Sunday, May 6, 2012

Everyday It's Something New

(Repost from my daily devotional blog, May 2011)

Everyday when we wake up, we have a choice: will it be a good day, or a bad day. To say, “Well, that isn’t my choice. I have no control over that,” is a lie you tell yourself and honestly believe.

No matter how I feel when I wake up, the first thing I say out loud is, “Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day.”

I don’t sleep well at nights. I’ve always had problems falling asleep. I envy people who can just close their eyes and they’re out. For me, it takes shifting, tossing, turning, pillowing fluffing, and nearly two hours of trying to shut down my mind and get it ready for dreamland.

Because of this, I’ve never been a morning person. I don’t get those people! Who wakes up chipper and cheerful, singing and smiling? Not me. And now with our little guy, who is only weeks away from turning two, waking up to his thunderous bouncing in his crib I’m always thrown into overdrive without the few minutes (a lot of minutes, actually) to really wake up and realize another day has dawned without my asking.

I have to force myself—and I mean, FORCE—to get out of bed and thank God for the day ahead. Because quite honestly, I’m not too thankful for it after a night of restless sleeping. I’m not thankful for being so tired I can’t walk or see straight. I’m not thankful that I know when I open our son’s door he’ll be sitting there buck naked, smiling at me while he sits in his own urine because he has discovered how to take off his diaper. (And he probably does it in the middle of the night, because he, too, has my awful sleeping habits.) But I have to smile back, regardless of what I’m seeing, because he’s so happy to see me. He bursts into song, “Momma, momma…hi momma!”

Thank you, God, for this day, I have to remind myself as I take him out of his crib and dunk him into a bath without his breakfast first.

Everyday…it’s something. Everyday brings on a whole new truckload of challenges. And everyday I have to make a choice: will it be a good day, or a bad day. I could get angry and let Tavin’s pee-soaked blanket irritate me for the rest of the day, but where does that get me? I’ll be set to go off on any other little thing throughout my day with that mindset.

Tavin smiles at me, even though he’s naked, cold and wet. He smiles at me. He’s glad to see me. And although I’m not glad at the scene I’ve walk into, I’m incredibly glad to see that beautiful smile; and his love for me is so overpowering nothing else seems to matter. So I [choose to] smile back and say, “Hi, my Tavin!” and give him love instead of a scolding.

When we wake up, God is smiling on us, just like Tavin does when I walk in the door. He’s saying, “Good Morning, so nice to see you! I love you!!” And what is your response? “Bug off, God, I haven’t had my coffee yet!”? Or, “Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day!”? That’s your choice. I choose [force myself] to smile and say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Everyday it’s something new. A new day. A new attitude. A new decision. A new outlook. A new feeling. A newfound love. Everyday it’s something new.

Mommy's Mission:

What’s new for you today? Is your new thing wearing you down, or lifting you up? Did you make a choice today to be happy, or to be angry and bitter again? Did you tell God that you are thankful for a new day, or did you curse Him for it? Those are choices. Those are your choices, not God’s, not your circumstances, not your job, not your spouse, not your children, not your co-workers. Yours and yours alone.

If you haven’t told Him yet today, tell Him now. It’s never too late.Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day (and if it’s raining—it’s still beautiful!). Let me see the beauty everywhere I look today. I choose to be happy today. I choose today to see the good things in life and not reflect on the bad. I choose to see the good even in the bad.

 Scripture to reflect on upon waking: Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our House

our house
This is our house.

Not so bad. Looks cute. Cozy. Good size.

It’s all of those things. So what’s the problem? It’s located in one of the worse neighborhoods in town.

See that top window on the left? That’s my prayer/sitting room. Outside my window I look at a HUGE pine tree with a shape of cross at the tip top. However, on a nice Spring day I get an eyeful of drug deals going down. Late at night I watch and listen to gang fights. And there’s usually not a day that goes by when I don’t see a cop car driving reeeal slow down our street. Easter Sunday I spent most of the day calling the cops on the drug dealers across the street. It’s hard to catch them in the act, you know.

