The Business of Being A Mom

The wonderful part about being a mom is that you always feel needed. There isn’t a day (or a moment) that goes by that I don’t feel that I am needed. It’s a blessing, to have people that depend on you because then you have the joy of feeding them or helping them with whatever it is that they need. It’s not something that everyone gets to do. I have to remind myself of this on especially busy days, but overall I don’t take it for granted. They say that the children grow up, and move away– and it’s true….even though that frightens me to no end- I do treasure the times I get with my kids as they are becoming adults and teens and having more of a social life. It’s so funny because when the kids were all little, I would have people tell me all the time, “Just wait until their teenagers!” As if I was having too much fun with the little ones and they wanted to appropriately warn me of what horrors were to come! HA!! Boy were they wrong- my teens are the light of my life. Truly. I see in them brilliant people with hearts for God, with hearts of gold- and I’m tempted to take credit for their awesomeness, when really what is so wonderful about it is that they are becoming more and more themselves! It’s an incredible privilege to witness their spiritual awareness, their friendships growing and deepening, the inspiration they take out of the world. And not to mention their physical prowess-OY!

The interesting thing I am experiencing at this stage of parenthood- with one foot in babyhood fading with the two-year-old, and a grown-up moved-in-with-girlfriend totally independent son, and then the inbetweeners- is it’s a practice in gratitude. I am thankful for the littles and the funny things they say, and I am thankful for the articulate elders who can make me feel so amazed and humbled at their own intelligent and deep thoughts and observations.

I am not sure if the feelings that I have been experiencing are normal or not, but there is a general haunting feeling of “hold on tight” right now, I so don’t want to forget to treasure the fleeting moments when the kids do things for the first time, or actually need me just a little bit longer. Now that the big boy is off in the world, it makes it all so raw and fresh: this will continue to happen! They will keep getting older and move on. It makes me sad and incredibly nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. If the kids we are pouring ourselves into move out and go and do the things that God is calling them to–watch out world! Here comes a generation of kids who want to please God, and help others in a way that perhaps no other generation had the ability to do. It’s pretty incredible the reach that our kids have now with access to the entire world via the internet!

Thank you for hearing my awakenings, and thank you for sharing yours. Any moms out there with grown children who have and tips or pointers?

I had the privilege of hearing Barbara Morgan speak again a few nights ago, and was again profoundly touched by her wisdom. One of the parents had asked this question: Aiming heavenward with our children, with earthly tasks at hand (future careers, household chores, etc), how do we/should we try to do it all???

I loved Barabara’s response because unlike me, who often ends her day in a puddle of glee/crazy overwhelmed, unequipped to really know how to do any of the things I’m doing, including homeschooling!!! She said: “homeschool families are already making an effort to raise their children Catholic. The tiny babies who are full of sanctifying grace- will one day get to the point where they can choose sin- and they will! Everybody has a sin problem! It’s our job as parents to teach them how to repent to one another, and use the tools that we have (like the Sacrament of Confession) to deal with this sandpaper ministry we are involved in!” I think it’s really important to talk about this because I know some of you are really struggling with your kids for different reasons. Barbara was really encouraging and focused on how as parents we need to repent to one another in front of the kids, and to really make an effort to KNOW each and every child that GOD blesses us with. What are their interests? Have their interests become OUR interests? They should. We need to be trying to encourage them by using the things we know they’re into. I was really humbled by that. I’m not a big sports girl- but my husband LOVES LOVES LOVES sports…. and I just tune it out or attempt to push it aside, she said during her talk that she knew there was a really imortant basketball game on that evening because she makes it a point to be into what her husband is into, also! That really convicted me to try harder to be into the stuff my family is into, even if it’s not something I naturally lean towards. Barabara, thank you for sharing this, and one last thing she said: ” You can’t do everything that it would have been good to do for each child! But God is going to honor what you put into them, and they will turn out bigger and better than you ever could have imagined.” That was a relief to me, and I hope to you also- God will honor our efforts, and even though it isn’t going to be perfect, he will bless it!! Amen!!

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Healthy Happy Home

These two goofy people and seven wonderful others are the light of my life. I believe that these gifts are given to me by God, and I am thankful beyond belief for the ability to be able to serve, love, and spend my days alongside them.

It is quite a responsibility to be a mother. I am always learning and trying to improve what I am doing to make their lives as beautiful and treasured as possible.

I have a long way to go. And time travels fast in this life. I am eating my own words when I tell you I have joined up and become a Young Living Distributor!!! I am excited beyond belief to learn more about kicking chemicals to the curb. I am horrible at selling things and I hate it when people try to sell me stuff, but this is different. I have a passion for knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle. I have had several close friends and family members struggle with cancer, and it’s no joke. I want to be healthy and I want my children to be healthy. I have always prided myself on being crunchy granola, but when I recently attended an Essential Oils 101 Class, put on by the beautiful Brittani Gabowitz, I was thrilled to hear that only 5-10% of cancer cases are genetic in origin. The rest are environmental or a result of nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Do you want to know what I’m giving up for Lent? Toxic Chemicals. That’s what. I’m making it a goal to eliminate or replace all the cleaners and substances in my life that are bad for me. Quite a big challenge.

