Life is Good

So I went to see Twenty One Pilots with my girls.

As in my daughters, Kiley and Laurel. They’re 19 and (almost) 17.

We bought these tickets 8 months ago, paid entirely too much money for them, but it was so worth it. When we were feeling rough, or down, one of us would remember that we had a concert to go to in March. Back in October that felt so far away – last Wednesday I realized we were there, that it was time.

My most favorite part of the whole thing was watching my daughters. Observing them getting ready, putting on their make-up, giggling and taking pictures of each other.  I was even drawn into that world for a little bit. I put on eyeliner, which is a big deal for me. I will divulge the I had picked out a new flannel shirt so that I would look cool at the concert. Unfortunately it didn’t fit. I think I accidentally bought it in the juniors section. (Insert sad face)

I put in contacts and a applied a second layer of deodorant, and stuffed the essentials into my pockets: earplugs and extra poise pantyliners.

I bought earplugs for all three of us, though I was the only sensible one in the group. I went to a Garth Brooks concert almost 20 years ago and did significant damage to my hearing, as in I have tinnitus now. These earplugs, called Hearos, were a life saver for me at the concert. Because I’m familiar with Twenty One Pilots songs, and may have done an embarrassing amount of watching concert footage I knew that jumping was going to be part of the evening’s events. Thus, the extra Poise pantyliners.

Sadly, this post is not an advertisement for earplugs or pantyliners. I just want you to be in the know.

We found our seats, which took some doing, and then the girls wanted to wander around and spend some hard earned money on over-priced stuff. I sat in my seat people watching, eavesdropping on conversations around me, and smiling. That’s my new thing; smiling. I try and keep a smile on my face when I’m just sitting around. Laurel says I look creepy when I do that, Kiley says it’s nice. At any rate, I was just people watching and it was fun.

Whenever I’m in a crowd I’m reminded of the first time that I went to a concert. I was between 4 and 5 I think. It was a Kenny Rogers concert. I remember sitting in my seat and listening to the crowd and feeling like I needed to join in, so I muttered nonsense over and over, mimicking the sounds I was hearing. I also had my dad’s nylon coat over my head because my parents were worried about me inhaling the thick pot smoke around us. But I’m sure those two things weren’t connected.

At the Twenty One Pilots concert I did not feel the need to mumble non-words.

I reminisced  about my first concerts as a teenager. George Michael’s Faith tour was my first. I was kind of embarrassed to tell people I had gone to it the next day, but my friends and I had so much fun. The next concert I went to was R.E.M. and it was amazing.

Seeing a band you love in concert, in person, makes them seem more real. The band you love becoming more real makes their awesomeness seem like something that maybe you, a fellow real person, can achieve. Their art pushes you to dream, or at least that’s what it did for me, not just as a kid, but this time around, too.

My age didn’t matter at the concert. The lights were down, we were all listening to a beloved band sing beloved songs. We danced and sang lyrics together, bouncing our arms and clapping when instructed. It was more fun than I’ve had in a really long time.

It can be easy to believe that the world is a bad, scary place. It certainly can be. Looking around that giant arena, filled with people singing together, I couldn’t help but feel things aren’t so bad.

Go listen to some Twenty One Pilots, dance a little, and remember that life is good.

 

 

 

 

 

How I Added Hygge to Our Homeschool

Homeschooling in December is my favorite.

I enjoy the holiday routine of staying up late, sleeping in, and eating whatever food is available in the refrigerator. We tend to stay in our jimmies more, read more, and play lots of board games.

There’s a more relaxed feel in the air during December

January and February feel like slogging through wet mud. There is so much resistance, mainly from me, to get back to normal. The truth is I do not like schedules, I do not like lesson plans, and I do not like forcing the kids to do ‘school’ stuff.

During an avoidance session I joined a group committed to hygge, a Danish concept that kind of means cozy, but also lots of other things. It was just what I needed. People from all over the world share pictures of hygge and other sweet things. I could feel the calm rolling in. That’s when I knew our homeschool needed hygge.

Here’s what I did:

~ I added some fire.

Fireplaces and candles are essential to hygge, it appears. Here in KY it”s been too warm of a winter to have a fire going. Thanks to Netflix I can have one, complete with the crackling, right on our television and it won’t overheat the living room. Then the television isn’t for movies; it’s a fireplace and my people quit thinking about what movie to watch.

Win, win.

I can not believe how calm and sweet it has made our morning and afternoons. I sit on the couch and read aloud, Liam builds with his Legos or blocks and Spencer does what 13 year old boys do while their mother reads aloud. Some days it still ends in goofiness (wrestling, arguing, or spilled drinks) but I just close my eyes and remember that for a few minutes it was calm.

You can’t even tell that’s not a real fire!

 

I’ve become a huge Brave Writer fan. In doing so I discovered Julie’s Poetry Teatime philosophy. It has to do with a candle, a table, tea, and poetry. We don’t do poetry every day, but we do journal and read the bible and it’s usually with a candle lit in the center of the table. There’ve been a few times the candle had to be put away because my little pyro’s just couldn’t quit sticking stuff in the flames, but that’s just par for the course around here.

They also make battery operated candles just for families like mine.

I still have some of our Christmas lights hanging around so we plug those in, too. It’s strange how my piles don’t bother me as much with dim lights, a fake fireplace, and a candle.  The kids feel my calm and feed off of that.

~We do ‘projects’ instead of school.

My boys immediately turn into beasts when the word ‘school’ is spoken. They begin all evasion tactics in a full on assault against my desires. So I don’t call it school.

We do projects now.  Liam, who is 7, gets to pick his own goals. I’m encouraging Spencer to do the same but he’d always pick Minecraft so I’ve chosen some things for him to work on. Also he’s almost to the end of his current All About Spelling level and is pretty excited to get to the next one. If I suggest to work on our All About Spelling project, he’s there…if I say, “It’s time for spelling,” he’s in the bathroom for the next 30 minutes.

It was a little change but it’s made a fairly big difference, especially for me. I still struggle with public school mentality. Our projects have helped me not get so bogged down in the details. I’m focusing on the big picture and then figuring what areas need some focus.

 

~ I removed should-ing and have-to-ing.

You know this is an issue in my life. I am not pleased that it’s part of my kids’ lives, but it is. For along time we lived under the weight of shoulds and have-to’s but I’m just not having it anymore. I’m replacing those words with ‘I’d like to’ and ‘would you think about’. This is something I must be diligent about, my friends. It creeps back into my language subtly.

“We should be done with this by now.”

“We have to get this done.”

You get the picture. 

All of my kids have dyslexia. You would think that with the fourth one I would stop the worrying about where they were educationally speaking, but it’s a struggle. My sweet 7 year old still doesn’t know all of the letters of the alphabet. Typing it makes my stomach flutter, and if I’m not careful I can really make our lives miserable. I could get nutty about sitting down every day and forcing his brain to do something it’s just not ready to do.

Instead, I choose to follow his lead. We are doing All About Reading together and he loves it and is proud of his progress and that’s all that matters. As long as I keep the shoulds and have-to’s out of it we have fun figuring it out, and I know that eventually it will come. 

