Monday, April 29, 2013

swinging and bending, part 2: the gathering.

{image found here}

Complicate this world you wrapped for me 

I'm acquainted with your suffering 

All your weight it falls on me 

It brings me down 

All your weight it falls on me 

It falls on me 


collective soul

Read the first part of this story, 

cumulonimbus.  cirrostratus.  cumulus.  nimbostratus.

the clouds gathered around ben and i as we lived in the sunshine of our newlywed bliss of the first two years of marriage.  we were happy, life was peaceful. we made friends in our married student ward in rexburg, idaho.  we held parties at the park across the street, inviting couples to join us as we laughed over barbecued chicken, spinach salads and homemade oreos.  we played cards late into the nights with our next door neighbors, and laughed through mcdonald's mcflurry runs with our friends down the road.

we both served in busy callings in church; ben was the sunday school president, i was the 2nd counselor in the relief society presidency.  most of our sundays were spent teaching, in meetings, or out visiting others. serving was not a hinderance in our minds--we both looked at it as opportunities to socialize and provide help where it was needed.  the ward we were in for our first 2 years was full of good-to-the-core people and still have a lot of them as friends in our lives today.

though married life was effortless inside the walls of our home, outside the storms were brewing.  they had been for months, from the time we had started dating each other seriously.

ben and i played similar roles in our immediate families--the buffer, the peacemaker, the comic relief, the pleaser.  it wasn't just that we were placed in this role, we also chose it.  without consciously realizing, we had built much of our identities on these roles.  i wrote that he and i shared similar strengths and weaknesses, and this became glaringly obvious as we began to attempt to extract ourselves from our family roles.

when a dynamic in a relationship changes, there is often resistance, especially if the dynamic has unhealthy pieces in it.  naturally when we were married and moved to idaho, our individual roles in our families shifted.  as we extracted ourselves, resistance did come, in the form of anger and hurt feelings, insecurity, jealousy and competitiveness.  the undercurrent of issues felt constant and though we lived over three hours away, we could hear the thunder of the continual storms rumbling toward us from across the miles.

ben and i couldn't understand what was happening or how we found ourselves perpetually in the middle of the storms of the people we loved.  we fervently tried to keep the peace, standing on the fence and seeing both sides, playing neutralizers and validators as we ran putting out one fire after another while trying to maintain the smiles on our faces.

yet the storms raged on, and we grew weary.  our best efforts could not force others to forgive each other, and deep wedges were formed.  soon we began to have our own intentions questioned by our loved ones.  we were seen with the cynical eyes of others who picked apart our motives piece by piece.  suddenly we were defending our own words and actions, desperately trying to prove the purity of our hearts.

if it sounds like i'm writing this from the "poor us" point of view, it's because that's exactly how we viewed the situation.  we felt victims of circumstances beyond our control.  instead of being able to see and own our pieces of this disturbing puzzle so we could find a way out of it, we continued to join it.

we know better now.

like lone trees standing meekly in a field, we reached for each other while the clouds burst and began pouring down.  as the winds broke our branches and ripped off our leaves, the heavy rain bent our trunks, loosening our freshly-planted newlywed roots.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

magical jesus, jumping jacks in heels & letting go of the past. {easter, 2013}

on easter weekend we were so excited to have family with us for the holiday.  my dad, stepmom and stepbrother came into town and we spent time hunting easter eggs, swimming, and eating good food, and talking about the reason for the holiday.  trying to explain 'resurrection' to leah was fun, she kept saying jesus was "magic" because he died, was buried in a tomb and then poof! {her words} then came back to life.  who can disagree with that?  jesus is magic.

