Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dog Lover

Dog Lover wasn’t her real name but the name that she preferred. Her real name was Shauna. She was interested in the brood of boys I brought with me to the frozen yogurt shop and questioned my daughter and me about them as we sat indoor among the quiet and warmth. Although only 3 of the boys belonged to me, I had sent all of them outdoors to be loud and annoying. The boys belonged outdoors, no matter the weather, since spilling, shouting, and shoving, was inevitable.
Shauna spent the next few minutes asking socially awkward questions about my age, my dogs, and my boys, and telling short stories about her family and the dogs that they owned. Her voice was not particularly quiet, but her curiosity at a peak.
She steadied herself on a flowered cane and appeared to be going someplace. “Where are you going next?” I questioned. “Home,” she replied.  She then told us about her bus ride,  where she lived, and how long it took her to arrive home after the bus stopped several times along the route. As I thought about the distance to her home, a car drive was a short one and paled in comparison to the bus ride. Before I could stop myself, and consider my companions and the number of seats in my car, I blurted out, “I can give you a ride home.” Delighted at the idea, she clapped her hands and joined us outside to gather up the boys let them know that we would be taking Shauna home. Acts of goodwill were not their primary language, so their shocked faces were quickly ignored as I began walking to the car summonsing them to follow.
Shauna and I talked the entire ride about her home about her impeccable skills for knowing every breed of dog, even mixed breeds, and her neighbors. The passengers sat silently, still shocked that we were driving a stranger, who lived in the opposite direction of our home, to her house.
The minute we arrived at Sauna’s home and she exited the car, thanking me and asking me to say hello to my dogs, my oldest son asked, “Why did you do that?” To which I replied, “God told me to.” There was no need for any more explanation, and I knew that what those kids witnessed would leave an impression. They needed desperately to see someone not physically or mentally healthy, exude joy in the midst of her circumstances. They needed to see how to show God’s love to a stranger. They needed to know that when God asks you to do something, even if it makes you uncomfortable, you need to obey. They needed to know that serving God means loving people.
While I have never taken my family to a soup kitchen in order to feed the homeless, driven out of the country to build houses for the less fortunate, or delivered sandwiches to people living on the streets, I do my best to be an example of someone who serves God by loving people. I don’t always get it right, but when I do, I receive more of a blessing than I ever could imagine. When God places people in my path to serve and love, I know that He is giving me a gift of being His hands and feet, and that is a privilege.
Give your kids the gift of watching you serve Him by loving others, and let it begin right inside your home.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Be Brave

Standing at the top of a rocky cliff with the deep, blue, ocean water beneath, was no guarantee that I was going to jump. Witnessing a steady flow of other teenagers fearlessly leaping into the ocean below was no guarantee that I was going to jump. People treading water below reassuring the depths of the water, the safety of the jump, and using their best motivational speaker “You can do this” discourse, was no guarantee that I was going to jump. I was scared. Fear of jumping had me stymied and frozen. I wanted to jump. I love adventure, but I had fear.
After an hour I mustered up the courage and jumped, and failed miserably at the landing. Failed. On decent one leg went east, the other leg went west, and the water tension slapped my skin with painful punches that took several minutes of floating in order to fully recover. The pain from my botched finish cured my adventurous spirit. I was never going to cliff dive again however, the take away was that I now knew how to master landing.
Several years later I returned to a smaller cliff where my own children were leaping into a lake, giggling on decent and returning to the jump pad as if it were an empty ride at Disneyland. As they coaxed and begged me to jump the image I had from my previous cliff jumping experience heightened my anxiety, but the lesson learned from that experience stifled my fear almost immediately. Instead of dismissing the pleas, I succumbed and landed successfully returning several times to dive.
Being brave is hard. Taking another chance on an already failed experience may mean repeated failure, but modeling brave behavior and trying again after failing once or one hundred times, speaks of persistence and all things good.
In the Bible there is a story about a brave boy named David. While soldiers twice his age ran away in fear of facing the giant, David took him on and succeeded. He not only trusted his instincts and the lessons he learned from previous failures and triumphs, but David trusted God’s faithfulness and embraced God’s power and ability to do more through him than he was able to do on his own. David succeeded. The giant was slain. David’s team won, and his brave behavior inspired the frail army who stood behind him trembling, shocked an amazed at the tenacity, and gumption of such a small boy. Failure didn’t intimidate David. It propelled him. David was brave.
Although I don’t plan on jumping off cliffs, slaying giants, or leaping out of a speeding airplane, I do know that I will inevitably be put in situations where I am called on to trust God, take a leap of faith, experience uncomfortable circumstances, and be brave. When that time comes, I will jump.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Of our four children there is one who would voluntarily crawl back inside my belly and spend the rest of his life dwelling in my presence. He loves being near, very near. Our smallest dog, too, would crawl into my belly if he could, however, my affection for the dog doesn't equal his love for me.
   There is another child who would have been happy to be an only child and prefers hugs on a "need only" schedule. Another child is squishy and loveable and touchy, and one other is fiercely independent but loveable as well. Although there are no terms to their internal love, the physical affection varies, and although I may love them in different ways based on their diverse needs, I love them unconditionally and could never stop loving them.
   My Heavenly Father loves me unconditionally. Whether I talk to Him often or on a “need only” basis. He loves me when I withdraw too long and when we spend large amounts of time together. He loves me in spite of my mistakes, and loves to instruct me through His Word. While physical hugs aren’t possible, there is no doubt that He is always near and the Great Comforter.

