Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If you've never been thrown up on, you're probably not a mom

"I Frowed up Mommy."  

The human body is full of many wonders and miracles.  One of those is its ability to fight off pathogens that seek to destroy it.  If a pathogen is found, and its design signals the body to purge the stomach in defense, we are presented with the contents of the stomach.  Again, and again, and again.  We can learn about it, hear about it, but until you have had the contents of someone else's stomach ejected onto you (and furniture and carpet,) the true depth of the experience will not be understood.  

There is a series of reactions we go through when it happens the first time. 
Disbelief:  "That did not just happen!!"
The internal "Ick" Factor:  "Nasty! Gross! Ugh! Get it off! Ew! Ew! Ew!"
Confusion:  "How am I supposed to clean this up?"
Whine:  "I want MY mommy!"
Action:  "I guess I'll get the paper towels...Pine Sol, spray Lysol,Windex, scrub brush, towels..."
Then back to "Ick":  "I don't want to touch that!!"  Fighting the gag reflex as you get elbow deep in the stuff despite your best efforts to remain unsoiled or to avoid further soiling.  
Resignation: "This is the situation, I will do what it takes to remedy it."

With each successive time, each reaction begins to fade or slow down, and eventually, thankfully, only Resignation is left.  Once we process our reactions, we can start to feel compassion, pity, empathy, and even sorrow for the sick person.  We begin to think clearly, plan ahead for the next time, and even take time out for some hugs and snuggling, yes, even sick people, need hugs, and if you're a mom who won't hug her sick children for fear of getting sick, shame on you!  Courage is a necessary ingredient of parenting.  Another necessary ingredient is an immune supplement, like Airborne, Emergen-C, Zicam, Echinacea, or dozens other virus-fighting products and herbs, like garlic, or zinc, or vitamin D.  So do take care of yourself, but also, be there for your kids.

To all you moms who have held a sick baby, I applaud you!  To all you moms who don't react with disgust to their throw-up anymore, because you've allowed yourself to experience it enough times, Thank You!  You are a champion to your children, and an example they will never forget!  You are not sacrificing for them, you are rising up to meet their needs, and you are rising in the process!  You are a Hero.  You are a Saint.  You are being blessed in ways you cannot imagine.  Good job!

If you are anyone who cleans the bodily excretions and fluids of anyone else, be it the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, or children, THANK YOU.  You deserve all the praise this world can offer.  You are growing in ways you can't imagine, more and more each time.  You are a blessing; an instrument in God's hands, and you are so dearly appreciated, if not by the recipient, then by your Father in Heaven.  May God continue to bless you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Mortal Experience

Today a teacher asked a question that I've heard before, but needed to hear again.  She asked, "Do you FEEL as though you are a Human being, who occasionally has spiritual experiences, or do you FEEL as though you were a spiritual being, having a mortal experience?"

I have always heard that question as a sort of trivia question.  I always knew the right answer, so I just answered correctly, and went on.  But today I realized the question is about how we FEEL. There is no right answer!  So today this thought was heavy on my mind:  Perhaps I know better, but am I feeling like the cares and concerns of this life are all that matter?  Am I thinking about the larger picture at all?  Do I feel my own eternal spirit inside me, ancient and yearning for growth?  Do I see it in my children?

Last night I put my kids to bed.  I read them stories, I told them a scripture story, I prayed with them, and then I got ready to leave.  Kaylee was feeling insecure and asked me to stay a little longer.  I was tired, but I agreed, having a feeling she was only asking for what she needed.  She asked if we could sing a song together. ''I Know That My Savior Loves Me."  As we sang together, our voices blending, and our hearts open, we looked into each other's eyes.  We felt the spirit of that beautiful song.  I saw her singing with all her heart, as a testimony of her true belief and hope.  I admired her simple yet undying faith.  Her spirit seemed to rise and take comfort in those meaningful words.

She began to change shape before me.  First, she was a baby again, so little, so innocent, so hopeful, and then she was an angel, trusting in her God with all her heart.  I saw such purity that I was ashamed to meet her eyes.  I saw such power that I felt weak to my knees.  I forced myself to look into her eyes again.  I needed to see what was in there.  I saw such love and goodness that I wanted to hide.  I smiled lovingly into her eyes, but deep down I wanted to curl up and cry and beg her forgiveness that I ever lost patience with her.  I was ashamed that I ever didn't see her for who she really was.  I was embarrassed and sorry that I ever yelled or got irritated with such a beautiful daughter of God.  I told her what I saw.  I prayed with her right then, that she and I would help each other grow, and that as she did, that she would look to her Savior for her perfect example, and I would too.  I do not want to be the authority figure in my home anymore.  I want it to be Him.

Deepak Chopra, in his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents:
            "I was the daddy, and they were the kids.  But there have been other, rarer moments when the whole facade fell away.  I've seen my son give me a glance that said, 'Here we are again.  What an interesting game we're playing this time.' I've seen my daughter smile in such a way that I just knew she was on the verge of laughing out loud at the masks we have put on to keep our roles alive.

"In those precious glances and smiles I felt the bond of innocence, which is more powerful than love because it transcends love.  Instead of just being here as a unit with its own private triumphs and failures, every family is a communion of souls.  What we have in common isn't where we live...We are sailing the seas of immortality together--that is the real bond.  When you can see past the role playing and still act your role with love and dedication, then I believe you are truly spiritual in your approach to parenting."