The system tells us otherwise but there is no should with children. They get what they get when they get it. Give them a chance to explore, to grow in their own time and they will excel at the their gifts. I’ve seen it in my others, and I’m seeing it in Liam, too. 

Children are natural learners. They are curious, insatiably so, and if we let that be the lead they are free to enjoy learning. Once I take the worry of where my child should be, according to ‘them’, once I remove the have-to’s from our path there are no more obstacles.

We just go.

That’s totally hygge.

~ I stopped scheduling.

First of all, I’m not realistic in scheduling. I always try to do entirely too much. For a few years now I’ve broken up our day into 25 minute chunks of time, which is so helpful. Last week I was trying to figure out how to solve my time problem (again), which is that I enjoy being spontaneous but I also need a small amount of structure to help me focus.

In thinking about my day there are four major sections that I can break down:

6 a.m.- 10a.m.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

6 p.m. -10 p.m.

Once I broke those down I wrote down the things that need to be done in each quadrant; meals, appointments, etc. In other words, events with a fixed time. I’ve been keeping a running list of the things I want to do daily for our school  projects. It doesn’t matter which quadrant those go in, we can fit them where they’re more convenient.

I was happy to discover that our day already has a pretty solid routine built in. Morning is when my boys like to be busy outside, or inside just playing, or fighting and arguing. Spencer does better working a little before lunch, then a little afterwards. He needs frequent breaks and lots of physical activity.  Laurel, my 11th grader, likes to have slow breakfast and then hit her bookwork hard. She’s pretty driven academically, whereas the boys…well, they don’t have that focus right now.

Breaking our day up into quadrants has really helped me re-evaluate all that we get done in a day. A lot happens outside the traditional 8-3 school time.

 

~ I quit beating myself up.

Okay, that’s a constant work in progress, but it’s a priority. It feels like there is so much resting on my shoulders. Homeschooling is a huge responsibility. There is no time off. Mistakes will be made by teacher and student, parent and child. It is a completely different lifestyle. While it’s becoming more mainstream it’s still countercultural and can be a little lonely.

I can beat myself up over all of the things I didn’t know in the beginning. I didn’t know you didn’t have to do everything the books said. I didn’t know tears didn’t have to be part of learning. I didn’t know my kids had learning disabilities. I didn’t know I could talk to other parents about my struggles.

Now I do know all of those things and I can share my journey with other homeschooling parents. I will always believe that sharing the hard stuff is essential to life on Earth. There’s still plenty I don’t know, though, so beating myself up is pointless.

I do promise myself to the best I can every day.

Sometimes my best looks amazing, and sometimes it looks like day three without a shower, gray sweatpants and dark circles. Some days my best is not amazing…and that is just fine.

~ I added music, outside time, and tickling.

Good music, different music. I had forgotten how much we love spontaneous dance parties. I found a station on Spotify called Concentration that is very calming for us. I search for music from the period we’re studying in history. Music is important. It gives you space to think, a place where your creative mind can wander.

The boys have introduced me to some ridiculous YouTube music as well. All I can say is Lord help us all.

When I was in college working in the university’s early childhood lab one of the big take-away’s was outside time. The little ones went outside every single day, no matter what the weather was, for two 20 minute recesses. I think it benefited the teachers as much as the children. 

Walking, hiking, and being outside have always been a big part of our homeschool but I can get lazy. Sometimes I get tired of the arguing, sometimes it takes so long to find shoes and socks that I don’t want to deal with it. What I know is this: we’re all happier and healthier when we go on daily walks. 

Walking together gives us time to talk, or be quiet, to process information we’ve been gathering, and releases pent up energy. The weather has been amazingly, strangely warm here so we’ve been taking advantage of that. Even on cold, rainy days though it’s important for us to get out. 

Lastly, and I know this seems silly, but I am being more intentional about tickling my boys. They still need to be played with and loved on in that way. There’s nothing like a good tickle fight to break down a bad mood, and when I hear them giggling in glee I can’t help but relax a little bit, too. Playing together reminds all of us that homeschooling is not serious business.

 

That’s how I’ve added hygge to our homeschool.

I’m curious if you’ve heard of hygge and if it’s something that you think about. Maybe this has always been a part of your life, maybe this is (somehow) the first you’ve heard of this.

Either way, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear other tips on keeping homeschool relaxed.

As always, be brave.

And weird. Weird is important, too.

 

What My Brother Taught Me About Dreaming

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”   ~ John Lennon

 

Whenever Erik, my brother, comes home for the weekend or a night or just a day it’s hard for him to go back to his house. Erik is developmentally disabled and moved out almost two years ago. No matter how pleasant our time together has been the tension builds as he anticipates when one of us says it’s time to go.

His shoulders become tight, he starts working his jaw and tongue and his stimming behaviors are more intense. Erik verbalizes fears through what seems like violent talk. Sometimes I want to laugh over the bizarre things he says (this only disturbs him more), sometimes tears seem more appropriate.

Every time I want to tell him that he can stay home with us, that this charade of him living somewhere else is over.

But it cannot be that way.

Erik needs his own space and we need him to have his own space.

On one of our drives home he asked when Mom and Dad were going on a cruise.

To fill you in, sometimes I just chat to him as a way to distract him from his OCD thoughts. When we didn’t live together, my family and my parents and I, Erik would come to stay with us a few times a year. We came to call that time Camp Shepherd. He loved it, the kids mostly loved it, and I really loved it. Having Erik with us made it feel a little more like home.

Now, though, there is no Camp Shepherd. Camp Shepherd/Krieg (or Camp Shrieg as we call it now) does not hold the allure of the other. It’s not a vacation anymore. It’s just home, and home is the same.

At Camp Shepherd, Erik could ride his bike with his nieces and nephew, he could talk to people that he didn’t know, he could play the piano and preach in the empty sanctuaries of churches my husband was employed at. He was braver at Camp Shepherd, more bold, not nearly as afraid of getting lost.

He can ride a bike in our neighborhood, but home is boring. It’s something he’s known forever.

Camp Shepherd was a chance to be different, to be more free from his self-imposed constraints.

Erik had asked me when he could come to Camp Shepherd again, as he kept me company while I cleaned my boys’ room. Having him in there kept me from blowing my lid when I stepped the 17th Lego piece. I told him we’d have to send Mom and Dad on a cruise to Alaska to have Camp Shepherd. It was just something I said, not something I meant. He held onto that for a couple of weeks before re-visiting the idea.

It took me a few minutes to figure out why he was asking when our parents were going on a cruise. When I finally remembered I laughed because I’m always amazed at what he remembers, what he takes as fact. I told him I didn’t know, but that we’d look into it.

At the next light he said, “I want us to all go on a cruise.”

“You do?” I asked.

“Mm hmm,” he said, nodding his head. He does this a lot when he’s very happy or excited. He looks just like he did when he was a little boy. It’s one of my favorite Erik looks. “Yes, let’s all go on a cruise: Kiley, Laurel, Spencer, Liam, Lee, Mom, Dad, you and me.”

“To Alaska? That would be fun.”

“Around the world. I want to go on a cruise around the world.”

“Wow,” I answered, baffled at this newly divulged desire, one I think he had just given birth to in that moment.

“Yes. It will take us an entire year,”  he said with finality, like it was a done deal.

