Friday, July 30, 2010

There is Nothing Wrong With You (or Me!)

I am sorry to say that probably every single day in recent history I have gone to bed saying something along the lines of, "I suck at life." I have felt like a failure in many areas, even though I could also make a very long list of excellent, well-done, important, caring, compassionate things I have done. why is it that we treat ourselves so poorly? I would never treat someone else with as little regard as I sometimes treat myself. (sigh)

Yesterday my husband hugged me and told me I was perfect, which I found ironic considering that if anyone knows my many faults, it's him. After 19 years he has pretty much seen it all.

I came across this video today and just loved it. (if you double click on the video you can watch it in it's full, wide-screen glory, which will be better than having it cut off at the side like it may do for you here on this page) Very encouraging. And I purchased a piece of her art which I am looking forward to displaying in my home. Inspirational!

Here is a photo of the art I bought:

It reminded me of me and my daughter, but felt like an important reminder in several ways. I already know where I want to put it. (I think....)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Every once in awhile...

it's appropriate to grieve for things that are not as they should be:
People that are broken.
Heartbreaks and disappointments.
Unanswerable questions and unfixable problems.

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am. But today, some time is being taken to be sad for a little while. I think that's reasonable.


I had two sad reminders this week of the deep toxicity of a person in my life. It is deeply sad to me when a person will choose anger, revenge, and bitterness over anything positive. I do not understand it. Watching this is like watching a person choose death for themselves over and over again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Loved this....

" Never be in a hurry;
do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.

Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever,
even if your whole world seems upset"

~St Francis de Sales

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Today I had this question in my inbox about the post about teens. I thought I would share my answer here:

Hello Erica,
You said: "he is very loving with us and the other children..."
I was wondering if you had any wisdom or tips related to this statement. Our oldest is 13b, and while he is loving at times, he is almost downright mean at others. I don't know what I might do differently to cause (all of them, actually) to be more loving toward each other.
Thanks for any tips you can offer.

Hi Emily,
First of all I would say that when he was 13 he was *not* loving toward the other children. He had quite a few years (probably from about 12-15) that we refer to as his "sullen years." He was grouchy, wanted everybody to stay out of his stuff, and kept to himself a lot. I now have a 14 year old daughter kind of in that mode, and a 12 year old son who seems to be headed toward it. So, I just want to let you know that, since it would be easy for some people to assume that my kids are all so loving and always have been. :) We have some junky attitudes here from time to time, for sure.

I'm not really sure what I can attribute his loving attitude toward, but I will give some guesses. We have tried to maintain our love and affection for him consistently, even when he has not been all that friendly. I have never lost track of the fact that he is still the same boy that we loved so deeply when he was a baby and all through growing up. We are crazy about our kids! :) We are very accepting of him and transparent with him. I think that since we are respectful of his growing independence and that we are supportive and excited for him (rather than nervous, suspicious, or trying to hold him back) he is a very comfortable person who has no "gripes" against anybody, us included. In the areas where there are differences in beliefs or whatever, we are very loving while also open (in times when it gets discussed) about the reasons we have decided to live or believe as we do, but we do nothing to get him defensive or cause any walls to be built up between us. Basically, there is nothing for him to fight against. Not that we let him have everything he wants or that there are no boundaries, just that we have an ability to be both friendly, open, honest, and firm when needed that seems to stir up together to make good things happen :)

As far as it goes with his siblings, from the sullen years the youngest kids were actually kind of scared of him and there was a real separation there. In recent years when he has been happier I have encouraged him at times to remember how much it means to be a young kid and have an older kid take an interest in them, etc. He tries to be pretty encouraging to them, tell them that he thinks their latest Lego creation is really cool, etc. :) I encourage the younger kids to go show him stuff that I know he will be able to appreciate. I guess I just do a little bit of stirring the pot to encourage everybody toward each other.

