Monday, June 25, 2018

I Used To Be Strong

"Pain is weakness leaving the body." 

   I used to repeat that to myself on a constant loop as a teen. Hours of grueling manual labor on my family's dairy farm each day starting at 4:30am, plus hours of training for sports- miles of hills run on country dirt roads so I was never far from the next round of barn chores, plus ladders, drills, and scrimmages for 2 hours of formal practice during basketball season, open gyms, summer league, and team camps in the off season. I was usually the tallest, but always the toughest, strongest, and most determined. Always the strongest. The boys asked to come work on the farm to be strong like me. Always the strongest. 
   Through college and early motherhood I kept running, kept training, stayed strong. As life's curveballs piled up- desperate financial straits requiring I work 3 jobs at a time to barely scrape by, then a special needs baby who literally never slept and screamed for hours on a good day, the dark pit of postpartum depression that barely ever lifted from the gift of three incredible children- born to me who wasn't supposed to be able to have children- in 4 years. Life took over. Survival took over. The years of abusing my body won over all else, because it's easier to put me on the back burner when bills need to be paid but the account is overdrawn, babies are screaming and the house is a mess but the nob-verbal toddler's occupational therapist will arrive in an hour, and countless situations. Here I am, 12 years later paying for the self abuse. I don't feel strong anymore. 
   I look at my arms and legs, cushioned with years of six pregnancies that never had a chance to burn off, my six-pack long gone replaced by a core soft, stretched, dimpled, and split open from years of neglect and big babies. Let's not even mention the number on the scale. I'm down 30 lbs. Yay 36 lbs! But knowing I have 70 more to go? I don't feel strong. The years of self abuse, eating what was quick and easy, and nearly a decade of 3-4 hours of broken sleep at night have caught up with me. They call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That means, "Your body's a flippin' mess and we know what it's NOT, so here's this label. There's no treatment. Best of luck." I don't feel strong. Eating WELL, doing what my body can, and forsaking my 5am wake-up several days a week in favor of a couple more hours until the kids' noises reach me from the living room have done a lot to heal my body. I don't feel strong. In fact, I feel very, very weak. Pain is no longer weakness leaving the body. It's not burning lungs as I train through asthma, leg cramps as I take on that last hill, or pushing that last ladder as hard as possible knowing the next time I sprint the court I could be stopping a point guard half my size on a break-away to win the game and I wanted to be ready. My pain now is swollen elbows that make lifting my coffee cup for a sip painful. Swollen knees and hips so simply walking is something I need to 'power through.' Headaches complete with a memory-zapping 'brain fog' that last for days with no apparent trigger. And those are the GOOD days. When I'm in a "flare" my neck is swollen and stiff so holding my head up is painful, my arms hurt too much to knit, my feet are too swollen to fit into shoes even if I DID want to walk, and fatigue so deep to the bone I physically CANNOT wake up, so my children simply pile on my bed with fruits and hard-boiled eggs to watch TV until I can wake up. I don't feel strong. 
   I struggle with pushing through. Should I? I'm tired and sore. Is it THAT kind of sore, or can I do more? If I choose incorrectly I could pay for days. With this mysterious "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," pushing through at the wrong time means your body responds to basic movement and exercise with inflammation like a sprained ankle.  This weekend we went on a road trip. Part of it involved me pushing(and pulling) a jogging stroller with a 30-pound toddler up some steep hills and down some intense inclines. I felt good. I felt strong. The next day I was sore, but not bad sore. It made me happy. I pushed through, and in the evening did some yard work. Mowed the lawn, mulched the garden with the clippings, pulled some weeds, and did some minor landscaping. At the end of the day, I was paying for it with a fever and screaming headache- both signs my body was flipping on its, "EMERGENCY! WE'VE BEEN INJURED!" switch. I woke up this morning and literally(I weigh in to start each week so it was exact) gained 2 lbs with inflammation. My wedding rings choking my swollen fingers and sore hands from pulling weeds were my first clue. All because I did yard work for a couple hours after I spent a beautiful weekend enjoying nature with my family. I don't feel strong. 
   Most of the time I won't say anything about this to anyone. I try really hard not to complain, but I'm dealing with this all the time. Every minute of every day. This is not a big, "Woe is me," whinge. Just a peek at what's in my head that I don't say every day. My husband sees me moving slowly, rubbing spots with pain cream, or trying to stretch a particular area and asks how I'm feeling. My answer is usually, "Fine," or, "Sore." But he knows. When I say, "I'm just tired," he asks if I'm physically tired or mentally tired. He knows the difference. Physically means my brain is awake and ready to go but my body is limiting me. Mentally tired means I just need to go to bed. He is such a gift to me. He is strong for me when I don't feel strong. 
   So here I sit, tired, weak, swollen, aching while I lift my coffee cup, willing myself to not freak out. I can do this. I'm listening to my children play and I want to just get up and get stuff done, but I can't. I have to make the choice between clean the kitchen right now, or have the strength to make lunch in an hour. Making lunch is not optional because I must eat very clean, nutrient-rich food in order for my body to recover right now. So I sit. I mindlessly scroll. Sometimes anxiety gets the best of me as I sit and become more and more terrified I won't recover. I won't get better. I won't lose the weight compounding the effects of the pain on my joints. I will never be strong again. 
   People often ask, "If you could say one thing to your younger self, what would it be?" I would tell her to take care of herself. That she matters. That the screaming baby she's holding is still going to be screaming when he's almost ten, but that he's okay. Screaming for a couple minutes not in your arms while you eat a decent meal, take a shower, or stretch is not going to hurt him(and truth be told, he's going to scream the whole time you hold him and neglect yourself, too), but having a broken Mama in ten years will affect you all. You matter. Take care of you.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