He also explains, "I don't look upon spiritual law as optional--this is how the universe works as it unfolds from pure, unmanifest Being to the infinite variety of the created world."  How true that is!  This is not some gimmick to try, or some parenting tricks to use on your kids to get them to obey.  When we understand ourselves and our families in context of our spiritual roles, our lives and the part that we play comes into the correct perspective.  We, and all our associations begin to change at the core.

If you feel mortal and occasionally seek some spiritual uplift, you are not alone.  I have been the same way.  But to live in the Spirit is to feel immortal and understand that for the moment we must care for mortal things.  The two perspectives are actually opposite.

Chopra, pg. 154 " Parents are used to being the authority figures.  As such, we are above and beyond our children--smarter, more powerful, more experienced, in command of money and property.  From this position of authority, parents have been able to pass judgement, to inflict punishment, to lay down rules of right and wrong, and to do so with a clear sense of duty and purpose.
     "This book has outlined a different duty and purpose.  In this...vision, a parent isn't an authority.  You and your child are both souls; you are both embarked on the journey of soul-making.  The only difference is the roles you have chosen.  All souls are immortal; they cannot be created or destroyed.  But we choose temporary roles to play.
       "The most good you can do for yourself spiritually is to play your role as parent with total love, conviction, and purpose...This role will uplift and inspire you more than any other.  The same is true for your child...your child has decided to be a weak, vulnerable infant...And yet both of you, if you strip away the role playing, are pure souls, equal as one.  Innocence enables you to see this, to play the role yet go beyond it."

As I write this, I know there are going to be many who read this and fight against this notion.  I know there will be some who will be offended at their authority being challenged.  I get that.  I feel it too a little.  When I abdicate authority to God, I become I child too.  We, my children and me, become siblings of our Father in Heaven, striving together to become what He wants us to be.  Then my efforts to teach them become acts of Charity, not assertion of my authority.  I of myself have no authority, I am only acting in His name.

These are the thoughts that are coming to me, I feel, as answer to many prayers, in order to help me along this process of a change of heart and soul.

Step ONE:  Become my child's equal, and lead out from compassion, not pride, fear, anxiety, or selfish desire.
"All men [women and children] are created equal."
"God is no respecter of persons."

Pride is the trap easiest to fall into.

When I think of my children as immortal and eternal souls, equal to myself, the fight goes out of me.  The anger, the frustration and the need to control dissipates, while love, acceptance, wonder and innocence slip reverently in.

Thomas S. Monson quoted in October 2001: "Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain, expressed the profound philosophy: “The family is the building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure center, a place of refuge and a place of rest. It encompasses the whole of the society. It fashions our beliefs; it is the preparation for the rest of our life.”

Monson continues: "There will be calm and wind, sunlight and shadows, joy and sorrow. But if we really try, our home can be a bit of heaven here on earth. The thoughts we think, the deeds we do, the lives we live influence not only the success of our earthly journey; they mark the way to our eternal goals."

1Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the atemple of God, and that thebSpirit of God dwelleth cin you?

I add,...and in your children? The powerful spirit I saw in my daughter can never be forgotten.  It is as though I saw God himself coming to the surface of my daughter's face.  I have never seen anything so beautiful, so wonderful, and so magnificent.  I have never realized my own deep horror at the thought of meeting God face to face in my sinful state.  I remember with tears that moment, such beauty that I could not fully look upon it.  It is truly beyond words.  

All young children possess the capacity to reflect God himself because they are without sin.  Find it in a young child, and you too will never be the same.  

Lying Softly tell me gently, whisper lightly, ever kindly.

Listen to my story young one.  You have uttered, I have wondered.  Wandering I'm searching for the innocence you sweetly plunder.

Oh can you understand my hunger for the love I see you offer.  Can you feel my longing for the joy I see that shines inside you?

My one--true love---my dear, small child.

'Come let me show how to dance in the winter and laugh at the clouds how they're changing the weather and see how the sun's brightly shining for you mother, and see how the grass gently blows in the summer!'

How can a one so innocent and pure ever know a thing of this cruel world?  
Light surrounds you, smiles abound you, wonder crowds you, beauty found you!

Joy is here!  Pick it up!  And understand the love of God.
Joy is here!  Place it in your heart.  And understand, the Joy of Love!
Joy is here!  Pick it up!  And you will understand the Joy of God!  God is Love!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is This Your Ideal Life?

In the book "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh, he asks you the reader to look around your home; ask yourself, "Is this my ideal life? What does my ideal life look like?"; then after the vision is crystal clear in your mind, clear away everything that doesn't fit into that ideal. 

I would like to take that advice, and then take it one step further.  For some, a TV in the bedroom is cluttering their ideal love life.  For others, a lack of self control is preventing their ideal relationships.  For still others, a lack of understanding or closeness to Spirit is hampering their ability to feel compassion and love for others.  Each of us is unique, and our lives are all as imperfect and different as we are.  But for all of us, a lack of attention and consistent work will result in chaos.

