Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wisdom Teeth!

In August, Cam had his wisdom teeth removed, which was followed by the most entertaining car ride I've ever had.  I only had to pull over once.  Kind of a miracle I got him home.  Haha!  Enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2015

On my Mind: Personal Freedom, Being Offended, and Respect

 There is a battle as old as eternity that resurfaces over and over again: Should individuals be free to decide their own fate, or should someone else do it for them?  We see this battle played out in politics (democracy vs. communism), the workplace, popular culture (think of ANY movie - chances are this theme is in there somewhere!), families, communities, etc.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that most conflicts boil down to issues of independence.

So what happens when we DECIDE something?  Logically, it should lead to us DOING something, right?  DECIDE and DO are two ends of the same stick.  When we pick up a stick that represents Choice A, we are also picking up the actions and consequences that go with it.  Without this link, the idea of deciding something falls apart.  For example, I can decide I want to lose weight, or become rich, or any other thing - but unless the corresponding "doing" takes place, the decision becomes meaningless.  In addition, the things we DO then have influence on the things we DECIDE in the future.  Again, two ends of the same stick.

A few situations in the news this week have made me realize that many today are experiencing a fundamental disconnect when it comes to this principle.  First - we have what I'll call the "culture of offense" that is growing daily.  Angry voices are continually shouting that they have been offended and someone must pay, the most recent being the University of Missouri incident.  Several students were offended by the actions of a few individuals making derogatory racial statements, and somewhere along the way, someone decided that it was the fault of the university president and that he should resign.  AND HE DID.  To many, this seems completely illogical.  Shouldn't the individuals that performed the acts be the ones held accountable?  How did we get to the place where the resignation of the university president sounds like a reasonable remedy to anyone?

Before I get into discussing how this connects to our battle between DOING FOR MYSELF and DO IT FOR ME, let's set the racial issues aside for a moment.  I don't condone racism in any way, shape, or form.  Furthermore, I believe that if we can solve this dilemma, we can put so many of these battles behind us and truly move forward.  For the sake of our discussion, the derogatory statement hurled could have just as easily been "You're fat", "You're ugly", or "You're stupid or wrong."  The type of offense really doesn't matter as we explore this issue.

So just how does being offended fit into the issue of DOING FOR MYSELF vs DO IT FOR ME?  At the foundation of believing that an individual controls his or her own destiny is this belief - we can only decide for and control ourselves.  Because every one else possesses this same right of self determination, we truly cannot control anyone else.  Yet when we scream offense, are we not saying that THAT OTHER PERSON is in control of how we feel?  What would have happened if the individuals in Missouri to whom the slurs were directed would have simply turned, looked toward the offender and said "What an idiot. He sure doesn't know much about me and what I'm worth." ?  When we try to punish anyone and everyone who "offends" us, are we not trying to control the whole outside world instead of our own response?  I am not excusing any bad behavior, and individuals who break the law should certainly be held accountable, but we need to think though the repercussions of the culture of offense.  Often, it does the opposite of what is being sought.  It widens divides and bad feelings between individuals, the respect demanded is not received, and perhaps worst of all - we subject ourselves to a lot of unnecessary unhappiness.  When we take control and responsibility for our own emotions, we will be happier.

So what does that mean?  How do we handle offensive people and situations?  If it is an offense that is against the law, or against company policy, or school rules, by all means take appropriate action.  However, if it is an "offense" that is within that person's rights of free speech or religion, you may just have to make a choice.  Choose how much you are going to let that person's words control you and how you feel.  Feel free to discuss and respond responsibly.  However, you will never be able to demand agreement NOR respect.  Those are things that can only be freely given. You can however, choose to move on when there is no other effective solution. Keep being the person of worth that you are, and let your actions INSPIRE the respect you desire. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Solution for Homework Hassles

File this one under "Why didn't I think of this a long time ago?!"

