Thursday, August 29, 2013

Just Take it Already!

Responsibility that is...

There is a dangerous epidemic we are experiencing in our house with some of our children.  It manifests itself in a variety of ways.  This illness is called Irresponsibilititis-plasia Syndrome. 

Clinical File1: Unnamed male was told to go to bed.  Patients history included being told to take care of last minute bed time routine before said bedtime actually occurred including putting away toys, getting water bottle situated and physically getting into the laying down position on the appropriate sleeping apparatus. Instead the male seemed unable to follow through with the simple request.  He reported temporary blackouts and an overwhelming inclination to  play on the hanging rope ladder and practice strange dance moves in his underwear. He acknowledges he heard the request clearly but somehow the fault lies with the mother. 

Clinical File 2: Unnamed male 2 was instructed to clean the bathroom he already claimed to have cleaned.  He insisted the dirt and grime he had been putting off cleaning for several days now was somehow the product of him taking a shower today.  His first defense was that he forgot even though his mother stood in the bathroom with him and showed him exactly what needed to be cleaned.  His second defense was claiming he was stupid and crumpling into a puddle of tears. 

I'm not sure about anyone else, but in our home I am having great difficulty getting my children to take responsibility for their words and actions. We have it laid out pretty clearly what the expectations are and how to earn privileges.  These are not new ideas, though we haven't always had them in writing. 

We are generations away from the Rules of Civility, as penned by a young George Washington .   Those Little House on the Prairie years with children as young as 12 being considered responsible enough to watch the homestead for a day or two are long gone.  Not that I want to leave my young ones home by themselves for a day or two, but  it would be wonderful if I could give a direction or have an expectation and know it would be carried out.

We no longer live in a society where honesty is the best policy.  We don't live in communities, for the most part, we all live as individuals living our own lives as best we can...or as best we think we can.  We live in a time when authority should always be questioned and it is always someone else's fault.  We see kids movies glorifying the main characters who constantly go against their authorities and are mostly "proved right" in the end. 

But in everything we do we are to keep struggling on toward the goal.  This is true for the salvation of our souls and as we parent our children.  We have to keep swimming upstream even though the current gets swifter and the multitude of fish blissfully swimming in the opposite direction increases.

Clinical File 1 - Diagnosis and Treatment: Unnamed male 1 only stayed mad for a short time.  The mother of the patient checked on him an hour later when he admitted he had been being childish.  Instead of engaging in a long conversation, which the patient was hoping for as it would mean he would be staying up later, she opted to smile, tell him she loved him and that they'd talk in the morning. Acute symptoms were treated allowing the emotional inflammation to decrease.  Chronic condition will be addressed on an ongoing basis.  Tea may be a beneficial aid to calming.

Clinical File 2 - Diagnosis and Treatment: Mother of unnamed male 2 explained to him that calling himself "stupid" was still avoiding responsibility.  She reminded him of his straight A grades from the previous year, fantastic current grades, his creative inventions, not to mention how kind and cuddly he usually is.  She prayed with him.  Time was also beneficial in this patients emotional flair up.  After he calmed down said mother administered a great big hug which he reciprocated.  Both patient and mother agreed to sit down tomorrow and come up with an action plan for future success.

Do not lose heart, dear mother, the disease is not terminal.  And the Lord our God specializes in tough cases.  Thank God!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

These Boots Were Made for Walking?

Week one went very well.  I was determined.  I was motivated.  But now it's week two...

Last week I got out of bed Monday morning, put on my exercise clothes and jumped on my trampoline for thirty minutes.  It was "only" thirty minutes, but it was thirty minutes longer than I had spent of focused exercise in...well...too long!  It felt really good.  Tuesday I jumped for 45 minutes and went walking with my mom for about 45 minutes or so.  YAY!  Wednesday I walked two miles with my daughter.  Thursday I walked two miles with the dog.  Friday I ran around like a crazy person getting ready for farmers market, but I ate responsibly that day and on all the previous days that week. 

I'm dreading tomorrow.  I'm already coming up with all sorts of reasons why I should have to exercise.  I have a lot to get done.  I have writing projects and recording projects and children to get to appointments and baby visits.

