Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wider Margins

Transition time.

Those are often words that strike fear into the heart of any mom occasionally. Tranistions are prime and ripe for a battle of wills or temper tantrum.

We become experts at trying to get ahead of the curve. We give time warnings: "you have 5 minutes left to play before we have to leave." We make it a game: "it's time to clean up. The first one done gets a prize." We remind: "you only have 10 minutes so don't start a new game."

At one point when the Vikings were smaller and I was weary from being the focus of "transitional wrath," I finally got some success with carrying a timer everywhere we went. LOL "When the timer goes off, it's time to go" so it became the timer that was the taskmaster and not me.

But, big shocker, adults often have trouble with transitions too. Particularly those of us blessed with some non-linear, out-of-the-box thinking with ADD/ADHD.

Someone recommended to me "If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?: Help for the Highly Distractible Mom" by Carol Barnier. it's a quick read of about 100 pages but it's full of ideas for helping distractible moms cope and excel with their particular gifts.

One chapter is on margins. Barnier's definition of margin is the space that exists between our resources (including time) and our commitments of those resources. And, she argues that we moms tend to live "every hour of every day so packed from start to finish that there is no margin for error or change or spontaneity."

I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. And, this is where I see my problems with impatience the most.

Transition times are killer for me and, as a result, a big source of stress. I have a plan most days. And, even if I plan for some delay, inevitably there's something unexpected. For an ADD-er trying to keep a grip on life with a set-out plan to cover all the bases and make sure nothing is forgotten, a deviance from said plan tends to throw me into a tizzy. And, tizzy = impatience to get BACK ON TRACK!

So, at Barnier's behest, I'm trying to have fewer things in my day and greater margins. She has four main suggestions:

1. Shoot for early. If you know it takes 10 minutes to get out the door, set a timer for 20 because something WILL happen...a diaper will leak, something will be spilled, someone will forget something. And, if all DOES go well and you arrive way ahead of the others, you have found the added benefit of being able to be of service to someone else setting things up! But, even if your time is not needed in that way, you may find time for something unthinkable...time to chat, talk, tell jokes, or just visit!

2. Home sweet home. Barnier suggests we need to start worrying less about what our kids might be missing. We, as a parenting culture, are overextending them and their schedules to a ridiculous, un-keepable pace. I know it's shocking, especially with the community we just moved from, but my kids have never played soccer! Or any organized team sport. *gasp*

The question becomes where do you want to live? Do you live at home? Or is home just a refueling zone between activities? We have deeply found this to be true with this recent move. While I loved the activities and groups we were involved with in Michigan, can I be transparent and say, with all due respect, there was a wonderful lack of pressure and slower pace moving to Illinois. Not just because we moved to a rural community of 3100 people in about a 2 square mile town but because we had no commitments, no where to be, no watching the clock, no playdates, no coordinating schedules. My phone barely rings now - and when it does, it's either my husband or one of the grandparents checking in on us.

And, I've stumbled onto a trick of sorts. It works really well with my ADD. The big trick? I blame my hubby. LOL As someone who tended to get over committed on a regular basis, I needed a polite way to basically say "no" or "I don't know" or "can I check my schedule" without it seeming like an unintentional brush off. I blame it on DaHubby. And, he blames it on me. So, now when someone asks me to do something, I generally say "I need to check with (DaHubby) and I'll get back to you." And, I make sure I DO get back with them. I can barely keep track of what I'm doing this afternoon much less a week or month in the future. This way I have time to check my calendar and double-check with DaHubby that there's not something else going on that I've forgotten about or conflicts logistically with the request.

Barnier says "jealously guard your time with your family. And don't feel the need to apologize for it...Never apologize for putting your investments where they can make an eternal difference - in your family."

3. Learn to Love Boredom. I know this goes against most parenting advice out there these days but...our kids do NOT need us to keep them entertained every moment of every day. Constant stimulation is NOT a good thing. Everyone needs down time, time to reflect, digest, and contemplate. Barnier suggests declaring a Boredom Day - no computer, no tech, no TV, no friends over. They may whine initially but, she argues, sooner or later they will allow themselves to be motivated by the boredom and come up with some amazing and creative things. Learn to love boredom. Even seek it out.

4, Schedule laughter. Don't forget to stop and laugh occasionally. It's Biblical (the Proverbs 31 woman LAUGHS). And, it's medical (a Loma Linda Univeristy study demonstrated that the act of luaghing increased disease-fighting white blood cells by 25 percent). Set time aside to watch funny shows, play games, whatever tickles your funny bone.

