Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
In recent years, this has become one of my most favorite prayers.  It is lovely, and just one reading of it brings a sense of peace and calm to my soul.  It is a prayer that we can all get behind.
Except when you look a little deeper, it isn't.  These are hard words; convicting.  Of course, I want the world to be full of those things: love, peace, pardon, faith, hope, light, joy.  But do I really want to be the one to bring them about?  Can I do that hard work?  When I look at the second part of the prayer, I can see the real challenge that has been issued.  A prayer to make myself less important in the world around me.  This Prayer of Saint Francis is a sneak attack.  At one glance, it asks us to pray for goodness in our world. Take another look, and it sidles right up next to the Litany of Humility with its brazen challenge to the pray-er.  

...that others may increase and I may decrease...
This beautiful prayer of peace is asking God to make me different.  Not the rest of the world.  Lord, make me to sow love.  Lord, make me to sow pardon.  Lord, make me to sow light.

That is a far cry from what I usually sow.  I don't know about you, but I tend to hyper-focus on sadness, devastation, and injustice for but a few breaths.  I pause, with the rest of the world when crisis happens.  I cry heavenward and rail against the suffering that we all feel.  And then, over the course of a few days or weeks or even minutes, I move on.  And I go through my life sowing the more persistent weed of indifference or selfishness.  Impatience and self-importance. 
Once, I had an experience that seared my own unkindness into my brain.  I was on my way to lead music for a retreat, and I was riding with a friend.  We went through a McDonald's drive-thru and I was floored by her unabashed generosity of spirit.  She chatted up the drive-thru attendant as though they were great friends who had known each other for years.  She didn't even bat an eye when the service was slow.  She showed genuine love and care for this person whom we had never met nor would likely ever see again.  She went out of her way to sow light.  And here I was, about to spend a whole weekend teaching young people about how much Christ loves them.  And I couldn't believe how well she loved this stranger.  
Far too often I am quick to speak and slow to listen.  Far too often I fight to make myself understood, rather than to understand the other.  Far too often I honk at the driver who ticked me off on the highway, rather than just yielding.  Far too often I am unforgiving.  Far too often I think only of myself.  
Our world is fallen and broken.  It is hard to think of the things that make it that way without getting paralyzed by anger.  But our God has given us to each other.  We can do the holy work of sowing peace, justice, truth, love, light, and joy.  But it starts with knees to the ground and eyes to the heavens.  It starts right here, in my own home and my own heart.  

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT: Parental Survival

Welcome!  Looking for ways to survive parenthood (and I don't mean the finale of Parenthood on NBC, which I'm not sure how I'll survive)?  You've come to the right place.

Let's get right to the goods, shall we?

7 Quick Takes on Surviving Parenthood

1. Always hide the homemade crap original artwork that you throw away!  I can't tell you how many times I've tossed something in the trash only to have the artist recover it.  They bring it over to me, eyes full of betrayal, paper covered in coffee grounds, and ask, "Why is this in the trash, mommy?!"  They bat their little eyes and I can only stammer in response, "I-I-I don't know!  I guess Daddy must have accidentally gotten it mixed up with the junk mail!  Come here, we'll just wipe this ketchup off and it will be good as new..."

So now I hide it.  Bury the soap carvings of sleeping bags (what even is that?), foil sculptures, paper crowns, and drawings of "T-rex Man" deep into the garbage.  Sometimes I put them in another bag, and then into the trash so they can perish undetected.  Go ahead, say it.  I'm heartless.  And then if they ask about it, I tell them it's "in storage."  Pretty soon they'll be calling me "Mother" and researching nursing homes.  When I'm gone and they tell everyone I'm "in storage" don't believe them!

2. Don't show your hand.  I don't really know if this is a good use of that expression, because I don't know how to play poker.  But I'm gonna go with it.  If I have something exciting lined up for the day, let's say, a play date with a good friend, it is best practice not to share this information with your child until it is actually happening.  The doorbell is ringing, you are in their driveway or the parking lot to Chuck-E-Cheese.  Have you ever met a four year old who is totally pumped for a big day?  Have you ever met one just after you tell them it was all a lie?  Seriously.  I don't want to deal with the aftermath of shattered dreams.

