Archive | May, 2011

fishy kisses…

10 May

Our days are full of routines!  Wake up, dress the children, make breakfast, wash the dishes, do the laundry, etc. etc. etc… through the daily necessities of life.  Of course each day is unique in  its own way and full of interesting surprises, but typically the cycle continues day after day.

One of my favorite jobs is tucking the children into bed at night. Through the years, we have always had a 7:00 bedtime for our young children. When they turn eight, they get to stay up until 8:00,  when they turn 10 – bedtime is at 9:00.  We used to be pretty strict on that (unless we were having a special family night). First off, it is so important for the little ones to get  a good night sleep.  Secondly, bedtimes provided time for Mark and I to enjoy being together without the children. Now, with more and more big kids and fewer little ones, we seem to be consistently later and…well, the older kids just don’t seem to make it to bed by 9:00 anymore! Needless to say, at this point in life Mark and I are rarely alone in the house. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons date night is so important!) I am sure that day will come all too soon.

Anyway, back to my favorite routine… After Dad has read to the children and prayed for them, they are sent up to bed.  I get the fun job of tucking them in with a multitude of kisses. There are the Eskimo kisses, the butterfly kisses, fishy kisses, mommy kisses, blow on the tummy kisses, and last of all, “don’t forget to blow me a kiss!”

Don’t get stuck in the doldrums of an inflexible schedule. Any routine can become fun with a little creativity and ingenuity.

P.S. Please don’t notice that there is an absolutely adorable face on this “faceless-photos-only” blog.


Lessons in Grace with “Great Aunt” (part 4)

9 May

Stolen Lip Stick and Undergarments

Stopping in at one’s home for a visit, merely gives a window into a life.  I don’t think we were prepared for what all was truly going on in Great Aunt’s mind.  Looking back, we could see hints during those visits that we just hadn’t picked up on.

Often our day would begin in a normal manner.  I would wake Great Aunt and encourage her to get up and dressed before breakfast. Sometimes I would find her already up, dressed, and ready to go.  What took me off guard was the day she began accusing my daughters of stealing her lipstick and undergarments.  Shocked that she would even think such a thing, my “protective mother instincts” rapidly came to life! I quickly corrected her and defended my daughters.  Not only were the children not to wander in Great Aunt’s space without invitation, I knew their young hearts and was confident they would not steal and especially not lip stick and undergarments!.  Yet, her mind was made up, there was no reasoning. They were guilty. I was horrified she would think such a thing.

I had prepared myself for extra work and challenges, but not for an attack on my children.  Why could she not see?  She simply would not listen to reason or logic. I was offended.  I was upset.

Getting another person’s view is usually a good call.  Wanting to gain council and understanding, I relayed the heated conversation to my dear hubby.  It was not long before his  “protective father instinct” had come to life, maybe even stronger than mine!

What Mark and I had not realized, was that Great Aunt was not in her right mind.  Sometimes she was, while other times – not. We never had warning.  Often engaged in a seemingly rational conversation it would suddenly turn on a dime. I found myself becoming easily frustrated, not only with Great Aunt, but with myself.  Rather than patiently understanding, I would be caught off guard and become undone.  So many things I had learned through working at a health care facility (as a teenager), years of marriage, raising children… why was it so hard to apply in this situation?

It may have been during this time the phrase – “Be a duck…” became well used in our home.  As a duck repels water droplets off its back, I learned to let Great Aunt’s hurtful comments roll.  Regretfully I confess, it took time. It took years. To my advantage, Great Aunt seldom remembered the harsh words she spoke nor my reply, whether good or bad. Yet, I knew. I daily sought God for His ultimate grace to flow through me.

The lipstick and undergarments turned up later. Sometimes our searches took days, while others were short, but without fail, the “stolen” items were found.  She had no memory of stashing her things away and continued to feel the need to blame someone else for what she had lost. That never changed. What did change was my ability to let her make her accusations and receive them with understanding.  Rather than blaming the children, the thief  was given a ficticious name  and remained in the house until Great Aunt’s final days.

the first fruits…

6 May

Today is the first day of what we have been working towards – the first fruits (or veggies in this case) of our garden! Our turnip plants have gotten big enough that they needed to be thinned.  Too many little plants bunched together won’t leave room for big turnips. As a result, we had the pleasure of eating fresh greens on our tuna sandwiches for lunch.

Mmm…. so tender and good!

A Bad Case of Stripes

5 May

My daughter discovered this book at someone else’s home.  After she told me about it, we found it at the library.  The picture on the  cover quickly caught my attention. Banning the kids from reading or even peaking at it without me, we soon made time to enjoy the book together.

