Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Praise


Finally, brethren, 
whatever is true, 
whatever is honorable, 
whatever is right, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is of good repute, 
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, 
dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8



Abbey graduated last week and this verse was read at the Baccalaureate Mass in the beautiful cathedral downtown.  It had been such a busy day for me-getting the kids settled for another evening where we would be gone a couple hours (the honors assembly was the night before), making sure they were all fed and assigning babysitters for Janey with instructions.

I love this verse.  Maybe because it's a weakness of mine to tend to have moods where I dwell on the negative when I get overwhelmed with parenting and my responsibilities here at home.  When I feel like I can't "catch up" or it's useless to try, or I'm being pulled in too many directions and everyone wants something from me.  I see the toys left out, the chore undone, the once clean kitchen sink with a pile of plates hours later.  And then I feel sorry for myself.  I nag, I get frustrated, I dwell on all the things that don't happen, all the things the kids and my husband do wrong, all the mistakes they make. I don't see them playing nicely together, I just hear the argument with raised voices. I don't notice when they do what I ask, I just see the shoes where they aren't supposed to be, and the bed unmade, and the garage a mess of toys.  

I am going to challenge myself these summer months to put this verse into action in my parenting every single day.  That verse ends with:"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."  I love that the verse uses the word practice-to cultivate (which takes time, which allows for mistakes and redoes) in order to grow a habit or skill. I am going to see just what happens when I cultivate the discipline to stop negative words from my mouth and concentrate on mostly compliments, praise and affirmation. I know it will be difficult some days, I know I will fail miserably some (maybe every) day.

But gosh I know this by know this by now-I know that when good things are noticed and praised, I know that when I express my gratitude for a chore done right, for a helping hand, for good behavior it grows.  No matter what the age, it grows!  

When I say, "That helps me so much when you play with Janey for awhile" or "Thanks for putting away your laundry like I asked you too" or "I appreciate that you did what I asked right away this morning" those things happen more often.  I am not only being polite and kind (the opposite of naggy and angry,which leads to guilt and heaviness on my part) I am building up, instead of breaking down. 

I feel better about myself, the kids feel better about themselves, the attitude in our home is happier and lighter and much more peaceful and prophecy is fulfilled-meaning what I want to happen, happens. 

true
honorable
right
pure
lovely 
good 

whatever is worth of praise



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Greatest Generation of Moms-A Late Mother's Day Post

(My mom with all five of us-I'm in the pigtails.)

I just wanted to share this article by Regina Brett my mom sent me.  I cried when I read it.

It reminds me of my Grandma B who raised nine children and never complained. (Maybe she complained about the dog? but that was it.)  And of my mom who raised five and never complained. And I'm serious-she never complained.  I can count on one hand the times we had sitters.  I think she went Christmas shopping by herself once a year, and maybe to a church meeting.  She didn't have burnout, she didn't yell at us or get impatient with us.  I remember the smelly diaper truck, I remember her putting meals together every single evening, I remember her after-school snacks always waiting at the little table in the kitchen.  My mom didn't have relatives to help, my Dad worked full-time and then some always.

It makes me wonder-what do we as mothers today have to complain about?  What "breaks" do we need from the children?  I avoid internet tidbits and "news" like the plague but when I do read something it's all so negative when it comes to parenting.  All I picture is rolling eyes and deep sighs and "Oh these kids, parenting is sooo difficult" while the buttons are pressed on washing machines, and dishwashers are loaded and a TV is turned on that has 100 channels with non-stop kids programs that can keep the kids quiet.  It seems like one of the main goals of parenting these days is to get rid of the kids as quickly as possible, as early as possible. Daycare starts at six weeks (and is now called school) and real preschool starts full day at three years old and don't forget to schedule in "me" time. When I am in the grocery store I see more grandparents with little ones (and they look tired!) than parents with little ones.  Where are the mothers? Our children need us.  They need us mothers to be home, they need to be home, they need to be with us, they need to be raised by their parents and we should be willing and ready and grateful, yes grateful, to do the work.

I know I'm preaching to the choir.  I know too I'm guilty of deep sighs and some days I feel more than a little sorry for myself as I count the hours I've had to myself in months.  I know I've complained about fixing yet another meal (as I stand in my kitchen, with a full pantry a fridge full of food and shiny appliances) and a plethora of other things for sure.

But I also know this:

I know that it is a grave mistake to mother according to the way our culture dictates we should today.

I know that we must guard our hearts (as Regina writes-"All they had was Dr. Spock and a mother's heart to guide them.") and choose something different than what is often chosen today, what we see and hear and read all around us-that children are an inconvenience in our life to raise-let's fit them in and send them out and get our breaks and find some help and then complain about how difficult it all is.

