Monday, April 30, 2012

Go to sleep…Please.

I remember those years. I remember when the kids were little and feeling as if my life depended on them going to sleep. Because only when they were asleep could I be (partly) off duty. Bedtime was a time I looked forward to why couldn’t the kids?

I have to admit I was spoiled at first. My oldest son loved to sleep. I had to wake him up the first night home from the hospital in order to feed him. So bed time was no drama. And we enjoyed hanging out together anyway.

But #2 was a whole ‘nother story. As a newborn he would sleep…for 20 minutes at a stretch. With his fist coiled tightly in my hair. And his head on my shoulder. We went through some tough times for the first year or so. And the poor little guy was so unhappy. No wonder… he was exhausted.

That was when I realized the things that #1 and I did for enjoyment as we got ready for bedtime really were essential to help #2 fall asleep. Plus anything that is repeated and becomes a ritual is reassuring to kids. Children thrive on the assurance of knowing what is happening next because they have done the same thing every night. I began to think it through: The sun doesn’t just turn off like a light switch why should we expect our kids to? So here is the simple bedtime routine we used.

Everything in this routine pointed to downshifting. Life was getting slower and quieter on purpose. We sometimes watched a TV show together. One show which was preapproved and screened by mom. 
No rough and tumble wrestling with Dad. (That was done when they attacked him as he walked in the door.) Dad can be a huge help with this routine as long as you are both on the same page with the whole calming atmosphere idea. Sometimes dads can be vunerable to suggestions like pillow fights and racing up the stairs.

Having rough and tumble boys usually meant a bath was necessary before bed. But it also is a great means of relaxing, if you make it so. Warm water. Relaxing soapy head rubs. A big fluffy towel. And end with a lotion rub on little legs and shoulders, hands and feet.Then brush teeth and into their own beds.

But I had already made their room ready. Toys scooted out of sight. (My kids had to have a clutter free floor before nightfall because I always told them, If a fire fighter needs to come rescue you he shouldn’t have to walk on your Legos) Clean sheets and warm blankets turned down and ready. I had a dim light turned on so as not to use a harsh overhead light. Lights are getting progressively dimmer as they get closer to sleep. 

Then we would snuggle with our favorite books.
Invest in a collection of classic children’s books. Real paper books. No screens, just soft paper and the swish of turning pages.Use your best soothing voice and cuddle together with a story or two or three. I certainly can recommend some great night time reads.
Runaway Bunny  Margaret Wise Brown
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
The Beast in the Bathtub by Kathleen Stevens
Winnie the Pooh   by A.A.Milne (not the Disney version)
A Child’s Garden of Verse   Robert Louis Stevenson

A poll of my kids last week showed that all three named Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown as their #1 best remembered and favorite bedtime book. Every child should just be born equipped with their own copy as far as I am concerned.

Make sure the kids know how many are going to be read before you begin and stick to your guns about it. Even though this became my favorite part of the day and I could read all night we needed to have an end time.

When the books have been read, it is time for night time prayers. Even the littlest one can learn “Dear Jesus, I love you. Amen.” Use this time to begin to gently nudge them to a vibrant prayer life with their Heavenly Father. Take the time to talk about their prayer needs and encourage gratitude and worship as they talk to God. And don’t forget to pray for them as well. Your children need to hear you praying for them.

My oldest would then have me turn on music for him to fall asleep to (the child loved Motzart best) But the younger two liked stories. I highly recommend Adventures in Odyssey by Focus on the Family. They are amazingly well made Bible based stories done like old time radio dramas.  There is something dreamlike about having stories or good music floating around the room like a starry night.

Last is the tuck in and kiss. And leave the room. You are trusting them to learn how to fall asleep. And if the siblings talk a little, then that is a double bonus because whispers that mom cant hear help cement the love and trust between brothers and sisters.

Bedtime, can be your most treasured time of the day as the kids unwind and just enjoy cuddling and hanging out together. I urge you as tired as you are, don’t rush this tender sweet ritual, you will build a store of memories to hold onto forever.

links:  for Adventures in Odyssey info. They have podcasts and downloads avail here.

