"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gentle Discipline: So what DO you do?

I have been thinking about discipline a lot the past several days (as have, apparently, many of you) I realized that what was bothering me the most about the negative comments I was receiving about the spilled milk post - aside from the people who felt led to name call - was the pervasive assumption that not punishing equaled not disciplining. That because I do not take a punitive approach, that I do not PARENT.

The opposite is true.

I got comment after comment after comment that said, "If you just let your kids do whatever they want..." which usually led into a diatribe about them never learning right from wrong, never having any respect for themselves or others, and ultimately turning into loud, dirty, trouble-making teenagers.

Parents who ignore their children's behavior, parents who are not involved, parents who really do let their kids "run wild" (for lack of a better phrase) are being neglectful. Those who parent mindfully and who discipline gently are consciously present with their children. They are VERY much involved in showing, leading, modeling, and guiding their children.

It's easy and immediate to offer up a "Go to your room!" or a "Look what you did!" It's dis serving and neglectful to turn your back.  It's deliberate and thoughtful to respond in a calm, and caring way. 

If you get nothing else from this post, please hear this:  Ignoring what your children are doing, and interacting with them respectfully are two completely and diametrically opposed things. 

One common thread I saw emerging in my comments, even when it was not expressly said, was "Well if you don't punish, what DO you do?  How do you teach them right from wrong?  How will they learn?"  I'm going to take that for the honest question that it is.  Some people, for any number of reasons, do not know about alternatives.  They don't know that there's another way.  Some people want to do things differently, and want to break their cycle, but they honestly do not know where to start.  It's for those people that I started to think about the following... a (partial) list of what I do do with my children in terms of discipline.

1. Listen

My friend Vickie, of Demand Euphoria (which is a blog you should immediately head on over to check out when you're finished here) recently said it best when she said, "If you have a question about parenting your child, try asking your child first!"  We all act the way we act for a reason.   When I'm unclear about what's going on with one of my children, I first try to stop and just listen.   I let them tell me why they're thinking/acting/feeling a certain way.  Even young, non-verbal children can communicate what the problem is as long as we're paying attention.  Are they tired?  Hungry?  Frustrated?  Sad?  Angry? Regardless of the situation, we can't even begin to effectively deal with it unless we understand why it's happening.  And we can only do that if we're really in tune with our children.  We can only do that if we're really listening.

2. Talk
While I think the listening has to come before the talking, we of course have to have an ongoing, respectful communication as we help our kids navigate the world.  I think that sometimes as parents we have a tendency to talk way too much (which is why I place listening first)  When Tegan threw the shoes in the water, a very brief and simple, "We don't want those to get ruined," was much more appropriate for the situation  - and her age - than a long-winded narrative about responsibility, respect, and ownership.  With the boys, who are older, I might use more words... but my experience tells me that less is still more, and that the listening has to come first.

3. Empathize

This to me is at times one of the hardest - but most necessary - facets of peaceful parenting.  Sometimes it's hard to remember what it's like to be three (or 7 or 10 or 14)  Sometimes it's hard to see past the frustration of a moment and truly put ourselves in someone else's shoes.   But I can think of few other acts that diffuse a situation as quickly as when I really take a deep breath and let myself feel what my child feels.   I can listen more effectively, talk more authentically, and respond more compassionately when I've let go of me, and allow it to be about them.  This isn't just about kids either, but is an important aspect of dealing with anyone, in any situation. 

4. Model

One thing that I think a lot of people are confused about is how children can learn things like manners, respect, and the like without it being somehow drilled into them.  My answer is this:  I model the behavior that's important to me.   I say please and thank you.  I say excuse me.  I'm polite to waiters and bank tellers and cashiers.  I'm true to myself.  I respect other people's things.  I respect other people's feelings.  I don't lash out at strangers on the internet because they do things differently than me.  I say I'm sorry when I make a mistake.  I treat my kids - and other people - the way I'd like to be treated.  My children have learned it because they have lived it.

