Thursday, June 25, 2015

Death to Super Mom

Wanna know a secret? I have gone through periods of wanting to be Super Mom. (*gasp*) Able to emerge from a phone booth with a beautifully lattice-topped pie! Able to leap large piles of folded laundry in a single bound!!  My cape would be an embroidered apron, worn backward.

Maybe it's the Type-A in me. Maybe it's because I like the occasional nod from others on a job well done. Maybe it's because I'm an only child and am an attention-hog at heart. 

Regardless, attempting to be Super Mom is a pride issue, whatever the actual reason. I feel like I've gotten better over the years, but I'm sure I still have a long way to go. I need to intentionally get out of "that mode" and focus on what really matters: the hearts of my children and my relationship with them. 

I know I've come pretty far on this journey. Ryan's birthday party is tonight and, although he chose a Clash of Clans "theme", do you know how much planning I've done? Exactly none. He wants Little Caeser's pizza for his friends…easy. He wants bowls full of horrible, processed snacks…fine. He wants a layered cake with gobs of frosting…done. 

We will have no color-themed table cloths or paper plates, no games or activities, in fact, I completely forgot about party favors until this very minute. (Uh, oops!) All he wants to do is hang out with his friends, play video games and gorge on junk food. Quite different from his Carnival-themed 5th birthday party with popcorn bucket cupcakes, volunteers to run the games, and face-painting clowns, wouldn't you agree?

It's great to make memories, it's okay to like things orderly, it's even fine to get a little over-the-top crafty from time to time, but we should all check our motives. Who are we trying to impress? How will our mood change if things don't meet our expectations? If a kid has a meltdown at the park…or that awesome new recipe is a flop at the BBQ…or if our house isn't immaculate when an unexpected guest drops by. What then?
I would challenge each of you to check your motives for doing anything on the Super Mom side of the chart above. Personally, I'm claiming DEATH to my internal Super Mom!!!
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Creating Character by Focusing on the Heart

I'm going to be honest: These last few weeks have been rough. I'm not sure if the problem is that the kids aren't doing well without the structure of a school schedule…or if it's actually (through clenched teeth) ME. 

I've spent so much time thinking about what is going wrong and how I can better handle it…nothing I do to help correct the situation seems to make a difference. I think I figured out that the root of the issue is the fact that the older kids have so many friends to play with (now that school is out for summer) that Jason seems to be lost in the shuffle. His playmates no longer give him the time of day, so he acts out to get negative attention. (Just to name a few examples: cheating at games, boldly lying, whining and crying when he doesn't get his way, even walking alone to a friend's house after I specifically said he would need to be walked over by a sibling because it was too far.)
It feels like I've been taking away everything of value to get everyone's attention: screen time, friends, I even told Jason he couldn't go to his beloved soccer practice one night because I just couldn't handle his attitude anymore. I gave him dinner in his room and told him I'd see him in the morning. 

I was out of ideas. 

Finally, I sat all of the kids on the couch and we talked about character traits that we should have as Christians: Kindness. Self-Control. Honesty. Obedience. What are they? Why are the important? I asked each child to pick one to work on. The conversation ended with Jason sent to his room, me yelling at the older kids, and I was in tears. What was I doing wrong?!?!

Then I found this article, which basically said that punishment does not change behavior. Interesting…and it clicked!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that parents with multiple children aren't constantly grounding their kids from friends or screen time for a day or a week…I was losing track of who was restricted from what just with two of my kids!!!

Then what do I do? I felt as if I've lost control as the parent.

Until I remembered Kevin Lehman's book "Have a New Kid by Friday". There wasn't enough time to re-read the entire book, but I remembered that I had blogged about the highlights years ago. It was exactly what I needed. 

I was spending so much time punishing my kids into good behavior (and wondering why it wasn't working) that I wasn't focusing on their hearts. Sure, they may behave for a while after they had their freedoms back, but their reasoning was to avoid getting in trouble again, not because it was the right thing to do. 

So I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to stop punishing my kids for bad attitudes, disobedience, and poor choices. Instead, I'm going to sit down and talk to them about what they did wrong, why it was wrong and help guide them into coming up with a better alternative for next time. I'm also intentionally going to focus on encouraging my kids in the things they're doing right instead of focusing only on what they are doing wrong. I've been wanting to cross that item off my 101 in 1001 list for months! Last, I'm committing to pray for them daily. Every morning, before I get out of bed, I'm handing control of this whole mess over to God. He's much better at dealing with it than I am!!!