What else it there to give our all to but mothering?  Nothing. Nothing!  Our children, even our infants, they have an innate sense of knowing where they fit into our lives and how we feel about them.  We don't owe them a beautiful house and a bunch of toys and the best schools-but we do owe them a mother's love spelled out in hard work and time and patience and respect.

It is an honor and a gift and I am so so grateful to my mothers and my grandmothers, "The Greatest Generation of Moms" for setting an example and being an inspiration to me.  I choose them-I choose them to show me the way, I choose them to inspire me, I choose their example, their red wrinkly worn hands, their attitudes, their spirit, their mother's hearts.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Good Books and Good Dishes


My brother Andrew, designed these, and I just love them. They are sold at Crate and Barrel, who contacted him after they saw some of his work on Facebook.  He is an artist and lives in Ireland with his wife and two little children.  I couldn't wait to buy them-it's just so neat.  I am a proponent of "do what you love".  My Abbey is planning on majoring in Fine Arts in college and has and will field the question, "But what you are going to DO with that degree?"  She will do what she loves passionately, and find a way to make a living from it-hard work, and financial sacrifice involved of course.  I am grateful to point out several examples of "do what you love" in my own family and Andy and Rose certainly fit that bill.

When it comes to good books, boy, I was on such a good roll.  And then I hit two bumps in the road with really really lame (best seller's list?  PLEASE, no way!) books that I finished (why?) but just rolled my eyes at and skimmed paragraphs towards the end, and thought, "Oh heck if this being on the best seller's list is a reflection of literary aptitude in our country, we are in trouble!" I will confess that as soon as I was finished with the last bad one, I threw it away in the garbage.  I felt it was my duty to not allow anyone else to kill their brain cells and fill their mind with ridiculousness by passing it on.

On to the good stuff...


My favorite ever, I read and reread, and every time, I cry at the stories and think how grateful I am that I live in this country.  I've turned down many corners of the stories that really strike a chord with me.  Some stories are just a long paragraph, others are a few pages long,they are divided by country.  I think this book should be a required read in every high school.  What generations before us went through to get to this country, the reasons they wanted to come, how they made it-hard hard work, close supportive family life, and a deep love and appreciation for the freedoms in this country-it is just a beautiful book that reminds of all of this, every time I read it.

"My parents were very happy. They never wanted to go back. They didn't always have a lot of money, they struggled. But everything here was paradise.  I lost a son two years ago, and my son always said that he worships his grandfather, my father. He was the most wonderful thing, to think that he had the foresight to come to America and that's how all of us felt. All us children, we always felt that way. No matter what hardships we go through here, you can complain about your presidents, it's still the best place in the world.-Esther Gidiwicz,emigrated in 1905 at age 5.


A friend whose son read this for a home school course, recommended it to me, and I loved it.  So much intelligence about mankind, and about education, and overcoming hardship.

"No, it was not luck.  Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."

"I early learned that it is a hard matter to convert an individual by abusing him, and that this is more often accomplished by giving credit for all the praiseworthy actions performed than by calling attention alone to all the evil done." 

(So easy as a parent to fall into a constant corrective habit, instead of acknowledgement and appreciation of all the good little things our children do every day-and when I remember to do that, those good things grow and grow.)

"I have found that the happiest people are those who do the most for others, and most miserable are those who do the least."  


Maybe I talked about this book already?  Beautiful, beautiful, piece of art.  Anthony Doerr is not just an author-he is an artist and words are his medium.  This will always be one of my favorite books.


I don't know how I came to buy this book, but I'm glad I did.  Miriam Grossman is not anonymous anymore-this is an old copy of her book.  It's eye-opening-she exposes the lies our teens and young adults-mostly women- are told about sexually transmitted diseases, "safe" sex, pregnancy, abortion, etc.-basically how our bodies and mind work as females. This book is not told from a political or religious bias, but straight up medical facts and her observations as a psychiatrist on a college campus led her to write this book.

Last but not least:


I describe this book as the Chinese version of "Unbroken"-just an incredible against-all-odds survival story where, just like in Unbroken, I thought, "How much more horror could one person live through?"  So so good and very intelligently written.  It makes me think of how much more I'd have learned about world history if I could have had the class taught, not from a boring textbook, but from reading memoirs and auto-biographies and even historical fiction.  This is another book I read that makes me feel so very patriotic and appreciative of our freedoms here.  I gleaned SO much from this book.

That's all folks.  If you have any good suggestions for me send them on!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thank You!