150 chemicals found in the home are connected to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological disorders.

[Source: Consumer Protection Agency (CPA)]

Should we be fearful!? Ummm yes. But more concisely, we should be smarter. We should not bathe our babies in toxic chemicals found in products that we feel safe with just because we grew up using them !!! I remember thinking, “but I can’t afford to pay for the all natural products that companies are selling”…now I think, “Pay now or pay later!” It will be a little bit of upfront cost to get essential oils and the natural products that make sense, or….  according to an article in Time Magazine, ‘Johnson and Johnson is just the tip of the Toxic Tip of the Iceberg,’ “We discovered two chemicals that have been linked to cancer, formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane, in dozens of leading baby shampoos and bath products. People were shocked. Two years later, after we reported that Johnson & Johnson was selling formaldehyde-free versions of their baby products in Europe and other countries, the company announced they would reformulate their products worldwide to remove the ingredient and others of concern.”

Okay, so what else are we putting on our faces, clothes, floors, and babies???

It begs the question, what am I doing to protect my children from a future of illness? Well, I have my answer:  I can use Young Living products and learn more about different ways of cleaning and healing my family. Reading these two books is where I’m starting. I especially love the Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child by Valerie Wormwood because she gives wonderful recipes and simple explanations for common issues with children and babies. My mind is blown by the other one, Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils by Carolyn Mein, as it is helping me to confront the many issues I need to work on. It is amazing how the body holds memories in the brain through smells!

I am learning and relearning more and more information about how chemicals impact me and my household….and I hope you will challenge yourself to do the same. The United States Environmental Agency says that laundry soap and fabric softener are the most dangerous chemicals we have in our home because they off-gas in our closets, which are likely in our bedroom, and that we wear them next to our skin all day long. Something to think about…

My family is having a blast trying new things with essential oils- here are our favorites:

Judah prefers peppermint:

 

Eva loves lemon:

 

Mira massages with Pan-Away:

 

Siah is satisfied with Lavender:

 

Cana is crazy for Frankincense:

 

Anya gets sappy about Stress-Away!

 

Ezra is proud of Purification:

Hope you enjoyed these! Let me know of your favorite way to kick chemicals to the curb!

Reader Read This (The Broken Way) by Ann Voscamp

the-broken-way-handIt’s easy to see someone who is doing wrong, and say, “It’s not done that way…”

It’s easy to look around and point to the person and notice their flaws and indiscretions. It’s easy to look at others and focus on their negative qualities, but so much harder to look for the good….And acknowledge that there is another person in the world who has it more together than us, or who is more on fire for God, and is really trying to love others. We sometimes read the stories of the saints, and we’re like- yeah- that’s impossible, I could never cut off all my hair like Rose of Lima, or sacrifice my own life for the sake of another like Maximilian Kolbe, but, then I see you working selflessly for your family, or caring for your aging parents and I think: we’re all called to be saints. It’s the hardest thing to remember, and even harder sometimes to do, but when we put our hands out to touch another person, we are reaching out to God.

It was just recently when I visited a relative who lives in a nursing home that I saw this so beautifully. I was feeling guilty for not visiting often enough, and remembering all the times she helped me, when I saw a lovely nurse come to bathe her, and I saw the tenderness she gave. These opportunities no matter how small are gifts for us. Especially in the political climate we are living in, with a president who no one seems to like, even those of us who voted for him. It’s pretty stressful reading through my newsfeed on Facebook, friends and family posting random articles written by?? Perhaps a young person, an educated person, a liberal, a conservative? It’s pretty hard to decipher all the crud disguised as news. I do have to say though that many people seem to be easily swayed by the media’s interpretations, and few are thinking for themselves. It’s actually pretty predictable and repulsive. In response to some March for Life pictures I posted, I received a bitter hate letter. I was pretty surprised, even people who preach love and not hate are ready to tear someone down because they need a way to place blame.

I have a new perspective on the many hurt people and rampant discontent I see. I am reading a wonderful book, ‘The Broken Way,’ by Ann Voskamp. I’m pretty sure y’all know about her previous books, namely.. ‘One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.’ An Amazing and life changing book (I recommend the devotional, as well). I somehow got lucky enough to get invited to read this book as a group with some truly beautiful women (thanks Karen)! And it is changing me. I can see now- with these sudden outbursts of anger, contemptuous flares of hateful ‘feminism,’ and all sorts of looking at the glass half full- that God is here with us, amongst the brokenness. “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ. Because Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken.”

Many of us feel broken.