See that other window on the top left on the side of the house. Well, that window offers a gorgeous view of a tree-lined street. On a good day looking out that window, I could convince myself that I live in Paradise. On a bad day, however, I get to see two fire trucks and an ambulance pull up to the house on the corner when the guy who lives there overdoses at least twice a month.
  dream house
This wasn’t our choice home. THIS, on the other hand, would be our choice home.

We didn’t have many options as most people do when choosing a home. When we got pregnant, living in Chicago, Jared was injured on the job and his injury pay was a quarter of the income we were living on.

The house we live in now was “given” to us by my mother. She knew we could no longer afford $1200 a month for rent in the city, and offered for us to take over her mortgage payments so she could buy a new house for herself. Technically, the house isn’t ours until it’s paid off or she passes away.

On beautiful summer days I resist taking Tavin outside to play because the neighborhood kids—we’re talking 5 and 6 year olds—are usually swearing at each other and fist fighting, or vandalizing people’s property. This isn’t the most ideal place to raise a family.

a viewBut if we had this dream home, we’d live right across the street from the lake and just a couple of blocks from one of my most favorite places in town: Southport Beach. (As you can see, this would be our view of Lake Michigan from our bedroom, with an upper and lower wrap around patio. Quite a different view from what we look at now!)

If I had my choice—which I don’t at the present time—I’d buy that dream house. Especially now when streamline rates are low. This is the time to buy! This is a prime time to buy a house of your dreams, because house prices are at an all time low. I know if our current financial situation were different, and our annual income was a bit more stable (Jared works a seasonal job on the boats), that we’d be all OVER the idea of getting out of this neighborhood and into a new home.

Someday we’ll get there. Someday we’ll own a house like this. Someday we’ll live in a safe neighborhood for Tavin, where instead of our walls being shaken by ghetto cars blaring thumping bass gangster rap, we’ll listen to waves crashing against the shore on a warm summer morning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Excuse Me: 5 Proper Ways to Politeness

Please. Thank you. You’re welcome. Sorry. Excuse me.

If you invest a lot of time and effort, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, those sweet sounding words can quickly become a huge component of your child’s thought process and vocabulary. But the real trick isn’t teaching them when to use these words, and how, but to continue teaching them, all the time, never ceasing.

I am constantly told how refreshing it is to see such a young toddler approach life and people with such lovely manners the way Tavin does. They look at him with utter amazement, never fully realizing the excruciating time and effort that I invested in Tavin. I’m not offended by any means, in fact, I’m incredibly proud of Tavin, and proud of myself that I never gave up, even when it seemed impossible to keep going.

1. Mini Me, Indeed

When it comes to polite gestures and behaviors, you—yes, you—have to set the example. There’s a reason this blog is called, Mommy’s Mini Me. You are, quite literally, creating a mini you, like it or not.

Tavin’s amazing polite behaviors didn’t start yesterday. It didn’t even start when he turned two, or one. We started implementing these words and actions in his everyday life from birth. In fact, my husband and I have always lived by these basic rules in our everyday routine. “Please pass me the butter, sweetie…Thank you.” In everything we do, politeness rules and reigns in our regular routine. (It’s also one of the big reasons we have such an amazing marriage, check out my Relationship Revival blog for more info.)

2. Let’s Take it Outside

We don’t just live by those polite standards privately, we also use these common courtesies everywhere we go, even in a world where a good majority of society doesn’t practice these virtuous standards.

I’ve often found that even showing signs of politeness in public throws people off. When I cross someone’s path in a grocery store, and they are pondering what brand of rice to buy, I politely pass by and gently say, “Excuse me.” Most people are shocked to hear that, because most people don’t behave that way. The reason? Parents don’t invest the time to create a generation of polite people.

3. Become a Disciple of Discipline

Being a parent requires extreme discipline. It requires so much time and effort to create an astounding life. Anyone can have a child that will eventually ignore authority, cause societal problems and live their life in prison. In fact, most people are raising those kinds of children. You have to be different. You need to stand out above the rest of the parents of the world. You need to dedicate your life to your child's future, and that means disciplining yourself in order to be a disciplinary to your child. You have to be determined, stay motivated, and remain focused on the ultimate goal: raising a polite child in an impolite world. Make your child different. Make your child stand out, too! Ask yourself if you are raising a child who will bring joy to those around him, or make life insufferable for anyone who comes in contact with him.