Thank you for all your emails!  I am so grateful so many took the time to write to me.  I feel lucky-lucky that Janey has had it relatively easy compared to so many of your children with kidney reflux. I am a giant cry baby I think.  Not that I've been crying (OK a little during that nasty VCUG) just that I am not a good "sick" parent-I just want life back to normal and I hate going to the doctor's office and equally hate giving my children medicine and God has blessed me with twenty years of not having to do this and here I am, maybe going to more than yearly (I don't even go yearly!) well visits and I'm all up in arms about it.  No one likes to see their children uncomfortable or in pain of course, and everyone is busy, but I have come to the conclusion that-well I'm lucky, that's all, and that has been running through my head non-stop. And now I feel grateful and more knowledgeable with a host of tips and reassurances, and I thank you all.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, spring has sprung and thank the Lord, because winter really did me in. It's the second bad one we've had in a row-bad meaning cold, and snow on the ground since December, and gray, gray, gray.  We were blessed in that I was able to plan a week in the Seaside area (we stayed nearby, not in Seaside this year) and wow, after months of no sun, it's amazing how I am reminded that I NEED it.  I feel more optimistic, more on top of things, I have more energy, and although I gave myself terrible sun glass raccoon eyes, I look a little less-well, pasty and vitamin D deficient with a tan  We packed ourselves all in our van-and in spite of terrible traffic, a child who always gets motion sick and takes my seat in the front, we made it down with nary a squabble, and back also.  We reminisced about past vacation drives-driving straight through 24 hours to Naples when the kids were tiny and we apparently had more energy, a few vacation drives where we considered leaving a certain someone accidentally on purpose at a rest stop in recent years (he might be the oldest), flat tires, Dad's crazy driving, and his famous "long" cuts.  Maybe because I see our family vacations-all of us together at once-as soon to be dwindling, if they haven't already-it makes those moments-those once stressful, how did we get into this, what we were thinking with all these kids fighting over whose turn it is to sit in the second row-now just hilariously funny and so sweet. That's what happens as kids grow up.

(prom 2015-dress bought on line, inexpensive, no shopping! and my favorite ever)

Speaking of growing up-Abbey is near graduation and I made it!  That's how I feel-four years of high school with a daughter-we made it!  Dances, and friends, and dating and sports and grades and driving and drama and arguments, and hormones and clothes shopping and jobs and tears and laughter and frustration and proud moments and SO SO much growing and changing and maturing from freshman to senior year (for both of us).  She is ready for college, but in a bad senior-itis moment, we (mainly Jeff) reminded her-this is it!  The last days of high school.  We only (thank the Lord) have to go through high school once.  She's made such nice, nice friends, and worked very very hard, and did things she never thought she could. And just like those vacations above-some of the hardest times, some of those moments when you think "what the heck" are now funny or endearing or so sentimental they bring tears to my eyes.

Do I have any advice for moms of junior high girls going into high school?  Yes, from lessons learned firsthand.  (And things I still struggle with.)

Be gentle with them.  Listen to them.  You might remember what it is like to be in high school in the 80's or 90's, but you have no idea what it's like today.  Understand their days at school, understand the pressure, it's nothing you've ever experienced!  Teach, without anger.  Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be.  Be a leader though, heck they need a leader, and they need you to be steadfast in your value system, together, on the same page as a couple. Walk away when arguments get heated.  Ask a lot of questions. Send your message in subtle ways about things you see and hear that concern you and are great lessons for life. (My mom is so good at this, and she did not pass this trait on to me, I need to work on the subtle part!) And listen, listen, listen.  Feed them and make them sleep, even if you have to push them into bed (yes, I've done this before). :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Kidney Reflux Help

I hate asking for favors especially after I've been pretty much absent from this blog for awhile, but I feel like I need to some advice or just camaraderie on something I've been dealing with concerning little Janey.  I also hate to be so un-private about health issues, but no where on the internet can I find the answers I am looking for.

She has been having recurrent UTI's for about three or four months now-I felt like we just couldn't get off this cycle of UTI (with fever) then antibiotic, then a few weeks, then another one, repeat, repeat.  Meanwhile, she has had pneumonia (never have any of my kids been this sick!) and I got it too-I know it was from the darn drs. office and a low immunity from the antibiotics for her. We were sent for a VCUG (not fun) and ultrasound test and she has kidney reflux, stage 2 and 3, officially named Vesicoureteral Reflux. It sounds scarier than it is but as any mom whose had a child with this problem, you know it is not easy.

I just wondered-has anyone out there dealt with this with their toddler? And if you have and have a second will you write to me and tell me if/when/how it was resolved and any advice/tips, etc?  Thank you in advance.
slt3969@gmail.com




Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Desperation

I needed to look at some old photos of spring, just to reassure myself that it does come year after year.  What a winter we've had once again.   One of the boys went up to change after school yesterday and came down in shorts and t-shirt-because it was a balmy forty degrees out and the snow had finally melted off the driveway.  I sent him back up but he protested so adamantly I just asked him to put a jacket on so I don't look completely negligent.

I'm counting the days!!!  Spring, please save the mothers of boys everywhere, and come quickly!