What is your routine? What has worked for you? Please share!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Brother's Keeper

So I am worried this morning about one of my kids. They are all teenage or older and I can’t boss them around like I enjoyed doing when they were younger. What to do? Easy. Call the oldest and get him to take care of it; have him call, text, question, probe and make sure everything is ok. Yes, I did say that and I did it. And the reason why it works is because I deliberately created a relationship between them when they were younger. They were taught how to care for each other. They were taught to love each other, when they were very young.

Intentional Parenting: Deliberately building relationships.
Why not? Why not be purposeful with your kids. Don’t just react and respond to whatever they bring in. Anticipate their life needs in a month, a year, a decade. You, as a parent will not always be there. One day it will be just the brothers and sisters working together to take care of the family. And before I had kids I thought I just didn’t want the nightmare you sometimes see when mom is gone and the adult kids are feuding.

Let me start at the beginning. We wanted to have a second child soon after number one was born. But God didn’t see it that way. (See for the back story) So we ended up with a 5 (almost six year old) and a newborn. When I was pregnant people would sigh and say
Oh, it’s too bad they are so far apart in age. They will never be close.

Hmmmph. The way I saw it I had been praying for our family for years and had left it in God’s hands; if He had given us baby #2 five years after #1 then I guess He could help them love each other. And I was going to do my part to see to it that they would. Intentionaly.

To start, the age gap became one of the many reasons we decided to homeschool kid #1. The first few weeks of homeschooling with a five week old baby (who never ever slept) were like living through the zombie apocalypse, but we made it. Homeschooling gave us so much more time to spend together. We were able to do things like  kid #1 helping to bathe his brother and feel his first teeth cutting through *ouch!*. And kid #2 got to learn how to pull up to the piano and tap the keys while #1 practiced over and over. I have a delightful video somewhere of #1 trying to eat corn on the cob with no front teeth and #2 happily gnawing away at it with all four of his teeth.
They loved each other. They were brothers.

Then three years later #3 came along. It was a whole lot harder getting two boys to accept a girl into their world, but we did it. They loved her, even if she was not named WonderWoman as #2 wanted to call her.  The boys looked after her. Later on she cleaned up after them. Kid #2 came and played doll house with her, even though his house had a skate park and was owned by Anikin Skywalker. The guys baked in the heat to watch her at her horse show. She tagged along to their concerts and competitions.

And all along I would say things to them like,
“He is your brother, work it out”
“She looks up to you, don’t blow that.”
“All I want is for the three of you to come together to take good care of me when Im old: or just pay for a maid.” (haha)

I look around and I see families where the kids are cut throat about getting something more than their sibling. They keep track of everything the other siblings get. It is like there is a tally sheet of mine and yours. (And if you give each one the exact same thing that will happen anyway.) Or, God forbid, the parents instigate it by doing more for one than the other. Or parents outright belittling one sibling to another. Playing power games inside a family will tear it apart.

Please, please don’t do this.
Remember this is your FAMILY. Your tribe. Your kin. They will be there when everyone else runs. They are your blood. And when more are brought into the family  either by adoption or marriage, your cup runneth over. Don’t forget: Children are your REWARD, your INHERITANCE, Your BLESSING from God Almighty.
Your family is your treasure.

Make every effort to encourage your kids to love their siblings. Be deliberate. Say things to them like:
Your brother loves you.
Your sister needs you.
Your brother thinks you are the smartest boy in the world.
Your sister wants to do everything you do.
You can help your sister better than even I can
Your brother will listen to you when he won’t listen to anyone else.

If you create an expectation of a close relationship then it will happen. If you set them up to depend on each other then they will.

Just think about this: If your children can’t love and support each other with loyalty, who can they be loyal to?
Be encouraged today to cultivate close sibling relationships in your family. Build up and expect your kids to love each other fiercely and protectively. If your family is a big, soft, safe place your children will always run home to be with each other.

(Note: This does not mean that they will not push each other down the stairs in a laundry basket when you are not home...hahahaha)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Just for Moms: Letting Go.