Also, around the sullen years beginning we had a lot of chaos in our home with 3 little ones born in less than 3 years, and many things were out of control. Things are a lot better now and I think that it is more enjoyable for all of us, including the older kids. We do a lot of outings together, go fun places, etc. and our oldest is still happy to go along and is content to hang out with us during those times. (He is also very social and spends a lot of time out and about with his friends, taking classes, working, etc. so it is a good balance for him although we often miss him some since he is spending more and more time away from home, which is normal but still an adjustment for all of us.)

We have gone through some hard things together and he has seen that we will stick together and do whatever needs to be done to help one another, and I think that has been a powerful glue in our relationship as well.

Overall, we're a very open, affectionate, accepting family, and I think that our kids are generally like that, according to their personalities, of course. They say more is caught than taught, so I hope that is true with our other children. I do have many days when I am amazed at the mean words, selfishness, and anger that will come out between them since I feel like they have a lot of consistent examples of generosity, forgiveness, happy attitudes, etc. It can be discouraging and I do feel concerned about it sometimes. I keep plugging away and hope that our children will turn out to be a credit to God and all of us as they grow, but sometimes I think it is more in spite of us than because of us if they do. :)

I hope this helps!

Friday, July 09, 2010

How to treat older teens

Recently on one of my egroups a woman wrote in asking for advice on how to treat her 17 year old son. She was unsure how much to direct him about how he was eating, how much time he spent on the computer, his "standards" which she considered to be "lower" than hers, etc. This is part of what I wrote in response:

I have a son that is turning 18 next month. He is our oldest, so this is my first go-around with an older teen, however I can tell you that it is a fun time in our lives and we are doing great.
For us, we believe that we are raising these people to become adults. As they get older, an increasing amount of responsibility and personal choices need to become their job, until eventually they are taking full responsibility for their decisions and life choices which seems to me should be somewhere between 18-20 or so.

A wonderful resources that I highly recommend to all parents every chance I get is a DVD and book series called Parental Guidance Required. You can check it out and buy it here. This site also has $1 downloads of the MP3 sessions of this class. We did this study with some friends from church quite a few years ago. It is an excellent resource for talking about key elements of setting your relationship with you middle year children up for an ongoing good relationship as the children grow into older teens and young adults. It talks about the importance of "dialing in" and "dialing out" the right or wrong kind of people in your child's life, the importance of other trusted adults to be a part of your child's life who will be a friend to your child who will also continue to point them in the right direction, and the importance of the quality of your relationship with your child for the long haul when we have no more control but we can still have the ever-crucial opportunity to influence our child--which is something they will either willingly let us do or they won't. (it's not something you can require) Anyhow, wonderful information and encouragement for all parents. Please get it!

Certainly a child's maturity level, choices they have made, etc. should have a bearing on what parents choose to still try to work on with the child and what they back off about. I know that some parents seem to fear that if their child ever does anything that they do not want them to do (music choices, hair or clothing styles, etc.) that all is lost and the kid is ruined. For us, we believe that it is normal for each person to have to figure out for himself what they believe and how they will live. In our family, these are not deal breakers and I am not going to allow these things to damage my relationship with my child. I am passionate about my children and I will continue to be, regardless of the stages they go through. I always strive to try to be open, to listen, and to understand where my 17 year old son is coming from. We have had talks sometimes when he shares a music choice with me, and sometimes I have listened and said to him, "This sounds so negative to me. Tell me what you like about it. I don't understand." Since I am coming at this with real love and an open attitude where I really do want to hear what he has to say, and I'm not just trying to turn it into a chance to tell him to listen to something else, it is a fruitful conversation, and he is willing to let me have some influence on his thinking. Does this mean that he changes everything to what I think? Nope! And that's ok. He has to stand on his own and will continue to. I should not be micromanaging him and will not even try.