5. Provide alternatives 

This point is much more applicable to small children than older children.  One thing I hear a LOT is moms of toddlers who say things like, "But how do I stop the hitting?  The pinching?  The biting?  The throwing?"  If it helps for commiseration sake, Paxton (10) was a huge thrower as a toddler, and these days the only thing he throws is a baseball.... without ever having been punished for it. :)  All those things I mentioned are normal for growing, learning toddlers.  At three, Tegan is on her way out of most such behaviors, but when something arises, I 1) Protect the person who's taking the brunt of it, in whatever way I need to do it... whether that means moving to another room, going outside (or in), or
gently holding her hands in mine.  2) Move on to step one - listening.  Is she tired?  Needing attention?  Just trying something fun?  3) Talking: I'm sorry, I can't let you throw that remote at his head because he might get hurt, and 4) Provide alternatives.  Does she want to throw?  There are lots of safe, fun things she can throw.  Does she want to hit something?  How about high-fives, or punching an exercise ball, or boxing on the Wii?  Does she want to experiment with water?  Lots of safe, fun ways to experiment with water.   Does she just need more personal attention from me?   I'll suggest a game, or a puzzle, or a coloring book, and sit down and do it with her.   Sometimes it takes a healthy dose of creativity, but there's always an alternative. 
6. Take a time out

No, not in the more well-known, punishment kind of way, but a time out together.  A time away from the situation.  A chance to re-connect and re-group.  A chance to calm down.  Sometimes listening, talking, empathizing, and providing alternatives just doesn't do it.  Sometimes you need to call a time out... whether it means a change in scenery, a good book, time alone, a bowl of ice cream, or a good old fashioned round of "what kind of shapes and animals can we find in the clouds."

7.  Be gentle.  Be forgiving.

Just I was finishing up this post, I received another comment.  It said in part that I came across as if I think I'm perfect.  It makes me sad because that is just about the complete opposite of my intent, and it is just about the complete opposite of the truth.  I will take it to heart, and measure the tone of future posts, but can I just hereby officially state for the record that

I am 100% categorically IMPERFECT in oh so many ways!!  

SO many ways.  If you're not convinced, I have friends and family members who would gladly give you a list of my flaws if you would like it.

I'm not perfect.  My kids aren't perfect.  They screw up.  I screw up.  We're human.  The best we can do is try to do better, be gentle with ourselves and others, and apologize honestly and forgive freely. 

I'm not a perfect parent, and I don't have all the answers.  I do know though that my kids are HAPPY.  My kids are confident.  My kids are thriving.   And I can't ask for much more than that.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alanis Morissette = Best Therapy Ever

I've never really been to therapy, at least not on my own. When I was a teenager, I went to family therapy (it was required when my parents took in a foster child), and to say that I wasn't a fan would be an understatement. I still don't know why I had such a strong reaction (Maybe it's because I was there against my will? Maybe it was just that particular therapist?) Maybe therapy just isn't my thing. In any case, there have definitely been times I've wondered about it, especially when I encounter people who speak so highly of it. But I've never been back.

I do think, regardless of your stance on therapy, that everyone should have tools at their disposal to pull themselves back up when they've gotten off-track... whether it's time alone, talking things out with a friend, meditating, praying, connecting with nature. Something to re-center, re-focus, and re-group. I have several, each for a different set of circumstances. One for when I'm feeling lost, one for when I'm sad, one for when I'm having an internal struggle of some sort...

Today I brought out the big guns. Alanis Morissette. Alanis Morissette is for the days when I'm feeling an overwhelming sense of


And she's not just for listening. No, no. She's for singing along - loudly - preferably with grand hand gestures (the more dramatic and angst-filled, the better) And it needs to be in the car... it just doesn't have the same effect otherwise.

Today, I needed it, and the kids happily indulged me on our short drive to our friends' house. And it worked.

I like lots of other music for lots of other moods, but when I have that feeling, that just..... What was it I said up above?  Oh yes,  "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggggh".  When I have that feeling, it has to be Alanis. Blasting Jagged Little Pill brings me out of the doldrums like no other. A couple of hits of Ironic, One Hand in My Pocket, and of course my unschooling anthem, You Learn, and I'm back and ready to take on the world again.

