The Most Important Spot: A Reading Room Of One’s Own

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.

-Virginia Woolf

Despite Elizabeth Taylor’s infamous play, the actual script had nothing to do with Virginia Woolf.  The author, Edward Albee, had written the play and was still struggling with a title for it.  He actually saw some poor Lit major’s frustration scrawled into the wall of a restroom, that said, “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Now she lives in infamy through Albee’s play.  And if you know anything about Woolf, I’m sure you can imagine how delighted she would be by this.

 

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf 

 

That all being said, Virginia Woolf is one of my favorite writers and thinkers. I remember when I first read some of her essays in college, and reading the societal frustrations she railed against.  While reading her essays, I was appalled to discover that although women were granted the right to vote only in 1920, which in my opinion has been a blemish to the history of our country; but, women were continually forbidden from libraries well into the 1970s:

huc-demands-keep-clifffies-out-of-lamont_courtesy-of-schlesinger-library_700px_0link

So, there is no space for women in the library. I’m sorry, there are just too many women who want to be well educated! If we took one in, we would have to take them all in!

They also simply do not have enough books to fulfill the needs of women. However, the boys are still allowed into the girls’ library, since “boys cause less disturbance in a female environment than vice versa.”

And finally, the official Harvard opinion in 1966 is that the men at Harvard were not emotionally ready to be around women yet.  Even though “boys cause less disturbance in a female environment.”

However, women may be allowed in the library from 2 to 5am. That makes sense. I have no idea why some women have been upset over silly things.  Like being allowed into a library.

 

“Like most uneducated Englishwomen, I like reading–I like reading books in the bulk.”
Virginia Woolf

 

Reading is not only very important, it is crucial.

It is crucial to becoming a well balanced person, and especially a person who has the desire of education.

This is why I take my kids to the library once a week. This is why I am constantly finding good literature to download onto my Kindle for us.  This is why we have a sitting room with big squishy chairs for reading.

The love of reading doesn’t come easily to everyone, though. So many people have been stuck with literature in school that never spoke to them, and the stories just became “words on a page.” And the thing is, there are thousands of books out there…more than enough for everybody!  There is literature out there that speaks to every individual. Sometimes you just have to have someone else show you where they are; and invite you in.

Which is where I come in…

This is my kids’ reading corner.

I was displeased with the way the schoolroom felt…it just felt like a room. No life to it. So, I took all of my boxes of fabric from out of the closet and the kids helped me pick out some decorations, and we created their own reading space. It is well lit, has comfy pillows with matching reading mats, plus a reading cupboard handy for the books they are going through.

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This opens the room up, so instead of being a large box…it is now a reading environment!

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Now the kids have their own special place to read, and they have been super excited about designing it with me.

Making a reading room for one’s own is vital to creating a safe place to let your mind explore. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive.  It just has to be comfortable and inviting; and with many, many books available.

I would heartily recommend a reading room of one’s own for everyone.

5 Completely Unhelpful Parenting Books. From The Devil.

 

 

recite-xqnf9w

 

Which Publisher is responsible for these hot messes?

Honestly.

It’s like learning how to parent isn’t hard enough as it is.  Finding a book about pregnancy and parenting that fits any person’s particular situation, needs and values is ridiculously difficult.

How do you deal with pregnancy? “With chocolate and warm hugs!”

What if you find out you are allergic to pregnancy hormones?

“…with…chocolate and warm hugs..?  Here, have a gallon of calamine lotion. I’m sorry.”

 

How do you deal with newborns? With toddlers? With texture food issues? With discipline? With your marriage…with yourself??

It takes a mighty strong person to make it through the first 9 months of pregnancy, and that strength helps toughen you up for the first year.  After that…it’s smooth sailing! Just toddler years, preschool, elementary school, growth spurts, first loves, college and grandbabies after that.

Right??

Easy peasy.

 

 

Unfortunately, we have to sort through books of this caliber of nonsense before we get there.

 

1) What To Expect When Your Wife Is Expanding

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http://www.amazon.com/Expect-Expanding-Month-Month-Father/dp/1449418465

I would like to be left in a windowless room for 10 minutes with this author.

Because it isn’t hard enough growing another life inside me, dealing with bloody noses, swollen feet, 30 (see: 50) extra pounds on my gut and hormones that just won’t quit…we have this book.

The sequel to his book should be, “Foolish Men: How To Build The Doghouse of Your Dreams!”

 

2. What The Heck Were You Expecting? A Complete Guide For The Perplexed Father

 

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http://www.amazon.com/What-Heck-Were-You-Expecting-ebook/dp/B003F3PKGI/ref=la_B000AP1SY2_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436998586&sr=1-4

Another gem from this author.

15 minutes in a windowless room.