He's Not Naughty, YOU'RE Not Listening

   Since writing Grace and Parenting I have been frequently asked how one would listen to their child in the manner I suggested, and not be an insanely permissive parent with an out-of-control home. So many moms suggested this was not only impossible, but not biblical.
   Firstly, God made my children. They are HIS, not mine. It is a profound privilege that I get to raise them. Sure, I birthed them, but FIRST, God made them. They are and always will be His. It is our divine duty as parents to treat that commission with the profound respect that it deserves. That starts with respecting our children. Yes, respecting our children. They are magnificent creations of God and if for no other reason, they are to be treated respectfully, kindly, gently, with self control, and every other attribute God tells us to treat our fellow man. Not only is this serving God in and of itself, it also shows your children what respect looks like. Respect is not interrupting our children, it's hearing their words. Respect is not yelling at them, telling them to be quiet and simply trying to silence their voices when it suits you, or berating them when they disobey. Respect is hearing them. That doesn't always mean letting them talk for hours. It means seeing them in their childlike expressions of anger, frustration, fear, and delight even if it's not being expressed in words, and acknowledging they're human and their voices are valid. If you don't want your children to speak to you or treat you a certain way, don't treat them that way. They learn by watching. There is no room for, "You will respect me because I am your parent!" No, your children will respect you if you earned it, modeled it, and developed relationship worthy of their respect. Your children may be coerced into treating you with respectful behaviors, but true respect comes from the heart. You need to truly respect your children, recognizing their value in your heart before your actions as a parent will display that genuine behavior. The same is true for your children.

Delight in your children. Take time to really look at them, study the incredible individuals they are, and praise God for that. Notice it, love it, enjoy it. 

   I find people often use the words "discipline" and "punish" interchangeably, when in fact they are very, very, very different things.
   Discipline comes from the root Disciple. The verb "disciple" means, "To teach; Train."
   Punish means, "To subject to pain, loss, confinement, etc, as penalty of offense."
I do not punish my children. I discipline them. It is my God-given role as parent to teach my children. You may think, Oh, it's just a word. It really doesn't matter. It does. It is everything. If you think there is no difference in those words that speaks loudly to the state of your heart. When you disciple some one, you build relationship. You don't seek to harm some one so adherence to rules is more comfortable, you seek to cultivate their hearts and show them the better way, why it's the better way, and why it's worth it.

   When you respect your children, when you're delighting in them as incredible humans, and when your heart is to disciple them instead of simply requiring adherence to your code of conduct, you hear them and see them in a whole new light. 

   I have been blessed with several children the world would label as "strong willed." From very young they have a strong opinion about things and they let it be known loudly and in any circumstance. My two youngest boys have been particularly strong-willed toddlers. Yes, toddlers are toddlers are toddlers, but my Aar and Sol are exceptionally strong-willed. When Aar was less than a year old he would crawl into my husband's office whenever he was home from work, pull up on the arms of the chair, and jabber for attention. If he wasn't heard in just a few seconds, he would quietly pursue Plan B. Plan B was always a winner. That little blond would drop to his chubby little hands and knees, crawl under the chair to the computer tower, and very calmly and purposefully press the power button. Instant black screen, Daddy(a hard-working full time IT analyst and Master's degree student) would shout in surprise, "AARON JAMES!" We all knew what that meant. We all knew he would do it. And yet we gave him the opportunity by not listening to his baby words requesting attention over and over and over. He would do the same in many different situations, especially when I was on the phone. He would come to me, grab my legs and try to communicate, but I would absent-mindedly continue my conversation, brush him off, and continue. My non-answer was an answer. The next move was his. There were several things he would do to then get my attention, like start pounding on the baby gate at the top of the stairs of our split level home(he only did this to get attention, not to get downstairs), push chairs around to get up on the kitchen counter solely to sit up there and yell until some one noticed he was there and ran to get him down. Another specialty of his when I was on the phone and he wanted my attention was to find a pack of baby wipes and just begin yanking out wipes rapid-fire until it was empty and he was surrounded by a wall of wipes, or crawl to the TV stand an begin pulling out DVD's and throwing them across the room. As soon as I would be pulled from my phone conversation by the commotion, I would exclaim about it while rescuing him from whatever situation he'd created while he was grinning, then communicating his need since he now had my attention. The person on the phone would often say something to the effect of what a naughty little boy he was. No, he's not naughty at all. He's incredibly smart. I wasn't listening and he was doing what he needed to do to get my attention. He was communicating. I wasn't listening. 

