Monday, May 11, 2015

Celebrating Mother's Day "Real Life" style

In honor of Mother's Day yesterday I thought I would give you all a little glimpse into our "real life" experience.  This was my very first Mother's Day with my husband home all morning.  Background: until a few months ago he had been working at a church leading worship (in a part or full-time capacity) since we started dating! As Mother's Day is always on a Sunday, that meant that he was gone before sunrise every year and didn't get home until lunch time (or later!).  I spent 5 years getting the "littles" up by myself on that morning, reminding them what the day was and telling them to give me hugs and kisses and wish me a "Happy Mother's Day," which they did, and then they would promptly forget about me for the rest of the morning, of course, because that's what preschoolers do!  To be expected.  Rushing through breakfast, clean up, kids' church clothes (which I finally learned to put on AFTER breakfast since they inevitably spill on them even if they're typically clean eaters), nursing the baby, getting spit up on, and trying to get myself ready for church somewhere in there...we were a vision!  The house always often looked like a tornado went through it by the time we left.  We usually arrived semi-on-time, hair bows somehow only slightly askew, and me exhausted and sweating profusely (even if I didn't look like it).  Eventually I would collapse in my seat for the service and enjoy the 75 minutes of time to think outside of my little world of mothering and (hopefully) pay attention to a message about things much bigger and grander and more important than myself.  Jesus' story instead of mine.  Sometimes it's hard to snap yourself out of the "fog" and remember that the world is much bigger than your little life when you have a bunch of little ones taking every ounce of physical energy from you :)  In other words, Mother's Day has always been just a normal Sunday for me and the kids and the working husband.  (Though I should note that Robin almost always left a card and flowers on the counter for me to discover when I woke up!).

This year was completely different, so wonderful, and a perfect celebration of motherhood.  Notice that I did not say that it was peaceful and quiet and relaxing.  In fact, it was none of those things!  It was loud, messy, busy, chaotic, rushed at times, and hilarious at others.  Pretty normal as far as things usually go around here with 4 kids ages 6 and under (that sounds so much easier than it did a few months ago when I had to say 4 kids ages 5 and under, ha!).  It had a very apropos ending, I must say...

After nap time we did some errands at the mall and planned to eat dinner around there afterwards.  Robin (bless his heart) wanted to go somewhere a little nicer than usual to celebrate me.  That obviously nixed Chick-Fil-A and anything along the lines of Red Robin.  But at the same time we didn't want to go somewhere too much nicer because it needed to be kid friendly and not break the bank.  By the time we narrowed down our options everywhere had a solid 45 minute wait, with nowhere to sit in the waiting room.  Obviously this does not work when your kids are 6, 4, 2, and 14 months.   We finally drove to a restaurant we like that was about 15 minutes away and had no wait (Mellow Mushroom, if you're a local!).  It fit the bill of a little nicer than usual, kid friendly, not going to break the bank, and no wait time.  For some reason our food was taking a really long time to come out and the kids were trying to hard to be patient but were on the border of losing it...  They even wanted to pick off of our adult salad plates while they waited for their food ;-)  When the food finally came, Tessa (almost 3 yrs old) suddenly said she wasn't hungry.  Of course that did NOT go over well considering that we had just ordered her her own meal (which we don't always do for the littlest ones!).  We gave her "the look" (all you parents know what I'm talking about), gave her a short (and pointless) lecture about eating the food we just bought for her, and commanded her to take a bite (like any normal parent would do, right!?).  She refused and this went back and forth for a minute or two.  The other kids were whimpering and trying to wait for their food to cool down so they could eat it, and Robin and I were a little bit annoyed that we couldn't start into our own meals because we were trying to convince Tessa to eat hers. 

