Monday, January 30, 2012

The Spirited Child (Part 3)

So now you know what a Spirited Child is. The next step is "So what?" "What does that mean for me?"
Let me give you just a few suggestions, whether you are the parent of one or just a friend (or even observer) of one. :) This isn't necessarily professional advice. More like advice from a mom who has been there. Actually, not been but IS there.

Advice for the parents of a Spirited Child:
  • Read the book (Raising Your Spirited Child). I am not saying it is the only authority on energetic, strong willed children. But it is informative. Don't be fooled by how long it is. I enjoyed every single page.
  • Give yourself a break. Every day. It can be exhausting. Please don't misunderstand. The spirited child is NOT evil (though it may feel like that on occasion). But he/she can be exhausting. It like you have to be "on" all of the time, whether it is anticipating a meltdown, dealing with the fallout of a change in schedule, or just keeping up with the activity. You need a break, whether it is exercise, a long hot bath, or just holding the dog in your lap and chilling. Hubby just said tonight that he thinks our dog saved me. It isn't quite that dramatic, but she is a HUGE stress reliever for me. Thankfully, she is not spirited. :)
  • Pray. A lot. I don't do that as often as I should but it is important. Because spirited children will not always be quite the way they are now. They do grow up. I think that spirit stays with them but eventually self-control will come. Or at least we are hoping. :) I have found that praying with that child helps a lot. I do often use that time to specifically pray for certain behaviors. It doesn't mean they are angels the next day, but at least they are listening. We just don't pray at night either. We pray before we drop off for school too.
  • Monitor and adjust. I used to be under the impression that basically all methods work for all children. That was before Spirited Children came into my life. Sometimes you have to individualize. For one of mine, a timer makes the biggest difference. I still expect first time obedience, but he needs a warning that his time is almost up. Or he needs to know that he has a limited time to get his pj's on or he may not get to read a book. That eliminates some of the spirited child's urge to notice every little thing around him which can be rather poky.
  • Know your child. If your child cannot handle long waits, do NOT set yourself up for failure by going somewhere where there are going to be long waits. We actually went for a period where we picked up restaurant food instead of going out (not every day, just on days we would have normally eaten out) because it was so much less stressful. It wasn't defeat. It didn't mean I didn't have control. There was just no reason to do that to ourselves. And when we felt like that child was more ready, we went out again.
  • Along with knowing your child, understand his/her needs. I may think the roller coaster ride of fears is a bit silly. But it is real to them. So I make an effort to listen to what they are afraid of and help them overcome those fears. Schedules/routines are very important for both my spirited kids, even though they may balk. They need that comfort in knowing what is coming next. Our older kids' sporting events often occur when the spirited kids need to be napping or going to bed. As nice as it would be for all of us to go cheer on the big kids, it is not fair to do that to the younger kids. We take turns going to watch if needed so that we can keep the routine at home.
  • Expect the worst. Changes in environment or routine can really rock a spirited child's world. Ask the parents of a spirited child what Christmas is like. I mean, Christmas brings out the craziness in the non-spirited child. Imagine what it does to the spirited kid! We can't always avoid those changes for holidays, trips, etc. Just don't expect your child is going to roll with the flow. If they do, enjoy it. But if meltdowns occur, well, do what you can to diffuse them and know in your heart that your child isn't bad. They are just reacting (strongly) to the changes. I can say that it gets better. They can outgrow some of these things.
  • Be creative. Just because our children are spirited does NOT mean we don't discipline. We are actually very consistent, probably more so than with our other kids. We have to be. If we give in once, it will be expected over and over again. But we sometimes have to be creative. We do a lot of "do overs", saying "Try that again" or "Say that again". I have had to hold children, almost wrapping them, while they wriggled and fought back until the frustration had passed (to keep them safe). A surgical mask can be worn (by the child) for phases of spitting or mittens for phases of pinching. (Spirited children seem to enjoy trying out lots of phases...the good news is that they will come to an end. The bad news is we always wonder what the next one will be :) We have to be creative in day to day events too. We stopped dressing our daughter in white shirts; she couldn't handle the tank top I insisted she wear under them due to sensitivity issues. A few minutes on my elliptical machine can use up some of that excessive energy and even help calm the child.
  • Anticipate. Know what might set your child off whether it is a change in routine or having to stop an activity early. Give warnings when possible. "We have to leave the house in five minutes; start wrapping up that Lego project." Or "We are going to a new house today to meet some friends. It will be new but sometimes new is fun!" I have even had one of my kiddos practice what she can say when opening presents because that first reaction is not always positive. It can come across rude when that wasn't her intent. So we practiced, role played, and even got silly with it. "What could you say if Grandma gave you a bag of dog bones?" Know your child's sensitivities. If he/she prefers lukewarm water, do NOT turn the water to the temperature you prefer. Anticipate his/her reactions.
  • Be your child's advocate. We are very fortunate this year that the teachers of our children just accept them for who they are and are very receptive to any suggestions I have. I am thankful for that. That won't always be the case. Some people won't respect those differences, whether intentionally or just out of ignorance. When our daughter first came home (via adoption), people would just reach for her to hold her, almost grabbing her out of my arms. I mean, she was adorable. I know why they did. But she was traumatized by so many changes and now we know what a spirited child she is...she was slow to adjust. It was torture for her, and she wasn't afraid to show it. I finally had to be firm and tell people, "Let her come to you; please don't try to force that." I think some people (probably not parents of spirited children) were offended. And I really don't like offending people. But I was my child's advocate. I had to be. She couldn't do it.
  • Be open to other issues. Just because a child is "spirited" does not mean he/she has a "get out of jail free" card to other issues. He/she may truly be hyperactive/ADHD. (I have learned that the doctors won't even talk about that until they are school age) Or he/she may have sensory issues (more than likely does) and may need specialized therapy to help in that. At the same time, don't be too quick to label either.
  • Celebrate successes. It is SOOO easy to find yourself discouraged on the days when your child is a handful. I know. I have had many tears cried into my pillow. Days that I hid out in the shower trying to drown out the stresses of the world around me. Days that I have questioned myself, my children, God. But it can be easy to overlook successes. And there are some. Some need to be celebrated with children, whether it is a quick "Thank you for stopping what you were doing immediately" or "I am proud of you for handling that disappointment so well" or a trip to Fun City to celebrate a great week of self-control at school. Then there are some that need to be celebrated in your own heart, like the joy of seeing him try a food for the first time and not react badly or the first time she sits through a book without jumping all over the couch. Celebrate.
  • Kind of going along with the above, don't beat yourself up. And don't let your view of your child become so negative that you lose sight of the wonderful creature God created them to be. Yes, spirited children are challenging. And there are many adjustments that need to be made for them to adjust to our world. But at the same time, those same children can grow up and be the innovators, the creators, the inventors, the leaders of our world. They have the qualities in place. They just need to learn how to channel them correctly!
  • Don't compare your child to others. It is easy to do. You go to a restaurant and see a little child two years younger than yours sitting politely, not complaining, not touching every utensil on the table. It is easy to look at that child wistfully and think, "Why not me?" Just remind yourself that many children in the world are not spirited children. And it is like comparing apples to oranges when you compare the two. Instead, look around the restaurant for the other spirited children in the restaurant and give their parents an "I know, I understand" smile.
  • Treasure them. Treasure that child. Remember that God created him/her in all of his/her spirit and trusted you enough to love and raise that child. Parents raising non-spirited children are not "lucky" or "more blessed" or even "more loved" by God. They just have different paths in life. Trust me when I say it has taken me a long time to truly believe those words. I wish I believed them every single moment of the day. But it is true. Now I try to thank God for trusting me enough to give me this privilege.

