Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on Parenting

When I was growing up, my mom had a book called "Parenting Isn't for Cowards" on the bookshelf in our family room.  As a teenager I looked at that book and thought about how she had to be courageous to stand her ground with me.

I didn't understand the half of it.

Parenting is the hardest thing in the whole. wide. world.  There are days I cry from the weight of it all.  The thing about parenting is, no matter how hard we try, we can't get it just right.  We mess up.  We hurt our kids.  We do things that we know are wrong.  We do things we don't know are wrong.

And all of that is so difficult for this perfectionist to accept.

I've got a degree in education, and I consider myself an expert in that department.  I know that children need to be exposed to a certain number of books before they become readers, and I know the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on teachable moments.

I'm also a research fanatic, so I know all kinds of things about child development.  I know that we need to sit at the table with our children when they eat meals so we can teach them that food is a social experience.  I know that kids need a certain number of fruits and vegetables and whole grains daily.  I know that "screen time" has a ton of detrimental effects.  But what I do is a different story.


When I am in a hurry and my kids are eating alone while I fix my hair, I feel guilty.

When my kids reject all fruits and vegetables and only want goldfish and bread products, I feel guilty.

When I choose to let the kids watch television (after having let them already watch a reasonable amount that morning) just so I can have a conversation with another adult, I feel guilty.

I know that feeling guilty is stupid.  I know that everything is about balance and doing your best and maintaining your sanity, but in my heart, I just see failure when I do the opposite of what I know.  I want to give my kids my very, very best, and anything less hurts.  Even though letting them watch television so I can be a mentally healthy mom is sometimes the best choice, I just see research and statistics and scold myself.  Even though I sit with my children for most of their meals, I see the times that I'm off working on my computer or folding laundry while they eat alone, and I beat myself up.

And don't get me started on my fear of judgment.

I'll never forget when Brennan was two years old and we went on a play date with friends.  I brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat, which was one of the only things he would eat those days, and I had stopped and bought a small bag of Cheetos to share with him, which was a really big deal for our special trip to the park.  When we sat down to eat with the other kids, and they proceeded to take out chick peas, quinoa, black beans, cooked carrots, and other amazingly healthy foods, my heart sank.  Then, when the moms looked over at Brennan's food, I wanted to crawl under the table.  Brennan would never eat any of those foods the other kids had.  He still won't.  He would honestly go hungry and have his blood sugar drop and have a total, complete meltdown before he would even try any of those foods.  I know from experience.  That doesn't mean I give him Cheetos all the time.  I try to give him healthy things he will eat (which are so limited), and constantly encourage him (usually unsuccessfully) to try new things.

Other, well-meaning moms tell me to just give him what we are having and let him go hungry.  My pediatrician disagrees.  And all of that is beside the point.  I'm doing my best and making intentional choices for my kids.  And I still feel like a failure.  I put that pressure on myself.

I've been wondering whether I make other moms feel that same sense of failure.  I am a research junky, so I have lots of facts to share.  I am a perfectionist, so I know lots of best practices.  But at the end of the day, I'm just another parent who messes up and falls short.  When friends ask me for advice, I tell them what works for me or what I have learned, which may make me sound like I know it all.  But I so don't.  I know nothing.

Except grace.

Last week I shared with Jim that I needed to give Brennan more grace to be five years old and stop expecting perfection from him (sense a theme, here?).  I decided to write the word "GRACE" on our chalkboard to remind me to give him a break.  The irony is, the word has been up there more for me than for him.  Every time I feel like a failure, a hypocrite, or a crummy mom, I see that word and I'm reminded that God knows my heart and will make my children who HE wants them to be.  I'm reminded that He doesn't expect me to be perfect and actually gave my children to me knowing that I wouldn't be perfect.  He will cover all of my sins and imperfections.

I still hate that there will be consequences to my failures because I am human and there is sin in this world.  I can't go back and change Adam and Eve's decisions, and it stinks because I love my kids.  I love them so much it hurts, and I don't want it to be so tough.

But I guess that's sort of how God feels about us.  It's a good thing He's our heavenly father.  He is perfect.  He isn't a coward.  The buck stops somewhere and there is a perfect standard.  Thank goodness my kids can grow up and learn about being a perfect parent from someone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Few Funny Conversations

Today, I told Brennan to hold still at lunch because he had something on his mouth.  He was very upset with me for messing with him, and I said, "Brennan, there was a hair on your lip!"  He said, "I felt it and I liked it there!"  Yeah, right.  This from my OCD child.

