Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Being a Supermom

              Something interesting happened at our recent Thanksgiving family get-together. Actually, let me back up a little. A few weeks ago, my cousin Meg had a baby. My mom called me and asked if she could pay me to make a baby gift for her. I suggested a baby quilt- an easy design- and we agreed on it. I was planning on making a baby quilt for my own upcoming baby, so I figured it’s not much more work to cut out squares for 2 quilts than one, right? Haha!  So anyway, that’s what I did, and that brings us back to Thanksgiving.

                After receiving the quilt, my cousin was talking to me about it and she casually asked, “How do you do it all? You must be one of those supermoms!” To which I’m pretty sure I gave her one of my famous cocked-head quizzical expressions that I inherited from my mom… what in the world are you talking about?! I had to laugh. “Supermom” is so far from how I think of myself- in fact, I’m sure you can relate, but I’m probably much harder on myself than I need to be. But after thinking about it for a while, I thought I’d share The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Being a Supermom!

                So in case you didn’t know me, here are some things that might trick you into believing I’m a supermom:

1)      I have two, soon-to-be-three, preschoolers. All of them are super-cute, well-dressed and groomed, and typically well-behaved. And smart!

2)      I work part time. At least for a few more weeks.

3)      I coordinate our local MOPS group (though really, not very well. But that’s a different post!).

4)      I’m crafty. I’m a glue-gun wielding, sewing machine operating, knitting fanatic. We even have a spinning wheel in our bedroom, how many people can say that? :-P

5)      We eat real food, made from real ingredients.

So what’s the secret to doing it all?!? Keep reading, dear friend, and I’ll provide you with some fantastic shortcuts and easy-way-outs.

1)      Don’t clean your house. Oh, I try to keep it to the standard of “clean enough so no one gets sick,” which generally entails no food lying around, no rodents in the house, bathroom hardware disinfected, and no visible mold or mildew. But the rest- nope. If you drop by our house unannounced you will see toys on the floor, fingerprints on the windows, dishes in the sink and probably a pile or two of laundry that needs folded (which, if you drop by unannounced, feel free to fold some of that laundry!)

2)      Have enough clothes for yourself and your kids that you only have to do laundry every 3-4 weeks. You think I’m kidding? Take another look at that giant pile of laundry over there- and then start folding!

3)      Teach your kids to do things for themselves. Both of my kids can get their own snacks, use the bathroom themselves, dress themselves, etc. Sure, it may not be perfect- but we’re not aiming for perfection here. It also helps that my daughter seems to have a natural eye for what matches and looks good together, and she helps her little brother get dressed.

4)      Rely heavily on other’s natural abilities and willingness to help. Like my husband, for instance… he makes dinner every night. He’s really good at it and it gives me an extra hour or two in the evenings to devote to supermom-dome (i.e. my sewing machine). And my MOPS steering team- if it weren’t for all of them, our MOPS group would go to pot pretty quickly.

5)      Don’t actually bathe your kids. Oh sure, I stick them in the bathtub almost every night. But real soap and shampoo… that’s a once-a-week indulgence. And the amazing thing is… they never look dirty! Water actually does a really great job of getting kids clean. Then I can devote that extra 10 minutes a night I would spend washing them to another row or two on my current knitting project.

6)      Make lists for everything. Then lose the list in the chaos of paper that’s taking over the dining room table. Try to remember what’s on the list, then realize you weren’t going to get it all done anyway and forget about it. Pick up your knitting project instead.

7)      Take an antidepressant. It curbs that I’m always going crazy! feeling that comes with being a supermom.

       Okay, obviously I realize that this list is totally lame. I’m not a supermom in the least. I’m late to everything, my house is a wreck, half of the time I feel like I’m losing my mind and I half-ass all my commitments. But I do love my kids, I try to provide a rich learning environment for them, and I make pretty things. I’m okay with that. The true secret is making time for the things you enjoy, which is really no secret at all. We all do it. I am creative because it makes me happy and it breathes life into my soul.

