The Chart

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In order to promote responsibility in our house, Randall and I bought a chart to keep track of good behavior and completed chores.  It has some suggested chores and behaviors, as well as some blank magnets to write your own responsibilities.  It’s cute.   And every time Asher says the word “chart” I silently giggle a little.  (He has a problem with replacing the ch sound with an sh sound.  Someday I’ll be an adult…)

The boys earn smiley face magnets when they complete a chore or when they’ve had a day of good behavior.  When the boys share and play nicely all day, they get a magnet.  When they brush their teeth and pick up toys they get a magnet.  At the end of the week, if the boys have earned enough magnets, they get to choose their reward.  The first week, they earned a toy from Target’s dollar section.  The chart really seemed to be working.  The next week, they earned a trip to the zoo.  That was the last time the boys earned a reward.

The thing is, they are often nice to each other and they always clear the table and brush their teeth.  But they HATE picking up toys and making their beds.  There is no amount of motivation that will make them clean their rooms these days…

The other thing I have to admit is that the chart is for me, too.  Parenting is hard.  I will always be new to each phase of parenting and discipline.  I’m constantly learning and trying new things.  But for the past five years one thing hasn’t changed much.  I yell.  I yell a lot.  And when I’m trying not to yell, I just give them the evil eye.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to get the boys to brush their teeth before school.  Asher was doing a good job but Isaac was choosing this moment to throw a fit and not brush his teeth.  I rationalized with him.  “Isaac, we brush our teeth twice every day.  This is not a new thing.  The reason I ask you to brush your teeth is because it keeps them healthy.  We have to brush the food away so it doesn’t start eating away at your teeth, causing holes and pain in your teeth.”  It wasn’t working.

I tried a different tactic. “Isaac, just brush your teeth and be done with it.  You’re making us late for school.”  That was the wrong idea.  Then he started freaking out that he was going to be late for school!

So I tried my final measure.  I squinted my eyes and gave him my I’m-about-to-be-very-angry-with-you look and said in a forced whisper, “Then Brush Your Teeth!”  He continued to cry in hysterics and I lost it.

I slapped my own hand and yelled, “BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”  And then I saw the look on his face.  It was fear.  My son is scared of me.  That’s not a good feeling.  That’s never what I intended.  In those precious months when you’re expecting your first child, you pray a lot.  You ask for health and happiness.  You ask for guidance.  You never pray that your child will fear you.   It was an eye opening experience.

So I apologized.  That’s something a parent can’t be afraid to do.  I hugged him tight and apologized for yelling and told him I loved him and that we could drive to school and make it on time and helped him brush his teeth.

Then I went downstairs and filled out a blank magnet on the chart that said, “STOP YELLING.”  When Isaac got home from school, we talked about how sometimes I mess up and sometimes I disobey, too.  I showed the boys the new addition to the chart and told them that they would be allowed to give me a magnet if I stop yelling.

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You should be pleased to know that I have earned that magnet for three or so weeks now, every day (but two).  And the boys know, they can take away my magnet if I yell.  They are eager to do that.  Don’t worry.  They threaten to all the time.  Anytime I raise my voice to reach a kid’s ear that is far away, they ask if they can take away a magnet.  I don’t think those times count.

But I’m amazed at how easy it has been to make a conscious effort to change.  There are a few things in my life that have been my fatal flaws; temptations I’ve always struggled with and have never been able to make much progress against.  But I thank God that He helps me to overcome this one struggle.

 

May we never be too proud to ask forgiveness from our own kids.  May we always strive to learn and improve on our parenting skills.  God, may you always be my guide as I guide my kids.  Please protect them from the inevitable moments that I screw them up.  Teach me how to be a good mother and raise godly boys.  Amen.

My Baby You’ll Be

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Last night, I was snug in my bed, dreaming of trying to find a babysitter so I could go get a massage with some girl friends because someone had a groupon… Please don't analyze me…

When I was awakened by Asher's cries.  My heart was pounding and the list of reasons that he could be crying started running through my head.  As I stumbled into his room, I saw him sitting up huddled in the corner of his bed just crying in fright.  He tried to explain through tears, "There's a… there's a crab…" And then he stopped.  He started laughing and corrected himself, "I was pretending.  I was just pretending that there was a crab in my bed."  

