May 262018

Among other activities keeping me busy this spring is a new addition to our garden.  This is not something I had planned on adding, though always wanted. I had a “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list, mainly to explain to the kids why we didn’t have this and wouldn’t for a long while.

This list worked well for the past 6 years. I thought it was fairly fool proof.

About a week ago I decided to put aside my wishes, to stay home and garden, to be the “fun” mom.  I loaded up the kids, water, skateboards, helmets, book, and a hat. (It was hot after all.) Against verbal arguments of one who wanted to stay home and play on the computer, we headed to a local skate park for a free event. We were going to have fun whether they wanted to or not, me knowing that in the end they would have fun.

My plan was to let them skateboard, do some of the other activities available, have some snow cones, then come home with two tired, hot kids who were ready for bed.

It almost went like that.

See, as the kids were skating I wandered over to the dogs brought to the event by a local animal shelter in hopes of finding homes. We usually visit them as it is good for the kids to be around different dogs and for the dogs to be around different people.  However this time…this time I met one which actually MET my very specific criteria on the “if we get this it needs to meet these criteria” list: old, calm, laid back, not nervous around kids, doesn’t bark much, walks on a leash well, doesn’t scare the kids. The adjectives in bold were the major key ones on the list which usually disqualified every single dog we had met before.

Not only did I find a dog who meet the criteria, but he exceeded them. Turns out he is trained, rides well in a car, loves to be petted, is as social as George (has yet to meet a stranger), and even didn’t intimidate Jack, who isn’t as much of a dog lover as George.  When I walked over to the group of dogs, I had written him off right away due to size.  However, he very nonchalantly moseyed over to me, sat down, and waited to be petted.  He didn’t even need to smell my hand first, just waited like I should know what was expected.  So I did.  As other people and dogs went by, he might have given them a glance, but sat perfectly content (and quiet) being petted.

I talked with the workers for a bit, explaining what I was looking for in a dog and why.  We talked a bit about this particular dog.  Then I asked them not to say anything to the kids when they came over.

George gave the dog of wide berth while he went to a shorter dog.  However, after one of the workers suggest he walk the larger dog while she walked the smaller one that was the end of that.  Within  feet George had renamed him and fallen in love.  To my surprise, so did Jack.  He didn’t flinch when the dog came right up to him, he didn’t shy away from his head, instead giving him lot of pets and pats and loving.  Jack has never been this calm around a dog, let alone a dog this large.  It didn’t take too long for both of the boys to begin asking if we could adopt him.

The only two draw back – he is big and has long hair. For all his other qualities I can overlook those two.  He even keeps me company while I try various DIY projects.  I can even hammer and drill without disturbing his naps.

Soooo, we came home with two hot, tired, excited boys and one dog of trial run at our house.  That trial has since ended and he has become a permanent fixture in our garden.

As I have found out this week, he also LOVES to chase rabbits.  Excellent! I had been wondering how to keep them out of the garden.

In case you were wondering, I did NOT bring a dog home without asking my husband first.  I am smarter than that after all these years.


Aug 302017
This post contains affiliate links.
This past summer did not go at at all like I had planned for it to play out.  Visits to all the libraries in our library system, exploring city parks, summer schooling, baking with the kids – very little of it happened like I had hoped.  
Why?  Because I was feeling anxious.  It zapped my energy and my motivation to get up and go.
The kids picked up on how I was feeling and would mirror with their own set of behaviors.  Let’s just say it was more a summer of “here is how you make your own cereal for breakfast, and yes you may watch Netflix for a few hours.”  FWIW: we are not cereal eaters, and my kids actually do not like it a whole lot.  However, they like doing things “by myself” and did okay with this scenario.  There were also days with shakes and breakfast sandwiches, so they were not completely left to their own devices. 😉
The good news is I am working on getting things back to where they were, one step at a time.  I have changed several things, tried to take on a new outlook, asked for help, and shared with others what was going on.
All of these steps have helped, but there is still a ways to go before I get to where I want to be.
Does life have you feeling stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Are you looking to get back in control of life, rather than reacting after the fact?  If you are not sure where to start or are looking for extra encouragement, here is a great opportunity.
Crystal Paine, from MoneySavingMom, has a new course set to be released soon – Say Goodbye To Survival Mode.  
 “It’s a 7-Day Journey to Break Free From Burnout. It’s one of the most authentic and vulnerable products I’ve ever produced and my hope is that it will inspire many women to dig deep and discover where their exhaustion and overwhelm is truly coming from.” – Crystal Paine
To launch the new course she is offering a FREE 3-day Webinar called “3 Strategies to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed.”
During the Live Webinar, Crystal will be sharing:
~Her 4-step process for deciding what to say yes to & what to say no to
~The most important question you can ask if you want more calm & less chaos in your life
~Her #1 trick to get more done every single day
~Plus, I’ll be hosting a LIVE Q&A at the end of the class to answer your burning questions!
If you have not visited MoneySavingMom before, I highly recommend you check it out.  Not only does she share money saving deals and advice, but also gets to the personal side of it as well.
This is a great place to start (and it’s free)!  The Webinar begins next week.

