Friday, August 30, 2013

How Two Bouncy Balls Saved An Afternoon

The other afternoon, I knew I was going to have to kill an hour with the boys while my daughter finished choir practice at school. {Cue moment of dread.}  I needed a plan to ward off the guaranteed whining that would plague the longest sixty minutes of my life.  Nobody likes to wait, and everybody gets bored.

So, I let (or made ) my mommy brain slow down and get a little creative. Too often I rush past this simple and necessary moment, because I really don't want to think about one more thing.  I just want the kids to be more patient and considerate with each other.  
Dear mom, those are some high expectations! Since it's unlikely that a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old will graduate the good manners program early, I had to switch gears from "hurry up and get there" to "how can we make this fun?"

I dug around a toy basket until I found two bouncy balls.  

It's amazing how that one stop-and-think minute saved our afternoon!  Equally miraculous was how a couple of bouncy balls and a nearby basketball court so easily entertained two boys.  

House rules thrown out the window. Running, throwing, and screaming allowed. No electronics were involved and zero arguing.  Just precious moments of watching how high or how far the balls would bounce, laughing and furiously trying to catch the runaways, and challenging their hand-eye coordination.

All Mommy had to do was suggest something new.  I should do that more often :-) 

What simple activities are in your Mommy tool belt for those waiting moments (inside or outside)?  Share with the rest of us!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Relax, Mom. Let Them Have Fun!

I have been a stress ball lately.  My husband has pointed it out more than a few times to me this summer.  Unfortunately, my anxiety is contagious.  It makes my kids fearful and can really put a damper on an otherwise pleasant activity. So I've been attempting to recognize the moments I start to get intense and step back for a minute to breathe.

It ain't easy though.  My mind races past the realities of the moment to all the tragic possibilities!  Like when the kids are fishing off of Grandpa's boat, I can clearly predict the impending kid overboard.  So instead of enjoying the moment, I micromanage.  I bark orders like the ship's captain, "Careful there!  Hold on!  Don't run!  Please, sit down! Where are you going?!..."  

I know.  I'm tired of hearing my voice too.  

It's so hard to tone down those overprotective qualities in me, though.  The one that winces at each new risk taken, from climbing the tall playground apparatus to running downhill a concrete driveway.  I foresee scraped knees, broken arms, and rivers of tears!  And guess who has to doctor those tender elbows and clean up their bloody knees?  Me.  Mommy.  I hate seeing my kids in pain.

But scrapes will happen.  Kids trip and fall...a lot.  It's just a part of growing up.  Bless those  Bandaids and popsicles for making so many accidents better!

The risks make the adventure more exciting, doesn't it?  Going down the tall, twisty slide for the first time is a right of passage. Balancing on a bike without the safety of training wheels is every parent's proud, photo-documenting opportunity.  If we never let them try, even with the possibility of getting hurt, they would never learn!  Our kids would miss out on so many exciting adventures!

Remember what it was like to roller skate without holding on to the wall?  Can you recall the rush of letting your bike speed down the tallest hill while you lifted your hands in exhilaration?  That was what it was like to feel carefree.

So, relax, Mom! Let them go!  They may surprise you...and themselves.  Cheer them on! And if you're brave enough, get on your bike too, and get in on the fun.

They'll call for help, if they need you.  Always.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Faith, Fear, & the New School Adventure

 Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to Another New School We Go!

My kids have officially tasted every genre of education, I think.  They have now been students of  public school, homeschool, and private schools.  For some reason, we keep finding ourselves in seasons of change when it comes to our kids' learning environments.

I'm the mom that struggles with each decision, because basically, I am afraid of messing up my kids.  My brain works overtime filtering through all of the choices and hits a state of despair when the kids' future is at stake! 

You know what it's like. We run into other people all of the time with different opinions about how a child should be raised and what they should be learning at what age and what is wrong with all of the other options out there.  The blogs. The books. The sermons. It really can be too much information!

At some point, we have to shut out the voices and prayerfully focus on what works for our own family.  Even more, we need to zero in on what works best for each child.  They are all different! Amazingly, peace arrives when we walk in agreement and confidence with our spouse on the decisions regarding schools-wherever we end up at any given time.  It may take a little time, but God will supply a fresh hope and vision with each bridge we cross over.

Fear-Based Decision Making

What I think we need to be careful about when making decisions for our kids, is that we don't do it out of fear.  Mama bears are known for viciously protecting their cubs, and the human variety is not much different.  It is very easy for us to see any and every challenge as a direct threat to our child's physical or emotional well-being.  Understandably! Most of the time, though, we grab our little charges and run away to hide, instead of fighting each issue that arises in their lives. 

Retreating may be necessary for a season, but we should really use that time to make a plan and strengthen our purpose. What do we want our kids to learn, and how can we make sure they do?

This week, my kids went back to the public school in our new neighborhood.  Truthfully, I cried about leaving the school they attended last year, because it was warm, comfortable, and cozy.  Before that I fought the decision our family made not to continue homeschooling.  Each time something new faced us, I fought it like the mother bear.  I wanted to make sure nothing, and I mean nothing, harmed my children's still-developing beliefs and confidence. I lashed out in fear.