4. Giving Up is Easy, Being Relentless is Rewarding

It takes special, intelligent, community conscious adults to be as disciplined as they want their children to be. You will say the same words day after day, you will get frustrated, and you will want to give up because it’s so much easier. Too many parents take the easy route, and again, I understand why. You get sick of it very quickly. It’s so monotonous and irritating, especially those first few hundred times when they don’t get it.

I remember specifically when Tavin was 18 months old and we were teaching him to put his cup on the table rather than leaving it upside down in a puddle on the floor. Jared and I must have said, “Put your cup on the table” at the very least 900 times one day. By 6 PM we were exasperated. When we needed to say it again, I took a deep breath and nearly decided to just throw in the towel and call it quits. I told Jared, “I get why parents give up and just say ‘the heck with it’. It’s so frustrating!” The moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I didn’t want to be that kind of parent. I needed to be consistent for Tavin to take me seriously. I won’t lie, I still find his cup days later in his toy bin, but that’s a pretty rare occurrence now.

5. Prompt-o

Once you get the hang of being disciplined to “keep on keeping on” with your own good behaviors and then your child mimics you, becoming that adorable Mini Me you’ve been longing for, start the prompting cues. You know where they belong. For example, when I accidentally belch, I say, “Oops. Mommy needs to say, ‘excuse me.’ Excuse me, Tavin.” He laughs at me, and then when he burps, he finds it hysterical and then without hesitation says, “Scoos mee, mommee.” And I respond, “You are excused! Good boy. You’re so polite.”

75% of the time, Tavin doesn’t need to be prompted to say thank you, please, or excuse me anymore. It is a part of who he is becoming, and since we practice these behaviors in our everyday lives, it’s not something he will soon ignore or forget.

MOMMY’S MINI ME MISSION: You can do this! Please don’t give up!! Imagine a better world you are creating by raising children who value common courtesy.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Great Escape

Shame on me! Last summer I took Tavin for a walk down by the lake nearly every single day. This year? Possibly a handful of times.

This morning I woke up to the sun shining and warm air. I wanted to go for a walk. I love walking down by Lake Michigan. It’s the main reason I love Kenosha so much. We have such a beautiful lakefront and so many amazing bike and walking trails. I really wanted to go for a walk. You may be saying to yourself, "Then go! What's stopping you?"

Follow me on my great escape.

Most of the fun things I do with Tavin turn into one big temper tantrum at the end. We have fun, and then when we need to go home, or call it quits, it turns into a major fiasco! Taking walks was one of those bombs that couldn’t be defused. We’d take a nice stroll along the harbor, down to the lighthouse...

and I’d say, “Okay, let’s turn around and head back,” and Tavin would instantly scream and cry and then violently throw himself on the pavement. I would try to coax him with kind words, but after three minutes of Mrs. Nice Mom, I’d find myself dragging him by his arm, afraid it would snap right out of the socket because he had discovered the uniqueness of making his body dead weight. He refused to get on his feet, so I was literally dragging him along the way back to the car. Not a nice sight. Not a nice feeling. Not fun at all.

Then I tried taking walks with him in the stroller (that was the luxury last year)...

So I stopped taking walks. I stopped taking him out in the backyard to play in the sandbox. I stopped letting him play in the Jump-O-Lene. I stopped everything. I was just tired of the tirades.

But today was gorgeous outside, and I know these days will soon become less and less as the cold weather approaches us quickly here in Wisconsin, so I took the risk of taking Tavin for a walk.

We had a great time looking at the yachts, jumping from curb to curb, sitting in the rocks, watching the geese paddle past us, and eating our snack. We played in the sand, we “stopped and smelled the roses,” played some football and even played with a cute dog. But all of that was part of my master plan. I knew exactly what park I could go to that would create less friction and chaos. So I chose my park wisely with a escape route in tow. I was being creative with our escape from the lake and back to the car. (Picture is from today--so far, so good!)