Jun 042017

Swagbucks is currently offering double cash back or more at a number of stores for Father’s Day. From Best Buy to Lowes, you’ll get cash back (in the form of SB points) for buying your gifts online through Swagbucks.

They also have offers where you can earn SB points towards free gift cards for getting the Dad in your life a subscription to Hulu or Dollar Shave Club! It’s a smart way to buy the gifts you were already going to get, and Swagbucks offers coupons and deals when you shop online to your favorite stores on top of the points you earn.

If you are like me and have a talent for forgetting holidays and other days of remembrance, this is the perfect time to go ahead and take care of this To-do List line item.  It is easy, quick, and no wrapping required.

You can even take advantage of this offer to purchase gift cards for yourself to use on projects around the house.  New garden bed anyone? How about a rain barrel? Garden statue? Water pond?

You can find all of the details here. If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks yet, you can also do that at this page and start earning points towards your first free gift card. As a bonus, if you sign up through me a spend at least $25 shopping online through Swagbucks, you’ll get a 200 SB bonus – that’s $2 in addition to the points you get for each dollar you spend.

These deals will run all the way through Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18th.

May 302017

Time spent outside fighting dragons, conquering the great flood threatening your kingdom, surviving the natives who are chasing you, or perhaps soaring so high on the swing that you can almost touch the sun – Summers are for adventure and new experiences.

While this is true, not all adventures need be saved for summer or for disposing of the forces of evil.  Some can take place over a few minutes on the back deck or kitchen counter.  Some of these “forces of evil” turn out to be not so bad, maybe even friends.

We have always tried to expose our kids to a variety of foods.  The words, “I don’t like that” do not come out of our mouths in regards to a food being served.  There are food we may not prefer, but I also point out to the kids that I eat certain things anyway because that is what is being served. (Yes, I am the one making the food, though they  have not thought of that fact yet.)

While I do not like green peas, my husband loves them.  They get served and I quietly do not take any. Sorry, Mom.

My husband does not like fish.  The kids finally picked up on this when we had it one night while my husband was not home, yet he refused to try some of the leftovers the next day.  They now know we only have fish on nights Dad is not home. 😉

As for liver, “Grandma makes great liver.  I think we should wait till we visit and she can make it for us.”  Turns out, the kids like fried liver.  Sorry, I will stick to eating it in Braunschweiger.

Finding Adventure to Fit Your Life Right Now

These past few months have seem time and energy on my part limited.  However, I wanted to keep new things happening for the kids.  One day I realized “adventure” did not have to be synonymous with lots of time and money.  Instead, I added something new to the grocery cart during a routine shopping trip.

That night I make a slightly larger deal of this new item.  We went around tasting it and giving our opinions; describing the taste, how it felt in our mouths, how it smelled, and how we might like it fixed a bit different.  You were allowed to not like the item, but you had to take at least two bites before saying, “No thank you.”

If we had it before and you did not like it then, you still have to take two bites.  Your taste buds may have grown since last time, meaning you might like it now.

A recent adventure contained an item I thought I did not like – sardines.  While I like fish, I had it in my head that I did not like sardines.  My dad likes them, took them to work fairly often, and was teasing me about them recently.  When I saw them in Aldi I figured this would be a great lesson for the kids – to see Mom try something she did not like.

With a can of sardines in mustard sauce and a can in oil, we grabbed a box of crackers and proceeded to go out to the back deck in hopes of keeping the fish smell out of the house. (We failed on that front, by the way.)  Over the next 30-40 mintues we talked, played, watched birds, and found that we all liked sardines, preferably in sauce.

We also found out that while the heads had been cut off, there were soft bones (?) still in, as well as the skin of the fish.  As these are small fish, the skin was thin and the bones were not an issue.  The kids still had fun throwing the bones over the railing “for the birds”.

This Adventure was marked as a success.  Two of us really liked these, while another said they were okay.  Everyone tried it and we all had fun with our impromptu picnic.

May 032017

god made rainy days quote

I should be mowing the yard ahead of the rain.

I should be planting beans ahead of the rain.

I should be making sure everything is in order outside, ahead of the rain.