        Wait, did I tell you about my cousin Meg? She’s an amazing artist and a beautiful, patient, and caring mama to two preschoolers, one of which is a newborn with special health needs. She lives across the world from her family- in Hungary- to minister to Hungarian people. She is raising her kids to be bilingual, and is bilingual herself. Not something I could do… but I’m guessing she does it because it makes her happy and it breathes life into her soul. To me, she’s a supermom.

        There are so many incredible women I see taking care of their homes and families- and so much better than I- while still taking time for themselves and their passions. It always inspires me. It was kind of amazing to think that I might actually stir up that kind of inspiration in another person. *NOT* that I plan to think too much about it... afterall, I just have to remember how late I was to work this morning, or how I had to eat easy-mac because I haven't been to the grocery store in 3 weeks... to bring me back down to earth. ;)

      I would encourage you, though- If there is a woman in your life that you see doing a good (or good enough) job at whatever it is she does... tell her. Tell her you admire her and ask her how she "does it all." It will make her day! We all need to feel like a supermom every now and then. As for me... I'm just going to pretend that this maternity shirt is a cape and wear my label proudly!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Little People.


I know it's been forever since I've blogged. I wish I felt more motivated to keep up with it, but I just don't right now. And I know that's okay.

I've had an idea of a post running through my head lately, so I'll try it now. I've been thinking about how different my kids are from each other, and I thought it would be fun to talk about it here. A nice, light-hearted post, if you will.

Annabel, my dear firstborn, all of 5 years old, is so  much like me in many ways. Quite possibly an INFP (Myers-Briggs Personality Type if you're unfamiliar) just like her mama, which is summarized as thus:

"Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened."

My Annabel, sensitive and thoughtful, flexible and easy-going, full of big ideas and plans. She LOVES to make friends, is loyal to the friends she's made- even if she hasn't seen them in a very long time. My girl loves to read, and can often memorize a book after reading it 2 or 3 times. She loves any kind of story about kids or animals, and some of her more recent favorites are Winnie the Pooh (classic stories), Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. She is full of questions about the bigger picture of life- relationships, people who are hurting, her future, her body, rules of the house, of science and of nature, and of course God, heaven and religion in general.

Annabel likes to play outside with her dog, taking him on walks through the yard and trying to get him to eat vegetables out of the garden. She also loves to ride her bike up and down the sidewalk. But really, if I'm honest, she is much more of an "indoor" girl. She can sit on the couch for hours reading or watching a movie, or drawing in her journal. She LOVES to spend time with adults- she enjoys the conversation and often interrupts to ask for details of what we're talking about. :)

She is truly my "easy" child. She understands what is expected of her and (generally) does it without a fight. She understands natural consequences. She appreciates (and demands!) respect, and her biggests upsets are when she feels she's been treated unfairly or has been misunderstood. She fights HARD for justice in her little world. However, she's a people-pleaser, and is often the first to back down in a fight, just to keep the peace.

My dear girl connects with physical touch, and just melts into you if you let her. She loves to snuggle up and be read to, and she wants to hold hands all the time. Her need for physical affection can be too much for me at times, and I really have to remind myself that this is her primary love language right now.

Now on to Asher. :) Asher is so different from me, so it's a little harder for me to describe him. I see a lot more of Derek in him... which makes me wonder what Derek was like as a little kid. I also feel like I see a little of my dad in him as well, and maybe some Gareth too. Words that come to mind when I think of Asher are wild, goofy, crazy, loud, naked, determined, stubborn, and mischevious.

He is a super funny little guy. His facial expressions are priceless, whether he is rolling his eyes at something or giving his "goofy" look... he always makes me laugh. He already makes jokes about things, and loves to "trick" people. He is as extroverted and out going as a kid can be. He loves going places where there will be lots of people and noise- so large-group worship at church, preschool, and the children's museum are some of his favorite places. Both kids fight over who gets to go to the store with me or Derek, but while for Annabel it's because she just adores the one-on-one quality time, Asher thrives on just getting out of the house and seeing new places and faces.