When my almost-2-year-old now is whiny, hanging on me, asking to be held, but I am just too busy with my own pursuits to meet his needs and he begins acting out, I should in no way be surprised. He's communicating. I need to listen. 

When my 5-year-old has a short fuse, keeps fighting with siblings, and begins lashing out at his brother, slapping and kicking, he's telling my something(and it's rarely, "I need a spanking."). I need to listen. 

When my 7-year-old lies about something, she's communicating. I need to listen.

When my 9-year-old is irrationally(to me) triggered and behavior is out of control, he's communicating. I need to listen. 

When my oldest as a preteen gets a bad attitude, snippy with her siblings, and is slow with chores, her behavior is communicating. I need to listen. 

All of these situations and every single other one I face as a parent every single day requires discipleship with my children, not punishment. My children are telling me things and it is my God-given duty to listen. As toddlers I need to walk them through communicating. You want a drink? You want WATER(signing as I speak)? Okay! Let's get you WATER. As my children get older, I need to continue to teach them to communicate, but it might look a bit differently. Helping my oldest understand when she's feeling so irrationally frustrated that hormone cycles are coming into play and she needs to listen to her own body to help work through these times is walking her through communicating, but if I were to just look at her behavior alone and punish her, I wouldn't be seeing the person struggling, the thirsty toddler, the child frustrated with a situation, the preteen dealing with physiological changes, the child with Autism struggling with a changing weather front. I want to capture their hearts, delight in them, see them as humans to be respected, known, and heard. In a word: Discipleship. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

My Neighbors Might Hate Me

   I stepped out my door and really looked around today for the first time in a week. Spoiler alert: Last Friday our first victim fell ill with Norovirus. Since then things continued to decline, slowly at first, until suddenly IT hit the fan in all forms and we were quickly all struck down. Norovirus 7, Us 0. Today I finally wasn't feeling in crisis. No potty-trained child was in diapers. No one had urine the color of apple juice. No one had tossed their cookies... err, dry toast or rice boiled in bone broth... in 24 hours. I was no longer blinded by a headache, too dizzy to stand, nor aching to the bone simply by breathing. Today I finally felt like I could take a deep breath and say we were making it out without hospitalization- something that wasn't a sure thing for several of us during this past week. I walked outside to hang up a load of laundry and realized spring had come while we were shut inside. I also realized how different our square of land is from all the properties around us.
   The land across from us is an enormous parcel, mostly wooded, but the acre directly across from us is mostly clear with a tiny house on it where an older couple lives. The gentleman comes out with his lawn equipment once a week like clockwork and mows, trims, and manicures that lawn to perfection.
   The land to our right is a tiny lot with an equally tiny house, an older couple and adult son- none of whom we see more than a momentary walk to or from a vehicle. They never wave, either, much to my children's chagrin. We've tried bringing them Christmas cards and goodies several years and despite their dog yapping like mad, the lights being on, and people moving around inside, no one ever answers.  A lawn service comes and professionally tends their lawn regularly, including trimming around their bird baths and statues.
   The land to our left is a wooded portion of a 2-acre wide rectangular lot. The house is situated at the furthest corner from us, and it is now clear after living here three years that they enjoy using their back corner closest to us and furthest from their house as their personal dump. An oven and exhaust fan from the 1950's, a broken, rotted table, broken buckets, and other small kitchen appliances- oh, and most recently a bunch of tangled and torn chicken wire, black barred gates, and tomato cages when they refreshed their chicken coop about a month ago.
   The land to the back of us is a cul de sac in an HOA, which is pretty comical plopped out here in the country, but it's becoming more and more common as people realize the commute to the capitol is actually not that bad from here, and the elbow room of the country really is quite nice. They have strict rules on what colors their houses can be, what kinds of dogs they can have, how long their grass can be, and more of those lovely regulations an HOA offers. Thankfully, none of those apply to us. Thankfully for us on THIS side of the evergreen hedge, that is, but clearly to their annoyance as they refuse to mingle with the likes of the commoners on this side.
   Then there's us. Just over an acre of land covered in kids during every moment of daylight rain or shine, bikes, mini ATVs, a giant trampoline, and an ever-growing food forest. While they're spraying their lawns, having sod laid- or like the Neighbors to the Left, pouring buckets of used engine oil- from the moment the snow leaves, we're planting edible landscape and fruit vine border 'fences' on every sunlit inch, turning our front half of the property into a grid of raised beds with precisely measured space between for the lawnmower to pass, building hügelkultur along the left to try to tastefully hide the neighbor's dump zones while creating fertile growth zones for the future, and leaving the first mowing of the year until we're positive there are plenty of other food sources for the first pollinators to thrive before we chop off the henbit, violets, grasses, wild chives and plantain into clippings we'll then painstakingly rake by hand and use to mulch and compost our beds and gardens weekly for the following seven months. Oh, and we have a washing machine on our porch that is hidden behind the hedges. We've been trying to GIVE it away on all the local boards, Freecycles, etc, since early January and NO ONE has wanted it- not even for scrap metal. Don't worry! Earth Day is coming here very shortly when the local transfer station will take it for free. If no one wants it by then it will be responsibly disposed of and we will return to a tastefully empty front porch. But hey- at least we're not the Neighbors to the Left! 
   Back to today when I realized Spring really has sprung. Trees and bulbs are in bloom all over and we can now say goodbye to my sacrificial lawn buffet for the bees, so I decided to head out with my camera and take some snapshots of those tiny signs of spring I'll miss next January before they become next week's mulch for the strawberry beds and my neighbors can cringe a little less at our acre bursting with gardens, permaculture, and free-range kids. 