I told him he must have been dreaming that there was a crab in his bed (I did see a hot wheels car in the middle of his bed, maybe he fell asleep on top of that).  He agreed and laid back down and nestled under his covers.  I told him that he was so smart to know that he had only been dreaming.  I told him that he would always be safe in this bed with Mommy and Daddy just down the hall.

I went back to bed.  I don't know why I just wanted to cry.  I am so blessed.  My kids are so wonderful.  Randall was knocked out, but I finagled my way under his arm and lay there as my uterus started jumping.  Well, maybe it was a thousand minuscule gas bubbles making their way through my small intestine but I started thinking, if I was guaranteed to have more kids like Isaac and Asher, I should have fifty more.

It was just a year ago that Randall and I, through much prayer and many tears, decided not to have any more kids.  I feel like it was the right decision, but honestly, there are still options for us.  When Randall and I started looking for a home to buy, he told me that he always wanted a spare room.  He's always imagined having a place of safe haven for anyone that may need it.  He has a heart for youth and is full of love and mercy.

But there are no guarantees, are there?  My precious three year old, who smothers me with kisses day and night, who says these exact words five times a day, "Mom.  I, uh, um, I love you," has a mind of his own.  I cannot control his every move.  I don't want to.  He will choose his own path in life and whatever he chooses, I will not regret a single moment I was allowed to love him and raise him.

Isaac has already gone through the phase where he hates me.  Just this year he became a Daddy's Boy so severe that he wanted nothing to do with me.  He would actually call out that he loved Daddy and not me.  Just a month or so ago, we were out of town and I had to give the boys a shower.  Isaac was angry.  He didn't want a shower, but a bath.  We didn't have a bath tub.  So I just tried to convince him that we'd be very quick and it'd all be over soon.  I turned on the shower and cleaned the boys as fast as possible.  As we were drying off and getting warm, I asked Isaac, "That wasn't so bad was it?"  And he responded, "No.  It wasn't bad because of Daddy."  Randall was not even in the room the whole time.  I asked, "What do you mean?"  Isaac replied, "Daddy made the shower time fun, not you."

I wasn't too offended.  A five year old is bound to go through these phases. And though he's undoubtedly still a Daddy's Boy this phase has moved on.  In fact, the other day, he told me that he was "just tricking me for a long time" when he told me he didn't like me.  In the past week or so he's been doing much better at being sweet to me.  He still doesn't want to give hugs or say "I love you," though…

I'm okay with that.  It won't stop me from loving him.  It won't stop me from telling him ten times a day.  It won't stop me from creeping in my boys' rooms at night, when I'm sure they're asleep and singing a song in their ears.  I pray that those sweet moments for me, send them happy dreams where they know they're safe and sound and loved beyond words by their mommy and daddy. IMG_0336
 

Out for Hire

Isaac is a professional ring bearer.  He's been in six weddings now in the four short years he's been walking.  He's up for hire if anyone else wants him.  He also does birthday parties.

 

Jonathan and Mindi's Wedding 2007IMG_9607 IMG_9610

Nicole and Hunter's Wedding 2007 IMG_1916 IMG_1942

 

Sean and Madeline's 2008

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Ashley and Nate's 2009 IMG_2484 IMG_2711

 

Kurt and Nastia's 2010 IMG_7998 IMG_8001

 

And Kayleigh and Brian's 2010 0004

 

Isaac Says…

I wish you could live with my boys.  I wish you could hear the sweet things that Asher says to me all day long.  I wish you could look at Isaac's sweet smile and goofy mannerisms every day.  That's why I've been taking note of what the boys are saying these days.  It's just so funny.  And cute.  And it makes me want to squeeze the snot out of these precious kids.

 

Here's what Isaac said last night as we were passing a party limo van outside of the Pageant.

"I can't wait until I'm a grown-up.  Then I can steal this car."

