DON'T MISS OUT!

Encouragement


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

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

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". 

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-

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.

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.