i have a new calling--primary chorister--and have to admit, it's one of two callings that i said i'd never want to be called to do.  {the other one being ward chorister--sense the theme?}  but i said yes because i knew the reason i was contemplating 'no' was solely due to the fear of it.  standing in front of people, even if they're just kids, and singing and teaching pretty much terrified me.  believe me, i tried to come up with another reasonable excuse to turn it down, and i couldn't.  easter sunday was my first sunday in the calling, and i was nervous but made it through.  i also survived a rousing rendition of "do as i'm doing" with jumping jacks.  and i was wearing heels.  and winded by the time we got to "i can do it high or low,"  but i survived.

the night before they left, my dad and i spent time together one on one.  we talked about the past, and laid some things to rest that were long overdue.  as strange as it seems to type that i'm proud of my father, i am.  the older i get, the more i appreciate the blessing it is to have good people in my life who love me, and who are willing to put in the work to have relationships built on honesty and trust.  forgiveness of old hurt comes easily for me, and i'm grateful for it.  i'm also grateful when others can grant me the same, and we can move forward knowing we have mutual respect and understanding for one another.

life is really a beautiful thing, if you choose to see the beauty of it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

the absence of fear: on spanking and yelling.

before ben and i became parents, we made a conscious decision:

absolutely no spanking.

we had several conversations about this while i was pregnant with caleb and i was relieved we were both on the same page.  i knew others who i considered to be good parents who spanked, and it was their choice.  but for me, it wasn't an option because i felt it was a tactic that promoted fear in children.  i had been spanked, and when i remembered those moments, i couldn't ever recall why i was spanked.  i had no idea what i was doing at the time, but i could remember the emotions i felt before, during and after being spanked.

fear, anger, embarrassment, hurt, shame.

as a mom i wanted to try to find a way to teach around the behavior of my children, even if it didn't get an immediate reaction the way spanking did.  my hope was that consistent teaching would produce long-lasting results of change instead of momentary change due only to the fear of the consequence, not because it was a choice to do better with an understanding of the teaching.

however, we had seen "that kid" enough times to know that we might end up with a child who had very little to no impulse control, or one with such a strong desire for control that they would completely disregard our direction.  so, we gave ourselves a disclaimer:  if one of our kids completely disobeyed one of our rules regarding their safety, {like running into a road or something like that} a swat on the rear was okay, while teaching around it so that they took it more seriously.

almost eight years into motherhood, i have not encountered a situation where i have found a need to spank any of my children.  has been there been a desire?  oh, sure.  i've felt the desire--even visualized it--and that thought has mainly surfaced during times when one of them is physically hurting one of their siblings.  nothing brings out the mama bear quicker than when one of my children is being hurt, even if it's at the hands of one of my others.  luckily i have realized the hypocrisy in spanking specifically during those moments...swatting one to prove a point to not to hurt another.  it didn't make sense to me, so i found other consequences to fit the actions.

i've been grateful to have been able to find other ways--effective ways--to parent without spanking.  it's not that my kids don't push boundaries, or disobey.  but up until a couple of months ago, i think deep down i prided myself on parenting without using fear as a tactic to control.


i remember the first time i yelled at him.

not raised my voice, or spoke firmly.  i'm talking about yelling.

he was 5, and upstairs in his bedroom with his door open.  we were late for school, i had a screaming 2 year old leah on my hip, who was wrestling me to get down so she wouldn't have to get in the car.  he was supposed to be putting on his socks and shoes and running down the stairs, as quickly as he could.  he knew we were late.

the seconds felt like minutes, the minutes felt like hours.  as they ticked on, and i continued struggling with my very strong-willed daughter, i felt like my insides were catching on fire.

"CALEB!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING!  HURRY UP!!  WE'RE LATE!!"  i yelled. and it wasn't just the fact that i yelled, because i hadn't said anything unkind to him.  it was the way that i yelled.  it was more like a roar, that held a tone of urgency mixed with complete annoyance.