It took me a second, but I responded. IMG_6959

Today on the way home from school, he wanted to wait at Michelle's house for when she got off the bus.  She lives about 2 walking minutes from school but there is bus to door service for all kindergarteners.  So we waited with her dad for a few seconds while we watched the bus approach.  When it finally stopped and opened it's door, we could hear Michelle yelling from the front seat, "Our book bags are stuck together!"  Somehow, the zipper from her neighbor's book bag got caught on the netted side pocket of her pink princess book bag.  The bus driver had to get up and try to help them.  When he couldn't remove the zipper, he had to move the bus up and let the five cars behind him go ahead before he could try again.  When she finally got off, she ran up to Isaac and gave him a hesitant hug.  She was coming full force until she saw how he was awkwardly preparing for the hug.  Then she told me that Isaac said he was going to marry her.

Isaac does this really funny thing when he's embarrassed and trying to act like he doesn't really care about what he's talking about.  He shakes his head back and forth from side to side and rolls his eyes up and says in a quiet voice, "I said I was going to marry either you or Leah."  I've never met Leah, but she must be cute.  Isaac has great taste in girls.  His first girl (space) friend, Andra, from CBS was adorable!

I said, "We'll see in about fifteen years if you still want to marry each other."  Michelle's dad then responded, "Let's wait for seventeen years."  And that's when Isaac started scaring Michelle by showing her the pictures from his Creepy Countdown book.  She started screaming and running away, and we wished her and her dad a good day and went on down the street.

Fear Itself

Warning: These links are NOT approved for all audiences.

The other day, Isaac wanted to play a game at school before class started.  A year or so ago, I taught him this game I saw on this really scary movie.  It’s a great, quick children’s game.  One person is “it” and stands facing a tree while every other player stands at a designated point behind him.  The person who is “it” knocks on the tree and says, “One, two, three knocking on the tree”.  While the person is facing the tree and speaking, the other players silently creep towards him.  When he finishes his chant, he turns around and everyone must freeze.  If the “knocker” sees anyone moving, they have to go back to the beginning.  The “knocker” then turns back to face the tree and knocks again.  Eventually the silent creepers will get close enough to tag the knocker and he will have to chase them and tag the person who tagged him first. It’s a really fun (and creepy) game.

So Isaac wanted all the kids to play 1, 2, 3 so he asked Michelle if she knew how to play.  She confidently told him she did.  But started up a conversation with another “classmate”, avoiding Isaac all together.  But this story is really just a pointless tangent.  I just wanted to include a link to our newest favorite ghost story.

 

I’ve been contemplating something lately.  Is it okay to let your children be afraid?  Is it okay to be afraid yourself?

Growing up, fear was not really an option.  It’s not that we weren’t allowed to be afraid or express our fear of something, but my parents did a good job of explaining away those fears.  My dad raised us on scary movies.  It was his impression that if a scary movie didn’t have blood or violence (or adult situations) it was fine for kids to watch.  So we grew up watching Alfred Hitchcock movies and the like.  As a kid, my favorite movie was Poltergeist.  I even remember watching IT on TV.  It was on TV so it was safe, right?  It scared the crap out of me but I loved it!

Until my older sister, Laura, started reenacting it with my stuffed clown doll.  We shared a room and had bunk beds.  I can just remember going to bed at night and looking for that dumb clown doll.  When it was missing, I knew I’d see it again soon.  I’d wait eyes peeled in suspense for when it would show up again.  Usually it would appear as if it was floating down from the top bunk, saying something awful like, “They all float up here, Emily!”

There was one movie in particular that I had to watch over and over until I was finally brave enough to finish it around the age of 12.  The Changeling is one of my dad’s favorite ghost stories.  It’s a great movie!  It’s very quotable.  At least every person in my extended family would know exactly how to say such simple words as “my father” and make a chill go up your spine.  And the music is excellent!  Now that I’ve taken my family members on a trip down memory lane, I’ll continue with my real thoughts.