I should be grocery shopping ahead of the … no wait.  I need to shop because we are almost out of milk.

What I am doing is paying bills … not ahead of the rain, but because they are due. A much better reason than the rain.

While doing so I emailed a question to our insurance person, which then led to me “clearing out a few emails”.  You know how the rest goes.

What I came across was something I thought might interest a few of you – it is not gardening related, but a free offer that might help you in your parenting or working on school with your kids.  No looonnnnngggg drive required.

From May 8 – 23, the GHC is offering a free online home school convention for parents of 5-12 year olds. (They are not going to card you, so if your kids are out of that age range, you are still welcome to “attend”.)

“But I am not  a home schooling parent. I have absolutely no interest in home schooling.”

That may be true, but there are several talks which may interest you anyway.  I find that these are not only useful in the schooling we do at home, but also in helping with homework and parenting in general.

There are two options for this online convention:

  1. The FREE option which allows you to see a session for up to 2 days.  If that does not seem like enough time, the second option may appeal to you.
  2. Get Lifetime-All Access for $99.  The talk will be available to you at your convenience, as well as having access to pdf summaries of all convention sessions.

The GHC online convention website outlines which talks are happening on each day, with Sundays having a break, which will help you plan your time wisely.  They also offer more information on each talk and the attendance options available.

I have not attended this online version before, but look forward to seeing how it compares to the in person one we attended a few weeks back.  While the session offerings are not a diverse, the convenience and price can not be beat.


Apr 252017

Alexander Hamilton book

It is Tuesday.  Not Monday.  Yes, I am aware of that and gave myself enough guilt about it yesterday.  However, it is Tuesday and not Wednesday, so that is saying something.  Right?

This past weekend included a llloooooooooooooonnnngggggggggg gggg  ggggg drive (do I need more g’s to make the point?) to a homeschool conference.  The original plan was to leave Thursday morning, with my husband taking two days off work, drop the kids off at my parents, and allowing my husband and I to have a restful weekend away together.

What happened was, and I promise there is a point to this beyond whining:

  • my husband’s job moved a meeting to a week and a day which it was not originally planned for
  • resulting in us not leaving Thursday morning, but Thursday evening instead.
  • I drove, which is not our norm on long trips, because I knew my husband had worked a full day and was tired. (He did drive the last few hours.)
  • We met up with my parents several hours past the kids’ bedtime, with the last point making the trip a very hard one along the way.
  • By the time we got to our hotel, it was past midnight.

I was able to get about 4 hours of sleep that night, resulting in the realization that my body was not past the point of being stressed.*  Yet.  I felt icky Friday (tired and nauseous), but had a day of talks ahead of me.  Knowing the reason for feelings helped me address them.  What it did not do was take away the feelings themselves.

Friday night I slept horribly, being awake from about 3 am – 5 am, then sleeping fitfully for 2 hours.  So much for getting a good night’s sleep.

Saturday came, I kept going, knowing that moving, eat small snack throughout the day, and not dwelling would help getting past the physical reactions.  This allowed me to figure out if I was actually feeling tired or hungry; I am amazed at how they can feel the same if you are both very tired and very hungry.  Taking the edge off really helped.

Saturday night, I had another plan:

  • I passed visiting with my  husband’s former college roommate (and new baby) in order to rest
  • reduced the nauseous feelings
  • and ate something high in protein, thereby setting myself up for a solid night sleep.

It worked!

By Sunday morning I was feeling … better.  I could not wait to get home though.

We still had a 7+ hour drive home, including picking up the kids and visiting a bit with my parents.

The drive home was actually one of the best ever with the kids.

We had no electronics – partly planned (no personal devices were packed), partly not (both of the dvd players, our “half-way there” treat, decided not to work).  What we did have were books on tape, audio dramas, snacks, and activity bags.  We also had kids who were tired from 3 fun filled days at the grandparents.

It was while listening to one of our books on tape, Parables From Nature by Margaret Gatty, that I realized I too have room to learn. Chapter 7, called “Waiting”, is specifically what I am speaking about.

In this chapter, Mole tells the House Crickets that sitting around bemoaning their issues do no good.

Every animal has a purpose. Yours is to wait for the sun to rise.  That is what you should be doing.  Anticipating the sun rise.  Once it goes down, then you find a snug place to stay till it is time to do your job again.

(quote not word for word)

Add that to something my husband shared from learning at the conference, that worry is feeling tomorrow’s emotions today.

I had been bemoaning and worrying, even if I thought perhaps I had not been.  This also goes to show why I feel better when I would get up and actually do something, taking my mind of how I was feeling and focusing on something else (walking, birds, gardening, solar lights, garden layouts, starting a garden … you get the idea).

