When Life Gets Irritating - Be Still

Our house was a bit crazy the past couple of weeks. Actually, stressful is a better word to describe it. Everyone was in an eternal irritable state – even the dogs. The kids were fighting, Mark and I were barking at each other and the dogs – well they seemed irked over the lack of a walk and went in the backyard and chewed up part of the playset! (Oh yeah, mama wasn’t happy!)

I made numerous attempts to end it – I put the kids to bed earlier, slipped the dogs some extra treats and made heartier meals to keep Mark from being hungry – but the irritation continued. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Why were we all lacking peace?

One day, my 8-year-old daughter and I were in the car when she snapped at me about something I did that bothered her (I think yawned or something – it was pretty annoying.

Hungry and Nauseated Yet So Loved

A couple of weekends ago it was my birthday and the kids wanted to do a breakfast for me. I was excited to be able to sleep in and the kids were thrilled to be in charge of the meal. Early on the morning of my big day (unfortunately “big” here refers to the number on my cake) the kids snuck into our room and urged Mark out of bed to help.

Thirty minutes later Noah, my 9-year-old, entered our bedroom carrying a cup of coffee, oblivious to the thin streams that were actively dripping down the side of the cup.  Yes – time for leisure reading with a cup of java. He smiled in triumphant of his accomplishment as handed me the cup of coffee. He proudly told me the menu - hot, gluten-free biscuits, eggs and bacon and then ran back downstairs to rejoin the others.

Another fifteen minutes passed and Anastasia, who had turned 8 the day before, scurried into the room, “I made the biscuits all by myself but the recipe only made three biscuits for some reason - weird, huh! So I’m making more.

What the Dog Whisperer Taught Me About Parenting

I’m a big fan of the National Geographic show, The Dog Whisperer. I record and watch it whenever I get a chance. It’s amazing how much I learn from Cesar Milan, a.k.a. the Dog Whisperer. We have two black lab pups at home, and believe me, we can use all the help we can get. However, by watching the show I’ve not only learned better ways to handle our dogs. I’ve also been reminded of life principles I can use with my family.

One time I mentioned this to a group of my friends. They all laughed and began making jokes about me poking Mark in the side and loudly, “Shhhshing” him whenever he got distracted. And of course making him walk behind me – my personal favorite.

After the laughter died down, I shared a story with my friends to illustrate my point.

Dreaming In A Power Nap

Ah, it’s summer! I love it. The longer days allow for early morning runs, evening swims and extended cookouts with friends. For many, it's time to recuperate from the battles fought while helping with homework and the numerous hours spent watching unlimited baseball and soccer games. Of course the extra free time means the kids have even more energy. So, this year I decided to research some local day camps in our area.

OMG! (Don’t worry. “G” stands for Gosh.) There were so many camps to choose from, I was overwhelmed. They all sounded incredible. I was tempted to sign up for all of them and fill our summer going from camp to camp. But the reality of a budget knocked that out of me.

I finally decided on a camp that one of our friends cofounded and co-runs, SimBale Sports, LLC. It’s a sports camp that not only challenges the body but also the mind. It sounded great, so we signed up.

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Support Beams

We had the good fortune to travel to the balmy island of Kaua’i (notice the apostrophe – I’m pretty much a local now) last week. We try to get to Hawai’i (again, notice apostrophe) every February to escape the gray doldrums of living in the Pacific Northwest in the winter. Mid-January, our Southern California blood starts demanding we get it some Vitamin D. We use our companion tickets for airfare and my in-laws graciously cover the accommodations. So, the trip really is almost free, if we refrain from eating out too much while we’re on the island. Almost free paradise is my kind of paradise. We were in Kaua’i when we got the news that we can go pick up our son at the end of March. The news felt surreal, dream-like. We weren’t expecting this news until at least mid-summer. I e-mailed a few friends about the news but mostly just walked around in a daze induced by tropical landscape and shock. Toward the end of our trip, I was finally able to blog about it somewhat articulately to announce the news to the world (see previous post).
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Holding Hands in Public

Today I dropped my 9 –year-old daughter off at the Jr. high bus stop.

