever.  In fact, before I know it my boys won't want to be held at all.  I need to treasure these times, in spite of my own agendas to get things done.  So I did.  I held him, I treasured his snuggles.  I chose to be tender in a time when I felt just slightly frustrated.  I allowed myself to be blessed by my toddler.

Treasure these times.  Enjoy the tender moments.  Take a deep breath when they really just need your attention and you really just need a break.  This time will pass all too quickly.

How do you reframe your thoughts when you have different plans than your children?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dealing with Difficult People

This week I had the opportunity to deal with some people who were choosing to be difficult.  They seemed to have decided that the plans of the group did not matter as much as the things they wanted to do.  As their leader for the week, that was incredibly frustrating.  My toddlers were doing a better job of following directions and cooperating than these people.  So I had to deal with that.

I tried a number of tactics, to insight cooperation.  Do you know what worked?  Dealing with it straight up, confronting the facts as they were - This is how you ought to behave and this is why... if you do not behave this way, this is what will happen.

I'm not saying that this made things 100% better, but at least tolerable.

One evening, as I was praying about this particular group who was making poor choices, I asked God what he would do in my situation.  Have you ever done that and not liked the answer?  Do you know what god told me?  "I would say Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  That is not what I wanted to hear.  God wanted me to invite these people to follow him.

See, I know God loves everyone, and I WANT these people to know him - but I want to see a difference RIGHT NOW.  I wanted God to say something like "Say these magic words and things will change".

I guess it's a good thing I'm not God.

How do you deal with difficult people?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Really Riding

I learn so much from my boys about life, about faith, about love... the list goes on.  I love the relationship that I have with my boys.  This week I've learned a bit about "really riding".  I'm not talking about my bike, but that's where it all starts:

It wasn't in our original plan for the week, but we were so glad to spend Manasseh's birthday with my parents and my sister's family!  He turned 4 on Tuesday and we celebrated in style, excellent food, a fantastic cake, presents, and bike riding!

My sister had received 2 small bikes for her little Stinky and decided to give one to Nas for his birthday.  I was somewhat skeptical about this idea because in the past he has refused to even attempt pedaling (trikes, big wheels... anything).  Guess what.  This boy was super excited about the bike.  He needed help at first, but he was determined to figure it out.  He worked hard to get his muscles trained to move just right.  (He does have training wheels).  Once he got the hang of it though, he took off, no troubles.

He asked to ride his bike EVERYWHERE around the camp this week.  He still needs help with going up hill.  That's tough work!  He's getting there though.  We left camp Friday night and I made him put the bike in the house - as soon as we were back on Saturday night (around 11pm) he dragged it outside and rode it for as long as we would allow before throwing him in bed.  Do you know what the first thing he wanted to do on Sunday was?  You better believe it - he wanted to ride the bike.  Even before breakfast (that's huge).
Cassius wants to learn too - he'll get there.  He borrowed Stinky's bike to try it out.  We're going to have to keep our eyes out for a scoot bike for him to work on too.

So now, what is it that I've learned from Manasseh's incessant biking?
Dedication.  He wants to ride this thing everywhere.  He wanted to ride so badly that he took TIME to practice.  He accepted help.  He is committed to riding his bike.  You know what?  He's getting better at it every day.  He really finds joy in riding his bike, really riding.

I want to be so dedicated to Christ the way Manasseh is dedicated to his bike.  I want to get excited about spending time with God so much that I can hardly wait to get out of bed in the mornings.  I want to be willing to accept help where I need it.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Self-discipline is a struggle for me.  I'm working on it.  I'm getting better.

God, Help me to "really ride" with you each day.  Give me the energy and excitement that comes from being close to you.  Thank you for being at work in my life today, and every day.  Amen.

Are you riding with God?  How do you keep yourself on track with daily time in the Word?  What exciting things is God doing in your life?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kingdom Living

Cassius is learning what it means to be part of God's Kingdom.  He had the opportunity this morning to help with collecting tithes and offerings at Olive Bethel Church of God in Akron.

French Fries and Frustration

Let me set the scene for you:
It was Friday night after a long week of work and a surprise trip to the neurlogist and, and, and... I was tired, I hadn't eaten since lunch - it was 9pm and I had been driving for 40 minutes listening to kids music.  We don't have air in the van, so I drove with the windows down, my hair, in a pony tail, was wind-blown and the smaller sections crazy all over the place.  My children, having been swiftly thrown into the van upon the completion of camp, were dirty - really dirty.  Oh, and my 2 year old?  He's pooped through 2 pair of shorts today, the last shortly before we left the grounds - he was clad in a tshirt and diaper only.

