Friday, July 29, 2011

I Am That Mom...

As I sit on the couch and type, my daughter has pushed an Eames chair against the window so she can stand and pound on the glass, 'happy-yelling' at the pedestrians walking past our house.  I'm not stopping her.  This is a sweet moment.  

Yesterday, I took a nap.  And it was gooood.  Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "Please don't tell me she is devoting an entire post to her nap."  No.  I wouldn't do that to you.

But, I will tell you why that nap was so needed.  It has been one of those weeks.  You know?  It's been a week full of fussing and fighting, and whining and tantruming and stomping and back-talking and door slamming.  And while the behavior in our household has been hasn't been pretty.  If there was a blue light special on time-outs, then the Jackson's stocked up.

This whole week, I've felt like such an ineffective mom,  and was at my wits end.  So, yesterday, I decided that distraction was in order.  What better distraction than a sweet story time including a blanket on the floor and a few chapters of 'Alice in Wonderland.'  I sat on the blanket, with a little Jackson on either side of me, and began reading aloud, while inwardly congratulating myself on an effective plan.  Somewhere between chasing the rabbit, and Alice's fall down the hole, things fell apart.  I was in the crossfires, defending myself from their sudden blows towards another.  I'm not quite sure where the breakdown occurred, but, I began yelling: 

"! Don't.hit.your.sister. You.both.stop.spitting!  Get.your feet.out.of.each other's.face! Everyone. is.getting.a.timeout.NOW!'

They both stopped and stared as I teared up and broke down in front of them.  Not only did I lose my cool, but there I sat sobbing.  I'm pretty sure that in most parenting books I've read, yelling is not advocated.  And I'm almost positive that if I pulled my favorite parenting book from the shelf, my week would be the prime example of the parent who had lost all control, and was in desperate need of following the author's program toward family revival.

I am that mom!  Ugh!

So, while my kiddos were in bed, sleeping off the events of the day, I flung myself across my bed feeling defeated, beating myself up...and of course I had a good cry.  It was ugly and lamentful.  After regaining my composure, I spent some time in prayer and read my Bible, then decided to read my all-time favorite blog.

You may have already heard of Angie Smith.  Her writing is full of godly wisdom and tenderness, joy and humor.  I love it.  

After reading a bit, I stumbled across one of her older posts titled, 'Seven Prayers A Day.'  In her post, she shared seven verses that coincide with seven daily events to help remind her to pray for her girls.  While going about the day, she prays each verse aloud, personalizing it for her children.

It struck me that while I earnestly pray for my children, I don't often pray scripture over them.  What better way to pray for them than with the guidance of specific scripture?

I quickly jotted down the seven passages onto note cards and added an eighth verse I stumbled upon that seemed fitting for our circumstances:

"How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers *and sisters* live together in harmony!"
Psalm 133:1

God has a sense of humor.

So, armed with my scripture cards, today is a new day. I look forward to the fresh start (and the forgiveness my children give freely despite my mistakes)   and can't wait to begin praying scripture liberally over my children.  
I don't want to store up the expectation that my little ones will not make mistakes, but I do want to be armed with the truth of God's word as I parent them today, and be full of grace and mercy toward them just as our Heavenly Father so graciously extends His grace toward me.

Have you had an 'Aha!' moment and discovered something that just works for your family?  I would love for you to share!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Karate Kid...

Before retiring, my dad was a karate instructor for over 20 years.  I remember spending time at the dojo, doing push-ups, kicking at imaginary opponents and punching large bags that swung back and hit you if you didn't move out of the way.  Ahhhhh.  Good times.  I remember being called 'grass-hopper' and referring to my dad as 'sir' and 'Mr. Watson' when other students were around. It was a sign of respect for those who were a higher rank than you.

I also remember when parents flocked to sign up their kids for classes at the height of the 'Karate Kid' trilogy.  It was the 80's, and all they wanted to know was how to properly 'wax-on, wax-off' like Daniel-son and balance on a splintery stump to perfect 'the crane.'  It was sort of a rude awakening, when they were told that those things didn't really exist in martial arts and that their child's instructor would not be a gray-haired Mr. Miyagi look-a-like.  Could a white guy effectively teach martial arts?