As far as things like junk food, you know, if you do not have these things in the house they will not get them from you, and then you save yourself the trouble of feeling that you have to police it. :) I have tried to set up our home over the years to be what I call an all-you-can- eat-buffet of good things both for food, as well as educationally, etc. What I mean by this is that basically there are no bad choices. Food-wise, there is no (or very little) junk food, but we have plenty of good fruits and veggies and whole grain breads, etc. to choose from. Now, my son does eat some junk when he's gone from the house, and that's his business. (esp. since he pays for it himself) Largely, over time, he has come to realize that he does not like to eat junk food and that he does not feel well after eating or drinking certain things, so now he chooses to eat pretty healthfully on his own and even influences his friends to eat healthier. This is exactly the thing I had hoped for--he has made his choice, seen the evidence in his own life--and does not need me to tell him what to eat when he's on his own. As far as things to do at our house, we have no TV but we have books, games, a pool, a very fun back yard with lots of things to do, Legos, computers with good filters set on them to make them safe to use, pets to play with, art and craft supplies, music, musical instruments, dress up stuff, etc. I guess the one "junk food" thing we have is a game system, which they are only allowed to use on Saturdays. (and most of the time they forget about it) So, even in their spare time my kids only have choices that are good ones. I don't have to spend my time fretting about what they are doing, so I set up the environment to be as good for them and easy for me as possible. That translates over to the teens as well.

I used to have a friend who complained about how her teens were spending all of their time "plugged in" to electronics and she did not know what to do about it. She was struggling to try to set up schedules and enforce them to try to make the kids do other things. Well, you know what? She and her husband had created an environment at their house where being plugged in was the only stuff for their teens to do. Although she had started out with no TV, lots of books and puzzles, etc. when he kids were little, by the time the kids were older they had one computer per person (or something very close to it), all the kids had cell phones with unlimited texting, they had satellite tv, they all had ipods that they used and further isolated them from the rest of the world, game systems with no limits, there was nothing to do in their yard, some of the kids had no interesting outside-of-the- home activities or friends, etc. Basically, they had created a situation where computer/music/tv/gaming was the only stuff to do at their house, and they were not willing to change any of that. So, you know, the kids are going to respond to the environment you create and nurture.

I do think that it is harder to pull back from stuff than to just set things up the way you want them from the get-go, but it is possible to make changes if you are strong and wise.

Getting back to some other thoughts I have about older teens: Respect is important. There are many ways to choose to live, many ways to apply Biblical concepts, and many things that are not issues that should be allowed to damage a relationship. Realizing that our children are growing up to be people who will (and should) make their own choices is worth your respect. I can tell you as a person with people in my life that do not respect other people's choices that are different from their own, it damages relationships when you do not have respect from others. And even if you don't say it, people can feel it. Fer shur. So, to me, starting at 14, 15, 16, 17 to back off of peripheral issues and respect that your child is learning to make choices is the right way to go. Save your panic button moments for stuff that really, really matters a lot. :) If you panic too often they just think you're getting crazy and you can lose your ability to influence.

In the end as our children become adults, aside from what they have accepted from what we have already taught them, influence is the only hope we have of being able to help our children. (aside from prayer, of course) They will either welcome our influence or resist it. I know which side I want to be on, so I use a fair amount of strategy into my parenting to try to position myself to where I want to be.

Obviously, this is all still a work in progress. I can tell you, though, that we have a very enjoyable relationship with our 17 year old, that our son is doing great at making decisions and learning from the choices he makes, he is very loving with us and the other children, and we continue to look forward to what is to come with him and our other kids. I believe very strongly that the investments we make in tying heartstrings and building trust and happy relationships with our kids from the time they are born has a great bearing on how things go later on in their lives.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Answers and Provision

Good day today. Had a fabulous and encouraging interview time with the gal about helping us homeschool, and we decided to hire her. I'm SO looking forward to having her start.

Interestingly, this is an item that I have been dreaming of, but had not pursued it because I thought it was out of reach financially. I used to feel that same way about house cleaning, and a couple years ago I decided to stop wishing for help, and instead just see if I could hire help even for a couple hours a week. As it turned out, I was able to, and I was able to get great help who also needed my help in the form of a job, so it was wonderful.

Last week I decided to put some feelers out on facebook just to see if anybody promising would turn up for the dream helpers I would like to have. Bingo! I found this wonderful gal at a price much lower than I expected, and as it turns out, I'm even going to be able to afford to hire her for just about the exact amount of time I was thinking I wanted someone. Awesome!