Ann says, “What if the busted and broken hearts could feel there’s a grace that holds us and calls us Beloved and says we belong and no brokenness ever has the power to break us away from being safe? What if we experienced the miracle of grace that can touch all our wounds? I wanted to write it on walls and on the arms scarred with wounds, make it the refrain we sing in the face of dark and broken places: No shame. No fear. No hiding. All’s grace. It’s always safe for the suffering here. You can struggle and you can wrestle and you can hurt and we will be here. Grace will meet you here; grace, perfect comfort, will always be served here…..How do you live with your one broken heart? All I can think is-only the wounds of God can heal our wounds. God has not forgotten you, God has not abandoned you. God’s love is around you everywhere. When you feel in your marrow how you’re His Beloved, you do more than look for signs of His love in the world, more than have a sign of His love; you actually become a sign of His love.”

No matter the possible outcomes of this life, our hope is in God, not in any politician, and that is GOOD NEWS, friends. So, what practically speaking can we really do to help us stay sane during all this craziness?

My list is simple.

EVERYDAY …….

  1. Pray regularly throughout.
  2. Commit time to family and friends that is inspiring and peaceful.
  3. Play.
  4. Value your downtime, and don’t waste it being miserable.
  5. When you post, if you post, know your source, and if you have the feeling that you’re getting a little strung out on social media: make a fast. No knee-jerk comments.
  6. Read the Bible. Sing the Psalms.
  7. Get enough: good food, water, exercise, sleep.
  8. Say kind things to the people nearest you.
  9. Give hugs.
  10. Share your gifts, live cruciform.*

 

That’s what I’m learning about, trying today and all the days to do these things and feel loved by the One Who Saves. It’s amazing how He loves. What does your everyday list look like? I’d love to hear your comments and hear how “The Broken Way” has changed your life.

*cruciform: ‘love that is willing to suffer for others….there is no way to avoid pain, there is no way to avoid brokenness. Pick up your cross, It’s the only way you or anyone else can know resurrection. Carry your cross so this carrying of pain makes love. It is never the cross you carry, but your resistance to the cross that makes it a burden. Absorb the pain with greater love- touch a shoulder. Bite your tongue. Swallow your complaint. Still your wagging finger. Let yourself be worn down to love. Let your joints grow loose with love so your hands swing easy enough to give, to break and give your struggling-to-be-willing self away.’

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Questions For Barbara

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Together with a crazy life of trying to keep many children alive, and staying sane, I haven’t written much lately. I feel God calling me, saying that many people need good examples and inspiring people to offer hope and assurance these days. So much hurt and pain in my own life, as well as those I’m surrounded by makes me wish for heaven. It also makes me think of people who have lived through far more difficult times than these. It makes me want to grasp for the hem of their skirt, to touch them, to know how they managed it all. It can feel endless- the dreary housework, cold weather, children stuck inside, and people wanting attention. Constant ongoing pressure to do more and be more. Well, we aren’t meant to live with that sort of insurmountable stress. We were meant to live in peace, to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father, so here, today, right now, give a moment to hear this story, and may it be an inspiration to you, as it is to me…..

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If you don’t know Barbara Morgan, you should.  

She was born in 1938 in San Francisco, and had one younger sister. She was primarily raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they moved when she was 8, and lived there through high school. When she was very young, Barbara suffered a bout of rheumatic fever and since this happened before penicillin was readily available, the treatment plan included staying very still and waiting for the body to heal because severe damage could be done to the heart unless precautions were taken. Barbara remembers her doctors and nurses and wonderful mother making this arrangement “not too terrible.” Her mother frequently met with her teachers and brought her schoolwork to complete at home so that she didn’t get behind. There was a time however, when she was so sick that her sister had to help her turn the pages of the book she was reading.

Barbara was raised Catholic by a mother who had converted as a young woman of nineteen, and her Baptist parents disowned her until Barbara was born. She was well versed in scripture and was an evangelist and lover of the Church! She taught Barbara about her personal relationship with Jesus when Barbara was just a tiny preschooler. She told her to listen to the voice of Jesus and how to discern God’s voice. Barbara had memorable experiences of giving her life to Jesus then, and also when she had her first Holy Communion, and again when she was fourteen, and then several times as an adult– recommitting her life to God. She says that her commitment to the Church came from studying scripture with her mother, she was made to memorize parts of the Baltimore Catechism in spelling bee fashion, and her mom would patiently explain the scriptural references, and Barbara fell in love time after time with God and with the Church!

Barbara aspired to be a journalist after high school, which she says was an honorable profession at the time! Her mind was changed when she accompanied a Sister to a nearby Native American Reservation where they would go to teach the children about God. She was going as a way to beef up her resume, not really because she was drawn to it. The first group she was assigned to was seven-second graders, they were outdoors under a pergola type structure covered with palm leaves. There was no blackboard and no books….she had to make it up as she went along, and Sister walked around checking on them, but she knew after those children received their First Holy Communion under her care, this is what she wanted to do!  She went to college for education, but never finished because she got married and began a family.