It struck me that this idea was not about our destination; it was about being together for as long as possible. It was about taking a break from the normal and getting to do something grand and different. A cruise around the world would be a chance to be brave and be together.

I told him I would get maps and we would mark with push pins where we wanted to visit. His excitement was contagious and I found myself getting into planning our world trip. We talked about which places we wanted to visit. He wants to go to Canada because the band members of Rush reside there.

It was easier for him to get out of the car after our day-dreaming. Erik was relaxed.  He only came back to discuss what concerts we could go to 6 times. Erik cannot leave without saying, ‘God bless you’ and if he thinks you missed it he’ll come back and make sure you did, sometimes over and over.

I drove off wondering what I would make for dinner, where I had to be next, and if anyone had fed the dogs dinner.

That trip and our cruise conversation took place a few weeks ago. I suppose both of us have moved on from that dream, or day dream, or pipe dream.

Except it’s not really moving on when our dream is forgotten. Maybe it’s left behind. Maybe it’s weighed down or maybe buried alive, just waiting to be unearthed again.

 

 


 

This morning I woke up thinking about our cruise. I woke up wondering what it would be like to visit another country by way of boat. I’ve traveled enough to know that while the landscape may look new there is also a familiar thread to be found. Maybe it’s the way certain food tastes, or a stranger will remind you of someone you know, but there is usually something that will remind you of home.

Erik teaches me so much about dreaming, but he also surprises me with it. It’s easy to look at someone like him, someone the world tells me is simple-minded, and fall into the wrong thinking that there’s not much to him.

There is a depth to my brother, though, that takes my breath away.

Photo Credit: rustyruth1959 Flickr via Compfight cc

His brain may not cooperate, it may be confused and betray him, but his heart is like the ocean. Erik’s heart, his soul,  is boundless and beautiful and deeper than anyone has ever explored. I’m embarrassed that it still shocks me to learn that there is more that Erik wants for his life, that the world’s short-sighted vision of good enough is not good enough for him.

Isn’t that true for all of us? Isn’t it our dream of what could be that makes the mundane, every day life bearable? Isn’t it that our dreams, our visions of an imagined future, lend color and passion to our current situation?

Isn’t it our dreams that tell us that this world is not the end, that there is more?

It dawned on me this morning that it is envisioning our wildest desires that fuels us forward, compelling us to continue on. Even as our mind tells us it’s impossible our heart cries out, “YOU CAN!”

 

“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy!” 

~ Ray Charles

 

So today I’m going to get Erik a dream journal and we will fill it with pictures of places he wants our cruise ship to go. I’ll have the kids, Lee, and my parents help as well, so that bits of all our dreams are sprinkled on the pages. I’ll get his map, just like I said I would, and we’ll dream of our cruise around the world together.

It won’t just be his dreams, it will be our shared dreams, and when he thumbs through the pages he’ll remember that we dream together. Not alone. Never alone.

 


 

Just as I allowed the everyday to hide our cruise ship conversation we each can lose sight of our desires. It happens slowly, accidentally in most cases.

Sometimes it’s on purpose, though, that we allow our dreams to fade. Perhaps it’s too scary to keep a hold of them for fear of failing. It may be that your current situation feels so dismal that dreaming literally hurts. If that’s the case dig in, dear one, and be brave like my brother. In a world of no-you-can’ts he chooses to dream anyway – if that doesn’t stir your heart I’m not sure what will.

Dream even when it hurts.

Especially when it hurts.

What special thought swirls in your soul, what secret desire have you never told anyone?

Grab hold of it, nurture it. Allow it to grow. Feed that dream pretty pictures and sounds and words. Thanks to  YouTube all that is possible.

Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would when it comes into fruition, but I’m certain it will lead somewhere amazing. It may be that you’ll meet someone or go somewhere that you wouldn’t have if not for your imaginings.

Dreaming opens the door to action…and that’s when anything is possible.

I’ll let you know how Erik’s dream journal goes in a few weeks, and maybe you can share yours as well? I have things fluttering in my heart, too, traveling, writing, making our house pretty – all those things and more.

In the meantime, friends, be brave and dream a little.

Heck, dream a lot.

 

 

 

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Obligatory New Year’s Post

I have to be open about my disdain for New Year’s resolutions. They never cease to make me feel like a loser. I worry that my reflection on the year gone by and my hopes for the year ahead will fall flat. Which is probably why January 3rd 4th 7th  10th* has me finishing up my Obligatory New Year’s Post.

There’s no way to wake up on December 31 without thinking about what lies behind you, and what may lie ahead of you. As a child twelve months seemed like an eternity to me. At 43 I now how quickly the calendar pages turn.

I am a history lover. Not in the sense that I memorize facts and dates, mind you. I don’t. I do love reading about the past, though. I’m often astounded at how inventive and genius ancient people were, but also humbled at how little they knew. I know that others will look back on my present as their history and think the same. I also don’t think you can move forward if you don’t accept where you are and where you’ve been.

I’m advocating reflecting, not dwelling.

I don’t always share it, but I usually pick a word for the upcoming year, one that I feel that is in line with the Holy Spirit’s desire for my life and one that I feel will encourage me. Last year my word was JOY, and I have to say 2016 was quite a joy-filled year for me and for our family. We found community, friendships have blossomed, and life just feels more…settled.

As I look back on that we’ve learned this year I see that we have grown so much. We learned some hard lessons about harmful relationships and some wonderful lessons about healthy relationships. We rediscovered the treasure of older friendships, too. Keeping up with friends after moving to a different city is tricky, to be sure, but SO worth it.  It’s interesting that each of us has stepped out and made friendships on our own, too. This is new for my introverted people.  2016 was our year for relationship maintenance and formation.

Not every moment was joyous, but every moment added to my joy. Even the tough stuff.

As 2017 was a approaching at warp speed I decided it was time to figure out my word for the upcoming year. I woke up on December 31st and knew that my word for the New Year would be ACCEPTANCE. It fit for so many reasons. Here’s a few:

Accepting where I am in life, what my life looks like, is important to keeping me from feeling down. Always wishing for something else, or allowing myself to feel that some other kind of life would be more ‘normal’ keeps me trapped somewhere that I just cannot be.

When I accept  myself, my flaws and my good qualities, makes me feel way more relaxed.

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Accepting my family for who they are as individual helps all of us who live here. It goes back to wishing for something else – my people are who they are and desiring them to be different doesn’t give me room to embrace who they are. It also doesn’t give them room to embrace who they are. 

Accepting that tidy is not permanent, that Legos can be scooped up, and that pee can be wiped off the seat helps make me less crazy.

Accepting who was voted in as President makes it easier to make a plan for how to move forward as a citizen of this country. 

Accepting that people I love voted differently than me, hold religious views outside of my own, and parent  their kids differently can be…tricky. Remembering that we’re all doing our best, though, makes it less so.

I accept that my hubby will be offered an amazing job in 2017 – and that he will accept it. 

I accept that each day is different than the one before it and that having a plan does not mean that the 24 hours will go the way I planned it.

Well, I’m learning to accept that one.

 


 

It’s easy to get into the habit of always striving, always working toward something else. I feel like it’s trending right now, this whole ‘accept where I am in life and embrace it’ mindset. Maybe it’s because I read a lot of almost-forty or definitely-forty authors and bloggers. I don’t know and I don’t care. If being 40-something means it’s easier to accept the life I have then yes, please and amen!

