Children, Christmas, Family

We Got To Spread Cheer Across the World!

operation christmas childWe were so excited, this year we got to spread cheer across the world! Well, to one little boy between the ages of 5 and 9. We participated in an awesome program called Operation Christmas Child, which is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.

I had brought home an excitingly colorful shoebox and the kids were curious as to what this was. After all, who doesn’t like a bright red box with little cartoon children on the side and a decorated airplane on top, right?!

Once we cleared up the fact that this was not a gift to our children (maybe a teeny bit of disappointment for the kiddos) and started to tell them who this special box was for, they couldn’t wait to go shopping for their new little friend they most likely would never meet.

What a wonderful experience this was! We chose a boy between ages 5 and 9. After all, we know a little bit about boys in that ages group. And off to the store we went. Now, sometimes it can be a little difficult for young children to understand that the toys are for someone else. I’m not going to lie, there may have been a few tears shed because the shopping excursion did not yield a special present for our kids. But this is all part of the experience!

It was a great opportunity to remind our kids how the recipient of this box lived. What he had for toys, a home and what his life was generally like. We showed our kids a video of the kids receiving and opening their Christmas boxes and it was electric to watch the joy and happiness on the faces of the children who received a gift.

operation christmas childSo we thought about what we could get for this little boy. What kind of things he would enjoy and how we could get as much stuff into that box as possible! Fun things, silly things, crayons. A notebook for drawing, lots of Match Box cars, a stuffed animal and a cool football! Oh, and some cozy socks!

We got home and laid out all the gifts onto the kitchen table. “How are we gonna get all of that stuff into this little box?!” But you know what? It all fit! Perfectly!

We said a little prayer over this box and sealed it up, complete with a special sticker on the front that connects us to the box. That way, we can track the box and see where it goes! 

So once our box was ready, Daddy and the kids took it to the drop-off location. What a fantastic operation that was, too! Who knew so many loving and caring people were involved in such a great world-wide operation!

operation christmas child

At the drop-off, we got to see the entire process from when we first get the box to after we drop it off. It was so neat to see where all the box goes before its final destination into the hands of an excited little boy on the other side of the world!

We also got to see all the volunteers who locally coordinate receiving filled boxes. They prepped them for packaging and delivery to the place where more volunteers will then load them for international shipment. These boxes will be delivered to more than 200 countries around the world and ours will be one of them!

The only down-side to this is that our kids don’t get to see the little boy’s face when he opens his gift. But we can only pray that he enjoys these special items picked out just for him. And that along with those gifts, his little heart and mind are open to the message of the Gospel that’s coming with it. 

What a fun project this was, and it was kind of a last-minute idea, too. I just happened to walk by a stack of empty boxes and picked one up, but I assure you that this is a new family tradition that we will enjoy doing to begin the  Christmas season!

operation christmas child

Children, Family, Uncategorized

She Takes Her Job Very Seriously

takes her job seriouslyRecently, girl child got to be a flower girl in a family wedding. Not only would she be a flower girl, but this would be her first ever wedding! She was asked about six months ago by the bride and it’s been a frequent topic of conversation in our household ever since! This is a very important job and she has had every intention of taking her job very seriously. 

As the big day grew closer and closer, our conversations became more frequent and detailed. We talked about what her dress would look like, how she would gently toss flower petals as she walked down the aisle before the bride. How she would stand at the front with the best view in the house. We talked about how the bride would kiss the groom at the end and we giggled with glee at the thought of it! 

takes her job seriouslyCountless drawings appeared all over the house of child-drawn brides and grooms, brides kissing grooms, flower girls, bouquets, wedding cakes, etc. The big day even made it onto a hand-made calendar hung on the refrigerator door so that no one would forget!

And when girl child’s flower girl dress arrived, she could hardly contain her excitement. Being a flower girl suddenly became real! It wasn’t just something people said. She was actually going to BE a flower girl. My stars!!

Finally, oh finally the big day arrived. And suddenly…it hit her. 

As we were curling girl child’s hair into little ringlets, she began to breathe heavily and start to cry and complain of a stomach ache. I feared she was sick and wondered how I would nurse her back to health enough to make it down the aisle when she tearfully said, “I’m not nervous!” And this told me she was very nervous, which is unusual for her.

So we stopped everything. 