"MOM!!  I'M TRYING!  YOU'RE SCARING ME!  DON'T YELL AT ME LIKE THAT! I'M PUTTING MY SHOES ON AS FAST AS I CAN!"  he yelled back from up the stairs, but his voice broke, and i heard him start to cry.

immediately, i knew.  i knew i had hurt him with the tone in my voice.  after watching the way he works for 5 years, i also knew that he gets flustered when he's in a hurry, and that his little fingers don't work the way other little fingers do, becoming even less efficient when under duress.

what i'm saying is, as his mother, i knew better.

he came down the stairs still crying, asking why i yelled at him like that.  i swallowed the lump in my throat, set leah down, and ignored the time on the clock.  i knelt down to his level, looked him in the eyes and told him how sorry i was.  that i was frustrated because we were late, but that it wasn't okay for me to talk to him that way.  he sniffed, said a small okay and we hugged.

when i mentioned in my last post about seeing the ugly inside of me as a mother, i was referring to situations similar to this one.  only the child has changed, and the circumstances are different.

a couple of months ago i was staring into two big brown eyes framed with thick dark eyelashes when i yelled as i stood in the door frame of the bathroom, only a few feet away from her.


i watched those beautiful eyes fill up with tears as she covered her ears with her hands, and yelled back,


part of me knew better, and another part wanted to fight back.  i listened to the louder part.


she began crying harder.  exasperated, i turned my entire face up to the sky.


i left her there, crying.  i left her because i didn't want to yell anymore.  but even though i knew the reason behind my walking away, i could tell she internalized my absence as rejection, because her cries of anger turned to pitiful wails of my name over and over again.

i didn't turn back to comfort and reassure her, but instead went into my bedroom and began to cry.  i knew my tactics were not only failing, but they were wrong.  wrong for me, because i knew the emotion my loud voice and narrowed eyes had brought out in her.


the worst part is, i was actually trying to scare her, because i felt i was out of options.  this was the fifth time that day she and i had come to this place--arguing over going potty.  things would begin pleasantly, me talking softly and just prompting her when i saw the signs.  she would begin by refusing in a cute and silly way.  but no matter how nicely our exchange began, we continually wound up here.

she had just finished her round of antibiotics from the bladder infection she had given herself from holding it for so long, so this wasn't a time i was willing to give her back complete control of yet.  i had explained this to her in detail, teaching her that it was important for us to listen to our bodies, that God created us to take care of ourselves, if we listen to our body's needs.  when we're hungry, we eat.  thirsty, we drink.  and this same thing applied to going potty.  i told her what happens when we don't listen is we either have accidents or make our body sick...leading to pain and discomfort, doctor's visits and medicine.

we talked about it, and she understood what i was teaching her, but then when it came time to her actually doing what we had talked about, she refused.  i knew she wanted control, but also knew it wasn't clicking yet, because she had gotten into the habit of holding it for so long and didn't like putting life on hold for minor interruptions like going potty.

which brought us to here, with me crying in my bedroom while she cried in the bathroom.

i wasn't being the mom i wanted to be, the one i knew i had been before, and could be.  i knelt down next to my bed and prayed for extra patience.  to dig into the depths and find softness for this little girl i loved so much, who i knew was merely trying to exercise her free will and who i knew didn't understand the connection between her choices now and the ramifications they led to in her future.  i asked to be shown a better way to help her, one that removed the tactic that had snuck upon me, and had settled into as a habit:

parenting with fear.

this was what God showed me that afternoon.  the ability to see the teaching wasn't getting through to her because the behavior i was using was only effective in getting an immediate reaction without the long-term change.

i realized this, and it was hard for me to shown.  i'm not much of a yeller in general--neither ben nor i work that way--and yet here i was, and i knew then that it was no better than spanking.  so i cried some more, and apologized for hurting one of my sweet children.  i stood up, resolved to do better.