I promised the boys that we would stop and get a "snack" on the way home, they had only had snacks at dinner time because I thought we would leave sooner.  I pulled in to the first fast food joint on the road after leaving camp (yes, the nearest fast food joint between our house and the camp is a 40 minute drive).  I ordered our food and pulled off to the side to hand out treats.  I opened my bag and discovered that I had only been given about half of a box of fries.
Okay, so not a big deal, I figured I'd just go through the drive through, explain the situation, and have them correct it - but... the line was getting really long and I just wanted to get home as soon as I could.. so.. the crazy french fry lady (I'm sure that's what they're calling me now) parks the van in an actual spot, pulls 3 kids out of it (only 1 had pants on), my hair was all crazy... we were a sight.  I marched my 3 boys inside, 1 crying because his brother refused to hold his hand and keep him safe in the parking lot.  I put my bag on the counter.

The poor teenage boy behind the counter looked up and asked how he could help me.  I pulled the half box of fries out of my bag and told him what had happened.  He was quick to apologize for the inconvenience, he used his training well and made sure to add, "I know this can be frustrating"... he apologized again after they corrected it.  I wasn't ANGRY, but I probably looked like it, dragging my children inside to accuse them of giving me a less than adequate amount of fat inducing, grease covered, blood sugar boosting starch sticks.

Why am I sharing about making myself look like a nut case?  As I drove away I was still feeling frustrated.  Do you ever play a scene over in your mind and think of all the ways it could have gone differently?  Do you ever annoy yourself for making a big deal about something that really wasn't?  Or try to justify to yourself why a thing was okay?  All of this is what I was doing.

Here's what I decided with myself:  It was okay to be frustrated by something so silly as not getting what I thought I had paid for (I paid for a box of fries and got half of a box).  It was good to make it known to the person who I purchased it from.  I probably was a little overboard by taking the kids inside to fix it, but I certainly couldn't leave them in the van.  My frustration was okay at this point.  BUT - my reaction might have been bigger than I meant for it to be.  I was not rude or disrespectful to the people around me, BUT - I let french fries get me agitated - french fries.

Was that really worth my time?  There are so many things in this world that are WORTH getting frustrated and taking action about and I am so good at ignoring them.  Why do I choose to take action when it comes to things like french fries?

My challenge to myself is to pay attention to what's important.  Before I start to get upset about things that I feel are unjust in my world, stop to think about whether anyone's life will be improved by my taking action.  In reality - I don't think anyone's life was improved by my becoming french fry lady (other than maybe some poor potato farmer).

What gets you frustrated?  How do you take action?  Do you ever stop to think about whether a frustration is really worth your time and energy?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I love you, and...

I think it all started in the spring, sometime around Easter.  We told the story about Jesus many times and Manasseh was captivated.  He asked all kinds of questions - he always does.

Around the same time, he started changing his "I love you's".  (He says a lot of them at bed time when avoiding sleep).  Now instead of "I love you".  He started telling us, "I love you, and I don't want you to get captured".  (Jesus was "captured" by the bad guys in his version of the Easter story).

THEN, he learned that Johnny Appleseed was dead and buried in a park near our church.  His new obsession was death - he prayed for many people and animals to "get raised from the dead".  To my knowledge Johnny is still in the park, but I am watching the news so I know if he comes back.  His words of love changed to "Mommy, I love you, and I don't want you to get dead."

We spent a lot of time talking about death, what happens when people die, why do people die, etc.  A month or so ago he said to me, "Mommy, I love you, and I don't want you to get dead" (sigh) "but we all die".  Okay, so I wanted to chuckle at the drama, but it was a serious concern for him and he's still very focused on the fact that everything dies.

Daddy decided a while back that Manasseh needed a little help to move beyond the "death issue".  So he chose to combat it, by responding to, "we all are going to die" and other such statements that he likes to inform anyone about as long as they'll listen, with "yes, but our God is a God of life, we will live."  This has brought on some new discussions about living with Jesus, airplanes crashing into heaven, people falling out of heaven...

Cassius has started to mimic his older brother's "I love you, and..." statements.  This week I decided I would subtly fight back against these "I don't wants" with statements of, "I love you and I want..."

