Monday, March 26, 2012

The Things People Say...

I used to imagine all the horrible things people thought about my parenting and my son when we had a rough time. He's sensitive, passionate, and intense. He has a hard time processing the world around him at times, and he works really hard to deal with what his body hands him. My husband and I have worked and continue to work really hard to decipher his needs and help him develop the skills needed to both deal with but hopefully also thrive in life. It hasn't been easy, but I know it's right. I know that listening to my child's needs, respecting him as a person, and working as a team with him is the best way for him to develop into his best self.

When I've shared before the stress of what other people might think of my child, my fears have been dismissed. Well, that just doesn't matter, screw them. Yes, I agree, screw them, but the fact is it can affect his and my life despite my best efforts. No one is going to think badly of you or him. You're doing a great job. Everyone understands. No, they actually don't.

We have not been having the difficulty that we were a few months back. We know some of the ways we can set him up for success. We know some of the tools that best help him calm down. And we are working hard on continuing to develop the necessary skills. But recently, I had the opportunity to really hear what someone else thinks about my kid.

It wasn't my kid exactly. This person didn't think they were talking about my child. In fact, they went to great lengths to say that this was nothing like my child, but they don't know my child's whole story. They might as well have been talking about my child.

Their words cut. No, no this is nothing like your son. There is something wrong with this child.... He was totally out of control. He even tried to kick me....Oh but you should see him. At one point he smiled. He knows. He's doing it on purpose.... Oh yea the mother, she just won't discipline. She lets him do whatever he wants....I'd be handling that situation very differently if it was me {Insert a motion to indicate hitting a child here}... There's no reason for it, he was fine just a bit ago, clearly he's just being stubborn now.

Let me assure you and anyone else who might be wondering. No person wants to feel like that. No child chooses to be that out of control. It's not fun for them. They are not manipulating anyone; they are crying out for help. They do not need more no's in their life. They do not need condescension or sarcasm. They need a partner. They need to know that everything will be okay. They need to know that they are loved no matter what they are doing, and they need to know they will get through this. They do not need to take on the weight of your problems. They don't need to hear how you can't handle this, you don't deserve this, or how you have other things you need to be doing. They don't need to feel like an inconvenience or a problem. They are scared and lost. They need you to be the adult, take a deep breath, and separate out your own issues.

And while I'm at it. I've seen this picture on Facebook and Pinterest and wherever else these things float around, and for a while, I just felt like I was missing something...

I mean I had to be missing something because pretty much every kid I know hears "no" far more often than they could ever need to. Saying no is not how you get a better child, nor is yelling, harshly disciplining, or God forbid hitting the way you make an out of control child's behavior more controlled.

We don't make better kids but saying no, by being more authoritarian, by hitting, by isolating, by speaking disdainfully of their behavior, or by being appalled by who they are. Better kids and a better planet are rooted in compassion and in empathy. Bullying, school shootings, and all the other awful things we lament, they are not going to be fixed by strict discipline and more NO. When we start treating each other with respect and focusing on relationship, our children will watch. They will feel it and see it. They will realize it's not just for certain people, people of a certain age or color or status, instead they will know that it's for everyone.

And I am so thankful for my son and his explosiveness, because I know he has dug deep inside me and nurtured a seed of empathy that might never have grown the way it has. My son has taught me what it means to let go of my crap and really, truly meet someone where they are. When I see a child hitting, kicking, or losing it, I want to cry because my heart hurts for that child. I know that there is so much beneath the surface. If not for my son, I might have judged. I might have focused in on my or some other adult's inconvenience (c'mon, I'm out to dinner - I don't want to hear this crap) and quickly thought about where to place blame (geez, if his mother would only be a stronger disciplinarian...). Instead, I am brought to my knees by the pain and fear I can see in that child. I am humbled by the intensity of their emotion and the struggle to communicate.

So when I hear someone else talking like I heard recently, my heart breaks for the child. My heart breaks for the parents who are being admonished whether they know it or not. And my heart breaks for my son because I know exactly how people would respond if he unfortunately got overwhelmed in the wrong setting and I know what people think of who he is, even if they don't know that's who he is.

Recommended Reading: 
The Explosive Child
Raising Your Spirited Child
Unconditional Parenting
Parent2ParentU on Facebook and website

Friday, March 23, 2012

Joining a world wide movement!

Via pinterest

I'm joining a world wide movement, a movement of good people going great places, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.