Acknowledging Weaknesses, Compensating For Them

I was looking around my house the other day, and I snapped.  Have you ever done that?  I was just walking around, tidying, and as I told my kids for the umpteenth time to pick up their toys.  My daughter, the high-spirited one, tells me it's not her job, and I should just do it for her, and as I began to argue with her, I realized something very important.  This is not the life I want.  This is not how I want to spend my time.  Peter Walsh's words came back to me like a roaring wave, and I snapped. 
I went through the house gathering as many toys as I could find, even things that were put away, and I put them in the car.  I got rid of many, many things my children claimed to love, yet showed no respect for, and I informed them they were all going to charity.  I then went through my own things, starting with my shoes, and started throwing out and donating things I don't use and don't need.  It felt so good!  But something else was nagging at me that I couldn't quite pin down. 

I got rid of about 90% of their toys, loved or not.  You may think I'm nuts and say to yourself, "those poor kids!"  That thought did run through my mind briefly, but I pushed it away.  Christmas is next week.  At least 30 more toys are about to enter our house, so these kids will be fine.  

I know a great organizer.  She fits a large amount of stuff into her dust-free home which has few closets, and large empty spaces.  She is neat and tidy, with a place for everything, and everything in its place.  She is also not me.  I have no organization skills apart from  occasional bursts of energy.  I do not do well with daily maintenence.  So to make up for that, I need less stuff.  My goal here is not to tell you that you should get rid of all your kids' toys.  I am attempting to make an analogy.

I filled up the entire car, and sent it away with my husband this morning.  "Good riddance!" I thought to myself.  Away went all the source of the contention and stress in my home, right? 


Today I thought would be a finishing day, of finally turning the house into "My ideal life."  I was sure that the kids would be grateful not to be scolded for leaving their toys about.  I was sure that this would be a good day.


I dragged, humphed, and got highly irritated with my kids who fought nearly all day.  My daughter even taught the 2-yr-old some new moves, such as how to scream, "I hate you!" and kicking me during a tantrum.  It was when my daughter kicked me and ran to her room that I had to stop and ask myself once again, but this time with more thought, "Is this my ideal life?  What does my ideal family look like?"  I didn't have to imagine it, I just had to think back and remember.  What was different back then?  What was encroaching on that vision?  What needed to be cleared away? 


It was then that I realized that the toys, while they were cluttering up my home, my time, and my verbal commands, were not the SOURCE of the contention that has lately been sneaking into my home.  I am thankful that they were not there to be blamed.  This was not my children, or my husband, or simply life's hardships.  This was my doing.  I had lost my drive, my spirit, my intuition, my patience, and worst of all, my charity.  I had changed, and so my family followed suit.  It is time to apologize, and start again.

Reading My Own Blog

For the next little while, this blog will be centered around my attempts to change, to overcome negative reactions in mind, words, and body, and become positively pro-active, again.  To help with that, I am going to be reading my own blog, along with the scriptures, church literature, uplifting and helpful books, and striving to live only the good, while clearing away the bad.  This is where I will discover if my blog is actually helpful in helping someone change.  If it is not, changes will be made.  With God's help, I know I can do this.  I know without a doubt that change is truly possible, with a confession, a desire to change, true sorrow, and a broken heart before God.  I also know it will require Faith that my God is there, Hope that He will help me and that His help will be sufficient; and Charity, a gift of love that I must beg and pray and plead for, while allowing my heart to be open to it.

This blog isn't about me prostrating my life in front of everyone, setting up some sort of false ideal to be admired.  This blog is about real change, and wanting (and believing) that change can be permanent, in favor of kindness, patience, love, and godliness.  This blog is about beating family contention, and patterns of abuse, unkindness, impatience, neglect, and other mistreatments of children that are so often passed from generation to generation.  This is me telling the world: I need to change too, and I know it's hard, and I know it seems impossible, because I feel all of those things!  I have hope, because I have been there before, and I know I can be there again, with time, patience, and consistent daily effort.  I will let you know about the tools that help the most, and the ones that don't.  I will let you know how my family reacts, and most of all, all the inspirations that come to me during this process. 

I will end with a heartfelt plea.  If you are like me, PLEASE don't give up.  Please don't give in.  You have not failed if you have not lost hope.  If you feel anger, resentment, frustration, and pain, you are not alone.  If you feel hopeless, afraid, defeated, you are not alone.  If you feel defensive, self-righteous, even confused, you are not alone.  You are not alone.  All of us need help.  All of us need a change sometimes, and change begins with me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Five Criteria for Positive Discipline With Parenting Expert Dr. Jane Nelsen

"I Need A Hug"

Dr. Jane Nelsen of positivedescipline.com writes in this article (click on the title for the link) about a soft approach to an out of control child. This particular approach may not work every time, or even more than once. But you and your child will never forget it.

A child is in the middle of a screaming tantrum. Father gets down and shouts, "I need a hug!" Child: "What?!?" Father: "I need a hug!" Child:"Now?!?" Father "Yes!" Child shrugs, "Okay" and hugs his father. The tension melts away, and father says, "Thanks, I needed that." Child says, "So did I." They can then deal with whatever started the tantrum after that, or not. Perhaps that is all that was needed.

The father above has taught his son several things in this moment. Here are just some that I thought of that his son learned:
1. His father loves him no matter what.
2. He, the son, can contribute to helping others, and that helping others also helps himself.
3. When people are upset, try pulling them closer instead of pushing them away. He now knows how that feels.
4. True love heals the hurt caused by anger.