 

 

3) The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion: A Survival Guide For Expectant Fathers

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Cavemans-Pregnancy-Companion-Expectant/dp/140273526X/ref=pd_sim_14_28?ie=UTF8&refRID=0KHVHG2MDM8XXHKCAXAA

It’s like there is this complete lack of domain knowledge for fathers during pregnancy. Weird.

 

4) Expect The Unexpected When You’re Expecting

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http://www.amazon.com/Expect-Unexpected-When-Youre-Expecting/dp/0060951354

 

Hey, one for the ladies!

This opinionated handbook solves the expectant mother’s fashion crises (including the Protruding Bellybutton Dilemma and Outgrown Maternity Clothes); gives you 1,001 (well, maybe six) ways to avoid sex in late pregnancy; helps you select the least wimpy name for your baby; tells the truth about just how much the “nesting syndrome” will cost you; and much more than you’ll ever need (or want) to know!

Just from my POV: all the hormones in coitus helps initiate labor/birth. Which might be helpful…particularly in the last stretch of the pregnancy. Just sayin’. Don’t knock it till you try it.

 

5)  Heck With It…

“Guide to Pirate Parenting: Why You Should Raise Your Kids As Pirates, and 101 Tips on How to Do It”

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http://www.amazon.com/Guide-Pirate-Parenting-Should-Pirates/dp/1583852913/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437001189&sr=1-1&keywords=guide+to+pirate+parenting&pebp=1437001195158&perid=1BHNMEHFM21VB71WF4DK

 

Chuck it all, and raise them as pirates.

Hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

 

 

Top 5 Reasons Why My Bedroom Is Immaculately Clean.

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

Featured on:Ravishly-300x102

 

5 Reasons My Room Is Immaculately Clean

Because behind every clean room there is a vacuum cleaner holding a story.

Will you look at this room?

This is the beautiful room in which I live. Notice the clean space on the floor? Ahh, the floor. You can actually see it.

immaculate bedroom

immaculate bedroom

You just don’t know how clean this room is.

Perhaps that is because you do not live with me. You don’t see the endless fountain of laundry, the crackers snuck into my bed while people watch cartoons in the morning, my own terrible habit of leaving coffee mugs on any level surface within reach. Perhaps you don’t see explosions of granola that overtake the very volume of space which was bequeathed to us in this room.

Aye, this room is terribly, oddly clean.

If you don’t count the unmade bed (I am sitting in it right now, so I don’t think that counts against the room on a technicality), or the clean laundry on the window seat…this is one, very clean room. The carpets have been vacuumed.  The baseboards have been vacuumed. The sheets have been taken out, shook, washed, fluffed dry and then put back onto the bed. The clothes have been picked up and put away. There are no old coffee mugs sitting upon the quiet windowsill. There are no longer  papers/books/binders/pencils/crayons/Snuffleupaguses laying around, discarded from today’s schooling of the children.

It is oddly quiet in this room, amongst all this clean space. Quiet, like an old western mining town, lost in the winds of time. The peculiar wind creeping through and sniffing in corners, looking for mischief. Where could it be? Where was the mischief that it sensed only 10 minutes ago?

Okay, it isn’t that quiet. You might as well just put static on the television and a blue light on the ceiling at that point. But still, oddly clean.

Especially for me.

Now, if you’ve been following along and you know me, you might be thinking to yourself, “But she hates cleaning. Especially her room. Who cares if her bedroom is clean?  Guests will never see it…what’s up, Buttercup?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Because behind every clean room there is a vacuum cleaner holding a story.

Top 5 Reasons Why My Bedroom Is Immaculately Clean.

folded shirts, huh?

folded shirts, huh?

1. My 3-year-old opened a new bag of Costco granola on my dresser while watching “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” On the plus side, all the baseboards in a 15-foot radius have now been vacuumed.

2. I opened a bag of granola while watching “Jake and the Neverland Pirates,” because I forgot I am an adult and I can legally change the channel when the kids leave the room.

3. I have spent four (okay, five) hours reading and blogging and the guilt is overwhelming, so I am trying to clean as many rooms as I can until I feel like I am still taking care of the house and not actually ignoring the litter box that you can smell from the hallway (everything has been sanitized and order has been restored).

4. I clicked on a Pinterest link on how to clean your whole house in 10 minutes (actual time: 3.5 hours).

Who puts folded shirts on top of your closet shelf? I can hardly reach the hangers. Honestly, people.

5. Guests.

The Importance of Defining Water

Today has been full of first-world misadventures.

The mop I bought, to replace previous stolen mop, apparently is held together with a zip tie.  And I broke the zip tie.

#brutestrengthmopping

The lightbulb in the laundry room burnt out, and I have been doing laundry in the dark for 2 days.

#deathmetallaundry

Yesterday, I got a call from ADT saying someone broke into the house.  Again.

#PANIC

But after calling my realtor, it turns out it was just a guy from insurance.