All of these things are designed to give you some elbow room emotionally and spiritually speaking so you have great margins and more peace in your home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gratitude. Patience. Love.

I have a real problem with patience.

No, seriously.

It's probably the one greatest (non-physical) thing I would change about myself. It's the biggest fault that ties all my other foibles together.

And, while I know my impatience stains and strains nearly every aspect of my life (my faith, my parenting, my marriage, friendships, self-concept, etc.) I was pulled up short last week by a blog post by Ann Voskamp, author of "One Thousand Gifts."

As described in 1 Corinthians, Ann posited that while love is kind, not jealous, does not brag, not arrogant - it is first patient!

We know that the greatest of faith, hope, and love is LOVE. And, the greatest trait of love is PATIENCE.

Ann goes on further to say love walks with patience when it is first GRATEFUL for what is present in each moment.

"Lack gratitude - then lack patience - then, ultimately, lack love."

I love my kids. I love my hubby. So why are they most often the target for my impatience?

And, instead of working on my faith, my parenting, my marriage, and my friendships like they are all separate balls to be anxiously juggling, I could just work on being grateful.

No, REALLY grateful. Even for the tough stuff.

Even if it means being grateful for the kids challenging my authority - I want independent, curious, thoughtful thinkers, right?

Or, for my husband to challenge my decisions, question my motives, ask me to explain (again) my thinking because iron sharpens iron and he is looking out for me.

Or, for a pastor who asks me to really think about what I believe about God, the Bible, and what a fellowship of believers really looks like.

Gratitude about the muddy feet, broken toys, and spilled juice.

Thankfulness for temper tantrums, sassy children, and sibling bickering.

Appreciate disruptions, interruptions, and unending questions.

Gratitude brings patience. And, patience begets true love. And, ultimately, I want a house filled with True Love.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anxiety creeps in...

Our little idyllic existence kinda crashed over the weekend.

Inferno-like temps. Too much whining. Too many short tempers. Too much "new stuff" for the kids. They're on complete overload - shots, new dentist, new church, off to VBS with another new church building and not one person they know.

DaHubby's on overload as well. After 6 months of constant 40 hr/week schooling and training (basically like jamming one's junior and senior yrs of college in 6 months), he FINALLY got to start his on-the-job training which will last another 6 months. This includes a very thick notebook filled with stuff he needs to learn and then perform in front of someone knowledgeable and eventually obtain their signature. As if it wasn't overwhelming enough, there's literally HUNDREDS of procedures he needs to get signatures for.

And, as the CEO of the VikingHus, I'm still trying to manage schedules, put out fires, complete the move, unpack, set up new banking and insurance accts, and get the STACKS of documents, appointments, and paperwork organized and completed to get the Vikings into school. It'll be $200 to register them and needs to be done before the end of this month or there are additional late fees. School also starts 3 weeks earlier here than in Michigan so I'm heading for a time crunch.

The peaceful, vacation-like feel of the last three weeks has slowly crept away. And, there's so much change left to deal with and sort out. :P Momma's back to stress-induced eating but haven't lost my new fingernails...yet! LOL

The kids are in VBS each morning this week so I'm trying to take that time to chill, plan, organize, and make phone calls so the rest of the day can just be spent with them. The new house should be ready soon. In the meantime, trying to take one day (and one hour) at a time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Establish my heart

Establish my heart, oh Lord...

Take me
Make me
Re-make me
Into that which glorifies You

Asking You in
Asking You near
Knowing You were there already
But I was afraid

Peel away
Burn away
Yank away
All that keep me from You.

Strengthen me
Purify me
Validate me
for Your service.

You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:8

Friday, July 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes

As Jen sets the example, so I follow...

1. I was invited. I registered. Still don't get it. Pinterest. Anyone wanna explain it to me? LOL

2. One of the most beautiful blogs to read, to see, to digest, to learn from: A Holy Experience Go there now!

3. Can I tell ya how incredibly, entirely, sublimely THRILLED Pojke is that this place is right down the road from us here in Illinois now? LOL

4. If we don't run back to Michigan for another load of stuff, this is where we will be this weekend. Who said there would be nothing for us to do when we got here?? LOL This is the third weekend in a row there's a festival within a 20 minute drive!

5. Oh, and if we DO go back to Michigan, this is going on in our other hometown! :) Fireworks Saturday night baby!

6. Shots, dentist, and cavities, oh my! It's been a long week. 4 immunizations (thanks Illinois for the more strict/less optional shot schedule) and the first cavity for Flicka this week makes me hope things go REALLY smoothly once the pediatrician appt is scheduled and completed.