Once we were home, a new board game was set up (Risk: Star Wars edition) and the boys, big and little, played while I tried to create some kind of order out of the chaos which comes from cleaning out the car from a long weekend away.

Monday morning came, I enjoyed a cup of tea on the back deck while listening to the morning birds.  My bemoaning and worry began to wash away, reminding me of the purpose and job I have to do right now … not the potential feelings of tomorrow or wonderings of why things for us are not like they are for others.

bird scared away from feeders waiting to return

The giveaway for Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life has closed.  Anita Yancy’s name was selected by as the winner.  

*After a while of contemplating, part of me began to wonder if the stress my body was feeling was not only due to being tired and the change of traveling, but also remembering our trip to this conference last year.  On that particular trip, we had a foster child with us, one who had not gone on trips with us before and was only a year younger then Jack.  It was a lesson for everyone involved.  We learned that a larger age gap is needed, due to the emotional needs of our kids, if we ever choose to foster again.


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Jan 232017

This post contains affiliate links.
5-love-languages-of-children-clean-edgeThere are few books I read during my college years that still stick with me even to this day.  Most were academic in nature, things that I learned but did not affect me personally.  However, during that time I learned about the 5 Love Languages.

How I responded to actions and comments from friends and acquaintances, as well as how I acted towards them, began to change as I began to see them in a new light.  Up till then, I had not even realized my helping set up for a meeting or my willingness to go with them somewhere was how I expressed love.  I had assumed it was the thoughtful thing to do and that everyone did it.

I was wrong.

I learned it was how I showed and received love.  It was the form that spoke strongest to me personally.

Once my  husband and I met, it helped both of us to know our preferred love language.  While our languages are different, we are able to express our feeling in the way the other is most likely to receive it best.  We are also able to give grace when we realize they are not giving us what we need at the moment, because they do not always think the way we do.

While my husband may not always bring me flowers, he does do the dishes at times, or helps clean the kitchen.  Those are the times I feel like he is spoiling me.  He is speaking my language.

When we walk or go somewhere, we hold hands or sit close, and my husband greatly appreciates this. I am speaking his language.

Without knowing these things about ourselves and our spouse, we could have been spinning our wheels sitting in the same room together watching our favorite movies and sending heart felt cards to each other, yet never feeling truly loved.

When we added to our family, we both knew we needed to find our children’s love languages.  The problem was, how?

How do you figure out the love languages of your children when they can not even talk?  Are they the same as the languages of adults?  Are they expressed in the same way?  Do they have a primary language and a secondary language, and do they stay the same as they grow older?

Enter The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The first parts of the book talk about why the showing love is so important in your relationship with your children.  Then a chapter is devoted to each of the various love languages.  If you have never read these books, practice a form of parenting or working with children that has not taken into account what is going on inside them, or are beginning your journey with kids, you will want to spend time in the beginning of this book, considering why this is important.

child shredding zucchini with border

It was interesting to see how these languages are felt and expressed differently in the lives of our children.  Touch, for example, may not mean holding your child’s hand like it would your spouse.  Instead, it might mean touching their back as you walk past them at the dinner table or picking them up to hold them in your lap.  Time might be shown in helping with homework or playing a game.

These love language explanations are followed by the chapter I had been waiting for – Discovering Your Child’s Love Language. Now I could figure out if I needed to keep rubbing George’s back or if Time was his main one and we should bake more together.  Did Jack appreciate me playing games with him or should I continue to do the soft touches on his arms when he sat on my lap? The conclusion?  I should keep doing all of them.

As it turns out, children’s language may change over time.  They do not have a primary one, though they might respond to various languages at different developmental stages.  So, while I will keep rubbing George’s back and playing with his hair (one way we found to almost instantly calm him down), I will keep baking with him and sitting near him for homework.

To be effective in discipline, parents must keep the child’s emotional love tank filled with love.

The next chapters of the 5 Love Languages of Children cover topics related to learning to love your children effectively which I had not thought so much about – Discipline, Learning, and Anger.

I have been told over and over, through our many (foster) parenting classes and books read, discipline is not always a negative thing.  It does not always mean punishment, but instead means guidance and teaching.  It comes from a place of love, not a place of anger and annoyance.  Sometimes easier said than done.  However, I personally have noticed a change in my kids when I make sure to love on them more, or take a deep breath before addressing the situation.  Sometimes a hug or verbal reminder is all they need – “I am right here. Please lower your voice.”  Other times, they do need firm reminders of expected behaviors.  The balance is a tough one to keep at times.