What's your go-to album?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm Officially Old

Spencer is fourteen as of two months ago. Last night, I was sitting at my computer, minding my own business, when he came in and asked me a question. This is not unusual for him - or for any of my children - especially in the evening. They're often wandering in and out, asking questions, chatting for a little while, then going back to their own projects.

What was unusual was the question. It was a big question. It was the question.

"Hey Mommy, how old were you when you started dating?"

Now I, of course, answered with immediate and unflinching honesty.

"Twenty seven. And I was 30 before I had sex."

No, what I really told him was the truth: that I'd officially started dating when I was around his age.

He was pleased with this information, and didn't miss a beat before asking, "Well when can I start dating?"

"When you're twenty seven."

But the fact was, I didn't have any magic age for him. Like anything else, I told him, it would happen when it happened. We'd deal with it together when the time came. That answer seemed to satisfy him, and he wandered out again... only to return about 18 seconds later.

"Mommy. How do you do that thing on Facebook? Where it says so-and-so is in a relationship with so-and-so?"

I laughed a little bit. I couldn't help it. He wanted to know how people made their relationship "Facebook official."

"It's just an option in your profile. You can go in and edit it, and then it just shows up."

He thought about that for a second. "Does the other person have to be on Facebook too?"

"No," I told him, "You can say you're in a relationship with anyone."

He left again. I chuckled. It's funny, this new age of dating. It's when he came back for a third time to ask, "So if I meet a girl, is it better if I get her email, or should I just get her number so I can text her?" that it hit me:

I'm old.

Not only am I old, but I'm also profoundly and hopelessly out of touch with the times. I have no idea how people date in 2011.   Now if he'd asked me how to fold up a note into a neat little triangle, I'd have been able to help him.  If he'd wanted to know about slipping said note into the slats of his beloved's locker, I'd have been all over it.  I could have even helped him make a mixed (cassette) tape of songs I'd recorded from the radio, and shown him how to wrap yarn around his class ring so it'd fit on his girl's finger.

But Facebook?  Texting?  Emails?  None of that existed when I was his age.   My gosh, was it THAT long ago?  I'm 37, not 87!    But alas, it's true.  It's a whole new world out there.   I was 14 over 20 years ago.  And because I met and married my now-husband when I was still in my late teens, I never knew the joys of waiting for a returned email (only the joys of waiting for a returned note to be passed in between gym and science class)  Never knew what it was like to have a picture instantly text to me (only what it was like to bring my film to the one hour photo developing place a week after I took them)  I never knew the sadness of having 200 friends watch at once as my relationship status changed in a blink from taken to single (only the humiliation of having to tell everyone, one at a time, until the word had passed... that yes, I'd been officially dumped again) 

Is one way better than the other?  Was I missing out on the wonders of communication that were yet to come?  Or is the other way around? 

I don't know the answer, but I do know that the realization of this gulf between my teenage son and my teenage self made me... tired.  The whole thing was making my head spin, and it was making me tired.

I'm old.

But the conversation wasn't over yet.  I'd already gone to bed to watch TV by the time he came to find me again.   "Mommy.  How do I set my phone to have a different ringtone for different people?  So like when I have a girlfriend, I can have a special song just for her?"  And finally I had a good answer, the answer that would give my poor old tired brain a rest from trying to wrap itself around the fact that the last time I was dating there was no such thing as Facebook, George Sr was president, and gas cost $1.50.

The phone that Spencer and Paxton share used to belong to Mike, and I have enough trouble with the intricacies of my own phone, let alone someone else's.  So it was with honesty - and relief - that I tenderly looked him in the eyes and said,

"You'll have to ask your father."  And so he did.

And I went off to sleep, dreaming of a simpler time.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spilled Milk: A couple of thoughts a week later

The shoes that started it all
Dan, of Single Dad Laughing and Will Work 4 Followers posts a weekly "Lessons Learned"... sort of a rundown of the good and bad of that week's posts, how they were received, and what he's learned from it.  I've been thinking about that all day today, because I've learned a lot of lessons in the past week, both large and small.