As we played on the beach in the sand, we had already been gone for over an hour. I still had some writing to do and he could barely walk he was so tired. I will admit I had mapped out this walk perfectly. In order for me to now get back to the car without him realizing that’s what we were doing, I needed to get him away from the sand without a screaming match, so I brightly suggested, “Do you want to go smell some flowers?” (As the flower garden was my turn back to the car.) Tavin got all excited, dropped the sticks, and we walked up the hill, past the lounging geese, and hand-in-hand we entered the garden. We kicked back on the bench swing and then watched bumble bees buzzing around a rainbow of flowers. I could see the car in the distance.

As I tried to escape the flower garden, I noticed a tree with a beautiful bench built around it. “Tavin! Let’s go sit on that cool bench wrapped around the tree.” He was all for it. We sat there for a couple of seconds and then I noticed another flower garden closer to the car, in fact, only about a hundred feet away. I was so close!

“Tavin, look! More flowers to smell. Look at those bright pink ones!” He ran and put his nose into them. I was eyeing the car, but I think he caught me and started to get a little panicked, so I averted his attention to the geese. Finally, there was no hiding it any longer so I tried a different approach. Rather than saying, “Okay, it’s time to go,” which would have surely sent him into a spiral of screams, instead I asked him, “Do you want to go see daddy?” Of course he did…but not if it meant walking to the car, getting in the car and driving home. Because the second he saw we were approaching the car he began to cry, “Sorry, Mommy; Sorry, Mommy,” in hopes that I would forgive him for any possible wrong doing and change my mind about leaving.

Granted, he still had a small fit, but it lasted a minute rather than the entire walk back to the car. One time I made the mistake of walking about a half mile from our car to a park with an enormous ball for him to kick around. When it was time to go, I made the mistake of telling him that and down he went. Now I had the luxury of not only carrying him, but an enormous ball, too, a half mile! On that adventure, every now and then I’d put him down and try to get him to kick the ball further and further. That worked a couple of times, but the second he saw the car, he’d throw himself on the grass and cry. So while I carried him like a sack of potatoes over my shoulder, I had to kick that stupid ball all the way back to the car.

Us mothers look pretty ridiculous sometimes, but it’s the price we pay making the great escape back home.

MOMMY'S MINI ME MISSION: Make it a great escape full of fun adventures to get back to the car. Make it a game. Give them fun things to do so they don't realize they are on their way home. Distract, distract, DISTRACT!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Your Mini Me

I’m often surprised when I hear so many parent’s say, “I don’t know where he gets that from,” referring to some sort of misbehavior or disobedience in their children. I know exactly where they get it from.

Your children are quite literally your Mini Me. They are your EXACT duplicates, replicas, and clones. Don’t be surprised when your two-year old mimics or copies your walk, your talk, and your character. That means when you get angry at small things, he will too. That’s scary stuff, because one of our main goals as parents is to try our hardest to make sure they don’t turn out like us! (See this picture? That's a product of my husband's rage when he spills a drop of coffee on the floor. No kidding. If my husband was 2, this is what he'd look like most mornings getting his cup of joe.)

Our hope as parents is to give our children a better life than we ever had. And that sometimes means hoping we can convince our children not to do the things we did, or even still do. However, if we are not obedient, neither will our children be obedient. If we are not disciplined, our children will not be disciplined either. If we don’t watch what we say, neither will our children. If we don’t care that we hurt other people’s feelings, our children won’t care either when they do it.

Today’s bullies are a product of watching their parents bullying. Their parents are either bullying neighbors, relatives, or other family members. Their parents may even be bullying them! What surprises me about this whole vicious cycle is that parents have this strange idea that what they do and say makes no significant difference in their children’s life.

My first step-father was an abusive alcoholic who beat my mother at least once a week. He came from a family of seven siblings…all of whom are alcoholic wife beaters, or child beaters. Where did that stem from? They all watched their father beat their mother senseless after a night of heavy drinking. What you do matters. And it matters for the sake of your children and our future generation.