Usually by now the ornamental cherry tree is nearly weighed to the 
ground in full bloom, but it's been a cold spring. 

Tiny little redbud blossoms hanging over the forsythia that's already 
finished its yellow burst of spring

We have two apricot trees that were here when we moved in. They 
never produce full fruit- just tiny green fruits that rot straight to pits,
while still on the tree, but they do give us glorious spring blossoms

The daffodils are nearly finished blooming, but these late bloomers 
are still full and gorgeous

Henbit is pretty much our first lawn covering, followed by wild
chives. The grass comes later.

Wild purple violas sprinkled in with the henbit

Tiny white violas occasionally pop up in the fray

The comical line between us and the Neighbors to the Right
marked by the sassy henbit and tall wild chives

A mystery bush that flowers all throughout the winter and into spring

The newest gnome- this one napping- addition to Asher's Lilac garden, 
which is a colorful circus of mismatched kids toys, creepy lawn ornaments
and flags my kids choose to lay(and come back to play with often) around
the memorial for their brother. 

Our tiny baby peach tree that was just planted last spring is covered
in gorgeous blossoms and leaf buds this spring

Empire apple leaf buds. We were worried the deer had nibbled the 
branches to oblivion this winter, but they're making a come-back!

Baby garlic chives rising out of the wood chips in the permaculture
orchard bed

Leaf buds on the Adams elderberry! We only just planted this two weeks ago!

Another gorgeous eye sore, this mass of briars beside my shed. I was all
set to take it out earlier this spring when I noticed three big ootheca nestled
in the branches. Well played, mantis. You've saved the briars. FOR NOW!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Meal Plan- 3/29-4/12

Today was shopping day, and as always with my grocery hauls on my YouTube channel, I try to get out a menu plan so people can see what all those groceries will actually be used for. If you have any questions about recipes, allergy info, etc, let me know! I'm happy to share.

Breakfast: Fried eggs and veggie hash
Lunch: Veggie wraps and nuts
Dinner: Grilled Cornell Chicken quarters, salad, and carrot sticks

Breakfast: Sprouted wheat toast with cashew butter and fresh fruit
Lunch: Raw veggie spring rolls with leftover chicken
Dinner: Italian sausage, peppers, and onions sandwiches and homemade baked sweet potato fries

Breakfast: Egg-free banana-chia muffins and fruit
Lunch: Potato-leek soup
Dinner: Burgers on homemade buns, salad

Sunday(Aaron's birthday so he chose the meals)
Breakfast: Peanut butter oat bars
Lunch: Homemade mac and cheese and peas
Dinner: Homemade pizza

Breakfast: Homemade yogurt and granola parfaits
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Crock pot roaster chicken, Roasted Brussel sprouts, roasted carrots

Breakfast: Chia pudding and sprouted wheat toast
Lunch: MYO brown rice bowls
Dinner: Crock pot beef stew and root vegetables

Breakfast: Egg scramble with bacon and veggies
Lunch: Quesadillas and cowboy caviar
Dinner: Veggie stir fry with rice noodles

Week two of each meal plan tends to be a "pantry challenge" where I clean out the fridge of odds and ends and use the stocked freezers for proteins.