This new method is taking much more time and energy, but I am positive it will be worth it in the long run. I'm already seeing small, but encouraging, results!
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Mom and Me Journal Idea

Recently, I have been looking for ideas for connecting with Kaylin in a special way. I want to make meaningful memories with her while she still thinks I'm cool, which might not be much longer.

A few weeks ago, I set aside some time for the two of us to do a self-esteem craft activity together. It was awesome!  My amazing, creative girl had no problem at all coming up with compliments for me, but when she was supposed to make a list of all of her best qualities, she was stumped. It was really interesting to work through that struggle with her. I strongly recommend that project to moms of tweens!

Then last week, I was poking around on Pinterest and found this gem. The idea is for a Mom and Me Journal…a private communication between a mom and child about anything and everything. Since I was always big into journalling, and I obviously love to blog, I fell in love with this idea. 

I stole the verbiage for the opening letter from the original link, then gave it to Kaylin and she lit up. She's already written me back about a friend-triangle situation that she doesn't know how to handle. I wasn't expecting so much depth so quickly!  

At the end of her note, she asked me not to share the journal with Dad or the boys…it's going to be just between us. She told me she wants to keep it in her keepsake box when it's full of letters so she can show her kids someday. She is SO my child.
I can't wait to see where this little project leads. Kaylin is my quietest child, by far…I can only imagine what that could turn into during her teen years. I hope we never get to a place where I have no idea what's going on in her head!  

I'm wondering if I should also start something like this with Ryan? But I get the sense that this is a huge deal to my sweet middle-child. 

I think I'll keep it just between us girls. 
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Friday, June 19, 2015

Finding the Rhythm of Our Summer

On June 1st, we began our "summer break" from school. Without any transition time, we just shut school OFF. The sudden change did not meet my expectations at all.

The doorbell rang constantly throughout the day. 

The kids immediately forgot how to play with each other or even within the walls of our home. 

There was no routine. 

No schedule. 

Griping and complaining when I'd need to run errands or take the kids with me anywhere. 

By the end of the first week, I couldn't handle it anymore. I wasn't able to get anything productive done, the kids were discontent all the time, everyone was getting on each others' nerves, it was a mess. 

I made a new rule: no friends until after lunch. You would have thought that I had announced that we were never going to leave the house again! But it was the only way to save my sanity. I cut 5 hours off of their (assumed) 12 hour play day and instantly got the impression that I had ruined their lives. But my mind was made up: We could spend the mornings going to the gym, running errands, getting chores done and doing a little reading, then after lunch was cleaned up, they could be free to roam the neighborhood. Boom, done.

It's been working out pretty well, so far. The kids have learned to play together again, I've instituted the routine of making a daily list, and on that list, they must play with their siblings and get along without fighting before I'll allow them to play with friends. It's a wonderful motivator. 

Jason has been struggling to get along with Ryan and Kaylin, so there have been a few days where he's been grounded. I'm trying to help him learn to play independently without the need for constant entertainment, but that's hard for the youngest child. I'll play Go Fish, Chinese Checkers or Sorry with him, but not all day.
Something else I had the kids do was to pick 4 books off of an age-appropriate reading list and I reserved them at the library. I'm hoping to broaden their reading horizons a little, plus, it gives them something new and different to read for the Summer Reading Challenge at the library. They're suddenly REALLY into earning points and stopped groaning at the idea of reading, knowing there are prizes involved. Thanks, Phoenix Public Library!!!

We're not taking the whole summer off…we never do. After 4th of July, we'll be back at it again. Personally, I'm looking forward to the structure again. In the meantime, the kids don't know that they're continuing to learn by watching science videos online, learning to draw by watching YouTube videos, learning to cooperate and follow directions by playing board games together, and increasing their reading speed by reading daily. Long live summer!
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

#35 - Surprise Mike at the office for lunch with the kids

Mike started his new job exactly one month ago today, but that is not why we chose to visit him and go to lunch. I was near his new office for an appointment and called him at the last minute to see if he wanted to meet us for lunch. 

While I {technically} didn't go to his office to surprise him, I'm still crossing this one off the list. I don't yet have his new work address and he said he's never seen family or kids in his office, so this was the best we could do this time. Plus, he's still training sporadically throughout the day and I wanted the surprise to be fun, not disruptive.

It was a mid-day surprise and a treat for the kids, none-the-less, so I'm counting this as #35 being crossed off my 101 in 1001 list.
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My College Years, All Over Again

Last week, I ran across a box of memorabilia. This box has been sealed for 15-20 years…hauled from place to place, Kansas to Arizona, from college through marriage.