7. If God ever made a perfect, heaven-sent medication as an answer to prayer, it would be Mucinex. I swear I'm gonna buy stock in this company. Because there is nothing sweeter to someone allergic to decongestants and fighting off a cold than a single box of Mucinex! :)

So, those are my 7 Quick Takes. Go by Jen's and check out hers and everyone else's today!

A parenting experiment

The "be where you say you will be" rule was broken last night.

For the second time.

First time? We talked, re-iterated the rule and reasons, and restricted that particular activity for a time.

Second time, she was with a friend. And, the friend got "grounded." We haven't used those before but I had an idea. I wanted to see if she was really *getting* it.

After explaining again what the rule was and how it was broken and at what point she may have wanted to remove herself from problem...

"(Flicka), what do YOU think your punishment should be? This is the second time with the same rule."

She suggested doing chores. I mentioned she had to do those anyway. LOL

She suggested losing her bike privileges for a while...particularly since Pojke had just lost his for a breaking a similar rule about going around the block.

"For how long?"

"All day tomorrow?" she said.

"OK, what else?" I was looking for something that might clue her in to the following-her-friends-into-rule-breaking part of the equation. LOL

"No playing outside with the boys?" Bingo.

"OK, for how long?"

"Tomorrow morning?"

Stuck in the house with mean ol' mom on a beautiful morning while all the other neighborhood kids played just out front?

"OK, 'til lunch time. Deal?"

Well, she agreed at the time but forgot by this morning. Yet, after her initial protests, she settled in while Pojke went out to play. When I turned off the TV and PC for her enjoyment, it didn't go over well. Neither did my "no" to her request to bake cookies. LOL Hey, this isn't supposed to be fun, right?

So, she's playing quietly with her homemade playdoh acting out the last episode of "MasterChef" probably. :) But, things are good.

But, this afternoon will be the test. We shall see.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thanks Tank

Well, it looks like Pam and I are both jumping back in today with the thankfulness habit...

Things filling my tank today:

Like an "unspoken prayer" at church and to save everyone from a little TMI, I'm thankful for a resolution in a female health area.

I'm thankful for a hubby who recognized I was completely out of energy and completely inundated with boogers and took over dinner clean-up and bedtime duty this week.

As someone who is allergic to most decongestants and fighting off a quick-moving cold that went to my lungs, can I get an AMEN for MUCINEX! 'Nuff said.

I'm thankful for the sweet, new neighbors we've found here. Three sets of neighbors have kept us laughing and our kids busy not missing Michigan for the last two weeks.

I'm thankful for the wonderful health care people we came in contact with this week getting the Vikings up to Illinois standard of immunizations and getting their teeth cleaned and checked. They treated the Vikings sweetly and patiently. Let's hope the new pediatrician follows this trend. LOL

I'm thankful for the wonderful welcome we received at a little church we visited last Sunday. Including the four of us, there were about 20 people in the whole place. LOL DaHubby played around on the piano after service and, as a result, has quite a following already with the little old ladies there. :)

That's what's filling MY tank this week. What about you? Feel free to stop by Pam's place today to read up on previous Thursday Thanks Tanks as well!

Cutting a little slack

I'm sure Martha Stewart would be horrified at my housekeeping skills. To be honest, I think my in-laws are as well.

I've always liked the "lived in but not cluttered" kind of approach but I've been known to be missing SEVERAL parts of the cleaning genes it seems most housekeepers pick up naturally.

With all the recent changes around the Viking Hus, pretty much everything has gotten an overhaul. But, it's made me really think about things like how much underlying structure do we really need as a family and does a break from some arguably good intentions really wash away any positive results?

One thing that continues to prick my sensibilities is recycling.

Exciting, eh?

Moving to a new environs, it obviously takes some research to see what the local expectations are. And, being in a rental as opposed to an owner puts another twist on it. Being a lifelong Michigander (with bottle returns and curbside recycling) makes it very hard to throw stuff away lately. LOL

Illinois does not have a returnable fee on soft drink cans and bottles and it is killin' me to toss them. And, all the cans, glass, cardboard, paper, and newspaper that comes into the apartment? KILLIN' me, I tell ya!

In Michigan, on a good week, we wouldn't even fill 2 large trash bags. Most Wednesdays, I was rolling the garbage can to the curb with one bag in the bottom. And, every other week for recycling? I had more recycling bin'd up than all the trash I'd accumulated in that 2 weeks.