I've told you all before about the lovely Dawn Trautman, a board certified life coach, performer, and writer (and she's Lutheran! thought her work is not limited to that scope by any means).  If you look through my love of e-courses, you'll see lots of her work, and she is at it again. I am joining Dawn for her newest, yet-to-be-named 14 week e-course.  She describes the course on her site,
This spring and summer, tackle the big questions and take action toward a more meaningful life. How can you truly tap into your purpose and passions to commit to Something That Matters? How can you make a difference to the people around you?
You may have pondered these questions as an adolescent. You may have happened upon some of these answers in the midst of daily life. Isn't it time to revisit them?

During this eCourse you will:
  • Explore who you are now, in this time and place.
  • Discover or reconnect with your purpose and passions.
  • Continue to build a life of meaning.
  • Break a habit that's standing in your way.
  • Build a habit that will make a difference for you and the people around you.
Yes, I know it's a lot. That's why you'll want to dive into all of this in a delightfully structured way with others who are exploring the same questions along with you. We'll work together at a pace that doesn't feel rushed: one topic a week for fourteen weeks. Each week, we'll spend equal amounts of time on deep thoughts and meaningful actions.

The focus of this eCourse is not to discover what's wrong with you. The focus is on exploring what's right with you, what's working well, and what you could potentially do next to commit to Something That Matters. Even better, it's grounded in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and theology. It's not just feel-good fluff, it's the real thing. It's also super accessible.

In other places Dawn has talked about this course she has described Good People going Great Places. If you click on the link, you can read more about the e-course and all it entails. It's certainly something I can get behind, but I have to tell you something. She could put just about any course out there and I'd be ready to sign up. There's a reason I keep coming back to Dawn's courses and its twofold. 

Dawn has a great way of making you think, of giving you a different perspective or shining just the right light on a question or problem. She is warm, welcoming, and encouraging. She challenges you to take your big ideas and go somewhere with them. I am great at dreaming big, and I am great at details. But sometimes I get lost somewhere in the middle of those two things and end up spinning my wheels. She's a positive spirit, and she's a connector of people, gifts, and experiences. Plus, her courses are filled to the brim with inter-disciplinary resources, research, and information.

But that is just one part of the story. The other reason, I love Dawn's courses is because she attracts great people. No, seriously. Her courses are filled with intelligent, interesting, creative, and diverse groups of people who are just what she talks about in this course - good people doing great things. Getting to engage in thoughtful discussion and receive meaningful feedback not just from one person, the coach, but from a dynamic group of people is a gift. When we walk with someone else on a part of their journey, we have the opportunity to learn together and inspire each other. When that group of people is as sharp and engaged as the individuals that join Dawn's course, something really neat happens.

So I'll be joining Dawn in this course. I am excited to connect with new people, walk through new course material, and ask challenging questions that will focus and support me on my journey of being exactly what Dawn says - a good person going great places. I hope you'll consider joining me!  Check out the course page or the rest of Dawn's webpage for information about her blog, coaching services, and new book!

I'll be sure to keep you posted on where this journey takes me!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are completely my own. I received no compensation for this post. I really just can't wait to join the movement!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maple Sugaring

My family loves maple syrup. Well, actually, everyone in my family but me loves maple syrup, but I am learning to love it. If I could pick one crazy processed food to still eat guilt-free, it would be Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth. I don't know why but I love that stuff. But, we only use real organic, usually local, maple syrup in this house because it is actually good for you! Of course, it is still a sweetener so it should be used in moderation but it is far healthier than white sugar or other chemical substitutes.

Maple syrup is not only great on pancakes or waffles, but it is a natural sweetener we use in everything from homemade granola, homemade vanilla coffee creamer, or just to sweeten up our homemade yogurt (that's my newest addition to our lsit of things we make homemade!). I love this post from Kitchen Stewardship full of great facts about maple syrup, nutrition information, and recipes! I highly recommend checking it out.

We usually buy our maple syrup by the gallon at a nearby farmer's market. We buy organic, Grade B (darker in color, richer in nutrients, and stronger in flavor so a little goes a long way). It's from a farm a few hours away in New York. But, each year we get to have some very local syrup in the spring and get involved in the making! The Montessori school my children go to have two awesome maple trees appropriately named "Aunt Jemima" and "Mrs. Butterworth" (two of my favorite ladies as I mentioned above).

Each year, the trees are tapped and families all pitch in taking home gallons of sap to boil down into maple syrup. It doesn't make a lot of course because 40 gallons of sap makes only 1 gallon of maple syrup! But there is enough for the families to have a tiny taste when they boil it down, and for the whole school to enjoy a pancake feast.

