Sunday, October 25, 2009


I jsut read a friend's blog post about hospitality. She REALLY knows how to make you feel welcome, and I say that from experience. She also loves the process of preparing for guests. I admire that. Anyway, reading her post made me think of some advice I got once a few years back.

I don't know how hospitable this is, but this older friend of mine told me once that she used to scrub and polish the house to spic-and-span standards (tiring herself out in the process) for when the grandkids who live a couple hours away came to visit. She eventually realized that not only was she too tired to really enjoy the kids but also the dirt she so surrepeticiously scrubbed away was trekked in moments after they arrived. She would have to scrub and polish all over again as soon as they left. She decided from then on that before the kids came over she would "straighten" but not scrub. She now saves the scrubbing for when they leave. The notion absolutely blew my mind. You mean I could NOT spic-and-span my house before a bunch of people come over? Really?!?! I thought about all the times when I was too tired to actually enjoy gatherings at my house because I have worked so hard to get ready for them.

This paradigm shift was right up my alley.

So now you know a little secret about me. Next time you are at my house, feel free to notice the dirty floors. You can know that tomorrow (or maybe the next day), they will be clean. You should stop by then and see.

Now, aren't I hospitable?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Set for September to Start

I am a bit embarrassed to admit it since it is nearing the end of October, but I am just now finally ready for school to start. Granted, my two school-aged kids have been attending school since they opened the doors September 4th but I have not organized myself until just now. Er, well, I guess I still have some organizing to do, but the one thing I really wanted to get set up is just now finally set up.
The chore and laundry schedule. (Insert scary "Psycho" music here, if you like.)

I had a GREAT one all set up for myself and the boys for the summertime, when they had all day to whittle away on their chores. But I knew it needed to be modified for the school year. The reality of soccer and school (oops, I have that backwards don't I!!) is that there are not as many minutes in the day for the boys to do their homework, have free playtime, read together, AND accomplish the healthy list of summer chores. Well, there is that time, I guess, but then there are no empty spaces in the day to have poignant conversations about life and God. And we can't afford to let that to be missed.

So a Fall Chore Schedule I did create. (High Five to me!) I will introduce it to the boys after school. They won't know what hit them.

The interesting thing I discovered in these past 7 weeks without a plan of action is that I tended to hand chores out on any given day based upon my level of frustration or stress. Frustration with my load, frustration with their arguing, stressed about meeting all the needs of the day, frustration with the incredible mess we lived in, frustration-stress-frustration.

We want our boys to be hard workers. We want our boys to be responsible. We want our boys to work diligently without complaining. I am pretty sure these past 7 weeks were not actually accomplishing that. I am pretty sure they were instead learning how to avoid them ("play quietly with your brother and she won't bother you").

I am thankful to have a plan again. It feels good to be unemotional and in control in this area (there are ENOUGH areas that I have little control with... more on that, perhaps, later). It is one less thing I have to expend energy on, that thing being thinking up the day's chores.

I have made a sheet that spells out each day's chores for each boy (and you will remember that my boys do their own laundry now...oh I have a funny story about that...). We chatted yesterday about what it really means to, for example, clean the bathroom or do your laundry. Expectations have been set. The boys highlighted their name everywhere they saw it. They taped the list to a place where they can see it. They know all about the "bonus reward" they can receive for accomplishing the chores well all week without complaining or reminders.

The other person being trained, here, is ME. I can now look at my piece of paper with MY chores on it and know what I need to accomplish today (and today only!) so that by the end of the week generally everything has been given the once-over. I am a quasi-perfectionist which means that if i don't think i can do it perfectly, I won't bother to do it (what's the point!). Having a week long plan helps me through the hurdle in my mind, allowing me to just be diligent in today's work knowing that the rest will take care of itself.

Let the training recommence!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parenting Honesty

I recently chatted with another mom who has a child with similar characteristics to one of my children. Her words to me describing what she encounters each day sent me back into the world I lived in for three years. I remember those years being a challenge, but I had not thought of the specifics for quite a while. It was good to rehearse those so that I could see just how much progress we had made with this child.

Since that conversation I have been thinking a lot about the journey that I have been on with that child. There is a mound of history. I have so many unpleasant memories of times when he threw flaming, torrential fits. I remember the time I let him sleep in my bed one time and after that he got up multiple times every night for more than two months claiming to be scared and asking to sleep in my bed. I vowed never make that mistake again. I remember the times - the many, many times - he got so angry that he was not getting his way that he screamed angrily for more than an hour on his bed. So many memories and I just can't help but remember...

Really and truly, he is not a "bad kid" by any stretch, but lets just say that when ANY of my children are causing trouble, it is this child's name that is on the tip of my tongue. Its a force of habit, I tell you. It is unfortunate but true that the rocky history impacts nearly every interaction between the two of us. Often, either my dukes are up and ready for a fight, or I tip-toe away from potential conflict. Either way, I distance myself from him. I have forgiven but not forgotten his stubbornness, his angry fits, his manipulation.