David Shannon, the author and illustrator of A Bad Case of Stripes, describes Camilla Cream and her great love for lima beans.  Unfortunately her fear of being laughed at prevents her from enjoying what she truly loves. As a result she suffers a ridiculously bad case of stripes, causing her to be the laughing stock  of all her peers. Although many well intentioned specialists provide numerous remedies, the problem only increases. My favorite character is “an old woman who was just as plump and sweet as a strawberry.”  Her wisdom and age seem to go hand in hand.’ “Excuse me,” she says brightly. “But I think I can help.”‘ As as the story ends, Camilla has thoroughly learned her lesson.

If you get a chance, try to find the book. Maybe you will be able to prevent someone else from coming down with “a bad case of stripes”!

– all without being told?

4 May

One of the benefits of spending a little time away is the fresh perspective gained upon arriving home.  The kids all looked happy and healthy, the yard was lush with new growth, and the house looked beautiful!  I love coming home!

As usual, the children had been conscientious  in achieving order before we arrived.  Yet, within minutes, the order began to dwindle.  A sweater draped over a chair, water glasses with the remains of muddy hands left in various places, tennis rackets, balls,  crayons, papers, shoes… Things were taken out, yet nothing put away.  Disorder emerged so quickly!

I suddenly realized how lackadaisical I had become in this area. Letting my expectations drop, little by little, poor habits settled in.

So, what are my expectations?

I expect –

– the children to put their things away when they are done.

– beds made in the morning and a tidy room in the evening.

– them to take responsibility completing their daily chores.

– a respectful answer when spoken to.

– all without being told [this is a high standard but worth working towards] :)

Should children be held accountable when these expectations are not met? Yes, if they are based on a prior mutual understanding and agreement! First, I need to ask myself, “What kind of an example am I setting? How am I following through?” As the children grow,  self-discipline will be required, so while still a child, it is my passion as a parent to prepare them well.  Instilling in them the joy of industriously pursuing excellence comes through working together, supporting, and challenging each other.  Trying, failing, and trying again.

Throughout a child’s life, what is expected of him will grow and change. A few key concepts to help this transition go as smoothly as possible are taken from a previous post: A Room Full of Life and Adventure.

1) Give the child a clear understanding of what is expected.

2) Walk through the process with him ahead of time. (practice, practice, practice)

3) Have a clear understanding with the child of appropriate, meaningful consequences.

4) Calmly follow through with the plan and be consistent!

Taking the risk of being an irritant, once again, I am pulling in the reigns.  The standard is being raised.  There is no need to repeat myself, or become a nag, I am determined to simply follow through and be consistent.

My Lessons in Grace With “Great Aunt” (part 3)

3 May

Arriving home yesterday after being gone for several days, I had a bit of laundry to catch up on. (Let me clarify, this was not the children’s laundry! They had, of course, done theirs. ) I am speaking of Mark’s and my own.  After greeting the family with many hugs and kisses, I  began the washing process.  I am not sure at what point in life my love for laundry began, but I truly enjoy it! Years ago, I hung the cloth diapers out on the line and was impressed  at how the sun seemed to whiten them up.  As I was pinning up the clothes yesterday, my mind was drawn to fond memories with Great Aunt.

At the time she moved in with us, Great Aunt was able to get around pretty well.  Although she used a crutch, we weren’t sure if its purpose was to steady herself or a weapon of aggression! On  several occasions she would threateningly shake it at the children, while giving them a piece of her mind.  Sometimes it was well deserved and sometimes not.

Sharing the love of being outside, we were able to find enjoyable things to do together.  It was essential for her to be able to contribute in whatever way she could, so as I began to hang the laundry, Great Aunt naturally joined in.  Slowly, quietly hanging piece by piece, one clothes pin at a time.  All around us were the sweet sounds of children playing, birds chirping, and the wind softly blowing.  We chatted about life. She shared memories of her past. We dreamed of the future. They were precious times.

Although Great Aunt required much time and patience, she slowed me down in many positive ways.  Simple tasks that may have gone quickly on my own, were made more meaningful by methodically working together.  Being a person that loves lists, I can mistakingly take more joy in crossing out each item than fully embracing each task. Life isn’t about how much we’ve done or a long list of accomplishments.  It’s about relationships. Its about loving and serving. It’s about faith.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I still love hanging laundry today.  It forces me to take time, breathe, think,  chat, and remember Great Aunt.