First and foremost, I'm an even bigger introvert than I thought.  One week ago, on a really really good day, my blog would get maybe 200 views.  Maybe.  Today it got 4,700.  My Spilled Milk post has been shared and re-shared and passed along almost 2,000 times.  I say that not to toot my own horn, but to give a frame of reference for what I'm about to say, which is:

I'm little bit overwhelmed.

I have gotten a lot of comments, emails, and Facebook messages (most of which have been extremely positive, for which I am very thankful!!) and  I'm grateful and humbled by all of you who've passed my words along.  It's been very, very cool to connect with so many new people.  It's also been a little.... strange.  Scary.  I don't always know what to say to everyone, so bear with me.

Second, I've learned that I should have been a little more specific about my daughter's age.  I took it for granted that people knew she was only three, and I had many new readers who did not.  I got a lot of comments from people thinking she was much older, and wondering why I'd be okay with a 7 year old (or whatever) throwing shoes into a lake.  It didn't occur to me until today to go back and edit the post to reflect her age.  Sometimes it doesn't really make a difference, but I think in this case it made a big difference.  She's three.  And it might have spared me some grief if I'd been clear about that from the beginning.

I've also learned that there are some major limitations to blogging as a means of communication.  A blog post like that one is just one little snapshot... a small example to illustrate a larger point.  It wasn't meant to be a blow-by-blow account of how I handled the situation, more of a discourse on how I did NOT handle the situation.  But I left details out.  I didn't mention what I said to her (and honestly, I don't remember the specifics of what I said to her) just because I didn't think it would add to the message of my blog.   It wasn't really my point.  That does not mean though that I had the words, or the attitude, of "What a great idea, you cute little thing you.  Let's throw everyone's personal property into the water.  Here's my purse, and don't forget my phone and car keys!"  A lot of people commented (most nicely, some not as nicely) that while maybe the "things" don't matter, that the discipline matters.  That the teaching right from wrong matters.  That the consequences matter.  That if I let my kids do whatever they want - which again, was not the point - that they'll grow up into miscreants.  Or something. 

I've blogged about gentle discipline many times, and I will blog about it again.  In fact, I'm working on another post inspired by the many comments on this one... a post about learning right from wrong, about learning respect for ourselves and others, and about what we really mean when we say "natural consequences."    I hope to post it soon.

I believe in guiding my kids through loving words and actions, and I believe in discovering and circumventing and figuring out the world WITH them and beside them.  I believe in treating them with kindness and with respect.  And yes, I do screw up constantly sometimes and I'm always striving to do better.

I think all of the above are great and worthwhile things to talk - and write - about as fellow parents, and are a big part of why I keep this blog.  But if you're looking for someone who takes a positive stance on things like time-outs, taking away of privileges, and creating lots of rules - and you don't want to hear about alternatives - then this might not be the right place for you.   If you disagree, but are willing to discuss and behave like a grownup, awesome.  If you want to learn about another way of doing things, great. I'm happy to have you.

And finally, a quick word about comments.  I love comments.  I think most bloggers love comments.  I try to respond to them all (I actually have a few from today that I still want to get to) and I don't moderate them so far.  In other words, if you write it, it shows up.  And just like I believe in treating kids with respect, I believe in treating adults with respect as well.  I'm glad to have a respectful discussion with someone who disagrees with me, but if you're going to lead by telling me that I don't care about my kids, and that they must be home schooled since they're so selfish... you're not too likely to get much of a response.

To those of you who are still with me, thank you!  It's been a wild, and fun, past couple of days. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Enough

A confession, if I may:

I have a sort of ongoing, internal struggle when it comes to perfectionism. In the moment, I'm okay with unpredictability. I'm cool with things not going according to plan. I've built an entire lifestyle (and an entire blog) around appreciating life's detours... which aren't always pretty, and aren't always perfect. There is still beauty to be found, even in the imperfections. I know this. I know this.