Meanwhile, I have been doing my best to get a few final projects done around the house.  It seems like it takes me forever to do one thing anymore.  I think because I have so much to do around here anyways, without adding an additional project on, but because I also just want to "get it right the first time".  It has taken me months to decide on a window treatment for Janey's room, or to choose long-lasting quality furniture (which I researched way too thoroughly) for our living room, or just decide on frames I want for the stairway baby pics.  Because I NEVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN.  Right the first time, live with it forever is my motto now.  I have slowly but surely crossed out my list and have two or three things to complete-curtains for Janey's room which I will end up making myself, end tables and lamps for the living room, a dresser to paint and I then the outside gardening work (which I almost always love) will be ready to begin.




I also spent some of this winter catching up on scrapbooks-three years to be exact since I have only printed out the pages at the end of the year, but never did any assembly, since Janey was born.  My January goal was to get caught up, and I just did two weeks ago.  Oh, how I swear at those things before I tackle them (why did I ever start?) but when they are all completed I love them and the kids do also.

On a side note, our wi-fi was down for (only!) four days, and it was a welcome and much needed reset button for myself.  I have a friend that has compared the internet and its constant opportunities to a leaky faucet with a slow drip.  You don't really notice that little drip that seems trivial but are shocked when after a day it can fill a bucket.  Drips are seconds checking an email, or answering a text, or looking at the myriad of other things that quickly become habits.  All these little distractions, seconds really, add up and most days, I just don't have time for it, or don't have any intention of spending my time this way, and the thing about time is, you can't get it back.  I found myself thinking, "I'll just pull up a recipe for dinner tonight", and then had to stop short.  Or "I'll just check to see if that guy emailed me back about Patrick's baseball sign up".  It's like when the electricity is out and we keep hitting those light switches out of habit.

I was thinking just ten years ago, I really never ever used the internet.  We had a big old computer in a cabinet and the door was hardly ever opened.  My mom showed me how to upload pictures when I bought my first digital camera, and also how to send emails-it just had no appeal to me, and seemed unnecessary to learn.  And guess what?  I could function, probably, if honest, better than I am now!  I used recipes from books, I sent letters, or talked on the phone to friends and relatives, I had creative ideas generated from my own brain, I could diagnosis an illness or injury in a child from a handy dandy medical index.  I could decorate my house without looking at 20,000 photos from Houzz first, and I could paint furniture without looking at five tutorials.  Imagine that!  I was better off for it, I'm sure of it.  Isn't it crazy how things can change so quickly and we all just are swept along-maybe not at first, maybe with some resistance, or caution, but there we are.  I have always contemplated -it is impossible with teenagers not to- the draw of technology, how it effects our brain and our time and our children-our family life.-even just a tiny bit of it!  If I am really honest myself, the ONLY thing necessary about the internet is checking school/extra-curricular emails for my children and I can do that in two seconds once a day.

My point is-I welcomed the wi-fi disconnection because it made me conscious of that little drip of time and stop to think about the intention of my days.

So I'm off to make some oatmeal raisin cookies, from my grandmother's recipe, found in my mother's recipe box, copied down on a piece of paper.  :)

Happy (almost, please!) Spring!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Another Season-What's Left in Life Till Next Year?

I enjoy Downton so much it's almost embarrassing to admit, but hopefully there our some other embarrassed "I look forward to it all week and can get giddy on Sunday mornings just thinking about it" fans out there also.  It is truly a treasure during these winter days that can get quite doldrum-ey, and the only show that is worth a minute of my time on the awful telly.  (Call the Midwife starts March 29th, that's worthy also.)

I love every character.  Yes, that means Mary also.  If I don't at first, they grow on me.  Rose, for instance, annoyed me in the beginning, a little too flighty and excitable, and now, how can one not love her?   I love Edith, and always have, even with the constant distress and tears.

OK, I just remembered one obnoxious character I didn't like-Sarah Bunting.  I was so glad that she left and Tom said goodbye.

My favorites will always be Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Carson.  Mrs. Patmore with her sensible no-nonsense demeanor and hard working spirit.  But tenderness.  And Mr. Carson with his respect for tradition and civility and manners and wisdom enough to know that just because change is the result of something new and different doesn't mean it's always better.  I like his experienced wariness.

I was so happy that Daisy decided to stay at Downton in spite of being tempted towards the shiny glamorous world of London.  People are more important, I think at that age we all learn that in some way, shape or form.

I can't get enough when they film outside and show the landscapes-a garden setting, a little jaunt through the town, the rolling hills of the country side, the castles and quaint houses.  So so beautiful.