Breakfast: Yogurt and granola parfaits
Lunch: leftovers or snacky lunch
Dinner: Grilled whole chicken, Two veg sides

Breakfast: Smoothies and nuts
Lunch: Grilled salmon and veggies
Dinner: Tacos with leftover chicken

Breakfast: Saturday morning bagels
Lunch: Nachos and salad
Dinner: Burgers and baked sweet potato fries

Breakfast: Eggs and veggie hash
Lunch: MYO Burritos
Dinner: Grilled sausage, German potato salad, green beans

Breakfast: Breakfast bake
Lunch: Leftovers or snacky lunch
Dinner: Lemon-basil chicken, roasted Brussel sprouts, and roasted carrots

Breakfast: Chia pudding and sprouted wheat toast
Lunch: Some sort of soup
Dinner: Crock pot roast and root veggies

Whatever is left for every meal, all day. ♡

Monday, March 26, 2018

Grace and Parenting

   Do you ever have those things that keep popping up? Things you keep seeing, start feeling a bit deja vous and you just cannot ignore it? I learned long ago that when this happens I shouldn't bury it. These things are reoccurring for a reason, and I cannot ignore it. Well, I've found the topic of intense parenting and discipline coming up on repeat in entirely different situations in my life the past couple weeks. So here we go.
   I always say my oldest taught me grace and my second taught me parenting. My pregnancy for my oldest child was enormously healing. First of all, by 5 weeks gestation I had what's known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum(Yes, you've seen me write about HG before HERE), which was not only physically difficult, but mentally and emotionally very challenging. I'd been battling anxiety and depression ever since I could remember, and bulimia for six years. The moment vomiting was not only no longer a coping mechanism in my life but was wildly out of my control, I was left flailing. No, this didn't instantly 'heal' me of the eating disorder, it simply morphed into a different beast I battle every day of my life. It's like alcoholism- an eating disorder  changes your brain function and never leaves you, you simply learn healthy ways of walking with it.
    Then came my obstetrical care. I had been violently sexually assaulted multiple times during my teens, and at 22 years old I was far from recovered. Regular care by my loving, understanding midwife went a long way in building trust, but there was so much anxiety about her impending birth and it was made all the more difficult by family begging to be allowed into the sacred space of the birth room, even saying at one point, "I'm justgoing sit in the waiting room and peek in the door when I know you're pushing. You won't even know I'm there," so that it was made clear to my midwife(and by her to the L and D staff during my labor) that they were not to even be allowed entrance to the department. It felt like every time I made progress I was threatened with violations of my emotional safety in more ways I had to process and overcome.

   When birth time actually came, family was a non-issue, a fact for which I am immensely grateful because the labor and delivery was beyond what I could bear. I would have no idea for years to come, but my past assault played enormously in the extended length and immense additional pain of her birth, and subsequent long recovery. 
   After my sweet girl was born, I rapidly sank into a deep, dark depression. When she was mere days old I would finish feeding her, burp her while she fell asleep and just begin to sob, thrust her toward my confused husband, telling him I didn't know why she was mine, I didn't deserve her, I was a terrible human destined only to repeat the awfulness I knew. Thankfully, despite having little to no familial or community support at that time, my midwife was incredible and my husband was willing to do anything necessary to support me. By five months postpartum I was starting to improve and pull out of that foggy black box of Postpartum Depression. 
   Our girl was the sweetest, easy baby, and a gentle toddler who taught me the joy of being Mama. She taught me quiet joy. She showed me more grace than I'd ever known from another human being. She showed me how to just be, how to delight in my child, and how to be gentle and loving in a way I'd never known. She had no preconceived judgements, no bias, no anger. She was just an incredible, completely pure, raw human being, and she was such a gift. I was so blessed that she was mine. 