#relief.

I run things on a flexible agenda around here.  There are things we need to accomplish every day, such as school, chores and meals.  These are inflexible agenda points that will get done, usually in a certain order and by a certain time.  Chores are done before school, and usually before breakfast.  Meals are at 8, 12, 3 (teatime) and 7.  School includs computer work and textbooks, and both need to be finished every day; either computer work in the morning and textbooks in the afternoon, or vice versa.  It just depends on concentration and focus levels, but the structure is in place to accommodate either option.

However, with the amount of things and people in the house, and given the range of ages these people are, there has to be room for flexibility.  Sometimes the lightbulbs burn out, and you don’t have time to go to the store for more, so you figure out how to open a liturgy doors and windows in order to get sunlight into dark rooms.  Sometimes the mop breaks, and no amount of coercion will convince it to be fixed, so you rediscover shuffling old towels over the floors.  Sometimes you wrestle with the dishwasher, and ultimately attempt Socratic arguments with the machine just to get it to wash anything, instead of making the dishes worse.  Some mornings the 3 year old will be more clingy than others, so she will be attached to me while we get things done.  Some days math takes 3 hours, sometimes it takes half an hour.  Sometimes I don’t shower until afternoon, and sometimes…we just need to get out of here, and we go to the beach or for a hike and reset ourselves.

We are only indoor people with the explicit understanding that the option for outdoors is always available and utilized.

Yesterday, I saw a very interesting list.

It said:

Describe these things-

1. Describe the difference between left and right.

2. Explain what your favorite color looks like.

3. Think of a color that doesn’t exist.

4. Describe what water tastes like.

The truth is, describing these things is not the most interesting activity.  You aren’t going to unlock a portal into another dimension if you describe what water tastes like.  Explaining in detail what a color looks like is actually not the most compelling and engaging exploration of the mind.

Yet, that isn’t entirely the point.

The purpose of this is to explore the journey to get there.  It is to see the surrounding landscape that will ultimately lead to the goal, rather than simply define the target.

 When I think of the line of vocation I have, being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, sometimes the landscape starts to blur together around 4pm.  By this point in the day, we have been busy working and finishing our lists of items, I have gone through 3 of the 4 set meal times and we all need a break.  We need time to rest, play, think, or space out for a while.  Given the flexible agenda we have, the biggest obstacle I have during the day is “the goal.”

Most of the time, I see the goal as accomplishing the agenda by the end of the day; at the latest, by 5pm.

Math, reading, spelling, workbooks and computer work must be accomplished.

The kitchen should be tolerably clean, laundry needs to be touched upon, meals need to be made.  I don’t like to obsess over the state of the house, but I also need to make it part of the structure of the day to instruct the kids (and myself) to be good stewards of the home.

The part of “the goal” that is the problem is that these aren’t the goal.  These are all target items.  These are items that are important, but only for the purpose of building, teaching, guiding and encouraging the people involved in accomplishing the target items. All of these target items are variables in the agenda, and can be subject to flexible change.

These are actually the landscape, and the persons engaged are the goal.

The persons who I am instructing are my goal.  Not the kitchen, not the laundry.  Certainly not how much math or how many library books we have read during the day.  The individuals are the goal, and the agenda should reflect how I construct the landscape around them, and myself, in order to raise and grow happy, interested, well-balanced and functioning people.  That is the point of the day.

So, when I think of “what water tastes like,” it seems exactly like trying to answer, “how to raise children” or “who am I.”  It depends where we are: water in coastal Alaska is significantly different than water in coastal Costa Rica.  Similarly, energetic children in the 1st grade will have significantly different needs than thoughtful children in the 5th grade; just as where I am now is significantly different than where I was 5 years, or even 5 months ago.  It is just interesting that as a modern woman, and as a  mother of 5 kids, you go through the entire day defining and redefining what water tastes like, depending on what hour it is, who you are with, or whether or not you have had afternoon coffee.

5 Phrases You’ll Hear In A Big Family

We have 7 humans, 2 cats, a few chickens and a dog in this house…there are some phrases that come up frequently.

Statistically, given the number of people and the amount of things we do together, there are phrases that will come up sometimes.

There are phrases that will come up occasionally.

And there are phrases that will come up regularly.

 

1. “I Am Trying To Do My Work Alone…”

Ima just gonna stop you there, son.

I haven’t gone to the bathroom by myself for the past 10 years.  We have 7 people in this house at all times, and although we have lots of space inside, and a whole forest outside…we tend to like to hang out together.  That means you are doing your schoolwork with somebody either sitting next to you, near you, or on you.  Dinner is together, sleeping is together, playing is together and quiet time is together.

Now, granted, it is important to have some alone time.  It would be weird if we didn’t have some time by ourselves, at some point.  I have always said that I I really, really, need to be alone I take a shower.  Most of the time, this works!