I just remember the few times I was afraid, my dad sat me down and explained away my fears.  When I was afraid of a thunderstorm, he would tell me it’s just like God is bowling.  Isn’t that fun, to imagine that God is bowling up in Heaven?  He’d say, “you like rock music, don’t you?  It’s loud and always has good drums.  You’re not afraid of drums are you?  Don’t be afraid of thunder just because it’s loud.”  And he was right.  To this day, thunder is one of my favorite things to listen to.

I remember a very specific moment when we decided to go to Six Flags and test out the new Ninja ride.  I loved roller coasters as a kid but I had never been on a ride that had loops; that actually took me upside down.  So I was stoked to ride it.  I was so excited up until the point that we pulled into the parking lot.  I started crying.  I remember Dad saying that it was safe.  It had to be safe or they’d never put it in an amusement park.  There was nothing to worry about.  I’m sure he even explained the physics of what happens when the coaster goes through those loops.  I got my courage and rode the coaster.  I’m sure I had a headache afterwords because that is the worst ride in the park, but it was fun and I’m glad I did it.

I’ve always been proud to say that there really is nothing I’m afraid of.  Until I had kids.  Then the thought of losing a kid, or even screwing them up became my big fears.  So, will I screw up my kids if I refuse to let them be afraid of anything?  I feel like I turned out okay.  I’m not too hard of a person, am I?

My dad still has the same philosophy about scary movies.  One of Isaac’s first Halloweens, we came to DnA’s (Doug and Angie, a pet name the Kirkland kids use for our parents) to trick or treat.  While my mom filled my kids with sugar (apparently, that’s every grandmother’s civil duty), my dad introduced Isaac to Poltergeist.  I was talking with Kayleigh and Brian as they got dressed and ready for their evening when I realized what Isaac was watching.  My dad commenced to tell me that when you explain to a child what to expect in the next scary scene, it is no longer scary to them.  Here’s how the conversation went down.

Grandpa:  Hey Isaac, watch this:  This guy’s face is going to melt into the sink.  You’re going to love it!

The first week of school, Isaac was telling me what he liked to play at recess.  He told me that someone would be the bad guy and he’d chase everyone and then catch on fire and run around screaming.  I was so shocked!  Here I am thinking that these stupid school kids are corrupting my son.  Then my dad confessed that he was showing the boys his favorite car chase scene from Bullitt.  He forgot that at the end of the chase scene, the bad guys catch fire and are shown burning in their overturned car!  It was my kid that was corrupting the others!

I’ve always tried to protect my boys’ innocence.  Isaac and Asher both have struggled with fears in the past.  But I take those moments to either explain them away, or give them tools to calm their fears.  What do you think?  Should I just comfort them and hold them and tell them it will be okay?  Or should I tell them not to be afraid?

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Food, Glorious Food!

I've been reading this blog since January.  It's written by a teacher who was appalled by her students' school lunch.  The food was processed, hard to eat, and the time they were given was way too short.  The kids were not allowed any time for recess to get any extra energy out and she started to think that these factors were probably affecting how they learned and retained information.  So she decided to eat school lunch, just like the kids do, every day for one year.  She started in January so this December she will complete her project.  She hasn't seen any discouraging health issues pop up like this guy found.  But she does comment about the lethargy, nausea and on many days, continued hunger she feels after eating her school lunch.

She's pretty opinionated and I don't always agree with her, but I have been learning a lot along with her.  Before she started this project, she was by no means a nutritionalist.  She just did her best to eat and feed her family healthy foods and wanted the same for her students.  Her life has been flipped, turned upside down since she started this blog. 

 Here's something important that I did learn:  Kids as young as mine, can help with cooking.  I've always known this to some degree.  I love having my kids help with the measuring, stirring and decorating but that's about the extent of where I'd let them help.  IMG_4464

I never minded the mess but I always felt the need to keep them safe from sharp knives and hot stoves. IMG_4461

But after reading this post, I decided to let Asher do some real work in the kitchen.  During our preschool time we often like to incorporate a cooking lesson.  For our letter A week, we made apple crisp.  For our letter C week, we decided to do some real cooking in the crock pot.  We made apple butter. Asher helped peel the apples and chop them into big chunks.   IMG_8296
He used a real knife that was sharp enough to cut his precious little fingers.  I watched him carefully but he really got the hang of it and was quite successful.  It was a scary thing for me to let him do, but I'm glad I did.  There is little in life more precious than seeing your son succeed and be proud of himself for what he accomplished.