I sat her down on the toilet (seat cover) and told her to breathe like me…slowly in….slowly out. Slowly in…slowly out. I wiped her little tears and we talked quietly about how wonderful today is. And how good a job girl child did in rehearsal the evening before. We talked about the people who would be watching and how those same people saw her yesterday.  Then we talked about how it’s the bride who should be really nervous…and that girl child is leading the way for the bride to walk down the isle to marry her love. 

Then we remembered how they would kiss at the end! And how giggly that would make us (her)! It was after this little conversation that girl child whispered, “You know, Momma, I really did feel nervous and scared but I feel good now.”

takes her job seriouslyWe clamored into the car and drove to the wedding venue at which point I told girl child that her job for today had begun. She was to be helpful in all things where she could and then she would be the best flower girl in the whole world! Girl child did her job well. She was a helper. And she was friendly to all. She introduced herself to any guest she didn’t recognize and also talking with those she did know. 

She mingled, she helped, she delivered messages between the bride and groom. Whatever was asked of her, she happily obliged, bless her. This responsibility was so important to her and my buttons were bursting as I watched her be the flower girl as best as she could. 

When the time came, she got into line and waited until it was her turn to walk down the aisle. She made sure her little basket was ready. Her bouquet tucked into the side of the wicker of her basket and all her little loose flower petals ready to mark the path for the bride.

One deep breath and away she went…delicately walking, lightly dropping flower petals. Smiling. Thinking. Stepping. Dropping petals. That’s a lot to remember all at once. But it kept that fast-thinking brain occupied enough that it kept the worrying at bay. She did it. And she did her job well. 

At the end, I asked her what she thought of the day. She said, “Momma, I’m tired…but it sure was beautiful!”

It surely was!

takes her job seriously

Children, Family

Toothless is My Name

toothlessShow of hands of everyone who loves the tooth-pulling stage of childhood. No one? Yeah, me either. I’m a giant weenie about wiggly teeth. I want no part of the dangling, wiggly, baby tooth holding on for dear life. Yet somehow, I managed to have children who love loose teeth! Of our three kids, two are in the “tooth falling out” stage and those suckers fell out like popcorn! I had kids walking around essentially toothless! [Note: this post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to buy a product using the link, the cost to you doesn’t increase but your purchase helps us fund this blog so we thank you!]

So recently we found ourselves once again with a freshly lost tooth. Boy child has just pulled out his last (for awhile) baby tooth. Tooth-pulling in our family is a big event. There is not the slightest bit of apprehension…only growing excitement as the tooth becomes more and more loose. Because that means a visit from the Tooth Fairy!!

Upon losing his tooth, boy child put it in the special cup and put the cup at his spot at the kitchen table (our designated landing strip for the Tooth Fairy). Now, let me say that when the kids first started losing teeth, I went all out. Matching envelope and personalized note card from a uniquely named Tooth Fairy…what in tarnation was I thinking?? Yes, let’s add work to a task I’m half likely to forget to accomplish as it is. So…over time, the Tooth Fairy has become less personal but at least she pays out consistently. The kids don’t seem to mind.

Except with boy child, we keep forgetting to make sure the Tooth Fairy visits! I don’t know what the mental block is…we set a reminder on our phones to remember to exchange the tooth for money but dang it if we don’t forget and that poor boy comes downstairs to find his tooth right where he left it. 

Crap.

toothlessOf course, we immediately spot the “problem” with the Tooth Fairy. “Buddy, you didn’t put the cup at the table!” or as with the most recent excuse for being horrible parents, “you forgot to write the Tooth Fairy a letter!” I know, we are horrible for putting our failure on his lack of being able to follow very explicit and apparently unbendable rules of how to submit a tooth to the Tooth Fairy. 

But he doesn’t seem upset by his blunders and willingly accepts that his mistake caused her delay. I think girl child is on to us but she doesn’t say anything. She’s not dumb…she knows being quiet keeps the money coming.

So last night, boy child wrote out his letter. He drew a special dragon (pretty good, if you ask me!), drew a “picher” of himself and drew a box for his Tooth Fairy to put his/ her name. He placed his tooth properly on top of the letter and set it at his place at the table in just the right spot. Everything looked perfect. There’s no way she won’t leave him money now! So off to bed he goes. 