Goals aren’t bad, and I will continue to have those, BUT  I need to be realistic about where I actually am before I can move forward.

Like, I’m overweight. I accept that now. Especially after I stood in front of the mirror, naked, for 30 minutes.  I now also accept that I have gotten here by overeating and not exercising (much).

Up until 2017 (give or take) I was convinced that I was not that overweight, that sizing had just changed. That I had a metabolism problem. That no matter what I ate I gained. That it’s just baby weight (but now my baby is 7).

Nope. Turns out that eating a lot of sugar and thinking of house cleaning as cardio does not make you Cindy Crawford even though she said that’s how she stayed in shape.

That woman lied in her Cosmo interview 25 years ago.

Anyway, now that I’ve accepted where I am I can decide if I want to do something about it. 

I may. I may not. I don’t know. I’m still at the acceptance phase of my weight loss journey so I’ll let you know.

Though, honestly, since I’m already 43 I’m prone to just wait til I get to heaven to get a new body.

Size 8, please.

I have to acknowledge, though, that 50 is the new 40…so in reality I have 7 years before I reach true middle age. Now I have to accept that and consider doing something about it.

Considering now.

 

In the meantime, I’m fine with how I look and who I am because I know whose image I’m created in. I accept that this body isn’t permanent.

 


So, 2017 will be my year of ACCEPTANCE.

I’m going to accept the good and the bad as part of being human.

I accept that I’ll get some things right and some things wrong.

I accept all the grace that Jesus has available.

All. Of. It.

I accept that sometimes I want to be around people and sometimes I don’t.

I accept that I pretty much always want to do the thing I shouldn’t want to do and don’t want to do the thing I should want to do, just like Paul said.

I accept that I’ll probably never get the lyrics right, that I’ll never be a football fan, and that, at times, life may be harder than I would like.

I also accept that Jesus will always be my soft landing.

Always.

 


 

So, do you have a word for 2017? Let me know by sharing in the comments.

Or maybe you hate that kind of thing? Perhaps you find it forced. That’s okay too. I accept you whatever your likes and dislikes.

 

And, if you like what you read here, share it with your friends, too. 🙂

 

In the meantime, stay warm, and be brave.

 

 

*Our internet went out last night just as I was ready to post. Seriously. That happened. Dad and I fixed it though. All is well.

 

How to Connect with Your Teens

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my journey into accidental mentoring. I’ve put a lot of work into my relationship with my young people, and sometimes connecting with my teenagers can be hard. Every now and then I look at my adult or almost adult children, and wonder who the heck they are. It feels like one day you’re wiping bottoms and the next day you’re sharing coffee and arguing about politics.

Here’s some things I find really useful when I’m wanting, or, needing  to relate more to my teens.

1. Remember who they are.

Nothing cures disconnect like pulling out baby pictures. It’s good for the kid that was the baby, and it’s good for the parent. Looking back at baby pictures also transports me to the time when connecting was simple. I just picked up my baby and loved on them. We shared everything when they each were little; food, stories, beds (and sometimes we still do!). It was a simple, exhausting time in our lives, but also a period in our lives that solidified our relationship.

This is Liam. I can’t figure out how to scan the others in. You get the picture. (pun)

There’s a lot of debate on when a child’s personality solidifies, but I think that even as babies their personality shines through. I look back at how each of my learned how to walk and talk, how to ride a bike, and I find myself nodding and saying, ‘yep, that’s how they’ve always done it’.

During rough patches I pull out pictures, show them to my kids and say, “Look at you!” It reminds me of who they are, but also reminds the child of how much they are loved. It’s fun to recall memories or fill in the gaps on my kids’ memories. I love seeing their faces as they look back on their personal history, their sweet baby faces still reflected in their almost-adult faces.

(Mental Note:  get #4 child’s baby photos off of Facebook so that I have actual pictures to show him when he is a teenager in 6 years. Yikes.)

 

2. Participate in their life.

It can be easy to drop them off and go, but kids want us in their lives even if they’r not super wiling to admit it. When your kid looks at you, though,  to make sure you’re watching  you know you’re in the right place. Especially when that kid is 14.

Having a house full of teenagers can be loud and require lots of food but is a ton of fun. I want our house to be a home where kids know they can eat and drink and hang out. It’s not always convenient but it is always fun.

I take the time every week to hang out in my kids’ rooms. I read somewhere years ago that laying in your child’s bed helps you see their perspective. I think it’s true. I also learn more about what makes them tick, about what they love and what they think is beautiful. Remember that Beach Boys song In My Room? There is something cool about your room when you’re a kid.

 

 

I’ve also learned to love listening to my kids’ music. Somewhere between 10 and 12 each of mine has expressed wanting to listen to their own kind of music instead of audiobooks or whatever I’m into at the time. I let them make their own choices when it comes to music and books, mostly. Between 12 and 14 there were a few books I said no to after reading first, and several artists that I said absolutely not, ever, ever, ever even when Jesus comes back, to. They were cool with that.

Thanks to my girls I’m Twenty One Pilots’ oldest fangirl, I know who Panic! At the Disco is and I’ve fallen head over heels for YA fiction. Thanks to my boy I love Minecraft, Weird Al (again) and Legos. Thanks to me they know the lyrics to Queen songs and appreciate Jane Austen. Thanks to their Dad they love the Beatles and understand the complexities of 80’s music. I think connecting through art, art that we love, teaches us a lot about each otters.

I’m always shocked when one of them wants me to hang out wherever they are, even if it’s for just a little bit. I do remember being a teen and being secretly pleased that one of my parental units was at an event. Which leads me to the next one…

3. Think back on your own teenage years.

I know,  I know, it’s not necessarily the favorite time of life to look back on. I do think it’s important to remember the feelings, the tumultuous, overwhelming, wonderful, maddening feelings, that ruled life during those years. It’s a time of extremes to be sure but it’s also a time of growth.

This is a good time to pull out pictures of you as a teenager. Share music, books, and movies that you loved. There’s nothing better than watching your kid’s jaw drop when you know all the words to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. Reveal worst and best moments. It levels the playing field, helps them see that you as a fellow human.

 

My friend Autumn took this one when I was 17.

It’s good to remind your kid that you really do get it – that you’ve been there and survived. Sharing my teenage (and current) insecurities gives my kids insights into who I am. It’s way easier for my kids to share their stuff with me after I tell them about the time I had my period all over my chair in World Civ class in 10th grade.

I should warn you that hard questions will be asked when you go this route. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

4. Allow them to explore their passions.

This is the age when most kids struggle with who they are, what their skills are. I think it’s pretty typical to be plagued by thoughts of not being good at anything and feeling like a failure at life. You, the parent, have the best insight into their passions. You know better than anyone what they’re good at, what fuels them. Use this knowledge to your advantage to feed their passions.

It’s inevitable that they’ll have days that feel crummy, it’s part of being human. I remind them of the things they’re good at. I may encourage them to keep trying or to take a break, whichever is most needed.  We find personality tests to take, talk over tea, snuggle and discuss favorite books or movies.