If you are the friend of a parent with a spirited child (or in my case, spirited children) OR even just the casual observer of one at the grocery store, here are a few suggestions for you:

  • Don't judge. Really. Don't. Especially if you have just "regular" children. It is SOOO easy to think the other parent must not be parenting right. I know. I am pretty sure I was that person once upon a time. But now that I have both spirited and non spirited, I can say that we are very consistent in our parenting of ALL four kids. Two comply easily (fairly). Two don't. So I am pretty sure it isn't the parenting. Really, the don't judge thing can go beyond the spirited child. That child throwing a tantrum on the floor of the grocery store may have autism, be dealing with traumas you can never fathom, have just lost a parent, etc. I wish the world wasn't so judgmental. Even if people don't say it, parents of that child can see it on their faces. And it hurts.
  • Encourage. Don't criticize.
  • Be understanding. Of both child and mom/dad. If Mom is a little extra snappy one day, understand that it may have been a humdinger of a morning.
  • Pray for the family.
  • Help them. Last year a friend of mine (very laidback personality) invited our son to go swimming with her son. It was one of the first times I hadn't had him in the house with me for an hour or two when they weren't at school or unless he was running errands with daddy. My son had a wonderful time and enjoyed that. And I got to enjoy just a few minutes of not having to supervise every single activity of his. Even if you don't want to take the chance to have a spirited child in your presence for a while, you can help in other ways. We have had people offer to transport our big kids to their events when it interfered with the routines of our little ones. One day at church, a friend offered to walk the bigger kids to their classes (they had to be signed in) so I wouldn't have to do that with the then toddler in hand. I doubt that friend knows how much that meant to me. I still tear up thinking about it.
  • Don't compare your children (or your parenting skills) to that spirited child or his/her parents. You just can't. It isn't a fair battle. Kind of on the same note, bragging about your child's straight A's or perfect school behavior is likely to cause some hurt for your friends. Just be considerate. :)
  • Celebrate successes with your friends. One of my kiddos had a really good week last week. What made it even more special was the "celebrations" from friends and family via e-mail, Facebook, etc.

I am sure I could go on and on.

I think it is pretty evident I am passionate about this issue.

But I will stop for now.

Feel free to e-mail me (address is on the sidebar of the blog) or FB me or whatever if you have questions. I am no expert (really, I am not an expert on anything) but I have learned a few things or two in the past few years. Even if you don't have questions, feel free to vent or share your own parenting frustrations. I am a big believer in honesty. I love my children with ALL of my heart. But this parenting thing is NOT a piece of cake. I won't judge you for your feelings or thoughts as a parent. I have probably been there.

More soon,


Friday, January 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday (or Thankfully Thursday?)

I am taking a little break from The Spirited Child (one more part to go) because today is Thursday. And that is when I do Thankful Thursday. It just doesn't make sense (or sound right) to do a Thankful Friday, though I am sure I have before. So we will have a Thankful Thursday and a Spirited Child Friday...