We are still decluttering and downsizing, so I decided to peek inside to see if I could purge any of it. The kids LOVED rummaging through my old stuff: concert t-shirts, camp letters, art projects, school pictures, homemade cassette tapes, report cards, diaries…it was a complete time capsule of my life in Kansas.
It was fun to go through it all, but very little of the box's contents held any sentimental value to me anymore. I filled up our recycle bin with papers, filled our trash can with dusty garbage, and donated the rest.

The diaries and journals intrigued me the most. I grabbed one that night and read it like a novel. I have to say…I couldn't put them down. My life was a real page turner!!!  It was like watching a movie I saw once, but had trouble remembering all of the details.
While reading this page, I noticed that it was 20 years ago TO THE DAY.  Half of my lifetime ago.
Reading through my college journals from 20 years ago was the most interesting. It stirred up some unnecessary feelings of disappointment about old friendships and family relationships. I decided to rip out a few "day in the life" pages to keep and throw the rest of the books away. It's been fun reading through them, but I don't need to do it again.

Things that triggered memories and/or made me laugh include:

- My spelling was horrible and I swore like a sailor. I had trouble finding pages that I was comfortable saving to show my kids later.

- I used hilarious verbiage, such as, "He left a message on my cellular message machine," talking negatively was "dogging on" (it took me a while to remember that one), "She's such a knob" and anyone who did anything nice was "…such a sweetheart." He was a sweetheart, she is a sweetheart, everyone was a sweetheart. 

- I would love to go back in time and shake some sense into 17 year old Katie. My boyfriend at the time treated me like dirt and I just kept going back for more. Through college (yes, we were still on again/off again) I had more confidence and things got better, but WOW I was needy in high school!

- My hair stayed super long for so many years because my boyfriend liked it. I forgot that when I broke up with him "for the last time" (PS…it wasn't the last time) I immediately had 8 inches cut off the next day. 
- There was tons of complaining about my insomnia (I usually went to bed between 1-4am, sometimes later) then I'd take 3-4 hour naps during the afternoon. No wonder I couldn't fall asleep at night! At one point, my goal was to go to bed before midnight every night for a week. Ah…college years...

- I was a horrible student and a bad influence on my friends. I was constantly talking them into skipping class with me and watching movies.

- We watched a LOT of movies and ate out constantly. Bob's Diner, Mr. Goodcent's, Dilly's Deli, Burger King, Pyramid Pizza, chinese take-out, every day we ate out at least once, sometimes twice. I guess I could get a meal for cheap at the time, but didn't it still add up? How could I afford that on a college budget? Or maybe I just went along for the ride and mooched off someone else's plate? I remember my guy friends paid for me sometimes. I often worked two jobs (waiting tables, childcare, and babysitting on weekends) and complained about money a lot.

- Every dollar was gold. I celebrated when I got a $42 check from work or a $10 rebate from a purchase. I was frustrated when a friend didn't reimburse me for groceries or pitch in for gas money during a road trip. By the way, gas was $1.04/gallon!

- I never ate chicken. If I did eat at home, and I happened to make something other than cereal, Pasta-roni, or a DiGorno pizza for dinner, it was beef: sloppy joes, chili, spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, beef stew, tater tot casserole, beef, beef, beef.

- It sounds like I made an attempt to exercise regularly, going on walks with friends whenever the weather was nice, even going to the gym and lifting weights, but it barely showed because I ate garbage all. the. time! I gained way more than "the freshman 15" even without alcohol, then went on to  slowly lose 20 lbs my Junior/Senior Year, continuing to lose more after college. Yet I still ate french toast for dinner. My, how my diet has changed!

- My friends and I floated around like feathers. We'd drop everything and drive an hour to Topeka to go shopping or go to Walmart at 1am to wander around. Road trips were very frequent…we'd just decide it would be fun to go somewhere and we'd leave.

- When we did go to frat parties or "out" (I was one of the rare ones without a fake ID and I didn't drink until I was 21, so I didn't join them at the bars) - we'd sleep from 6-9pm, get in the shower and get ready to go out around 9:30-10 and stay out till the wee hours of the morning.

- My phone rang at all hours of the night and it didn't seem to bother me. "So-and-so called at 1am and we talked for an hour…" or "I didn't hear from her until 2:30am…" No one slept when it was dark back then? Clearly, I didn't.

- I would a skip class to study for a test in a different class, then skip that class to study for tests in the first class. If I just went TO THE CLASSES maybe my grades wouldn't have been so bad and I wouldn't have had to have studied so hard?

