Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fun in the sun with a nose that runs...

Today, in beautiful North Idaho, it's a wonderful Spring-like day. A day that beckons to not be spent in the house wearing our sock jammies all day long as we have done for the previous nine days. Today, we all put real clothes and shoes on and went to the store. This was our first outing since the kids got sick. Four children confined to a home for a week and a half is not pretty.
My mom's birthday is today and we had to go to the store and buy her a present. As we walked into the store and my children (2 in the basket and 2 walking) were saying hi to everyone with voices so loud they seemed as if they were microphoned through a PA system, my kids were delighted. I'm usually one of those moms that is constantly reminding the kids about our "inside voices," but today I knew there was no point in my persistent nagging since the kids excitement about breathing fresh air and seeing other faces was far more extreme than anything I had to say. My children were WONDERFUL in the store today. They put a lot of thought into what they wanted to get for Grandma and were rewarded for their wonderful behavior with some jelly beans.
As they are sleeping right now, well, most of them that is (Lily is experimenting with her new freedom of a big girl bed) I am anxious to let them run today outside despite their runny noses that persist no matter if they are sick or not. Today, so far, has been one of those easier parenting days. Thank God for that - Lord knows I needed it!
I was reminded this morning of a truth I have learned over the last couple years. Having fun and doing fun things may seem like a lot of work up front but when it's all said and done, days that are fun filled are days that seem to be the easiest of all. Granted, they take a lot of energy, but good energy. I would much rather spend my day chasing after kids in a playground having fun, than disciplining them all day for fighting, screaming and whining.
I know a lot of women who just get, well, scared at the idea of doing fun things. Things that may require a mess and lots of clean up afterward are forbidden. But those things, the things that they can use all their senses with, are the funnest things of all! Like finger painting on a warm day and letting it turn into body paint, or shaving cream all over the kitchen table, or tin foil as pretend knight armor, the ideas are endless.
Those days are the days that I feel like are successes. My kids learn about textures and tastes, they are more excited to share and play together, and I feel like I'm a fun parent. It's so much more enjoyable feeling like "Fun Mommy" than "No Fun Mommy" as my kids call me on "grumpy" days.
Here's to today...make it a fun one!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Can you hear me now?

Of course when I have decided that I am really going to focus in on positive parenting and succeed, every single child gets sick. This last week I have had two kids with pneumonia, one with bronchitis and one with a really high fever and a nose that won't stop dripping. Needless to say, this is my eighth night without measurable amounts of sleep and now I think my body is adjusting to this horrible schedule.
All positive vibes went out the door by day 2. Four whiny children, four very demanding children, four very loud children and one really tired mama did not equal out to much Fruit of the Spirit being displayed in the Sharon home this week. In fact, my gross, horrible, ugly self that I so want to not be a part of my life anymore reared its ugly head and I found myself in a pit of frustration and anger.
I think that any reasonable person would allow me to throw this week out and say it was the exception, that I am tired and it's understandable. But, unfortunately I cannot. At the end of this journey of motherhood, I want it to be about them - not about me. I cannot dismiss my anger, lack of patience and frustration because I know the circumstances around it. They are three years old. My first memory was when I was three, and I can guarantee you that I remember what I remember, not the circumstances around it. I don't want my kids to have their first memory be me screaming on the top of my lungs because I have lost all patience with them. Now, I will have grace on myself - but I will not excuse my behavior. This week, I have acted poorly.
As I just mentioned, I have a tendency to be a yeller which angers me to no end. I remember my mom yelling at me all the time and telling myself that I would never yell. And here I am yelling. Yelling is so annoying. I can't imagine I look loving, engaging, nurturing, or anything that my children want to be around when I'm screaming at them. Quite honestly, I don't want to be around myself when I am yelling. Sometimes I tell myself it's the only way I will be heard over the noisy chaos of our home. So. Not. True.
The week before my children decided to make me their slave and nurse, I was able to really focus on my tone. When I got frustrated, instead of having an angry tone I made sure my tone was that of disappointment. When I wanted to scream because no one was even acknowledging that I had been speaking for the last five minutes, I quieted my voice down. Those things worked!!! When I spoke quietly, they listened. My house was actually calmer that week than it has ever been.
It seemed like the "good week" I was gentle and kind with my words. I was working on being encouraging and patient. I wanted to "see the good in everything" and "not fly off the handle" like The Message paraphrase put it. However, this last "bad week" I was functioning from the seat of my pants and my words were sharp and my patience was nil and when I spoke sharply the response I received was horrible.