   All children are different, but one thing that they all have in common is that they crave their parents’ love and affection. However, when they turn into teenagers, and the dry spell for hugs and kisses feels indefinite, get a dog. Dogs love hugs and kisses, anytime, anywhere.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” 
John 3:16-17

Saturday, October 3, 2015

| Parent Tip | Tumultuous Tantrums

Only once did I exit Toys R Us and actually enjoy my time spent there. Once. I had all four kids with me and our biggest boy had to use the restroom. Having the skill of knowing the exact location of every public restroom within a five-mile radius of our home is the mom talent for which I am quite proud.
There was a pay phone bolted to the wall between the bathrooms and when our boy was retuning to the shopping cart, he glanced at the pay phone and with shock, reached to grab the pile of money that was sitting on the ledge, forty dollars. We immediately reported the missing cash and no one claimed it. What joy. Toys for all! This was a good day at the toy store.
Most visits to the toy store involved screaming at children who were writhing in frustration because I wouldn’t pull out my wallet and throw money at them for unnecessary purchases. Most times, my youngest was rolling on the floor and I was dragging him out by his arm in full disgust to the rest of the consumers making purchases. Typically my visit would be littered with the words “not today” as we perused each aisle and each child would chatter on about why they needed something sitting stoically on the shelf waiting to be purchased. 
One particular time, a woman who I knew, was horror-struck when I plucked our toddler from underneath the cart while he screamed and slugged me in the face. Every cashier had their fingers poised, ready to call social services while waiting for my reaction. It wasn’t pretty. Had any of the onlookers been mothers of toddlers, they would have watched with sympathy, and applauded my best efforts to not injure a child and the patience I exhibited by restraining from returning to the car leaving all children behind, which was tempting, and still is at times.
While there is truth to the fact that tantrums typically are a result of the selfish, narcissistic, innate make up of a child, tantrums can also be the result of hunger, agitation, loneliness, or fatigue. This proves true for all ages of children, and adults as well. I have been known to shed some ugly when I am hungry so I make a point to carry snacks and water to conceal any opposing foulness. I also carry snacks for our kids who also have a genetic propensity for hunger horror.
Look up the synonyms for the word agitation and it is no wonder that kids throw fits when this family of words is prevalent. Anxiety, worry, distress, nervousness, and all of their siblings are enough to make anyone throw a fit of rage. Finding out the reason for the agitation is part of the battle. When I am able to address the core issue, talking through the frustration before hand can often curb an outburst.
There is an unexplainable magnetic force that pulls words from a child’s mouth the minute I begin talking to an adult. When they aren’t getting my full attention they will do nearly anything to pull me away from meaningful adult conversation. A situation like this one hardly counts at their being lonely, but sitting in a shopping cart for 30 minutes without moving, or parents being gone or away for lengths of time can set off an emotional explosion.
In addition to my famish trauma, fatigue is my other archenemy. When I am tired I grab a caffeine-laden beverage to make the exhaust evaporate. If I am home, and can squeeze in a 15 minute power nap, life is good. Children need naps. One of our kids fought nap taking which resulted in a 45 minute routine to get them to fall asleep. It was worth every minute. Tantrums and tired are best friends.
Whether an outburst is a result of hunger, fatigue, agitation, or loneliness, knowing this can help any parent take steps to avoiding tantrums, however, there are no guarantees. Avoiding all toy stores is another safety precaution, unless of course you have gobs of money that you enjoy throwing away or can wear bubble wrap for protection from ensuing, angry, punches.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

| Parent Tip | Homework Rules

My arch nemesis is homework. Why on earth can’t elementary age children complete everything necessary while they are seated in a desk for most of their 6 + hours at school? I am considering the purchase a few cows and goats and a smattering of chickens and dogs so that our kids can use the 1920’s excuse that free labor for the family chores is a necessity for our survival and, therefore, all school work must be completed in six hours, at school. I could use some goats and cows. Our lawn is unruly.
Since my bovine purchases probably are not likely to come to fruition, I have devised a plan to get the most out of our easily distracted children.
Choose their favorite atmosphere. While I need complete silence and zero disruption while I am working, my husband desires a drone of noise projecting from his computer tuned to a talk radio program. Kids are similarly different. While one of ours goes to the desk in his room and prefers background music, the other likes to be near me, in the kitchen, amidst the bustle of clanging dinner making dishes, television news playing in the background, dogs barking at the UPS truck, and a glass of iced water within reach. Another prefers coffee store ambiance and black coffee.
Choose the worst first. The statement that always follows, “Do you have any homework?” is typically, “Do the hardest thing first.” Evidently most of our children were graced with my non-math gene. Doing math is like solving a puzzle. I hate puzzles, and our children don’t exactly have a love affair with math either. When kids begin homework with the hardest subject, and finish, they attack the subject when they are most alert and focused. For the easier subjects a cell phone alert disruption or a sudden urge to pet the dog has little negative impact.
Have the backpack locked and loaded. One of my biggest frustrations is going through all the work of completing homework only to leave everything at home. Putting all completed work, signed papers, and supplies in their backpack the night before, next to the door, assures me that all things school related will arrive safely. If needed, I will leave sticky note reminders on the stairs, bathroom mirror, and front door. “Lunch?” stuck to the doorknob is a simple reminder for our biggest boy and “water” written on a bright note goes on the front of their lunch bags. If that isn’t enough, I don’t pull out of the driveway until they convince that they have everything necessary; however, I don’t always drive to school.
Homework is here to stay. Thankfully there is black coffee, background music, a pad of sticky notes, and ice water. And when dinner is done and homework is completed, a stuffed backpack waits, near the door, stuck in repeat mode for the next 180 school days.