Wednesday, October 30, 2013

All Saints Cupcakes and Giggles

I have two kids in my Sunday school class with a variety of food allergies between them. To serve everyone the same snack, it must have no dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts, or tree nuts. I enjoy a challenge, though, so I decided to make cupcakes to celebrate All Saints Day. Peter helped. They weren't actually challenging, thanks to the good people at Cherrybrook Kitchens who make mixes that are free of all those allergens!

The white frosting (using shortening and rice 'beverage') represents clouds to show these holy folks are in heaven. (I adapted this idea from the more creative and dedicated mom at Catholic Cuisine.)

The children were all excited to have cupcakes with a saint's name similar to their own. We talked about all their saints and a couple more to boot. At the end of class, I prompted,
"Today we learned about friends of Jesus who live with him in Heaven. What did we call them?" "God!"
"Well, Jesus is God and he does live in Heaven. What did we say was a word for his friends, though?"
"Dead people!"

Oh, and the two with food allergies? Neither one came to class. I ate their cupcakes. :-)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gentle Parenting at Breakfast

Peter is rather particular about his breakfast. Unfortunately, he's not always particular in the same way. He always eats chicken nuggets and then a banana, but sometimes I need to do all the microwaving, sometimes he does it all, sometimes he only does half. Then there are the issues of when to cut it, how long it takes to cool, and whether or not I am supposed to eat with him. If I fail to read his mind on any of these issues, it may result in a meltdown.

And, if I'm not sleep-deprived, I identify with him.

I distinctly remember feeling unreasonably angry or sad as a kid when my breakfast did not go exactly as I wanted it. Too much milk in my cereal. Foam on my orange juice. The list went on. What was worse than being so upset was knowing I was over-reacting and not being able to do anything about it.

So when Peter is gearing up for a tantrum, I know this isn't the time to push rules. On my good days, I hold him and wait until he can pull himself together, then start back at the beginning. I try to fix the situation. Once he has made it through breakfast (and gotten his blood sugar back to a good place), we talk.

(Our mealtime rules are sit nicely, talk politely, and try what is served. If he doesn't want to obey those rules, he is free to leave the table and wait until the next time food is served, which is usually 2-3 hours. I usually wait to do a rules reminder, though, until he is at least sitting nicely and might be in a place where he is ready to obey.)

Not every day is a good day for me, though. Regrettably, my unhappy mornings turn into unhappy mornings for him, too. I confront Peter with a staccato list of his choices, then turn my attention to getting either myself or Anne fed. And he forgives me. He eventually gets his emotions back under control and picks what he wants. He doesn't withhold affection or my food until I apologize. He just loves me and moves on with his day.

I try to do the same for him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

7veryQT (Vol. 60): Things I Will Enjoy Some Day

1. Using toilet paper that has not already been unrolled at least once.
2. Eating ice cream and drinking cow's milk and putting sour cream on things.
3. Having my children use the toilet independently without a running commentary to me.
4. Sleeping through the night.
5. Using the toilet without an audience or a child crying because he can't come in with me.
6. Sleeping late on weekends.
7. Having a life where my thoughts are not consumed by toileting issues and sleep.

And then I will look back at this time and say, "Remember how great it was when the kids were little?"

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Water Week!

A couple weeks ago, Peter chose to do water week (in lieu of whatever I had planned for homeschooling that week). We took a walk along the Erie Canal with my parents and happened to be there in time to see two boats go through the lock! 

He pulled her most of the way back!
For our unit study, we sang 15 Miles on the Erie Canal, found the local bodies of water on a map (river, lake, canal, bay all in this county!), learned about states of matter, and read some good books, including Splash! Poems of Our Watery World (Levis), Ice is Nice! All about the North and South Pole (Worth), and A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams (Bryant/Sweet). Our memory verse was Matthew 14:29.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guess I can sleep tomorrow. And shower whenever.

See this?

And this?

My husband met five deer on the way home Saturday night. Three of them survived the encounter. Thankfully, he is completely uninjured. Our entryway is currently covered with stacks of things that were in our car. It's amazing how much was being stored in our little Versa!

See this sweet boy?

He spent the weekend in diapers, due to a stomach bug of some kind. On Friday, he went through three outfits. We spent the day driving out to Boston. If you wondered why there was no blog post, it's because I was doing laundry so my son would have clothes to wear on day two of our visit.