Later in the day I went to help my friend with cancer. That went well, and now he wants to hire me to help him some more.

And a friend recommended me for a very short term (3-5 day) job helping someone. Between both the diet help for my friend and this short job, it will definitely bridge the gap in being able to pay for our new homeschool tutor. Thank you God!

It has been a good day but now I am tired. Off to bed I go. Goodnight.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Raining and Pouring

Sometimes life seems to hand us themed groupings of situations. Right now mine is that there seems to be an invisible sign around me telling people that I can solve their problems and make their life better. Although I learned long ago that just because I would be good at something doesn't mean I *should*.....I find myself in a conflict between the realities of my time and energy and how I feel I can best spend those, and people who need my help that I care about.

First, an old friend contacted me. She is an artist, and I have been encouraging her to market her art and her teaching skills since 1998. Today she has a new studio space rented and is ready to begin. She has asked for my help, and offered a potentially generous compensation plan for my help. I have the skills to help her. I honestly don't know anybody else anywhere around here that does. It will be fun and rewarding to help her achieve her dreams and see her share her many talents with others.

Another friend is sick with cancer. Doctors have given him no hope, so he is now working with a holistic doctor to see what can be done. A large part of the treatment hinges on a radical diet change. For whatever reason, the information the doctor and his team have given this guy is extremely non-user-friendly. He and his wife are overwhelmed and do not know how to make this food or eat this way. And who does? Me, that's who. And truly, I don't know anyone else to recommend. (if I could, I would like to hire them to come make healthy food at my house!!). So, now I'm going to be helping them learn how to shop, cook, and otherwise prepare healthy foods that will hopefully nourish his body and help him beat cancer, and live long and prosper.

I could I say no to that?

(meanwhile, I am also thinking that I should re-write their diet plan to make it user-friendly and include recipes and sample menus. Yes! A great idea, to do in the spare time that does not exist. I wonder how much money they might pay me to get it done.)

As my outside-the-home responsibilities have increased, I have wondered more and more about hiring help to compensate for some of the things in-house that we need help with. I am actually interviewing someone tomorrow that might come and help me with homeschooling. It could (let the record show that I said *could*....because it is also possible that it could be a big pain in the rear and make me decide to go back to trying to do everything myself) be lovely to have help. At the rate I'm going, I may need a whole army of help to compensate for all the things I cannot do myself while I work part time and try to save the world, or at least help out a few people around me.

I'm conflicted. When life starts handing me projects that I've always (or for a long time, anyhow) wanted to do, on topics that are of great interest to me, and to help people that I care deeply seems like I should sit up and take notice, and at least be open to what's trying to happen here. Right?

The part that scares me is the part I cannot see. How will I fit it all in? What things do I need to let go of? (I have already decided to quit the food pantry work in August) How will I do the very important work of tending to and nurturing my own family and home if more of my time is diverted to other projects?

It is possible that for a time I might find these projects energizing and be more efficient than I have been in a year. So far that is part of what I'm experiencing. The other part wonders how long I can maintain a faster pace.

Part of me would enjoy meetings and brainstorming and watching projects launch and come to completion, and encouraging and teaching and making a tangible difference in the life of an otherwise dying friend. Zoom! zoom!

And part of me would like to stay home in pajama pants and read Sir Fartsalot to my kids, and be the poolside lifeguard for them every morning and evening all summer long, and take naps with my husband on the days when he is home from work, and other warm, cozy, domestic, familial things.

I am under no illusions that the time spent and effort invested in my children is less valuable than anything else I could do. There's just some stuff that is bigger than the average possibility, and right now I've got two of 'em hot-n-fresh on my plate.