It was a lot of fun to make the syrup. This was our first time, so it was hard to believe that the gallon of clear liquid would boil down into beautiful, precious, and delicious syrup, but it did!

I love that my kids have such a strong sense of where their food comes from. I love learning new things and creating with them. And I love that they have an educational environment that supports and encourages it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Recap - aka the slowest half marathon EVER!

This recap is a little late in getting posted - apologies!  I have a lot of food allergies, and on Monday night my body decided to add one more - watermelon! Boooooo.... so after an epi-pen in the leg and a trip to the ER, I've spent the last day or so trying to recover from the shock to my body while doped up on antihistamines and steroids.

But anyways, back to my recap. Saturday was the Rock 'n' Roll USA Marathon & Half Marathon. The goal was to not injure myself further and to have FUN! Mission accomplished.

A few last minute changes to the plan. Kristie who was originally running the marathon with me, but then was injured after the Philadelphia marathon, was going to join me in the slowest half marathon ever. Unfortunately, Friday night, she was not feeling well and made the wise decision to sit this one out. Enter: Colleen. This chick has worked her way up to a 3 mile run and never considered a half marathon but I assured, it'd be no issue, being the slowest half marathon EVER! So she was in. We found her a green shirt, and we were ready to roll.

The night before we were talking to Colleen's sister on the phone (who has rocked the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas marathon twice now!). She made a joke about people who take pictures at every mile marker while racing, and I quickly responded CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! ala Barney Stinson. So that is what we did. We started out with a Diet Coke bottle and handhelds filled with Guinness and stopped for every picture opportunity EVER!

We ran out of beer around mile 7, but hit up some guys hanging out on their steps watching the race for refills - SCORE!  Colleen asked the guys if we were winning, and their response was "yea, AT LIFE!" We ran out again a little later and some other nice people helped us out. It was nothing short of fabulous and hysterical. At one of the last water stations, a nice lady with a water pitcher offered to refill my handheld for me, and I quickly said no thanks.... I was about 10 steps past her when it clicked and she said, "There's beer in there, isn't there?!"  I looked back and told her I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about with the biggest grin on my face.

Colleen finished her first ever half marathon, and I finished my slowest. We weren't last!

As for the injuries... my knee had me in a lot of pain the day before walking around D.C. We tried to run across the start line to escape the crowd, but there was some bad sharp pains so we quickly stopped and walked the rest. But we did run across the finish... and it didn't hurt at all. In fact, my knee didn't hurt all day, or the next day, and still doesn't now!  Who knew that walking a half marathon is what would fix it!

The plantar fasciitis is doing okay. It's not gone, but there are days I don't notice it and when I do it's not bad. Once I recover from the allergy fiasco, I'm going to hit the bike and elliptical at the gym, and then maybe this weekend or Monday I'll hit the treadmill for a short, easy test run. I'm thinking I'm going to have back out of my 10 mile race on May 6, but I'll figure that out in the next week or so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ready to Rock 'n' Roll

Saturday is the Rock 'n' Roll USA race in Washington, D.C. The one where I was supposed to run that marathon. But plantar fasciitis sucks, and I'm not running a marathon.

My plan was to rest for two weeks, add in a little runs, and then maybe run the half on Saturday for fun or something.  Right away I knew I wouldn't want to run for fun. If I was going to do a half, I wanted to run fast. I wanted to race. But that would be dumb. So I decided that I was going to force myself to make this race nothing. but. fun. And since it's St. Patty's Day, that fun will be fueled a handheld water bottle filled with Guinness!

 It's a good thing that I was committed to this just for fun plan, because I somehow injured my knee. I have no idea how, but after a trail walk (with a little running thrown in admittedly) a week and a half ago I woke up the next morning with a lot of pain in my knee. I broke down and made an orthopedist appointment for Monday. So I have done nothing, no cross-training, no running, no nothing!  But the good thing is while the time limit for the marathon was a little on the low side, the half marathon is a 4 hour time limit which works out to a 18+ minute mile! So we (yep my previously injured and therefore not marathon trained running buddy is joining me) are going to walk, drink, and sparkle through this race!
I'm sure I'll have a ton of pictures since it's way easier to take pictures when you're not running! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Parenting by Faith

We strive to practice Unconditional Parenting in our home. We try to avoid punishments and rewards. We strive to connect before, and more often than, we correct. We try not to use our love and affection to manipulate our children's actions. It's hard. We kind of suck at it sometimes. But, we try hard, we talk about it, and we offer apologies and commitments to try harder all the time.