And trust me, after this week, I need a Thankful Thursday.

  • a good week for the youngest. Well, I don't want to count my chickens. We still have a day to go. But it has been a good four days anyway (at school). This kind of goes with the Spirited Child post but you have to celebrate the good times and then remember it when the times are not as much fun...
  • I am going to a Chocolate Fest this weekend with Lauren. Obviously I won't be counting calories that day. :) And even better, it is for a good cause. I can't remember which one but it is a good one.
  • A couple of uncomfortable situations diffused...
  • my new elliptical (even though I now realize how out of shape I am) is SO much quieter than my old one. And it has a bike feature.
  • a "girls' night out" seeing "Joyful Noise"
  • the soundtrack to "Joyful Noise" now on my is just fun to listen to
  • fairly warm weather (and finally sunshine) this afternoon which gave me a chance to walk the track at my school, listening to my ipod, while the kids played nearby
  • that Marley pup is better (she wasn't feeling well earlier this week and worried me a little)
  • my new Otterbox case for my phone (to replace the broken case) arrived this week, complimentary of Otterbox
  • dental insurance. I about had a heart attack when I saw how much a crown was going to cost that I must have. They are not cheap. But I am thankful I am going halfsy with the insurance company.
  • the gift of laughter. Today after lunch (I was at a workshop), one of my co-workers told us a story that had me rolling with laughter.
  • encouraging e-mails/Facebook messages/comments from friends...they were much needed this week
  • active kids. One daughter is currently playing basketball (and had her best game last weekend) while another is playing volleyball for the first time. I love that they are active and hope that continues. (The boys' sports are not in season right now :)
  • e-mails from teachers about my kids that tell me the positives
  • my students. They just make me smile. I really missed them today while I was at a workshop.
  • watching those students grow and learn. This is my favorite time of the year for learning!
  • child 4 is in a major "mommy" phase. He wants me to help him with his nighttime rituals, pick him up from school, etc. Sometimes I do, sometimes we insist Daddy can do it. And sometimes it is a bit suffocating to me. But it does make me feel good to be so "loved". :)

I am sure I could come up with some more, but I better head to bed. I need to rest up and get through tomorrow so I make it on time to the Chocolate Fest. :)

What are you thankful for this week?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Spirited Child Part 2

Before I continue, I want to say that these posts (I hope) are meant to be informative. I am in NO way putting down my children or critiquing them. They are who God made them to be. Yes, it can be challenging at times but the same qualities that can drive me crazy can be good things in life too, as I will point out later. :)

As I mentioned yesterday, I quickly went through the "quiz" and figured out pretty quick that our youngest (I could try to be all secretive but you would figure it out pretty quick) is a spirited child. (I also figured out that both Mark and I are NOT spirited parents. We are "spunky" parents. :)

What was interesting though was that as I went through the ratings scale, another one of our children came to mind several times. So I decided to go back and rate her.


But in a totally different way.

One of the first things the book reveals is that there are "introverted" spirited kids and "extroverted" spirited kids.

We have one of each. :)

And reading through this section made so much sense.

One of our children feeds off the energy of others (often leaving others with NO energy). He has to be around people. I have felt suffocated some days when I couldn't even make dinner without that little person right beneath my feet. I am more of an introvert so that can be really draining for me. But for him, it was just what he needed.

The other child is on the introverted side. In fact, she reminds me a lot of myself in some ways.

Being around people, being social for long periods of time, etc, can be exhausting.

In fact, if I notice that she is getting agitated and I feel like it is because she is drained from being social, I send her to her room. Not as a punishment. Just as a time to "recharge". I sure need to do that sometimes...

But most people fall into the extrovert/introvert category. We are pretty much evenly split in our house.

So, what are the qualities of a spirited child? What makes the spirited child different?

Intensity. Strong reactions. That is one of the obvious ones with both kids, but especially the youngest. We have always said whatever he does, he does it to the fullest. When he is sad, he is REALLY sad. When he is happy, he is REALLY happy. Not really manic depressive but it sometimes can feel that way. That passion will be a driving force for him one day. We just have to learn a little control with them. :)

Persistence. Another quality that will serve the spirited child one day. They will be problem solvers. They will not give up. They will persevere. However, at this point of time, it can be exhausting. Like to the point of feeling like I want to collapse. Child 4 has been like this since the day we met him. In fact, his foster mom's parting words of advice, "Don't be surprised when he screams out. When he wants something, he lets you know." Except she said it all in Spanish. And that is so true. We are currently working with him on not interrupting. But it is difficult. I try to ignore him if he interrupts to tell me something that could have waited. It is REALLY hard to ignore when he is in my lap, holding my cheeks, yelling at the top of his lungs. Okay, maybe a bit dramatic. But I will say that when he wants something, he will let us know. Over and over and over. The key of course is not giving in, and we rarely do. But that would be why I often collapse at night out of exhaustion. Because saying "no" 1000 times a day is a tiring experience.

Sensitivity. Both kiddos have shown this. (Really, we all have our "sensitive" issues. I cannot stand tags on my shirts or tight elastic.) One child is really sensitive to clothing. It is getting better with age, but I will say that I still think seriously before buying anything new. The other child has the most heightened sense of senses. He can spot an airplane that looks like a dot in the sky. Smells...oh my. There can be the only faintest of smell in the air and he perks up, "What is that? What do I smell?" I also think he tends to be rough and tumble because he is seeking that touch.