My last post listed how our home works.  Included in that list was TEMPERANCE: self-control, restraint, moderation.  Some people may have to practice self control when they exercise too much.  You know those people, who always want to go to the gym or for a run or for a walk.  Okay, I've only known like one person like that... Looking at temperance made me realize that sometimes I "glut" on inactivity.  With 9 children in my house there is a lot to do, but there are many "sitting" things to do.  If I want my children to understand temperance I have to be an example.  Not too much food.  Not too much sitting.  Not too much sleeping (oh how I wish I had to fight this problem!).  Not too much of anything.   We are looking for balance.  My scale has been tipped in the wrong direction (figuratively and literally), now it's time to get it going in the right directions.  Yes, I need to lose weight but more importantly I need to set an example.  So...(deep breath)...I'm going to list my goals.  Once I hit publish there's no going back.  Okay, technically I could go back and delete the whole thing, but I'm not going to. 

1. exercise at least 4x weekly
2. eat sensibly. This is part of practicing self control.
3. lose 40 lbs before I turn 41.  I don't know if this is a reasonable goal, but I'm going to try!  I have until December.
4. lead by example.
5. there is no end. 

There have been too many times where I have had a goal and once it's reached I go right back to the old habits.  I don't want to encourage that behavior in my children so I must battle that behavior in me.  I may not always succeed, but hopefully the effort will have meaning for all of us.

So, dear mamas, what are your goals?  (They don't have to be weight related.)  What are you hoping to accomplish in your home? 

PS. I don't actually have walking boots, but I did order walking shoes :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Home Works

"Do not do anything that brings grief to your family." -Mother Melania

While I do have two starting school tomorrow, this post is not about school. This post is about how I'm trying to get our HOME to WORK (see what I did there?).  I didn't want to call it house rules because it's more than that. In my quest to be calm and avoid needless arguments, loopholes and stall tactics, I wanted more than just a set of rules, I wanted to have, IN WRITING, the things that really make our home work well. I didn't want to be nitpicky but I did want to be clear about what the expectations are and what is acceptable as a participant in this family. The great thing I'm finding is this list is helping me stay accountable to the purpose of our home too! 

  1. Love God and Each Other: Jesus says, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31.  If you love God first and others next then you will be doing the things below.
  2. Responsibility: "Take the blame for the things you are responsible for." - Mother Melania      Avoid arguing or making excuses.  This is how you build trust and earn privileges.
  3. Temperance (moderation/self-control/restraint): Here you are learning to stay in the middle between too much and not enough. For example: When given the opportunity to have a treat or enjoy yourself, don't go overboard.  Buy enough of a treat for you to enjoy right then, not so much that if you ate it all at once it would make you sick.  And remember to enjoy it!
  4. Chastity: Purity of the mind of body.  This means: be mindful of what you watch, read, listen to and say. (Why do include chastity in our "home work"?  Because there are so many avenues by which garbage can enter the brain and we want to avoid exposing our kids to harmful things.  We don't want to hide our heads in the sand or make some alternate reality for them, but we want them to understand the world around them in a loving and godly context.)
  5. Liberality: Generosity.  Give freely to others when it is within your power to do so without any expectation of getting something in return.  This includes giving to the homeless, friends, neighbors and even brothers and sisters.
  6. Happiness:  Now this doesn't mean that we like everything, but it does mean that we can choose to be happy because the Lord loves us, He has provided a family, food and a home for us even if nothing else seems good.
  7. Diligence: Doing any task (work/chore/job/responsibility) until it is completed to the very best of your ability.
  8. Humility: Thinking of what is good for others before thinking o f yourself.  For example: If someone needs them.  If there is only a little food left and someone else also wants seconds, let the other person have it.  If someone asks you to do something don't think yourself "too good" for little or "unimportant" jobs.  If someone does something unkind, be quick to forgive keeping in mind the Jesus prayer, "Lord have mercy on ME a sinner."
  9. Mildness:  Kindness, gentleness and calm in word and action.
  10. Obedience: A respectful willingness to do what you are told without asking "why".  If, after you have done what you have been asked to do, still want to know "why"  you will be told, unless there is some special reason not to.  If the answer to the "why" is something you should already know, we know we have super smart kids and we will let you figure it out yourself.
These are the expectations at home or out with others until you are master of your own home or under the leadership of someone else.