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 (TNIV)

So, this week as my children are on the mend I am going to focus on the gentle and kind part of the Fruit of the Spirit. I am going to once again focus on my words, and speak quietly instead of with harshness - and I think my oncoming sore throat will help with that challenge :) Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 22, 2010


My kids are all sick, well, that is except for my overly energetic two year old. Right now my focus is surviving. When they start getting on the mend, I will repost. Have a great day!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I never said I was June Cleaver

June Cleaver had two sons. June Cleaver wore high heels around the house. June Cleaver served her husband tea on a silver platter in the afternoon. June Cleaver's hair was beautiful and her house was immaculate. June Cleaver was perfect.
I however, am NOT June Cleaver.
I have four children. I don't think I even own a pair of high heels anymore. I make coffee, but Dave pours his own cup. I rarely get time to do my hair let alone brush it and my house is, most of the time, far from immaculate. I am not perfect. Now, in my favor they didn't show how June handled it when Beaver and Wally were toddlers, but I can imagine it was much of the same.
I know that June is a fictional character, but even my Grandma who is 85 and had five children has said, "Taking care of the house and the kids wasn't hard. You just did it. That's what you did." I, on the other hand, have not come to the place where I can say this gig is easy.
The previous four days as focused as I have been to parent from the Fruit of the Spirit have been probably the best four days I have had in parenting in a long time. For the most part the kids have really responded well to my new approach, I have a better attitude at the end of the first week and discipline hasn't needed to be such an ever present guest this week. As good as all that may sound, this week has been grueling for me. I have not been able to be lazy in my parenting. I have had to constantly keep myself in check and scrutinize every word, action and reaction that have come from me. This has been hard. And my house is a mess.
So, just as I was feeling optimistic and pretty proud of myself, Dave had today off. I love when he has a day off because my best friend is home, and there are two extra hands to help tie shoes and button shirts. But honestly I must admit, I was frustrated today.
I'm doing something here. I'm trying something new. I have my new routine. The kids have started falling into line. And here he comes with all the excitement he brings from being home to play with the kids and my kids get hit with sudden amnesia and all is forgotten. They go back to whining. They go back to fighting. They go back to screaming and arguing. I'm still focused on the task I set before me and am concentrating on loving them with patience and encouragement. Yet, I was anything but encouraging and patient with my husband today. I snapped at him. I rolled my eyes. He just wasn't doing things the right way.
Then I had a reality check. He's my co-captain. I'm not the coach and he's not my water boy. But I think it's so easy to fall into that trap as a stay at home mom. This is my turf. I have a routine, a schedule. I have rules. I, I, I, me, me, me. And I find myself getting frustrated with him because sometimes I feel that he is almost encroaching on my territory. But that's not the way God intended it to be.
We are supposed to be a team. We are supposed to be the coaches, working together, figuring the best plays for our family so we will succeed. And, when I try to do this thing on my own I am going to fail. If I try to change our whole course of parenting without him being on the same page, it will not be a success and I will end up parenting through yelling and frustration just like always. We have to do this thing together - and I have to yield some of my control when he is home.
Dave isn't like me, thank God. He doesn't see things through the same minds eye as I do. He attacks problems differently than I would. That's why God brought us together. Together we make a great team. Yet, I have to admit, I have forgotten that when it comes to our parenting. I don't even give him the chance to play in the game because, well, he might not do it exactly the way I would. I am with these monkeys every day. I know what works, and instead of letting him discover it, I don't even give him the chance to learn.
I was just reminded this afternoon that God blessed me with Dave to travel this road of life together. TOGETHER. And because we are bound together first and foremost by our love for the Lord, we are a "cord of three." I need to become better at allowing myself to be a part of that three cord strand instead of trying to be a single thread. I was reminded of this verse today:

It's better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there's no one to help, tough!
By yourself you're unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (The Message)

So, I suppose I should add "team-player" to my challenge...because I think we might get more wins out of it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No! This one is mine!