There is a story in the book about a father taking his spirited daughter to the movies. It was such an experience with all of her sensitivities. It was one of my favorite parts of the book. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. I told Mark all about it as we were driving somewhere. He was half listening (maybe because he was focused on driving). A few weeks later, Mark took the kids to the movies (a rare treat around here). When he came home, he shared that his experience with this child was not much different than the one in the book. And I wasn't surprised in the slightest.

Distractible/Perceptive. Try taking a walk with a spirited child. You will not get very far. Maybe not even out the door. The spirited child notices things and must stop to investigate them. Things that nobody else notices. Little details. Like a nest in the tree. Or the crushed crayon in the parking lot at school. (Happened today) And I will admit, when we are in a hurry, which happens a lot, it can be maddening. But it has also taught me to slow down and notice the little things in life.

Adaptable. Transitions are tough for the spirited child. In some ways, it is like they are "ultra focused". They want to finish that puzzle. Or that Lego house. And telling that child that right now is not the time to do it because it is now dinnertime is like telling him/her the world is coming to an end. Change is hard. (Remember that "persistence" factor earlier?)

The next few characteristics are considered "bonus" traits meaning they may not apply to ALL spirited children, but they are often a common feature among that group of kids.

Regularity. This is the only "quality" that does not apply to either of my spirited children. SOME children have a hard time establishing a regular pattern for eating, sleeping, etc. That isn't a problem for mine. Of course, I am pretty big on routine, so maybe I haven't given them much of a choice. :)

Energy. High. Really high. Not necessarily ADHD which often comes to mind. But their energy is more than your typical non-spirited child. Like other factors, it will eventually help these kids in their work, in school, in life. But for now, it can just be exhausting for the parents. It is, trust me.

First reaction. There usually isn't a first reaction. It is more of a non-reaction unless someone tries to force a reaction. The spirited kid may shut down when faced with a new situation. Temporarily (or at least in our house). Once they warm up, watch out, World!

Mood. This applies to one of mine more than another. It is the "serious" and "analytical" mood that can come across very sarcastic, very critical.

To a lot of people, this list would look mostly negative. And like I said, they can be challenges. But all of these characteristics can work in these children's favor too as they grow and learn.

The tough part as a parent is to help that happen.

And that will be part of my next post. Living with a spirited child AND how to be a friend to parents of a spirited child.

More soon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Spirited Child (Part 1)

One day I was eating lunch when I overheard someone proudly boast that if you are raising your children correctly, there is NO reason that they shouldn't be able to sit through church quietly. After all, if they begin to act up, you simply remove them, handle the situation, then return. All will be fine.

I felt ill to my stomach. I may have even lost my appetite which is highly unusual for me.

We are fairly firm and consistent in our parenting. Don't believe me? Ask my kids. Ask their friends. Ask their teachers.

But there is no way in...the world (yes, I was tempted to use another word) that my younger children can sit through a church service quietly and still. Trust me, we have tried. (By the way, our church services run longer than most but even then, I don't think it makes a difference)

I found myself thinking, "This lady must not have the type of kids I have..."

Fast forward to this past summer.

We were visiting my sister and her family while the girls attended "horse camp".

I try pretty hard to maintain our routines no matter where we are. I am big on routine and schedule, both at home and at school. I have found most kids crave that; routines are comforting and safe. Anyway, I really do try to maintain those routines. But obviously, different environment, we are out of routine already.

Meanwhile one of my children was having a hard time. I found myself putting the child in time-outs, lecturing, taking away privileges, sending him/her to bed early, etc. Anything to calm the behavior which just seemed "out of control" to me. (Note: This wasn't a "wild child" or necessarily harmful to others, he/she was just not living up to my expectations for behavior.) And of course, having your child act out in front of family is just that much worse which probably intensified my reaction which just fed his behavior even more.

I was just at the end of my rope.

Pretty much life has been like this for the past few years. It isn't bad, nor ist the child. It is just like riding on a roller coaster. Sometimes we are on top of that hill, screaming with joy and laughing with delight at where we are. Unfortunately, the next week we may be plunging down, feeling like we are going to fall off the ride. And honestly, no matter which part of the roller coaster I am on in a given day, I collapse in bed, exhausted.

I had tried reading "Have a New Child by Friday" and "The Strong Willed Child". While both are good books, neither really seemed to address our areas of need. I know that a couple of my kids have strong wills, but that is not our only struggle.

One night I cried out for help on an adoption message board (which probably just narrowed down which child I am talking about :). And the title of a book soon popped up..."Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

I didn't hesitate.

I ordered it.

When the book arrived, I dove in. It is a long book but I really couldn't put it down. As we would travel different places, I would have it in my hands. I would read passages out loud for my husband to hear. I laughed and cried throughout the book, sometimes just nodding in silence.

The "description" on the front says it all.

"A guide for parents whose child is more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent, and energetic."

Um, yeah.

That is my life.

I took the "quizzes" in the book.

No question.

I had a spirited child.

I also took the parenting quiz.

No question about it either.

I am not spirited.