Gary is someone that Barbara had known from high school, he had joined the newspaper as a sports reporter and at first Barbara hadn’t been super impressed with him because she knew he had joined the newspaper to get out of his Phys. Ed class. That kind of annoyed her, that he was getting out of this other class, but he was able to go to all the sports activities, even into the locker rooms and became a valuable resource. Even though Gary asked her out several times she didn’t accept until he had proven himself as the awesome reporter he was. Little did they know that their mothers (vice-president and president of the school board) had been conspiring to get them to like one another. They didn’t know about that until much later. Gary and Barbara were always very involved with the church, and ministry work. CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) and CA (Catholic Actions) which eventually became CD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) were all groups that they belonged to.

They married and adopted five children. When I asked her about that process of adopting, she said that before Roe v. Wade there were homes for girls who became pregnant, and it was not uncommon to go to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Phoenix to adopt a newborn baby or through Catholic Social Services. Because there weren’t as many abortions, many more people gave children up for adoption, and it was a natural and accepted practice. She felt very blessed by each individual child that was clearly a gift from God. They never kept the fact that the children were adopted a secret, but always accepted their questions with love. Barbara says that parenting the children came naturally to her as did homemaking, that’s how things were in those days, the man earned the living, and the woman kept the house and cared for the children. And they remained very involved in their church.

Barbara says Gary was always a very good provider, and very faithful, but nowadays she would describe him as a saint because of all the hands-on care he does to maintain her health issues. There was a time when they struggled very much in their marriage, and at thirteen years together they considered separation. But because they could never tell their families this, out of embarrassment they stayed together. “God used it!” They had very strong personalities, and there were certain things they just couldn’t agree on, she said they prayed a prayer out of desperation one night, “Lord, if there is anything you can do to help us….” And the next day as they went about their normal routine, it was clear that God had actually reached in and changed their minds. Little unimportant things, now looking back- but things that they had been hung up on for years. They knew then that God was going to save their marriage.

When their fifth and youngest child was in high school, Barbara returned to finish her degree from the Notre Dame Institute. Her first degree was in Theology. and then she ended up getting a Graduate Degree in Catechetics. At that time there were many young people coming to Steubenville to take classes that would allow them to go to their parish and have a job there teaching families the faith. Theology was a degree that helped them learn the faith, but not how to teach it. That’s when the University asked Barbara to begin writing and teaching courses that would do that very thing. Over the next fifteen years, that’s exactly what she did.

The things I found most useful that Barbara told me during this interview was that you have to choose to be a gift, and give the children a place to grow and develop. It is always making decisions and tailoring them to each individual. She says that this moral culture we are trying to develop is really about teaching “how it’s done.” Like for instance, in our house we do not hit, we don’t call names….teaching the children bit by bit how to love, how to enjoy each other. When the kids grow older they can fall back on that love, they were taught, and they have that foundation. It reminded me of that passage from Deuteronomy 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a 5Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Barbara is concerned first and foremost that most parents do not make time for their children in the way they should. She agreed with my analogy that if our work of raising our children is truly a mission-field, shouldn’t we give it the same care and attention a scientist gives their studies? If a scientist was truly observing his test subjects, he wouldn’t leave them be- no he would watch and learn and take notes, figuring out what each one was like. Children are like that. They need to be known, and treasured in a way that they can come to be understood, accepted, taught, and loved. it is a full time job, and somehow our culture continues to devalue and deny that.

The other day our homeschool co-op asked her to come talk to us, and answer some questions. Here is the question she answered that night:

” I am curious what you may recommend to a parent who believes that if they DO all the right things for their children, including sheltering them from everything secular or unchristian, that it will be a good result?”

Here was her reply, from my notes, not word for word.