The father above also learned several things in that moment:
1. He learned that he loves his son no matter what.
2. His son has a good heart, even when he's angry. He respects him for it.
3. Pull others close when they are angry, instead of pushing them away.
4. Holding his little boy close and feeling true love heals the hurt caused by anger.

Reading the above article I thought of the first time something like this happened with my daughter. I like remembering these things, because it's the only way I can make sure I don't ever forget!

My daughter was screaming, thrashing, shouting obscenities, and I was at a loss. The overwhelming feeling came over me; 'She is doing this because she doesn't feel loved.' I got down on the floor and shouted over her screams, "Do you think I don't love you?!" She quieted down and stared at me. I said more softly, "Are you really angry because you don't think I love you very much?" She started to cry real tears, pain and deep-felt hurt pouring out of her. I hugged her tightly, and through my own tears I cried to her, "I love you more than anything! You are my baby girl, and you always will be. You changed my life. You are my angel!" We sat on the floor and cried, and I felt her pain. I felt my own pain. I promised myself that things would be different from then on.

I don't know if my daughter remembers that day, but I know I will never forget. It was one of the first turning points for us--when I started realizing that love conquers all, not pain and shame. I pray I will never forget. I pray that I will remember how I felt before and after that moment. I pray that I will remember her face, and the pain that came pouring out of her, so much hurt, all caused by my negative discipline. Maybe I didn't beat my kids (except for spanking,) I didn't hit them with anything, no bruises (besides on their backsides,) but I controlled them (or tried to control them) using fear, intimidation, shame, and apathy. I didn't look ahead, I just tried to get through the moment, hoping that somehow, some way, things would get better. All my discipline was centered on immediate control, not long-term goals. It hurt. It hurt them- it hurt me- it hurt my spouse. It was wrong. It felt wrong. I just didn't know what else to do. Now I do know what else to do. I have given myself permission to use Christ's teachings in my home to teach discipline to my children, and myself. Self-discipline is contagious. The children learn it by watching. They also learn the opposite by watching. Am I ready to be the grown-up and make a choice? Am I ready to learn, for the sake of my family, how to be a true Christian?

The root of the word "discipline" is "disciple". I ought to BE Christ. I am the body of Christ, as are all his disciples, so how would Christ treat my children? If he were in my place, would he spank them? Would he shame them? Would he try to break their will? I can only know the answers as I learn more about Him. Simply remembering Him and how He feels, helps me see things differently. I want to be patient, I want to be kind, I want to show mercy and love. This is the reason for this blog--to make sure I keep remembering.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Children

Kaylee 6yrs, Kendon 2yrs, Peter 4yrs

Kirk Martin wrote in a Celebrate Calm newsletter, that when we let go of our anxiety, and calm ourselves down, we will see our children blossom, and their true nature begin to surface.

My children are beautiful.  Every day, I watch them become even more so.  I see, not myself, but divinity shining from their eyes.  I can only watch and wonder how such simple, yet complex beauty is created.

Kaylee is a prodigy at arranging things to make them look pleasing to the eye. This was a year ago.  She's even better now.
 Kaylee.  Powerful.  Passionate.  Precious.  Kaylee learned early in life to hold feelings in. Now she is learning to open up, cry, let her heart be touched.  She was hurt the most by the philosophies of the world.  She knows deep down, by her own experience in her life, the healing power of Jesus Christ.  She and I went through it together.  We cried together, we clung to each other during the hard days, we smiled through tears as the healing began, and we promised we would never forget.   
  She is like a rare flower, that if you try to grasp, will immediately close up and hide.  She will shine and sparkle, only if she is left alone.  She is capable of hard work.  Determination and grit rush to her face as she strengthens her arms, her legs, her stomach.  She dances with heart, putting her all into every movement.  If she feels she is not perfect, she is hard on herself.  In her I see an angel who has taken the form of a human, determined to find her former glory.  When she is disobedient, it is usually for that reason.  She is trying to find her power, test her own strength, and become her own powerful person.
Her blue eyes sparkle when she laughs.  They peer deeply into my soul when she is learning, and cloud over when she is hurt.


What can I say about my middle child?  He is compassionate, loving, and strives to be constantly obedient.  He loves the Lord, and often sings His praises. He is very smart.  He isn't in a hurry, EVER.  He seems to understand that rushing through life causes us to miss important details.  Sometimes, he has to remind me.  He is very detail oriented.  He surprises us as he learns how to draw things on his own, with surprising detail for a 4 year old.  We took a walk through an atrium once.  He discovered each plant, learned their names, asked questions about them,  found a praying mantis, and not only wanted to learn all the details about what it eats and where it lives, but wanted to tell a story about it, guessing at what it might be thinking and feeling.  He talked on and on, and drew me into a detailed conversation on the matter.  He asks so many questions...why? what? where? when? who? how many?  With oh so many follow up questions.  His questions are as never-ending as his curiosity.   Is it any wonder that his favorite TV show is Go Diego Go!?  He loves the learning as much as the excitement.  He loves to be read to, and cannot go to sleep without a story.  He has a really hard time sleeping.  He wakes easily, and lies in bed thinking, drawing, or telling stories to himself for long hours.  He can retell a story he's heard only a couple of times, with astonishing detail.