I kid you not, we nearly forgot to exchange that stinkin’ tooth!! But, thankfully, we remembered at the last minute. I feel like we’ve created a non-personal Tooth Fairy experience for boy child after we went through so much with girl child’s Tooth Fairy. We had even given her a special fairy name, beautiful stationary and subsequent visit glitter to mark where she had trod during the night. So, since this was boy child’s last tooth for a while and he has developed a recent love for all things dragon (from the movie, How to Train Your Dragon…awesome movie, by the way!), I made a special note from his viking Tooth fairy- Bicuspid the Great (since he asked for his Tooth Fairy’s name). And not just any letter…one that was uniquely special since boy child appreciates these kind of surprises:

toothless

For those who do not read backwards (a truly unique skill I am fluent in from a very young age!), it says, “I have the proof that you lost a tooth! Brush everyday and you’ll be on your way. To no longer be TOOTHLESS!” 

He loved it! 

 

Children, Family, travel

Off the Beaten Path

off the beaten pathSometimes you need to get off the beaten path. Get away from the noise and the commotion, the electronics and the hustle of life. This is a concept we always try to instill in our kids, though they don’t always appreciate the simplicity of it.

We love the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. It’s our home away from home. We know all the secrets, the best waterfall spots, the hikes and the stories from long ago. It’s truly amazing how quiet the parkway can be. The sounds of nature, of the birds and the animals scurrying about their business.

The silence is loud up there. And it’s a beautiful sound.

Our kids don’t so much appreciate this just yet, but we still encourage them to stop and listen. To smell the air and feel the cold breezes on their faces. And to see the blue that gave the mountains their name. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we get to see the clouds tuck the mountains in like a blanket, with only the mountain peaks sticking out above.

off the beaten pathWe stop for hikes and no one is too little to participate. The hikes leave the familiarity of the parking area and quickly meander around rocks and exposed tree roots. This is where the kids begin to enjoy their visit with the parkway. We see tiny salamanders peeking out of the wet moss along the waterway at Mabry Mill, peregrine falcons guarding their nests around Devil’s Courthouse, a black bear jogging across the parkway, as if to say, “don’t mind me…just passing through!”. Or we find a rushing water cascade at Wilson’s Creek that runs under the parkway and feel clean, cold mountain water.

off the beaten pathWe visit the ranger station at Waterrock Knob and hike under the impressive Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering feat that kept the parkway road off of the delicate vegetation of Grandfather Mountain. We stop by Moses Cone Manor, walk along his old paths and see the pastures that lead to the family grave stones. Once in awhile we can park the car along an overlook to watch a thunderstorm move across the valley far out in front of us.

You can do all sorts of exciting, fun, busy activities on vacation and we do those things as well. But we always make time to visit our dear friend when we can. The parkway and its beautiful scenery have done so much healing and restoration for us throughout the years. It’s become like medicine for us. We miss it when we are away too long. And we hate to leave when we are there.

Girl child asked me recently why we like to be here so much. I told her that this beautiful place fills up my soul when it gets empty. Some may say that only God can do that, and that’s true. His beauty and His creation fills my soul and revives it when I find that it’s become empty.

off the beaten path

 

 

Children, Family

The Rain and the Soul of a Child

rain soul of childRecently on a Monday afternoon, it rained unexpectedly. No thunder or lightning…just rain. The kids had been doing their schoolwork most of the day but were finished and had hoped to go outside to play. So they were not happy to see the sky open up and pour down on their plans. [NOTE: This post may contain affiliate links. It helps support our blog but we only recommend things we have tried and love!]

So we watched it pour and pour and the kids tried to think of things to do now that they were officially stuck in the house. But then the rain slowed to a steady sprinkle. Seeing that there was no thunder or lightning and that this was a pop up fall shower, I told the kids to get their rain boots on. I also told baby girl to get her new umbrella that she had colored herself. (This is the neatest umbrella that has panels of colorless drawings that your kids can color with water-proof markers…completely adorable!) They all happily obliged because they knew what was coming next.

Outside we went, into the steady sprinkles for some good old fashioned puddle jumping and playing in the rain.

This seems to be a lost art, though the instructions for doing this activity are woven into a child’s DNA. You don’t see this activity much anymore but I think it’s one that is useful to everyone who engages in it.

Playing in the rain feeds the soul of a child.

rain soul of childIt does. Scientific fact. Playing in the rain allows kids to get wet and dirty and it also allows the built up laughter deep inside of them (not just the little laughs at the surface) to bubble up and be released. This causes the mouth muscles to engage the usually-underworked latero-obglingota maxio facial muscles. Ok, so maybe that last part is a bit made up. But it does make them smile huge and constantly.