Thus my complete frustration and bewilderment when faced with these situations.

I really was on a roller coaster ride...

Tomorrow I will share a little more about the book and some of the characteristics of a spirited child as well as how it affects our life. (I promise to be careful about copyright issues with the book...I am big on that kind of stuff.)

More later,

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I am Just Different...

and I am okay with that.

Just as a casual observer of myself out in the world we live in, even among friends, I have come to the conclusion that I am just different. Maybe odd is the word? I don't know. I just realize more and more that I am not the norm.

How am I different you ask? (Just pretend you asked...)

  • I don't carry a purse. Never really have. I don't even remember the last time I did. I do have a small wallet I will use to hold my phone and info, but that is it.
  • I apply make up once a day. That is before I leave the house. I do make exceptions for "date nights". :)
  • I have just a few basic shoes I wear.
  • I have no clue how to put outfits together.
  • I don't shop at the big "W", the one with the smiley face. Haven't for almost 14 years.
  • I do not think in terms of accessories. I really am doing good to get earrings in my ears on Sunday mornings. My wedding band, my Mickey Mouse watch, and my second hole earring studs are my only "staples".
  • Because of that whole accessories thing, I am the one whose daughter will show up for volleyball pictures in her t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and tennis shoes. For some reason, zebra print socks, matching ties for the shoulders, etc, does not occur to me. I wish they did for my daughters' sake. They just don't.
  • I attend my kids' sporting events to support them (my kids). However, it is WAY out of my comfort zone.
  • I try not to miss naps on the weekend.
  • I worry if I don't blog in a day or two, I am letting someone down. Not sure who but I worry anyway.
  • My feelings get hurt way too easy. When I went private on here, some of my closest friends did not ask to join. It hurt my heart. :(
  • I never wear fingernail polish. Never. (And only toenail polish if I get a pedicure) I love it on other people. I am just too rough on my nails.
  • I just cannot get "just water" at a restaurant for my drink. If I drink something, it is going to have caffeine in it. (Though I do often drink water at home for at least one meal)
  • If I get chilled, it can take hours for me to warm up. So I avoid cold as much as possible.
  • I truly wouldn't miss snow if it never happened again.
  • I don't change my hairstyle. Part of that may be my "fine" hair ("fine" as in doesn't hold any curl or style :)...there aren't many ways I can change it.
  • I love my kids but I do enjoy alone time too. I truly do.
  • I actually like to organize. I just don't typically have the time to do it without interruptions.
  • I haven't read any of the Twilight books and don't plan to. They just don't interest me. I know, I know, if I let myself read them, I would probably like them.
  • I cannot bring myself to buy a Nook or a Kindle. I like reading books, holding books, etc...
  • I like working out (well, as much as I can like any kind of exercise) to Sweating to the Oldies with Richard Simmons.
  • I love our Razorbacks but won't watch their games. They stress me out.
  • I won't let my kids play with my phone. Even when it is in its very protective case.
  • I won't do those "Repost if you think" kind of posts on Facebook or do the breast cancer challenges on there (all secretive like). I guess I am a rebel in some ways...

Or maybe I am just different...


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Planning Meals

This is a post from my food blog that I thought I would share about how I plan meals around here. It may not be of interest to anyone, so if it isn't, just come back this weekend. I am sure I will be much more entertaining in another post. Well, as entertaining as I get. I am a mom, a wife, a teacher. I am not exactly living the life of an entertainer.

Back to the post:
The other day I mentioned a meal we were having later this week. A friend joked, "You know what you are having later this week? I don't know what I am having tonight!"

The truth is I have to.

I have to plan.

Otherwise we would be eating out a lot.

Planning ahead is the only way I can survive.

I typically plan a week at a time. I used to plan for two weeks (mainly to avoid trips to the grocery store) but that was difficult. Plus I usually ended up with two carts of groceries which was really hard to navigate. I have also found that shopping for a week at a time reduces a lot of wasted food. I used to buy foods thinking I might cook something in the future. Then I would forget it was in the freezer. Now I only buy essentials ahead of time (ground beef is a good bet, especially if I can buy a big package and split it into 1.5 pound portions).

Anyway, I usually plan on Saturday or Sunday. I really prefer Saturday because I am much more likely to get to the grocery store on Saturday. On Sunday, with church and the mandatory nap (that gives me energy for the upcoming week), getting to the store is near impossible unless my dear husband volunteers to go. (And thanks to the iPhone app Grocery IQ, that is much easier these days to do :)

To actually plan the menu, I first look at our family schedule. When will we be home? When won't we? How much time will I have to cook? Those answers determine a lot.

Right now Mark and the big kids are attending church on Wednesday nights, so that is an automatic "On Your Own" night. It is really hard to cook for just me and the little people. Plus we need an "On Your Own" night once a week. It gives us a chance to use up on leftovers. The kids love it because they get to choose what they want (Ramen noodles a lot of times). And as much as I really do enjoy cooking, it is nice to have a night of just relaxing.

Thursdays (currently) are practice nights. The girls both have sports practices. So that is a crockpot night. That way, the food is warm whenever we have a chance to eat. We tend to eat in "waves" on those nights.

The weekends are reserved for the more complicated meals since I know we will have time. During the summer, that is the ideal "grill" time. I have also recently started having one child a week help me plan a meal to actually cook with me some time that week. The weekend is a good time for that too.