A few things I want for my children:

  • I want you to know Jesus
  • I want you to get rest (often this is sleep avoidance)
  • I want you to be healthy
  • I want you to grow into a gentleman
  • I want you to show love to others
  • I want good things for you
The list goes on.  They're still not quite catching the change, but I believe that if we continue to replace the "dont wants" with "wants", it will help them to shift their thinking about fears into thinking about peace and hope.

How do you address fears with your children?  Do they ever become obsessive with talking about things that make them nervous?

I guess I'm getting old

I just had this real life conversation with my 4 year old after we saw a video clip of someone's birthday party -

Me: Do you know who has the next birthday in our house?
Nas: Um... who?
Me: Me!
Nas: Why do you want to be a grandma?
Me: A grandma?  I'm not old enough to be a grandma?
Nas: Why?
Me: Because I will be a grandma when my boys grow up and have babies.
Nas: But I have a baby, Maru the cow.
Me: So, he's my grandson?
Nas: Yes!

There you have it - I'm officially old.  I have my first grandcow.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bedtime Bootcamp

Sleep has ALWAYS been an issue for Manasseh, and ever since he figured out he could climb out of the crib it has also been a problem for Cassius.  Azariah still has no problem with sleep (praise God).  I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to go Supernanny on them.  I was going to hold Bedtime Bootcamp!

The first night was one that daddy was "home" (at camp).  I put the boys in their room with a book and a prayer at 8pm.  I closed the door and walked downstairs.  I was surprised at how long it was before one dared to come out - probably a whole 15 minutes.  We gently took them back to bed.

Before long they were jumping from bed to bed in their room.  By 9, Manasseh had come downstairs to tell me he had gotten hurt - how?  He was trying to be a super hero.  At 10:00 they were still restless, I checked in on them to see the boys both on top of their little dresser.  Oi

I wanted to give in and lay down with them until they fell asleep, I really did.  I couldn't do it though, I had to be tough, this was Bootcamp.

11:30 rolled around and they were just getting more wired.  They had some great game of imagination going on. I was tired.  I gave in and laid down with each of them until they fell asleep.

By midnight, they were out.

The next night was 4th of July.  I decided that even though I REALLY wanted to let them stay up and watch fireworks, I needed to be consistent.  It worked out very much the same as the night before.

July 5th was SUPER SUPER hot.  We have 1 air conditioner in our little cottage, it's upstairs and gets the job of trying to cool the whole place.  It was really hot.  I decided the boys and I were going to head to our regular house early, so we loaded the van and went home - We had to run errands anyway.  They fell asleep on the way home, we were lucky.

Last night I laid down with my sleepy head - yep, I gave in and laid down with them - bedtime was done in half an hour.

Tonight? I'm not even pretending bootcamp will work while we're living in such a state of fluctuation.

Real Responsibilities

Last week one day my sister called me to tell me about all of the great deals she had gotten at a certain store's dollar area.  I'm a sucker for clearance and her store had a ton of half price goodies.  So - We took a detour from my plan to do a bit of shopping at a different store, and checked out the dollar bins.

I didn't find exactly the same great deals at our store, but one find that my boys were particularly excited about was small handheld brooms with dustpans.  It's hard to beat $0.50 for that set (unless of course you are able to hold out for the 75% off mark down... but I didn't have time for that).  I generously let each of my big boys pick out their own broom and dustpan set.

Guess what Manasseh did when we got home.  You got it, he swept the "yucky floor."  He begged to do it.

It doesn't end there though.  See, in all of my "spare" time (okay I don't even pretend to have much of that these days) - I have been doing bits of reading about responsibility.  I've been reading about the demise of our society, the lack of responsibility in our youth, the way other children in other cultures are taught from the start how to behave and be a fruitful part of their society.  I've even observed it in the kids on campus this summer - both the campers and the help (sorry if you are one of those).

Young people don't know how to do things.  I recognize that I don't do "things" as well as some of the older people around the campus - they know how to fix what is broken.  I grew up in a throw away world.  Everything is replaceable, it's easier to throw it out and get a new one (whatever it was). I grew up in a fast paced world, I'm busy and should not need to take the time to do it well.  I don't even think I do dishes as well as some of the people around me.

"Ooooh, Chores?!"
I remember doing "chores" as a kid - mostly.  I mean, we didn't get PAID to do them, they were just expected, and sometimes I balked about it.  Sometimes, when I had to clean my room, I crawled under my bed and took a nap - true story.  In light of my observations about the world around me, and my reading about other people's observations, I've decided that I am absolutely going to change the way I'm living.

Disclaimer: This does not mean my house will be 100% clean all of the time.