Alas, it's over.  I didn't even know it-I was unprepared, till I noticed today that the DVR had recorded two hours worth-and that must be the end.  And it was such a good ending (tissues!), such a good season.

downton-abbey-season5-lady-mary

highclere | More Downton Abbey photos here:  http://mylusciouslife.com/historical-style-downton-abbey-photos/

Monday, February 23, 2015

Encouragement


The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.
-Richard Moss-
                                                                                          

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Encouragement

When we focus on what is good and beautiful in someone, whether or not we think that they "deserve" it, the good and the beautiful are strengthened merely by the light of our attention.  
When we choose to see and appreciate what is good and beautiful in our children, the goodness can't help but grow, and their beauty blossoms forth.
Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Crib


I took down the crib a few weeks ago.  I moved the 'baby' into a big girl's bed (a mattress on the floor), even though it broke my heart to do it.  I chose a day that was extra busy, so I didn't have time to start crying, because I knew if I started, I might not stop for quite awhile.

That crib is the same crib that Jeff and I bought for our oldest, now off at college and nearing twenty-one years.  We were newly married, in our mid-twenties, and hardly had two pennies to rub together, when we found out we were expecting a baby due nine and a half months after our wedding.  My in-laws gave us seventy-five dollars to put towards a crib and we found one for a little more than that at JC Penney.  Everything else we received for our first baby, we were given at two small baby showers and thank God, there were no registries.  My mother and mother-in-law, seasoned aunts, grandmothers, and friends and sisters and a host of other relatives chose what they knew we needed. And just like the crib, I still have quite a few of those wonderful gifts.

Back then there were no Targets in our area, no Babies R Us, if Pottery Barn Kids or any designer brand name baby gear stores existed, I didn't know of them, nor would they have held any possibility for me either.  I had a short list I had typed (on a real live typewriter) gleaned from the pages of a baby book and checked off till I felt prepared.  

Fast forward eighteen years, when I'm expecting my sixth.  I walk into Babies R Us to get a few things and walked out empty-handed and overwhelmed and more than a little annoyed.  The choices! So many things marked as necessities!  So many bottles and formulas and infant feeding mechanisms! So many different seats and chairs and things with batteries and lights and sounds and motion!  The costs!    One thousand dollars for a stroller?  Three hundred dollars for a stroller? Unbelievable, I thought.  A new mom could easily be led to believe that she must spend or receive thousands of dollars worth of items to provide properly for her new baby.

I know that a baby needs some things.  Every mother has a list of necessities to take care of baby best with, and has since the beginning of time.  I had to fill in supplies here and there with each baby-it's fun to 'nest'!  But I can't imagine that moms who aren't yet "in the know" of what is truly needed, feel overwhelmed and pressured to provide their baby with all sorts of expensive items. Have baby supplies joined the ranks of clothes and cars and jewelry functioning as status symbols of wealth?  Have we invented hundreds of ways to not have to hold, or soothe, or touch, or carry, or care for, or feed our babies?  Are we trading acquiring things for time with our little ones?  It seems crazy to me.    

I think today new moms, more than ever, need to step away from this insanity and think.  

Our babies need us.  A baby needs his or her mother more than anyone or anything else.  We should be first on that list.  A baby needs the perfect, unequaled food that nature has provided our bodies with to help that baby grow and thrive.  That's free and requires no man-made equipment.  That baby needs our arms for holding, it needs our warmth, our scent, our adoration and tenderness.  Free again. 

No one can adequately take our place, and unless it means starvation or lack of basic shelter for our baby, there isn't much worth leaving our tiny, innocent, helpless babies for.  We have naturally designed intertwined instincts and chemical reactions towards our babies-we are designed to be good mothers, and if we stay connected, and trust these instincts, we will be able to take care of our babies well.  Staying connected means staying close in proximity, creating a bond that we don't allow to be broken for worldly things and cultural trends.  It means that we do the bulk of care, and a strong knowing bond will result from that care.

To simplify, there are very few material things to acquire for a baby that are more important than our time spent nurturing and caring for him or her.  I want to hang that on a big banner and drape it across the entrance of every baby super store in America.

The old crib went up in the attic.  It will most likely be deemed grossly inadequate and terribly unsafe one day and meet the garbage dump, but I will let someone else make that call, hopefully when I'm long gone, and save myself the heartbreak.  I have to laugh at my sentimentality and remind myself that nary a baby of mine slept a night in that thing anyways.  I recognize it for what it really means to me-the beginning of the journey of motherhood and marriage, how quickly time flies, how being open to life for two decades has blessed me in ways I will forever marvel at...and alas, of course, how "babies don't keep". 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Encouragement



"Think about your particular assignment at this time in your life. 

It may be to get an education, it may be to rear children, it may be to be a grandparent, it may be to care for and relieve the suffering of someone you love, it may be to do a job in the most excellent way possible, it may be to support someone who has a difficult assignment of their own. 