We call Asher our "big feeling" kid. None of his emotions are mildly expressed- he's either wildly excited, enthralled, heartbroken, or furious. Sometimes I feel like Annabel and I both tiptoe around him, because we're both the type that don't really enjoy big confrontations or displays of emotion, but luckily Derek seems better suited to understand and meet him at his emotional level. That's not saying that Derek handles his fits very well, ;) but he seems to understand better what it's like to feel that strongly.

I hate using terms like "stubborn" or "strong-willed," because I feel like they have such a negative connotation in today's society (thank you, James Dobson!). But truly, I have never met a child with a stronger resolve or more determined personality than my son. When he sets his mind to something he wants, Lord help us if he doesn't get it. This is probably one of the areas in which he butt heads the most- and I have such a difficult time finding the balance between nurturing his independence and then just feeling like I'm "giving in." Obviously, he has to learn the tough lesson that we can't always get what we want in life, but then I also feel that there are so many opportunities life gives us to learn this without me forcing it on him. If there is anything Asher is teaching me, it is that being a (good) parent requires humbling myself and a constant reevaluation of my own heart and motives.

One thing that sets Asher apart from everyone else in our family is that he is always naked. :) Lord knows I try to keep clothes on this child, but it is just futile. We compromise and I tell him he needs to wear at least underwear- and he seems okay with this (most of the time!).

Asher is always active, always moving. His favorite games are rolling cars and tractors and making a huge CRASH! He also climbs and jumps from any surface he can get to- his high chair, the back of the couch, the top of the porch. His energy is boundless. He requires very little sleep and has a really hard time falling asleep. Lately, though, he's been sleeping all night (most nights), which has been a HUGE blessing to me. One thing I love about Asher is that even though he seems so "boy" in so many ways, he really loves playing with baby dolls and dress up clothes, and always wants his hair in pig tails or his fingernails painted. Anything that has to do with pretending!

Unlike his sister, he's not a huge physical touch guy. A few months ago he decided he hated kisses of any kind. If I kiss him, he says "blech!" and wipes it off. If I ask him really nicely he might kiss me on the cheek, but I am not allowed to kiss him at all. The most physical touch he asks for is to hold my hand while he falls asleep at night. Unless, of course, that physical touch involves wrestling, tickling or rough-housing in any way, then he's all over it. ;-)

One thing that makes Asher "easier" than his sister is that he will eat anything! He is not picky in the least, and his appetite is astonishing. He is SO SKINNY, yet he just eats and eats. The only thing he decidedly does NOT like is nuts of any kind. He also lets me dress him in anything I want, which is a nice change from his sister! Little boy clothes are just. so. cute. - Plaid button ups, sweater vests, strategically-ripped jeans... :swoon:

I'm not sure what Asher's primary love language is, but he seems to connect best when we're playing some kind of game- hide and seek or crashing cars together. Would that be quality time? He also loves to be read to, as long as the books are short and silly. :)

Anyway, that's all I've got for now, thanks for reading along! I'll try to update again soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Birthdays, Swimming, and Zucchini Recipes!

Happy July! We have been having such a great summer so far, with lots of swimming and playing outside! We had Asher's pirate birthday party a few weeks ago and it was so much fun, complete with a treasure hunt and walking the plank! But the best part of summer is the complete lack of anything pressing... no early mornings, no lunch boxes to pack or permission slips to sign.... just us and endless possibilities. :)

Another fun thing this summer, Asher has basically potty trained himself (with a little help from sissy :)! I couldn't believe it! I thought he might be more difficult, but I should have known better. This is my child that can't stand the feel of anything wet or messy on his skin, so it shouldn't surprise me. But one morning I put his new big boy undies on him, he peed in them twice, and then decided he would go in the potty, haha! Now he both pees and poops and is so, so proud of himself. :) What a smart little sweetie!

Annabel is swimming! We had "swim camp" earlier this summer (our neighbor's 5yo granddaughter was here for a week, so we went over there every day and swam for 4-5 hrs each day) and by the end of the week both girls were jumping in without any floaties and were doggy-paddling around the pool! Asher has been going off the diving board since the beginning of swim season, but Annabel just went off for the first time yesterday- boy, was she proud of herself! Now she won't stay off! And she loves to do "belly slops," lol.