Allowing my kids to try things that I maybe wasn’t so sure about has also been revealing. I didn’t understand computers or YouTube, but my oldest daughter wanted a YouTube channel, so she taught me. I didn’t like science much when I was in school but child #2 really likes it, so we’ve ventured way more in that area than I would have chosen. Turns out I do like science!

Child #3, who will be a teenager next Friday (eek!!!) grew interested in carnivorous plants. He’s always loved nature – dirt, frogs, turtles, rocks, they’ve all resided in our bathtub at some point. My mom bought him a little greenhouse and he’s  learned a lot. Like, adults ask his advice about their plants or animals. I love that!  These may not be things they stay attached to permanently but it’s been so fun to watch them explore the world.I learned that my discomfort or ignorance of a subject was no reason to hold my kids back.

 

Spencer, his own drummer.

 

5. Let them be who they are.

Shoulds and and have to’s have taken up more space in my life than I like. I had no idea how much I valued other people’s approval until my children became their own people. I mean, they were always their own people, but as young adults they begin to assert their opinions and feelings ALL over the place.

I learned real quick that I had to get rid of every should and have-to in my life. I did not realize that I wanted my kids to learn certain things, dress a certain way, and talk about certain things because I wanted others to be impressed with my parenting. Waking up to that realization was u-g-l-y, friends. I had to walk right away from that business because that kind of thinking, that kind of ideology, is only going to cast the shadow of shame onto my kiddos and that has no business in my home. Everyday I remind myself that I, and my children, and everyone, is made in the image of God. Fallible.Correctable. Transformable. Loved.

Boom.

Welcome home to grace.

So, they want to dye their hair, dye it. Just clean up the mess and find the least chemically stuff out there. They want to wear mismatched shoes. Yo, it’s a free country. I still want respect and kindness out of them but who they are is who they are. I don’t want to force them into some mold that wasn’t made for them.

While they live with us I want them to explore their doubt about God, their faith, their education, politics, and literature. I want them to know that under the shield of our family they will always be safe, free from shame. 


I have to say, I really love my teens. I enjoy parenting them much more than I intended. I respect them each so much, and Lee and I never pass through a day without commenting how cool they are.

If you have or had teens in your home, what are some things you do to connect with them? If you don’t, what are some things that scare you about having teenagers? Let me know in the comments.

The Reality of Christmas

We made a quick trip to visit dear friends on Thursday, two days before Christmas Eve. It seemed irresponsible to do that, but we don’t visit family and I miss the hustle and bustle of packing and going. So we went and it was fun, and one more memory with my kids’ almost-cousins is catalogued on my phone.

I love traveling.I especially love traveling with my family. Lee couldn’t get off work so I had to navigate the highways on my own. My 18 year old daughter, Kiley, was the co-pilot calling out directions, talking me down when my voice got screechy.

I’m not a fan of heavy traffic.

Photo Credit: KW BOY Flickr via Compfight cc

Kiley said she didn’t feel very Christmas-y, and I could only listen, because some years are like that. She admitted that her sister told her that it was probably because she’s older now, almost 19. I agreed that was probably part of the problem. I thought back to the year I was 18, maybe 19, and recalled that on Christmas morning I didn’t have the excited pit in my stomach, or the urge to jump out of bed at 5 a.m. I think that was year that I had a cross-stitch to finish and was up until 3 a.m.

I also remember that I received a wide-brimmed felt hat from Santa, which I loved. It had a beautiful purple silk flower pinned to it. I wore that hat a lot that winter.  However, sitting on the floor playing with a felt hat doesn’t have the same draw as sitting on the floor tinkering with the Glamour Gals Cruise Ship. Not the same thing at all.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun, and that cross-stitch I nearly went blind completing hangs in my parent’s room today. I enjoyed watching my brothers with their loot. They were 15 and 11 so still got toys. For me, though, the sparkle was missing. Not even my memories of those early adult years  are glitter-covered.

I didn’t feel very Christmas-y.

Lee and I married and had babies and still Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas. We were stuck under Should’s and Have-To’s and and spent a lot of time trying to please others. We didn’t have a lot of money, either, and I sometimes had the feeling that we weren’t doing enough. I may have even felt shame over a few of the gifts that we gave family members. The message of the Little Drummer Boy was lost to me.

Then I met Jesus.

I used to scoff at people who claimed to be ‘saved’ thinking that they were a little goofy – in a quaint way, of course. I loved the ritual of putting up the tree, hanging decorations, visiting Santa at the mall, and wrapping the gifts. I still love it. Going to Christmas Eve service at 11 p.m. with Dad became a ritual, too, one that I looked forward to and picked out a new dress for.  When we turned all the lights out in the church, singing Silent Night with no help from the organ, passing the flame from candle to candle until the sanctuary was well lit always gave me goose bumps.

Those things may  seem like empty rituals, remnants of liturgy without meaning behind them to a non-believer. My encounter with Christ, though, brought all of those things together like puzzle pieces that had been scattered, just waiting for their moment to come together forming the word HOPE.

 

Getting to know Jesus revealed to me His glory, revealed to me the Reality of Christmas.

Christmas isn’t a feeling, and it’s not a time of year.

Christmas is a fact.

Our God loves us so much that He came to us in the most vulnerable way; as a baby.

Christmas is vulnerable.

Our God loves us so much that he came to have relationship with me, with you, with everyone, no matter what they look like, smell like, or act like.

Christmas is relationship.

Our God loves us so much that he supernaturally interceded on our behalf, freeing us from the law and binding us to grace forever. He didn’t come to live the good life, he came to live THE life, and then give it away painfully, freely for us. He never planned on celebrating anything in his life, certainly not his birthday. His Christmas wish was that we would be free from sin. Our Christmas miracle is Jesus.

Christmas is supernatural.

Photo Credit: Design_Ex Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Once I was exposed to the Reality of Christmas the sparkle was back.

For the most part. Every now and then I can get bogged down with expectations for the most wonderful time of the year. The should’s and have-to’s creep back up on me and my calendar can swallow me whole. That’s when I have to make like a Shepherd and follow that Star. I have to be intentional about putting Jesus first, remember His reality, and allowing all the other stuff to fall into place. It’s all just stuff in the end.

Still, the Reality of Christmas has changed me from the inside out. I may not look sparkly but I sure feel it. These days I rarely sleep on Christmas Eve, that excited pit in my stomach and unstoppable grin keeping me company through the night. (Coffee is my Christmas miracle, too) It is so fun to give gifts to my people. Watching them open their little presents always makes me reflect on how our Lord must feel when we accept His gift.

I know that Christmas does not only come in December.  Some of my favorite Christmas gifts have come in the other months. Heck, I know that Jesus wasn’t born in December, but I understand why the early church opted to remember the Light of the World’s entrance during the darkest month of the year. Symbolism is not empty if you know what it means. 

Sometimes I can get a little bogged down in wondering and worrying that the culture has a hold on Christmas. I read the books and blogs the Facebook meme’s demanding that we save Christmas.

I’m just not sure Christmas needs saving because you can’t change reality.

The Great I Am will always be.

So I choose to be part of His Story. I choose to know His light even in my dark. I choose to be awestruck by His goodness and mercy even while horror takes place in the world. I choose twinkly lights and sparkly paper because it cheers the dreary, gray days. I choose traditions and rituals that remind me of the King of my heart and His bold move to save us. 