- My mom moved to Phoenix when I was a freshman, and every summer I was a complete nomad. I'd drift between different friends' houses, sleeping wherever I pleased…or not if I was up until 5am somewhere, then I'd nap all day at someone else's house. I was accountable to no one.

- I fought with my family a LOT more than I remember. I was growing up and asserting my independence, yet everyone still felt that it was their right to tell me what to do. When I pushed back or tried to set up a boundary, tempers flared. Looking back, I just shake my head at some of the expectations that were placed on me by certain people, friends and family alike.

- I was moody. SO MOODY. Most of my journal entries began by explaining whether it was a good day or a bad day. Things could shift quickly, based on a bad test grade, an annoying professor, a fight with a friend or not getting a parking space for a class I actually wanted to attend.

- Laying out was an obsession! When I would visit my mom in Phoenix, swimming occurred daily, sometimes multiple times per day, and we'd lay out for hours. It wasn't an option, it was an assumption. "I hadn't been in the pool once today and my mom expected me to _________." Oh, the sheer horror!

- Life before everyone had cell phones was funny. Lots of fights over not being able to get ahold of people who said they'd be somewhere at a certain time, then not showing up on time and messing up the rest of the plans. Waiting for people to go home and check their answering machine, calling people at work to finalize plans, things like that. 

- We kept really, really busy. Concerts, festivals, shopping, errands, we were either go, go, go, or sitting around watching movies and playing board games.

- There was so much flirting and sexual tension between my friends of opposite genders. I don't remember any of it!  Random crushes that didn't last, breakups, hookups, "shacking up" and "mashing" and not getting called back afterward. My friends were crazy.

- There are names of people (many people) in my journals that I don't remember in the slightest. And I have a great memory. I spent tons of time with some of the these people and couldn't pick them out of a lineup if you paid me. I let them borrow my car (for a week!), hung out with them in groups, individually, worked with them night after night after night at the restaurant…I have apparently blocked them from my memory.

- Some of my friendships and relationships were better than I remember. I have vague, fond feelings for certain people (warm fuzzy feelings when I think back, but no specific reason why) and I've been getting to relive the details and situations that brought me to that place of warm fuzzies, which is kind of cool. Reliving these moments makes me want to call and thank them, tell them how much they meant to me, even if we're only Facebook friends now. Seeing phrases like, "I just love her!" or "I think he's one of my favorite people ever" or "I don't think anyone's ever opened my car door for me before" - some were about my guy friends, who I had around me constantly. I loved having so many guy friends to watch out for me - too bad it's not something I'm comfortable with now that I'm a married woman. I miss my guy friendships from college!
This morning, I texted the above journal entry (from 1/20/94 - my senior year of high school) to one of my dearest friends, Creig. Repeatedly throughout my journals, he was "the only person I could count on" and "the only person I really trusted" during some volatile periods back then. He went to prom with me when my boyfriend thought it was stupid, he drove me to the airport countless times to visit my mom in Arizona, he took my calls at all hours of the night, he was like the protective older brother I always wanted. His girlfriends were always a tad suspicious of me, but it was never like that. The last time I visited him in KC in 2011, his wife was even shocked to find out that we never dated. I think he had told her, but she had never heard it from me. 

I'm so glad I journaled through those years. Memories that would have otherwise been lost forever! I don't know if any of it was censored (just in case a roommate or my mom peeked) or if I was completely transparent, but reading them was a unique, unexpected walk down memory lane. 

In 1998, I transitioned from keeping a traditional journal (where I mostly complained) to a Gratitude Journal. I found that today and read through some newer memories. It went through my transition from Kansas to Phoenix, including when I met Mike. Less detail, but memories, none-the-less. I stopped writing in it the month before he proposed. Either I got too busy, or I had so much to be grateful for that it wouldn't fit in the book. ;)

This experience has made me want to encourage my kids to keep a journal. Pictures capture some of the moments, but usually not the good, bad, AND the ugly! There's definitely value in them and I'm so thankful that I got to peek back into my past this week.
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Monday, May 25, 2015

Getting Settled Back Into our Same Ol' House

To say that we got a lot done this weekend is a massive understatement. We had virtually nothing planned for the 3-day holiday weekend and I was thrilled. Equally relieved to have a little downtime and excited to tackle some projects around the house.

Over the past few months, as our potential cross-country move lingered in the air, the to-do list grew and grew. After Christmas, I spent so much time decluttering to prepare the house to be on the market, all other tasks fell by the wayside. It just seemed silly to organize anything, when I knew I would just be packing it up and moving as soon as the house sold, so closets and cabinets slowly turned into one disaster after another.