i walked into the bathroom where leah was still crying, and sat down next to her.  i held her in my lap, started crying again, and told her how sorry i was.  that it wasn't okay for me to yell, even if i was frustrated.  that i was going to try my best to be more patient and speak softly, and i needed her to try to realize that i wasn't perfect and made a mistake, and asked for her forgiveness.  she said "yes" in between sniffs, and we hugged.  we also talked about how i was trying to help her, and i needed her to work on being more obedient when it came to going potty.  even if she didn't want to, because i was helping her learn how to listen to her body while she was having a hard time doing it.  we both promised to do better, and shook on it.

i'd like to say that's the perfect ending, but it isn't.

i've made mistakes, but those moments are much more rare.  i make a conscious effort to stay in check with my emotions.  i read an article written by a mom who was a yeller, and some tactics she used to stop the habit.  i tailored these to what works for me, and have on more than one occasion--when i feel like my insides are lighting on fire again--walked into my bedroom, buried my head in a pillow to muffle the bloodcurdling screams i let out until i've felt the fire disappear.  my kids don't even know i'm doing it, and i return to the situation able to handle things without using fear to teach them to obey.  i let them know i'm frustrated, but then teach them why and we work through it.

i also wrote a list of what my triggers are.  being late is a huuuuuge one for me.  i get snappy when i'm running late, which can quickly turn to yelling if any of the kids act like, well, a kid.  fighting or wanting a toy, or suddenly needing a drink or refusing to put on their seatbelt.  it pretty much happens every time we're going anywhere, but when we're late?  it puts me over the edge. now that i'm aware, i work harder to not run late, and when we are, i stay aware of my emotions.  another trigger is being exhausted.  so i'm making changes to not be the night owl i've been, because when i'm tired i'm not the mother i know i can be.

the good news is, leah and i are doing much better.  i've had to be firm but loving with her, immediately starting out with a choice to do what she's asked or to go on a time out.  that's it, no other options.  she learned the hard way to do what she was asked.  once we had that down, i was able to ease up, giving her the choice to go potty immediately, or to go in 3 or 4 minutes.  and she always chooses to go later, but it's done easily, without a fight.  {for the most part--she isn't perfect either.}

together we're seeing our way out of the ugly patch that shadowed our relationship for a couple of months.  and we're both growing and finding other ways to communicate and work with each other.  motherhood is tough business, one that is constantly stretching and humbling me.  and it's for these exact reasons that i wouldn't trade it for any other job in the world.

i've been focusing lately on finding the fear in my life, and working with God to figure out how to eliminate it.  it's become my mantra for 2013.  next i'm going to write about how it took me a couple of years to recognize, admit and change being a mother who parented out of fear.  also known as, "the helicopter mom."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

the best parts of me.

sometimes i get so caught up in writing about something that i forget to write about the daily life constantly swirling around me.  i think i put undue pressure on myself to write everything up to a certain standard i've set for myself.

then i realize there is so much more than my own standards and i need to just let go a bit.

oh, these three.

i've been pushed to my limits lately in motherhood.  i've seen some of the ugliest parts of me come through the past few weeks and woah boy!  all that i thought i knew, i've had to scale back and readjust.  i'm usually not too hard on myself when it comes to how i work with my kids--i see they're shaping out to be some incredible little humans, and i know a part of that is because of all of the teaching that goes on around here.

but after i see the ugly inside, and cry a time or two about it, and apologize and push myself to do better, i feel renewed and determined instead of defeated.  so the ugly can be good, even when the molding part of it can feel draining sometimes.  because the ugly and molding is where i find grace.

caleb has matured lately in such a nice way.  suddenly he's less emotionally reactive, and can stay calm even when facing things he's opposed to.  i used to wish and wonder if this would ever happen.  he's always been intelligent and observant, but is also bursting at the seams with emotions.  this new mellow-ness has been such a nice change and has brought a friendship between the two of us that i am absolutely loving.

he's also growing up in the way that's brought some fun conversations....about body parts, and why they change, and what purpose they were made for.  we talked to him about the birds and the bees over a year ago, and have a lot of follow-up conversations. i love that we can explain it to him with simple clarity, no beating around the bush, and he takes it in stride.  i can see the wheels turning in his head, trying to make sense of it.