  1. No matter what you do, you can not keep them from making decisions that you will agonize over, maybe for years. Every family has those who no longer believe, those who have fallen away. Don’t ever think that you will be able to escape this. That being said, those are children who are in the process of coming back, or maybe they are far away, but they are just as loved as ever. We have had to repent to these children, as some of the reasons they are where they are is because of our mistakes in parenting them.
  2. Most of the mistakes you make will be with your eldest child. You will hear the phrase,  “you never let me do that!” We have to repent a lot to our grown children, and as new things occur to us, we repent again. We also have had to do this in our marriage. We used to like being married, but now we love it, because we experience the joy of the sacrament in a new way.
  3. Our attitude should be to prepare our kids, not to protect them. You can’t possibly shelter them, and if you try it will bite you in the back.
  4. Time. Do you have enough time to actually be with your children? It seems as if most of us are too busy. Each child needs to know that they are known. You can never get this time back again, you need to prioritize time with them at each age and stage.
  5. I will not always be as good as I would like to be and I will make mistakes. I will yell or scream, or even get physical with my child at some point, and I will have to repent and ask for forgiveness. Because I only have a limited amount of time with them, I need to make choices about the time I have with them, that it is deliberately spent.  And if I don’t teach them how to apologize, who will? If you wrong a child and don’t admit it, that is a problem.
  6. Give them your mind and the churches mind! Screens need to be limited and monitored. Your kids are good at pretending they don’t care what you think, but they do. Talk to them and tell them why you think what you think, and continue making opportunities to have these talks. What better place to let them encounter this stuff than at your side?
  7. Share your testimony. There should be two stories your children know well: why you love Jesus, and why you are a Catholic. Share your worldview, listen to talks that bring this topic to life. Friends of early Christians said that Christians “turned the world upside down!” We also need to be trying to do this.
  8. A family that prays together, stays together. It’s so true. More than prayers before meals and Sunday mass are simply not enough. Regular family Rosaries or prayer times are very important.
  9. Restrict, but explain. A lot of children were hurt in the Word of God Community because there were so many unexplained rules and regulations. In this day and age we have more situations to say no to, use those golden opportunities to go into their bedrooms and check out what they are doing, and shed some light on the situation.
  10. Just because you explain doesn’t make it plain. We are given the children God wants us to parent. Focus on creating lasting and enduring relationships with each child, even if that means listening to music you wouldn’t normally listen to, or watching shows you normally wouldn’t watch (Barbara watches The Voice every week with her grown daughter)! It is most important that the children see and feel our dedication and love of them over all. That is what matters. When they fall, they know they can trust us to return without judgment. With love. With hope. With the belief that everything and anything that will happen to them throughout their lives is of no consequence. We will love them anyway. Always.

I hope you enjoyed this. Look for more interviews coming soon. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your families.

 

 

 

Sunday Funday

At the beginning of the day, which started too early, in the first place, we jumped through hoops and sprinklers and dryers. We found crispy clothing worth the most dollars. We huffed and we puffed and we drew up the bows, ground up the coffee and clipped up the toes. We fished for earrings, cooked eggs in pots, wrestled with diapers, and onesies in knots. We wiped and we brushed and we did our very best. And we ran and we screamed and we flew out the nest. The driver was harried, his wife looked fairly scary, but as they gulped down caffeine, they became much less wary.

They arrive just in time to slide in a pew, hopefully by somebody who’s feeling quite friendly! The kids are homeschooled, they’ll surely talk to you! img_1934.jpgThe music is good, the pastor most kindly, except when he talks long, and then we get antsy. The power of prayer feeds the whole family, the gospels, the apostles, the sounds of the bells. We listen for Jesus, His Holy Spirit as well, and do not forget Father- the Trinity swell.  Their voices come softly like a still soft wind, sometimes He comes loudly to me and quite bold. I think this is a gift my Father bestows on mothers of wild families below.

After mass we breathe for the first time in hours, and look forward to donuts and other reminders, that today is Sunday- a day of rest. Also a day for families and taking a quest. We eat fancy foods, and take nature hikes, we ignore loads of laundry, and ride on our bikes. It’s the first day of the week to go spinning in circles, tying loose ends, and searching for miracles.

The children are growing and learning and knowing that the purpose of all this is very endearing. They know that the love between husband and wife creates all the babies that provide this full life. They see the source and summit confers a blessing of peacefulness on all of the gears: the fast gear, the slow gear, the waiting, the trying. They understand the best things are for God and not man. This sacrifice of Sunday is hard to accept, especially for sports addicts and parish events. But hold on to the truth, and make boundaries ever clear: this Sunday is a fun day, and that’s why we’re here.

Guerilla Momma Declaration

After the entourage of articles about the zoological malfunction/parental distraction/ unfortunate situation of the poor dear Harambe’s death…I am left feeling contemplative and also furious: here’s why. Most of the publications I read on the topic addressed the horrific parts about blaming parents who were doing their best, children who are clearly out of control/very active and curious (and perhaps lacking discipline), and also the lack of appropriate enclosures on the part of the zoo. The contraceptive mentality of our nation and the disastrous way we treat one another, even less humanely than we treat our pets or zoo animals is very troubling! But even more so the complete and utter lack of ways that we (parents) can assist and support one another.

So that’s what I’ll be writing about today.

