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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do You Understand What Enabling Is? It Can Look A Lot Like Love.

My wonderful husband is an ideal counterpart to me in so many ways.  Recently, he pointed out that I have a tendency to spoil our pets, especially one little runt puppy, to his frustration.  This little guy is so tiny and I do admit to adoring his little, needy soul.  I dote on him, carry him around and give into his little whines for attention.  And so while I'm gone from the house and Mr. Wonderful is hard at work in his at-home office, this little dog begs for his attention and follows him around whining.  It drives Mr. Wonderful a little crazy and we call this pup incurably co-dependent.  He gets so forlorn and can't seem to handle being alone.

My mama tendencies lean toward the same with my children.  In my desire to protect them from difficult things, I have shielded them from consequences of their own negative choices.  Those choices continued unchecked and so now correcting them is absolutely necessary - and so much more difficult because habits have been formed.  The behavior is more challenging to change, because it has been allowed for so long.  I wasn't doing my children any favors by shielding them.  In fact, I was enabling them continue in a negative way.

Enabling is a rich concept and entire books have been written on the subject.  My simple, working definition is shielding someone from the consequences of their choices or doing something for someone which they are capable of doing themselves.  Both aspects stifle maturity, but lately I've been working on the consequences side, which has required discipline and awareness on both my part and the part of my children.

I've had to identify each child's ingrained wrong habit - usually an attitude, followed by words and behavior - and point it out to the child.  Then, repeatedly point it out because the habit has become so ingrained that it happens multiple times each day.  Now, I am at the point of instigating consequences.  It is not fun, for them or for me.  I don't like being the one to mete out bad news and point out shortcomings and I have avoided it in the past.  But that very avoidance has cleared the way for their poor behaviors to continue unchecked.

What I'm learning, is that the real discipline is keeping myself in check, being consistent and willing to do the unlikable thing.  It's tough holding a child accountable each time poor behavior is exhibited when it happens multiple times each day.  It's not fun being the main police parent.

But I am doing it because I am living the example of what happens when I let the poor behavior slide...when I believe that magical maturity will happen and the child will self-correct.  It doesn't even make sense when I type it out!  So, it's worth it to conquer these challenges now.  I will be the bad guy for a few weeks now in order to develop better character in the years to come.  They are so worth it.  I want to parent intentionally, not just avoid the more difficult parts.

My greatest frustrations come when I haven't taken the time to train my children by telling them what I expect and following through with consequences.  In this season of discipline, for me and for them, my goal to establish better habits now rather than kick the can down the road and deal with greater, potentially worse consequences later.

As a step parent, my Mr. Wonderful has a more hands-off role in this kind of discipline.  He backs me up, directs the children and follows through with established rules.  He helps me discern what is trivial and what necessitates setting boundaries.  He gently points out my inconsistencies, where the children are likely frustrated and confused.  Most of all, he supports me.  He encourages me and helps me see the greater goal beyond one frustrating moment.  I'm so grateful for him.  During my single mom years, I was often too weary and lacked the emotional strength for the discipline battle.  Because of Mr. Wonderful, I'm now able to step up in the parenting role and my children will be better for it.

Please, someone tell me you have faced a similar battle?  Where do you find the emotional support to remain consistent and firm, but kind?

Stepping Back so He Can Step Up - sometimes I try to control, too!

There are some great reminders about mothering here.

A great reminder for why it's worth it!

I Raised An Addict - the comments are heart-wrenching.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are You Time-Starved?

Recently, I was prompted to consider how I spend most of my time.  So, I broke down the hours in a week and arrived at the following approximation:

  • 56 hours -  Sleep + Night Time Routines 
  • 32 hours - Work outside the home
  • 24 hours - Parenting hands-on: homework, reading, crafts, play, family activities
  • 12 hours - Taxi service (wow, more than I realized!)
  • 12 hours - Household Tasks: Cleaning, meals, laundry, grocery shopping, animal care, etc.
  • 12 hours - Self Care: exercise, getting ready, reading, prayer, journaling
  • 6 hours - Church
  • 5 hours - Intentional Relationships: dates with hubby, one-on-one with a child, lunch w/ friend
  • 9 hours - Entertainment, Fun, Margin
  • Total 168
Obviously, I value my sleep!  And while I don't have a great passion for my daily office job, I'm grateful for the way it supports my other values.  I didn't realize how much time I spend in the car - that's a lot!  I was surprised at the 9 hours of margin, because it often feels like I don't have a minute of extra time in my days.  Also, I noticed some things were difficult to categorize because there is significant overlap.  For example, parenting often happens among the household tasks as we go through our daily rhythms.  

For the most part, I feel like my time reflects my values.  Removing sleep, I spend the majority of time investing in the lives of my family and building up our home.  This aligns with my main purpose for this season of my life.  The time listed above doesn't display the undercurrent of spirituality that weaves through each activity.  Still, I see some areas where I would like to make adjustments.