At night time, Jack is still in need of close physical presence, he prefers at least line of sight to an adult; even after 5 years, he does not feel safe.  It had improved to the point of me being able to sit in the living room “drinking coffee”, out of his sight, while he went to sleep; then we moved and progress went backwards at least a year.  I got really annoyed at him last night for disobeying and not staying in bed, responding harsher than I should have.  Once I realized his need and got past my “this is how it should be” thinking, things got better and we all slept (albeit two hours after he his bed time).

One point they make, and where I think some parents go wrong, even I at times, is to make requests instead of commands.  I understand saying “please” always is better then “go do ____”.  Where I used to go wrong, and where I hear other go wrong is saying, “Do you want to go brush your teeth?”  instead of “Please, go brush your teeth.”  The first is truly asking them if they want to or not, so do not get mad if they say “no” and keep playing.  One of my kids would take that question at face value then wonder why you are getting mad at him when he says he does not want to go.  The other child would understand that you really are telling him to go brush his teeth.  When wording something as a request, make sure you are willing to accept a true answer and not just the result you are wishing to obtain.

The same literal child above was reminded last week, that it was time to go and he needed to put on shoes.  The second time I said the same sentence with out any acknowledgment of hearing me I reworded the request into a statement: “We are leaving whether you  have on your shoes or not.  If you do not want your socks to get wet, you need to put on your shoes.” He was over putting on his shoes almost immediately.  No threats, but straight forward fact about the consequences of not doing what was asked.  

Parents who do not take time to speak the five love languages, but simply seed to meet a child’s physical needs, are neglecting her intellectual and social development.

We have seen the results of this in our children.  When they first came to us, their emotional ages were several years behind where they should be.  It was hard to teach them anything as they did not trust us, were hyper-vigilant, etc.  They were focused on surviving and had no mental energy left for learning.

Over time, they have learned to calm down some.  However, they are still anxious.  Anything taught to them during these times may as well be taught to a brick wall.  Their emotional ages,while improving, are still about a year behind, depending external factors and what exactly you are asking them to do (change in schedule vs. deal with a difficult person vs. doing something they would prefer not to be doing, etc.).

The last of these three – love and anger, was a chapter that unfortunately I really needed to read.  With all the changes going on in our home, emotions have been running high.  Anxiousness, sadness, happiness, excitement, nervousness, shyness, uncertainty … all these emotions mixed in with having to schedule appointments, set up services, start new school/church, continue home schooling, leaving an old job, learning a new job, finding your way around a new town, leaving friends, meet new friends, gather paperwork, organize chaos, decide what to keep and what to get rid of, finishing up activities around the house … well, honestly it leads to many days where sadly not everyone responds in the most appropriate of ways.  I see myself referencing back to this chapter in the upcoming months and days, as I am the one to set the example for my kids, helping them walk a path of appropriate handling of anger.

The last two chapters were aimed at the parents reading this book, either single or married.  They covered various aspects of parenting, of being parents, and how it relates to our children and their love/growth.  These chapters held encouragement and tips for creating a solid foundation in us and those around us.

Finally, at the end of the book were several resources: an epilogue, notes from chapters, and The Mystery Game for parents to play with their kids in order to help them determine the child’s love language.

begin to build bat house collage

One of the things I have liked best about this book are the practical examples and solutions presented. These examples helped me visualize what was being talked about, seeing ways to apply it in our home.

Another aspect I appreciated is actually something that is missing – a new parenting style.  The point of the book seemed to focus more on the relational side of parenting your children, rather than telling you how to raise them.

If you have previously read another version of The 5 Love Languages, then you will see some repeat, especially in the first few chapters.  The parts I found to be different or specific were the application area, or how it is expressed.

In the end I was glad I read this book.  It is a great addition to some of the other parenting books we have read and our (imperfect) method of parenting.  The 5 Love Languages of Children was also a great encouragement to keep moving forward even if we are not perfect in our parenting, especially because we are not.

Dec 122016


While I thought I would have made more headway with this, it seems I am stuck in the cycle yet again. This time, however, I know part of it is due to my needing to let go.  I need to do less for and expect more from my kids. We also have a big change going on, which always throws everyone off, especially  kids with certain childhood traumas.

So I breathe, walk away, catch their eye, otherwise engage their hands, or whatever else I happen to rationally think of in those times to keep me from yelling.  Then I give myself grace, and ask for forgives if needed.

It has also helped to have another adult in the house again to back me up.  It is good to know that it is not just me, the kids really are being stinkers and need to change their attitudes, too.  Once again I am in awe of and have empathy for single parents.