But in the end, it is really better to work together.  I would rather be a part of my family and working with them on anything, than on my own.  When I work with my family, we come up with better ideas together, better plans, and better memories.  You can’t really beat that!

 

 

 

2. “Roll Your Window Up”

This seems weird, but it is a daily phrase for us.  In a car with 4 functioning windows, there is always someone who wants their window down.

 

Me: “Can you roll your window up?”

Her: “No. I’m singing my song.” (proceeds to sing her song to the world for the next 10 minutes)

 

Maybe this is really a metaphor for having 7 very independent people living together.  We all may be doing the same thing, or going to the same place, but we will each be doing it a little differently.  Some of us like to have the wind in our hair and roll their windows down, even when it is 36 degrees out, some of us like to take our shoes off in the car…and force us all to roll the windows down.  I’m just saying we all have our different things.

 

3.  3 out of 7 People Have Matching Socks.  

And that is just because they like matching socks (i.e., the boys).

The rest of us (i.e., the girls) are just glad we have socks.  Why would you want matching socks anyway?  What, are we going to get graded on whether or not our socks match every day?  Who are these matching sock gestapos, anyway?

 

 

4. We Buy In Bulk. The Cashiers At Costco Know Us By Name.

You show up to Costco every week an a half and buy pretty much the same things every time, with the same kids at the same hour of the day, and after a while they get to know you!

I have always liked this, honestly.  If I didn’t go, they would ask Ben how I was doing.  If Ben didn’t go, they would ask how he was doing.  They’ve always had nice conversations with our kids, and the kids have always had a good time talking with them.  There wasn’t a time when I dreaded going to Costco, because we always ran into friends at the end.

It isn’t exactly a small Mayberry general store, but it isn’t too far away either!  It just goes to show you that there are tons of good people out there, still.  And that’s awesome, and I love them.

 

Our Costco is just a little bigger than this, that’s all.

 

 

 

 

5. “Is The Laundry Done?”

Nope.

Never.

But it’s in process, and we all have clothes.  And that’s something!

 

It isn’t the laundry system I use…but I kind of like the idea!

 

No! Not The Rocking Chair!!

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This is my beautiful rocking chair.

This was the first thing I brought into my nest when I first became pregnant, over 11 years ago.

Before the crib, before the bassinet, before we even bought any swaddling blankets…there was the rocking chair.  I remember going to a huge warehouse filled to the brim with cribs and changing tables,  and a little corner in the back filled with a variety of rocking chairs.  I found one that I knew I would love forever.  With beautiful cream embroidered upholstery, cherry wood frame and a seamless glide, this was the symbol of maternity to bring me into the realm of motherhood.

I am not sure what other women might do to usher in this new era.  Perhaps buy maternity dresses, or decorate the nursery with gentle nature scenes.

There is a multitude of customs we hold for new mothers ranging from cakes

 

to games

to announcements

(image credit)

But for me, it was the rocking chair which brought me into the sleepless land of motherhood.

You know when you are in the shower, and you daydream about your acceptance speech when you win the Oscar for Best Actress?  That was the same daydream I had about this rocking chair.  I thought I would spend the rest of my life rocking babies in this chair, and when they were grown and in college, they would come home…and see the cream and cherry wood chair that was imbedded in their childhood, and gasp.  “I remember when Mom held us in that chair,” they would say, with a little sentimental tear in the corner of their eye. “So many years were spent rocking with Mom,” they would remember so fondly.

 

Truthfully, that is what I had in mind for myself in the beginning.  Simply holding my baby, and rocking her to sleep.

There were,indeed, many years spent rocking babies in this chair.  I remember holding Glenn in the mornings, letting him wake up on my lap before breakfast.  I remember rocking Nova after she fell and scraped her knee.  I remember years of nursing in this rocking chair.

The magical land of motherhood can be so beautiful and serene…in the distant future, or in the distant past.  But in the present?

 “I have stitches in places they never mentioned in Health class.”

(image credit)

 

 

This symbol of motherhood and magical maternity, during the very present “now,”  has also been sitting isolated next to my nightstand holding laundry for quite a few years.

So, in a most inevitable moment, while Ben and I were discussing our great move, came the time when words were spoken.  Words about “not taking the rocking chair” with us when we move.  Possibly “leaving it behind“…to which my reaction was:

 

WHAATTTT????!!!

 

snowwhite1

 

Now, granted, I understand why we wouldn’t take it.

For the past year, at least, it has not been rocking me and my babies.  I haven’t spent every morning holding Glenn as he slowly wakes up, as I did when he was little.  There have been no babies to nurse for the past few years.

Instead, I have been piling clean towels and jackets upon my symbol of maternity.   So, naturally it will be considered as something we don’t “need” to take with us.

 

Perhaps, though, this is something more profound than just letting the rocking chair go.