"Well, you can still recycle them" you say? Yea, well. I'm still getting turned around going from this little town to the next one down the road so finding the local recycling center across the county? Not darn likely.

This is where the slack comes in.

Every little bit helps - at least that's what the media and experts say. But, is my 4-6 weeks on non-conformist non-recycling gonna to bring down Western Civilization?

Gosh, I hope not.

And, recycling is the least of our worries right now with duplicate bills in two states.

So, slack!

And, a solid understanding that everything will NOT go smoothly and accidents happen, things get forgotten, stuff falls through the cracks. Do your best but step up and be ready to take care of any consequences. We're only human. Late fees still apply even if you didn't intended to. Keep up the best you can and sort the rest out later.

Preaching to myself here but can anyone else relate?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thinking about advice...over a week later.

I tend to obsess.

Big shocker, eh?

It feels like my ADD drives me to focus on details - some relevant, some not. I don't "do" change well either. It throws me off my grand master plan to get things accomplished. As a result, I take criticism hard because (one) it means going back over those details and (two) it might mean change.

So, when a well-meaning senior citizen who sat with us July Fourth weekend at a AYCE pancake breakfast finished her polite conversation with a zinger like "you need to worry less and just appreciate them", it pulled me up a little short.

My first gut response and the voices in my head that followed were not very Christian. LOL I was immediately defensive and critical. Then, I tried to remember that this lady had known us less than an hour and I was over-reacting.

But, over the last week, as I scheduled and planned and obsessed and crossed things off my unending to-do list it struck me:

I was "parenting" and not "appreciating" my kids.

Now, DaHubby and I are NOT the "be my kids' best friend" type of parents but I think it is a good reminder that by "parenting" all the time, we can simply become nags. All law and consequences and no grace and love.

I think most of the time he and I provide a good balance of the two but, with all the upheaval in our lives lately, I think we need to err even more on the side of grace.

This realization that the little old lady might be right was brought home again when Pojke had his first little emotional, right-before-bed breakdown last night..."I just wanna go back to (our former town). "

I've been so focused on moving forward and getting things in place here that I've forgotten to shepherd their little hearts along with me with grace and love and not a rope!

So, we will be slowing down even further, building back up our family even more, setting up our new digs a little slower. More hugs, fewer to-do's. More snuggling, fewer errands. More reading, fewer chores...for now.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Simplicity Training

As with most challenges in life, you tell yourself (or someone else tells you) that these troubles are here for a reason and that you'll look back some day and see the bigger reason. Usually, it takes a pretty good chunk of time for that to happen but the older I've gotten the more I realize it is true.

Sometimes the meaning sneaks up on you and comes to the surface when you least expect it. Other times it hits you in a flash while you are looking up, watching clouds while your children play.

I've already learned thankfulness about our situation the last few years despite sacrifices of time and money, of my marriage and my relationship with my kids, of my husband's job, of health insurance, and having to live on assistance from others. We've seen an outpouring of care, interest, and support unlike anything we've experienced before and have had our faith reinforced in a way we never could have understood otherwise. And, we are VERY grateful because of it.

However, this 3-year refining has gotten us back to basics. And, this is where my little revelation comes in. Had not God taken each and everything little and big thing away in just the manner He did, we could never had really appreciated the beautiful, hyper-present, in-the-moment, vivid, joyful moments we've had in the last week.

The last seven days have been heart-wrenchingly wonderful. And, it's been moments of simplicity...root beer floats at the parade, playing in the rain, riding bikes and scooters, taking hikes, small-town fireworks...but we are doing it together. For the first time in six months, we've all been under the same roof for more than 48 hours.

And, our little one-bedroom apartment that we are in right now? Probably the biggest blessing of all. Because we are all getting to know each other again as a foursome. Just us.

And, that bigger three-bedroom rental house that should be ready for us soon? I've actually thought we should let the deposit and that house go so we can stay here together even longer.

And, those 3 years of learning what is *really* important and what we *really* need to survive and thrive? Training for the joyfulness that is ours now.

Friday, July 8, 2011

7 Quick Takes

Been having trouble getting my blogging discipline ramped up again so, as I scanned through 1000+ blog posts waiting for me in Google Reader, I thought I'd jump on board with a meme from one of my favorite bloggers, Jen at Conversion Diary.

So, seven random thoughts for today...