Okay, time for me to share something I’m not really proud of – I’ve found myself in the habit of yelling at the kids.  It isn’t like I curse at them or tell them how horrible they are.  What happens is that I find myself raising my voice out of impatience and using more Put Downs than Put Ups.  I love that last term Alissa uses in her post, “Getting out of the yelling cycle“.

Before kids, I always thought I was a very patient person,that nothing could rock my boat.  Arguing was never something I did.  I was the “good” kid in the family, shining my halo daily and never disobeying my parents.

Yes, there was a bit of pride involved.

I could never understand the mom who lost her patience with her little one while shopping, or at the playground yelling for them to “get in the car or else.”

Over the past few years I’ve slowly had my patience tested.  Constantly.  At high volumes of speech.  As time has gone on, my tolerance with the kids (not my husband, interestingly enough) has gotten shorter and shorter, and I have found that indeed my boat can be rocked.  This seems sort of counter intuitive as life is actually easier now than it was a few years ago.  So why do I get so annoyed, impatient, prone to raise my voice quicker than I used to?

I’ve analyzed many times at to why I reach the point of yelling, and I can tell you usually what leads me there.  Here are a few:

  • Having to repeat myself over and over because a child chooses not to listen the first 3 times
  • Being asked “Why?” over and over from kids who really don’t actually want to know and don’t listen to the answer
  • Constant disobedience of rules that haven’t changed.  Ever.  Yet the child can’t seem to remember the rule after YEARS of it being in place
  • Flat out being ignored when I say something
  • The starting and stopping of each sentence with Mom – ex:  “Mom, can I have a drink, Mom?”, “Mom, I don’t want to, Mom.”, “Mom, look at this, Mom.”
  • Guilt from playing the “I Should” game in my head.

After analyzing these reasons, yet again, I find myself asking, “Well, why don’t you work on stopping these triggers?  What are YOU doing to enable them to continue happening?”

  • I willingly repeat myself 3 times, rather than just saying something 1 time slowly and clearly.
  • Asking them if they really want to know why, or asking them what they think the reason is.  This is especially true when I say, “Go put on your shoes so we can go to the grocery.”  Then the reply I get is, “Why? Where are we going?”
  • Consistent follow through.  The reason they keep trying is because sometimes it is a coin flip as to whether they will get away with breaking the rule.
  • Making sure I am in front of the child, talking at eye level, then saying things one time and following through with consequences
  • …not sure about the constant repeating of my name.  Any ideas?
  • Take a deep breath, and remember that God is in control.  Also repeat Psalm 19:14, yet again.  (Just to clarify, this had nothing to do with yesterday’s post.)

So, I just wanted to say “Thank you, Alissa, for the great reminder that we can change, that I’m not the only one struggling with this.”  Also, “Thank you for not just talking about it, but giving a possible solution.  Even if this doesn’t work for me, you definitely got me thinking of other alternatives.”


Nov 142016

This post contains affiliate links.

reading book dress-up costume

Whenever I need some encouragement, reminders to keep moving forward, I seek out those who have been or still are dealing with the same struggles.  It helps keep my perspective, gives me ideas of things to try, and shows me that I am not alone.

Here are a couple of articles and thoughts about parenting kids from hard places.  I have talked about this before, so it is nothing new for this blog.  However, I keep finding people who know more than I do, reading what they are open to sharing, and growing in my understanding.  I could not keep it to myself if I tried.

If you read nothing else, I suggest reading the first article from Stevie Wilson, a licensed professional counselor.  I could have benefited from such knowledge during younger years, helping out in children’s programs.  Not all of this information is for parents alone.  It is good information for everyone to have and understand.

-Teaching a room full of kids can be a challenge on any given day.  Some days it is a fun challenge.  Other days … not so much.  Having that one kid in the class who does not act like the others, can test anyone’s patience, especially if viewed as defiance or being oppositional..  However, knowledge is power and a few small changes can help the day go much smoother.

Last week I had to literally stop where we were and wait for one of my kids to gain control of themselves before we moved on.  At the time, we were headed out to eat supper after the kids received a surprise visit from my parents and one of their cousins.  It was exciting and different.  While both of my kids responded with heightened activity, this particular kid seemed to be having trouble slowing himself back down.  The biggest hint – lack of eye contact.  While everyone else continued on into the restaurant for supper, I stood on the sidewalk and …..

  • watched birds fly overhead
  • watched trucks pull in and out of a gas station
  • took deep relaxing breaths (amazingly enough, I was not really fazed by all this. I was just enjoying the autumn air.)
  • watched more birds fly overhead

… basically I did anything I could do to look as relaxed and bored as possible, to slow down my energy (almost to a stop) and thereby slow down my kid’s anxiety levels.  It worked.  Once this kid could both face my direction with his body and look at me, I gave praises and very clear expectations – “we were going to walk into the restaurant and walk to our table while keeping our hands to ourselves; walking does not mean skipping, jumping, or running, it means walking.” We had a brief pause inside the restaurant as it was difficult to walk while keeping hands to oneself, but a redo resulted in appropriate behaviors.  That was the goal.