So I must be a slow learner. Because I still get hung up on details. I still worry about things turning out the way they're "supposed to." (And really, who can decide how things are supposed to turn out?) I still lay awake at night double-checking everything in mind, especially when it comes to things like holidays. And birthdays. And Tuesdays. Did I do everything I should've done? Should I have done something differently? Would the kids be happy?

It's exhausting and unnecessary.

Yesterday was Easter.
It was not perfect.
But it was wonderful.
And wonderful was good enough.

It all started with the eggs. I really wanted to dye eggs naturally this year. I even found links for dying naturally, and shared them on Facebook (you're welcome). But I didn't use them. I used the very UNnatural kit that's been in the cupboard - from months ago, when our neighbors brought it over when they were moving and cleaning out their kitchen. That's what the kids wanted to use, and we already had it, and we didn't have any extra money to buy the ingredients for natural dying anyway.

So egg dying looked like this this year:

It wasn't what I'd wanted, but it was good enough. The kids were happy, and that makes me happy.

But then there were the baskets! Talk about an internal struggle... over something so completely silly. Spencer and Paxton are old enough that they're not interested in the standard fare of things like bubbles and stickers, but I wanted to think of something that'd be fun for them. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on cheap little toys that'd end up buried in a toy bin in a couple of days, but I wanted them all to have some cool surprises. I definitely didn't want to fill a basket with hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and other artificial junk, but I didn't want them to miss out on some of their favorites (which they have so infrequently anyway). And I didn't have the budget for the healthier alternatives.

But, but, but. I have friends that manage to do it... manage to make holidays natural and healthy and perfect and wonderful. Manage to have lovely days with pressed kids in their Easter finest heading happily off to church. Why can't I do it? And there's that perfectionism. There's that taking myself too seriously, and stressing myself out with trying to do everything *right.* Wasn't I just berating my sixteen year old self for doing that very thing??

So I took a big, huge breath.

The baskets (which were filled with totally unhealthy chocolate, and a couple small and carefully chosen gifts) were not perfect, but they were good enough. And they made all four kids very happy.

Everyone was bathed and clean, but Tegan didn't want me to even touch her hair. So it wasn't as nice and cascading as I would have liked. She also had a rip in the back of her pretty dress - the only one she wanted to wear - that resisted all our best efforts to repair/hide/cover it.

Her and Everett were both over-tired from getting up too early, and had a hard time sitting through church. That was my daughter you heard saying, "I'm done with this. The singing's too loud," before her dad whisked her away to play outside.

But it was okay. It was all okay. It was in fact more than okay, because after the baskets, after the egg hunts, after church, we all went to my sister's and spent the day hanging out with family... playing, eating, laughing, and remembering - once again - what's important (and what's not)

And when we finally went home, tired, stuffed, and spent, all four kids declared it the "best Easter they've ever had."  And it was.  It wasn't perfect, but it was better than I could have planned, even without vegetable dyed eggs and all-natural chocolate.  Even without rip-free dresses (which she of course ditched once she got to my sister's house anyway)  Even without tangle-free hair.  And I certainly couldn't have planned the excitement that this would bring:

I don't know why I ever worry beforehand. I really don't. Yesterday, like every day, was not perfect. But it was perfectly imperfect. And it was lovely, and it was joy-filled. And that is - and forever will be - good enough for me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I just stumbled across this quote, and it really resounded with me, especially in light of my thinking about my 16 year old former self yesterday. I refuse to be a flea.

If you put fleas in a shallow container, they jump out.

But if you put a lid on the container for just a short time, they hit the lid trying to escape and learn quickly not to jump so high.

They give up their quest for freedom.

After the lid is removed, the fleas remain imprisoned by their own self-policing.

So it is with life.
Most of us let our own fears or the impositions of others imprison us in a world of low expectations.

~Andrew Hsu

Friday, April 22, 2011

To My 16 Year Old Self...

So my friend Jessica, of Bohemian Bowmans, asked:

What would you say to your 16 year old self?