In addition to our big garden out at camp, we have three raised beds in our backyard. Our strawberries did really poorly this year, but the pickling cucumbers and squash and zucchini have all done really well! We also got some broccoli and peas earlier in June, but we didn't end up doing much with them. I'm not sure why we even plant broccoli, nobody really likes it! But oh, the zucchini. That humble, hard working vegetable of late June... how I love it. I love it breaded and fried, roasted, grilled, in casseroles, and in yummy breads and pies... the list goes on. Anyway, I wanted to post two of my favorite recipes for zucchini and squash this summer. The first recipe is courtesy of my friend Jennifer from church, but the second one is all mine. I hope you will enjoy them as much as we have!

Zucchini Quiche
1 c. corn muffin mix
3 c. sliced zucchini/yellow squash
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/3 c. veg. oil
4 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. cream (or half and half)
1 Tbsp. dill weed

Mix all ingredients together and pour into pie pan. Bake at 350 for 45 min. or until set.

Summer Vegetable Alfredo
1 zucchini, chopped in bite-size pieces
1 summer squash, chopped
1 c. chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (or to taste- we love garlic!)
6-8 rashers bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
Enough pasta to feed your family (I recommend shells, fettucini or angel hair)
1/2 c.-1 c. cream
1 c. freshly shaved or shredded parmesan (NOT that powdery stuff!)
salt and pepper
Additional seasonings of your choice- I use one called "Bombay Vegetable Blend" by Tastefully Simple that is kind of like a curry seasoning- it's amazing.

Use your biggest skillet- preferably cast iron- and saute up the bacon and vegetables, until bacon is done and veg's are tender. This will take about 15-20 min. You may need to add some of the pasta water and cover so that the veg's steam, if they aren't getting done fast enough. Meanwhile, start your water boiling in a separate pot. Add pasta and cook until done; drain. Return pasta to the hot pot. Add enough cream to generously coat the pasta. Add your parmesan and salt/pepper. Stir until cheese is melted. **(Look! You just made alfredo sauce from scratch! Wasn't that easy?!)** Add the pasta to the vegetable blend in the skillet. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add more cream. The sauce will thicken a bit upon standing. Serve and enjoy the quiet that a good pasta dish brings to your family- because everyone's mouth is too full to make any noise!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recipe for Leek, Garlic and Bacon Soup

Roasted Leek, Garlic and Bacon Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
20g butter (I have no idea how much this is...)
2 rashers bacon, chopped
3 leeks, chopped and washed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
2 zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock (I used turkey broth)
1/3 cup cream
1/4 c. finely chopped parsley
2 rashers bacon, to serve (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 315*. Heat the oil and butter in a large roasting pan. Add the bacon and stir over medium heat for 1-2 min. Add the leek, garlic, celery, zucchini, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, without allowing to brown. 

2. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and roast the vegetables and bacon for 40 min., turning a couple of times. Cover with foil is starting to brown. Transfer to a large pan, pour on the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min. Cool slightly, strain and return the liquid to the pan. Remove the bay leaves.

3. Put the vegetables and bacon in a food processor with a ladleful of the liquid and process until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary. Return the puree to the pan with the liquid and add some pepper, the cream and parsley. Reheat gently. 

4. To make the bacon garnish, trim of excess fat and fry until crispy. Drain off grease, then crumble and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4-6. Prep time: 30 min. Total cooking time: 1 hour 30 min. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A thought on.... SUMMER!

Yay, summer is upon us! I worked my last day last Wednesday, and the kids' last days of preschool is tomorrow. For awhile I had contemplated finding some kind of job to keep me busy this summer.... but naaaaah. Who wants to work when there are bike rides to take, beaches to visit, pools to jump in, and cookouts to be had?! :-D

For the duration of the summer (so until Labor Day) this blog will take a much lighter feel. I do most (all) of my writing in my down time at work, where its nice and quiet, and I have both my book and online journal library at my fingertips. Writing at home feels almost impossible! (Not to mention not very enjoyable.) But I do want to keep up with my blog so I've been thinking about what to write about that is both interesting and easy. I know... food!