Finally Tessa caved to our parental authority and took a bite.  VICTORY!!!  Until about 9 seconds later...  She looked a little pail, was squirming in her seat, making some pathetic noises, and coughed/gagged.  Robin looked annoyed again for a second and then I put the pieces together and said, "put your napkin under her mouth right now!  She's going to throw up!"  Yep.  Called it.  She puked ALL over herself and the booth seat we were sharing.  Robin tried to catch it in the cloth napkin.  Didn't even come close to getting all of it (valiant effort, honey!).  So, Tessa is now soaked from her hair to her socks and scream-crying (I think that should be a word), the other kids are just starting to eat their food, the table next to us is just staring at us, Robin and I haven't even started our dinner, and we have a couple of nice black cloth restaurant napkins full of vomit.  We literally started laughing.  The irony of the day and moment!  We very rarely go out for a sit-down dinner with the kids.  And of course the night we decided to splurge and go for it, this happens.  Robin said, "Happy Monther's Day!"  We called our server over and told her we had to immediately box up all of the food she just brought out because we needed to leave.  One look around and she understood our "situation."  The other kids started the wind-up-to-cry since they were so hungry and had only take a couple of bites of their food.  I told them they could keep their whole to-go box on their lap and eat in the car.  Tessa is still scream-crying.  We used the rest of the cloth napkins (sorry restaurant staff!) and a whole lotta baby wipes to clean up the booth and Tessa as much as possible.  Still laughing at this point.  Then we packed up all of our kid gear, guided the soaked 2-yr-old out of the restaurant, and took our more-expensive-meal-than-usual out to the car.  After I got Tessa changed into dry clothes and buckled her in to her car seat and promptly fell asleep (as in, drooling on her shirt).  Poor baby girl!  We dragged her around a mall and took her to a restaurant where we made her take a bite when she clearly had good reasons not to!  I wish I had documented the restaurant scene, but I was a little too distracted... 
Sicky girl driving home
Anyway, that was our Mother's Day saga.  We laughed about it, we survived just fine.  It was truly just a picture of what motherhood (and fatherhood!) is all about.  Putting your own needs (like hunger and a nice meal!) aside in an instant and doing whatever has to be done for your kids.  Sure it was a bummer to pack up and leave before we had eaten, but we were honestly not upset about it.  Might have had something to do with the fact that we felt guilty for making her eat when she must have felt nauseous!  Around 8:30 pm Robin and I finally sat down in the family room and ate our dinners with a glass of wine.  That just how it goes, folks!  Over the last few years I have watched some good friends, some aquaintences and some relatives go through unimaginable trials with their kids.  Infertility, losing babies late in pregnancy, and fighting for their kids' lives through various conditions.  I can't even begin to fathom what they have been and are going through.  I think it's important to keep the perspective that every day with our kids is a gift no matter what.  An immeasurable blessing.  I could care less that our dinner out was cut short.  I got to spend the day with my whole family.  I had to take care of a sick kid.  Well, that is life as a mother!  I am so happy to do it.  So thankful to be able to care for my babies.  Blessed beyond words by a husband who provides for us and loves us.  Parenting isn't glamorous, but it is priceless, and I am thankful for every single day I get to do it.

Speaking of...  One more highlight of my day.  My 6-year-old son left me the sweetest gift.  He colored a picture for me, folded it up as neatly as possible, and put it on my nightstand.  Along with $.44 as a gift.  He can't open his piggy bank by himself, so while I was gone the day before he must have grabbed all the change he had from his nightstand.  Change that hadn't yet made it into his bank.  And he gave it to me as his own, unprompted Mother's Day gift.  He has always been so generous and these little acts are one of the best things in this life.  I love that he thought of me on his own, and gave me all he could find.  What a sweet gift!  He stole my heart 6 years ago, that kid...

It was a really, really, really wonderful Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My favorite parenting resources (so far!)


So we've been at this parenting thing for 6.5 years now.  Sometimes we feel like we've got a decent handle on things.  Oftentimes we feel like we have no idea what we're doing still.  Ha!  (Some of you are thinking, "Man, that's a long time!  They must be experts by now."  Others of you are shaking your heads, chuckling, and saying, "Oh honey, you've barely scratched the surface of parenting...  You've got it coming to you still!"  I tend to believe the latter, myself)  One thing we know for SURE is that the following resources have been incredibly influential in forming our parenting "tool box," if you will.  I won't go in to a ton of detail about each resource, but I thought I would share a little blurb about each since I've had many friends ask me what we have found that works, where we got certain ideas from, etc.  We are still learning every day and are fully aware that we have many many years of challenges ahead of us as the kids get older and progress through different stages.  But so far in the journey, these are resources that we have loved!  Some are more philosophical in nature, others are more practical, and some are a good mix of both. 

I would like to preface this list by saying one thing first...  We believe that a major portion of our lifetime is devoted to raising our kids and training them up in the way they should go, so taking the time to seek out wise counsel from veteran parents, and reading, learning and praying about parenting resources to use is valuable time very well spent.  We don't see results overnight, and we didn't spend just one Saturday taking a class.  We have invested A LOT of time in the following materials (be it on our own watching DVD's and reading, or in a group setting ) and we can't think of anything else more important, so it's been worth it to us!  Life is busy, there are many other activities and hobbies and pursuits (and kids!) to take up your time, but I would encourage you to find some parenting resources that you feel good about and invest the time in your little people now so that you can reap the sweet rewards down the road.         