Not every Christmas will feel holy.

That’s a reality, too.

Some Decembers will find us sad, out of sorts, in the hospital, or without family to love us. While Christmas may not always feel holy, the Holy One is always with us – no matter what we look like, smell like, or act like. The Reality of Christmas means that we get to reflect on Him every day, all the time. There are no mess-up’s with Jesus.

I pray that tonight, on Christmas Eve, you can find one candle to light, one song to sing.

Photo Credit: m.rsjoberg Flickr via Compfight cc

 

May Christmas be real to you, today, tomorrow, and all the days that come.

May you be real, vulnerable, and have loving relationship in your life, and may God’s supernatural love be tangible in your life.

Be brave, misfits, and Merry Christmas.

Lessons Learned In My Real Life (IMRL)

Sheesh. It’s been a month since I posted.  Once it’s been a week it’s easier to take a longer. When I move into the ten day territory of no writing I become paralyzed. I stack up all of my failures and block myself in. I let that bleed over into my every day life and before I know it I’m binge eating chocolate something’s and avoiding contact with humans.

Me hiding from the world.

There may also be lots of Minecraft going on when I am over affected by life.

One of the many things I learned in counseling is that reframing my situation is vital to moving forward.  So I had a little chat with myself.

“You’re not failing, you’re taking a break. You’ve had a lot to process this month, a lot of school to do with the kids, and lots of check-up appointments. Take this time to re-energize yourself by filling up with good stuff.”

Easy peasy.

I read  for pleasure not just improvement, and I started an online course I purchased last year but didn’t get around to (telling myself that I can go at my own pace). I had a couple of nice, long chats with friends, shared some stuff that’s been weighing on me, and felt a thousand pounds lighter. I baked cookies and made some recipes I had tucked away to try. The yard got some TLC, as did my school area, and I got a haircut. I went on a spending spree with coupons at Walgreens and bought myself some mascara and facial moisturizer and I didn’t even feel guilty about it. I quit Pinning and starting doing.

I think taking a break for a few weeks after Thanksgiving will become a tradition.

I’m finally learning that it’s okay if it all doesn’t get done. It really is. There were years when I packed kids who were literally puking into he car, made them hold a tupperware dish to hold their rejected bodily fluids, and drove 8 hours to be with family for Thanksgiving. They aren’t scarred are anything, at least not by that trip, but why did I push so hard? Two words, friends: people pleaser. I did not want to disappoint. Or fail. Or not be good enough.

People pleasing is an endless traps that ends feeling worthless. What’s weird is that the people you think you’re pleasing might not even know that you’re trying to please them. They might not even care if you please them. They might not even want you to drive yourself bonkers trying to do it all right.

The moral of the story is:  take a break if you need to. Don’t pack puking kids into the car for an 8 hour drive. Don’t drive your family crazy cleaning the house for people who don’t care if your house is clean. Don’t kick yourself for not getting cards in the mail, or buying the right gifts, or baking the right cookies, or making the best meal ever.

Grace.

Grace.

Grace.

Watch Christmas Vacation and laugh at how ridiculous and true it is.

Play board game with your kids and do the dishes later.

Call a friend and tell them that you miss them.

Seriously. Take a break. Enjoy the view from where you are now.

Revel in the knowledge that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, that the sky is full of stars, that the ocean is always there even if you cannot see it, and that you are loved beyond measure.

Go on now. Get your revel on.

I dare you.

 


Other goings on In My Real Life:
  1. During my shower a couple of weeks ago I noticed a black thing in the corner of the tub. Further examination revealed that it was Spencer’s sock, his dirty sock, with a bar of soap in it. I was lamenting to my daughters the grossness of that discovery when I noticed Laurel’s extremely guilty looking face. I asked her what was up. She said, “I know what the sock was from. Spencer and I were playing hunger games…” I stopped her there and asked her not to explain any more. Ever.
  2. My husband found a library book that has been missing for three months. It was under our bed, where I have looked multiple times. I suspect he is gas lighting me.
  3. I have no socks. I’ve been wearing my Dad’s or my husband’s, alternating days so that they don’t catch on. I think they’re onto me.
  4. My youngest is 7 and still has not outgrown poop jokes. I fear he never will, because poop jokes are actually funny. Like, no matter what question somebody asks answering with ‘poop’ always elicits a laugh. From me.
  5. Speaking of poop, farting is also funny. Especially when I lock the windows on the van so that they’re trapped with the odor. Especially when I’ve eaten salami.
  6. I’m sorry about #5.
  7. We had our 21st wedding anniversary, which was not nearly as exciting as turning 21 was. On the upside no one threw up. Happy Anniversary to me! and Lee!
  8. While at the grocery I realized I still have some work to do. I loudly complained to my daughter that $6.99 was too much for baby potatoes, but that I really wanted them. As I cradled them I noticed the produce man was giving me the side eye and I worried that I had hurt his feelings by yelling about the overpriced produce. So, I did the normal thing and put them in my cart, only to circle around and put them back. PEOPLE PLEASING BEHAVIOR ALERT.
  9. I miss not living with my parents. Not because I don’t want to live with them, but because I used to take their stuff when I came home to visit. It cracked me up when Mom would say, “Oh, we have those same towels!” or “I have that exact picture at home.” The thrill is gone now and I’ve been reduced to hiding the spoons.
  10. I am trying to apply more fashion sense to my life because I’m 43 now and for goodness sake that’s what grown women do. Honestly, though, it just takes too much effort and the kids say that I cannot just knot a fancy scarf around my neck and call it fashion, particularly if I’m wearing pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. They want too much, I tell you. The Coldwater Creek models make it look so easy.

 

Here’s to Sunday nights, Monday mornings and real life.

The Gratitude Project: Week 4

Last night I surprised myself and got excited about Thanksgiving.

Like, really excited.

We didn’t do anything special or even different this year, but all of a sudden I found myself looking forward to cooking with my Mom and kids, playing board games, and hanging out. We ate, we drank, we told fart jokes.  We drug the Christmas tree up from the basement and watched a cheesy holiday movie.

It was so good.

The truth is nothing happened this year that hasn’t happened in years past. This Thanksgiving just happened to fall during a happy time in our lives. Lee and I have been married for 20 Thanksgivings. Some years we’ve seen two meals in one day, requiring a mad dash from relative’s house to relative’s house. Some years we had to ditch plans because of sick kids or car trouble. Some years we ate well, some years we didn’t. Some Thanksgivings found us sharing a meal at a friend’s home, sometimes friends and family found their way to our table. This year it was just us, and I’m grateful for it.

What I’ve learned about gratitude since I’ve started this little project is that you don’t have to feel all the good stuff to know that it’s good stuff. Even though we went through some Hard Times I still made great memories with my kids, I still loved the moments of my life, and the turkey always tasted amazing.

You can experience gratitude even while walking through Hard Times.

So if you felt sad this Thanksgiving that’s okay. If you’re dealing with some anger don’t fight it (but be nice). Maybe you’re dealing with heavy loss and can’t feel much of anything. It’s okay. Feel your feelings no matter how cliche that little line is. You’ll be making memories regardless of how you feel.