Maybe I am having to face the reality that I am really leaving a season of motherhood behind that I have grown quite accustomed to.  The season of baby clothes and diapers, tenderly holding my babies while they fall asleep.  By now, my youngest is 3 year old and far too big to carry for long periods of time.  I have no use for swaddling blankets or diaper genies.  Gone are the days of bibs and  cribs.

(image credit)

I wonder if letting it go will help me usher in a new season of childhood.  Maybe letting the rocking chair go to another home will help me to let go of baby curls, bottles and blankets.

And yet…

I don’t know if any mother is truly ready to let their babies go, in the end.  When the young man signs up for the Marines and is flecked in uniforms and boots, I don’t think his mother sees him as a young Marine.  She sees him as her 8 year old little boy heading off into a big world without her.  When a young woman gets into her car to drive herself off with a couple boxes of belongings to begin her career in college, I imagine her mother wonders if she remembered to pack her pink tea set, just in case she needs it in the afternoons with her friends.  There is something quite gripping about motherhood that keeps me from letting some things move on easily.

Ushering motherhood into my life was something that changed everything about me, and I just don’t know how ready I am to let some of it go.

Still, maybe I will fight to keep this rocking chair, to usher in the seasons to come of rocking my grandchildren to sleep.

We’ll see.

Frankly Listening To Your Fussy Eaters

This is Eve.

IMG_1449

She is the pickiest eater I have.  She is also the smallest; and not just because she eats about a third of what her younger sister eats, but she was the smallest at birth as well.  The largest was 10.6lbs, and little Eve came in at a paltry 8.0lbs.  She wasn’t a big nurser, and we had to start her on solids early just to get her weight up.  4 out of 5 of my kids have been in the 90-110% percentile on the growth charts.  Eve has come up from 12% to 40% over time, which is great!  That was such a relief when she finally started gaining weight.

Despite her little frame, she holds the biggest personality, the most fire and more opinions than any of the kids.

 

This is absolutely my favorite Adam Levine song.

She knows exactly what she wants to listen to (I keep finding her listening to Adam Levine/Maroon5 when she is alone, which is awesome taste in music ), what she will wear (either Chinese silk, or soft cotton shirts), and she loves her bling.  Which is weird.  I am not a bling person, Ben isn’t a bling person, none of the other kids even know what bling is…but she knows.

There was one time I took her and Nova to get their hair cut.  While Nova was in the chair, I gave Eve a magazine on the table to flip through.  It was a wedding magazine, and I wasn’t entirely interested.  I sewed my own bridal gown and crafted my own headpiece and veil, because that’s how I roll.  I don’t like the styles of wedding dresses out there: so much thick, bumpy lace and beads everywhere, and sleeveless…blech.

Eve, on the other hand, loved the magazine.

She turned to a page with a gigantic wedding ring with a ginormous diamond, and stuck her hand out and very dramatically said, “That ring goes on my finger!”

She was 3 at the time.  No one else in our family has ever looked twice at jewelry.  I didn’t even know she knew what this stuff was…

But she knows.  She knows exactly what she likes, and she will tell you exactly why.

 

Which brings us to food.

The other day for lunch I made wagon wheel pasta salad.  We love pasta salad over here (here is my gf version!), so the kids were super excited!

Well, 4 out of 5 kids were super excited.

Eve ate the apple sausage and tomatoes, but kept poking the pasta.  I told her she could bring her plate to my desk and eat if she wanted (dude, whatever… if it means she will eat, it’s fine with me).

But as she was sitting there, she was talking about what was going on in her thoughts.  This is when it got really interesting.

 

I was just letting her talk, and after listening to her for a few minutes, suddenly I was able to understand what was going on with her aversion to the pasta!

(Unfortunately, I kept running out of space on my phone and it would stop recording…so you are getting this in 2 segments)

 

The squishy pasta texture reminded her of the squishy starfish texture we saw in the tide pools when we went to Monterey Bay, and that grossed her out!

IMG_1229

Some Moms can get bent out of shape about food, and I completely understand this.

There have been more than a few times when I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen getting an amazing, nutritious meal ready for everybody…only to find out that everyone has filled up on chips while I was cooking, and not hungry by the time we sat down to eat.

BURN.

Or if some people like one food one day, and hate it the next (this is a reality).

Or if people are going through a growth spurt, and aren’t hungry for days.

Or if they don’t like the food I am making, and spend an hour pushing around their plate.

 

Dinner with kids is not as simple as reheating a microwave dinner on high for 2:35minutes.  I really want my family to have good, nutritous food that will help them grow and learn, and I want them to be familiar with different foods as well as familiar foods.  Sometimes this means eating chickpeas or bok choy, or split pea soup or duck.  I remember when we were in Beijing I needed to have one jar of peanut butter (that cost like, $20 in the expats store) because although Conrad, who was 1 at the time, was cool with the food we were giving him…after a while he wouldn’t eat one more thing with soy sauce or chilis, and I could get him to eat peanut butter sandwiches.  This is a completely reasonable solution.