I was going through some old journals the other day. (You remember when we used to write our thoughts with a pen and paper) Some of the writing was poetry, some story ideas, but mostly it was to and about my children. My oldest is finishing college and mostly not living at home now so it was quite bittersweet when I came across this entry dated summer 1988, he was almost one year old and I was learning a lesson in letting go.

“Yesterday Schuyler was sitting, playing in his room and I was hopping from one task to the other, when I felt him tug on my jeans to get my attention. One of his favorite things to do is to have me hold both of his hands as he tiptoes a silly goose-step walk as far and as long as I will walk with him. I reached down as he grabbed on and away we went down the hallway. I glanced down and saw his chubby stubbornly clenched fists wrapped securely around my fingers. I realized as we marched along that he was barely leaning on me for support to balance himself as he walked. The farther we walked the more he was balancing and stepping on his own, but he would not let go of my hands.
‘Schuy-ler’, I teased,
Big light brown eyes and a bald head mischievously turned to look up at me.
‘You really don’t need me. You can let go and do this by yourself.’ I admonished him in a semi serious tone.
He responded with a babytooth grin and an excited laugh. Then he tightened his grip and walked on.
I tried to pry his fingers from mine but each time I tried he would stop walking, begin to sway and loose that confident strut.
A little frustrated, I tried again,
‘Schuyler, you really can do this. Sometimes Mommys need to let go.’
Suddenly what I said hit me like a ton of bricks. Pride at his obvious ability to achieve his goals and keep trying was battling with a fierce protectiveness which fed my ego saying, See, he still needs you…
But I knew in my heart this truth:
Schuyler 1989
Sometimes Mommys must let go. Even though a child may be unsure of his ability sometimes the best thing a mother can do is let go and say
You can do this without me.
You can do this without me.
You can do this without me.
You can do this without me.
I just want, my sweet boy to know that I felt, in his hands that day, his inner strength and ability to do so much. I saw all the challenges and adventures life would bring to him one day and I knew he would meet them and succeed. He would, by God’s grace, make it just fine without me.”

Wow. You can imagine how those words written 25 years ago challenged me today. Had I been true to letting go? Did I give him the freedom to try to do it on his own? Probably not as much as I should have. If I had it to do over I would certainly step back a little more. It is just so hard as a mom to always know when to save the day and when to let them brush themselves off and get up on their own. I had to begin right there by taking my hand away and letting him learn to walk on his own. Falls and bumps certainly came with the autonomy, but he learned and thrived without me.

Just when you think they don’t need you they are desperately calling for help just one more time. I do remember the times when I let the children struggle to complete a task. 
Finish recopying a paper late into the evening. 
Brushing off the dirt and getting back into the soccer game. 
Struggling with a new song on the piano.
 It was not easy to keep from stepping in and helping, but I knew they would gain so much more from the struggle than from being rescued by mom. It certainly isnt easy to watch them work so hard at something that we could fix so easily. But, I encourage you to love your kids deeply, and remember sometimes Mommys need to let go.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Healing Anna

About a year ago my sweet sister sent me this message. But first let me tell you about her. She is 10 years younger than me and is one of my heroes. She has lived with MS for years and still works full time, is raising two wonderful children with her husband, and taking care of our mom. She does this with a vibrant faith in God and an uplifting inspiring outlook on everything. This is what she wrote:

  “I have had a question that has been pulling at me for quite a few months now involving healing. you know my health issues. lately i have been feeling as if i am not putting my faith where it should rest. i have been feeling that God is telling me that i am to "step out of the boat" and have faith. problem is it is scary and other people think it is not right for me to stop what i am doing and just depend on God to heal. i am at a crossroads and i don't know what to do. Other people don’t understand my conflict  i am unsure if it is a real spiritual pull or a subconscious detesting of my health state. i know this message probably makes no sense but i just had to ask. love you. take it easy.”