We know, parents, that we have a child hating society. It’s truly sad, but it is what it is. People are daily confused and annoyed with my husband and I for having so many. And if that weren’t bad enough, they actually talk to us about it. Pretty much everywhere we go (other than Church) we get looks, finger pointing, and ridiculously obvious questions and comments. Also, most public places aren’t safe for children. We can now add the zoo to the list. There aren’t many people who consider children a blessing, so it appears the opposite is assumed to be true. And most people won’t acknowledge children, let alone reach out and help some parent who is struggling, or a child who is having a hard time. Just think how that whole gorilla debacle could have gone differently if another person (other than his biological mother or father), God Forbid!– had seen that the boy climb over the fence, and had jumped in behind him, and brought him to the information booth at the beginning of the zoo, and he had to sit somewhere for a while before his parents had found out he was missing and came to retrieve him? That would have been different. The gorilla would be alive, and the boy’s parents would have been horrified to find him missing, but they wouldn’t be plagued with the vision of their dear boy being dragged around by a silverback for the rest of their lives, and maybe, just maybe that boy would be left with a more realistic impression: everyone here is watching out for my well-being, and I am not allowed in that enclosure!

I want to start a petition, or make a universal declaration, or create some password so that other parents in my vicinity know, that although I am not helicoptering, I most certainly am watching/listening and will definitely let your child know if they are misbehaving, or being inappropriate, and I will also not keep that a secret from you, and I would very much like it if this arrangement would be reciprocal.

For instance: we are at a park and your kid starts throwing rocks at mine, I do like this,”Little Boy, you are certainly not going to throw rocks, understand? If I see it again you will be sitting out, and I will also inform your mother.” Why can’t this be the norm? I see the kid’s mom over there trying to push the three and five-year-olds on the swings,  why can’t the two-year-old hear this from me?? Why are we so distrustful and judgmental of other parents? Dude, the Mommy Wars are a real thing. I’ve met a woman who was too embarrassed to come to Bible Study because she couldn’t nurse their newborn and so felt judged and questioned by other moms–and so…she stopped coming! Isn’t that terrible!? It’s like by standing around in our messed up world, we absorb these ideas, that we are perfectly willing to put above normal human dignity. Yes, breastfeeding is ideal– but occasionally for various reasons a mother cannot or does not nurse her baby. Fine. Shut up about it. She doesn’t need your scrutiny! For heaven’s sake wipe that smug look off your face and congratulate her on her new baby. If she brings up feeding and asks your ADVICE, then, cool- say your piece, but otherwise, keep quiet!

I can think of many similar examples, but instead of boring you, I have written a ‘support your local family’ list:

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  1. Always congratulate and smile at new parents. It’s the hardest transition a person can make, and if you can brighten their day in any way, God Bless YOU!
  2. Consider doing something concrete for the parents in your area. Get on the list for sending a meal, offer to care for other children, or donate to the babysitter fund.
  3. Avoid making assumptions. If something baffles you about a particular family, like for instance how many (or few) kids they have, feel free to allow that to be a mystery until your relationship supports those types of questions. Frankly, commenting on a perfect strangers fertility is rude.
  4. Make yourself available when in public. If you see a kid wandering, tap the mom or dad on the shoulder gently and say. “hey! I noticed your young one wandering off, just thought I’d give you a heads up!” No parent minds this, especially if you smile and speak kindly.
  5. Sign up to help. You are only as limited as you let yourself be. Offer to help at the local YMCA kids camp, sign up at church, school, or whatever you see as a need in your area. Do you realize that if everyone volunteered in their town we wouldn’t have such stressed parents/kids/families? It really does take a village! What can you do???
  6. The next time you feel yourself getting judgemental of a neighbor, family member, or friend, say this quick prayer that the priest who married Abel and I taught us: “Lord, help me to see __________ as you see them, and Lord help ___________ to see me that way you see me.” It’s always good to look at things from a new perspective. I am not God, so it’s not up to me what others are up to, how they choose to parent, or not parent. We are only responsible for our own reactions: may they be ripe with mercy.
  7. Work together!! For goodness sake, when you need help with something, childcare, home cleaning, schooling, whatever– reach out to the people you trust and look up to in your community! You would not believe the things us old women do for each other when we are bonded by some common experiences.We start homeschool co-ops, date night drop offs, we even pull off fundraisers, garage sales, and pamper sessions for the bride/expectant mother/grandma!  We can cook meals, watch extra children, clean till we can’t clean no more! It’s simply amazing to see what can be accomplished when we all pitch in. Be not afraid, girls.

When you are where you are this summer, especially if you happen to find yourself in a large crowd, keep your wits about you. Be on high alert, and do not be afraid to tap a shoulder, scream at other people’s children, and smile at strangers doing the very same thing. If there is a place for a four-year-old to sneak into, say, a gorilla habitat; holler to the surrounding people and get your bad self in the way of that kid….God has called us to be parents, and even though most days we are drowning in coffee, climbing out of vans that release crumbs, shoes, and hairy brushes when the doors open…we are in this together! And don’t let anyone confuse the agenda- we are here to keep the little folks alive, healthy, and holy. And we are doing this every day, relying on sheer adrenaline, caffeine, guardian angels, and yes, occasionally- the kindness of strangers….