 

But they are still kids, and sometimes they just don’t like things.  Even if they are starving.

This makes them cranky, which can make you cranky, which makes the situation cranky.

 

I know these times can happen, because that’s just life.  However, it isn’t something that should be happening all the time.  This is a pattern of which you should take notice…it usually isn’t just being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

If your kid won’t eat what you give them, or is upset with the food, or dreads mealtimes…chances are, something else is going on.

They could be dehydrated, they could be growing, they could have a cold…or they could have Celiac or be lactose intolerant.

Or they could be reminded of the squishy starfish she was poking at the beach.

The best thing is to be quiet and let them talk, and tell you what is on their minds with an open heart.  Chances are, this is something about them, and isn’t about you or your cooking at all.   The nice thing is that after these moments, your relationship with them will be closer and more accessible, and you will be able to love them in more personal and real ways.

And that’s what every Mom wants…it is definitely what I want, more than all the bling in the world  🙂

IMG_1474Lunch: Orange tea with Apple/Salami/Cheddar Garden Salad.  Success!!

Are You Really A Parent …Or A Spy?

I remember when I was young, I wanted to amazing things that would change the world.

I had no plans other than “amazing things” and “change the world.”

(which could be why I went into Literature in college, rather than something more world-changingly-pragmatic like Political Science)

Due to my inability to figure out how I could do these amazing things, I simply started with myself.

 

But I still believe this to be true!  You are the change you wish to see in the world.  If you want people to be nicer, the best way is to be nicer to them first.

Conversely, if you want to make the world a worse place and for people to be jerks, the best way to accomplish this is to be a  royal jerk to them first.  I guarantee you will see quick results.

 

 

When I became a parent, I used these words of wisdom to guide my words: were the words I was using making a positive change?  Were they imparting peace and kindness into the little minds I had running around in circles?  How could I change the world, starting with my home?

The thing is, at some point, the words coming out of your mouth don’t even make sense anymore.

You don’t realize what you are actually saying until much later, when you stop speaking in fluent, coherent paragraphs but instead hear yourself using code phrases all day.

 

“The Boots Are Out The Window.”

“The Child Is On The Fridge.”

“Get The …The Thing!  With The Stuff In It!  It’s On The Washer!”

 

Gone were my days as a layman civilian: I realized yesterday that what I was saying could easily be interpreted as Spy Codes.

 

“The Child Is At The Door…Abort Plan, I Repeat, Abort Plan.”

“Find The Chicken Under The Couch.”

“Rescue Mission Of Elsa, Complete.”

 

I found a great online resource for The Language of Espionage , straight from the Spy Museum!

 

Here are some starter terms:

A

Agent

A person unofficially employed by an intelligence service, often as a source of information

Agent-in-Place

A government employee who is influenced to cooperate with a foreign government instead of defecting; now working for two employers instead of one

Agent-of-Influence

A person who works within the government or media of a target country to influence national policy

Asset

A clandestine source or method, usually an agent

or

Babysitter

Bodyguard

Clandestine Operation

An intelligence operation designed to remain secret

Dangle

A person sent by the intelligence agency of his or her own country who approaches an intelligence agency in the hope of being recruited as a spy so as to allow a double agent operation for the purpose of intelligence collection or disinformation

 

I highly recommend utilizing these fantastic phrases into your infiltrated base.

 

eof.

 

 Screenshot 2015-01-20 12.23.53Spy Museum

11 Things That Moms Can Learn From The Pope

 

I have been having really weird dreams lately.

Last night I had a dream that I visited the Vatican and met the Pope.

Which is pretty awesome, however weird it may seem.

What I remember the most is that he was just filled with joy.  Just joy piled onto joy.  I loved talking with him because he was so genuinely happy…to the point that he broke out in singing, and just kept singing until the end when I woke up.

And I’m telling’ ya: watching the Pope bust a move is just as awesome as it sounds.

The Pope had such an infectious joy, I actually got out of bed still feeling it…half an hour before my alarm went off!

I like Pope Francis (in real life!).  He is a good leader, and he is really bringing back to light the art of love; which I think is fabulous.

 

1 John 4:8

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

 

 

keep-calm-and-know-that-god-is-love

Part of learning how to love is discipline, which is tough love…and this is sincerely tough to hear.

Discipline is particularly tough for leaders. 

Because they are already in charge, sometimes (most times) they are doing what they believe is right.  But in every single leadership manual, booklet or lesson it is pounded into the reader how important balance is for a leader.  You cannot be a leader without working with someone, or a team of someone’s, to help you be a great leader.  You can’t have full domination and expect it to go well.  Not only are you going to start living in a bubble of yourself if you can’t hear anyone else, but the people you are leading don’t actually like to be dominated by bubble-theology, in general.