He loves to run, climb, and play, and is currently learning to skip.  He couldn't skip at first.  So he galloped.  But he finally has started to figure it out on his own.  He's not especially fast, or coordinated, but not clumsy either. His build is small, and he gets very upset when he can't do things as fast or as well as his sister.
 He wants to understand the world.  He wants to understand people and their relationships, why Mom and Dad are sometimes inconsistent, why we humans hurt each other, and thinks it's exciting that he loves his sister, even though he sometimes gets mad at her!

He love, love, loves animals of all kinds. This Thanksgiving he said he was thankful for 
1. Worms-because they help the Earth.
2. Roly Poly Bugs-because they're good-guy bugs. They don't bite.
3. Butterflies because they help plants grow.
4. Giraffes because they're really tall, and have really long tongues, and eat the leaves of trees.
5. Mom and Dad because they love me.
6. Jesus--He made everything.


Kendon is my baby.  He is my child that I followed my instincts with.  He is the only one that I have little to no regrets about.  I still nurse him occasionally, he's two and a half now.  He has never been spanked.  He is obedient and loving.  He loves his Mama!  He loves his Daddy too, and grandparents and nursery teachers, but most of all, his Mama!  He mimics everyone but has a will of his own.  

He is my right hand.  He helps me do laundry, dishes, peck on the computer, (ahem,) cooking, mopping, talking on the phone, he is my shadow, constantly learning, for good or for bad.  He talks and talks like an older child.  He wants to be exactly like his big brother.  He doesn't know he's small. He is very sharp, and is difficult to fool.  He is inquisitive like Peter, but in a different way. He asks questions to determine what to expect, to establish certainty in his life.  
He is happy and loves to laugh.  He runs, falls, and gets up and runs again saying, "I'm okay."  He loves to communicate.  He sometimes gets upset, because his whole life, his older siblings have dominated all conversation.  He now asserts himself, and says, "Kaylee!  or Peter!  I'm not finished!!  Mommy, can I talk now?"
He is starting to want to potty train.  He wants to be big like Peter and Kaylee.  But when we talk about "No more milks" (nursing) he insists he's still a baby.  

Kendon is assertive, more than the other kids were.  He is willing to reach out and explore, as long as he knows I am always going to be there when he comes back to me.  He is not bothered any more if I leave him with Grandma, because he's figured out that Mommy always comes back.  Sometimes he is shy and won't speak to anyone but Mommy, and other times he summons his courage and speaks.  Many people are amazed after getting to know us that Kendon can speak almost as well as the other kids.  Still, in my heart he is my baby.  I am protective of that relationship, and I will not leave him for more than a day.  I have such a close connection with him that one day recently I was thinking about something, and he started to say aloud what I was thinking!

Kid Conversation

Kendon:"Kaylee, do you want this?" 
Kaylee (holding hand out): "Yes, thank you." 
Kendon(still holding item): "Did you say yes?" 
Kaylee: "Yes."  
Kendon (holding item just out of reach): "Did you say Yes? or No."  
Kaylee: "I said yes." 
Kendon: "Did you say No?... or Yes."  
Kaylee: "I said Yes." 
Kendon (still holding item barely out of Kaylee's reach,) "Did you say Yes?..." 
 [5 minutes of repetition later...] 
Kaylee: "No" 
Kendon: "Okay...Did you say No?" 
Kaylee (laughing): "Yes"
(Kendon walks away with item in hand.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Celebrate Calm Stop Defiance Live Event in Fairfax County, VA

My kids ate WAY too much sugar a few weeks ago.  They ran around crazy, screaming, not listening to anything I said, and I started to lose it.  I know better, and I know how to do this correctly, but that night, the truth is, I too had eaten WAY too much sugar myself, and I did not feel completely in control of myself.  So my husband comes home to find me yelling at the kids to "CALM DOWN!  YOU ARE OUT OF CONTROL!!!"  (The irony of which they of course picked up on.)

He did not say anything to me right then, he just went in the room, and let me go back and forth from the bedroom where I yelled at him about the kids, to the rest of the house, where I yelled at the kids.  He looked at me with pain in his face, but said nothing.  I raged even more, because I thought he was no help at all!  Had I been thinking clearly, I would have realized that he wanted nothing to do with my anxiety, and neither did my kids.

Finally I realized that my anger was escalating, and I locked the kids in their room to bounce off the walls in there, while I washed the dishes.  (Locking them in their room is not a principle of attachment parenting, but neither is yelling.  I just needed a few minutes of peace to get control of myself.)  So as I did the dishes, my husband comes up behind me, and gently, with a warm smile, starts stroking my back.  He says with a smile, "Are we going to become a screaming family now?" We laugh a little.  I feel the muscles in my back begin to unwind.  Without saying anything else, offers me unspoken words of love in his gentle touch, and I can't hold back a return smile.

His calm was contagious.  I immediately felt humility returning to my soul, and remorse begin to set in.  He made me feel like the luckiest wife on Earth in that moment.

I think that's how God reprimands us.  He lets us feel the difference between what we're choosing, and what He is choosing, and gives us the space to come into His calm if we choose-- to choose love instead of rage-- to chose self-control instead of controlling others.  His way is the way of closeness, the way of kindness, the way of self-mastery, and most of all, choice.  I chose a different evening, and apologized to my children.  I chose love.