In the end, this kid behaved very well and this whole situation was a forgotten thing of the past.  Having other adults with me made it possible at that moment to react with these behaviors in this fashion.  If it had been me parenting solo with both kids, trying to keep one kid calm while brother was having trouble handling the changes, I would have had to reverse everyone back to the car for some music time or headed home for pb&j.

our school week collage 2

-What about if you are not in a public/private school setting?  What about home schooling?  Changing the location from a larger classroom to your dinning room table does not suddenly erase the potential for challenging behaviors.  What it does do is give you more options on how to address these issues.

Peek-a-boo is not just a game.

The emotional side of life is one aspect I appreciate much more now, after home schooling Jack, than I did before.  It took a short intense time during his early public school stint for us to accept that something more was going on than the normal adjustments to a full day of Kindergarten.  So far, we have not regretted this decision.  I will admit, there are times where I have the “oh, how life would be different if he were able to tolerate being in public school and I was working outside of the home” thoughts.  Thankfully, we do not need me to work outside the home and I enjoy staying home, but the grass is always greener…

Then I realized how well he has been handling the past hour of being bored, how well regulated he is acting.  For him, being bored often is what gets him into trouble, a feeling he begins to sense about 5 minutes or less into an activity which he deems unnecessary.  Learning to find ways to entertain himself without causing trouble has been one of the biggest lessons he has had to learn, and is still working on.  I attribute this learning to why we can actually sit through a church service now and why he was able to take a 3 hour car ride sans movies with me last week.

When we began schooling at home, I had visions of how things would turn out.  It did not happen that way.  As I had already been reading a fair amount of home schooling blogs when the kids were preschool age, to gain ideas of activities to do with them and help them catch up, I was not completely overwhelmed at the idea.  However, I know how it was ‘supposed’ to go.  Yet, instead of needing a few weeks to adjust, it ended up taking us almost 6 months before Jack could handle some sort of structure to his day.

2 years later I feel like we are finally at the point I wanted to be at 1.5 years ago.  Learning to step back and not take things personally, usually, has helped.  Reaching out to others has also helped.  Also finding ways that work for him, rather than keeping doing it the way everyone else seems to be, has helped.

I have come to find that, apparently, I was a bit too agressive about learning to read and it was backfiring.  So I took a break, trying again at various times till we landed upon something that worked.  Using a program like Reading Eggs, has helped take a majority of the arguments out of the struggle to read. Apparently, learning to read is boring, so why try?  Sort of like going to sleep. However, ‘playing’ online is fun and so is earning new characters.

The “But, mom, I can’t read” excuse no longer flies.  He at least can try to sound it out, with a bit of prompting, of course.  Why prompting? Because it is also easier and faster to have mom tell you the word you do not know, rather than try to figure it out yourself.  The same goes for opening doors. And putting up your clothes.  And …. it has become apparent one of the habits we will need to be working on in the near future.


-I need to do more of these sort of activities throughout our day. Vestibular stimulation is something we often see in Jack.  Whether it is due to a history of ear infections or hyperactivity, his need to move is often an indicator of what is going in in his head and greatly affects his ability to focus.

-Letting the little things build up till I explode is an area I need to work on.  This was a great, quick reminder and encouraging read.

Jul 082016

fire pit

Way back when, I needed a blog name for Jack.  Nursery rhymes were the source I was using for inspiration, but which one?  Then the day happened and I knew very clearly what it was.  Jack!

The nursery rhyme of Jack Be Nimble always confused me. Why would one jump over a candle, burn themselves, then say they wanted to do it again?  Then I became the mom of one such little boy and it made perfect sense – because it was there and he could. (Okay, that is not the historical reason, but it now seems like a valid explanation to the boy of this mom.)

Here are some adventures to give you insight:

My husband and I were looking to go out one evening for a few hours.  We have tried several babysitters, but yet to alight upon one we really thought would work well at this time of day/night.  I called a friend I knew who had a daughter with several younger brothers.  “Perfect.  Maybe she will be able to handle the boys even though they will be really tired.”  Three hours later we get back, 1.5 hours past their bedtime, and they are all watching a movie.  No problem as I told her she did not need to even try doing bedtimes.  Here is her quote, “They ate supper, played inside for a bit, then we went outside to play.  We ran around for quite a while playing X game and Y game.  We came back in to watch a movie. …. They weren’t even tired. They have a lot of energy!”  Glad to know that it isn’t because I am getting ‘old’, even the teenager was worn out by them.