Now this is what I came up with.  What do you do with your family?  I'd love to hear about it!!!

Many blessings to all and to all a good morning :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Do not grow weary

 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

When my family went to California a few weeks ago we had the amazing opportunity to do something I don't think we've truly done tourists!  We visited familiar places but did it like tourists would.  We parked and looked and didn't feel like we owned the place.  And we enjoyed ourselves!  I think it's the first "real" vacation we've taken in 20 years!! The other thing that happened was, because we were so relaxed, we were able to just observe.  And this is the part I want to write about today.

We first stayed with friends we had known through homeschooling in Santa Cruz.  When we lived there we were part of a mom's group that would meet twice a month at Marie Calendar's and talk about homeschooling or intentionally NOT talk about homeschooling.  We simply enjoyed each others company, acknowledged the struggles and ate really good salad, or potato wedges or dessert.  It was a great time, in Cool, California (name of a real town!) and they were so hospitable!!!  Little did they know I was observing.  This mama has 7 children and she always speaks so gently to her children.  She has a boy who has impulse control issues similar to my guy yet she addressed him with such calm.  She always had a gentle word and a smile.   I sat in wonder trying to figure out how she did it. I often find myself going into the black mama "oh no you di-int"  place when a child is rude or rebellious.  She reminded me of Marmie with her calm and welcoming attitude.  I didn't have a notebook to take notes with, but the computer in my brain was filing it all away for processing in the future.

The second home we stayed in was in Boulder Creek California right in the redwoods!  She also does foster care and, in addition to the two bio and one adopted already, she is adding four more to her home.  It was so fun getting to sit and talk and just "be".  Again I found myself watching her interactions with her children.  Again I was with someone who had a son similar to mine who had a very similar background to mine. What I noticed in this mama was how "present" she was in her home and with her children.  While I am always near my children I am not always with my children.  This mama, and her grown and nearly grown daughter, also had the knack of being present in a situation.  More filing and processing.

Our next stop took us to Lompoc, California, near Santa Barbara, to our friends with 10 children and one on the way!   Unfortunately we were only able to spend one night with this dear family.  With 12 people in a three bedroom house there has to be some order.  What we noticed, and my 17 year old daughter said out loud, was that the children didn't ask "why" when the parents told them to do something.  Get this...they just went and did the task!  Now, these kids weren't little lemmings without any character or spunk.  The filing and processing continued.

My husband and I had a chance to process all the information on our 18+ hour drive home.  As foster parents we are required to complete 20 hours worth of training each year.  This training includes 6 hours of face to face training through classes and the rest can be classes, videos or books.  These books have a lot of information but are often written by people who have lots of clinical experience but very little parenting experience. Normally when I read a book or learn about a "new method" I want to apply it all at once and find myself burning out in just a few weeks.It was wonderful to "live" the experience in these homes and with these families who faced many of the same challenges we face and see where they were successful and what we could apply to our parenting. 

Here's what we took away and how it has impacted our home and perspective.

1. BE the calm: We have some children who are like little land mines with issues buried under the surface that can be triggered at any moment without warning.  They may not be able to control themselves or their immediate reaction but by being the calm for them we avoid an explosive chain reaction that can lead to shrapnel flying in every direction and emotionally impaling non combatants.  Being the calm (similar to the boneless chicken I wrote about before) allows me to respond instead of just reacting and the outcome is much calmer and the "behavior uglies" tend to fizzle out much more quickly.

2. BE present: Stopping what I'm doing so that I can simply BE has made a big difference in the attitudes of my people.  This doesn't mean I don't get anything done, but if negative behavior is beginning to bubble and foam stopping what I'm doing, even for 15 minutes, makes a difference in helping to reset the situation for a more positive outcome. 

3. NO "why": Okay, this doesn't mean my children can never know the reason for things but it does mean I expect obedience first and then when the task/job/request is completed they can know the "why" behind it if they're still interested.  I love teaching my children and helping them to understand the world around them and how it works, but 9 out of 10 times they didn't care about the "why" in the first place they were just stalling.

So be encouraged, dear mama's.  Observe, sift and use what might work for your family. Be the positive influence in your home.  Do not grow weary in the good you are doing in your home.  There will be a glorious harvest someday.