And even though I found other interests when I entered junior high, and spent less and less time in my dad's dojo as I got older, karate never fully left me.  I still remember all the moves.  I can still hear the clanking of the chains supporting the bags as they swung back and forth.  And, I still remember how the gi's smelled salty after a good, hard workout.  

I remember rising early on Saturday mornings to go to my brother and dad's tournaments.  We'd sit all day long until all of the competitions were over and trophy's had been handed out, then we'd go out to dinner to celebrate.

Karate has a special place in my heart.  And, while I never wanted to push my children into a certain interest, I knew it would be fun to introduce them to karate when they got older...just to see if they would love it as much as I did.

So, yesterday was the little Mr.'s first Taekwondo class.  It was hilarious watching him running around, trying to line up and do all the moves the other kids were doing.  

Getting a little help from a friend...

I was, of course, the only mom wildly snapping pictures of the little kid who didn't know what the heck he was doing.  I wanted to have pictures ready for when he got older and reached Jean-Claude Van Damme or Stephen Seagal status and was interviewed about his beginnings in martial arts (nah...just kidding...just seeing if you were still reading.  I'm just another photo crazy mom).

He ran, and kicked, and air-punched his little heart out...and loved every minute of it.  Watching him run around, having a great time was worth it.

After an hour-long workout, he ran over to me and breathlessly asked, "Can we do this again?!"  Of course you can sweetie.  Anything that burns that extra energy and gains an afternoon nap is okay in my book.  

So, we'll be back at it next Wednesday:  me, watching and snapping pictures, and the little guy swinging at anything and everything that moves.  While swim lessons didn't quite work out, I think he may have found his niche.  

Is there an activity you loved when you were a kid?  Is it something you'd like to see your own children get involved in?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning To Swim...

This Summer has been full of events.  Eva's diagnosis, play dates, parks, swimming, trying to stay cool, deciding to homeschool or send the little Mr. to public school (we have less than five weeks to make that decision).  B has been busy with a work deadline, and I've had dog sitting clients just about every week.  All wonderful things...but exhausting, leaving little to no time for blogging.

Smack-dab in the middle of all these shenanigans, we had swim lessons at a friend's pool for the little Mr.  As I tend to write about this subject every summer, I'll just say:  The little guy hates swim lessons...heavy emphasis on the hate.

The mere mention of swim lessons elicits groans from his little self.  He'll play in the water, and he'll wade around, but he simply doesn't trust his safety when it comes to actually swimming.  A big part of learning to swim seems to be trusting the person teaching you.  You have to give up control in order to allow them to manipulate you in the water, as they guide your body and teach you the techniques.

Each lesson, he eased himself in the water with great trepidation, while laying out the game plan before the teacher:
  "Okay, today I'll swim a little, but I don't want to get my face or ears wet.  Oh, and I don't want to get my nose or head wet.  And, can I not swim on my back? It gets my ears wet.  And I don't want to go under water...cause I get wet.  And, please don't let me go."

Each day, the sweet teacher smiled and quietly assured him that all of those things had to happen in order to learn how to swim.  He listened to her encouragement, and then agreed to her rules...only if he didn't have to get his head wet.  They reached an agreement just shy of putting it in writing. 

  I had hopes that he would be a Michael Phelps by the end of lessons (a mother can only dream), but, sadly, we had a long way to go...the whole 'getting wet thing' was sort of an obstacle.

So, like any mother, pushing their child to achieve, I signed him up for additional lessons.  Just two.  But, you'd think I had signed him up for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for a year.  He was horrified by the thought of going one more lesson past the week-long commitment.

We showed up for the lesson.  Me, smiling, cheerful and optimistic, and the little Mr., grumbling, glaring and pouting.  We looked great together.

He once again eased himself in the water, but this time he began shrieking, thrashing and yelling, "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this!" I typed this statement in purple...purple makes it look prettier on the page.  It was  an ugly sight.  I'm sure the neighbors were peering through their blinds towards my friend's house and wondering who was torturing the small child.  The teacher looked at me and yelled out, "Got a suit?  I need you in the water."  Luckily I did.  So, I suited up, said a prayer and jumped into the water beside my worked-up child. 