So, today was ok. Not extravagant and wonderful like yesterday, but definitely better than the trend had been going. My son Luke seemed determined to push every one of my buttons to see if I would lose it - and he was almost successful...almost.
He woke up this morning and his first action was pushing Emma over after she told him she wouldn't share her apple juice. I made him go back to his room, get back in his bed, close his eyes and decide to wake up happy and kind. It worked for awhile surprisingly enough.
He ran off down the street with my two year old to visit their great grandma for candy. Emma decided to just nicely get in the car and choose wisely. She was rewarded with the candy while the other two sat and watched painfully as she enjoyed the candy more than she probably ever has.
When he yanked a toy out of Lily's (my two year old) hands and I told him to go sit on the naughty step (which may I add has never had any impact on him whatsoever but yet I cling to it as a reasonable means of discipline)he told me that I could go sit on the naughty step and a few other teenage-like attitude comments. Instead of talking to him or correcting him, I took his prized train away from him. He threw himself on the floor and cried hysterically for fifteen minutes until he came to me and told me he was sorry for being "disespecful" (disrespectful) and rude.
After Cubbies tonight he was hungry and got angry with me when I told him I would not allow him to plug in the mixer because, contrary to what he may think, food would not magically come out of it. He started jumping up and down telling me he was frustrated and disappointed. I quietly offered him a pear, some celery or a carrot. He stopped, looking defeated, and settle for the pear.
There are days like today when I feel like it's of no consequence, that I am of no consequence. I cook, I clean, I pick up after everyone, I bathe them, I dress them, and put them to bed and tomorrow it all begins again. And, this afternoon, God spoke loud and clear to me through Luke of all people.
Dave (my husband) picked up three Bob the Builder plush toys for the kids from work today. Of course, Luke was so excited that he wanted to pull the cloth hammer out of Bob's tool belt and it ripped off and now is in need of repair. He wanted it fixed immediately, but with my nightly routine it just wasn't going to happen. So, I offered him one of the other ones since the girls really didn't care all too much about Bob. But he grabbed his ripped Bob the Builder and held it close to his chest and said, "No! This one is mine." As soon as those words came out of his mouth I heard it loud and clear what God was trying to teach me in that moment.
I matter. In my day to day grind, in my what often seems monotonous routine, I matter. When I mess up, I matter. I'm trying to be better. I'm trying to be fruitful and walk in the path of righteousness, but it's hard. And sometimes, a lot of times, I just plain fall short. And yet in those moments, God grabs me up and says, "You're mine." What a great relief to know that He loves me regardless of my less than stellar moments as a mommy, wife, human.
So here's to tomorrow - focusing on those patience and slow to anger characteristics. But tomorrow I will keep this on the forefront of my mind: As I am trying to cultivate patience and being slow to anger in my own life, these are attributes God already has down...and He is forever patient and slow to anger with me. And if He's patient with me I can be patient with my kiddos.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't cry over spilled milk - or juice, yogurt or cereal for that matter...