I choose love.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Every Girl Deserves a Father

7 years ago this week, I stood in the hallway of a church in a long, flowing white dress.  Its train was carefully jeweled with pearls and tiny roses, each sewn carefully by hand.  My blonde hair had been bundled on top of my head, while my ringlets gently kissed the back of my neck as they brushed from side to side.  A pearled tiara held in place a veil, which flowed gracefully down my back, tied on each side by ribbon.  My hands held the most beautiful flowers I could imagine, white water lilies, nestled in ivy and baby's breath.  My bride's maids stood in front of me, their yellow and green shimmering dresses I had carefully chosen.

My father stood by my side.  In his shadow,  I looked up at this giant's towering frame, wondering if my husband would ever become the man I saw my father become.  I felt secure with my father's arm in mine.  I knew I was loved, and always would be, by this man I still called, "Daddy."  Then it hit me.

I was walking into the unknown, about to be bound to a man I barely knew!  I forgot the two years I had spent learning to love with Kevin, and suddenly I felt as though I were at the precipice of a cliff.  My heart began to race, panic set in, and I started to uncontrollably cry.  This was moments before I was to enter the chapel.  It was all wrong!  I was supposed to marry in the Temple, not a church.  I was supposed to marry a dancer who loved poetry!  Kevin hated poetry!  He worked with his hands, not his feet!  Worst of all, I had seen Kevin get angry, and I didn't like what I saw.  I had seen myself get angry, and I knew he wouldn't like what he would see.  I turned to look at my father, pleading silently, what should I do?

My dad looked through my fear to my heart, and smiled warmly.  He kissed my head, and said gently, "I know.  It's okay.  You're doing the right thing."  He placed his enormous hand on the small of my back, and led me into the room of the church.  We walked an eternity, the 300 or so pairs of eyes were all warm and loving to me.  I hung subtly to Daddy's arm, a rock, firmly lifting my own.  Each step toward the front of the church calmed a few more of my fears.  I was walking into a warm embrace.  I looked only briefly at my mother, I was afraid she would make me cry.  But I could feel my parents smiling at me.  I could feel their love and support.  I knew that no matter what, they would help me in this next phase of my life.  When my father let go, the thought occurred to me, "I could run now, and no one would stop me."  But I stayed, because as I looked into the kind eyes of my soon-to-be husband, I could feel my father's confidence, and I knew that I could love, because first, I was loved.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Seeing the Children With Our Own 'I's'

Some time ago, I wrote about my feelings of Attachment Parenting.  "Let me be clear," I had said, "I am not a fan of Attachment Parenting."  I wrote that I tried it with my oldest child, it was a disaster, and I would not wish to make the same mistake again.  I truly felt like I had learned something, and I did not wish to revisit it.  

To be completely honest, however, I hadn't actually looked into the program myself, only heard about it from others.  I based my practice of the program on conversations I had, some for and some against the practice.  I practiced only a watered down version of the program, trying to apply only the outward appearances of it without actually getting to the deeper roots of the beliefs.  I don't believe it was laziness, it was more about anxiety.  I had so much information coming in from so many sources, it was overwhelming!  I think many new parents have been there. 

With parenting magazines, books, chat rooms, blogs, and random advice from family, and hundreds of friends and strangers lolling about my head, how could I find space to utilize the most important parenting tools I owned --my 'I's?

Inspiration, Intuition and Instinct. 

Where did I go wrong??

1 Kings 19: 11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lordbut the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
  12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
  13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it...

I laugh now (and sometimes shudder) at the things I used to say about raising kids--talking about them as though they were horses or dogs and just as trainable.  Books like Back In Control, authors like Dr. Spock, and most parenting magazine articles, all approach kids as though they were a different species.  We begin to separate ourselves from our children as we follow these kinds of trends.  Our natural love for them begins to take a back burner, along with the God-given inspiration and intuition we desperately need, as a subtle wish for perfection, control, pleasing others, and for parenting to be EASY take over.

It doesn't happen all at once, but gradually and steadily, the need for order begins to trump the need to connect with the children.  Parenting books and magazines, most of them, are constant, unchanging and predictable, unlike our children.  So for the anxious new parent, they are particularly tantalizing.  

As our children challenge us more, we cling to these philosophies of control and forced obedience more.  We keep looking for EASY.  We keep wondering when our children will be perfectly behaved like so-n-so's kids.  We wet our pillows and wonder why this isn't working the way it promised to.  If we are convinced enough, we will begin to blame the children for these teachings of the world not working.  "If she weren't so strong-willed!"  “Why won't the kids just listen??”

To thine own self be true...”

I remember telling my husband early on that I didn't think it was right to let a child cry themselves to sleep. I said, “It seems cruel, and I can see that causing insecurity, not confidence.” But parenting books, mommy chat rooms, and well meaning family and friends told me the opposite. Eventually, because I couldn't control my toddler, and more importantly, my own anxiety, I became convinced that my first instinct was wrong.

Naturally my husband was confused when I changed tunes, and told him we now had to follow the trend of C.I.O. (Cry It Out.) “This way of 'Sleep Training,'” I told him, “will teach the children to comfort themselves. They have to learn that they are okay even if we're not with them.” I was informed that my daughter who clung to me did so because she was “insecure.” I was now conviced that confidence was just around the corner for our little one as long as we didn't 'give in.'

Just an insert: ARE your little children okay if not supervised by a loving adult?? Is a 2-yr-old ready to be left on their own? Why should they NEED to learn something that is absolutely not true??