Take our family’s Thanksgiving last year, for instance. Our family was still uncertain about everything from job situations, to friend situations. Our lives felt very up-in-the-air. I was still mourning my things being packed away in storage, and Lee was still trying to figure out the job situation.

My brother Erik had been living out of my parent’s house for about 7 months. His meds still were not right. He had transitioned from being a fairly docile, easy to to be with guy to an unpredictable time bomb. My mom and I were still dealing with a lingering cough leftover from a flu that had gone through our family, and we had both just gotten over a nasty UTI. The thought of cooking left us exhausted. We thought going to Natural Bridge State Park for our Thanksgiving meal would be an easy solution. Who doesn’t love a buffet?

We couldn’t make reservations, so we decided that after lunch would probably be a slower time. I felt a little worried when we had a hard time finding parking spaces. I felt very worried when I saw the number of people hanging out. I felt a little relief when I saw the platters of meat, cheese, and veggies for snacking while you waited for a table to become available.

The kids were mildly grumbly about the wait, though two had brought a book along. My parents are generally content to do whatever. I had food and strangers to converse with, two of my favorite things in life, so I had no issues.

Erik, though, was a different story.

Crowds have never been his thing and last year, when he was still riding the ‘find the right medication train’, was no exception. Anything could set him off crying, or yelling, or talking about violent things he believed happened to him. Fortunately he has a pretty serious speech impediment so strangers can generally only recognize every few words. Unfortunately, ‘knife’, ‘murder’, and ‘gun’ are all fairly easy for him to pronounce.

Because I’m the low-key one in the family, best equipped to deal with his brand of weird, Erik was my companion for the afternoon.

Actually, I think it’s because I don’t embarrass easily.

Erik experienced a novel’s worth of emotions in a 3 hour period. I think the only thing that got me through was knowing there was a massive pile of banana pudding waiting for me at the end.

Erik and I walked laps together, the whole while he recited middle school memories, flashes of CNN headline news, and made up events. It went like this:

Erik: When I was in middle school kids took my lunch money.

Kara: How about a happy memory?

E: Yeah. The police shoot people who are bad.

K: Just tell people Happy Thanksgiving, please. People are here to have fun.

E: Okay. Happy Thanksgiving! (in angry Archie Bunker voice)

K: (eye roll) I’m going to eat all the banana pudding when we get up there.

E: Yeah. Me too. (Short pause while he gathers his thoughts) If there’s  a knife up there, though, you should take it. My mom said I’m not allowed to touch knives.

K: Maybe we should go outside…

Seriously. That’s how it went.

The first few laps people would try and talk to us, but after the third or fourth pass people knew to just keep their heads down and not make eye contact with the two nutters mumbling about being beaten up and banana pudding. My kids were simultaneously flustered and furious with their uncle. They were also hungry. Unlike me, however, the veggie and cheese trays did not satisfy their hungry tummies.

I’m not sure how long the wait was, but we finally made it to our table.

The first thing we do when we’re eating out with Erik is try and block him in. Unfortunately we were at a table in the center of the room, so not only was there no trapping him, but we were at center stage. To make matters trickier there was also a piano in the room. Musical instruments are like a magnet for Erik and he lacks impulse control and does not conform to social norms. We knew if he started playing we were done-for. He starts playing and people are like, “Oh, that nice gentleman who seems a little different is playing the piano. Let’s clap and really get him going so that his family is forced to deal with not just him but us, too.”

Maybe that’s not quite how it goes. If you see him playing piano out somewhere you can clap. I won’t be mad.

At any rate, we spent most of the meal bribing him to stay away from the piano, getting our youngest to not run laps around the dining area, and praying that only one drink would spill. When I was finally able to go up for desert all of the other cotton-headed-ninny-muggins celebrating Thanksgiving at the buffet had taken all of the banana pudding. Only the meringue was left. Who does that?

I confess that I thought, “This is my Thanksgiving?”

You know what, though? Looking back on last year makes me smile, even laugh. Mom and Dad didn’t even remember how weird it was. I look back and think, “That was a good Thanksgiving.” This year is different. This year Erik is much more settled, thanks to the miracle of medication and behavior therapists. My kids are happy and have friends, and we have a new community to lean on. Life is good this year, just like life was good last year. There were just different things going on in our lives.

Next year there will be other different things going on.

My point is we’ll be making memories regardless of what’s happening. Holidays just come, they don’t care what’s going on in our lives. Some of the memories of Thanksgivings past may make us smile, some may make us cry. The point of memories is just to remember and savor whatever stuff is swirling around in your life.   It’s not about making the day perfect or special. You know, you take the good, you take the bad, and there you have the facts of life.

That’s an actual quote from the The Facts of Life theme song. I never knew how true and how poignant that song was until this moment. 

At any rate, I hope like heck you had a great Thanksgiving, that no one fought with turkey legs about politics or family history, and that you were able to breathe in deeply and know you were with people who love you.

Accidental Mentor

Sometimes I feel bad when I hear parents complaining about their teenagers, like I should join in. I have nothing to complain about, though.

I’m not saying it’s not difficult to parent kids in their teenage years. It is, and it isn’t. It’s complicated. The tension between keeping them close versus  pushing them forward is real. I want to protect them but I also want them to experience life. As a homeschoolerI have to be much more intentional in encouraging them to be in the world, always with the prayer that they not be of the world.

The public library could easily be the only place we go, but that’s not doing them any favors.

I want my kids to be in situations  that will push them, force them to know themselves, and maybe even make them uncomfortable. Lee and I have worked very hard at having the kind of relationship with the kids that allows them to share the hard stuff, and most of the time they do. I find it easy to talk with my teens. I share my heart, they share theirs. I have never believed that they have to think the way I think or believe what I believe. I hope they follow Jesus, but it is not a requirement. I encourage them to explore deep truths for themselves, praying for them to find friends who are godly, and mentors who have admirable character traits.

The fact is I love spending time with my teenagers.

Still haven't mastered the art of the selfie.
Still haven’t mastered the art of the selfie.

A few years ago, when my children were emerging teens, I realized that I was not so much parenting my kids as mentoring them. I have our years in youth ministry to thank for that.

Twelve or thirteen years ago, when we fell into youth ministry, I did not like the company of teenagers, especially when they were in a large group. It brought back junior high feelings of inadequacy. I felt I never had the right clothes or shoes, or fit in anywhere. I had flashbacks of walking into the school cafeteria for lunch and looking for a seat. Ugh. I can’t even go there.

Those youth group kids, though, they broke down those memories and dove straight into my heart. I fell in love with their over-honest ways, their answer-seeking questions, and the effort they put into growing up. Those youth group kids drove me completely crazy while winning my friendship. I figured out that they didn’t want me to be cool, or to impress them. They liked me just like I was; a young mom who was a little lonely, and really uncertain, but also eager to learn about the ways of Christ.

So we learned about him, and his ways, together.

Sometimes things were easy and I didn’t mind when youth stopped by wanting a peanut butter jelly sandwich, or just to hang out while I did the mom thing. They might even play with the kids or help me run errands. Other times kids from youth group would stop by and it would feel inconvenient to me, like one more irritation in my already irritating day. I wasn’t so great at saying no, though. Plus, life is always a little easier with company.