Typically in a week we have (at least one) chicken meal, a meal with beef, and a meal with pork. We are obviously not vegetarians. In fact, a couple people in our house don't consider it a meal without meat. Anyway, another night is normally either breakfast for dinner (like eggs and cheese or pancakes with a side of bacon) or sandwiches of some kind. In the winter, soup is a weekly event, grilling during the summer. We still do eat out on occasion, so if I know that is going to happen, I take that into account with the menu. And when Daddy is going to be out of town, a night with popcorn and Shakes or smoothies is a strong possibility. It is just kind of our special thing to do.

I try to vary the cuisines. Mexican typically in a week. Some kind of Italian. A little Chinese on a really good week.

And I typically do a mixture of the "tried and true" recipes and at least one new recipe (typically from Pinterest or food magazines).

I try to make meals that most of the kids will eat. I cannot please them all every single day. I have one who won't eat potatoes or veggies or even fruit. Another one doesn't really care for eggs. The youngest used to not eat much meat but that has changed a lot in the past year. And yet another is very picky and likely to turn her nose up at most things I make. I just try to make side dishes that will feed those tummies. I refuse to make separate meals. If I know it is something they absolutely won't eat, I will allow them to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But really, that is rare. Usually SOMETHING offered on the table works for them. If anything, I figure they will be really hungry for breakfast the next day. (The one exception is when we make bacon wrapped grilled shrimp, we will throw some chicken on the grill because that is more a mom and dad favorite than a kid favorite, though in recent months, they have been eating it too)

Oh, and we do almost always have some kind of bread. And I do make an effort to offer veggies or fruit which is a challenge since most of the kids are not big veggie eaters. Sometimes carrots and Ranch is the best I can do.

It all sounds like a lot of work, but really, the actual menu part comes together in moments. (By the way, I usually post the menu on the fridge and point children to read it when the questions start coming..."What's for dinner?") The grocery list and the actual shopping is my time consuming project.

I will say though that once I started doing this, our eating out (especially fast food runs) dropped. Even on nights I am really tempted, I remember that we have a meal planned with all of the ingredients, and MOST of the time, I go ahead with my plan to cook. Most of the time. :)

I am not sure we save tons of money not eating out as much because our grocery bill is not exactly cheap. Ever try buying for a family of six? I am still working on being a more frugal shopper. (Not that I am really extravagant, though we do have one "splurge" meal a week typically)

But for those precious family moments around the table, eating a homemade meal, talking about our day, it is worth it.

I wouldn't trade those moments for anything.

Even the long trips to the grocery store.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Those Worthwhile Moments

I am not going to lie.

Being a parent is the HARDEST job I have ever had.

I really had no idea what I was getting into. Had I known, I may have run the other way. Yes, it is rewarding at times. Yes, I feel called to do it (apparently). And yes, I am giving it my all (most days). But it is still hard. And I feel like a failure more often than not. I have yet to find a "manual" to tell me exactly how to handle situations. That in itself creates more stress then I care to have some days. I would also be lying if I said that I have NEVER thought of just walking away. I know, I know. I would miss them. But the thought does cross my mind on occasion. I do cry at times out of frustration. And this week was no exception.

In fact, this week had some downright tough moments.

But just when I think I am at the end of the rope, there are these worthwhile moments. The moments that give me a little hope. The ones that help me get up the next day to do it all again (even those days every fiber of my being screams to not :)...

Here are just a few of those worthwhile moments that have kept me going...
  • Getting a text from my child's teacher letting me know it had been a good day
  • Picking up that child that afternoon and having him present me with this "ring" that he got from the treasure box. Instead of choosing something for himself, he chose something for me. And if I forget to wear it, he makes sure to remind me. (It is a bit snug though :)
  • Making dinner with my daughter (actually, I have done that with both daughters this weekend)
  • Singing to pop hits after dinner (Daddy's ipod in the background), dancing to the music together
  • Watching a movie with the big kids that had us laughing until we cried
  • Praying with Child 3. I make a point to pray with her almost every night, often praying for things she can work on as well as things we are thankful for about her. She almost always quizzes me after the prayer, wanting to know what I meant and how she can do something better.
  • Going out to eat with the family and sharing a dessert. Even better, getting to the end of the meal and realizing that it really is getting easier. No meltdowns. No wiggliness. Just enjoying eating together.
  • Spiritual conversations with the kids. The girls especially have been really asking questions about heaven, the fruits of the spirit, the meaning of Christianity.
  • The moment Child 3 and I talked about heaven recently. She asked me if people who believed in God would be there. I told her that it would take more than belief. After all, even Satan believes in God. It would take FOLLOWING God. She asked, "Like when you and Daddy thought you were done with two kids, and God told you to go to Guatemala and adopt two more? You followed him?" I can't say that she came up with that all on her own; we have discussed that before. But she is actually listening to me!
  • The thanks the kids give when we sit down to eat. At least one, usually two, will thank me (and whoever helped) for cooking the meal.
  • Being told that we are the best parents in the world when we help a child organize his room.
  • Hearing my kids say that Marley was the best gift they had been given. I won't tell them she was really a gift for me. :)
  • Watching my boys cheer and clap for their sister on the basketball court.
  • Having my youngest cheer when he finds out I am taking him to Sunday School. Then hearing him call down the hallway (repeatedly), "Bye, Mom!" I did answer about four times, but it didn't seem to quench his need to say it...
  • Hearing my kids giggle.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that there are worthwhile moments. They may not happen as much as I would like. But they do happen.