And I gotta admit, my first knee-jerk reaction was,  do I really want to pull on that thread?  The question would better read, "What WOULDN'T I say to my 16 year old self?"  I mean, there's a reason for the expression,  "Hindsight is 20/20."  And really, what 30-something wouldn't have a mouthful of wisdom for her wide-eyed, wet behind the ears, barely out of a training bra younger self? 

But then I thought, You know what?  It's been awhile since I thought about her.  And I probably remember that age with more clarity than any of the rest of my high school years. 

The driver's license.  The first car.

The part-time job.

The drama.

The boys.  Oh, the boys...

It was a crazy time.  A tumultuous time.  But a good time all the same.  Still, I wouldn't go back in time to that age for all the money in the world.  I'll take 37 over 16 any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

...but I've digressed...

So without further preambling, I give you my letter to my former self:

Dear person who kind of looks like me but otherwise bears little resemblance to the person I will become,

First, for the love of all that is good and holy, LIGHTEN UP.  Stop taking yourself  so seriously.   Laugh more.  Play more.  Take more risks.  Quit being so afraid of what people will think  what people will say   making a fool of yourself   making mistakes  LIVING.   Life is funny.   It's messy.  It's unpredictable.  It's bumpy.  And it's wonderful!!!  

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Please don't waste perfectly good energy trying to live your life to please other people, because 1.  You never will, and 2.  You'll make yourself miserable in the process.  Believe it or not, in 20 years you will have created an entire lifestyle around NOT following the crowd, and it will make you insanely and blissfully happy.

Expand your taste in music.  There are other bands besides Chicago, Journey, and REO Speedwagon.  You will eventually realize this, but you will save your future husband hours of torture if you realize it sooner.

Keep writing!

The only few times you will break out of your "good girl, must-please-everyone" mold and try to do something even remotely sneaky and rebellious.... you will get caught and get in trouble.  Don't bother.  Except.... yeah, it'll be worth it.  Do it anyway.  You'll look back and laugh.

And speaking of laughing, you know how people say, "When you look back on this, you'll laugh?"  In most cases, you really will.  So don't wait.  Laugh about it now.

Stop putting your books and your wallet and your bags on top of your car.  You'll waste a lot of time chasing them down in parking lots, main streets, and fire ponds.  And while we're on the subject of cars:  get a hide-a-key.  Or stop leaving the dang keys in the ignition when you lock it.  Either one.  Get gas when the gauge says E.  Don't speed around corners in front of cops.  Don't talk back to them either.  Don't drive so close to the mailbox (or the rock wall, or the garage door, or the car in front of you)

Don't take advanced math.   It will cause you huge amounts of grief, and you will not need it, no matter how many people tell you otherwise.

Your parents love you.  And they're human, and they make mistakes.  

I'm sorry to tell you that you're soon going to have your heart broken one more time by another loser person of questionable moral character. He will be charming and lovely and conniving and abusive. He will cheat on you. It will be a good lesson in irony though, because he will be the "good, Christian boy" that you meet at a church function. Everyone will approve of him, and no one will believe you when you try to show them his true colors. But take heart, because you will meet your future husband in one year, when you least expect it. You will know immediately that he is "the one."

Don't do track just because your friends are doing it.  You're not a runner, you're too clumsy for field events, and you will give yourself life-long shin splints from the triple jump.

You know nothing.  You'll still know nothing when you're 37, but you'll KNOW you know nothing.  You'll love learning, you'll crave knowledge, and you'll passionately dive into a million and one  pursuits.  Not because you have to, not because it's the right thing to do, but because you WANT TO.

Wear your retainer.  

You were given a working, thinking brain for a reason.  You can spare yourself a long, painful, and frustrating process of "finding yourself" if you let yourself be you NOW.  If you let yourself have opinions NOW.  Find out who you are, and try not to be afraid of it.

Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.

Do be afraid of falling off the ski lift.

Remember what it feels like to be a kid. 

Research circumcision before you have your first son.