And the laughter…all the giggles! The birds in the trees even stop their singing to watch the fun the kids are having. I watch them soak up the rain into their stringy hair and a little bit inside their rain boots. They jump in puddles, the bigger the splash the better. Running in the puddles works well, too. All of this gets the heart pumping and the laughter flowing. The eyes sparkling and the soul feeding.

This is what children thrive on…fun. No bickering, no arguing, no whining and no pouting. It’s virtually impossible to simultaneously do any of these offensive kid behaviors and also play in the rain. Also scientific fact.

rain soul of childPlaying in the rain is one of the few times I can count on my kids not arguing with each other. They truly enjoy each other’s company and feed off of each other while splashing in the puddles.

Imagine all the memories they are stitching together in their childhood. Stitching together a blanket of memories that they’ll undoubtedly pull out of the closet when they’re older and wrap themselves up in it to recall those moments of pure bliss and innocence.

Maybe all of us should go play in the rain every now and then.

 

Children, Family, Uncategorized

One Day She Will Roll Her Eyes At Me

one day she will roll her eyes at meWhen our first child was born, I remember looking down at her, in awe of her newness and so in love with this warm, wiggly little being. And I remember thinking that this beautiful gift from God would one day roll her eyes at me in frustration. I knew that day would come. Because she would grow and learn and develop her own opinions and thoughts about things.

And occasionally her thoughts would be in direct opposition to my thoughts. She would grow to want to be independent and the struggle between parents holding on and children wanting to let go would rage on, like a dance with all the delicacy of a bull in a china shop.

Fast forward to today. Girl child really likes to do things by herself. Not like baby girl does…spilling the cereal all over the table because she wanted to pour it herself but does not yet possess the fine motor skills to maintain accuracy when aiming for her cereal bowl. Girl child likes responsibility. She likes to do things that confirm she’s growing up. Like emptying the dishwasher herself, including the knives. She knows what’s been off limits to her until she’s old enough. And she wants to be old enough!

So, as she gains more and more independence, I wonder where I will fit in to her world. When she was fresh from God, I was completely in charge of everything for her. Now I reach into my pockets and hand over yet another thing I managed that she now can do for herself. Lord help me when she’s old enough to drive.

That’s kind of scary. Because at some point in her life, I won’t know where she is or what she’s doing. She’ll call me and check in (she better if she knows what’s good for her!). We will chat and catch up on all the stuff she’s been into. Maybe she’ll share heartbreak with me, but who knows. Maybe not. And then, she’ll hang up and go on with her life. Without me.

As we move further away from dependence, I try to remind her how family always sticks together. How we always look out for each other, no matter what. That her brother and sister are now and will forever be her closest and best friends. She will still roll her eyes every now and then but I’m trying to plant the seeds now so that later, when she needs the tree of support and faithful love and encouragement, she’ll find us all there.

 

 

 

Children, Family, Issues!, Social media

So Strong and So Mighty

So Strong and so mightyRemember the song, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do”?

The mountains are His, the valleys are His. The stars are His handiwork too.

Recently I got to see something that reminded me of my childhood church. I saw a Bible Study where the folks (mostly older adults…there’s something there, too) came to each other, hugged each other, checked in on each other, exchanged smiles, enjoyed a laugh, called out to each other. I couldn’t help but think that these lovely people are an example of what we have lost in our society.

These people surely had opinions on what was going on in the world, immigration issues, whether they want more gun control or not, their thoughts on the President…the list goes on. But more so, they kept it to themselves. They didn’t plaster their polarizing opinions on social media in an attempt to be the single-handed catalyst that our United States needs right now.

Looking at these people made me long for my own childhood days of church where folks just wanted to see how “your Momma and them” are doing. Where they gathered together in earnest prayer and thanksgiving.

I think of my kids.

I give them an instruction to clean the family room. Simple enough… “Just pick up your own things. Worry about yourself.”

And then, it starts. The arguing. Sometimes they argue with each other over literally the stupidest things. Oh, they seem so important to them but as the adult peering over them, I can assure you that this thing they’re arguing about is so very unimportant. Not only that, their arguments are weak and frankly riddled with logic holes. They are just too immature and busy arguing to even realize it.