The other thing that concerns me is that most parents are oblivious to this fact and just don’t care, nor do they care what kind of world they are creating by creating a generation of monsters!

A few years ago I visited a very good friend of mine at her home. Her and her family had recently moved from the ghetto of Chicago and came to our town for a better future for their children. Unfortunately, they brought the ghetto mentality to our town. Let me explain.

As I was visiting, my friend’s oldest daughter was over and yelling profusely at her seven-year old daughter. Apparently another little girl her age cut in front of her on the slide at the neighborhood park. My friend’s granddaughter was a bit upset about it and came home crying. The mother lost her mind, ranting and raving about how she should have “beat that girl,” and “showed her you are not to be reckoned with.” This rant went on for nearly a half hour about how she wouldn’t survive five minutes in Chicago! I thought that was the point…that she wouldn’t have to! This mother was literally forcing her daughter to fight with your fists with a bullying mentality. If everyone taught their children like this, and in this day and age most are, our entire society would be in disarray.

On the other hand, our two-year old son, Tavin, says “thank you,” whenever you give him something. He’ll even thank you for allowing him to share with you! He also says, “You’re welcome,” when you say thank you to him. But that’s how we operate in our home. We live and breathe doing the right thing by one another and then take that out into the world. We practice what we preach. (That's me being cute and innocent at age 3.)

My son is incredibly polite and kind. Whenever we go anywhere, he says “Hi,” with a grin from ear to ear, to everyone he sees. Most people politely say hi back and move along. Some people beam with delight having encountered such a nice child (again, especially in this day and age). And then there are a select few who absolutely refuse to pay any attention to him at all! I mean, they go out of their way to ignore him, no matter how many times he says hi to them, or leans over trying to make eye contact. The sad part of my job in this scenario is having to tell my child that not everyone is always going to be nice back to him. I hate that part of being a parent: breaking the news to your child that the world isn’t always a good place. Aren’t we really just giving them a big beautiful shiny balloon of goodness and then popping it in their face?

But you see, I aim to change the world, and I’m trying to achieve that through my own actions and incorporating proper morals and values in my child. He absorbs everything he sees and hears. Small children are like sponges. Every little thing you say or do is sucked up and stored away. You may not even realize just how much they are sopping up until one day you ask, “Where did that come from?” Well, they didn’t make it up, because they don’t have that capacity, so anything they do is coming from an influence in their life.

Yesterday morning when Tavin was waking up from his nap he was pulling the wallpaper off of his wall, and as he was doing it he said over and over again, “Uh-uh,” (as in no-no). That’s sometimes my instant reaction to something he’s doing wrong. Instead of screaming, “Nooooo!!” I say, “Uh-uh!” He was copying me. And as he said it, he realized he was doing something wrong and stopped.

As my first blog of Mommy’s Mini Me, I want to explain what my main focus is about. Nearly everything I need to teach my child, I have to first teach myself. As a stay-at-home mommy, I’m my son’s biggest influence; I’m his greatest example. I have to continually keep myself in check in order to be the best teacher he’ll ever have. Every wonderful and positive character trait my son has is because he has seen it in me. And on the same token, every terrible and ridiculous thing he does also stems from me.

Most parents don’t have the luxury of staying at home with their children. That’s incredibly unfortunate, because they are losing out on the greatest opportunity to be the ultimate influence on their child’s life. By cramming our children in day care, we are allowing outside influences, wrong behaviors, and unethical ideas to be pounded in our children. For those parents who have to do this, my heart breaks for you, and my hope for you and your family is that you are paying attention to what your child brings home from those unhealthy environments and doing everything in your power to rewire their way of thinking. There is still hope for them. It just has to come from you. Your child is quite literally your Mini Me.

Now it’s time to start caring enough to design an amazing Mini Me by becoming a spectacular You!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Coming Soon!

Come back soon! I'll be posting my first blog within the next day or two! Mommy's on a mission to make it through the day will appreciate this new and fun parenting blog. Stay tuned. Dial in. Follow along. It's going to be an adventure.