Friday, March 28, 2014

Super Powers

A few weeks ago, I had the unusual privilege of spending some time with my niece and nephew, who are ten and fifteen.  Their parents were attending a conference in our city, so for two days in a row, the kids came over and hung out with us.  They did a little school with us, learned how to make maple syrup, and occupied their littlest cousins while I helped the older ones with their schoolwork.  While they were here, I never once had to stop a lesson to praise a Duplo masterpiece, wipe a nose, or remove a toddler from the table.  It was a good couple of days.

We've been studying penguins, so on the second day, we brought them with us to observe the penguins at the zoo.  Because of my no-electronic-devices-in-the-car policy, I had the chance for some good conversation with my nephew, too, which was wonderful, although it made me miss my own teenage son more than ever.

Anyway, after the zoo, I found myself in a circular McDonald's booth, in a sea of chicken nuggets and burgers and fries, surrounded by seven chattering children.

"Hey, Aunt Lisa," my nephew asked, "if you could have any three super powers, what would they be?"

Good question, I thought, but a bit of a no-brainer for me. 

"I would want to be able to be Christ-like in every situation." 

The kids pondered my answer, agreed that it could be considered a super power, and then quickly moved on to choosing their own.  As the talking frenzy turned to invisibility and elasticity and the ability to shoot fire from fingertips or turn objects into gold, I sat quietly for a few minutes, thinking about what it would actually be like to be sinless.  To flawlessly live out "Jesus" in every situation. 


The true desire of my heart is to be like Jesus, and yet I fall incredibly short of His compassion, grace, mercy, patience, self-control, love and kindness.  I wish it were as easy as rubbing a lamp and choosing my three wishes.  I wish I could have my super-powers.  But I've learned that the path to Christ-likeness is long and winding, full of trials and mistakes and heartache and pain.  And then...a bit of ground gained.  A bit of progress along the way, and indescribable beauty because of the sacrifices that progress required of me.
I will never be Christ-like in every situation, but I'm more Christ-like than I used to be.  And each year, little by little and only by the grace of God, perhaps I'll gain a bit more ground.  Perhaps I'll become just a bit more like Him.

"Aunt Lisa, what's your second super power?" 

This one was tougher.  "I think I'd like to be able to fly."

"Then maybe we could be on time for church!" one of my kids piped in.

"Ha, ha...very funny." 

In all honesty, I doubt anything will ever make us on time for church, although I'm sure Jesus would be able to do it...and the ability to fly couldn't hurt.


In writing this, I'm realizing I got gypped out of my third super power!  Without a doubt, I want the power to be able to convert calories eaten into exercise.  Like eating a bowl of ice cream would count as running a mile, or something along those lines.  Yes.  That would be heavenly.  What would your super powers be?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Death by Wednesday

I think Wednesday may kill me.

I'm not exaggerating.
Okay, maybe a little...but not much.

I found out several years ago that sometimes the biggest struggle with homeschooling is actually, well, staying home.  Especially with a big family, there's always something that needs to be done, something that needs to be purchased somewhere, and someone who wants to be involved in something somewhere else.  And since we live in the middle of nowhere, every something that's somewhere else takes a whole lot of time.  Now try saying that five times fast.

Each week, we have one day that loses a big chunk to our therapist, who is one of those "somewhere elses" that is super far away.  About every other Friday, we have another day that we lose to our church homeschool group, either for a meeting or for a field trip.  Since we're already losing an average of a whole day each week, and with a million other things that we either need to accomplish in a week or want to be involved in, I had to come up with some sort of plan to prevent running around town incessantly, so we would actually be at home sometimes.  You know, to homeschool.

So, I came up with the Wednesday Plan. 

The Wednesday Plan is really quite simple in design. 
Simply ask yourself, "Can it be accomplished on Wednesday?" 

Is the answer yes?  Cool.  Let's do it. 
Is the answer no?  Bummer.  Not a chance.

Band on Wednesday morning?  You bet!
Gymnastics on Wednesday morning?  Sure!
Choir?  On Wednesday?  Certainly!
Ballet?  What?!  On Thursday?!  Sorry, girls!
How about color guard instead?  Wednesday afternoon!
Doctor appointments?  Dentist?  Portraits?  We can squeeze those in, too...somewhere between band, choir, gymnastics, color guard and church.  I've got a few hours off! 
Grocery shopping...every week!
Clothes shopping....definitely!
Visit Great Grandma?  Sure...we can throw that in sometimes, too.
Church fellowship dinner is a must.
Then children's choir.
And children's church.
Then a quick trip to the craft store, or a stop for gas on the way home.

