Custom Creation

I am not a crafty person but desperate times call for desperate measures and that is precisely where I found myself this past week, scouring the internet for charts- Morning Routines, Bedtime Routines, Chores, Allowance and Behavior were the topics I was interested in; however I could not find a system that incorporated it all.  So I made my own.

My eldest is 5 1/2 now (don’t you ever forget that 1/2), and is highly interested in earning money.  I want to teach her how to earn money by working and yet I don’t want the EXTRA WORK of managing it.  I would also like a way to remember the nine steps we do every morning before school, but want her to be accountable for following them.  Finally, I want her to recognize that she can lose her money by being disrespectful- impatience, talking back, etc.

Introducing The New Leaf Parenting Accountability System.  It includes the following: Continue reading

Day Off

It’s 5 P.M. and I have decided I’m taking the day off, today.  Between the Kindergartener crying before school, the toddler’s epic battle at nap time and the almost 4 year-old locking us all out of the bathroom, I’m declaring myself done for the day.

My patience level is at a negative zero and I’m tired of expecting myself to somehow dig out another ounce.  Today, I just want to go back to being me before children.  It’s impossible I know, and not something I’m going to want once I see them all sleeping peacefully on the baby monitor later, but right now, I just want to pretend that I don’t have to always think about my actions all of the time.

I don’t want to set any more examples today of how to keep your cool when you really want to blow your lid.  I don’t want to care about many bites of healthy food they eat, how much screen time they are getting, or the size of their poop in the potty.

I’m dreaming of binge-watching my favorite TV shows, of long, uninterrupted phone conversations, and eating junk food without having to hide it.  I’m going to imagine myself sleeping until it gets boring, reading until I get a headache, and shopping in a speciality boutique store just because I can.

Tomorrow, I’ll grab my coffee and get back on the parent horse- making sure my kids eat their protein for breakfast, clean up after themselves, and behave like good citizens.  But today, I’m giving myself a break.  I’ll go through the motions tonight to feed them and get them to bed, but if all hell breaks loose, I. don’t. care. because. I’m. done. today.  Join Me!

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Pre-Baby Days

My Children, My Teachers

“Honour thy father and thy mother.” One of the 10 Commandments. Most of us were raised to regard our parents as our superiors.  “Because I said so” is an oh-so familiar phrase in most households. We consider our children OURS. They belong to us. It is our job to guide them.

But what if we, instead, regard our children as our teachers?

I’ve been reading a great deal of parenting books this summer: The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family both by Dr. Shefali, The Whole Brain Child by Drs. Siegel and Bryson are just a few. Very honestly, I typically feel resistant to pick them up and read them. I fight a feeling of eye-rolling, as if to say “Don’t I do enough, already? I hardly have time to read as it is, do I really want to spend my time thinking more about my children?” And yet, I am left with a sense of clarity after every page. A tiny shift in perspective that feels like a fresh breath of air.

Instead of only focusing on the wisdom we have to bestow on our offspring, what if we opened our heart to the lessons they are teaching us every day? For instance, patience. Slowing down so they can keep up when we walk, slowing down our speech so they can understand, slowing down our schedules so that we have time to marvel at their magnificence. Slowing down when we rush them to get their shoes, jackets and seatbelt on. Witnessing them learn. Viewing the wonder of the world from their eyes.

Or how about our capacity to love? Our hearts have never experienced a love this fierce. We love them so much that when they disappoint us we feel it personally within our own hearts, as if it is a reflection of us. Perhaps it is. Perhaps rather than focusing our anger on them, we could open our hearts to the lesson it has taught us on how to be a better parent. Perhaps we could learn to love ourselves as much as we love them.

Forgiveness. Murderers have parents who still love them, in spite of their evildoings. Maybe we can learn to forgive others or even ourselves with the grace we give our own children.

When we start to witness our children as our teachers, we release the pressure of parenting perfectly. We wait, we watch, we consider and we enjoy.  We grow as they grow and love them not only for who they are, but also for all they have taught us.

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The Choice is Yours

School is fast approaching and as a result, so is my child’s anxiety. Fortunately, I’ve been reading The Whole Brain Child by Drs. Siegl and Bryson this summer and have become familiar with the concept of “Mindsight” which they define as ” . . . understanding our own mind as well as understanding the mind of another.”¹ I have also learned about “The Wheel of Awareness” and have adapted it to work for my young daughter, who is entering Kindergarten.

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My daughter has attended two years of pre-k at the same school so it isn’t as if this is totally new territory.