Today was the first day of my personal "Fruit of the Spirit" challenge. Of course I started with "love" being the first characteristic I was going to be intentional with, and quickly into my day I realized that when the Lord said, "And the greatest of these is love," He really meant it. Love, in all it's glorious splendor is a HUGE undertaking! I don't think I quite understood the magnitude of this last night and if I had I may have decided to do another challenge like, I don't know, brushing my teeth before 11 AM. Just kidding, sort of.
Anyway, as I was saying the "Fruit of the Spirit" passage over and over again in my mind, I began to wonder, why didn't God write it, "and the Fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control which can all be summed up by love?" I mean, aren't all these things what love really is? So, I was drawn to the "Love chapter" in the Bible:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message)

And so, with this in mind, I began my FIVE AM! Did God seriously think that I was going to be a loving mommy at five in the morning when my son walked into my room to let me know it was morning time and I needed to wake up? I'm not so sure He I promptly marched my son back to his room, ordered him to stay there until the sun woke up and went back into bed for another wonderful hour and a half of sleep. So, then I began my day six thirty, lovingly.
Wanting to be purposeful today in my words, actions and reactions I was given many opportunities to choose the higher road. I'm pretty sure my two year old Lily intentionally spilled, poured and knocked over as many things as she possibly could because she knew I was challenging myself today. She spilled her water - of course. She knocked over a bowl of cereal - typical. She poured yogurt on the table - and at that point I realized it may be quite a challenging day!!!
Actually though, my day was fabulous. As I spoke today, I used words that empowered my children. I encouraged my children. I didn't fly off the handle when things went wrong. Instead of getting frustrated and using an angry tone when my kids disobeyed, I spoke quietly and used a disappointed tone. But amazingly, my kids didn't disobey much today. They didn't fight much today. They didn't argue hardly at all with me. Since I wasn't spending my day frustrated and grumpy, but intentionally being loving I had more energy to play and be silly.
As magnificent as this sounds, it wasn't easy for me. I realized today that I have become used to REACTING to the events of my day instead of DIRECTING the events of my day. I have been on defense mode for so long, and today, simply with my change of heart, I was on the offense for the first time. My kids were great players today, but there was one point in particular this afternoon, that I thought my kids would take the ball and I would be on defense yet again.
We went to the grocery store which is always an adventure simply because all my children are still too young to trust to walk around, and yet there are too many to fit in the cart with more than two groceries. However there was a great deal on detergent and I couldn't pass it up. So, my kids did surprisingly well in the store. I was very impressed. To be honest, I love those times when my kids are acting like angels and older people will look at my cart and say to me, "Wow, what a wonderful job you are doing." And it actually happened today! And then we got to the parking lot. By this point, my two oldest were walking because I had too much detergent for them to sit in the cart. They began running around the car like two wild monkeys, throwing themselves on the ground playing some game they had just made up and pretty much forgetting all the rules I have taught them about parking lot behavior. My two year old decided to get out of her car seat and jump into the driver seat and start turning on and off my headlights and honking my horn. And of course, there was an older woman putting her groceries in her car right next to me, intentionally going slower so she could watch my response to my little monkeys' behavior. This was my moment. I quieted my voice and spoke sternly and said, "We don't act like this in a parking lot. We know this. I bought gum for my children who were behaving wonderfully in the store. However, I will not give kids any gum who are behaving badly in the parking lot." That was it. I wasn't even really looking at any of them when I said it either. But my children all stopped and looked at me as if they were wondering why in the world I wasn't screaming at them. I shrugged my shoulders and started singing the ABC's. They looked at each other and all quickly got into their seats. I started passing out the gum and both of the twins looked at me and said, "Mommy, I love you."
It is amazing how we can direct our children's behavior by our behavior. I spoke quietly today instead of trying to be heard over all their voices, and they spoke quieter. I used please and thank you's with my kids today instead of barking orders, and they used their manners today with no reminding.
I'm so excited about tomorrow as I continue my focus on the love part of the Fruits of the Spirit. Tomorrow, as I purposefully live my day in a spirit of love, I am going to focus on the parts in the Love Chapter about not flying off the handle and always looking for the best. Encouragement is such a huge part of love, I can't wait to see what an encouraging house will translate into tomorrow!
If you are doing this challenge with me, I hope your day was as wonderful as mine!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fruitful or just plain fruity?