I call the offending children to me and there standing before me are two kids still going at it with each other. Each thinking of how important it is that they win this argument.

strong and so mightyThis makes me think of how we look in front of our Lord. And when I say “we”, I mean the body of Christ. We bicker and argue over the nastiness of our President, gun control, violence, world issues, free enterprise, capitalism, abortion, immigration…right in front of Him. He has given us the instruction to love our neighbor as ourselves, to follow Him and to lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ. Simple enough.

Then why are we bickering with each other? Why are we debating each other? Because of all the squabbling I’ve seen and heard, I’ve not seen or heard of one person actually doing something about it other than working out the finger muscles as a keyboard jockey, spewing back-handed insults at brothers and sisters in the name of calling out injustice.

In love, of course. As if that makes it ok.

I think God is powerful enough and the Holy Spirit moves fine without our opinions. God wins in the end. God is in control. And God is enough. What if, instead of wasting time convincing the other person why he’s wrong, we got on our knees in prayer? What if we humble ourselves to the Lord and pray?

Do you think God is big enough and strong enough?

Children, Family, Funnies..., travel

That time she almost peed in the Uber!

uberYou guys! You don’t know stress until you experience something so traumatic as hitching a ride in a lovely Uber with your littles only to hear “Momma…I have to go potty weely bad!” from the backseat. Um. wut?? The littlest of our littles has urgently advised she has to go and she can’t hold it. We are at the near beginning of our ride back into Washington DC from Alexandria during evening traffic. So, the seemingly forever 7 mile trek to the hotel is wrought with pleas of relief because her pee-pees are coming and she can’t hold it anymore!!!!!

At first we figure, how bad can she really have to go…I mean she went twice in the course of our dinner (completely normal activity for her- a combination of curiosity of what the bathroom looks like and maybe also actually having to go). There can’t really be THAT MUCH pee in her at this point. But then we start thinking, she’s really sticking to this ‘having to go potty’ mess. And she’s getting a little louder.

We try telling her “we’re almost there…look I can see it!” (we can’t see it AT ALL). That does not work.

We try telling her to imagine her pee is going back into his little house (a trick my grandma used on me as a kid and it usually bought us about 10 minutes). That also does not work.

Now we start really feeling the stress of the logistics of managing the situation if, in fact, she really can’t hold it any longer as she is now vocalizing quite loudly. I mean, there’s no way the Uber driver can’t hear what’s going on at this point. We are in a mini-van. A nicely appointed one with comfortable leather seats. Crap. What if this child actually pees on this guy’s car? What’s the protocol here?

Anyone who’s been to DC knows you can’t just “pull over” and “stop in” to a “shop”. Besides the double-parked issue, there’s also this: “No, pal, those restrooms are for paying customers only”. And a teary-eyed four-year-old whose pee-pees are coming doesn’t faze them at all. Those cold-hearted savages.

Nope. We have to make it to the hotel. We HAVE to make it to the hotel.

So baby girl is now crying, “I can’t make it! My pee-pees are coming!!” and she’s wiggling all over the place. I spot the car mats and see that they are the plastic kind with spill catching grooves all in them. Ok. Worst case scenario, I lift baby girl up, she pees all over herself onto the mat. We arrive at the hotel, give the Uber driver an extra $20 for his trouble while I take the mat into the bathroom and rinse it down.

While I’m mentally preparing for this scenario, my dear husband has come up with his own idea. He’s thinking of taking off his t-shirt and fashioning a diaper around baby girl so at least his shirt bears the brunt of her dilemma. Bless him.

uber alexandria washington DCA huge tour bus has now pulled in front of us, slowing our rate on the last leg of our seemingly endless trip. CRAP!! MOVE!! It is at this point that I know for sure that our Uber driver is in this with us as he starts maneuvering like a parent who’s kid has to pee. He weaves in and out of stupid traffic…and this is more than the efficiency that Uber drivers usually use. This guy does not want his car to be peed on. But he says nothing. He just focuses on his mission.

Finally…we round the last turn. We really CAN see the hotel. “Look baby girl! There’s our hotel! We are here!!” She’s still a crying mess. But we made it. As the driver rounds the turn in the courtyard, I’ve already unbuckled her so I can grab her and dash out of the car. Whatever happens next, I can handle.

I proclaim to the Uber driver, “we are still dry!” and he smiles at us. We thank him for this expeditiousness and I bolt to the lobby bathroom with baby girl. We make it to the bathroom, I lock the door and strip down her pants, then hoist her up on the potty. She then starts chatting about how the bathroom light turns itself on and off and did I know this? Also she can’t reach the toilet paper but that’s ok because Momma can hand her some. This is her favorite hotel ever.