Time is such a valuable resource.  In a family where children move between two homes, it becomes even more important to make good use of our time together.  It means those hours spent taxi-ing little bodies to school and activities are valuable minutes to invest in their hearts.  For this reason, we have a standing "no devices in the car" rule with rare exceptions.  I have to be cautious not to make all our time task-oriented (chores/homework) and focus on fun and relationship-building, too.

Have you thought about the way you spend your time?  Making a list of priorities is different that living by priorities.  If you tally your weekly hours and compare them to your list of life values, how does it measure against your ideal?  Are there changes that need to be made?  

Please know that we all spend a great deal of time simply performing the functions of life: sleep, chores, earning income.  I do not mean to induce any kind of guilt for the way anyone chooses to spend their time.  I truly found value in identifying the way I spend my time.  I found greater worth in the mundane tasks of housekeeping and commutes when I realized they built up the value of contributing to my family.  If you tally up your hours and find it doesn't match your priorities, ask yourself: 
  1. Are you mistaken about your priorities?
  2. Do you have less control over your own schedule than you would like?
  3. How can I begin to shift my time to match my values?
Our time and and our bank account often reveal our true values.  If the reality doesn't match what we say or want to be true, then it's time to look for ways to make our goals line up with our actual life.  Take a little step today and share what you choose to do in order to take control.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments or on instagram.      

Friday, September 11, 2015

I Would Try to Escape, Wouldn't You?

The sad but real images of little children and others who died as refugees have forced all of us with hearts to catch our collective breath.  When I see him face down in the water, I see my own child and no matter how I try to hold them back, tears come.  This is the alarm bell in my soul to look further, to not turn away and avoid, but to find a way to engage and ask, "God, what is mine to do?"

I want to bring a family to my home to help them start fresh.  I want to put my arms around a mother who is scared for the future of her family.  I want to serve meals to nourish weary bodies and speak hope into questioning hearts.  I want my children to play with those children and connect across culture and language barriers.  I want to provide a simple, lasting solution that wraps up tragedy with a story of redemption.  I want that grieving father to know his children matter because they have opened all our eyes in a way that only a child can do.

There are still children in danger and mothers, fathers...people desperate enough to risk everything for a new chance.  I know that feeling that prompts abandoning every plan I thought I had for my life and trying something entirely new.  My physical well-being was not in jeopardy and I didn't have to launch out into a boat, but I didn't always know how my needs would be met and I had to make decisions about my children that were less than ideal.  I know the grit from which are choices are made and the determination to push through obstacles for the hope of a better life.

May they find it.  May these refugees find life more abundant and provision from we who have more.  I will send shoes and blankets to cover at least a few.  I will send my own boys' shirts and shorts and pray they stay dry on the journey.  I will pray that the crisis is relieved by those whose hearts know redemption in Christ.  May His name find its way to your soul as the true Rescuer.

AND, I will look in my own community at those who are in need.  I will seek to be the hands and the feet of Christ here.  I will ask my children if there are any at school who don't have something needed. Already, my daughter said she has a friend who wears the same thing to school each day.  Maybe she needs clothing?  Maybe she just has a favorite outfit?  We don't know when we don't reach out, engage and become aware of those in our midst.  Do you see the ones others may pass over?  Open our eyes, Lord, to the ones you want us to see.  Open our hearts to what is mine to do.

Defend the weak and the fatherless;

    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:3-4

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

After School Routines and a Homework Station

I posted a photo on Instagram last week of my middle school guy working on his homework.  My friend commented, "Middle School ain't no joke" and she couldn't be more right!  I'm thankful to say that we are in a better grove as we move further into the school year and I wanted to share what is helpful to us, especially when dealing with ADHD, medications, routines and distraction.

Simple Homework Station Catered to the Distracted Child:
K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, sister. The less there is to distract, the better.  A wide work space also seems to help.

  • pencils & sharpener
  • desk light (remove this if it become a fixation)
  • stapler & three-hole-punch
  • binder, paper and study material
  • student dictionary
  • water
That is seriously it. 

The load of homework is significantly more than he was used to and so it has been an adjustment for both of us.  I'm so grateful that Mr. Wonderful steps in to assist when my patience begins to dissipate.

What helps us the most is a routine: We take a short "Brain Break" after school then start working before dinner, one subject at a time.  When I was young, I was challenged to tackle the most difficult item first.  But with my young man, I find greater success ticking off a few of the easier items first.  Then, with a sense of accomplishment, he faces the hard stuff.

Because my children move between two homes and I co-parent with their dad, it has been vital to have accountability in both locations.  Similar expectations and communication are necessary in both homes.  Dad and me communicate regularly about homework, trends we see and skills which need work.

I shared our summer Screen Time Considerations and soon I will share how we have shifted things for the school year.  We're still working out a few tweaks, so I want to be realistic.  Below are some more ideas about homework.  Do you have methods to make things smooth?