When they hit those middle childhood years, when homework becomes the real deal, ALL of my boys have struggled for a while.  To sit and do MORE school after making through a whole day has been torture.  Many days, there have been tears, frustration, and a whole lot of time spent looking at a paper (or anything else that catches their attention) and not getting anything done.  Anyone else been there?

Poor Joseph has been in this stage for most of this school year.  What should take minutes to complete has taken hours most days, which is no fun for anyone.

 I've known for a long time how critical physical activity is for my boys' ability to think, and that they don't get enough of it during the day during their elementary years.  (See here and here for more on that subject.) I had tried having Joseph go play right when he got home each day with SOME success. However, there were a million other things he would rather be doing at home than homework, and I found that I was having to sit with him and continually redirect him in order to get the work done.  This was a bad deal for two reasons: First, I don't really have time for that, and second, it was killing his confidence in his own abilities.  We needed to find a way to help him own the homework situation.

Well, yesterday I had a beautiful idea.  Kate and I drove to a park near Joseph's school, parked there, and then went for a walk to pick him up after school.  I explained that we were going to go do homework at the park.  Starting out with the walk to the park and 5 minutes of play time (I used the timer on my phone) got his brain primed and ready to go.  I explained that for each page of homework he got done, he'd get another period of playtime.  He could take as much time as he wanted to get the page done.  I told him how much time he would have to play before returning for the next page.

It turns out he can do a 4 page reading packet in a combined total of 10 minutes.  Success!  Unfortunately, we had to go to a dentist appointment before we got to the math packet he had successfully avoided all week (thus the picture above at the kitchen table later last night), but he is totally excited to go back today.  What kid wants to do homework on Friday?! 

An added bonus was an afternoon spent in the beautiful sunshine and some happy time for little sis.

I know not all of you have the weather to make this feasible for much of the school year or have other places you need to be after school.  Here are the elements that made this strategy successful that you can adapt to your personal circumstances:

1.)  A change of venue!  By changing location, we ditched all of the negative memories associated with homework around the kitchen table.  It also eliminated all of his favorite distractions.  Since I was also in a different location, I was not getting sucked into other tasks that needed to be done around the house and was able to focus on the kiddos and spending time with them.

2.)  Motivation!  He had something fun to look forward to.  By keeping the work periods reasonably short, it made the task seem much more do-able.  He wasn't staring at an entire packet feeling like he was going to be at the table forever. 

3.) Physical activity! I really can't stress this one enough.  Kids need to move in order to think- especially boys.  Demanding school schedules and the amount of time many spend on tv and video games takes away a lot of what has traditionally been active time for kids.  Most simply cannot concentrate without it. 

We're excited to continue this tradition!  45 minutes at the park yesterday saved us HOURS of struggle at home, and everyone was happy. 

Happy homeworking!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My High Powered Career

"Isaac!  Isaac!"  3:32 am.  Kate's voice was coming through the baby monitor loud and clear, calling for her brother.  Unusual on 2 counts - first, she hardly ever wakes at night, and second, it's always Mom she calls for.

As I slowly began the walk to her room, I could hear her. "Garrett! Somebody help me."

I opened her door to find her standing in her bed.  She seemed surprised and confused that I was there.  I picked her up and she wrapped her little arms tightly around my neck and laid her head on my shoulder.  "I thought you died." 

Ah.  Now it makes sense.  She had been having a nightmare.  "Someone drove me away from you." She was trembling, and I manuevered into the rocking chair in her room somewhat blindly.  It was dark, and her little body was hard to see around as she continued to cling to me.  After a few minutes of rocking in the chair, I pulled her back to look at her face and explained that everything was ok and we could go back to sleep. 

Her lower lip protruded in textbook fashion and she said "I don't want you to leave me." I told her I would stay.  After a while in the chair together, her breathing slowed and the trembling stopped.  I asked if she was ready to sleep.  She was.  I gave her a kiss, snuggled her into her blankets and left the room, very tired, but deeply satisfied that my little daughter was comforted and resting again.