Our assignments are varied and they change from time to time. 


Don't take them lightly. 

Give them your full heart and energy. 
Do them with enthusiasm. 
Do whatever you have to do this week with your whole heart and soul. 
To do less than this will leave you with an empty feeling."

-Marjorie Hinckley-

Friday, February 6, 2015

Menu For The Week

I haven't done one of these here in a long time.  I need some motivation to get my act together (winging meals almost never works for me!) so here is the week coming up.

Sunday
Chili

Monday
Pork Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce  (I don't use fat free mayo or sour cream in sauce just the normal kind.)
Baked Red Potatoes
Green Beans

Tuesday
Pasta Primavera
Garlic Cheese Bread
Asparagus Roasted with Butter and Parmesan Cheese

Wednesday
Baked Paprika Parmesan Chicken
Rice with Butter
Green Beans

Thursday
Thai Chicken Peanut Noodles

Friday-is almost always pizza and root beer night.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Choreography of Mothering Teens


(This is a re-published and re-edited post from three years ago.)
Mothering teens.  A whole different set of skills is needed! It’s all so new and frustrating and scary and fun.  Just like when new parents are handed their first newborn, it’s so hard to describe to anyone that feeling-I think in a way parenting starts all over again at the teen age.  It has been quite a learning experience for me and I have far to go. Nothing humbles a parent like raising a teen.  (Or many of them at once!)
Here’s a recent experience to demonstrate what I’m talking about.