Our school district offers violin lessons for 4th graders at the local Jr. high before school. 4th graders are to ride the bus with the Jr. High kids, take their lesson, and re-board the bus, which drops them off at their proper elementary school.  Because I’m really very afraid of Junior High kids (I spent a year teaching 7th grade Spanish), I debated whether or not to just drive her to the school myself, sparing her the bus experience. She’s so tiny and sweet, I rationalized. Those kids will eat her alive. Plus, how will she be able to find the music room when she gets there? I mentioned this plan to Alex and, horrified, she replied, “Mom. There. Is.

Little White Lies

I am a liar. It’s true. There are lots of little whitelies we tell our children. The night my daughter lost her tooth started offlike any other night. I couldn’t have predicted that I would so readily andhandily rely on fabrication to maintain the sanity of our home. After 2 months of wiggling and jigglingher tiny bean of a tooth, my seven-year-old daughter finally, officially, losther 7< tooth. She had been diligently twisting and turning it formonths, pushing it around with her tongue, wiggling it with her fingers, andeating apples with stunning regularity. Gradually, the tooth had begun todangle, performing acrobatic 180-degree turns, eliciting grimaces and sourexpressions from innocent bystanders.

In a quest for independence, Alex insisted on pulling thetooth all by herself. In the smallbathroom, my husband Michael, my son Caleb, and I all fanatically cheered heron like she was just moments away from a gold medal.

“Twist it to theleft! Twist it to the right!”

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Human beings are hard wired to search for loopholes. It’s in our nature to painstakingly seek out shortcuts. Webster defines a loophole as “an ambiguity or inadequacy in the law or set of rules.” My children are forever testing the household rules, searching for the perfect ambiguity to exploit.

For example, we have a rule that the kids may only play video games if they have done their homework and then their daily reading. They are awarded video game and computer time based on how long they have spent reading. It’s a minute for minute exchange. Twenty minutes of reading can be redeemed for 20 minutes of Wii or DS time. Simple enough, right? As I crafted this rule, I was proud of its straightforwardness and confident in its clarity.

I had no idea just how complicated this system could become. My kids, who love to read, immediately started trying to poke holes in my rule. They peppered me with questions. Can you read in front of the Wii while someone else is playing? Do you get reading time if you read signs while riding in the car? Does it count if someone reads to you? Do you get extra Wii time on birthdays and holidays? Can you borrow your brother’s reading minutes if you promise to lend him some next time? Does daddy have the power to override this rule when mom’s gone? What happens if you “accidentally” play for too long on the Wii? Are there any times where your reading can count for double?

We have had long discussions about the Reading/ Gaming exchange rule. So much, that I am considering hiring an attorney to draft a legal contract so that all parties are clear on the terms of the agreement. My children have no idea how much Wii time they’ve missed because of time spent discussing procedures and parameters.

I find myself searching for loopholes as well. My kids learned from the best. Just how important is it for me to meet that deadline? Do I technically have to pay that bill on that date, or is it just a suggestion? Do I have to do that tempo run, or can I just run easy? I find myself wondering if the time I spend searching for shortcuts ends up being more time consuming that just getting the job done.

I have often used my own fears and insecurities as a loophole.

“I feel called to go to Africa, but I can’t afford it.”

“I really want to be a writer, but I’m too afraid of rejection.”

“I want to work out but, I’ll never stick with it.”

“I’d like to start my own business, but it’s just too risky.”

My fears let me off the hook but, they prevent me from really living. I wonder what a life without loopholes, without fear and excuses, would look like. I'm willing to give it a try.

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The Journey Begins

For some time now, Mike and I have have felt an undeniable pull toward adoption. For the last several years, however, our lives have been too consumed with church work, various crises, and parenting the 2 kids we already have, to thoroughly process what this meant. 

Lately, however, this pull has become so strong, so magnetic, that ignoring it is no longer possible.

We have traveled overseas numerous times in the past 15 years to places like Kenya, South Africa, Venezuela, and Mexico. On each trip we encountered mind boggling poverty, orphans, innocent children without parents to advocate for them or provide emotional or spiritual guidance. Many of these children were well-cared for in orphanages, transition homes, and health centers. Many, however, were not. 
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