For that, I am thankful.

More soon,


Friday, January 13, 2012

Thankful Thursday Once Again

If I don't have a Thankful Thursday, I will quickly slip into despair. This has been a tough week for many reasons. I need to remember what went well, what blessings I have...

  • No snow day! We got a dusting of snow but thankfully the street was not really covered at all. I know, snow days can be fun. But I also know how very much I love summertime. And snow days tend to make the summers shorter.
  • Our oldest's bedroom furniture is almost here! He has had his new bed for a few months. But he hasn't had any kind of dresser. Now he will!
  • Child 3's teacher told me how Child 3 was playing a spelling game in class. She came in 2nd. But what makes me proud is that the teacher told me how gracious our daughter was accepting her loss.
  • I thought Marley had some growths on her (almost felt like lumps). Turns out it was matted fur from...I have no idea what it was from.
  • plans for our future in the works (God willing)
  • Child 4 is feeling MUCH better.
  • two kiddos had good reports at the eye doctor
  • good report cards
  • good reports at the dentist this week...other than me. :) I have a crack in a filling. :(
  • cooking dinner with our oldest. It is my goal each week to plan and cook a meal with one kiddo (rotating basis). Child 1 chose fried catfish. It was fun!
  • a warm house (especially when our wind chill will be about 0 tonight)
  • heated seats in my van (see above)
  • Child 4's teachers (both during his class and after school)...they have the patience of Job
  • beautiful sunsets
  • Child 3 asking a lot of questions about God and our relationship with Him

I know I could come up with more. But instead I am heading to bed :)

And hoping tomorrow is a much better day!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

For the Love of Marley

When I think back over 2011, the highlight of the year (to me) was the addition of Marley to our family.

Don't get me wrong. I loved our trip to the beach. I loved my weekend getaway to Chicago with hubby. And we had several hiking trips that made my heart smile.

But none of that compares to our love for Marley.

And when I saw "our", I mean the WHOLE family.

We will start from the bottom up.

The youngest.

Oh my, if Marley survives him, it will be a miracle.

I actually think Child 4 has struggled with losing the "baby" position to her.

Yet he loves her.

In his own special (and often rough) way.

Many times when he wants to give her attention, Marley burrows under our bed. Her place of safety.

Yet though he is so rough with her, she adores him. I am not sure why a lot of times. But she does.

Child 3.

She was one of the reasons I wanted a puppy so much.

I felt like a dog could be almost therapy for her.

Someone to love. Unconditionally. Who would in return love. Unconditionally.

While Marley isn't too fond of just curling up with this one, she is adored nonetheless.

Every morning, Child 3 comes hopping into my room.

"How did Marley sleep?" "Is she okay this morning?" "Has she been sick today?"

One of my favorite things to do is listen to this child (who has always been a bit rough around the edges) talk to Marley.

"Oh, my sweetie pie, how are you today? Poor little thing. Did someone hurt you?"

It has brought a side to this child I didn't know existed.

That right there was enough reason to bring this furball home.

Child 2.

I think her favorite time of day is after dinner when she curls up with a book in the big chair. Little Miss Marley plops down next to her.

And they are happy.

Child 1.

If this gives any indication, his profile pic (which I had set up with a football pic of him) is now a pic of Marley.

He calls her his hunting dog.

So far the only thing I have seen Marley hunt is spiders and moths. But I guess he is holding out hope.

Then there is hubby.

I am not sure he knew what he was getting into.

We never really had a deep "dog" discussion.

I just got the itch, started sending him pics, and basically begged.

He was the one who picked her up. He brought her home for the first time.

We won't tell her this but a dachshund was not on his radar. I don't think a small dog of any kind was.

But he loves her.

Maybe more than me. :)

And she loves him.

When he comes home from work, she runs to the door, giddy with excitement.

She loves to curl up by his feet when he is in his recliner.

And the feeling is mutual.

I see his face light up when she walks into the room. I watch him lean over to talk to her like she is a little person. He will stop what he is doing to play a game of fetch with her.

And then there is me.

I am at a loss for words...rare for me.

All I can say is that our lives would not be the same without her.

In fact, our lives will never be the same.

When I come home, this is my little bit of sanity.

That little furball curled up by my feet.

I look into her eyes and I see love. Adoration. Loyalty.

And my heart is happy.

More soon,

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Don't Have Your Eyes

I Don't Have Your Eyes
by Carrie A. Kitze, illustrated by Rob Williams

Last fall, on one of the adoption boards on Facebook, someone offered to send out a book about adoption. All they asked was that we give a review of it.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, a book showed up in my mailbox.

Unfortunately, it was right around the time of holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas).

The book got pushed to the side.

Until this weekend.

I have been determined to see this through to the finish.

So I finally opened the envelope, pulled out the book, and read it.

It didn't take long to read it. It isn't wordy.

But it says so much.

As a mom of two children adopted internationally, I can appreciate the message of the book.