   Then came my second child. No Hyperemesis that time, but his pregnancy was difficult in other ways. I was taken off of work at 26 weeks due to preterm labor, and I was on bedrest for the next 11 weeks. We all figured he would virtually fall out the moment I was off of the strict bed rest, but he fooled us all. That's kind of been the theme of his whole life. He held out for three more weeks until exactly his estimated due date before bursting into the world in four hours and weighing almost 10.5 lbs. It's really no wonder I measured 45 weeks pregnant. No, I didn't have even a whiff of gestational diabetes. Somebody always asks. From the moment he roared into the world, my boy was teaching me how to really dig in to parenting. He was a high needs baby. Okay, I'll be honest. He was a miserable baby. He never could nurse right, but I'd nursed my first to 15 months so by pure grit I stuck it out and nursed him until 12 months.  He didn't sleep, and when he did I needed to be holding him upright, tightly swaddled. He had a dairy protein allergy that took us about ten days of non-stop projectile vomiting to figure out. And he screamed. Boy, did he scream, inconsolably, for hours. Again, I sunk into that deep, dark hole of postpartum depression, but this time, in addition to my incredible midwife and amazing husband, we had community. We had become members of a fast growing little church in our area, we were nestled into a little community group, and without their love and support I don't think I would have survived those first two years. They were non-judgmental, they offered their own experiences without assuming it was the only way, and they sympathized. It was such an incredible difference from the family members saying, "He's just a boy. You're expecting him to be your daughter and he's not. He's a boy," or, "He's so naughty! Spank him! He needs it spanked out of him!" Or the pediatrician saying(without ANY evidence as to why) it was dietary and I needed to go on a bland diet of steamed white fish, bland, steamed, unsalted vegetables, and tofu. Let me tell you. If some one ever comes to you begging for help, the wrong things to do are to say, 'It's all in your head,' 'you're a bad parent,' or 'change your diet and it'll cure everything.' Just no. 
   At one point in our son's toddlerhood my husband and I decided to try their way. Our way was not making any progress, so maybe all the family members saying how naughty, manipulative, and undisciplined he was in his oblivious mischief and hours-long screaming, self-injurious tantrums were right. So we decided together we'd spank. It wasn't something our oldest had required. A stern tone or redirection brought instant results with her. We decided if we were going to spank, we needed to be consistent. We were encouraged this would be the only way to get results and show him we meant it. So we spanked. We gave a warning, detailed expected behavior, then spanked when it wasn't heeded. And we did it consistently- which for him meant near constantly. To show him we were in charge, we were serious, we were to be obeyed, like the then-highly lauded Michael Pearl recommended to break his spirit, like the near worshipped voice of Biblical parenting James Dobson recommended to break his strong will. After one week of what felt like abusing my child, nothing had improved. In fact, he was worse. SO much worse. I collapsed in tears when my husband came home the next morning and said I could not do it anymore. We had to stop. It was so wrong in so many ways. He agreed. That's when I started LISTENING to my child. His tantrums were screams for help. He couldn't cope like this. WE couldn't cope like this. We refused to continue in this sick pattern of obviously ineffective method of bending a child to our will because professionals said it worked and just hope God would clean up our mess by the time they reached adulthood. That's when things began to change for the better, and we haven't looked back. THAT is why I am so confident in my parenting.  God began a healing work in my heart. He showed me grace, love, and gentleness first. I tried doing it other peoples' ways first and it was failure. It was abuse. I no longer listen to other peoples' voices. I listen to the voices of my children, what they're saying out loud and what they're saying with their actions. That is real parenting. 
Photo by Karen Allen Photography