3. Popcorn or cereal night is a real thing.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Unless you are having popcorn or cereal for dinner every night, consider yourself well within your rights to invoke this as a survival mechanism.

4. Get rid of stuff.  Go through your kids' rooms or playroom or what have you and feel free to get rid of as much stuff as possible.  Sometimes you can engage your children in this process, you know, so they can learn something.  Other times things just "disappear" on their own and no one is ever the wiser.  A good way to do this is to move.  Then in 18 months when your child realizes that his penguin Happy Napper (not to be confused with his penguin Pillow Pet) is gone, you can just say it's packed in a box somewhere.  They don't have to know that "box" is a store called "Goodwill."  To quote the previous euphamism, "It's in store-age."  (See what I did there?)

5. Go outside.  Is this Fwinter (as Andrew calls it) stressing you out already?  Me too.  Is it only 2 degrees out with a windchill of negative-what-the-heck-it's-only-November?  Make the kids go outside and run laps around the house.  Not kidding.  This actually happens.

*Sidenote: I realized upon seeing it in print, that Fwinter needs further explanation.  It is not, as you might think, "eff-winter," although it seems fitting.  It is a combination of "fall" and "winter."  Fwinter.  He's 8.  I'm not that bad of a parent.

6. Teach them useful skills.  Lately, my big kids have been wanting to learn to cook things.  So we've been teaching them some stuff.  Andrew cooked eggs for his siblings for breakfast the other weekend...and it was glorious!  And one afternoon I let them make beer bread on their own.  Other things they can cook: bacon, waffles in the toaster, pancakes.  Other skills they are learning: woodworking.  Basically we are training them up to be miniature Ron Swansons. 

Even Luke has to pull his weight around here.

7.  I can't think of anymore...so I'm taking the easy way out by reminding you about the Daydreams Foundation.  I am a new board member of this organization which seeks to provide funding and eliminate barriers for low income youth to participate in extracurricular activities.  If you are in the Columbia area and like to have a good time (that sounds like I read it off of a gas station bathroom stall door, but never mind that, I'm leaving it), register for our Trivia Night on December 4th!  If you are in Far Far Away then you can contribute online by clicking the "Donate Now" button.  Please consider giving to a great cause! 

Go see Kelly for more 7 Quick Takes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autopilot Parent

Hey there.  Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year, otherwise known as the million months of cold, darkness and despair.  Looking for some cheering up?  You've obviously come to the right place.  I really do love the holidays, just not the subzero temps. 

Cold Air Hurting My Face 


But anyway.  Lately I've been racking my brains about our kids.  It seems like we are constantly putting out minor fires.  Everyone's tempers are running extra hot and we just haven't been enjoying each other like I wish we could.  Reece, in particular, seems to spend most of every day trying to make everyone around him miserable.  And I've been really frustrated about that for multiple reasons, one of which is the fact that this is his last year home with me before Kindergarten.  And I really want that time to be sweet, like it was with Andrew.  

I checked out some books from the library: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and The Highly Sensitive Child.  I was determined that the answers to his behaviors would lie within the pages.  

They didn't.  

Quiet is an absolutely riveting book about personalities and temperaments.  I would recommend it to anyone, but especially introverts or people who love introverts.  It is very brain based and is really so intriguing.  I do think Reece is an introvert, but I don't necessarily think that is the root of his behavior problems necessarily.  And he definitely does not fit the description of a highly sensitive child, like I thought he would.  So then I started considering all manner of other causes: diet, allergies, behavioral disorders.  I think I just wanted to have a reason for all of his grouchiness and mild aggression.  But after some soul searching, what it really comes down to is parenting.  And that is a pretty big bummer of a realization.  