 

 

Lessons from Asher

I am way backed up on blogs that I'd like to be writing.  I've got one, half written and a bunch more sitting in my head and camera.  But life keeps on moving and amazing things are happening around me that I don't want to forget.  

Like the conversation I had with Asher yesterday.  We had a day packed with activities.  I had many errands to run and just enough time to fit them in.  I told the boys in the morning about all the excitement (and errands) that our day would include: Eat breakfast, go to CBS, eat lunch in the car and go straight to school, go to the bank, Walmart and CostCo, stay after school to talk with Mr. Salt, home for a bit to rest, then to the Pumpkin Patch, Chick Fil A for dinner with the Bergmans, and then boys night with Daddy while I led a bunch of outstanding 9th grade girls at church.  Isaac immediately started whining, I hate Costco!  Luckily, he didn't have to go.  Asher was pretty excited to go.  He loves the samples!

We went on with our busy day and Asher kept asking when it would be time to go to Costco (he really does love it!).  We finally pulled into the parking lot and got out of the car.  Here's the conversation that occurred as we were walking into the store:

Asher: Mom, are there people who don't have any food?

Me: Yes, baby, there are people who are hungry all day because they have no food.

Asher: Those people should come to Costco.

Me: Well, they don't have any money to buy food so it wouldn't help much.

Asher:  Well, we have food at our house.

Me: You're right.  Jesus says that when you have extra food you should give it to people who have none.

Asher:  Those people who are hungry should come to our house.

Me:  You're right.  We should share our food with them.

It didn't occur to me that this was the exact thing we were talking about at church last night.  We're partnering with Compassion International and fighting this war on hunger.  Did you know that 854 million people around our world are undernourished.  But we can do something about this!  Thirteen dollars will feed one child for a month.  If you skip one meal, one day and donate that five dollars to this cause, you could make a huge dent in the world's hunger problem.  Asher says we should do something about this.  I'm on it.

Hunger from One Meal One Day on Vimeo.

Balloon Glow

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 If you know me well, then you know that I love St. Louis.  I was born and bred here and don't know much else but it really is a great place to live.  We live in a city, with farmland.  There are hills and valleys and four great seasons.  But St. Louis offers such fun, FREE, opportunities for families.  It just makes me smile.  You'll hear me often quoting one of my favorite movies, Meet Me in St. Louis, "Wasn't I lucky to be born in my favorite city?!"

Well, this Summer, Randall and I took our boys to the Balloon Glow.  It's a St. Louis tradition that I had never experienced.  Every year, dozens of hot air balloons gather in Forest Park for a race.  On the eve of the race, they inflate the balloons and sell funnel cakes and have a great time for the people of St. Louis to get up close and personal with the balloons and their pilots.

There's a big crowd.  Lots of traffic.  But it's totally worth it.  We got downtown early and parked at the Muny (America's oldest and largest outdoor theater and it still has free seats!) and had a picnic.  Then we moseyed on over to the Central Field and saw a group of Scottish musicians marching toward the balloons.  We followed!  They played their bag pipes and made us all stop for a second to enjoy the moment.  

The sun was setting as we weaved in and out of the massive balloons.  We got to see the gondola's up close and feel the enormity of the balloons towering over us.  It was a cool evening but when the pilots intermittently shot fire into the large envelopes, we could feel the warmth of the 10 foot flames on our faces.  And then it happened.  It was Magic.  
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 A loud air horn blew, and every balloon fired up the propane at the same time, illuminating the large balloons.  The sky was dark now, until the blast of fire shot up each nylon envelope and made the faces of the people around us glow an eerie yellow orange. It took my breath away!    It was just… magical. IMG_8393

 Some day I'll take a flight in one of these babies.   Preferably not one shaped like a giant bag of popcorn
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