Study Skills for Middle School lays the foundation for learning into the future.

I like this gal's plan, even though her children are younger than mine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

All The Feels!

Their bond will remain solid, I'm sure.
 It's been a week of high intensity around our place.  One child is off to her first year of college (in another state!) and another one just turned sixteen.  One child admitted to difficulties in middle school and another has emotional extremes as if she was in middle school.  One child, thankfully, seems to be typical, content, fun and simple.  I'm really grateful for that these days.

With seven six people under one roof, there are a lot of emotions and hearts to consume my thoughts.  Mr. Wonderful is grieving and adjusting to a home that no longer houses his firstborn.  I worry that the overwhelm of my younger children will be more annoying without the presence of his own children.  This is the first time he has experienced life without at least one of his girls living with him full time (We still have his younger daughter 50%).

There are a lot of individuals and emotions happening in our house and sometimes it just feels like too much.  I want to "fix" everyone, make them happy.  But transitional seasons contain sadness, excitement, joy and more - often all in the same day.  There was a time that I thought sadness and joy were unable to coexist, but I've witnessed them all wrapped up together.  We think that pain erases joy or that doubt discounts our faith.  Such is not true!

All too soon, this guy will be heading to college - Yikes!
We happen to be in a time of many strong feelings.  Thankfully, we get to support each other through the process.  I have to remember to avoid my codependent tendency of taking on responsibility for the feelings of those I love.  I cannot fix the empty room upstairs.  I cannot remove the rigors of middle school.  I cannot create a soft heart or positive attitude.  I can take care of me, practice healthy self care and support each one I love in their own struggle.

I'm confident we'll soon experience more consistency and enjoy a carefree spirit in our home soon.  Have you had any major transitions lately?  What can you do to take care of you today? How do you handle strong feelings?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Move-In Day and A Parent's Victory Walk

By the time this post is published, I'll be rolling down the highway with my awesome husband.  I actually enjoy road-time with him!  A few lanes over our oldest daughter will be driving with her sister and a car packed as full as it can be.  We're moving her into the dorm and it is another transition for our family.

I know my experience isn't the same as bio mom or as Mr. Wonderful who has lived with her everyday for the past 18+ years.  I sense the weight of his grief as he accepts that the day has arrived.  "For so long it was this big day way out there, and now it's here," he shared this week.  He's trying to balance his angst with the truth that she needs him to not need her, just to love her.  He does that so well and she will never doubt that truth.  She will feel it deep in her bones for life.  Mr. Wonderful has provided a safe, stable foundation from which she can launch.  I reminded him she isn't going to disappear and they will always be close, having a special bond.

My role as stepmother will be mostly to support Mr. Wonderful.  I'm sure I'll carry laundry baskets and bed sheets.  I packed a care package of her favorite snacks and toiletries.  But her bio mom will be the one to make the bed and organize the drawers.  I'll observe from an emotional distance and I'll pack away mental notes for the day my own offspring makes this journey.  It does feel, "Like a big day way out there."

When we leave, I hope that Mr. Wonderful can hold his head high and proud.  This is his victory walk.  He has delivered her ready and capable of standing on her own at university.  He has done an amazing job as dad in the day-to-day and I know he will continue to cultivate an adult relationship filled with mutual respect and trust.

I'll try to capture some moments on Instagram - follow me there!

This Mom Thought She Had It All Together

How Not To Be That Mom on Move-in Day

Monday, August 17, 2015

Seasons Change

Most days this summer, my alarm went off at 5:45 am.  Just after 6 am, I was reaching the end of our long driveway and breaking into a run for my morning exercise.  It took me about half a mile to feel fully awake and then I noticed all the things: The slowly fading darkness, the early bird chatter, the tinkling of the creek and the color of green emerging from the shadows.  I had time to consider the day before me with it's challenges and it's pleasures.

By the time I completed my run, I had prayed, mulled over my concerns and given them to the Lord.  I had time to think about friends and family who are near and far and could pray for situations that I couldn't control.  I arrived back at home to a mostly sleeping house, a quiet, cool shower and a feeling of accomplishment and preparedness.  It was a routine that I enjoyed and benefited my soul more than my body.

I miss it.  When school starts, my morning routines change.  I still pray, but it's usually while I'm still snuggled under the covers and I don't take as long or allow my thoughts to wander where God guides.  I still run, but it is in the hot afternoon when there are more people and cars on the way, and I'm more concerned about the children at home and the dinner that needs preparation.  I feel rushed and there is no solitude.

It's been this way for years now, and I know that soon it will too dark to run in the early morning, anyhow.  I will begin to appreciate the warmer afternoons when the morning become chilly.  It's just the definite mark of a change in seasons.  Summer into fall.  Freedom into routine.  Each season has it's pleasure and I'm sure to find much for which to be grateful in this next one.

What is changing around your place right now?