This morning, after his friend, J, was dropped off, they immediately settled into the familiar routine of late: constant quarreling.  I was pretty fed up and so I separated them and made them play by themselves in "centers" for about 30 minutes.  Then we read some books, did a craft, had some free play and went outside.  And they were both basically delightful for most of the morning.  I didn't really have to play with them much...I was just more present, and that little shift made the difference. 

What this little experiment confirms for me is that he is really craving my attention.  And I have basically been on parenting autopilot for a long time.  I am not what you would call a "Helicopter Mom."  I firmly believe that kids need to find ways to occupy themselves and to work through their problems on their own.  But maybe I have been too distant.  We've just been cruising along at the same speed, on the same route for a lot of months.  What I'm coming to realize is that we need some recalibration.  

I typically use my days at home to DO ALL THE THINGS!  Laundry, dishes, cooking, grocery listing, meal planning, diaper washing, bed making.  You know...all the things that make a household go round.  However, I am finding that maybe I need to spend less time on my chores and more time on my kids.  It's a wicked balancing act.  We gotta have food and clean clothes.  And we can't live in squalor.  But they are still little, and they still need their mama for more than just the basic necessities.  And, after all, I don't call myself a stay at home housekeeper. 

Maybe you could pray for me during this crazy season...that we could find a way to come together, to enjoy each other and to keep our heads on straight through all the holiday hustle and bustle.  And I'll pray for you, too!

Also!  On an unrelated but awesome note: The Daydreams Foundation is having a Trivia Night to raise money for their cause!  Daydreams is a new non-profit in Columbia whose mission is to help fund extracurricular activities for youth in our community who couldn't otherwise afford to participate.  It is a great group of people with a great heart for young people and any support you can offer would be put to good use!  Go to their website to register for Trivia Night on December 4th.  Tickets are $25/person or $200 per table.  There are also business sponsorships available, so if you are a business owner who would like to sponsor, please let me know!  You can sponsor a round for $100 or the event for $500.  Do it.  Your mom would want you to.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes--All Nonsense

 7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about co hosting with Lino Rulli, cool book covers, and the best Halloween moments

It's me again.  Here are 7 Quick Takes about my week...I'm really trying to make this quick.  Scout's honor.

#1: Where would you be without a gratuitous Halloween costume pic one week post Halloween?  I don't want you to find out.  So here:

Max and the Wild Things in all their finery. 
Despite the freezing temps, we really layered up under those costumes and were plenty toasty.  And there is candy for miles around here, so parental bribery tactics are in full effect.

#2: Last week I asked for some solutions to our tiny kitchen/dining room situation.  Then we came up with this beauty!

Mike built that in one day!  It still has to be stained and sealed, but one day we're gonna put some bar stools under that sucker and call it a win!  The counter space in my house just doubled with that bad boy.  Also, for the record, we are painting those walls.  They will not be peach/pink forever. 

#3:  Reece-ism Numero Uno-- "I don't want to work on my letters.  I already know how to count."

#4: I took all five kids (my 4 plus 1) to the polls on Tuesday.  Andrew spent the entire day and the days following trying to get me to tell him who I voted for.  He declared that he was going to vote for Chuck B. because he has the most awesome sign.  Reece decided he would vote for Batman.  Raising informed citizens over here.

#5: I did not come up with this, but it was a winner of an activity.  We happen to have a bunch of golf tees, and I bought a lamp that came packed in styrofoam.  Thus, "Pound the Sound" or "Pound the Letter" was born.

Reece knows his letters, so I told him the sound and he would hammer a golf tee into the corresponding letter.  J, who is 3, is still working on letter ID, so it was easily modified for her.  They worked on this for a good 30 minutes with me, then I just let them play on their own. 

**Disclaimer**: Do not let the children try to cut it with toy saws.  Of course I was not paying attention and they were "working" with their tools for quite awhile before I discovered styrofoam all over the basement.  This happened because my children are destructobots.  Perhaps if you just equip the kids with golf tees and toy hammers, there is less room for error. 