When our children act in ways that we'd rather they didn't, we get frustrated like any other parent. We want them to just do what we say. We have things to do and places to go. We are tired. We haven't slept in years. We get stressed and we get overwhelmed. (Notice how all of this has to do with us as parents and not our kids or their behavior.) Sometimes we lose our temper and we yell or say things we shouldn't. Some days and weeks more than others.

Last week was one of those weeks when it just seemed like every thing was an issue, every part of the day led to a disagreement, and every minute was filled with whining and frustration (on all of our parts!).  I was trying to be patient. I was trying to empathize. I was trying to separate my own issues from the situation. But after being on the receiving end of a certain amount of yelling, attitude, unkindness, and over-reactions, I was so angry and tired and thought to myself, "I am sick of this behavior. I do NOT deserve to be treated like this! How dare they! I shouldn't have to deal with this...."

The moment passed, but many more followed. One day I reached my limit, and I sat in my room and yelled at God. I yelled at God that this was crap. I was sick of it. Yea, of course other people have things so much worse off than me, but that's the beauty of depression - you can't even feel any of the joy or the blessings that are here. Then, to kick you when you're down you feel bad about not being grateful and joyful. On top of that, parenting two spit-fire kids who have intense personalities and more intense needs had worn my husband and I down to the point that we had nothing left. Throw in some extra work stress for him and we were a hot mess.

So, I yelled at God for all of this. And I was on a roll! I ranted at God about all sorts of things from my injuries to my ridiculous issues with emotional eating. By the end, I might as well have been yelling at God that the sky is blue and that the sun will come up in the morning. It was completely ridiculous and unwarranted. It was disproportionate to the situation and it surely wasn't respectful or loving. I pretty much said, "Screw you God!" like an angry teenager slamming the door before I walk away. And to be honest, it's not the first time I've done it, and it admittedly won't be the last.

I'm sure you, dear reader, can see the connection by now. My behavior wasn't much different than my children's. Now, we could talk about our short tempers and how the kids learn from us (I promise they weren't there for my hissy fit before God), but something else struck me. A few days later, I was trying really really hard to shift my focus from my struggles to God's glory and strength. I thought back to my temper tantrum and was so thankful for a God who accepts me as I am, offering endless grace, hugging me when I rage and quietly calling me back when I slam the door.

That's how I am called to parent. Yes, it's counter cultural. Yes, others look at me and roll their eyes. People will say I'm creating monsters, that I'm indulging my children and it won't do them any good. Some will argue a slap on the hand, a strong reprimand, or many many minutes in time-out would solve our problems, but I know better. I know better, because I have the perfect example. God has shown me a love that isn't phased by my temper tantrums, my rage, or my wrong-doing. Jesus didn't say "are you kidding me? I'm going to die for these fools? I don't deserve this. I am sick of their sin." Jesus embodied a love that I can't wrap my head around and a grace that knows absolutely no bounds.

It takes just the tiniest bit of that amazing love, of that mind-blowing grace to urge me to do better, be better, to walk humbly. It doesn't encourage me to a spoiled brat. It inspires me to stand up, dust off my pants, and show my children, my family, and whatever part of the world I can touch just the tiniest bit of that amazing love and mind-blowing grace so that they too might be inspired.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

*that* mom's bookshelf: March Edition

I'm well on my way to my goal of reading 12 books this year! Here's my recap of the first four.
I'm a Jennifer Weiner junkie, and I finally got around to reading her latest. Then Came You is a neat story with lots of twists and turns which is typical of Weiner's storylines. I really like the way she starts with a number of women's different stories and you watch as they begin to interact and finally entwine. I miss the humor of some of Weiner's earlier books, but this book still kept me engaged. I thought the subjects of egg donors, surrogacy, and motherhood were interesting, but I was left unsatisfied with the book's conclusion as it all felt a little too cliche with a neat little wrap up. If I wasn't such a fan of Jennifer Weiner, I'm not sure I'd be thrilled with this book, but as it was, I enjoyed the read and it was my first fiction read in months.

I borrowed this book from a friend. It was a quick and easy read while traveling to and from the Tinker Bell half marathon in California. I liked how each chapter was a different woman's story. Each story was a little different from world class athletes to those overcoming extreme obstacles. I enjoyed learning some more history of women's running, and I was left feeling inspired by each story. I loved hearing how each woman came to find running and how it helped her through the challenges her life brought her - whether running or non-running related.