I began our activity by asking her to describe what she loves about school and drew illustrations in the center (I’m no artist).  She loves drawing, playing with friends, toys and playing on the playground.  She loves celebrating the holidays.

I then drew four paths to school and asked her to explain how she feels about going to school. We came up with “Happy, Sad, Curious, and Scared” and placed them in the color path of her choice. After discussing each path, I had her point to the one she would like to take to school, which, of course, was “Happy”.

I explained that sometimes we feel sad and miss mommy and walk along that trail and that it is ok to feel this way, but that after a short while, doesn’t it feel better to move on over to the “Happy” path? She smiled in recognition.

Fill the center. Every day we choose a path. Sometimes we get trapped on the broken one, but after while we do ourselves a service when we refocus our mind to the good, the positive, the things to look forward to once we reach our destination.

Siegel, Daniel J., & Bryson, Tina Payne. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Random House. 

 

Nourish

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Songwriters often say they write their greatest music after a heartbreak.  Athletes play their best game after a significant loss.  In the midst of tragedy, artists and writers create their masterpieces.  It’s almost as if we need conflict to have depth and gain insight.

I wrote a lot last year.  I was surviving.  Consumed by my parental responsibilities, struggling to find my identity.

I was so focused on how much I felt my kids were draining me, that I neglected to recognize how much they have nourished my soul.

It’s hard to have perspective when you are physically exhausted, overwhelmed, and consumed.

But my heart has never known a love like this.  Without them, I never would have known its depths.  And I never would have understood God’s love for me as well as I do now.

My children have taught me patience, the joy in the simple things, and selflessness.  They challenge me to be the best version of myself, because they are watching every. single. thing. I. do. and. say.

They give me something to look forward to every morning and in all the years to come, watching them grow in character and personality.

I wrote a lot last year, when I was barely treading water.  But now, I’m simply enjoying making memories with them.  Hopefully that is something worth reading.

Pruning

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Pruning- “Trim by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.”*

Pruning is a task that is not fun to do and yet is so fun to watch the effect of having done so. A flowering bush once weighed down with too many blossoms, some way past their prime, returns to its glory with new buds, intoxicating the surrounding air with its fresh fragrance.

We know this to be true of plants, so why is it so hard for us to prune the rest of our life?

Old relationships that we’ve dragged along, just because we’ve always done so.

Extra-curriculars that helped us at one time but now seem to be an extra burden.

We add and add to our plate without ever taking-away and we find ourselves drowning.

Perhaps it is because we are afraid.  What if we need that dead blossom one day?  What will our life look like without it?

We will never know until we let go.

We must take the chance of channeling our energy into that which is thriving- new buds, new life that bring with it the sweetest of fragrances and the relief that we are truly focusing on that which is growing, not that which is past its time.

Grab your shears.  Take a look at your life as a whole.  Where do you want to focus your energy and growth?  What do you need to let go of?

Make the cut and feel the sweet relief of pruning.

 

*Oxford University Press. The Oxford American College Dictionary. Published G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002.

 

The Hand of Time

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Jump. That is what we wish to do. Fast-forward. To the next job. The next partner. The next phase. The time-after.

In doing so, we miss the opportunity gifted to us. To learn.

Endurance. Love. Character. Depth. Grace.

Things we cannot rush.

Like Wine. Sewing. Teaching. Writing. Cooking!

I will never forget witnessing an experienced cook throw things together for dinner. I thought, “I’ll never be able to do that. No one ever taught me.”

Then I got married, then I had kids. Where did the time go? How am I supposed to learn now?

But I am. Slowly, but surely. I wanted to walk before I could crawl. I wanted to know how, before it was possible.

And isn’t this true about life? We focus on the end game and lose sight of the learning curve.

Few of us are prodigies. Most started with simple songs, simple sketches before we created our masterpiece.

The time is now to feel the moment we are in. To appreciate it for what it is.

The uncomfortable present. The gift.

No. 1 Fan

Hey you- yea, you.  I’m your #1 fan.

He asks me who I’m “rooting for”.

It’s whoever is losing.

Dig deep.

Find you.

You and your potential- you’re in there somewhere.

I see you.

I’m your fan.

Now it’s your turn to see you.  To root for you.  To be your #1 fan.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

When Multitasking Hurts

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Emma Jane at 18 Months Old

Emma nearly died twice today before 11 a.m..  Both incidents were fully preventable.  Both incidents were caused because I was distracted.