Ethan grabbed my neck and begged me to not let him go.  He was scared, angry, and didn't trust us.  He repeated over and over, "Don't let me go.  Don't let me go."  I promised I wouldn't let him go, but I told him we would move together in the water.  I told him I would be asking him to do some hard things that would require him to let go of me...but, I would not let go of him.

I slowly moved with him in the water, calming him down, speaking quietly while the teacher directed me to begin floating him in front of me.  As we suspected, he panicked.  He gripped me tightly, and I slowly moved forward with the plan, I removed his hands from my neck, promised to not let go, and held him out in front of me so he could look into my eyes.  As the teacher coached me, I in turn coached Ethan as he paddled, kicked and floated in circles.

By the end of the lesson, he was jumping into the pool without me holding his hands.  He wasn't swimming on his own, but he began to do the things he feared the most.

Trust.  It was all about trust.  It's funny, but I learn the most about my relationship with God through my children's life experiences.  

Just as Ethan attempted to 'set the rules' of engagement prior to swimming, I often find myself trying to set the rules with God.  

"Lord, I'll give you this piece of me, but that's all I have to give."
"Lord, I can't do that because it's asking too much."
"Lord, I've paid my dues with tough circumstances, so I deserve a free pass now."

And while sometimes I too, thrash, shriek and scream, 'don't let me go!" He quietly asks me to trust Him.  He speaks ever-so-gently. He reminds me to trust Him as he slowly removes my grip from His neck, holds me out in front of Him and says, "I've got you.  I promise I won't let you go."

I slowly release my grip from the earthly things that don't matter, and focus my eyes on Him.  I am reminded of all of the reasons I trusted Him as my savior 22 years ago.  His grace.  His mercy.  His faithfulness.  His love.  His protection.  His forgiveness.  

None of these things are dependent upon me, my abilities, or what I bring to the table (which is nothing).  All are given freely, when I rely fully on Him...fixating my eyes on Him.

"So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
                                                 2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I am an easily distracted person.  Ask anyone close to me and they would probably agree.  I would compare myself to 'Dug', the quirky, people-pleasing dog from the Disney movie 'UP'.  Squirrel!  
Photo Courtesy:  Disney-Pixar

Like Dug, I flit about getting things done, running here, running there.  I start conversations and leave them half-finished.  I check things off my list, and overload my mind with thoughts about what's next.

Lately, it's been a bit worse.  I've got so many things on my mind from car decisions, to the little miss, to ministry decisions, to stuff I shouldn't be stressed over (but, I am), to things I am doing--but don't have time for.

When I've got too much on my plate, I become distracted and I function horribly.  I become forgetful, scattered, and frankly...a little cranky.

Today I overloaded my plate...again...and was running between swim lessons, church, Eva's CBC, and other random errands.  But, I decided that I wasn't going to let this day go completely to pot.  So, to redeem my 'fun-awesome-mom' status, I told the kiddos I would fill up their pool in the backyard so they could swim after lunch.  But, of course I'm super busy making lunches at the same time, so I decided to set the hose in the pool and let er' rip.  We all have left the hose unattended here and there right? 

About an hour later, the little Mr. walked through the kitchen, looked out the back door and exclaimed, "Oh cool!  It's the Amazon River outside!" Thank you Diego.

I looked out, and sure enough, the water was filled to the brim and was now running over the side of the kiddie pool and flowing swiftly down the patio toward the house.  The water gushed, carrying pool toys, and balls downstream.

Distraction got me a nice little 2 ft. puddle near the back of the house and a mud pit for play later.  

Sorry.  I didn't take a picture.  I was a little busy using a push broom to push the water away from the house while my kiddos jumped in the puddles.  You understand, right?

A little extra water is pretty harmless (except for the whole conservation thing).  But, sometimes distraction causes me to miss out on sweet opportunities with my wee ones, or not take advantage of a quiet moment with my hubby.  Sometimes distraction  means I miss the signs that a dear friend is hurting, or that I breeze past someone while tossing out a brief 'hello' instead of taking the time to truly ask how they are doing.