I am so very blessed with an amazing, talented husband that cooks for us (almost) every night. This man gets up at 5:30 every morning to go to his first job of the day, continues to work 8-5, then comes home and whips up something amazing for his family. THEN he helps with cleanup and baths, and almost every night falls asleep while reading to Annabel. ♥ And I'll be completely honest... he doesn't even complain about it. I actually have tears in my eyes while I'm writing this because I know just how lucky I am. It is humbling to be loved so very much.

So anyway, the point of that is, while I'm home this summer I want to make HIM the lucky one. I want to have dinner at least started when he gets home, so he can just relax, or work in his garage, or play with the kids, or WHATEVER. It will be challenging me for me. I'm tired, a LOT (did I forget to mention I'm currently incubating baby #3??). I'm not confident in the kitchen and I get overwhelmed easily. Even just the thought of cooking dinner kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball under the table, lol! But darn it, with the help of Regina Spektor, the Pioneer Woman, and an awesome apron, I'm going to do it! I've gotten pretty good at making a meal plan the past several months, so this time I tailored it to fit my cooking abilities. Mostly the means soups, because soup is one of the things I enjoy making and feel like I'm halfway decent at. It will also mean a lot of vegetarian meals, because I don't cook meat (except bacon, lol). So, by writing about it on this blog, hopefully I will stay accountable and stay with it!

Tonight the plan is for a leek, garlic and bacon soup. It looks really yummy, so I'm excited to see how it turns out! If it is good, I'll take some pics and post the recipe! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Thought on Sensory Play