I received this comment years ago after I posted photos on my blog of a recent family vacation:
Do you sometimes think your daughter’s shorts are too short?
It made me laugh.  Actually the daughter in question was sitting at the computer when I read it and we both looked at each other and laughed together.
Because the answer is yes.  I do!  I  think my 15-year-old daughter’s shorts are a tad too short.  I also think she wears too much make up and doesn’t need one drop of it, so any is “too much” for me.  I am not fond of the fashions right now.  (Haven’t all mothers said this?  I know my mom did!)  And I wish she wouldn’t get so stressed about school, and friend drama and sometimes I really wish she would not be so picky and particular on just about everything. And the only nail polish color I really like on girls is light pink, and she likes yellow or blue or sometimes orange.
My daughter knows this.  Sometimes we argue about it and sometimes we downright battle about it. It’s hard. I wish she would listen to everything I have to say and do exactly what I tell her to do all the time. She did when she was little.  We could go shopping and oooh and aaah over all the same stuff.  The matching tights, the cute colorful knit dresses.  Those red sparkly shoes and the cute pink tennies. We got along great all the time.  Because her opinion and my opinion matched perfectly.
In junior high we started clashing about little things.  Maybe it was at what age we would allow her to get her ears pierced.  Or why I had to be so strict about how high the heels were that she wanted to buy for 8th grade graduation…”everyone else” was wearing those high ones, why couldn’t she? We started getting angry at each other as she pushed and I pulled -as she exerted her opinion that was different from my opinion – yes, she had somehow developed her own, how the heck did that happen?
I held her back against the growing-up-too-fast pull as best as I could.  Oh, if only I could keep her in my world, totally, completely, create that bubble.  If only I could just say yes to everything she wanted because it was the same as what I wanted, it would all be so easy.  If only she would stay my young little girl forever.
I’ve found the teen years are full of change in the parent and child relationship…that push and pull, back and forth, and a sense of loss for both of us as our children develop into adults.  We have both cried tears over the last years….over how darn hard and different it has been.  Me shedding tears of doubt – Am I doing this right?  Am I being too strict?  Should I have stuck to my guns?  Why oh why can’t she just trust that I know what is best for her? And her with tears of frustration, anger, and just plain old hurt feelings.
When it comes to raising teenagers I think there are three roads to take.  Two are easy…and so tempting because you, as the mother, can always be happy and there is little or no conflict, tears, drama.
One is the route where anything they want is fine with you.  The drinking, the boyfriends, the hotel rooms rented at prom.  Rules are a pain, and being popular is the name of the game.  There is never a fight because who wants to fight? “Yes,” is your answer, “sure go ahead honey, we’re best friends right?” You turn your head or laugh and say, “Teenagers will be teenagers, what can I do about it?”
The other end of the spectrum is just the opposite.  You keep total control.  You make all those decisions for them.  You require them to call you on their cell phones every hour because the big bad world out there is dangerous. You teach them that they can’t trust their own decisions and choices and that you have all the answers.  You criticize and control and protect and hover and warn and do everything in your power to keep them under your wing constantly.  Things stay the same as they were when they were three, seven, nine – when it was easy.  Their only choice is your way or the highway.
I have seen both styles of parenting teens and I know in my heart and from observation that both have pretty good odds of producing results that are less than ideal when it comes to healthy growth and development. The easy way, darn it, never seems to be the right way. Even so, it’s tempting.
See that place in the middle of those two extremes?  It’s tons of work.  It’s work every day, whether you are up for it or not.  As a parent we might be exhausted, sick, busy, or we might just want to keep that good mood going and not rock the boat for once.  We know we must gauge when to move up or down in that middle ground. Constantly we wonder when to let go, when to be quiet, when to just listen, when to speak up, when to hold fast, when to stay firm.
I’ve learned there are many rules or guidelines that start out one way, and end up another as teen’s progress, grow and struggle  – and as we parents progress and grow and struggle also.  Sometimes rules need to be adjusted as kids get older, and as they present a case that makes good sense.  There needs to be a gradual letting go of the reins…a handing over (literally!) of the steering wheel of life.  Trust is broken and gained. Lessons are learned and tears are shed. Sometimes consequences need to be learned the hard way – but it’s tricky to know ahead of time when something is going to be a good learning experience or digs a deeper hole with a price to high to be paid. Sometimes responsibility for decisions is given too soon, sometimes at the right time and sometimes late enough to cause major resentment.  It’s difficult to hit that “perfect timing” thing every day.  The light bulb moments us moms savor can be few and far between. And sometimes those light bulb moments are moments when my teens have taught me as much or more as I have taught them!
Every day, I’m making decisions large and small on the spur of the moment, in the heat of the moment, in the light of day and the dark of night and it all renders me mentally exhausted – weighing the pros and cons, thinking and rethinking, trying to figure out what’s really important – it’s a learning process.  And then on top of it all, I learn that what works for one child certainly doesn’t work for another. For some teens, the surefire way to get them to do something is to let it be known that we prefer the opposite. For other teens the tiniest hint of criticism from us leads to a breakdown in communication for months and we must work to regain that relationship.  I’ve had one teen say to me, “You don’t have to be so careful about telling me what you think Mom!   I want to hear what you have to say.  I need your advice!”  And I've had another child say, “This is what I want.  I know it’s right for me even if it isn’t what you would chose.”   Sometimes it's the same teen but a different week, stating both!  Keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure, and scrambles my brain at the same time.
But if I’ve learned anything in the last few years of parenting teenagers it’s this.  My role is not to turn my back and go with the flow and hope for the best and it’s not to keep them young and dependent with no choices of their own on us so they don’t really grow up.  My job is to get them to the point where they can make healthy decisions -large and small – for themselves and do it confidently and well. It’s to accept that my children may want different things out of life than what I had imagined for them when they were little children.  It’s to watch them develop their own styles and taste and opinions (which I have learned changes so quickly in these years) and try not to cringe too much when it’s not that super cute sun dress, the darling flats, the preppy shirt – or the friend, or the extracurricular activity at school – that I would have chosen for them.  
And yes, it is standing firm and strong at the same time, not being fearful of saying no, and not losing the battle against cultural norms.  Combine all that and we have a dance with the most complicated choreography between parents and teens. It is highly personal-what looks like a pair of shorts too short to someone outside of that intricate relationship, could have the most complicated story behind them-a compromise made after one hundred no’s, a battle not chosen at an emotionally delicate time in that teen’s life, a gesture of love and acceptance when she feels love and acceptance from no one.  It can’t be judged from afar, from the outside, by anyone.  This dance between teens and parents- it takes years and years to learn, it is an art-just as choreography is, dancing with trust, with compromise, with hope, with authority-but always with love.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Do Children Really Want? A Beautiful Video

Everyone has probably viewed this already, I am always way behind on this sort of thing but this short video is gorgeous in a heart-wrenching, really good reminder, way.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Life

"The child must know that he is a miracle..." Great pro-life quote from Pablo Casals

Today is the March for Life in DC and today is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of the Unborn.

I haven't always been passionately pro-life, I must admit.  I spent the first 25 years of my life not thinking much about pro-life issues, and the next ten or so years, entrenched in day to day motherhood and life in general, and wondering what I could do about something that seemed hopeless anyways.  It seemed easier to not think about, it expended less emotional energy.

And then one day I read an article in National Geographic of all places.  It wasn't about abortion at all, it was about something I had never heard of.  It was something about some tribe in a country in Africa, who was still practicing some horrific act-it is called mingi-and for something as little as a toddler having a chipped tooth, or their top teeth coming in before their bottom teeth, the tribe deems them evil, and will take them out to the bush and leave these little children, in the middle of nowhere to die. To die of starvation or dehydration or the elements or wild animals. I threw the magazine down when I read that, wishing I hadn't filled my brain with that information, knowing I would never forget it and would haunt me.  I looked at helpless, sweet, trusting, loving, totally vulnerable Janey, my toddler, standing next to me, the same age as what these little children would be and cried.  How many days would it take?  How long would she be crying for me?  When would she just give up? What ignorance I thought, what stupidity, what uncivilized, barbaric people are we talking about, who could kill a sweet baby in this way?  How could they treat a child as if it was disposable, at is if was responsible for evil, as if it could be just thrown away, and what reason could be "good enough" to justify this?