I may not have the power to finish everything on my to-do list daily or keep my house as clean as I would like.  I don't have any fame to speak of and my circle of influence in this world is fairly small,  but as a mother, I have the ability to dispel fear with my presence, and that's powerful stuff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Family Finance - The Jobless Experiment

A few months ago, Greg and I started noticing that more and more people we knew were losing their jobs.  Having it hit so close to home made us a little uneasy, and we figured it was a good time to revisit our family finances.

As we looked at the family budget and pondered where we could potentially trim some expenses and what size our 6 month emergency fund really needed to be, Greg proposed an experiment.  What if we pretended we were jobless for 2 weeks?

It turned out to be a brilliant idea.

Now, you could go pretty hardcore on this if you wanted, but here is what we did.  Since our purpose was to examine our discretionary spending, and have it be an eye-opening experiment for the kids, we paid all of the bills first.  I also planned our meals for two weeks and did the grocery shopping ahead of time.  Then I went to the bank and took out a small amount of cash.  That was all we would have to spend for the 2 weeks.

We unfolded the plan to the kids over dinner Sunday night.  As expected, there was some groaning and eye rolling.  We didn't really expect anyone to be excited, but they were game to play along.  We explained that the money we had in cash was all that we had for food shopping, gas for the cars, doctor appointments, school supplies - you name it.  That was all we could spend.

Here are some things that changed:

1.) My little boys began riding the bus to school to save money on gas.  Not only did this have more of an economic impact than I expected, but it made my mornings much easier! I was able to let Kate rest longer in the morning and spend a little time with each of them before they left.

2.) The boys began packing their lunches instead of buying them at school.  Huge savings, and a lot healthier, too.

3.) I stopped making little runs to the store for this and that, which gave me more time at home to get things done and play with Kate.

4.) We all got better at differentiating between needs and wants.  I noticed that the kids started thinking more before asking for something.

5.) The boys were better about not plowing through the pantry locust-style.  They understood that today's snack might be tomorrow's dinner.

6.) When I DID give them money for something, they appreciated it more, knowing it was a scarce resource.

7.) We realized a little more what a blessing it is to have a regular income.  It's definitely something we need to treat with care and responsibility, and part of it should be used to help others who are doing without.

What a perspective changer!  Although we have slid back to our normal habits in some areas, I have found that I am more thoughtful about my purchases, and we've held onto the bus and packed lunch habits.   In addition, we also have a better idea of what we would really need to have saved to be prepared for a real economic trial.  We are planning to do another round soon (for a month this time!), and may make it a yearly tradition to help us re-evaluate how we're doing.  While we know that our experiment in no way compares to going through a real period of unemployment, it did open our eyes to some areas where we were taking things for granted.

For some great family finance advice, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  We've been following this plan for a number of years and it's a winner.  Tried and true, no-nonsense wisdom.  My college-age daughter even follows the program modified to her meager budget.  It works!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Little Things

Every now and then,  I marvel at how much God cares about the little things. And really - I shouldn't be surprised at this point.  I've seen evidence over and over again.  Besides - if one of my own children were afraid, I would comfort them, right?  Yet still, sometimes I'm just amazed.

Back in December when I had my sinus procedure, I knew I would have a follow up appointment in a few months during which the doctor would use an endoscope (camera) to see how my sinuses were looking.  Since I have this marvelous deviated septum, that's not as easy as it should be.  Getting around the curves up my nose takes some skill, and some force, and it's not fun for anyone involved.  

BUT - I had already dealt with decades of sinus infections, and the procedure itself.  This was nothing I couldn't handle, right?

Today was the day, and I woke up with a migraine.  All of my resilience and bravery was gone.  What would ordinarily be no big deal suddenly felt impossible.  For some reason, rescheduling didn't even cross my mind, and I packed Kate in the van and began the drive to my doctor's office.  I was scared - I was already in a good deal of pain, and I KNEW this was going to be more.  I was hoping I would be able to drive home and not have to call someone to come get me.  I prayed most of the way there, asking for the strength to be able to handle the procedure, since I sure wasn't feeling it, and to be able to get home. 