Sensory play is something that’s been on my mind lately. Probably due to the long Indiana winters and most recently this chilly spring. I know I should complain about 50 degrees, but really, people… BRRR! I’ll be honest and say that you probably won’t catch me outside recreationally until it hits at LEAST 65… and then it’s a gamble. ;) Annabel is good about bundling up and going out by herself, but Ash just isn’t there yet.
So, while we’re stuck inside (“stuck” being used loosely, of course!), I am always trying to come up with things to stimulate and entertain the kids. TV is such an easy fallback, but I try to stay away from that option as much as possible.
So why is sensory play important? Because kids- especially preschoolers- learn primary through their senses. Anyone with a toddler or preschooler knows that you can tell them something a  million times, and it may or may not stick. They just aren’t developmentally at the point of being able to learn (effectively) by being told something. That’s why modeling good behavior is so important- but that’s a different post. ;) However, if you take the time to teach through the senses- allowing them to touch, smell, see, etc… -and involving as many of the senses as possible- they are much more likely to remember the lesson! This is one of the reasons I love the Montessori method of teaching so much- it is very hands-on and sensory-focused. Think flashcards with the numbers and letters in sandpaper so the kids can feel the letter- rather than just seeing it (just one example). Sensory play is very calming and therapeutic for kids as well- many physical, occupational and mental health therapists use sensory play when working with autistic, learning disabled kids, or other special needs kids, or kids who have been through a trauma. But neurotypical children enjoy sensory play just as much, I guarantee!
Side note- we also try to involve the senses in our discipline of the children as much as possible. For example, if I tell Asher he needs to touch the kitty gently, I take his hand and show him what a gentle touch actually is. Several times. When I tell him he may not touch something, I reinforce this by physically taking his hand and walking him away from the object. But again, another post!
This brings me back to my original post- indoor sensory play. Recently I made a “bean box” for the kids. I took a small clear tub and filled it with black beans and Great Northern beans (so black and white). Then I put in other fun sensory objects- purple feathers, a spiky ball that flashes, a sand timer, little animals, pipe cleaners, shells, etc. And of course things to scoop and pour- measuring cups, funnels and bowls. The only rule about the box is- ‘beans stay in the box or the box goes bye-bye.’ Even Asher understands the rule and is awesome at picking up what he spills. And I don’t mind spills- I mind dumping and throwing! Its fun to see how they play differently with the box. While Asher generally just digs and pours, and loves to find the little treasures, Annabel is more likely to put all the beans in one long line across the floor (which I allow b/c she picks them up!) or sorts them by black or white. Our bean box is kept up high and only comes out at certain occasions- like when I’m trying to make supper or I have one kid by themself. (another tip- they play much better in the bean box when they’re alone- otherwise it generally ends in a bean fight **sigh**).
Another thing I’ve made recently – and this is an outdoor activity for us!- is a water table. I used a long flat tub and our wagon- VERY simple and mobile! The water table has sponges, nesting cups, mini water guns, floating dolphins that make different tunes when you bop them on the head, and water flutes. Oh- and of course a funnel! We fill it from the hose, but sometimes I boil water in the kettle and pour it slowly in so they can feel the water go from cold to warm. And sometimes I make ice cubes out of colored water for them to play with in it. Kids love water play so much, and this is a great way to keep it contained and use limited water (as opposed to filling up the kiddy pool).
This week I gave them each a pie tin filled with a shallow layer of baking soda. I gave each of them a dropper and a small cup of vinegar. They were enthralled! Annabel kept telling people she “did a science experiment!” Along the same lines, I had a bunch of those little “bath bombs,” so we’ve been using them in the bath occasionally- Asher was freaked out at first, but they eventually both loved holding the fizzing bar and feeling it tickle their fingers!
The bath is a GREAT place for sensory play. Some of our long winter afternoons were spent in the bathtub- with no water! The tub is a great place for finger painting and shaving cream painting- it rinses right away! Both kids love to paint their entire naked bodies like little tribal warriors. J
Other ideas for indoor sensory play- homemade “gak”- which is made from a mixture of Elmer’s glue and borax (or corn starch) and food coloring if you want. I haven’t done this yet, b/c it will definitely be an outdoor project at our house! Also, edible playdough (google recipes), finger painting with pudding, cotton balls soaked with essential oils and put in cheapo salt shakers (they can find the matches!), anything with glow sticks (think in the bath with the lights out!), indoor hammocks, a large tub filled with Easter grass (most places have it on clearance right now!), and so many others. If you are wary of the mess some of these things cause, buy each of your kids a mini broom and dustpan combo, and write their names on them. If you make it a routine, they will enjoy the cleanup (almost) as much as the play itself. I only have one mini broom/dust pan, and I swear to you that they fight over it every time. IKEA has really cute, affordable ones.
Of course, being outside is the ultimate sensory play. We only have 1/10 of an acre, but even our backyard satisfies so many of the senses. I’m thinking… soft green grass to feel on bare feet. Spiky, fragrant pine needles. Trees to climb in and hang from. Loose dirt in the garden to dig through (and the occasional earth worm to dig up!) and flowers in the garden to feel and smell (and eat…). Vegetables in the garden to feel and smell (and eat…). The sand box with its endless possibilities. The spigot and dog’s water bowls to get wet in. The rough concrete to draw on and feel on your skin. The lovely, fragrant dog poop, lol!
There are so many ideas on Pinterest or if you google “sensory play.” Your children will love it and you will get 30-40 minutes to do the dishes in peace (or whatever floats your boat!). Leave in the comments what you have done sensory-wise with your kids and what they liked or disliked… I’m always looking for new ideas!

Pssst…. I will add some pictures to this post once I’m home tonight….