I’m so glad I allowed room for the interruptions. There is not one time I regret having a kid come into my home. In fact, I learned to find relief in the young people who became my friends. There were a handful of young women, in particular, who came to me the world to me. These young people became like family during a period of time when my life was not easy, and I’ll always been grateful to them.

That’s how I became an accidental mentor.

I didn’t know it at the time but these young people were teaching me how to mentor my own kids. Somewhere between 10 and 12 you transition from parenting to mentoring. You cannot force an adult-sized child to brush their teeth, shower, do their homework, get their chores done, or go to sleep – nor do I believe you should. I have high expectations for them, though, and the natural consequences of not doing the things they are required to do are the best teachers at this age. Real consequences are far more effective than any punishment I could come up with. (A huge shout out to Dr. Kevin Leman for all of his awesome books on parenting. (affiliate link) I love his Have a New Teenager by Friday, if you’re looking for some help.)

I love coaching my people in their teenage years.

It’s so exciting watching from the sidelines as they develop their own life skills, deepen their sense of self, and form relationships that will hopefully last a long time. This can be the hard part, though. It can be tempting to jump in and rescue them from themselves or bad choices or both. This is where prayer and faith come in for me – and hopefully for them, too. This is also where mentoring skills come in handy. Because I’ve helped other young people walk through decision-making I feel like it’s easier for me to act as observer in my own children’s lives as they get older. I’m learning how to ask questions rather than make demands, and how to wait on them to figure out what’s best rather than force them to do what I think is right.

Mentoring means accepting that the life your child lives will look different than the one you imagined. Mentoring means making room for your child to be their own person. Making mistakes is how I figured out some of the best stuff about myself and I want to leave room in their lives for them to do the same thing. Mentoring means not groaning when they say, “I think I might not go to college” or “I really want to major in music theater” or “I’m moving to England as soon as I turn 18”. No eye rolling, no laughing, or pointing out how out of the realm of possibility any of those things are.

Mentoring means supporting in success and failure.

I had to learn to face my fears of my kids failing. I remembered when some of the kids in youth group had huge blunders. While those moments were painful for them those experiences were also a huge catalyst for growth. That’s important to remember.

I’ve learned to get comfortable with phrases  like, “You know what’s best for your life” or “You have good judgement, I trust you”.  Young people know when you don’t feel they are capable of something. If I find myself wanting to step in for my kids, help them with a task, I have to remind myself of the message I’m sending when I do that. That’s not to say I don’t step in occasionally; I do. There are times it’s been necessary because I want them to feel supported not abandoned.

Mentoring means helping your kid find their dreams, no matter what those dreams are.

Part of the job as mentor is to help your child hone in on their skills and passions. Not many people know what they want to do with the rest of their life when they turn 18. I have to remind my kids of that all the time, and I think this is a major advantage in homeschooling. They don’t have to know their college plans by their freshman year of high school. We are able to explore their interests in a variety of ways, meet other adults who do things that are unlike anything my husband and I do, and experiment with jobs in a low key manner.  I don’t think college is essential, and I certainly don’t think it has to be completed in four years between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is not easy, choosing this way. It would be much easier if I forced them into my way, made them learn from my mistakes. Our relationship would suffer, though, and that is a thought that I cannot stand. Years ago I chose relationship with my children over success in school. I told them their grades would never be as important as our relationship, and I meant it. What’s cool is that neither suffered; they each succeed in their own way in school and we still have a great relationship. We have rocky times, too, encounter stuff that we have to work through, but our foundation is solid.

Never sacrifice your relationship with your child on the altar of success.

It is not worth it. Who cares if they’re ahead in three subjects if they don’t know where they stand with you?

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Next week I’ll talk about how to connect with your teenagers, as well as some of the unexpected joys that come with having teenage children.

Be brave, misfits and embrace the adolescents in your life. 

 

 

 

 

The Sun Will Come Out…

A couple of months ago I fell for the hype that the media is stirring up. I found myself unable to sleep with the worry of who would be our next president. I was doing research, i.e. falling into the rabbit hole that is the internet, which only deepened my uncertainty.

One day, or maybe slowly over a few days, I quit caring so much. I think it started with looking into immigrating to Ireland. Don’t judge, it’s where my people are from. From there I got hooked on Ireland travel vlogs and videos explaining the different accents. Those videos inspired me to start planning a family to trip to the Emerald Isle in 2019, which led me to the realization that the world is going to keep spinning regardless of what joker is voted in as president.

Ireland, for your viewing pleasure:

 

Photo Credit: Crash Test Mike Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Crash Test Mike Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Gustav Bergman Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Gustav Bergman Flickr via Compfight cc

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Don’t you feel better already?

I use Tapestry of Grace in our homeschool, a unit study curriculum focusing on history and encompassing classical studies. I can’t say enough awesome things about this curriculum, my favorite being the perspective that ultimately the events of history will unfold as they will bringing God’s perfect plan into action. No matter how bad things look, historically speaking, the will of God is being worked. His plan uses difficult circumstances to deepen our faith, spur us into action, and grow the Church.

So I calmed the heck down about it all and applied my favorite quote that can be applied to everything:

If you can’t make it better, 

you can laugh at it  ~ Erma Bombeck

I know people are passionate about all that’s going on right now. Some of that passion is not misplaced. Some of it,though, is hoopla brought on by too much time on the internet or television or talk radio. If you think about it, though, there is so much to laugh at this election cycle.

Here’s some other things that you can do to help get through the next 48 hours:

  • Read this from PBS News  or this from one of my favorite blogs, The Art of Simple. These are both survival guides that add some much needed levity.
  • Watch some Bad Lip Reading videos. If at least one of those doesn’t have you crying and/or peeing your pants something inside you is broken. I’m not kidding. Go to the doctor if you don’t find these funny.
  • If you find yourself getting so mad that you are unfriending people on social media…it’s probably time to take a break from social media. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind at this point, and it’s doubtful that anyone is going to change your mind. Hitting share in an attempt to shock others into sharing your opinion isn’t going to further any healthy discussion.
  • Take a moment to get out in the world and talk to people. Don’t talk about the election for Pete’s sake, just talk to them. Say hello to strangers, ask the person checking you out at the grocery how they are, chat with the person behind you at the coffee shop.
  • Sit at a park and watch kids play, taking special notice of how they work stuff out. I believe we’ve still retained the ability to do the same thing as adults.
  • As a Christian it’s important that I know who’s Lord of my Life. My friend David Wu preached a great sermon reminding me that loving your neighbor, even one with conflicting political views, is a simple task when Jesus reigns in every area of my life.
  • Remember that tomorrow will come, and that the day after the election we will have to look one another in the face. We’re not all going to be happy, and some of us may feel scared, and most of us will be tender. Let’s remember that and practice kindness in the coming weeks.
  • Put this song on repeat.

 

Ultimately, the sun will come out tomorrow. Yes, that’s a Little Orphan Annie quote, because I’m an optimist. Knowing that the sun WILL come out no matter who will be taking office reminds me of who is in charge. That is more awesome than anything else happening in our world at this time.

Photo Credit: Infomastern Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Infomastern Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: scott1346 Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: scott1346 Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Be kind to one another, misfits. Sometimes that’s the bravest act of all.