Don't let all the naysayers get you down when you get married at 19.  You'll still be happily married 18 years later.  

You're questioning your faith, but God will never leave your side.   Not once.  You'll take a long, strange path to discover it.... but you'll take a long, strange path to discover most things.  The life you live as an adult will be so far removed from what you can imagine now that you wouldn't even understand it.  There will be naysayers then too, but don't worry.  You will be stronger then.  You will be confident.  You will be happy.  You will finally be YOU

In about seven years, your life will start to make sense. 

 And finally:   please, please save yourself some future self-flagellation and stop being so narrow minded and judgmental about things like... oh I don't know... homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, and attachment parenting.  Seriously. Just.... stop. Thank you.

Your pushing 40 but younger-than-ever future self.

Handmade by Tara Giveaway WINNER

I love doing giveaways so much that I actually get butterflies in my stomach when I draw the winner (even though it can't be me. :)) So believe me when I say that I'm always very excited to announce who has won!

And the winner of Tara's beautiful birthstone necklace is:

Edna · I'm in ...beautiful!

Congratulations Edna!! Send me a message with your mailing address, as well as what month stone/s you would like.  I can't wait for you to see it in person!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered, and of course a huge thank you to Tara. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Links

No new real post today... I've been caught by too many sleepless nights again, and I wouldn't want to risk using a misplaced apostrophe or anything.

So, here are a few links to other posts, blogs, and articles that I found interesting this week. In no particular order:

Worthless Teenagers and the Parents Who Make Them, by Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing

Just One More, by Jeff Sabo of Just a Bald Man

Is Spanking Biblical?
, at Parenting Freedom

Enjoy Media With Your Kids Week, by Jenna of With the Family

Parents, Don't Dress Your Girls Like Tramps

And finally, watch this video/poem about solitude. Loved it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I have fond memories of sitting around the dinner table as a kid. We'd finish dinner, hang around talking, and inevitably start to do something like hanging spoons off our nose or bouncing things across the table. There was fun, and there was laughter. In fact, when I get together with my whole family, it's still like that, which is one of the biggest reasons I so look forward to Thanksgiving at my parents' house every year.

I was reminded of those memories last night.

Our kids have full reign of a house full of toys, books, and games. Three video game systems, five TVs, satellite, Netflix streaming... and the freedom to choose any or all of the above. Last night the youngest three chose a box of multi-colored craft sticks, and their imaginations. There was fun, and there was laughter.

So I grabbed the camera.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why I don't cry (or yell) over spilled milk

Last week - actually, a week ago today - Tegan (3 years old at the time of this writing) threw Spencer's shoes in a lake at a park. It wasn't the first time that his footwear had met a body of water at Tegan's hand. That was last month, in our friends' pool.

This time, it was here:

We were all sitting around, barefoot, enjoying the grass and the breeze. She spotted his shoes, was struck with, uh... inspiration... and before anyone could stop her, had taken off for the water with the shoes in hand. The next thing we knew, the shoes were floating gracefully away, while I scrambled to my feet to find a stick or something with which to go fishing.

Have you ever seen a 6 and a 10 year old try to hang on to a 130 pound woman to keep her from falling headlong into water while she precariously leaned on her tiptoes trying to retrieve two floating sneakers with a flimsy branch? You missed a good show. But I did eventually fish them out, returned them to their owner, and we all went about our day.

Afterward, my friend's 7 year old son - Everett's best friend - said to his mother, "Wow, Jennifer NEVER gets mad! I never see her get mad about anything!"

It was a nice thing to hear. Not entirely accurate mind you, but nice. I do get mad occasionally (although the older I get, the less I find actually worthy of getting mad about). But I wasn't mad about the shoes in the water.

I'm not mad when someone spills.
I'm not mad when someone makes a mess.
I'm not mad when something gets broken.
I'm not mad when my kids act like kids.

And it's not that I'm more patient than the next person - because I'm really not - it's just that I made a decision a long time ago... I decided that some things mattered, and some things did not. Shoes in water do not matter. Spilled milk does not matter. Broken cameras do. not. matter.