1. I've shocked myself and many others with my assertion that we are actually very happy (thankyouverymuch) with our current temporary housing situation. We've moved about 50% of our stuff from Michigan to Illinois. However, the new rental is not ready yet so that 50% plus DaHubby's things from the last 6 months plus all four of us are now residing in a one bedroom apartment. LOL To be honest, after not living together for the last six months, it's been a blessing. It's like camping with a full kitchen and full bath! LOL The kids have the bedroom while DaHubby and I are sleeping on a sofa bed. And, having less than 600 square feet of cleaning to do - even with no dishwasher - has been wonderful!

2. Speaking of the dishwasher...can I say I don't really miss it as much as I thought I would? Are you shocked? LOL After some initial re-training of the troops to not use a brand new glass for each drink during the day, the dish load has been actually a lot less than I planned. And, my ADD appreciates the little-bit-at-a-time approach to a chore that is still my least favorite.

3. With all due respect to our family and friends we left behind in Michigan, this week has been wonderfully free of all our usual commitments and, again, a blessing after not being together as a family for so long.

4. Another observation this week with regards to the Vikings...this trip to Illinois I had them each pack one large Rubbermaid container of toys and such instead of bringing over their entire arsenal of stuff. And, they've never complained. They have been perfectly happy with a fraction of their usual menagerie of playthings.

5. I have been a little concerned about being the "new kids" in a small town, fitting in as the
"city slickers" in a big-time farming community. I've been particularly impressed with how kind and helpful everyone has been. "Welcome to the area" has been the resounding phrase most of our last week.

6. Had our first nice summer rain this week - the kind with no weather watches or warnings attached, with no thunder and lightning so the Vikings played in the rain for the first time I can remember and we saw our first IL double rainbow!

7. Finally, can I tell ya that a local library and its staff is better than any welcoming committee EVER!? LOL We have visited the three closest and have armfuls of handouts, schedules, calendars, and brochures of things going on here in Ogle County for most of the rest of the year.

So, what's going on in your world? Stop by Jen's place today for more Quick Takes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Root Beer Revelation

So...we've made our initial move to Illinois. And, we are loving it. We are finally living together as a family for the first time in 6 months. We love our little town of 3,000 people. We're loving the area which is a beautiful combination of wooded wonders, a beautiful river, and currently adolescent corn fields. :)

And, in the course of enjoying the weekend's festivities, we're starting to meet some neighbors. At the parade yesterday, a recently divorced mom with a couple kids from across the street sat next to us. She was alone since her boys were with their dad but we visited before the parade got underway. While we waited, I remembered that I had root beer and a little ice cream left back at DaHubby's apartment a block away.

So, I walked back, threw the camera (which we'd forgot) and the 2 liter of root bear in a shopping bag, and made up four cups with a scoop of ice cream each. Then, I carried the bag and the cups back to where DaHubby, the Vikings, and our neighbor were sitting.

Once there, I opened the root bear and proceeded to pour some in the first cup. I then gave it to DaHubby. The neighbor, who had already set a precedent of offering her opinion on situations freely, loudly cajoled DaHubby when he began enjoying it instead of passing it along to one of the Vikings.

She looked at me as if to say "aren't you gonna say something" and I simply said "he's head of the household. He gets his first."

DaHubby and I chuckled about it a few times later that day but it got me to thinking. And, I posted on Facebook a poll of my momma friends to see what they said. Now, I'm not sure I asked the question in a clear enough way but, apparently, I am alone in wanting to serve my hubby first. LOL

Now, I realize "different families, different rules" and I'm not throwing out judgment on anyone who disagrees. My thought is he not the head of household? Isn't delayed gratification and patience and respect something my kids should be learning? Plus, the practical side of it - I have only one set of hands. So, if not DaHubby, then which kid? Does whoever gets his/her treat first really carry that much significance anyway.

I've been working through the process of what exactly Biblical submission means for me as a believer and as a wife as I've mentioned before. And, I've viewed my staying at home full time as a way to serve my family so my going first isn't really a comfortable option for me. So, serving DaHubby first makes perfect sense to me. It doesn't always happen - mostly because he likes his food with significantly more spice, salt, and pepper than the rest of us so often I leave his plate on the counter so he can season his food as he likes.

But, my neighbor was seriously floored by my decision. Like shocked silent momentarily which is saying something considering the amount of conversation we've had in the few days we've been here.

And, my friends have reminded me of their perfectly good and reasonable reasons to serve their kids first...or not serve them at all as everyone would get their own food. It's just my ongoing evaluation of questioning what we're doing and why exactly so that we are consciously making choices for our family that work for us.

If given the same set of circumstances, what would YOU have done?