So our entryway is also covered in clothes and diapers and toys and car seats from a weekend visit with two small children.

My husband is at a concert tonight, probably getting home around midnight. He has to be at work at 5:30AM - for the first time ever. Tonight I single-handedly got two exhausted, emotionally wrought children to sleep. Both in my room, of course. Still, I feel somewhat like SuperMom.

Did I mention we're showing the house tomorrow at noon? Guess what I'm doing tonight.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A day in our life

Honesty compels me to say these weren't all taken in the same day. But they could have been! :-)

Making applesauce from Grandpa's apples

School time: water collage. Including the word rocket.
"Because sometimes rockets fly over water."

School time: Learning about money. It's not transparent.
Enjoying the outdoors in clothes he picked by himself.

Enjoying the outdoors by trying to eat rocks before Mommy grabs them.

Getting ready for gymnastics

Quick trip to Wegmans

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gentle Discipline in Theory

A friend asked me to write a series about gentle discipline. Truthfully, I find the idea a bit overwhelming, in part because I feel unqualified to write what I don't always practice. Also, I think that what we use as gentle discipline will seem like no discipline at all to some readers and too harsh to others. Rather than try to write and defend a dissertation, then, I will simply set forth gentle discipline for our family at this point in time.

Also happening in our family today: licking the dryer.

Our guiding principle in child-rearing is to model the behavior we want to see. We give our children love and respect. We don't force them to be independent before they wish it. We support and encourage them. We treat them the way we want them to treat each other.

What It's Not
I know what love is and it just don't stop, but I can explain it better when I say what love's not
-Mars Ill

I have read in some gentle discipline circles that parents ought to treat their children as respected friends. Parents ought never impose their own will, but invite cooperation and gracefully accept when that invitation is ignored. We're not in that camp. There are definitely times we impose our will because our children are not our friends. If my friends treated me the way my children do (pulling things off the shelves, yelling in anger, asking for a favor then refusing it, etc.), we would not still be friends. We guide, instruct, and discipline our children. We do none of these things to our friends. (You're welcome.)

Toward the other end of the spectrum, some parents force obedience through punitive measures. This might be through time out or invoking guilt and shame. It might be through corporal punishment, including spanking. We're not in this camp, either. If I exile, scold, or strike out at Peter when he misbehaves, he will follow my lead next time Anne aggravates him. Might does not make right. Certainly I could raise children who respond with instant obedience in every situation, but these children would also learn that authority means control rather than leadership.

What It Is
We talk with Peter a lot. When he is misbehaving, we take the time to be sure he is aware of what he's doing and explain why we don't want him to do it. Then we present choices, never giving choices that we won't accept. He can choose to continue that behavior, but: in a different room, at a different time, without our cooperation, at the expense of a later activity, etc. Or he can choose to stop, at which point we say, "Thank you." Sometimes, of course, the behavior simply must stop. "What will happen if I don't stop?" "That's not a choice this time. Stop." He does, 98% of the time. (The other 2% will be a different post.)

We also do a lot of proactive parenting, setting them up to succeed rather than to fail. There are very few places they can't go or items they can't touch in our home. If they are getting antsy, we engage them in active play. If they just seem to want attention, we offer to read a book. We try to meet their needs before they try misbehavior to express themselves. We pray with and for them regularly.

Teaching is a crucial part to this whole theory. We teach words to express feelings. We teach peaceful ways for both children to have what they want. We teach turn-taking and sharing. We teach how to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Often this is explicit (Peter is only 3, after all), but also implicit in how we treat ourselves, each other, and the children.

I'll write more in the near future about how this theory works (and sometimes doesn't work) in practice.

Friday, October 11, 2013

7QT (Vol. 59): More than a Sinner

Friends of ours left their church somewhat recently. They had been attending for years, but just got burnt out. Every sermon, it seemed, focused on their sinfulness and how they were compared to God. Repulsive. Disgusting. Worthless. Scum. They left each Sunday either angry or discouraged.

We are sinners. Certainly we need to be aware of our shortcomings, that we might turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. Also, we need to stand in awe of God. It is right and just to give thanks to the Lord, our God. Recognizing his majesty and power is an important component of our spiritual life.