 

 

 

 

Reader Read This (More Than Happy) The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena B. Miller with Paul Stutzman

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I started a reading challenge this summer, and had a nice long list of books I wanted to read. I still have the list. I KEEP ADDING TO IT. But, life happens, and mostly I open a book at the end of the night only to hear it’s thump on the floor five minutes after I began reading it…This is a very busy time of life, and I’m most often ready for sleep when my head hits the pillow. This book: More Than Happy, came along at just the right time. I picked it up at the library and started right in. I haven’t set it down since. Sometimes carrying it in my diaper bag, other times carving out a minute to read while waiting in the car…Anyhow, I think it’s packed with wonderful thoughts from a community that puts family first, and strives for forgiveness. It’s really a beautiful book, and I hope you get a chance to read it!

There were many favorite chapters in this book, based on the real-life experiences of writer, Serena B. Miller, who noticed how content Amish children were when she was researching her recent novel, and wanted to figure out why…Before we get too far in this, I want to make sure you know I have no desire to become Amish, nor do I believe that the Amish are in any way perfect! I do see the value at looking at their way of life and taking ideas that align with what you & I both know is right. The Amish faith is similar to ours. They are Christians, believe in the Trinity, read scripture often, and have a set of rules that help them stay separate from the world and close to God and their families. They put up a high bar when it comes to service in their community, and they always take care of their family. My most favorite chapter was “Marriage in a Horse and Buggy Society,” where the author does an excellent job of clarifying the high calling that is marriage, and even more what this unique society does to uphold its beauty. I can’t resist sharing a couple tidbits: the Amish couple-to-be helps set up, and prepare for their wedding right alongside their families. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see them  as a force during clean up afterwards. Their wedding gifts are practical household items, and best of all: the wedding ceremony is a recounting of all the Biblical marriages down through the ages. And family stories of all the couples that set the example for the community. I thought that was beautiful.

The Amish have a strict dress code. At first I thought this would be a burden to the Amish women, especially when it comes to being a young bride! But, in slowly unpacking the goals of the Amish, it begins to all make sense. This is about a wonderful Amish couple named John and Mary: “A more secure life does not necessarily mean a bigger house or a deeper bank account. His greatest dream is to figure out a way to make his living entirely upon their hilly acreage. This is the ideal for Amish fathers, the life towards which most strive. The best life, in an Amish man’s mind, is one in which he has meaningful work that puts him in close daily contact with his wife and children.” There are several principles that really speak volumes. And I want more than anything to begin to incorporate these ideals more in my own life and model them to my children. Here they are in no particular order:

Uffgevva: “loosely translated, it means that you are less important than others. Amish children are taught from an early age, by example as well as words, that their needs and wants are important, but not more important than those of the family, the church, and the community. It is the exact opposite of individualism, which is what most American children are taught, and it is the exact opposite of what most American adults believe.” This important principle is why Amish children as young as two are given jobs around the house and farm. It is understood that to feel needed, all people should have real work. It also explains why grandmothers and grandfathers go first in the potluck line. They teach respect intentionally, at all times.

Gelassenheit: “the Amish acceptance of life… similar to uffgevva in that it is a giving up of will, but it holds within it the concept of totally giving up one’s will to God. It is the idea of seeking and accepting His will in every aspect of life. It is easier to accept grief, for instance, when one believes God has a bigger plan that He has put into place for our ultimate good.”This a difficult one, but you can see that the principles work together. If we surrender ourselves and our families to Gods will, even if that means difficulties– we will grow closer to God, and more peaceful.

Hochmut: “Avoiding hochmut absolutely permeates Amish culture. It is for instance, hochmut to boast about one’s biblical knowledge, or to praise a child’s beauty or intelligence. Amish parents would never put a sticker on the back of their buggy proclaiming to the world that their child was an honor student. To do so would be hochmut. It would embarrass them….For several decades now, the need to give children a good self image has been drummed into parental consciousness, and we have responded in an interesting way. We have assumed that those children who are told that they are special and intelligent and gifted, who are showered with words of praise and approval and given trophies for their shelves and certificates for their walls will be happy and content and possessed of a healthy self image. Therefore, one could assume that Amish children who are taught that their wants and needs are not more important than others, children who are not constantly praised and who will never receive something as hochmut as a trophy, would struggle with poor self image, depression, eating disorders, social maladjustment, feelings of inferiority, and a general lack of self confidence. That is not what has happened.The Amish suicide rate is less than half of the national average. Surveys have also shown that Amish teenagers have a healthier and more satisfied view of their bodies than English teens. Anorexia and bulimia are virtually non-existent. So are unemployment and homelessness. Obesity is much rarer among the Amish, and a survey of Amish women in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, concluded that on the whole, Amish women perceive themselves as happier, more content, and less stressed than those in a similar study of Englisch women.” So…they re doing something right. All this thoughtful and selfless behavior that the Amish teach to their children through word and deed- can it really be more satisfying than being praised night and day like our American children?