On Friday night we went to see Cars 2.  All of Brennan's play the next day was about secret agents and super spies.  At one point he asked, "Why is a super spy called a super spy?"  My response was, "Hmmm... I don't know."  Jim's response of course was "Well, I'm not sure they were ever actually called super spies in the movie"  Any wonder why Brennan is the way he is?

On Saturday morning, Cora decided she wanted to get dressed and took off her jammies.  I had to iron her shirt (we were going to a birthday party), and while I was ironing, I heard her scream from Brennan's room.  Brennan came running and said, "Mommy, the reason you heard a scream is because I do NOT want a naked girl in my room, and I was trying to get her out!"  Boy, will he regret saying that some day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Shredded Tires Make My House Look Better

We have spent the past two weekends sprucing up the outside of our house.  Well, I should clarify: Jim has spent the last two weekends sprucing up the front of the house.  I have spent the past two weekends entertaining our children.  :-)

It isn't very often that I approach our house from the front, but a few weeks ago I walked to a neighbor's house to deliver something, and when I walked back home I cut through the yard and looked at this:

Nice, huh?  And really, this picture is better than it had been because we just replaced those bushes about a month or two ago.  The other ones were already dead and hadn't survived their first year here.

We decided it was finally time to put down some mulch and increase our curb appeal.  Plus, we didn't want to fork over more money to replace more bushes just because they couldn't stay hydrated.  So, we decided to go with rubber mulch.  Even though it is more expensive upfront, it lasts a ton longer and we won't have to replace it every few years.

We each made a few trips to Sam's Club to pick up bags of mulch and cart them home in our little Hondas.  (You wouldn't believe me if I told you the things we have fit in those little cars over the years!)

In between storm threats, we got started...

(I didn't make Brennan wear a helmet to help.  He was riding his bike.  Just thought I'd dispel any over-protective-mommy rumors.)

Anyway, here is the result of all the time and money.

Instead of this...

We now have this...

Jim claims that other than needing to buy a few bags here and there to fill in gaps, we shouldn't need to replace this stuff for a decade. Sounds good to me!!

Check out how the house has changed in less than one year:

July 3rd, 2010

June 19, 2011
The two boys enjoying popsicles are definitely better in the first photo, but other than that, I think we're moving in the right direction.

Have you been busy sprucing up your home lately?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day, Silhouette Style

I wish I had a bunch of adorable pictures of my husband and my precious children on Father's Day.  But I don't.  Jim spend the day spreading mulch and mowing the lawn and grilling burgers – all his choice – and he was truly a hot mess.  I suppose I could have taken a picture before or after church, but I didn't realize it was my only opportunity.

So instead of sweet family photos, I'll share all of this year's Father's Day crafts.

First up, the gifts we made for Jim's dad...

Jim (Jim's dad, Jim, aka James Riggs III) is the sports editor for our local paper where we grew up.  As a part of his Father's Day gift, I had my mother-in-law send me clippings from a few weeks of the sports section of the paper.  I used Jim's editorials, as well as a few other articles, as a backdrop for a piece of personalized art!  If you look closely, you can see his name in an article above the steam on the train:

Jim loves model trains, so he is able to hang this in or near the entrance to his "train room" at home.

So, I shouldn't admit this, but the whole gift cost $5.  I got the frame for $4 at the local dollar store, and the train image cost me a dollar in the Silhouette store.  (I love that you can buy what you want from the Silhouette store for $1 per item instead of buying $80 cartridges like you have to do with other craft cutters!)

Jim's dad's other gift is so stinkin' amazing, in my opinion.  (I don't think I did anything amazing; I just think my Silhouette can do amazing things!)  After I saw a the idea on the Silhouette blog, I decided this was a perfect gift for Jim's dad who is an AVID golfer:

First, I asked Sharon which golf balls Jim typically uses,  and I bought a box of twelve.  (This is only one sleeve.)  Then, I special ordered Silhouette tattoo paper and tattooed each ball!!

(This is a sample I did on my own Jim's white ball, just to make sure it would work.)

My favorite feature of my Silhouette is the "print and cut" feature.  I can print something on my regular printer, put it in my Silhouette, and it recognizes where to cut!!!!!!  I mean, SHUT UP!!!!