The verses from Ephesians 6 make sense to me: "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise: that it may go well for you, and that you will enjoy a long life on the earth." (emphasis mine)

The reality of life is that when you make poor choices, when you are difficult to get along with, when you allow your passions to rule you, there are quiet consequences. A quiet consequence here appears to be the distance between us and my frequent assumption that he is at fault. Stay with me please because I have yet to articulate what is on my heart this evening.

I go back to the recent conversation I had with this mother, and how it convicted me. In that conversation I encouraged this mom to attempt to really understand her difficult child. "Crouch down and try to see the world from his perspective," I said. "Sometimes what looks like disobedience is actually frustration due to the child's inability to fully communicate. Sometimes he is not mad that he can't have what he wants but instead he is merely angry because he never did get you to understand what it really was that he wanted." To be understood is a deep and pressing need. To meet (or attempt to meet) that need is a great gift we can give our children (or our spouse!).

Now my child has moved past the intense preschool years and can communicate better, can cope with life more effectively, and has tools to play better in that sandbox. I am so thankful that those years are in the past. But my memory pulls us back there. Our interactions continue to be colored.

But God.

How long is His memory? What does He ask of me? As a mature Christian parent I believe he asks me to put on the fruits of the spirit, especially when I conjure up the memories. I believe he asks me to offer up compassion. I believe He asks me to confess the memories I refuse to release. He asks me to renew my mind. Think differently about this child. Speak differently about and to this child. God's mercies are new every morning. EVERY MORNING.

His divine power has given us everything. Everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him... (2 Peter 1:3).

Last night my little guy woke up scared. Was he? Who knows. My flesh wanted to march him back to bed and get back to bed myself. But the Lord spoke very clearly to me and so I listened. I willingly "forgot" the memories and smiled at my boy, "Hi sweetie. You are scared? Come here." And we hugged. I lost a little more than an hour's sleep last night, but I met my boy's need to be understood with compassion. There is no amount of sleep that could replace that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Faith Like a Child

"Why does that book say 'IF God is Good?' God IS good," says Davis, reading the title of Randy Alcorn's newest book which rested on our dining table.
"Well," I reply, "Because there is a very big question that people, especially those who do not yet beieve in God, want to know. That questions is, 'if God is good then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?'"
With a look of perplexity he answered, "That shouldn't be such a big book. All it needs is one page in it that says, 'Because sin got into the world.'"

"Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands upon them. (Mark 10:14-16 NASB)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Teething Intensity

He was not crying, and hardly even squawking, but here you see the fruit of his labor:

Ok, Lord. What is in store for us with this wonderful little guy?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Last Saturday Ryan and I had a casual business meeting at our home. I decided to sit the kids in front of a movie and float in and out of the meeting as needed. A couple of times Weston came up the stairs, crying about one thing or another. When he is crying and you ask him "what's the matter?" his only answer is, "I-duh-know!!" The first two times he came up crying it was because he was being a pill to his brothers and they had finally had enough of it, so when he came up crying again, I bypassed the "What's the matter" formality and went straight to, "Oh, Weston. Are you causing trouble downstairs again?"
Sobbing, he replies, "Yeah!!!"
I pick him up and hug him. It's hard being two. All you want to do is stand two inches in front of the TV so no one else can see it. But nobody likes that. When my comfort to him was not followed by me carrying him back downstairs to "fix" the problem, he said (still crying): "You come downstaiws an' cause twubble WIFF ME! You cause twubble WIFF ME!!"

Such a funny little nut.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Big Foot

Sort of on a whim, I decided to teach our church's "Kids Klub." I did it last week, and I am doing it again this week. Probably the week after, as well. Kids Klub is the class our 1st-5th graders go to during the sermon. The man who usually does it is A-MAZE-ING so I went into it knowing I had some fairly large shoes to fill. No worries: I have big feet (literally). Big feet figuratively? Hummmm, we will see.

I decided to teach from a children's bible study book, written by Kay Arthur called How to Study the Bible for Yourself: For Kids. Last week I was a detective, noticing as many things about the classroom and surroundings as I could so i could make a good guess as to what was going on at this place we were all at. Of course we all knew it was church, but I noted to the kids that if i only noticed SOME of the clues out there, I very likely could have gotten it wrong. Afterall, we worship in a school and we were meeting in the teacher's lounge. We went through all sorts of "bad guesses" I could have made if I had not bothered to notice the clues available.

I taught them (in a fun way, I might add) the three words: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. I can't wait to see if the kids remember the hand guestures we learned from last week. This week I will essentially redefine "detective's clues," calling them CONTEXT. You know, the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions. And the study actually has the kids opening their Bible to Titus (a nice and short book!) to attempt to answer these questions. I have some tricks up my sleeve and I can't wait!

A report after last week's class: I had a great time teaching those 12 boys and 5 girls (what's with that ratio?!). I came out of the class soaring. I just LOVED it. I just have to add at this point that after the class was over my good friend Tiffany asked how it went. Her daughter (one of the five girls in the class) was right there so I turned to her and said, "I don't know, how do YOU think it went, Ainsley?" Now if you know anything about her, you know she does not mince words so I was taken aback when her response to her mom was, "It was good. She did a really good job." Never in my life have I received such high praise as a glowing compliment from Miss Pate. Thanks for making my week, girl!