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Thought on Positive Intent

Since this was an idea I mentioned in my initial post, I thought I’d take a moment to elaborate on it a bit. The idea of assigning positive intent was one that I stumbled on about 3 years ago… and there has been little in my life that has caused such a paradigm shift- especially as it pertains to parenting- as this idea. It has changed the way I relate to my adult friends and acquaintances, it has changed my attitude about life in general, and it has most definitely changed the way I think about raising and discipling my children. Since this wasn’t (and still isn’t!) something that comes naturally to me, I have to assume that it doesn’t come naturally to many. 
Put simply, assigning positive intent means to assume a person’s intentions in a situation are positive rather than negative. It gives people the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are loving or kind, rather than malicious, hurtful or manipulative. For example, if I’m in group supervision at work, and my boss makes the comment in front of everyone, “Well I think we all know what Lynsey would do in that situation…” I can choose to take this several different ways. I can choose to believe he doesn’t respect my judgement and ability to handle situations, and that he is deliberately shaming me in front of my coworkers, or I can choose to believe that he finds my quirky way of handling situations to be creative and inspired, and that if he really had a problem with it he would tell me in private. 
I’m not talking about making excuses for toxic people. Nope. We all have them in our lives, and they are what they are. I’m talking about those people that have done nothing to force your judgment- including (but not limited to) your children. And even when someone’s intentions are negative, it keeps me (or you) on the positive side of things, which will always be a healthier choice. When I choose to assign positive intent, I am treating someone with the grace that I would hope to be treated with. I am taking the time to be conscious of my thoughts and how they affect me.  And I am acting in a way that I feel Jesus expects me to act.
I want to add the caveat that assigning positive intent does not mean that I intentionally deceive myself and live in a la-la-land of rainbows and unicorns. It means rather that I try to overcome my natural inclination to jump to a negative conclusion of motive based on my initial perception. It’s looking at all the possible explanations of a situation and choosing the best from my limited information. Sometimes I will be wrong and that’s okay. At least my conscious will be clear that I did the best with what I had to work with at the time. And I will not have judged someone unfairly or harshly if and when their motives are good. 
So how does this relate to children and parenting? Okay, bear with me. It means that every day I choose to believe that my children are behaving a certain way for a reason. I assume that Asher is crying because he is trying to communicate with me, rather than manipulate me or make things more difficult for me. I assume that Annabel is acting out-of-control because she is hungry and overstimulated, rather than out of defiance. (These are simple examples, and don’t cover the broad spectrum of reasons I believe children cry or act out of control). I research what is normal and expected for each age/stage that my children are in, and choose to assume that this stage will pass. 
Does this mean that I excuse bad behavior?- absolutely not! There is a high standard of behavior in our home, and I expect- and actively help- my children to meet these standards. But because my assumptions are positive rather than negative, my feelings toward them remain loving and positive rather than turmoiled and angry. I respond to them out of a desire to teach, rather than to punish. 
I also truly feel that assigning positive intent to our kids gives them the motivation to actually behave better in future interactions. I’ll tell you what I mean by that- if Annabel hits her brother, and I respond to the situation with the belief that she is a kind person, but is acting out of a desire to protect her belongings, while understanding that at this age she lacks the impulse control to stop herself 100% of the time, my response will encourage her to be kind in the future. Because if instead, I act from the belief that she is being selfish and hurtful, she will internalize those labels. Even if I don’t say them to her, my tone and attitude will convey that to her, and eventually she will start to believe those things about herself. People who believe they are kind, or good, or helpful, will act in those ways, as will people who believe they are bad, selfish, or hateful. If I believe good things about my children, and take the time to convey those beliefs to them, they will be more likely to internalize positive labels about themselves. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. 
In practicality this might look like me saying, “Annabel, I understand that you are mad that your brother took your toy. You are afraid you might not get it back so you hit him. Hitting hurts, and you may not hit your brother. Instead of hitting, you can say, ‘this is my toy, you can play with this ball.’” In this interaction I have assigned positive intent (she’s not hitting because she wants to hurt her brother), I have empathized with the emotion I saw (she’s mad. I know what that feels like) and validated that it’s okay to feel angry. I have restated our boundary (it’s not appropriate to hit to get what you want), and used the situation to teach (telling her what to do instead). I am teaching them both a life skill -conflict resolution- that they will rely on for the rest of their lives. In her book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, Becky Bailey states, “When you attribute positive motives to your child’s behavior, you position yourself to teach, and your child to learn. You model the value of cooperation” (p. 152). (She has an entire chapter of this book devoted to using positive intent to turn resistance into cooperation. It is excellent.)
Finally, I assign positive intent because this is the example I see in the Bible, over and over. Scripture says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9), and “Do not judge, or you too will be judged… and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt 7:1-2). And of course, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). I can’t think of an example in which jumping to a negative conclusion was a helpful in Scripture. 
 I’ll leave you with the words of my friend Allison, who puts it beautifully, "Satan is a thief, but he can not take what we don't give him. Assignation of Positive Intent with our families, friends and community is a skill worth spending the time in prayer to develop, because it makes our time together so much more worthwhile."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Want to see what I've been up to?