They have a LOT of energy

While carpet shopping for the house, I spaced out the trips so it would not be a long day.  Instead, my goal was to make it a few shorter mornings in Big Town, thereby hopefully avoid the following scenario:

I had gathered up prices and determined where I wanted to go.  Jack and I went to the store first thing after dropping George off at school.  Mornings are Jack’s best time, so I was trying to utilize this knowledge to my benefit.  My phone is charged and his favorite app game is loaded.  We get to the store and he sees a table, with some kids toys, sitting in the middle of the carpet selection area.  With some hesitation I agree to let him play there instead of on my phone right by me.

All was going well till toward the end.  As I was narrowing down the choices with the salesman, who had left to get another sample board, I realized Jack was not at the table.  A quick search revealed that he was hiding on the other side of the show room, among some other samples.  I brought him back, reminding him of “expected and unexpected behaviors in a store.” The sales man came back, we went to his desk to get finish some paperwork.  Jack was playing nicely at the table full of toys.

Someone walked up beside me and politely said, “Ma’am, your son is in the back room behind rolls of carpet and won’t come out.  He is not supposed to be back there, it is dangerous. He needs to come out.”  I had to bite my tongue on that last part to keep from being too sarcastic. I would have thought it was pretty obvious after the first sentence.  But, I know this was definitely unexpected behavior and something none of the adults in the room would have even considered another kid doing.

Sure enough, I found him (finally) hiding under rolls of padding, in a space about 1.5 feet high.

bike meets deck steps child

Do not ride bikes down steps…

Amazingly, we have only been to the ER once with our Lover of Life.  I was so proud of myself, keeping the kids entertained in the sand box on the deck while I cleaned out the shed.  It was a sunny afternoon and we were all in the backyard together.

Obviously my eyes did not catch everything.  I heard a thump and a cry.  Turning I found Jack face down on the ground, his bike (with training wheels) at his feet, at the bottom of the stairs to the deck.  My first concern was that his nose was broken or pushed up into his head.  Once I felt everything and found nothing broken, I carried him inside to address the gushing of blood.

We have had bloody noses before, the kids would get them by crying too hard as smaller kids, so this was not exactly a new thing for us.  George was a great help in getting door opened and toilet paper to wipe off the blood in between splashes of water.

My husband? Well, not such a big help.  At least at first.  I yelled for him to come help, as I was not sure if teeth had been knocked out, or if I needed to leave George at the house and leave with Jack.  When he walked in and saw Jack’s face covered with blood and George and I standing around the sink, his first reaction was to get mad. “What were you thinking?!”  Granted, it was out of being scared and concerned for Jack, but it was not helpful.  I told him to leave the bathroom, then closed the door.  Once the shock was gone he was much better and held and cuddled Jack on the way to the ER.

The result of this stunt was a very swollen upper lip for almost a week and a detailed report to our foster care agency.  No teeth knocked out.  No broken nose.  No black eye.  He had missed the wood border of the landing by about 2 feet.  If he had hit that, the outcome would have been very different.

But I wanted Daddy

In the time before learning how to swim well, which was any time before this summer season, the kids were required to wear life vests in the pool when swimming.  The only times they were allowed to be without them was if they were in our arms.

Even after being shown over and over how they would sink if we let go of them, how they could not walk on water (sorry, you are not Jesus), and how they had yet to learn to swim, they still did not fully believe us.

George had a healthy fear of the water.  Well, maybe a bit too much fear, but it served him well enough.

Jack, though, thought we were being mean and restrictive.  “By Golly, I want to be in the water and they are keeping me from what I want! How dare they!”  Yup, pool day was fun, full of holding Mom’s hand until she properly suited you up.

It was the end of swimming time, we were all getting out of the community pool to head home.  As it was late afternoon, my husband was also there.  I had gotten out and was ready to help the kids dry off.  Jack had been put out of the pool, I removed his vest and dried him off.  We were walking around to the other end, to get George out, when I realized Jack had turned back.  He wanted Daddy. Who was still in the pool.  Looking the other way.

In one swift move, he walked up to the edge and stepped right off into the water.  Then promptly sunk to the bottom.

I could not get there fast enough, though I tried, and yelled at my husband.  Thankfully, he turned around, scooped Jack up and sat him back on the edge.  We had one scared child. Well, at least for about 5 minutes.  He was not any worse for the wear, though it could have been a whole lot worse.

And this is why I did not take them at the busiest times of the day, even now.