However, people love to be led, especially by good leaders.

Tony Robbins is a great leader because he leads others to be great.

Simon Sinek is a great leader because he leads others to be great.

Selfish leaders will destroy their team, and their legacy is going to be glum and barren.

Dan Pontefract wrote for Forbes.com recently, describing the “Damage of Selfish Leadership”:

           “You know, those individuals who only look out for themselves without really caring about employees or society in general? These are the types of individuals who like to dominate, sometimes for the sport of domination itself.”

He went on to say, with some Canadian hockey metaphors thrown in:

           “Here’s some irony to think about it. What if those puck and ball hogs acted the way they did in our organizations because that’s all they have ever been conditioned to behave like? What if they don’t know how to pass? What if they had no idea there was a greater purpose than simply winning?

And that was an interesting idea.

What if the leaders didn’t actually understand that the purpose was not to dominate or simply win, but the purpose was to create a team that created great things, and was made up of great people who encouraged each other to be great?

Pope Francis certainly laid the smack down on the elders of the Vatican recently.

What he saw was a church filled with selfish leaders.  What he wanted was a church filled with great leaders.

But this change has to come with rebuke before they can relearn how to fulfill God’s greatness of love in their ministries.

It really was a harsh list to read, there are no two ways about it.  Yet, while I was reading it I realized that these were great lessons for leaders…especially Moms.

Moms lead their children every day, and so often we can get stuck in these negative, selfish ruts that drive us crazy.

So, what can we learn from The Pope’s “15 Ailments of the Vatican Cura”?

1) You May Be Mom, But You Ain’t God:

The sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls. A Curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body. … It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service”.

What I read here is that if we are going to be great leaders, we have to start with ourselves.

We need to stay up-to-date with our job.  This may entail how to find good foods and good recipes for our families, or we need to find inspiring and uplifting things for our families to participate in, or ways to connect with our husbands and kids in more genuine ways; but more than these we need to seek to better ourselves.  You are an amazing woman, and it is important to remember that.  You matter.  So if you need to find a Mom’s group, or a Women’s Bible Study, or a local book group, or a group at the gym…these are going to edify you!  You need to take care of yourself just as much as you need to take care of your family.  Not only do you need to resist the Diva mentality, where everything is all about you, but you also need to resist the trap of believing that you don’t matter at all.  I can assure you, you matter more than you realize.

2) Do Not Become Too Busy To Love

‘Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet. Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that ‘there is a time for everything’.”

The problem that Martha had was that when she had the opportunity to spend time with Jesus, she didn’t.  Instead, she worried about the dishes.

There is a time for work, and there is a time for family.  If you are working so long that you forget how to even talk to your children, how are they going to know you love them?  Spend time getting to know what your children like, what they are interested in, who their friends are.  Also, listen to your husband.  And let him listen to you!  We all have things to do…but don’t forget to love the people more than the work.

3) You Are Not A Machine.

The sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God. … It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ”.

When you fell in love with your husband, I know you did little things all the time to show him you loved him.  You also took great delight when he did little things for you.  When you held your newborn in your arms, I know your heart swelled with indescribable joy whenever she smiled at you.  These joys can be lost over time, and we can forget what they even felt like if we aren’t careful.  We may even forget why this joy was so important, at all.  The joy we felt when we loved fortified our souls.  You are not a machine.  You are a Mom, and you need to remember the extreme joys of hugging your children, or spending time with your husband.  The smile my husband has just for me is one of the greatest joys I have.  When my kids grab my legs in little tiny bear hugs, it is a fantastic joy for me.

4) Your Children Are More Important Than Your Calendar

The ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant. … One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation”

Long ago we took a few of our little kids to Disneyland.

It was an amazing trip, and I will never forget breaking into tears while I was sitting on a curb with my daughter, watching the most beautiful Disney Parade go by.  I completely lose it with parades, I don’t know why; but watching the princesses wave to us, and the dancers leap in perfect choreographed dance moves drove me to tears.  I was so glad I could hold her in my arms and share this moment with her.

But I remember earlier in the day watching a Mom with her husband and two sons, and they were all miserable.  I heard her yell to them “You have 5 minutes to play, so make it worth it!”  The boys just wandered around aimlessly for 5 minutes, and their father looked beaten down.  That moment always stuck with me.

It is crucial to have a good plan, whether it is for a vacation or for a day-to-day schedule.  But if you sacrifice your family in order to fulfill your schedule, then although your schedule will certainly win and be great, your family will not.

5) Memos Don’t Cut It: You Need To Talk To Them

Sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.”

You cannot spend your days texting, emailing or leaving notes on the whiteboard in the kitchen.