he's started baseball and it's been awesome to find a sport that comes naturally for him.  the kid can hit, and got a couple of homeruns on his first game.  granted, he's playing against other 5-7 year olds who are just learning how to pick up a ball with a mitt and throw it in the right direction, but still.  it's a great boost for his self-confidence and so fun to watch him play.  with other sports he's participated in there's a lot of running involved and he wears out quickly and struggles to keep up with his peers, so this is a great fit.

we had him tested for the possibility of starting growth hormones, with the thought that it may help his underdeveloped muscles catch up.  we researched pros and cons and were sitting on the fence about it,  so we just finally decided to see if it was even an option for him.  after meeting with the specialist who did an evaluation, blood tests and an x-ray, we learned that his growth is behind but not something to be concerned enough right now to pursue GHR.  we'll do follow-ups to make sure he doesn't fall further behind.  

it's nice he's turning more mellow, especially because leah has become the opposite.  her desire for a little control over her life has come into full swing and she and i have hit a rocky patch.  i do my best to pick our battles--holding the line only when i feel it's necessary,  trying to give more slack to her rope so she can feel she's the one at the reins.  i give her devoted and intentional one-on-one attention daily, to fill up her cup.

but you want to know what our biggest arguments are about?  no longer bedtime, which was so last year.  now it's going potty, of all things.  what i do know,  the girl likes to be in control of her bladder.  and she was, until she gave herself a bladder infection for having too much control, and holding for hours upon hours at a time.  so i explained that she needed to listen to her body and take care of it.  and if she wasn't, her body would tell her by getting sick.  but her 4 yr old self isn't making the connection yet, that her short-term control has long-term side effects that resulted in weeks of accidents and antibiotics.

just last week, i finally felt like i was figuring out how to work through this space of control tug-of-war and we reached a silent peace treaty.  i parented caleb so differently, but all of my techniques were failing miserably with leah.  caleb was great with being given choices, and choosing within them.  my approach with leah is so completely the opposite.  as much as i don't love getting firm with her from the beginning, when it comes to this one place, it's what works best.  loving but firm has become my motto and has helped me stay consistent and calm even when she is riled up.

other than that, the beauty inside this little girl continues to take my breath away.  she is so sweet, and full of compassion lately, when we have had to work through our tough times.  overall she's been more outwardly loving... i absolutely hold onto any hug, kiss, and "i love you" she sends my way.  we end each day with me giving her 4 different types of kisses, and i would love more than anything to bottle her up at this age and keep her this way forever.

and then there's june, who i seem to fall more in love with every day.  she is such a great communicator, picking up phrases and words that i've never worked with her on.  she is still so cuddly, and as independent as she is, she still loves to be wherever i am.

her tantrums have taken on a mind of their own and i have to force myself not to laugh while she's shrieking and catapulting her body on the floor when she doesn't get what she wants.  luckily she gets over it quickly, and can easily find happiness in other distractions.

she was sick the past few weeks, probably more sick than she's been in her little life, and i ended up sleeping on her floor with her for over a week.  those late nights killed me with exhaustion, but also held some of my most precious memories with this girl.  i would be falling asleep, when i would feel her soft, chubby little hand stroking my cheek.  i would open my eyes to see her staring at me, with the sweetest smile on her face.  then she would say "i yuv you" and give me a kiss.  i would sing her songs as she snuggled in with her blankies and found myself wanting to stay awake just to watch her eyes get heavy and finally close.

these three kids and their dad are the best part of me.  they fill my soul up with meaning, love and fulfillment in a way i could have never imagined.  and they are the daily reminders of the goodness of God in my life.

and now?

a little video with a dance-off, strader kid style.  along with a small groin-grab from caleb....where does he learn this stuff?