I have four little monkeys running around my jungle...and lately, it seems, they have been climbing, swinging, and banging their chests loudly ALL THE TIME. Which has led to my becoming increasingly overwhelmed. I think being overwhelmed as a mommy, especially one of young children is SO normal. You are generally sleep deprived to some extent, being a translator for all the cries and grunts and screams, a house keeper, a cook, and the list goes on. I remember when I first had the twins, we came home from the hospital on a Saturday. When Friday came the following week I had an excitement about me. When my mom asked why I was so excited, I said, "It's almost five!" And then I realized that five o'clock wasn't coming for a LONG time! I was on duty all the time...
In the day to day grind of things it's so easy to lose focus on the joys of mommyhood, the blessing from God that it is to be privileged enough to be a mother. I so desperately wanted to be a mom. I have known for as long as I can remember that I wanted to be a mom, and here I am in the trenches of it all and I've been so grumpy lately!!!
So, recently I recalled the Fruit of the Spirit - the tree isn't growing if it doesn't have any fruit on it!!! And to be honest, lately I have felt I have been in the dead of winter in my growth as a Christian, as a mother, as a wife. So, I began to recite the passage to myself "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23" Just saying those words puts a hop in my step.
As I said these words out loud I realized a great truth. I so badly want my children to exude love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I work hard at teaching them those things...and yet, if I'm not showing them an example of these things daily how will they learn? The other thing God pointed out to me was that last part, "Against such things there is no law." That means no discipline. That means if we are kind and patient, good and faithful, gentle and self-controlled, loving and joyful and full of peace we won't be disciplined. Now, I believe that God is gracious and his mercy is overflowing, but the person who is the most critical of myself is me. And I want to do better for myself, my husband and my children.
So, I have decided to focus on these nine "fruit" over the next few weeks. I want to spend time purposefully doing things each day that will radiate each of these characteristics. It's a challenge for sure, because often I find myself just flying by the seat of my pants and now I have to be intentional, with my words and my actions. My children are such honest critics and they will let me know how I am doing. I started today a bit and my daughter at dinner tonight told me, "Mommy, you are a nice grown up girl." However, my husband will be a bit more tricky. I wonder if he will see these character traits ripening in my life. It will be fun to see how he responds to all of it.
Would you care to join me with this challenge? To be intentional with our words and actions, to focus on the Fruits of the Spirit? I would love to hear how your personal challenge is going! Tomorrow starts "Love"...

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Joyful Jungle

Recently I saw an essay contest in a magazine for “what motherhood means to you.” They allotted three hundred words for a topic that I honestly don’t think I could begin to fit into a 5000 page book, let alone a one page essay. But alas, I began writing what motherhood meant to me. And then, quite astonished, I realized that motherhood meant so much to me but really was without definition unless I included God in my description. I knew at that moment that what motherhood meant to me would not be appreciated by a mainstream magazine, but possibly by a multitude of other mothers who, like me, are in the trenches daily and just need a little encouragement, a reminder of how wonderful being a mommy is.
As I write this, I am surrounded by a sea of toys from this morning, and blankets from their pretend sleep over last night, and dishes from dinner that I didn’t have time to wash. The toilet paper is coming out of the bathroom from my toddler who has recently become fascinated with undoing the entire roll, and the bucket of crayons are all over the kitchen floor because the previous mentioned toddler wanted to see what the bottom of the bucket looked like. There is a sticky mess on the entry way floor from where a sippy cup proved to not be spill proof and yes, there is dust on the top of the piano where, quite frankly, I don’t care about cleaning. My little home aka my jungle is messy. I have four children three and under whose personal mission in life it seems is to see to it that it stays in a continuous state of messiness. And though my home is chock-full of messes, it is overflowing with love, laughter, tears, accomplishments, struggles and so much more.
Every day, at some point, I wonder what God saw in me when He chose me to be entrusted with my four children. I am such a work in progress – ask my husband! And, I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we would probably admit we are all works in progress. I have come to realize that it’s a journey. And the journey is not so much about the destination as how we get there. So, the cleaning can wait – let’s grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the journey of motherhood together.