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Quagmire of Friendship

   I mull things over a lot while I'm cooking and folding laundry. Most often I think, "I should organize these things and blog this." But my hands are busy and full doing mom life, and by the time I can sit down at the laptop these magical sorted thoughts are gone. This happens at least twice a week. People who really get to know me often tell me I should write a book. In theory that sounds nice, but would I have to type more than a page every six months? Maybe when I'm retired. Whoa. I'm planning on my retirement already. I am getting old. REALITY CHECK! 
   One such mulling session recently I left my pans on the stove, walked back to my husband's office and said, "I know I'm likely just dealing with stuff and feeling all 'woe is me,' but I realized that aside from you all that live in the house with me, if I dropped off the face of the planet there are exactly two people I know would notice in a matter of days. Most people wouldn't notice at all until I didn't show up for my scheduled time to do something for them." He turned and looked at me with an honestly contemplative face and said, "I can't disagree with that, Babe. I'm sorry." Yep. It's another, 'I struggle with friendships,' blog from me. Nope. I haven't gotten any better. It's such a huge struggle for me. I had a pretty atypical childhood and teen years, and frankly, I'm not convinced it's not me. Four years ago when we moved to Virginia I met so many wonderful people. It was refreshing. I was used to being so isolated. I had one friend locally who was very near and dear(and she had to up and move to the Midwest, darnit!), but whenever I would try to pursue friendships beyond commenting on each others' Facebook and Instagram ditties, or exchanging hugs and pleasantries at church, it never went any further. It was like every woman I met and pursued a real relationship with politely said, "You're sweet, but my friend bank is full, thanks. See you on Sunday, Love!"
    I went to my fellow introverts, my people who get me and asked. They said not to wait for an invitation, just get involved. So I got involved. I thrust myself into the group events that were open to me, the Mom's Night Out events that didn't conflict with my husband's schedule. Heck, one time I needed to get out so badly that when one came along and he had a prior commitment I coughed up the money, did the footwork, and got a babysitter for a couple hours. See? I do want to leave my house sometimes.
   When a year of that didn't help, I decided to start making the fun. I set up play dates. I chose parks and places that I had to drive 30 minutes for but were central to others. Out of easily twenty times over the last three years, do you know how many times other moms showed up? Twice. Is there something about these parks I don't know? I know I'm a northerner. Do I pick bad parks? 
   All the while I kept pushing forward with the being involved. I started volunteering, serving, anything. I wanted to be connected beyond a sweet smile and a wave one day a week, so surely serving others could help. After all, I LOVE serving. Truly, my job title I am professional trained and highly skilled at means 'A woman who serves.' It's in every fiber of my soul. It fills my cup to serve others, whether it be meal trains, teaching Sunday school, clean up after church events, organizing fundraisers- I truly enjoy it. Seemed like a win-win! Unfortunately, serving also means peopling and we all know I am not great at that. The serving I love. The peopling I fail. Eventually I do some not to perfection and I'm told, 'Aaah, yeah, that's not right and you made the rest of us look bad, too.' CRAP! Or I start being used. People don't show up for teaching shifts and I cannot leave the children without a teacher, so sure, I'll stay for a second service again. And again. And again. Hey complete stranger with many mutual Facebook friends. You need help with this event? Sure, I can do that. Oh, So-and-So told you to ask me to help because I never say no to anything? Golly, that doesn't make me feel used AT ALL. I could go on with constant examples, but that just makes me sound bitter. 
   I'm not asking for all-day texting or weekly 1-on-1 time. But maybe an invite to your baby shower? Notice that I am a nice enough person that you allow me to spend money on you and celebrate you and yours! Social media makes all this worse. Not only is the internal FOMO tough at times, but when I see the steady stream of pictures from multiple friends together at birthday parties, play dates, mom nights, coffee dates, park play dates, and so much more, and I've never once been invited to such a thing- Do I smell? Am I that terribly awkward? It's because I have a bazillion kids, isn't it. We bathe, I promise, and we really don't eat much. Do we ever cross your mind for an invite list? I see all our mutual friends together, we all know each other from the same places, our kids are all the same ages.... It's because we homeschool, isn't it? We're not too weird,  but I cannot promise my 9-year-old won't plague you with facts about dinosaurs and Greek mythology, my 7-year-old is obsessed with pugs, and my 4-year-old will probably talk about poop at some point. And I promise, we bathe. Note to self: post more 'cute sudsy kids in the tub' pics on Instagram to reassure people.
   I was recently discussing all this with my younger sister. She said she thinks it's because people see me as Superwoman. They are probably intimidated by all I do and feel inferior or else cannot fathom I have time for such things in my life. She said people probably don't realize how alone, isolated, and "uninvited" to everything I am. Maybe, but I cannot fathom anyone seeing me that way. I'm just me, doing what needs doing to the best of my ability and wishing for a little connection. Let me be clear. I have a couple of very dear friends in my life, but I have the misfortune of living 500-800 miles away from them, and there's just something about being included in and welcomed into doing life with the people physically around you that I crave. I do have wonderful women around me who are so sweet and genuine when we happen to be in the same place at the same time, and I thoroughly enjoy them, but it often ends there. Let's have a coffee date. Yes, lets! :doesn't return my texts: Let's get the families together some time. You all can come over for dinner! Let me know when it works for your husband's schedule. Okay, definitely! :never replies again:
   So I mull these things over, usually in a process of sadness not unlike Elizabeth Kubler Ross's stages of grief: it start with Surprise. Oh! I had no idea they were getting together/doing this/having this party for her. Then hurt. I know every woman there. We chat every week. Why didn't they think of  me? Followed by insecurity. It's because I'm so awkward. I do my best to tuck it in, but I can't hide it for long. I'm ridiculous. Nobody wants to be seen in public with me. Then indignation. What's a girl gotta' do to stick in peoples' heads as some one worthy of friendship?! I'm worth it, by golly! And lastly, reasoning, a little more self-deprecation, and acceptance(until the next Instagram post). Maybe this season of my life isn't for friendship. I can't keep the house clean, I'm still overweight, and I could totally be homeschooling better than I do. I need to cut the frivolous desire for deeper friendship, buckle down and do better RIGHT HERE, at home. Part of the latter is all true. I do have areas of improvement at home I need to hone in on, but every once in a while I DO wish I was on peoples' radars as some one they'd like to know better, too. I often wonder in this society of attachment to our devices, are we all feeling a little like this? Are we all so disconnected and yearning? Are the social media posts of the few times we do connect posted to remind ourselves that we do have some connection at times?

Oh wow. I blogged something. WOOHOO! There's another swirling in my head. Let's pretend I'll get it out before another six month passes. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Not Without Me