The first was at 9 a.m.  I was getting the five and three year-old ready for swim lessons and needed to grab their goggles from inside the Protect-a-Child pool fence.  Emma followed me into the backyard and fussed at the fence, wanting to get into the pool.  I quickly told her we didn’t have time and heard the gate swing shut behind me as I walked back into the sun-room, fully expecting her to follow.

Some of the items I gathered from outside were still a little wet, so instead of bringing them inside, I dropped them on the sun-porch floor and thought to look for a bag.  I heard Emma continuing to fuss in the background, which is when I turned around to see her opening the pool gate.

It had closed, but had not latched.

Had I not seen her, she would have been in that pool, drowning in the next 5 seconds.

It scared me to death.

The next incident was right around 11 a.m.  We had returned from swim lessons and a grocery trip and I started carrying the bags inside the house.  Emma loves to play in the garage with all of her yard toys and was happily distracted with her tricycle and cars.  The big girls were setting up a large blanket for our picnic.

I took one more peek at Emma in the garage before organizing lunch for the four of us, leaving the kitchen door to the garage largely cracked so I could still see her.

That’s when I heard the scream.

I ran outside, to find Emma in the middle of the street, a car stopped just in front of her.  Her older sisters helplessly standing in the grass, witnessing Emma running in the road to get the ball that had rolled down the driveway.

We live on a half-acre lot but 30 seconds was all it took for Emma to make it from the garage to the middle of the road.

I had turned my back to dish out broccoli and chicken nuggets into the plates and my baby almost died.  Again.

I feel foolish.  I feel unqualified to be a mother.  I feel angry with myself.  I feel sad for my older daughters who experienced that terror and whose screams were the only reason I knew what had happened.  I feel gratitude for the mercy God bestowed TWICE on my child today.  I feel the need to share this story, to remind others how quickly distraction can kill.

Hindsight is 20/20.  I should have double checked the pool gate like I have 1,000 other times, but today, I was in a hurry and I didn’t.

I never should have left Emma alone in the garage, even if I could see her from the kitchen, because she is 18 MONTHS OLD.  But the thought of trying to prepare lunch for the four of us while she screamed and cried at the kitchen door versus her happily playing with her toys, propelled me to make that poor decision.

I tell my girls all of the time that it just takes once to break a bone, to fall, to drown, etc.  I don’t want them living in perpetual fear but I do want them to understand that just because we got lucky once, doesn’t mean we will again.

We live in a world that enables multi-tasking.  Bluetooth capabilities to talk while driving in our car and Apple watches on our wrist to alert us of a text as we jog.  It seems there are never enough hours in a day to finish everything we want accomplished, which is why we feel proud when we are able to “kill two birds with one stone”.  But at what cost?

Today, it almost cost me the life of my youngest child.

Yesterday, distraction surely caused someone else to lose theirs.

Just a week ago, I watched a chilling video that forced me to become a less-distracted driver.  I started putting my phone out-of-sight in the car, as a result of this video but gradually, my phone has made its way back onto the middle console.

It seems ridiculous that I could be so careless, when this entire video is about how “better-than-most” is not sufficient.  The pool fence is a step-up from no fence at all, but it’s worthless if it isn’t closed.  The cracked garage door is only helpful if I keep my eye on that crack the entire time, which is impossible.

None of us is perfect, but this video and what happened to my family this morning, has been a much-needed reminder of the importance of constant-vigilance when driving and caring for children.

I’m not waiting for God to grant me any more second-chances.  I’m so grateful I didn’t have to learn these lessons the most horrible, worst-way imaginable.  I’m taking His grace and slowing down.  I hope you will, too.

The Video that Changed My Life

Faith

Written one year ago today, this is one of my very favorites. Only the beginning of the article is about childbirth- the rest is about letting go . . .

New Leaf Parenting

It took three attempts for me to succeed in having an unmedicated childbirth.  I attended nearly 70 hours of childbirth classes before my first baby, read countless books, and spent many-a-night role-playing labor with my husband before falling asleep to my hypnobirthing CDs.  The message was clear:  LET GO.  Succumb to the pain instead of fighting it.  Relax even when your body instinctually clenches.  Unless you have been in labor, you have absolutely no idea how impossible that seems when you are experiencing gut-wrenching pain.  By the third labor, I knew what to do and my unmedicated birth was everything I had hoped it would be: raw emotion that cannot be imitated.

Unmedicated childbirth isn’t just about “proving you can do it.”  Sure, you feel proud, just as a marathon runner does after her grueling race, but at its core, unmedicated childbirth inherently embraces FAITH.  Faith in our bodies to do what…

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