But both of those can be done without degrading our human dignity. We can own our sin, acknowledge ourselves to be sinners, without being worthless. If we are worthless, then Jesus' sacrifice must have been a waste. What has no value cannot be redeemed. Jesus knew the sins of those with whom he ate and drank. He wasn't repulsed or disgusted by them. He forgave them and called them to conversion. "Your faith has healed you." Our sins are forgiven; we are restored to what we should be.

As far as worshiping God, our praise proceeds from our (limited) understanding of his greatness, not out of shame. When you see what is beautiful and pure and sacred - perhaps a sunset or a newborn child or a great work of art - the attributes of what you see move you. You don't appreciate them because you're rotten, but because they are wonderful. So it is with God. He doesn't need to tear us down in order to build himself up.

A shame-based "Gospel" (gospel means good news and so is incongruous with shaming) disorders our relationship with God. Ironically, it is narcissistic. Rather then repenting because we desire to turn toward God, we repent because our sins make us gross and we don't want to feel gross. Rather than worshiping God because he is goodness and truth, we worship face-down, naval-gazing and reflecting on how abhorrent we are in comparison. It becomes all about us.

A shame-based message also disorders our relationship with others - Christians and non-Christians alike. "Love your neighbor as yourself." If my primary understanding of myself is that I am scum, how can I love those around me? They must be scum, too. If even God is repulsed by them, how can he realistically expect me to reach out with genuine love? I may be able to go through the motions, but my heart can't be in it. Not only do I struggle to reach out to scum, but I also feel unworthy to do so. I am disgusting. What could I possibly offer these people?

Shaming also contradicts the Gospel of Life. All life is sacred, from the moment of conception to natural death. As human beings, created male and female in the image of God, we have an innate human dignity. For sure, we make horrible choices. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God - you, me, each and every one of us. But here's the good news: through Jesus, we are heirs of the Kingdom. We are more than sinners. We are loved and valued children of God.

"You are loved. You are beautiful. You are a child of God." - Kristen Heitzmann

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Recognizing God in the Least of These

Years ago, I worked for an organization that provided residential treatment to children with serious behavioral or emotional issues. It was institutional foster care for kids whose problems prevented them from living in a typical foster home. I worked at the summer camp. One week, we took the children to Lollypop Farms, a local animal shelter with a petting zoo. During our tour, we walked among the cages of dogs waiting to be adopted. One boy, maybe 12 years old, squatted in front of a cage and said quietly to the dog, “I know how you feel.”

Continue reading at Working to Beat Hell

Friday, October 4, 2013

7QT (Vol. 58): Texas, Florida, and other good times

Last night, Anne had a party. Jeremy and I were invited, I think, but decided 2AM to 3AM just wasn't our favorite time to crawl around bed. Today, neither child took an afternoon nap. (We did have cookies for dessert and a visit from my parents, celebrating Dad's birthday and the feast of St. Francis, so there were good parts.) I am rather exhausted, so forgive me for having Peter write my post again, will you?

What we should be doing now

"Peter, is this a whoa road? Whoa!"
"You're right, Grams! This road is so impressive that it loved my whiskers off!"
(From The Velveteen Rabbit, in which the boy loves his bunny so much he loves off the whiskers. I think Peter thinks that's an expression.)

We're saying bedtime prayers lying on his bed, facing each other. He squirms, then says, "I need to move my head on the pillow, Mommy. Air comes out of your mouth when you say the Hail Mary."

Looking at his place mat, "I think this gray at the bottom is the parking lot for Texas!"

So, my mother-in-law is a Disney enthusiast...
"Where is Florida, Mommy?"
"Right there."
"Oh! That's where Grandma and Grandpa and their mice live!"

"Thanks for the kiss, Chinky." (a stuffed horse from Chincoteague)
"Mommy, Chinky gave Daddy a high five with his mouth because he doesn't have any hands."

People visiting the house would say, "What is this boy who does not look good?" and you and Daddy would say, "It is Peter, but he stretched out his shirt." And they would say, "But we want him to look nice!" and you and Daddy would say, "Sorry!" And they would say goodbye and you would say goodbye.

7 Quick Tales is hosted at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Camel Lips and More

I'm sure you were intrigued by Monday's picture of Peter and me making camel lips. We visited a smallish zoo with my in-laws this past weekend. A good time was had by all.

High five!

Bear hug

This is a watusi. Obviously.

Just being cute with my spiky hair.

Camels have huge lips

My current Facebook cover photo