Sometimes distraction keeps me from spending quality time with my Savior.  

I suppose that's why I feel I connect so much with Martha.  She loved her savior with all her heart, and wanted so badly to serve Him.  Her preparations for Him were well-intended, but she was distracted from spending time with Jesus.

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed, only one."
                                                  Luke 10:41-42

All it took was a gentle reminder.  Jesus wasn't harsh, yet He was still able to open her eyes that the one thing she needed above all, was to spend time with Him.  In her distraction, her heart was divided, but Jesus wanted her heart to settle on Him.

Lately, I've been challenged to use my kiddo's nap time as an opportunity to read my Bible, pray for my family and specific needs of others, and reflect on what it means to have an undivided heart.  I really love this verse:

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may 
rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God,with all my heart,
I will glorify your name forever.
                                                          Psalm 86:11-12

Like Martha, distraction tends to create division in my own heart.  The need to check things off my list means I'm often not spending time where I should be:  with the Lord and with my family.

What about you?  How do you take captive moments that are precious with your family?
How do you carve out time to spend with God?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Education Gap...

So, I have a confession.  It's sort of a nerd confession.  Deep breath. Here goes:

NPR is my homepage.

I know, I know.  You can never see me in the same light ever again.  It gets worse...I also watch public television...and like it.

It's B's fault really.  He's like a brainiac.  And when a non-brainiac marries a brainiac, the brainiac wins, because they have brain-power-pull.**  

After years of fighting it, I decided that nerd-power is pretty awesome, and I can dig it.  So, when I opened my laptop today, logged on the internet and got all giddy  began reading NPR, I was intrigued by the title of this article:  'I Was Absent That Day.' 
Hmmm...sounds like the story of my life.  My interest is piqued.

So the cliff's notes version of the article is how there are topics, situations, events, issues etc. in our life that are sort of common knowledge to everyone in this day and age, but somehow you missed it.  You should know it.  But, for all extensive purposes you don't.  It's like a little education gap.  For some reason, you were absent that day. We're not necessarily talking about earth-shattering information here (although it could be), but an example from the article would be not knowing the lyrics of a song. 

We've all been there.  You're jamming, totally into the song playing on the radio (or your media of choice...I am aware that the i-whatever exists) and you flub the words to the song.  Like big time.

I will never forget hanging out with one of my best friends, tooling around town in her car.  Windows down.  Radio blaring.  Wind in our hair.  The next song on the radio was Sisqo's popular song.  You know...that one.  So, I'm singing along at the top of my lungs (cause it's catchy) and at the chorus, I shout out, "Let me sing that soooooooooooong."  My friend immediately turned down the volume, looked at me and asked, "What did you just say?"  I was acting all cool and was like, "You know, let me sing that song.  It's Sisqo." She got super serious and was like, "Nikki.  It's 'let me see that --ong!' You in underware?"  

I was shocked. She died laughing and I felt this big.  Oh well.  Your grandmother could have listened to my version. It was G-Rated!  

That's just a small situation.  I've mispronounced common words in front of groups of people (like version had a cute little french flair.  They should totally change the pronunciation), flubbed information, or just flat out didn't know something that everyone knows.  It just happens, as embarrassing as it may be.  You can try to cover it up, but everyone already knows that you just screwed up a little bit.  That's when we all throw out the, "Oops.  My bad," and give a nervous chuckle while looking around to see if we're off the hook.

For all of the above reasons, I LOVED this article.  It validated my education gaps and made me feel like a more complete individual.  
I will be forwarding this article to the overly critical well-meaning individuals in my life, who feel the need to correct my mistake at the second of it's utterance.  (Not really...but, I should)

And, thank you NPR.  Kudos to you for delivering information to the masses and filling in the gaps.

**I should make a disclaimer...this statement (frankly the entire post) is my attempt at being cheeky and funny about A)The fact that my hubby has won me over to NPR and B) That as a super smarty-pants guy it was inevitable that he would convince me that NPR is pretty great. And C) I'm just making fun of myself and my gaps.  I'm sarcastic and this is just a rather silly post.