So last week my mom called and demanded- ahem- I mean offered to take the kiddos for the weekend. Not one to look a gift horse  in the mouth, I had to agree. :) I don't usually look for opportunities to be away from the children- I actually kind of enjoy them- but it's also nice to get some stuff done around here without 10,000 interruptions and distractions!  

The first thing I wanted to do stock the freezer with goodies for Annabel's lunchbox. Her school requires her to take a lunch each day, which is great in theory until I'm already 5 minutes late for work and still have a pb&j to make. So I made- and froze- homemade lunchables, a stack of homemade "uncrustables" (pb&j's without the crust), and 2 quiche (Annabel's favorite!). Oh yes, and homemade fruit roll-ups.

From this:

Yummy vegetable goodness for the quiche- sometimes the only way to get them to eat it!
to this:

to this! Individually wrapped and ready for the freezer!

the fruit roll-ups were a little disappointing. They look like bacon roll-ups if you ask me.

 The next day of (blissful) solitude was spent making a month's meal plan and grocery list. Then grocery shopping. Then starting/prepping and freezing several of the meals. Ok- now I realize why I never do this when the kids are here- because it takes all day!! And it's exhausting!
I know I'll be thrilled to come home from work in the next few weeks and know exactly what's for dinner and be able to pull out the already-cooked meat and already-prepped veggies! 

The third day was a little more "fun" as I worked on stocking up my etsy shop. Here are some sneak previews of upcoming listings...

It looks wonky but it's just the way I have it on the hanger!

this one is actually for Annabel, but will also be offered as a custom.  She picked out all the fabric herself! :)

In addition to all this, Derek and I managed to get sushi with some friends, see Hunger Games in the theater, and do pizza and a movie in. It was nice. They are home now, but as Annabel said at dinner tonight, **big sigh** "I know this is my favorite supper, but I wish I was eating it with Grammy." I think they had a good time, too. ;)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dipping my toes back in??

I've been contemplating the idea of blogging again. I love to write, and there is so much to write about. So it makes sense, huh? But there's a dark side of blogging... which is a certain vulnerability that comes with putting yourself out there on the interwebs. A vulnerability that means you can see me but I can't see you. You know what I'm thinking- but I don't know how you take it, if your eyes narrow or if your mouth curls up, or if you shout to your husband/wife in the other room... "Hey, listen to this!" And I don't like feeling vulnerable (I mean, who does, right?!). I like the solitude and peacefulness of my quiet little corner of the world, with no prying eyes or judging hearts. Yet I'm too INFP to leave well enough alone and write only about the fluffy goings-on of life.

So why am I here? Well, as I stated above, I do love to write. I feel like I'm decent at it. Several people in the last few months have told me they miss my posts. And call me a narcissist, but I like that. I like thinking that maybe I've caused someone to think about a particular topic in a new way (a better way? Ha!)  and even if you don't agree that you've enjoyed my ramblings-on enough to tell me so.

So here's what I'm asking in return from you, reader. Share your thoughts (but please do so respectfully!). If you like my post, I would love to know. <3 And when you read, try your hardest to assign positive intent to my words. I promise that I rarely address a topic with a judgmental or bitter spirit, or without careful consideration of the words I am using. My intention in writing is not to make any reader feel guilty or attacked, but rather to make you think. That's never a bad thing, right?

So anyway, stay tuned. I'm in the process of updating and renewing this space and will attempt to post at least weekly. I doubt I'll post as much about the children and our every day lives as I used to, or post many pictures, since that's really what facebook is for (not that I've spent much time over there recently, either!). I hope that you will enjoy this blog, and that I will see you back here soon!