If you know us at all, you know that our two youngest children look NOTHING like me. We look more like an Oreo cookie together. I am about as pasty white as they come, and they both have this beautiful brown skin (which really does get darker in the summer). I have blonde hair, blue eyes. They have brown (almost black) hair and eyes.

Yet though we look different, that doesn't mean we have no connection.

Sometimes one of my children will make a face that is identical to one I would make. I hear my words coming from their even more of a Southern accent than I have.

I see little character traits that remind me of myself. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.

And that is what this book so nicely puts into words (and pictures).

"I don't have your ears...but I have your way of hearing those in need."

We may not look alike, but that doesn't mean that we don't have a connection. That we don't share some ideas, some thoughts, some behaviors.

What I also like about the book is that it gives a glimpse of the power of a parent.

It shows what we can pass down. It doesn't matter if we are related by blood or not. We are making a difference in the lives of our children. It is our decision whether it is a positive difference or a negative one. Our words, our reactions, they all have an effect on what our children learn about the world.

Another positive about the book: the illustrations. I love how different races/ethnicities are represented. And one of the pics looks just like my son to me. I don't always find that in adoption books.

I haven't read the book with my kiddos yet. I think it (the meaning) will go over my 4 year old's head but I think he would enjoy the pictures and talking about how we are alike and different. The 7 year old? I think she will get an idea of what it means. And I think as she gets older, she will treasure these words in her heart.

I look forward to sharing it with her!

PS The book can be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and through their website

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The First Random Reba Thoughts...

for 2012. :)

I really need to be working on report card comments.

But I am blogging and Facebooking instead.

Which means tomorrow night I will likely NOT be blogging and Facebooking.

Because then I will really have to work on report card comments.

Anyway, here are some random Reba thoughts, the first of the new year.

Mainly because I am too tired to focus on one thing for more than say half a minu...

what was I saying?

  • Yes, we had a flat tire on the way home from Mississippi. We were maybe 10-15 minutes outside of the city where my husband's family lives. So we hadn't gotten far. Suddenly we hear a flap, flap, flap. Hubby pulls over. The tire is split wide open. Hubby said it is the biggest gash he has seen in our tires. So, hubby went to work changing to the spare while the kids entertained me. Oh my. It was a bit scary...we were on the side of a highway while semis flew by us, shaking our van. But we survived. I am VERY thankful we did not have an accident. I am also thankful for safety while Mark was changing the tire.
  • We ended up having to go back to our starting city to get the tire changed. It was the nearest place with a tire that would work. I am VERY thankful it took less than half an hour (though total, we had about 2 to 2 1/2 hours added to our trip with the whole ordeal).
  • I had just read the book "My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife". Wonderful book. I felt so understood. I will say that on occasion, I struggled with being the Proverbs 31 wife during the tire ordeal (though hubby handled it well overall...he was just a bit on edge here and there :). But again, we survived. :)
  • The other good part of the whole story was that we had to stop for dinner. Since we were near one of my favorite cheese dip restaurants (yes, they have other foods too), we stopped there. A rare treat. Cheese dip. REALLY good cheese dip. And chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Yum.
  • I am not sure who was more excited to see each other...Marley or us! We were SOOO happy to be home with her. I missed her terribly over the weekend.
  • Something I want to remember: Child 3 goes around the house singing at the top of her lungs. Praise songs. The thing is, she usually only knows one small part of the song. But what she does know, she sings with gusto!
  • I am still contemplating New Year "resolutions" (I prefer the word "goals"). Obviously, not procrastinating is NOT one of them. :) I do know a healthier lifestyle (more in the area of exercise) is one. I am starting next week though.
  • I had in-service today. That means teachers met, kids didn't. They start tomorrow. Usually my kids hang out with my mom for the day on these kinds of days. But hubby surprised me last week by announcing he thought he would just take the day off (I use that term loosely since he ends up working when he has a chance...just via Internet or phone) to stay with the kids. I think it was a fun day for all of them. Kids anyway. :)
  • The other day our youngest was reading a book. There was a word on the picture. He asked me what it was. I couldn't really see it since his hand was covering part of it. I told him I thought it was "boing" (which is actually one of the words in the title of the book). He informed me it could NOT be "boing" didn't have a "b" in it. Smarty pants. He was right. It was a totally different word.
  • Speaking of child 4, he got Legos for Christmas. He was looking through the "idea" book that came with them. He saw a picture of two houses. He told me that he would make them and he and I could live in one, the "others" could live in the other house. Oh, he is a mess. A funny one, but a mess nonetheless.
  • I almost hate to say it for fear of ruining it but the kids have been getting along fairly well recently...even playing together. It is very unusual!
  • I still need to finish Christmas posts. But not tonight. I really need to get to bed.

So enough Random Reba Thoughts...for now. :)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Still Here...

I am still here. Well, "back" should be the word.

We just had a quick trip (as in just a couple days, NOT as in a "quick trip" because there is NOTHING quick about that trip) to Mississippi to visit Mark's family.

I had big plans to blog last night.

That was before the flat tire.

So hopefully later this evening or tomorrow I can get back to blogging.

I have all kinds of thoughts to share, like about some books I read over the weekend.

And goals for the new year.

And the Proverbs 31 Wife challenge I am embarking on.

I know you just can't wait. :)

But for now, I am taking advantage of the last day of my Christmas vacation to take a nap.

More soon!