And this was my answer:

  I am humbled that you asked me this. This is a big question. All I can do is tell you what God has done in my life and the truths I know about Him.
I dont know if you remember that I had extreme high blood pressure when I was 18. I was on medication to save my life for more than 6 years. I was on it the whole time I was pregnant with my oldest. I began asking the same questions you asked after the first year.
I had people tell me,
 “God can heal you.”  “You don’t need to be sick.” “You need to believe God will heal you.”

I was scared to death to think about living my life outside of what the doctors were telling me to do. (You have to remember I had had two major surgeries before I was 7 years old. Sickness and Doctors were a way of life. My body let me down all the time.) So finally in 1988 I prayed and prayed about being healed. I didn’t tell anyone, I just took my pill bottle as soon as I got it from the store and wrote across the label     PRAY. 

And I did, every time I took a pill (3x per day) I would take it with prayer, thanking God for healing me. After 2 years of that and lower and lower BP readings the doctor said you don’t need this anymore. So I stopped the pills in June of 1990 and have never needed them for high BP since.

(Please note that I did not stop taking my meds, I do not believe God has given us medical advancement for no reason, if the medicine is integral to the treatment of the illness then DO NOT stop taking it until you have talked to your doctor and are sure it is absolutely the right thing to do.)

Did God heal me?
Did my prayers have anything to do with it?

The Bible says in James 5: 14-16 " Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
So I guess the answer is yes, 
God did heal me, 
                          by my faithful prayers... 
                                                           by His great mercy.

I have had other times of healing in my family but I wont go into them all here. Suffice it to say God is faithful and good.
But, I also know of a couple who had a 3 year old little girl whom they prayed for over and over, who died. And a friend whose 5 year old son died of brain cancer. Another whose step dad was killed by a doctor's mistake during a common testing procedure.

Does that mean God is not faithful? 
Does that mean God is not good? 
Does God heal everyone? 
Why not?

I dont know.

So if I were to try to answer your question I would say this: It isn’t about you. 
As much as you want to be free of this, healing is about God's glory and power, not yours. I know you aren’t looking for either of those things (power or glory), but make 100% sure that you examine your heart before you pray these prayers of outlandish faith.

Can God heal you? Do you have the faith to believe that? 
What if He doesn't? 
What.  If.   He.   Does.   Not.

Does that mean you didn’t have enough faith, didn’t pray long, hard, properly, enough? That you aren't good enough, don’t deserve His healing? 
You have to ask yourself the hard questions here, because so much is at stake.

 Basically, what I am saying is this:
Is your relationship with Jesus strong enough that if He doesn’t heal you, you two are still in love?
And if He does heal you it wouldn't make any difference in your relationship either, because you are so in love?

Do you see what I mean? Healing and miracles are not about us, they are about Him, His glory, His power, His Sovereignty. After all, your body is only a costume you are wearing for a short time. He is much more concerned with your eternity than this mortal coil.

I have a friend whose healing I have been praying for, for over 20 years now. They struggle with depression, addictions. I have wept and pleaded. I see improvement some days, some days are nightmares. They take meds for some of this and their faith has been really beaten up through this struggle. But we keep believing and hoping and pressing on.

To be perfectly honest as I typed this I have been crying and pleading with God for your healing, sweet sister. I am reckless in my prayer for you, I have nothing to lose. It breaks me to think about what you have to go through. I want with all my heart to be bold and pray great sweeping healing change into your life. But I need to remember God loves you infinitely more than I do. He has this in control. He has you in the palm of His hand and He is working in you to make you more like Him.

I hope this helps. God knows I wish I could be there and look you in the eye and tell you this. I hope this message will do for now.
That is what I wrote her about a year ago.

Post Script: As of today Anna gave me this update,
“You should also know that as of December of last year I stopped taking the medication (only on thyroid meds and vitamins) and I feel 100% better. I have had very few minor symptoms and not one relapse. I am thanking God for everyday because without him, I would be miserable. You can quote me and yes, it is a God thing. Odds are I should have had a relapse by now and God has kept me going stronger than before. I have been helping teach Lent classes, Reya's ATG group, I have had the energy to stay up and hang out with Russell and I even went to DC all day for RJ's robotics expo, then we went to the air n space museum and then Ben's chili bowl and I wasn't relying heavily on caffeine to keep me alert.”