There needs to be face-to-face communication and interaction.  This will keep your relationship with your husband and your kids fresh and real.  The body of a relationship is your body.  If you aren’t there communicating with them in person, the body of the relationship is lost.

6) Remember Your First Love

“Spiritual Alzheimer’s disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the ‘first love’: this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one’s own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord … in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands”.

This was the biggest rebuke, in my opinion.

Maybe because it is the one that convicted me the most.

Strong women often times tend to be the ones who build walls around themselves for protection.

However, they are also prone to keep building more and more walls, creating an impenetrable fortress through which none shall pass.

This fortress will become the island of loneliness, isolation and depression if left unattended.

Be aware of yourself.  I understand (more than you can imagine) how safe it is inside this fortress.

But I also understand how much a good friend  means to me.

Don’t forget your first love, of friendships.

7) “I Reject Your Reality, And Substitute With My Own”

“Existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honours. This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life.”

Credit to Adam Savage, obviously.

Here’s the thing: if you create your own reality, you become a god in your mind.  You are living in your own parallel world, separated from reality.  This leads the heart to be hardened to what is actually happening around them, and there is no love in this situation.  The best thing to do is to accept reality…and change it, if it needs to be changed!  But recreating a reality bubble for yourself isn’t helping anybody.

 

8) Watch Your Tongue

Chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs”.

Have the courage to speak kindness to your family.

I know that sounds outrageous…why wouldn’t you?

But sometimes we spend too much time correcting, and not enough time encouraging.  Use positive words, even in negative situations. “Thank you for taking care of this, I really do appreciate it.  But what I actually needed was this. How can we work together to do it?”

Don’t hold onto grudges, even for a day.  Talk about things with people as soon as you can.  Now, granted, a lot of time I need some time to process a situation, and then I can talk about it a little easier.  This is a genuinely loving way to show trust, empathy and growth in your relationship.

9) Don’t Be a Selfish Jerk.

The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships. When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy … one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him.”

I know this is harsh…but it has to be for this one.

If you are only thinking about yourself, you will definitely lose the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships.

If someone brings you a situation they need help with, and the only thing you can think of is how it impacts you…you are a selfish jerk.

And sometimes this is hard to see.  Most of the time you realize you are doing it after they tell you.  That is going to be hard to hear…if you hear it at all.  A lot of times the safest way to handle selfish jerks is to leave, entirely.

Be very aware of what your perspective is.

Are you actually listening to the people in your life, or are you being a selfish jerk?

Listen, it’s a whole lot easier to realize this yourself…than to hear it from someone else.

 

10) Funeral Face.

or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity.”

If you never smile, you will forget how.

It is as simple as that.

 

11) What Are You Bringing Home?

The disease of accumulation is when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure. … Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress.”

This can be accumulation of things, of shoes, of stuff…or of projects.  Do you collect projects in order to fill an empty spot in yourself?  It isn’t the most unheard of collection for busy moms.

Start by cutting down on what you bring home.

12) The Disease of the Perfect Mom

The disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others.”

I couldn’t put it better.

If you feel the need to multiply your power by slandering, defaming and discrediting others….the problem is now you.

Some people have gifts that you don’t have.  You have gifts that others don’t have.  This is why we need to work together, especially with our husbands and children as a team, to lift each other up and love each other greater.

A great leader will create a great team who believes in what they do.

 

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”
Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

 

Pope Francis concluded with this:

I once read that priests are like aeroplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticise them and few pray for them. It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.

My prayer is that you are a Mother who flies.

Your Kids Will Tell You What’s Up

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Last night we went to Menchies…because it’s awesome.  And it is around the corner from us.  And I don’t think it is going to be near our new home when we move, so we are getting a couple more trips in before we go.

 

When we got home it was time to get ready for bed, so we sent the kids upstairs for teeth and PJs and I was putting some water in the kettle for some evening green tea.

As I was getting that set up, my 4 year old ran into the kitchen and handed me a post-it note with this adorable picture on it.

Naturally, I thought it was going to be a picture of her with her imaginary prince, so I asked, “Oh, and who is this?”

With a huge grin and a little dance she said, “It is you!  You are in love with Dad.”

At which point my heart melted into my stomach….holy cow is that the sweetest thing ever. omg.

“I sure do!” I said, as I gave her a big hug and sent her off to brush her teeth.

 

Kids are very aware of what is really going on in your house.  There isn’t much you can honestly hide from them, even if you try.

Your kids will tell you what’s up.  You might believe you are acting happy, or acting supportive, or acting loving, but if your kids don’t see it, or don’t believe it, then chances are…you really aren’t.  If you think you are fooling the world with something, I guarantee that you aren’t fooling your kids.   They know you a lot better than you think they do.

 

I’m glad it is so obvious how much I love Ben that my little girl believes it.

That’s pretty good 🙂