The one thing I have going for me in this is that my husband feels like it was right for me to say yes to both of these things, and he's normally very helpful with his perspective about how much is too much and helping me see when I may be getting in over my head. These two new things are important to us both, so somehow we are going to fold them into life and see what happens. It gives me comfort that I'm probably not crazy if he is also feeling like moving ahead, and I always like to share half the blame with my husband if later we decide we made a mistake. ;)

As is so often true with blogging, though readers often forget: there are more details to all of this than I am taking the time to write. There are ways that these new things may be leading to answer other questions and open other doors. I don't have the time or energy to get into all of that tonite. For now, I'm excited, I had a fun business meeting today, and I am looking toward tomorrow that is filled-to-the-brim with interviews, teaching, and my part-time job as a caregiver to a mentally handicapped gal. I won't be getting very much time with my children tomorrow, which I am not happy about, but they may end up with a fun day with grandparents, so that is a positive in the midst of busy-ness.

Clearly, I'm a bit mixed up in my feelings about all of this, and should proceed on to bed. It will be interesting to see where all of this leads, and how things resolve. I am trusting that as I walk along things will become more clear.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Entitlement vs. Gratitutde

I read something that stuck in my craw, as it were. A woman who has MUCH to be thankful for right now (stuff far beyond a roof over her head and clothes on her back) was instead angry because her family did not have the money available to go on a vacation this summer. Although I understand that everyone struggles with junky thinking from time to time, I find this sort of thing really frustrating.

I remember back when my husband and I were first married. I was friends with a woman who was about ten years older than myself. She complained about our small town and lack of cultural activities (though we were only a half hour from a city that did have these things), about her home that she considered too small and modest (although it was perfectly fine, she had nice furnishings, and more than met their needs), and about her husband's income that did not provide for nice vacations each year. Even as a 20 year old I could see how much gratitude was missing from her mindset.

I once knew a homeschool mom who acted like she lived in an unfortunate shack. They had a premature baby and I volunteered to go over and help her one day. I was amazed to arrive at her house and see how really, really, REALLY nice it was, how lovely all of the furniture was, etc. It made me kind of amazed and horrified about how much she had complained publicly about her home.

I always feel a little sorry for husbands of unthankful women. Most of them seem to be hard working and gainfully employed with at least one job, if not more, and here they are with a wife who values a bigger house, newer furniture, vacations, high maintenance hair and nails, or whatever else, more than she values building up her husband and family and cultivating an attitude of gratitude. A person like this usually has no end to what they want and what they feel they deserve. If her husband provides a vacation, next year she'll want to go away for longer, to a more exciting destination. If she goes to the spa for her birthday, next she'll want to go every month or so. If she gets something special, it's ruined because now she has a taste of one more thing that she now wants MORE of. How are the children supposed to grow up with right attitudes if this is the example they see every day? The attitude of "what I have is not good enough. I deserve more. I will never be satisfied. You are not giving me enough." It's no wonder our culture continues to think they should get everything for nothing, that credit card spending continues, that thrift is a mystery, that simple pleasures are seen as an ancient oddity.

When we believe that we are entitled to things, that seems to be when we set ourselves up for trouble. When we feel we are entitled to a vacation, a certain amount of spending money, more time for ourselves, what happens when we cannot have those things?

Sure, it's nice to have things that make life easier or nicer. But can you manage to be just as thankful without it? With less? Do you have an inner attitude that results in happiness even if the car breaks down, the money is tight, and you are going to stay home?

To me, remembering all that we have to be thankful for is powerful. When you are deeply thankful and know how greatly you are blessed just as you are, it tends to crowd out the stinkin' thinkin' and whining about what we do not have, and our endless wandering eye over all the things we want that seem out of reach.

I love the song More Than Enough from Jana Stanfield. If you have an opportunity to buy her album Brave Faith, do it. It is so positive and uplifting. I sometimes sing it to myself through my day. Here are the words:

More Than Enough

Hey na na na na na more than enough

(Chorus) I have more than enough
Of all that I need
To do all I can do
Be all I can be
As I go through this day
This is my creed
I have more than enough
Of all that I need
I have more than enough
Of all that I need

Is there anyone who can't remember a time
When you had less money and you did just fine
Compared to where we were we've come all this far
Why not spend the day enjoying where we are

Take a quick look back at dreams of yesterday
Dreams of living the life that you live today
We spend so much time wanting so much more
When there's plenty here to be thankful for