The garage was so crammed with empty boxes (and some that I'd already started packing) that Mike has had to park outside for months. It became our dumping ground for keeping the house realtor-ready and it was a nightmare! 

Since taking the house off the market, the empty boxes are gone, but I still hadn't unpacked anything. Until this weekend, that is. I suddenly had to make space for things that I've been doing without…beach towels, 3 large boxes of personal pictures, board games, etc.

I started this weekend with a very long list of things in my head. Tasks that seemed daunting, but I wanted them done. I figured that if we had gone through with the move to Dallas, we would have had pictures to hang, curtains to put up, furniture to arrange, closets to organize, and plenty of boxes to unpack. 

We are no longer moving, so finishing up the loose-ends around the house seemed doable. We needed to settle back into our home again. 

Saturday morning, I went to breakfast with some friends while Mike played baseball at the park with the kids. We relaxed when I came home, then I started asking favors. "Let's move Jason's bed into his new room" and "I wonder how long it would take to fix Ryan's dresser drawer?" Before long, Ryan and Mike were working upstairs while I tackled tasks downstairs. 

After church on Sunday, we went to Lowe's with a list. Jason awoke at 5:30am with the rising sun in his new yellow room. He desperately needed shades on his windows!  And while we were there, I wanted to gram rods to hang my bathroom curtains…and the laundry room lightbulb was out…as were lights in other parts of the house…and Kaylin wants to paint her room…we were there for more than an hour. When we got home, we had plenty to keep us busy! Then the projects continued today. 

Here are a few before and after pictures of work we did…
Before: The old playroom (new schoolroom) closet
After: The new schoolroom closet
Before: The shoe/utility/outdoor closet 
After: Some shoes still on the door (moved the rest to their bedrooms) and games/hobbies/crafts
Before: The upstairs schoolroom
Afte: Jason's new room (the lighting in both pictures is horrible!)
Before: The old schoolroom closet (it had become a hiding space for junk when people were coming to see the house)
After: Jason's new closet
We got so much done this weekend! The garage is cleaner than it's ever been. We brought donations to Good Will, I made appointments for a guy to come fix my windshield next week and for someone else to give us a quote on new garage cabinets, Mike fixed a cabinet door that Jason's been using as a step stool, all of the boxed I had packed are now empty and given away. I still have many pictures yet to hang, but I'm considering completely changing how I have displayed pictures in the past…so that might take another couple of weeks.
Our weekend wasn't all work and no play. We went to the movies, went to lunch after church on Sunday, Mike played baseball and basketball with the kids, we played Go Fish and Memory and baked cookies, we had sleepovers with the kids complete with pillow fights. Kaylin even painted a canvas for her new room.
It was a full weekend…tons accomplished mixed with plenty of fun activities. We will finish up school this week and take the month of June off before jumping into our new school year after the 4th of July weekend. 

During our short break from school, I think we're going to repaint Kaylin's room and give her a bigger girl theme. I'll finish decorating Jason's new room, maybe hang some pictures in Ryan's room. I'll have plenty to keep me busy!
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reduce Summer Stress with a Daily LIST

I love getting random ideas that help my family!  Last night, I was watching a new show on TLC, when I heard the dad tell his kids to "make a list". They had things to do and, instead of telling them what to do or making the list for them, he had THEM make their OWN list. He approved it, sent them on their way, then told the camera that he, "...loves being the 'Yes Man'" and just wants to be the rubber stamper. No micromanaging? No begging, bribing, or nagging? Genius!

This morning, I tried it on my kids. I took Jason to run errands and left the big kids at home to do their chores and get started on their schoolwork. Before I left, I had them make a list.

I learned from this dad that "clean the kitchen" wasn't specific enough, so I forewarned them that they'd need to include details like, "Load the dishwasher, wipe counters, vacuum under the table", etc.

By making their own list, I believe my kids will learn responsibility, independence and (hopefully) won't be as resentful for the work they're given. 

After I got home, almost everything was done and my kids were beaming with pride. By making a daily list, I really think they'll learn to have a sense of accomplishment after each item is crossed off and an end to the work, instead of constantly having to check in with me or, worse, feeling micromanaged and nagged after every little task.

With everyone getting out of school this month, I think this list thing is going to be the way to go in our family. We're only taking a month off of homeschooling, not the whole summer, so the kids can know that they will need to make a list and get it all done before playing with friends. And maybe this will keep the doorbell from ringing at 8:15am for weeks on end while we're trying to tackle spelling words!
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