A short while later, my doctor entered the exam room with an assistant.  We discussed how I was doing, and then he took a quick look in my nose and at my throat with his light.  The assistant then handed him the endoscope.  To my surprise, the doctor set it on the counter, and said "That would be a complete waste of money.  She has no symptoms, and her turbinates and throat look completely normal.  There's no need to look any further."  He then thanked me for coming, gave me a few instructions, and told me to let him know if I needed anything.

How thankful I feel for answered prayers today, and that my Heavenly Father understands that some days, little things are big things to His children. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Remembering What Matters

 "They found something." The nurse that had taken Joseph back for his MRI 30 minutes earlier was not the same cheerful nurse she had been earlier.  We had taken Joseph for the brain scan to see if there was anything of concern causing his frequent headaches. The nurse soberly explained that she needed us to stay.  Our doctor was being contacted for another order so that the scan could be repeated, this time with a contrast dye to try and determine what type of tissue was present. 

As I went back to the waiting room with Joseph and Kate, I felt surprisingly calm - the type of calm that I know comes from my Heavenly Father.  I have felt it many times throughout my life and recognized it immediately.  Although calm, my heart was breaking.  I pushed back my tears and put on a good face, and tried to explain to Joseph why we needed to stay and repeat the scan without scaring him to death. 

As they placed the IV, Joseph announced that he was going to throw up.  He turned completely pale.  The boy does not do needles - never has.  I couldn't help but wonder how he was going to handle what likely was ahead of us. 

The scan complete, we headed home with the promise that our doctor would be in touch.  I took him back to school and headed home.

Let me tell you.  Your mind can go a million different places with news like this.  I spent the day alternating between periods of peace and unpredictable tears.  Lots of prayers.  Questions and more questions.  What was treatment going to be like?  Surely this would require surgery.  Brain surgery.  Would he be able to finish the school year?  Would I bring him home and teach him here?  Spend as much time with him as I could?  There is something in his brain that is not supposed to be there.  Would this take him from us?  Could I handle this?  How were the other kids going to handle it?  How would this impact Ashley's decision to serve a mission for our church?  How was I going to tell Joseph?

That afternoon, I called the doctor's office.  The nurse very kindly explained that they had received his results, but that the doctor needed to give them to me.  He would call me. I waited.  He didn't call.

As usual, Joseph asked me to come lay with him at bedtime.  I did it this time, instead of explaining how much "stuff" I needed to get done.  We read his scriptures, read a book, and then I held his hand as he fell asleep.  

As Greg and I talked and prayed together that evening, I felt the same peace that had been with me all day.  I KNEW without a doubt that God was mindful of us, and I trusted Him.  I told Him that I would do whatever would be required, but I was going to need help.  My sweet husband kept asking how I was doing.  I knew he was hurting, too, and marveled at his concern for me. 

Friday morning came, and I again called the doctor's office.  They transferred me directly to the neurologist.  He explained that the tissue was a cyst.  Benign.  He has most likely had it all his life.  There was probably a period of decreased blood supply sometime during his development that caused some tissue to collect in the brain instead of migrating.  He didn't think it was related to the headaches.  No treatment necessary.  He is probably having migraines.  Now, Greg and I are both migraine sufferers.  I have NEVER been happy about migraines, but I was right then.  That was something I could handle!

More tears as immense relief flooded through me.  I called Joseph at school and gave him the good news. 

As I thought about the previous 24 hours, I felt SO GRATEFUL.  Grateful to know that he was ok.  Grateful that in a time of crisis, my faith was sufficient to TRUST.  Grateful for what I learned about my marriage.  Grateful for the way it made my boys remember that they really do love each other.  Grateful for the wake up call it was to love these kids, in thought and action, EVERY DAY.  I am so blessed to have them!  

Today, I feel renewed, with a new perspective on life.  That's why I'm going to wrap this post up and GO PLAY.  Happy Saturday!