Second: is that actually what they learn as they cry alone in the dark? How can you control what conclusions their little minds will draw? Is it not just as possible that the child will instead draw the conclusion that he or she is not loved, is not valued, is not safe from abandonment, or an infinite number of other possibilities?
(YES, I did go in and check on them, and tell them I was still here, they were safe, yadda yadda yadda. It is not about me not following the program correctly. I still walked away from them as they cried, and they still reached for me as I pulled myself away from them, and went to the hallway and wept—creating unnatural physical and emotional barriers between us.)

As my children grew, my daughter with whom I first followed a watered down version of attachment parenting, then turned around completely and followed C.I.O the most rigidly, was the most insecure. She was afraid to try things, she hid behind my legs constantly, she was afraid of strangers, she had no confidence in her abilities at all. I thought that if she didn't cry when I left her, that was confidence. That's what I was told. She stopped crying when I left her, and I swelled with temporary pride.  Now we were free to go out and leave her with a sitter, plop her in her bed and walk away... AHH. Life was so EASY!  We had a short period of time, about a year and a half, when we thought we were the BEST PARENTS EVER! Our child was submissive and broken. See? She'll do anything we make her do!

But it wasn't confidence that she had learned, it was hopelessness. She had done everything in her power to re-attach, and was pushed away at every turn. Eventually she just gave up. When I was really frank with myself, I could see that her resting self, as in when she wasn't being entertained, cheered, or distracted, was sad and mellow.

Kaylee was 19 months old when my second child was born. By then she had been broken. I followed my first instincts once again with my newborn baby. Once again, I felt I should keep my baby close, breastfeed, and let him sleep in our room. He was next to our bed in his crib, with it pushed all the way up to the bed and the side let down. I wanted quick access to him, and to be able to hear him breathe all night. This continued with him for over a year.

Meanwhile, I was doing the opposite with my daughter as I tried to force this toddler to grow up, and not NEED me anymore. I was completely conflicted.

Kaylee's rage started manifesting about a year later. She began fighting us in other ways she COULD control. Suddenly eating was a battle, potty-training was a nightmare, getting dressed, shopping, and any other aspect of life where I needed her cooperation. Now it was WE who were frightened! Who was this child that had once been so mellow?? Where was all this anger coming from?? I wasn't ready to look at what I had done, so I just started losing it all:

I lost my temper. I lost my composure. I lost my self respect and self control. Worst of all, I lost the confidence of my little children.

I KNEW something was wrong. But I didn't know what! What had I done wrong? The whole world couldn't be wrong about parenting, I thought. So many sources agreed! I decided it must have been that first instinct to attach that had been wrong. I began to gradually push my son away as well, so he wouldn't be as “insecure” as my daughter was. I had lost my confidence in my own instincts completely.  Naturally my son began to express and harbor hurt and rage as well.

My greatest moment as a mom was when I threw out the books and magazines.  My family took a sharp turn for the better when I emptied my mind of everything I thought I knew, and EVERYTHING I had been told, and listened FIRST to the still small voice.  THEN that voice directed me to the information I needed to validate and expound on what I already felt was right.

A wise source will inspire you to follow your own intuition on behalf of your children, and most of all, seek out personal inspiration. I have since found several tools to help me in my path that help my I's grow stronger, not weaker. (Celebrate Calm, Attachment Parenting -the real version-, Scream-Free Parenting by Hal Runkel, Take Your Time by Easwaran, to name just a few. Not to mention scriptures, prayer, church, The Ensign, church websites and talks, and so many other religious sources that offer peace, assurance, and guidance.)

I continue to have struggles with my kids, because of course, we're not perfect. There are many days I get discouraged, but never, ever do I feel confused. I do not say any more, “I just don't know what else to do!”
I am not yanked around by every new parenting trend I hear about. My kids are not subjected to Super Nanny, “Let's fix the kids” or other quick-fix attempts at changing their outward behavior. We know where we're going, and how we're getting there. Even the children are invested and know about our parenting goals, because they are not parenting, but family goals. We have personal boundaries that guide us—that have become the cushioned boarders of our family life--that keep us on a narrow path. We no longer wander from one experimentation to another as our kids take on the role of the lab rats.

Now, if I do experiment, I make myself the lab rat. But I do not do anything unless the still small voice tells me it is good.

I was once told by the Lord in a blessing, “Follow no advice, not even that of your parents, if the Holy Spirit does not prompt you to do so.” I ignored that admonition when my anxiety took over. When my anxiety was under control, and I was back in the driver's seat, I could finally listen to that most wise counsel.

In order for me to truly change directions--to take that first step of letting go of what I thought I had leaned about parenting, I had to turn to my God. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I needed help. I knew that I was on a path I didn't like. The Lord let me know that I was leaning on my own understanding completely, and was making a mess of my family because of it. His spirit led me to see things through HIS eyes. It was really hard at first, I must have cried for weeks on end, ashamed, embarrassed, and humbled. But gradually, it became easier to humble myself and let go of my need for power and control, and finally let HIM be my navigator!

It didn't change all at once! That's not how real change works. But now looking back, I can see how far the Lord has brought us. I praise and give thanks to Him over and over again. I write this, hoping that someone somewhere will read it, and not make the same mistakes I did. Make your own mistakes, not mine, (as my mother often says!)