My kids matter.
My relationships with my kids matter.

Even in those moments when I do get frustrated (or more accurately, especially in those moments when I do get frustrated), I remind myself that it's a decision, and I come to the same conclusion every time: 

What matters is my kids.

Spencer's shoes were safely recovered that day, but even if they'd irretrievably sunk to the bottom, what purpose could anger have possibly served? Responding in anger would not only have not helped the situation, it also would have damaged my relationship with my daughter. Every time we respond to our kids in anger, it damages our relationship. Every time we respond in anger, it takes us further away from our goal of peace, harmony and mutual respect.

My daughter is more important than a $20 pair of shoes. 

A few months ago, she accidentally pulled my Nikon off the counter, damaging it beyond repair.  She's more important than a $600 camera too.   Shoes, cameras, houses, cars.... all small stuff compared to my kids. 

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who delivered his famous Last Lecture to his class (which was later turned into a book of the same name) before he died from cancer in 2008, illustrated this in such a beautiful - if a bit extreme - way.  He'd just gotten a fancy new convertible, and his sister was harping on her children, Randy's niece and nephew, to be careful.  Don't mess up the new car.  Be careful around the new car.  Don't spill anything in the new car.  Randy, putting his niece and nephew first, basically told her to relax.  He walked to the car, poured an entire soda on the back seat, and said, 

"It's just a car."

And at the end of the day, it's ALL just a car.  Just a pair of shoes.  Just a camera.  None of it is worth getting upset about.  None of it is worth getting mad about.  None of it matters.  
What matters is our kids.  What matters is our relationships with our kids.  None of us is guaranteed a tomorrow with our children.  And I don't know about you, but I therefore want to live each moment as if it were the last.... and if it were the last, I wouldn't want to know that I'd wasted time - wasted even a second - being concerned, or upset, or angry about the small stuff.  

..... and it's all small stuff.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Carnival of Gentle Discipline!

This post was selected as one of the Crème de la Crème of gentle discipline blogging! Click on the image to view more Crème de la Crème posts!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Handmade by Tara Giveaway

I have been planning on doing this giveaway for a little while now, and decided I'd bring it out today, just in time for Mother's Day! Tara is another friend and fellow May 2004 mom, who has recently begun making and selling custom jewelry.

As a full time working Mom I found myself needing an outlet for myself, a way to calm myself and just be me. About a year ago I went to a jewelry workshop and found that exact thing. I have never considered myself creative, and still don't, but this tapped in to my creative side that I never knew was there. I enjoy doing the birthstone necklaces/bracelets because there is nothing more important to me than family and any way I can show them off I will! My pieces are not perfect but they are unique to you and your family.

Today Tara is offering one simple birthstone necklace ($15+ value)to one reader. The birthstone pendants hang from a 24 inch, sterling silver chain. You choose the stones... whether it's for yourself in honor of your own kids, or a gift for another mother or grandmother in your life.

In addition to the birthstone necklaces, Tara also makes an assortment of necklaces, bracelets, and other custom pieces. Be sure to visit her blog and her Etsy Store to see more of her work.

Want to win a necklace? Here's what you need to know:

1) Comment on this post for one entry

2) Share the link on Facebook, and come back again to let me know you've done it to be entered twice.

3) You have until Thursday at midnight to enter. Winner will be randomly chosen and posted this Friday, April 22nd.

Thanks Tara, and Good Luck!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another Great Room Swap, Part Two

She doesn't actually sleep in it yet, but she enjoys pretending. :)
This is the little kids' room, bringing our latest room swap project to a close.  There's still work to be done (including, but not limited to:  painting, decorating, and culling through the 4638 toys, puzzles, and games they've accumulated over the years) but the "big stuff" is done, for which I am thankful.  Everett and Tegan are both thrilled with his new slide bed, and I am thrilled with the fact that there is not just a clear path to the bed, but an actual floor

It has inspired me to do more long-awaited projects around the house, which - if the past is any indication - will be completed just in time for us to sell.


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