#6: Reece-ism Numero Dos: Lately the kids have been finding and looking at lots of old pictures.  Reece always asks where he is in the picture, and then screams and cries when I tell him he wasn't born yet.  Sometimes I just say it's him so I won't have to deal with the aftermath.  "Yeah, of course that's you in that pink dress with a bow in your hair!"  There's probably therapy looming on the horizon because of it. 

#7: I told the kids, Reece (4) and J (3) to finish lunch, wipe their faces, and then go down to the playroom while I got Luke to sleep.  I came out to witness the two of them trying to saw through a beef jerky stick with a pumpkin carver.  Supervision might not be my specialty but at least they were sharing!

Happy Friday!  Go see Jen for more!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Baby Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning.  It's a thing around here now.  For those of you unfamiliar, read on for the best kept baby secret since Benadryl (kidding...don't hotline me.) 

When the three oldest were babies, I fed them the traditional way.  Puree all the foods and wrestle their tiny arms that seem to have the strength and number of one thousand octopi, somehow managing to stick a spoonful in and then watch them spit it all back out.  Then give them another spoon so they won't try to steal the one you are using and let them chew on that for half of meal-time.  Until they take your spoon, too.  Mutter curse words under your breath while you clean pureed carrots off the wall and eat your cold dinner after everyone else has left the table.

Ok.  Maybe I am using a slight bit of hyperbole here.  But some days, maybe not.

I decided this time around I was going to try the BLW magic.  Basically, you just give the baby soft foods (soft enough to smush with your fingers,)  either whole or in chunks to start.  And let them go for it.  And you don't puree anything!  And you don't put any food in their mouth, other than breastmilk or bottle!  And you can eat with the rest of the family while baby enjoys his dinner, too!  It is such a win for all, in my opinion.

We started Luke just a few weeks after he turned 6 months and, at first, he just got used to the idea of eating.  The concept is that babies learn to chew their food, then swallow from the beginning--instead of swallowing with purees and then learning to chew.  Also, I did my research and got comfortable with the idea that a baby's gag reflex is further forward in their mouth, so they are less likely to choke on food than we think.  Usually he just spits out the pieces that are too big for him.  He has only sort of choked one time in two months of eating solids.  And he just upchucked to get it all out--it wasn't a big deal.  That's actually what's supposed to happen, so he was never in any danger.  Also, I re-educated myself on what to do if a baby actually chokes, just in case. 

His first try!  "Hello, carrot."
The real "eating" was a slow process...he didn't really ingest a whole lot at first.  But now!  At 8 months old, he eats with the best of them.  And he eats EVERYTHING that is reasonable for a baby to consume.  Today, for example, he had Cheerios and whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter for breakfast, then whole wheat spaghetti and sauce (leftover from dinner) with sauteed chicken and peas for lunch.  And I did not have to do anything other than put it on his tray and make sure it was appropriately sized.

Beets!  So good!  So messy!
He actually cries now if he sees me with an apple and I don't give it to him. 
And BLW has had an added side benefit that I didn't plan on.  It has really made me start to think more seriously about the food habits of our entire family.  We eat really healthy dinners, but the rest of the day is kind of a crap shoot.  And I realized that if I wouldn't give it to the baby for health reasons, I probably shouldn't feed it to the rest of us.  So we are trimming back on the things that used to be staples in our pantry: crackers, sugary yogurt, cereal, etc.  And, hopefully, over time, we will have a more healthy lifestyle and kids who will eat real food really well!  We shall see...

This week I made my own Greek yogurt, which I then turned about half into homemade frozen "gogurts" for the kids.  We're also going to have the kids start taking their lunches to school which we have been really bad about always.  Mostly because I HATE packing lunches.  So much.  I don't know why.  Even if I pack them at night, I still hate it.  But, by golly, I'm gonna try!  I'm Pinteresting 100 Days of Real Food lunches and trying to be creative, so it isn't just a PB&J sandwich every day.  I'll let you know how it goes.

If you see me in the Taco Bell drive-thru within the next few weeks, just look the other way.  I won't tell if you won't...