   Today is National Women's Day. When is National Men's Day? If what we truly want is to be equal, why do we not also celebrate the magnificence of men? When is the #DayWithoutMen ? If what we want is to be equal, then we should also acknowledge what this world would be like for a day without men. Feminism, by definition, is, "The advocacy of women's rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes." What's equal about these arbitrary acknowledgements?
    In our home, girls are outnumbered by boys. In our home, we teach conservative Christian values and Biblical principles. In our home, all humans are created equal, regardless of sex, ability, skin color, religion, or any other variation. We all have inherent value that is to be respected, not diminished. In our home, we value the Constitution and our rights as citizens, including the right to assemble and peacefully protest. In our home, Daddy cherishes Mama, praises her hard work even when it's "just being a stay-at-home-mom," and puts her on a pedestal for his children, friends, co-workers, and anyone who will listen. Especially  when he comes home from his long day of corporate servitude and sees a frazzled Mama, wild kids, demolished house, and just general chaos, Daddy knows I worked extra hard that day and is quick to take over and shoo me to a hot shower, a nap, a cup of coffee with a book locked away in my bedroom. In our home, there's no "just a mom," there's respect for the incredible value for me as a person, me as a woman, me as a mom, me as a skilled laborer. In our home, my husband is "boss" because I gave him that position. We are equals and he is the leader. In our home, my children are learning to value fellow humans not demean them with hateful speech, bullying, and manipulation or cheating, or to take a life when it inconveniences them. They're learning to love, how to treat people right. In my home, girls can be ballerinas, doctors, firefighters, chefs, presidents, and stay-at-home moms. In my house, boys can be ballerinas, doctors, firefighters, chefs, presidents, and stay-at-home dads. In my home, people hold doors, give up their seat, or the shirt off their back for anyone. In our home, Daddy is leading by example, showing his sons how to be courteous, respectful gentlemen, and showing his daughters how they should expect to be treated by men. In our home, I am leading by example, showing my children the value of being home with your children, the hard work of being a good steward of what you have, the importance of self-reliance, and that the Proverbs 31 woman is still some one worth being and having.
   In our home, there will be no "Day Without Women." Women are an integral part of the human race and no one can deny that. Women and men are all valuable, esteemed, needed, and equal, but we are not the same. When we stop demanding to be treated as better than men, perhaps we will give chivalry a chance to return, and we can make some real progress. In the mean time, I won't be marching, abstaining, wearing a hat or waving a sign that says, "I'm a woman and that's okay!"Because I know I'm okay, I require others to treat me as such in every day life, and I am making a very real, tangible, long-term difference right here, every moment of the day with the army I've created not by myself, but with my husband- an equal but different and imperative part. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

VLOG- Clean Eating on a Budget Tips

   If you're on my Facebook or Instagram, you know I'm sick. Like, body throbbing and aching from head to toe, 102+ fever, and throat so sore and swollen that my neck hurts to touch and I can barely swallow. Dr. Google says I have every single symptom of Influenza. YAAAAYYYY! Haven't had it since 2007, and the extra sleepiness, mild runny noses and one evening of low grade fevers the kids had over the weekend never would have told me it was such a doozy. Hooray for keeping my babes strong enough to fight the big bugs, too!  It has taken me down for the count. Hard. Ouch.
   But I digress. While I'm sitting here at my computer trying to keep myself awake until my husband gets home, I figured I'd post a new blog. I had such an overwhelmingly positive response to my Vlog earlier this week, I decided to make a second one that day and answer one of the questions I get asked constantly here at my blog: How do you feed your family so cheap?! Here's a little bit(2 minutes worth?) of how. ☺

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

VLOG- Homeschool Mom Tag- 12 Most Common Questions

   Giving it a go. What would normally take me an hour or more of typing, editing, re-typing, took less than ten minutes while the kids munched on apple slices in the dining room. Maybe I'll "blog" more if I ramble more often. ☺

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Both Feet

   We do a great disservice to ourselves, our families, and society as a whole when we ignore the roles we play in every day life. Each action has a ripple effect, whether we ever see the waves or not. Believe it or not, I spend very little time on social media. I post to my Instagram because it's a way to take quick snaps, whether it be photos or videos, of the precious goings-on with my family throughout the day, and often(though not always) it's shared to my Facebook. When I am "stuck" in one spot underneath a nursing baby who is now too large for me to support with one arm and move about 'doing' with the other and my phone is handy(instead of my book), I find myself scrolling through Facebook. That is the entire extent of my social media time. It is so infrequently intentional, sitting and spending time doing nothing else. But lately even that 'passing the time while otherwise disposed of' social media exposure has just been too much. There's so much friction. So much meanness. So much double-talk. So much confusion. I just don't need it. It's overwhelming. I'm at a loss as to how to respond to people(when a response is required) in a way that both speaks my truth, but is loving AND articulate when so many are hell-bent on bickering or believing that, "I disagree," means the same as, "I hate you and want you oppressed!"
   I don't have the mental strength nor do I have the desire to witness or partake in this fruitless sparring. My precious angel boy Asher's birthday is next Sunday, the 29th. There's much to be felt, to be grateful for, to be present with. For the next week we're going off the grid. Jumping off the bridge of distraction into Intentionality full bore this week. No social media of any kind for me(but if you know my number you can text, call or email!) save for necessity with my businesses(KumfyKozies™ and Blessed Journey Birth Services), no devices or gaming systems for the kids. We will be present, in the moment, and being purposeful. Living fully, intentionally, not stuck in a rut as consumers of distraction. I'm sure my children are dreading a week without Minecraft, I may or may not blog out some processing, but I'm looking forward to the challenge of pure intentionality and taking responsibility for the ripples my every moment makes.

My photo of a back porch sunrise marking the start of a new day matched with the profound words of a wise woman