Isn't this just the craziest thing ever?  And it isn't hard to figure out how to do it!  It's like rocket science in the way it works, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it!!!

I applied the tattoos to the balls just the same way you apply them to skin: with water and a washcloth.  After the balls were tattooed, I sprayed them ever-so-lightly with a polyurethane spray that I already had, and it kept the tattoo from coming off with water.  Now early morning dew won't wash the name off!

For my own Jim's Father's Day gift, we did two things.  The first didn't involve the Silhouette at all.

My Jim always needs binder clips, so we bought him a box, and Brennan decorated papers that we glued to the clips.

Simple, cute, and very appropriate from a five-year-old.

The second gift was a family gift.  I saw the idea here and thought it was perfect for Father's Day!  I used colors that go with the play room so we could all enjoy it.  (I told Jim that if he wanted it for work, I would make another one.)

I just traced our hands on cardstock and cut them out.  For our name and the date, I used brown vinyl in my Silhouette.

Not only was this gift sweet, but Jim also learned something new about me.  He never knew that I had hurt my finger in the swimming pool when I was young and it has been bent every since.  (Isn't it attractive?)  It actually isn't that obvious in real life (clearly, if we've been married almost eleven years and he has never noticed).

I hope you all had a great and crafty Father's Day.  Unless you hate crafts.  Then I hope it was very store-bought .  ;-)  Either way I hope it was happy!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Start Spreading the News...

Last week we took a trip to New York City.

Okay, not really... but we pretended to, along with a hundred other local kids!

Last week was Vacation Bible School, and our theme was New York City.

I volunteered to head up crafts to kids age 4 - 5th grade, and it was very rewarding.

The work really started a few months ago as I decided on the crafts and made lists of all of our supplies.

Then, the week before VBS, a group of awesome women from my church got together and helped prep the crafts for a few hours.

I cannot imagine having done it without them.  I would have been cutting skylines for two weeks and seeing foam stickers in my sleep!

At VBS, the kids made skylines...

... and Father's Day cards...

... and cloth napkins, among other things.

The napkins were my favorite craft.  We gave each child a cloth napkin and fabric markers to decorate napkins for local Meals on Wheels recipients.

I wasn't sure how the kids would do with such an open-ended craft.  I worried that maybe they'd color two or three quick things and quit, but they didn't.  All of the kids took the whole craft time on Thursday to work on their napkin, and many of them spent part or all of their craft time on Friday finishing.  They really put their hearts into it!

I know those people will be blessed by the kids' labors of love.

I pray that the kids were equally blessed by their time at VBS and that the Holy Spirit will be at work on each of their precious hearts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Colorful Day

Last Thursday we had our first relaxing day of summer.  We met our friends at the pool first thing in the morning, and it was really fun.  But by Thursday night, it was clear that something was really bothering Brennan's face, and by bedtime it was obvious that it was pink eye.

(This picture was taken after had already started his medicine, so he actually doesn't look that bad.)

I had told the kids we could go back to the pool on Friday morning too, but we ended up at the doctor instead.  It was a bummer for all of us, so we made the best we could of a bad situation.

First, when we got home from the doctor, while Cora was napping, Brennan and I made rainbow pudding pops.

We just mixed up regular vanilla pudding, separated it into six bowls, and added different food coloring to each bowl.

Then we layered the colors into plastic cups and put in some popsicle sticks.  We put them in the freezer for later.

Next, Brennan and I made freezer paper stencils for a new bag using my Silhouette.  Brennan is really excited that he is now old enough to have his own library card (you have to be five years old here), and I told him I would take him several times this summer to check out new books.

I thought it would be good for us to make a bag just for library books where we could store them, carry them back and forth to the library, and keep his library card.  

When the stencil was ready, we ironed it on and Brennan painted the letters.  I knew that I would have to settle for less than perfect if I was going to let him do it himself, but I think it's better this way.  It's his bag and he is proud of it.

I'm still going to sew a little pocket on the front to store Brennan's library card, so I'll take pictures of the final bag when we make our first library trip this summer.

After dinner, we all headed outside to try our pudding pops...

...and then changed into swimsuits to wash off the mess in the sprinklers.

Cora didn't much care for the sprinkler, but she sure loved watching her brother.

Sometimes what you get is even better than what you had planned.

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