I am thinking that even though I do see many families serving the poor and we try to do little corporal works of mercy whenever we get a chance….there is always more we can do- and it’s a beautiful church that truly embraces this concept. I wonder how many conversions we would see if we all committed to living this way? Would we be happier or have happier children? I think my children are very happy most of the time, except when they aren’t. Their most common complaint is that they want to have friends over, or want to go do something. They couldn’t possibly be BORED with all the toys we have, let alone siblings, pets, and a big backyard! But somehow that ungrateful bug can creep in, and during those moments I am left to wonder: am I making my children’s life TOO GOOD? I never suffered poverty growing up, but my mom and I will joke that we were like the Amish, and led a very simple life. Christmas’s were homemade, toys were sleds, tree forts, and bikes, and my most prized possessions were made by mom and grandma–  “little house on the prairie” dresses and dolls. I really did value the outdoors and the time with my three siblings playing outside for hours on end. We had entire universes of pretend. Literally. We invented a spaceship from a tree fort and had communications with the other side! It was a blessing that our parents understood the need for us to spend those long hours outside. I recently read somewhere that if a child gets told to play something, it loses it’s ability to be real play. It’s when children decide what to play and how to play it that it becomes a real educational experience. I also was not immune to the ungrateful bug, and have memories of wanting to buy a Saint Alexis sweatshirt from my elementary school, it felt like all the kids were getting them, and my dad sat me down and said: we cannot buy you that sweatshirt because it’s too expensive. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now! Children may not understand completely what is best for them, even if they have very strong opinions of what they want. I feel like the modern view of child rearing is actually disrespectful of the child in that we give them the decision making power of a young adult when they are toddlers. It’s too much control for them to use wisely, and there is nothing more obnoxious then to be bossed around by a three year old. We can be gentle but firm. Repeat it with me: God gave ME this child to raise, I can be in charge and still give choices, I can be gentle but firm. I heard some one say the most loving people they know are the most boundaried. I agree with this thought, and would like to study up on how I can use good healthy boundaries with my children more effectively. A suggested idea that I really like: with your husband, make up the rules for your home. Write them down and post them. Have your children memorize them. The first step to having good boundaries is to define for those around you what to expect. What are our goals, what is our family mission? The Amish are very clear about this, and they are not afraid to punish a kid who disobeys the rules…

One Amish father said, “A wise parent learns his child, and what works with that child. God made each person different, and I believe families work best when the punishment is tailored to the individual child….Whatever punishment is decided upon, it must be carried out consistently.”I will take this advice, and pray for the courage to be consistent! What an incredible gift it is to be a parent, and also a lot of work. The follow through is certainly the most difficult part of discipline- but also the most fruitful. If we desire well behaved content children like the Amish- we have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

“Television, computers, and cell phones. Most Amish do not allow these items in their homes or lives, nor do they allow themselves the luxury of being connected to the power grid. They do not believe that God will strike them down for indulging in these things. They do believe, however, that owning technology can cause enormous damage to a family, not only because of some of the ungodly things that appear on the internet and television, but because it distracts the parents from the important job of raising and teaching their children.

I’ve spent several nights with my Old Order Amish friends and one thing that is noticeably different from our Englisch culture is that the family tends to spend the evening together in the same room. At dusk, kerosene lamps or a more powerful gas-powered light will be lit in the living room. Whereas electricity tends to distribute the family all over the house, a lack of electricity draws them closer together, kind of like moths to a flame.”

I think the beautiful picture this book paints is one of a world where children are given a certain priority because their whole lives are centered around family. There are few distractions for the parents, and the babies clearly lavish the unending attention and care. I found it interesting that the Amish only are required to go to school through eighth grade, at which point most of them have no trouble finding good jobs. The author interviewed several employers of local businesses that frequently hired Amish workers, and was surprised to find out that their lack of education didn’t get in their way of getting a job or keeping it. “They have a great attitude, a lot of skill, and they actually know how to work, she says, Amish kids show up on time, they have a lot of common sense, and they don’t steal. They’re not covered in tattoos and most of them are sober and drug-free. What employer in their right mind wouldn’t want that?” Apparently, in these areas heavily populated with the Amish, its often difficult for Englisch teens to get hired when there are so many Amish to choose from!

When Serena asked one of the Keim Lumber owners what the Amish do exactly to instill this wonderful work ethic in their children, his answer is the best ever. “In my family, it is my wife, she is the one who is with the children all day and she teaches them constantly. I’m amazed at what she accomplishes. She always goes the extra mile in making sure they know how to do things…..In Amish society the children get up early and have chores. It gives them a purpose for existing. In Englisch society they get up and watch cartoons. Reality versus make-believe. It definitely makes a difference in their work ethic as well as their worldview….The impact of all that training teaches children what it feels like to think that ‘I am a useful, necessary part of my community and my family.’ That is a good feeling, and it is an important gift to give a child.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tell me, what have you read lately?

 

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