I felt the weight of their spiritual training, now that it wasn't going to be included in their daily school curriculum. I worried about the influences that others would have on their vulnerable worldview. Inwardly, I hung back pleading, "God, show me how this is going to work.  How are you going to lead our family?  Can we still be effective in the teaching of our children when they are away for so many hours?  I give up, God.  Show me."

The thing about praying is that when you're finished asking, you have to wait for an answer.  You have to watch and listen.

We Just Need a Little Faith

I watched my kids adapt each time.  Timidly, but excitedly they stepped out of our den and enjoyed the new places and people they met.  While Mom watched nervously from behind, they walked bravely ahead into a different classroom.  I listened to their first day stories, and God eased all of the previous tensions. With immense faith in me and in our God, my son and daughter jumped into another adventure. It was like God was saying, "See?  I got this.  Remember, I care about them even more than you."

As a Christian, I tell my kids that God is always with them.  I say, "God never makes us afraid."  So it is a test to my faith when I send them off to a strange place.  Do I believe that God is there in my place?  Do I trust Him to protect and teach them when I am not around? 

So instead of holding the kids back in my own fear, I am taking an active role in praying for them like crazy and speaking heaps of truth over them whenever I can. Because God can use us and reveal truth to us anywhere..

...even after three days at the new school.

This week, my son gave his life to Jesus eating Cheerios at the breakfast table!  Not at church. Not at VBS.  Not at his Christian school.  He brought up the conversation in the middle of a normal morning on our way to public school.

God hears our prayers.  He is always with us.  We just have to trust Him. Watch what He will do!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Checking off School Supply Lists...and Counting my Blessings

The day finally arrived. I proudly (and with misty eyes) watched my son and daughter walk into a new school yesterday. We were excited, nervous...and ready

Then it hit me how tired I was. A lot of work goes into getting our kids ready for the first day of school, doesn't it?

The preparations didn't begin the night before.  We dunked our kids in baths, laid out their favorite outfits, prepared school lunches, labeled possessions, filled out one more form, and zipped up the necessary folders and books for the next morning.  However, for over a week prior, I was also busy switching out shrunken clothes for new ones, as well as, driving to five separate stores in pursuit of the bullet-pointed requests from our first and fourth grade teachers:
  • 4 boxes of crayons &
    3 packs of markers
  • 20 glue sticks
  • 7 PACKS of pre-sharpened pencils *
  •  4 journals
  • 3 plastic folders with prongs (no paper please)
  • 3 packs of black, broad tip dry erase markers
  • 4+ pink erasers
  • 1 pack of cardstock paper
  • 5 three-ring binders with
    3 packages of tab dividers
  • 1 pencil pouch, plus 1 pencil box
  • 2 pairs of scissors
  • 1 yellow highlighter,
    2 black fine point sharpies
  • 2 packs of clear sheet protectors
  • 1 package of wide-ruled notebook paper...
The homework hasn't really even started yet, but I have already felt a few inches too close to overwhelmed when I looked through the kids' back-to-school supply lists.  Raise your hand if you were standing in a store aisle recently too. Let's go ahead an add that to our list of motherhood achievements (and bonus points for finding everything).

I didn't even include all of the details on my kids' supply lists!  There were specific brand names and colors and dimensions.  Finding all of the items was only half of the journey!  After Mom carried the shopping bags in, divided them between the kids, and checked off the lists, she still had to label the loot!  My son's first grade teacher asked us to unpack almost all of his supplies and write our child's name on every. single. item. Wait.  There's more... My daughter's fourth grade teacher requested pre-sharpened pencils, but the brand she wanted did not come in that condition.  So my ten-year-old and I rotated 48 pencils through a puny, little plastic pencil sharpener.  

I'm not bragging, but this mom clocked in some overtime over the weekend!

 Now, here is where perspective leads to gratefulness and the self-focused whining disappears.  I have to assume that the reason we get such demanding lists is because the school just doesn't have enough financial resources, and teachers have to compensate for the students who don't bring overstuffed plastic shopping bags on their first day of school. It must be like Christmas to educators!
Truth: I can bless others. 
I have to keep reminding myself that it's public school.  It's free.  In a small, but tedious way, I'm helping the teacher.  WE are supporting entire classrooms with our purchases and unpaid efforts. 

My son's teacher probably feels strapped for time while keeping up with school standards and meeting her own family's needs.  I can understand that. By assisting this first grade teacher, I hope that my son is receiving a fabulous education.

Also, my family had the money to purchase all of those glue sticks and crayons.  There's enough to house, clothe, feed my family, as well as, take us on shopping trips for new school supplies. That's extra.  It's a perk. I am thankful for checked-off supply lists and heavy backpacks on the first day of school. 

My blessings are abundant (that means, "more than enough).  Our opportunities to bless others, endless. We all find ourselves in positions to be generous to others or to receive the generosity from others.

YOU, moms, are generous- with every dime or minute given! For each of you out there who pounded the pavement, wore out a few Sharpies labeling school items, and couldn't sleep making sure every detail was just about perfect for the little ones' first day, remember that your good deeds are not wasted!

You are a blessing :-)