Did you catch that? It’s “a God thing…God has kept me going stronger than before”
To Him be the Glory. Thank you Lord.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Invaluable Cargo

Let me start out with a disclaimer, this one may be a little rough around the edges. 
I am royally pissed.

I was driving home listening to a Christian radio station and the DJ was talking about some of the companies who put out April Fool’s Day ads over the past weekend. I saw some and they were generally poking fun at their product, Chick-Fil-A did one on steak burgers and so on. But this woman points out that a Canadian Airlines had one about having “child free airplane flights”.
So I look up the video as soon as I get home. Sure enough there it is with almost 250,000 views less than 24 hours after airing. It begins with an exec from the company introducing a new “service” from their company. He pleasantly asks, “…tired of kids running and screaming up and down the aisles and are looking quite simply for some peace and quiet?” 
Then a family is shown checking in with a preschooler circling a mom holding a toddler. After mom kisses the sweet little guys head the kids are seen sitting in a plastic bin (like you put your dirty shoes in) going down a conveyer belt like a suitcase. The voice over says that they will arrive “with the luggage and other kids” outside of the airplane. 
The children are then hoisted into the cargo hold where we are told they can run, scream and eat from a “state of the art feed trough”. At the end you are told this is to give you the “peace and quiet you need”.

April Fools!


So imagine this:  Next year I am going to make an April Fools video about oh, let’s see, how about handicapped people getting in line first and getting all the best parking spaces. It’s not like having no legs isn’t a choice, right? We can think of a way to get rid of them. Oh, and why not  lampoon senior citizens, good grief they aren’t going to be around much longer and what a stinking pain it is to have to wait behind them at the cash register as they count their change. They don’t even know how to get on the internet so they wont even know we have made a funny video about them. Or let’s see… what about all of those earthquake victims? The ones who are buried underneath of a shabby building didn’t deserve to live anyway, right? Gosh, is there anyone else left that I can make fun of… maybe war vets, or single mothers, starving orphans?
Do you really think anything is beyond being devalued and mocked? Don't kid yourself into thinking that I am being reactionary or extreme. 
Don't ask where do we draw the line? 

Ask Is there even a line anymore? 

 As I have studied children’s issues I have sadly found that our North American culture does not value children, for that matter most of the world doesn’t either. (And by value I mean, put your laws and your money where your mouth is.)

The numbers don’t lie:

There are 2.2 Billion children in the world.

Almost half of them live in poverty.

121 million have no education.

And 10.6 million of them died before their 5th birthday.

One fourth of the people who live in the United States are age 0-17.

21% of American children live in poverty.

For every 1000 babies under age 12 months 21 of them have been abused… and it was documented

Lastly I give you the most haunting statistic:
While they were still helpless in their mother’s womb 42 million of them from around the world were killed by abortion.

So you tell me was it funny to talk about children as inconvenient annoyances? Was it hysterical to think about pitching them into a cold dark cargo hold and setting them up with “feed troughs”? Is your peace and quiet enough to make you chuckle at the thought of storing the kids out of sight for a few hours?

Out of sight out of mind?

Maybe it wasn’t very funny to me because I see that the world has been chucking children under the floorboards of society for too long now and just turning up the music a little louder when they cry too loudly.

What in God’s name do we value anymore? What is beyond ridicule and mockery?
 It certainly doesn't seem to be human life.

Each one of these children that the video so lightly labels as cargo is a divine creation. Made with a purpose and a plan by a Master Builder. They are covered with God's hand prints; they are an eternal soul. Children are potential and power just waiting to be nurtured and tended. They hold the keys to unlock the mysteries that have stumped all of us more important adults our whole lives. For a while they need our hands to hold and our wisdom to lead them, but someday we will put our hand in theirs as they guide us to the end of this life. 
What more precious, beyond value, gift do we have other than children? Nothing at all.

Please be more careful how you hold them in your hearts, minds and words.