Into the car seats, out of the car seats, into the car seats, out of the car seats *twitch*, into the car seats, out of the car seats *emergency diaper change*, into the car seats *twitch, twitch*, out of the car seats, into the car seats, out of the car seats...

Into the driveway.
Into the house.
Groceries into the house.
Groceries into the pantry.
Children into pajamas.
Children into bed.
Complain about Wednesday on blog.


Yes.  I think Wednesday may kill me.

Monday, March 24, 2014


You know that child your mother cursed you with when you were younger? 

You know the one I'm talking about; the one God, with shaking head and knowing smile, set aside for you in heaven on the day your finally-ran-out-of-patience mom first spouted the words: "Someday, I hope you have a child who does _________, just like you've done _________to me all these years!"

Yeah.  That child.  He just turned three.

Until I had this child, I thought the one before him was like me.  And he is.  Kinda.  That little boy has a big personality and has emotions (and an occasional temper) as deep and torrential as oceans, just like his Mama.  But this little boy is something else entirely. 

My three-year-old son is me in a small male body.

Decisive. Argumentative.
Creative. Musical. Entertaining.
Rarely afraid of conflict, self-assured.
Daring. Boundary-pushing. 
Happy, content.

We are strong personalities,
my little clone and I.

A few months ago, this little bundle of personality went through a rough patch with his behavior.  Unfortunately for him, after mothering RAD kids, there is virtually nothing he can do that will phase his Mama, even when he really, really wants to.  Believe me...he's tried, but I've pretty much seen it all and am alarmed by very few "normal" child behaviors.  Sometimes I feel bad for the poor little guy; he gives it his best, but when even the most impressive of toddler tantrums earns a cheerful "Let me know when you're done!" from the one person you're trying to get a rise out of, it puts an oppositional toddler in a tough spot.

So Mr. K started getting naughtier, and naughtier and naughtier.  

And I made a big mistake.  I started telling him he was naughty.

I may have said
                                 "Don't be naughty."    "You're being naughty."   
          "That's naughty!"  "Don't be a naughty boy!"

But he heard:
                 "I'm naughty."  "I'm naughty."   "I'm naughty."
                                "I'm naughty."   "I'm naughty."

It's been my experience that a child will meet your expectations.  They internalize the things you say about them, and then rise or fall to that standard.  I know this.  I've learned this in the past.  And yet, I still spent weeks unintentionally programming my little son to think of himself as "naughty."  And guess what?  He kept getting naughtier.

One day in January, I picked Mr. K up when he was misbehaving, and I said something like "Don't do that, you're a nice boy."  He looked me right in the eye and said, "No, I'm not!  I'm a naughty boy!"  He insisted he was naughty so many times in the following days that I couldn't overlook the fact that he was using my words to describe himself.  He was becoming who I told him he was!

I've made a few changes in how I discipline my son.  I don't allow his "naughtiness" to go unnoticed (or unpunished, when needed), but I've changed my words and softened them with hugs.  For example, when Mr. K grabs his toy out of the baby's hands, making him cry, I don't tell him he's being naughty.  Instead, I say something like "Oh! Poor baby, he wants to play with your toys, too!  What can you find to share with him?  You're a good sharer."  Admittedly, my obstinate toddler stared at me peculiarly when I first tried this, but he's starting to internalize that he's a "good sharer", and has started sharing on his own.  Now, when he tries to take something from the baby, I just remind him what a good sharer he is, and he usually gives it right back.  His behavior has changed by leaps and bounds, and while he's still a handful, it's obvious he feels better about himself because he's learning he's a "nice boy", a "sweet boy", and a "good sharer."  He's a different child than he was when he thought he was "naughty."

We have a tough job, us parents.  The words we choose are the words that our children will use to define themselves, and when I think of all the words I use with my own kids in an average day, it terrifies me.  Who do they believe they are, deep down?  Lazy?  Unmotivated?  Mean?  Messy?  Argumentative?  Irresponsible?  What do they hear me saying when I tell them they asked a silly question, or point out that they're being irrational?  When I tell them to act their age?

I don't want my thoughtless words to dictate who my children will be; I want my kids to believe that they are capable, fun, helpful, nice, intelligent, motivated, responsible, empowered children of God. 

I have some work to do.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  James 3:9-10