Here's a confession. I never made it fully through this book. I renewed it from the library twice and simply could not bring myself to keep turning the pages. It outlines how to treat depression with yoga and the research that supports such an approach. It provides simple breathing exercises and simple pose sequences but the overwhelming message is to find a good instructor to walk you through making yoga an integral part of your treatment plan. The research was interesting, but when it got into the exercises and sequences, I would rather spend my time going to yoga class than trying to follow it from a book. There are certain poses particularly good for depression or anxiety and the book does highlight those, but I had also found that information previously.

A friend recommended this book to me as she was enjoying it in her church study group. She recommended it so highly that when I said I'd check if the library had it and go from there, she hand delivered (okay we were getting together anyway) my very own copy. As I think I've mentioned before, I shy away from some of the mainstream Christian literature as it often doesn't align well with my liberal Lutheran theology, but I also love some of Max Lucado's children books so I figured I'd give it a try. I really enjoyed the book. The entire book walks through the life of David. It was an engaging read. It starts off by pointing out that when we (or David or anyone) focus on God, our proverbial giants fall just like David was able to defeat Goliath. However, when we focus on our giants, we fall. As someone who finds herself fighting some big Giants some days, I found this both inspiring but also overwhelming. Sometimes I am just too tired to fight these giants and fail to keep my eyes on God, and I appreciated the section about the Brook Besor where half of David's army refused to go on and fight, but instead stopped to rest. I loved the statement, It's okay to rest. Jesus fights when you cannot. Overall, the book was a message of hope. We all have Giants to fight but we do not need to fight them on our own. We can collapse, fail, struggle, and wander, but God is always there for us, welcoming with open arms.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kid-Friendly Spaces in Our Home

Recently, I worked on a few small changes to our living spaces to make them better fit our needs, especially the kids' needs.

First off, I set up a snack cabinet. So often the kids are begging for snacks when I am trying to do something else. They can frustrated because I cannot respond quickly, and I get frustrated because I get interrupted. Of course, they are fully capable of getting their own snacks if I set up the environment for them. The snack cabinet is filled with healthy snacks that they can have pretty much whenever.
 We will be adding a green/red sign on the front that indicates when the snack cabinet is 'open' or 'closed' so they aren't snacking when dinner is going to be served in just a few minutes. They are able to see their options and make their own decision. It eliminates whining and frustration from both them and me!  I will also be adding a shelf in the fridge for items that need to stay cold.This fits in with what they are used to at the Montessori school they attend. I love to hear my 3 year old proudly say that he would like some water and emphatically that can do it "all by myyyyy self".
Water pitcher and glasses so they can help themselves
Next up, we created a peace corner. This is also something they have at school. We've had various items that help us feel more peaceful when we are stressed, upset, or angry, but we never had a good place for them to live. In the corner of our living room, we now have an official peace corner.
Peace Corner
The boys have their chairs and blankets. We also have a small table. There are peace stones they painted last summer, a calm down jar that we made, and a peace rose that their teachers gave all the kids at Christmas time. They have a peace rose at school that they offer when they are upset with someone to foster the resolution of conflict. The calm down jar is filled with glitter so that you can shake it up and watch the glitter swirl and settle. This allows helpful time to calm our bodies and quiet our mind. I actually really like to use it myself!

There is a basket under the table housing a few more calm down items. Here we have stress balloons that we made. We had so much fun making these. We made homemade playdough and then stuffed our balloons. It was tricky but a lot of fun. We love the finished product!

We also have Rescue Remedy, Tranquil Young Living Oil, and another calm down jar in that basket.
Combined with some books about feelings and making choices (we particularly like Tiger, Tiger Is it True?) in a basket, this completes our peace corner. It is a place we all go sometimes when we're feeling good and sometimes we're frustrated. We don't send kids to the peace corner, but sometimes we remind them it's there in case they'd like to use it when they are feeling angry or frustrated. This is one of the things we do in place of time-outs in our house. We try to offer tools to help each other cope with big feelings and less than ideal behavior. This goes for kids and adults alike.

The last spot in our home that we adapted was a more functional space for art. Art supplies had been hard to reach and the table was often covered in other toys. We now set up a place where crayons, markers, paper, and coloring books are always available. I also just got some new bins where I'll be able to put stickers, stamps, glue, and scissors so they are also always available whenever the creative urge may strike. This is also used sometimes instead of our peace corner because we all find coloring and drawing very calming.

Don't mind the balloons, the kids are on a balloon kick lately. The books, paper, and other supplies are housed on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf easily accessible to both boys. I am really enjoying our space being more inviting and peaceful. Of course, it's not like we are sitting and meditating all day long! I have two loud and busy boys, but it is nice for us all to be able to calm ourselves more easily when we feel overwhelmed.