Adendum: What I un-learned , learned, and re-learned by watching my third child:

Real confidence in a child is not manifested by not crying when you walk away. If they are not crying when you walk away, it does not mean they are confident. Shyness does not equal insecurity. A need to connect and remain connected to parents does not signal insecurity. A desire for comfort and consistent affection from parents is not insecurity.

Confidence is:
knowing that no matter what happens, you are loved
knowing it's okay to try and fail, and try again
knowing where to turn and receive comfort when you are afraid, lonely, hurting, or sad
knowing you are safe
knowing that some GOOD things in your life are certain and unchanging

Confidence is manifested when:
A child is willing to try, fail, and try again.
A child is able to progress by teaching themselves as well as learning from others.
A child's resting self, (when not stimulated, entertained, or distracted,) is joyful.
A child knows how to express and receive love, first with family members, then others gradually.
A child uses the above knowledge to propel themselves ahead in their development
A child can be flexible and adapt whithout being broken
A child trusts you and believes you will keep your promises

Confidence is gained by:
Creating an environment that teaches the above, with consistent patience and love
Abolishing anxiety and fear
Trusting and believing the Lord every minute of every day

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don the Gas Masks People, I'm Cleaning out the Fridge!

One time my sister told me she discovered she had been inadvertently holding her breath every time she walked by the kids' bathroom.  I laughed heartily, and thought, hmmmm, I'll have to watch out for that one.  So imagine my chagrin when I realized that I had been inadvertently holding my breath every time I opened the fridge.

To be honest, I discovered this a couple days ago.  But when the odor began to hang on, even after I'd closed the fridge and started breathing once more, I surrendered, and started cleaning the fridge.  Yes, I know, the town of Floyd is thankful that the vultures are no longer circling.

While cleaning the fridge, I ponder on the number of uneaten leftovers, and wonder why I bother sealing up the uneaten food, knowing most of it will never get eaten.  Then I look at the sheer volume of leftovers, and wonder why I bother cooking at all.

Leftover coleslaw.  Does anybody eat this stuff?  I love me some fresh slaw, but only eat it at potluck dinners.  Making--a.k.a. spooning it into a dish--and eating it at home just seems, nasty, and a little depressing.

I encounter my spaghetti sauce that I had felt so smug for adding to the Prego:  parsley, basil, rosemary, and meat fried with the same plus a fist-full of savory and other random Italian seasonings.  What resulted was a mess of flavors we had to choke down after chewing as little as possible.  I still remember my kids' poor faces when they encountered the long sprigs of rosemary.  Why did I save it?  Well, because my mother is apparently trapped in my mind.

This would be the same reason I saved a large pot of inedible potatoes salted far beyond perfection.  The mother in my mind said, "Those were expensive potatoes!  You can't throw them out!"  So I froze them until I had satisfied the voice in my head, then secretly sneaked into the kitchen one night when she must have been sleeping in a far nook of my encephalon, closed my eyes, and tossed the offensive spuds.  Where they went, I may never know.

Today as I continued rifling through the fridge, smelling potential suspects, I discovered that I had apparently created a crude sort of beer with a jar of barley water that had been sitting in the door of the fridge since last summer.  Interesting to note, it's not hard at all to make nasty smelling, fermented beverages that no one would ever want to drink!  Just ask the tomato plant that got to be the recipient of the stuff, another experiment to see if I can rid the area of some bothersome beetles and caterpillars eating my tomato leaves.  It may instead rid the area of some green bulbs that wanted to grow up to be red juicy fruits that could have gotten shoved into the back of the same fridge some day.  Only time will tell.

I end my project when the sink is full of empty containers.  The fridge may not be finished, but a full sink is the maximum of my dish-doing ambitions, a.k.a. the most my dishwasher will hold.  This tidbit of information tells you just how large my sink is, which is big enough that I was able to bathe in it one day when the water filter was stopped up, a story for another day.  It also tells you about the even larger number of leftover Gladware containers cluttering up my cold storage.

In the end, I have to bag up my trash and take it out to our deck box, where we keep our bags of trash until we can drive them to the dumpsters.  We of course don't have curb-side pick-up like those fancy city-folk in Bent Mountain.

The deck box is the third and hopefully final solution to our trash dilemma.  I used to set our bags in the garage, and Kevin would take them out each morning on the way to work.  But that attracted mice, and it was a bother to walk all the way downstairs.  So then we bought a large outdoor trash can which the wind and dogs laughed at as they knocked it over and spread the contents amongst themselves.  Finally, a deck box screwed down to a utility trailer parked behind the house was Kevin's final idea.  This one seems to work, as long as we reflexively hold our breaths each time we walk by it.  Some skills just come naturally.

Part of the reason the trash is so stinky, and cleaning out the fridge is so dreaded, is because I don't have a garbage disposal.  I have felt very sorry for myself for the past year, and often gripe and complain about this fact to anyone who will listen.  My husband refuses to install one, for several reasons I think are flimsy at best.

When I self-righteously whine about this to my friends here, most of them stare blankly, with a slight twitch of their mouths that seems to say, "I lived without electricity or running water for 3 years in the early 90's.  I think you'll survive."

And so I do survive, but often I wonder if not having this little amenity is just giving me really good practice in holding my breath every time I open the lid to the kitchen trash.