Growing Families International is an organization that we have grown to love over the last 7 years. This link takes you to the "About" section on their website if you want to learn more about their philosophy.  They fall in to the "both"category - philosophical and practical.  Some of the materials we have purchased the DVD and workbooks and done them on our own.  Other times we have been able to find a local class here in Colorado (through Cherry Hills Community Church) to go through the material as a group with fabulous facilitators.  All of the books, CD's, DVD's, etc can be ordered from the GFI bookstore.

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The bookstore link above shows all of the available parenting resources.  We started with their "Preparation for Parenting" material when we were pregnant with our first baby, learning about how to help baby get on a flexible yet predictable routine with eating and sleeping, and answering many of the rookie parent's questions on what in the world to expect with a tiny new human in the family!  We proceeded to go through their Babyhood Transitions material, Prep for Toddler and Toddlerhood Transitions which covers everything from naps, starting solids, highchair behavior, methods of correction, expecting/understanding/dealing with tantrums (I mean, we all think OUR kids won't do that, right!?  Riiiiiiight...  And then you actually have a toddler and you experience reality), ideas of how to structure a toddler's day, etc.  Most recently we did the Parenting from the Tree of Life series parts 1-3 in a group setting.  It was FABULOUS!  This series starts off giving lots of background for how important it is to speak words of LIFE into our kids, how to know and speak your kid's (and your spouse's!) love languages in ways that matter to them, and many of the Biblical responsibilities of parents.  Then it moves into the practical advice which is GOLDEN.  Their teaching on obedience, correction, discernment, encouragement, and everything in between is incredibly valuable.  I would say this material starts being applicable around age 4+ up through pre-teens (they have another series for parents of  pre-teens and teens.  Lord have mercy, we personally aren't there yet ;-).  I truly don't know where we would be without the principles of GFI.
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The next resource is a booked called Creative Familiy Times: Practical Activities for Building Character.  I LOVE this book for littler ones!  It's very short, concise, practical advice and "how-to's" to structure your toddler/preschooler's day.  We do book time, play alone time, blanket time, talk time, date nights and all kinds of little ideas from here that have been game changers for our days at home.  It's such a small book it's hard to see how much valuable information could be packed in there!  Super practical. 

Creative Family Times: Practical Activities for Building Character - Hadidian, Allen, and Hadidian, Connie, and Wilson, Will, Sr.
Another book that we love is "Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave?"  It's so good!  I'd say this book starts being more applicable for ages 4+.  Definitely still some stuff in there even for teenagers!  This one is a good mix of the philosophical/practical.  Lot's of great tips and the reasons WHY behind behavior and correction and new habits to form.  Good stuff.
The last book on the list for today is "Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus."  This is probably the most important book.  You can read every manual and how-to and parenting self-help book on the planet, but if you are missing passing on the message of Grace to your kids all day every day, then you're missing the whole point of parenting.  I'm preaching to myself here, ya'll!  I'm about 3/4 of the way through this one and need to finish it ASAP.  It is a message I need to hear.  Over and over.  It is beautiful and refreshing and practical and encouraging and life-giving both for the reader AND for the kids who will hopefully reap the benefits as parents read :)  We have loved Growing Families International and all of their material, as I first listed, but I think it's important to pair this book along with those resources.  It is possible for some people to get so caught up in the formula of "do this" as a parent and your kids will be guaranteed to "do that," but sometimes it doesn't work that way.  Even if we follow the parenting handbooks to a "T," we are all so very very human, and will make mistakes constantly (parents and kids!), and this book helps you understand that and how those mistakes are redeemed by Jesus all day long.  Even when we feel like total failures as parents, this book is a sweet reminder that God is ultimately overseeing our kids if we let Him, and it doesn't matter how many times we fail.  It only matters that we point our kids towards Him and His saving Grace when we do fall. 

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
There you have it!  Whenever anyone asks me for any kind of thoughts or advice having to do with parenting, it's almost guaranteed to come from something on the above list.  There are SOOO many ideas and opinions out there and it can get overwhelming as a parent, so hopefully this list will narrow down a few options for someone out there :)  Many blessings on your efforts!
(I should go finish reading the rest of "Give Them Grace" right patience wears thin when my husband is on a business trip and I'm wrangling 4 little ones on my own.  Here's to keeping my cool and giving them - and me - GRACE tonight!  Amen!?)