I will not let my children be an excuse for having a dirty house - instead, I will expect them to take part in caring for the house.  In fact, I know it is best for our children to have responsibilities.  Being responsible for things helps you take ownership, it gives you a sense of belonging, it makes  you feel needed and important.  I could go on about the advantages of learning to be responsibility.
"I have to what?!"
Here are some actual steps that I have already taken since my decision last week that the boys WILL be helping to take care of the house:
- Each morning I ask my big boys to put their blankets on their beds.  I don't expect them to MAKE their beds yet, I'm just working on getting them into the habit of being responsible in that area.
- Each night before bed, the boys put all of their toys away - there's no need for the mama to stress about jobs the kids can take part in, right?
- On Tuesday, before we went on an overnight trip, Manasseh packed everyone's clothes.  Okay - so his packing was really just putting the pile of dirty clothes into a laundry basket, which he took into the bathroom himself and even chose to drag back out on his own.
- Manasseh is already expected to dress himself every day, but sometimes he is lazy about it - since my change of habit, he must dress himself, and Cassius is working harder at learning to dress himself.
- The boys already put their own dishes in the sink after each meal.
- They are also expected to help put trash in the can.

We will continue to work on adding responsibility, they are now 2.5 and 4 and can do increasingly more to help out around the house.  Real responsibility is part of being in a family.  It is not a choice, it's a necessity. They are not even going to earn money for doing it. You know what?  They don't even complain (yet).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A kick start on the potty

We've been working on learning to potty with Cassius since he was able to sit.  He gets the concept, and thinks he wants to wear underwear, but he is a busy 2 year old and does not like to sit for long enough to go.  We're working on it, still.  I honestly think that if I were able to stay home with the boys all of the time, he would be going with no trouble.  As I've said, I'm more busy than I intend to be.

So this week I learned a great technique for kick starting the potty reflex.  Cassius had to give a urine sample at the doctor's office - do you know how they do that on children who don't use the toilet regularly?  They use a bag.  

I knew INSTANTLY when Cassius needed to go.  In fact, even after he was done with this "test", he stayed dry the rest of the day and TOLD us when he needed to go.

So this morning, we started the day in underwear - and he did well... for a while - I got distracted with another task and didn't send him in time - then we had an emergency on campus and I kept him in a diaper the rest of the day.  We'll start again tomorrow.

Journaling for Better Behaviors

I confess.  My life is messy.  I have a hard time with consistent discipline - for myself, and my boys.  When I say "discipline", I don't mean punishment or consequence.  I mean - sometimes it's hard to remember to get everyone's teeth brushed before we run out the door - sometimes I even forget to give Manasseh his arthritis medicine!  That's not good.  I also forget to read my Bible, spend time in prayer, eat well, and so forth.
They're all on the move all the time - so much fun, and a lot of work.

My kids are complicated sometimes.  My job is complicated sometimes.  Heck, life is difficult.

I've been concerned for a little while that Cassius is developing another food allergy - and said many times that I need to keep track of what he's eating and how his body responds.  But... that takes work and I'm good at forgetting.

I'm working on better behaviors that will improve the overall health of my family. Yesterday I bought 4 notebooks from Walmart (school sale time, college ruled notebooks $0.17 this week).  I got a notebook for each child, and one for myself.  I don't figure Mr. Crum wants me to monitor his foods and activities.

So here's my commitment:
Starting today I will be tracking everything that the boys and I eat.  All for different reasons - myself for diabetes & weight management, Manasseh for arthritis symptoms, Cassius for allergies, Azariah for weight gain!  I'll also be tracking Manasseh's swollen joint, Cash's episodes of blank staring, Azariah's diaper changes.  AND - the big thing for me: my time with God.  Yep.  I'll be journaling in my notebook as I work to improve myself.

Here's to a healthier family!  My life will still be messy.  I mean - I'm a "stay at home" mom that lives at work with 3 boys 4 and under.  That's a lot of busy-ness.  But we can be healthy while we learn together how to live cleaner, healthier, fuller lives!

A Quick Update on Cassius

If you've been around for a while, you may recall that this little guy had a rough start.  We learned when he was newborn that he'd had a stroke before he arrived and that he had some significant brain damage.  The doctors indicated that movements requiring balance (sitting, crawling, walking...) would be extremely difficult for him, if he could figure them out at all.  At 11 days old he was referred to First Steps for therapy - he was delayed in some of his early skills, now at 2.5 years (and 4 days) old, he has defied every prediction they made for him.  God is good.
About a month ago I recognized some behaviors that looked like they might indicate he is having seizures - not obvious things like he's laying on the floor with convulsions - blank stares for long periods.  These have been increasing and with my very active little boy, I take notice of those episodes.  