But as I was sitting there, I thought, halfway across the world from me, or maybe one hundred years from now, someone is or will be just as horrified as I was, and use the same words to describe legalized abortion in 2015 in the country that I live in. We have been conditioned to think otherwise, we have been spoon fed lies, we have been convinced, and attempt to convince ourselves, that there is nothing wrong with killing our young.  We do it in barbaric ways, we do it when we want to do it, we do it when a human is at it's most vulnerable state and not able to fight back, we do it and we justify the act in a hundred different ways. How have we come to this?  Mothers killing their young, in the name of convenience, in the name of anything, in one of the richest, most educated, civilized countries in the world?  How have we perpetuated lies and ignored science this blatantly?  We don't have an excuse anymore.  Not believing that life begins at conception is like still believing the earth is flat. Science has long proven that fact, but we find a million ways around it.  We need only to look at an ultrasound and we can see with our own eyes, but still we deny.  I could easily see why any society who truly respected women and treasured children would consider us ignorant, uncivilized, and barbaric.  They would consider the act of intentional abortion another horrific atrocity against human life.

I pass no judgment on those who have been desperate or scared or backed into a corner, or pressured or fearful and are led to believe they have no other choice or aren't worthy of motherhood abort their babies-and I think that has to describe all women who have an abortion.  I can't imagine the pain they live with when they make that choice and then forever after, and truly my heart breaks for their loss.

And I do like to believe that the majority of all mankind mean well.  But I can't wrap my head around the lies that are being told to women.  I can't wrap my head around that fact that we women will play victim to a sexual culture that results in our babies paying the price by death, and us paying the price physically and emotionally.  Do they not know the pro-creative power they hold?  Have they not been told how their bodies work?  Do they not see they are paying the price in that clinic as no man ever will?  It seems that some women are so busy waving their signs about choice, they haven't stopped to think of how completely, for lack of a better word, crappy those choices are? All for what?  Sexual freedom?  We have the power to control our bodies, we are not victims, we are not weak, we are not inconvenient, nor are our babies, we are educated, strong smart women. We deserve better.  By denying our fertility, by pretending that our bodies don't function as they do, by not demanding commitment and love from the man who wishes to perform an act of procreation with us, we are, in a way, desecrating ourselves and our bodies. Feminism?  No, just the opposite. Self-hatred.  (Here is a beautiful article, that explains my point more thoroughly.)

And our babies-our babies, our unique, gorgeous, lovely babies.  There is nothing like a mother's love.  Have you ever tried to describe it to another woman who hasn't experienced it?  It's impossible. How often do we say we'd die for our children.  But right now there are other women convincing a scared, vulnerable, desperate women that her best choice is to kill her child, not knowing that once she had that baby in her arms, she'd fight tooth and nail if someone would dare threaten her baby.  Or worse yet, they tell her that her child is a mass of tissue instead of the wonderful unique human being she could hold in her arms one day, and love for it's perfection, and think no other baby must be as wonderful as hers.

I realized too, that if I believe what I do, that abortion is the worst human rights violation of our time, how can I stay silent?  How can I bury my head in the sand and go about my daily life?  I was thinking of how I reacted my freshman year in high school when we watched a film about the Holocaust.  I remember going home and talking to my mother about it and saying angrily, "How could people just stand by and watch this happen and do nothing?  What about the people living next to the concentration camps?  They saw the droves going in and no one coming out. What about the people who knew, or knew enough to be suspicious, and did nothing?  How could they live with themselves, do they not hold some sort of responsibility and guilt?"

But now I understand how they could- I have been doing the same thing. They were busy with their own lives, they were afraid to speak up, they didn't know if or how they could do a thing about it anyways. If I believe in my heart that humans, in their most vulnerable state, are being murdered every day by other humans, who have convinced their mothers with pure deception in so many different ways that what they are doing is necessary, than I am the one living like those I questioned, right next to a concentration camp, and going about my business every day, with nary a glance at the ashes falling from the sky.

One day, when I am old and almost in my grave, could I look back at my life, and live with the fact that I did nothing?  I can't, and it took me until I was in my forties to begin to think about this. I realized that I could do something, whether it was as small as speaking up even when it is uncomfortable to do so, or buying a pack of diapers or little baby clothes or sending a check to our local Heartbeat, or one day, when time allows giving more of my talents or time to those fellow women who feel alone and confused and pregnant.  Maybe then, when a young girl reads a history book and says, "How could they?  How could people stand by and let this happen?" I could rest in peace.