Wait, what?!? GO POTTY!!!

She says, “oh yeah!” like she forgot! Then the relieving sounds of tinkling and she smiles up at me, saying, “See?? I told you I had to go!”

Traveling with little kids…ugh!!

 

 

 

 

Children, Family, parenting, Uncategorized

Don’t Cross The Line

Cross the lineEach child is uniquely different, with different personalities and different triggers to action. So what happens when your child is willfully disobedient or unruly? When they knowingly cross the line?

You’ll Break Your Tailbone!

helicopter parentRecently my little kids got roller skates! I discovered three pairs of skates at a thrift store that perfectly fit each kid. And they were the grow-with-me skates. All for the price of $9!! So I put the skates on the kids…8, 7 and 4 years old. I also made them wear their bike helmets. I never wore mine when skating, but I think the Earth’s gravitational pull is stronger now so the odds of the kids falling and busting their heads is significantly greater than when I was a kid.

Anyway…it became obvious really quickly that these kids were not good at skating. If you ever were unsure if you were a helicopter parent, put skates on your kids. You’ll find out where you stand really quickly! So, I established boundaries for skating. The kids couldn’t pass the first line in the driveway until they had become a little more proficient in not falling all over the place. Our driveway slopes upward so I was not about to let them up that hill until they showed me some skill.

Of course soon enough, girl child was a skating “pro” (not really…but she’s waaay better than she was) and boy child was completely out of control but for some reason never fell. Like ever. I’m not sure what was happening but it was almost like he couldn’t fall if he wanted to. He was a straight up mess of flailing arms and wildly kicking, rolling feet but his grin was huge and he always made it to his intended destination (the other side of the driveway into the grass). So I relaxed the rule a bit for them.

Baby girl? That was another story. She is not good at all with skating. Partly because she’s four and how good can you actually be at that age? Partly because she kept sitting down, goofing off, taking one skate off and just not getting any real practice time in. But as soon as she saw girl child and boy child crossing “the line” she wanted to cross the line as well.

Oh heck no, darling. No way in all of heck am I going to let you past that line. Are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself skate? She was not pleased that she couldn’t cross the line. So do you know what she spent the rest of skate time doing? Getting herself right up to the line and looking back at me with a sparkly eye while saying, “I’m gonna cwoss da line, Momma!”

Why would she do this? Why would she knowingly disobey me and why is she wanting to cross the line? Well, if you’ve met baby girl, you’ll know the force is strong in that one. She’s got a strong will that makes me wonder what we are going to do with her because all of our tried and true manipulation tactics do not work on this child.

So here’s the thing..and believe me when I say I’ve failed at this. Miserably. Yelling at a child like this will not make her want to change whatever she’s doing and do what it is that you want her to do. In fact, it thus becomes her mission to never do that thing you want her to do. Or conversely, she will try come hell or high water to do the thing you’ve yelled at her not to do. And this may or may not include skating past the line.

Manipulation- The Puppeetering of Childhood

We may have stumbled upon some things that work pretty good for this kind of child. I don’t claim to guarantee these will always work and maybe these are unique to baby girl. But here’s some things that we found to be effective:

  1. A distinct choice Not a crappy choice…she smells a bad deal a mile away. A good choice. Baby girl falls apart if she doesn’t get to sit next to Momma at a restaurant. Like big, loud, long-lasting fall apart. So…a trip to the bathroom to discuss options is in order. I squat down to her eye level and I ask her to quiet her cry. Then I ask her to take a breath…fill her lungs (she obliges). I tell her “here are your two options:” and I make sure to put up two fingers so she “sees” her options. “#1, you sit across from Momma now and it’ll be your turn to sit by me the next restaurant we go to. I’ll write it down. #2, we go home right now and you spend the rest of the afternoon in your room while girl child and boy child skate.” She gets to choose her fate. Now she’ll try to negotiate and I again list her two options. She’ll try to wind up her fit and I tell her the choices are gone, it’s time to go home. At this point in her young life, she can’t call my bluff so she starts yelling “No, Momma!” and I start the process over again. I give her the two choices. Once she resigns herself to choosing option 1, I tell her how proud I am of her and I ask her for a hug, which she really wants. While I hug her I tell her I’m so happy she will be across from me because I can look at her beautiful eyes when we talk. She suddenly likes this idea.
  2. “I need you to…OK?” I used to think asking a child “OK?” after I gave an instruction was a sign of weakness. But now I see it, at least for baby girl, as a way to empower her to be a part of what she’s about to do. Obviously I still manipulate the situation to produce the desired result, but she gets to actually agree “all by herself”. “Baby girl, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” or “Baby girl, I need you to pick up your books, ok?”. She usually responds favorably to this kind of request. But in the instances where she may balk, I sprinkle the request with a compliment: “Baby girl, You are always so good at helping out, I need you to help me set the table, ok?” Compliments go far with her…really far. She wants to do good. She wants to be noticed for doing what she is supposed to do. If she’s doing something she knows is good and we are a little slow to notice her, she’ll say, “Momma aren’t you so very pwoud of me?” This is the part that impresses me. She really does want to do the right thing. We’ve just got to convince her of what it is sometimes.
  3. Logic At least with Baby girl, she gets logic. She really understands it. The key is to keep it simple and attainable. So don’t threaten her with tossing all her clothes in the trash if she doesn’t put them away. That’s obviously not going to happen and it’ll reduce the credibility of your future logic arguments. Logic to baby girl looks like this: “Baby girl, I need you to put all of your markers away because I’m worried that puppy dog will get a hold of them and start chewing on them. I don’t want a marker to get stuck in her belly because she will get very sick!” Baby girl is loyal to her dog. That dog isn’t going down on her watch, no sir. That appeal to logic (or really emotion) sets baby girl in motion quickly.

Obviously, there’s much to consider with a determined child…this is just a sampling of what works for ours. We often think of how much of a challenge baby girl is, where it comes from, and how to dismantle it without breaking her spirit. There’s no one way to tackle this and it’s a moving target. The key is to adapt and adjust. I’ll reiterate what I said earlier…I have failed at all of this. But I’ve also had success. And it’s those successes that you build on.

Children, Family, Uncategorized

It’s Picture Day- I Must Paint My Face

Picture DayIt’s picture day. The day you clean your kids up, brush their hair, and press their clothes. You make it seem on print like they are cherubs who don’t break things, scrape knees, get dirty, or otherwise have kid fun whenever possible. Everyone knows this is true. And yet everyone does the same thing.

If you think about it, how often are your kids as clean and orderly as they are in the portrait hanging in your main hallway of your house? At least for us…it’s kind of never? Maybe Sunday for a few hours during church time.

Picture day should be letting kids do the very thing they were designed to to…kid things. Clean, dirty or whatever. Then when they’ve really gotten into their fun for the day, plop them on a little stool sitting in the middle of the very “creativity” they have made (read: mess) and take a really good quality portrait.

Slap it up on the wall, baby! That’s a memory. That’s the true essence of childhood.

Picture dayAnd yet here I am, thinking about the time ticking down before my kids’ scheduled picture day. I’m both impressed and mortified that baby girl decided this morning, of all days, to “play with make-up”. She smeared stamping ink all over her face. Today, of all days. It’s like her DNA code tells her that paint must be applied to her face because the energy of the universe indicates that a picture will be taken today.

I scrub baby girl’s face to the point where I can’t tell if I’m scrubbing off pink ink or irritating her skin. I make the kids brush their teeth for obvious reasons. Like quality brushing…the kind you make your kids do before their dentist appointment. You hope to fool the hygienist into believing that your kids brushed their teeth every single day like they’re supposed to. I don’t want to see last night’s pizza oregano nestled in between the two front big teeth of girl child.

Now I’ll brush their hair so it doesn’t look like the sweaty, stringy heap it does every other warm, sunny afternoon. I wipe their faces as if they don’t shove food into their mouths with such accuracy that the gooey sides of food don’t smear all over their cheeks. I save the clean clothes for the very last moment. And then bark out orders to quickly change clothes and for the love of Pete, don’t get into any messes!

We tip-toe to the car, not touching anything on the way. Don’t pick anything up, don’t run anywhere, don’t do anything. Just get into the car.

I try to manage all attitudes and interactions such that no one feels offended or slighted or anything else that causes one or all to burst into tears due to some obviously important injustice. You know, like the sun shining too much. Or the seat belt being too gray. And dear heavens do not let anyone fall asleep on the way to the picture studio.

Yes, picture day represents a completely accurate vision of childhood. It’s not at all a fictional version of my kids at any point in their little lives. If nothing else, it shows everyone what my kids look like under all their fun.