We were able to get an appointment with his neurologist very (VERY) quickly.  I was amazed at how well they got us in.  Yesterday morning we talked with her for a while.  She agrees he is certainly at risk for seizures, but she can't be sure if that's what they are, without having one recorded on an EEG.  

In the near future we'll be taking this guy in for another EEG to get a "baseline" - for now she wants us just to monitor him.  If it becomes more frequent she'll order a longer test that will make it clear whether these episodes are seizures.

For now, friends, please say some prayers for this mama and her sweet boy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Invasion of the Strangers

As I sit on my couch with my feet propped neatly on my coffee table and a bowl of nachoes to my side.  I smell kerosene.  Yep, like the stuff you burn in an oil lamp.  Why?  "Maybe it was a stranger".  (Or maybe it was a curious 4 year old).

Yes, friends, strangers seem to have invaded our household.  They cause all sorts of mischief and try to make it look like my sweet, innocent boys are at fault.  Oh, the baby is part of the scheming too.
"Why is there baby food on your bed?"
"Um, Maybe it was Azariah".
"I don't think that's how it got there."
"Um, maybe you were feeding him on my bed."
(I promise, I have fed him on the bed - but only "mama milk", never baby food).
"I don't feed him upstairs."
"Or, maybe it was Cassius".
He probably IS plotting against his brothers.
Have I mentioned that my sweet Manasseh turned 4 yesterday?  Some time recently, in the process of getting ready to be 4, he figured out that he does not like to get in trouble.  He also figured out that if he blames someone else, maybe he won't get in trouble.

We value truth.  We are careful to practice teaching our children the truth.  Maybe I'm a little overboard sometimes- they know that Santa isn't a jolly fat man bringing them presents, we are very careful about teasing them with false information (you know, things that parents tell their kids - if you don't eat your spinach you'll never get taller... silly things we use to encourage our children to behave the way we want them to... that aren't really fully truth).  I want my boys to be full grounded in truth as they grow.  We don't shun imagination, in fact - we encourage it.  A box can be a pirate ship (yes, pirates are real and they really steal things and God doesn't like stealing).  We love to pretend to be different things, but I want to make sure my kids know what is real and what is not.  We want to be sure that they recognize there IS a difference between truth and untruth, and that there IS absolute truth.

So, how do we deal with the strangers that keep breaking into our home to make my honest little boys look like criminals?

Calmly.  With expectations up front.  Promise of a better consequence for telling the truth.  Explanation about "why".  (Why we tell the truth, why the problem IS a problem, etc).

So tonight's conversation about the kerosene lamp.  (By the way I realize that I am at fault for leaving the lamp on the end table with full knowledge that my boys have a hard time staying off the arms of the couch once in a while).
Me: Manasseh, what happened to the lamp?

Nas: Um, Maybe it was strangers that did knock it over.

Me: Manasseh, what happened to the lamp?

Nas: Um, Maybe it was Cassius.

Me: Manasseh, what happened to the lamp? (See, I knew he knew what happened, whether it had been him or not he could tell me the truth about what happened).

Nas: I don't know.

Me: Manasseh, I expect you to tell me the truth.  When you tell the truth you don't get in as much trouble and you feel better after you tell the truth.

Nas: It was me that did knock it over.

Me:  Thank you.  I proceeded to clean up the spilled oil and moved the lamp to a safer place while explaining that it is not safe to play with the oil lamp.

Nas: Why it not safe?

He stood in front of me and looked me in the eyes to talk about oil lamp safety.  I could have been angry, but honestly a good part of the problem was the fact that I left the lamp where the kids could knock it over.  I could have been upset about the lie (we're dealing with them somewhat regularly right now and have been talking about why God likes truth).  I don't want him to fear me, but learn to come to me with his needs and problems.

As I think about the strangers invading my house, I am reminded of my own relationship with God.  Sometimes I want to hide things.  I know, it's sillier than my son hiding the fact that he knocked over the lamp.  Still, I shove things deep inside and ignore them until the smell gets so big that EVERYONE notices.  Much like the smell of the kerosene told me there was a problem.

I don't want that.

God, help me be clean and holy.  Bring truth to my lips.  Help me share your truth with those around me.