Monday, November 7, 2016

Surviving the Seasons of Parenting

"Enjoy these times…. they go so fast"

When the midst of battling a 3- year old who won't use the potty, a 2-year old who insists on standing in the grocery cart, a 16 month old who refuses to eat anything but applesauce, or getting up every 3 hours to nurse the baby, it can be hard to really appreciate 'these times', and they certainly don't seem to be going by fast

My father-in-law said something like that once and I responded by responded (with love and gentleness in my heart that I hope came out in my voice) "What was so great about when your kids were young? Do you even remember those times?" and he chuckled admitted that part of life was a blur. Much like the hours or days of a mother's labor, the early years of parenting thankfully are often a blur for parents and children alike.

Children don't actually have the capacity to remember the early years because their brains aren't developed (click here) in that area. And it is a good thing too. I think our children's rate of brain development is a gift from our Lord so that they can't hang those early parenting mishaps over our head "Mom, remember when you…"

Appreciating the early years of parenting can be a challenge because parenthood is just so exhausting. Once you have been through a challenge or milestone with one child, it does become easier to appreciate that challenge with subsequent children because you enter into the circumstance with both experience and perspective. As you encounter a tough stage you have the recognition that you WILL get through this. It was so helpful, when struggling with Gracie and the "blending" on her homework, for me to remember how much I struggled with JR.  He HATED reading aloud to me. He HATED sight words.  We made up a sight-words tickle time to get through it. So I took a deep breath with Gracie and reminded myself that in a few weeks or months this wouldn't be our daily battle. She has now joined her brothers in making me crazy if I call "lights out" because like me, they all obsess about books.

Just try to keep things in perspective. The things that are a struggle today won't necessarily be a struggle tomorrow. Most kids are potty trained before school starts. Your children will be too. If they don't like carrots, keep trying but also give them peas. They won't always need help packing their lunches for school.  They will learn to read, and write, and add and subtract.  And they will eventually sleep too.  Although walking them through many of these things will become less difficult for you.

Christy from Fountains of Home wrote about the difference in a parent's perspective on newborn sleep from the 1st baby and the 5th. She writes:

"I remember staying up at all hours, rocking, nursing, shushing her and completely believing this was how the rest of my life was going to play out. I would never sleep again. Ever. And I believed that with my whole being.

Because it was my first baby and I had no concept of a baby's insanely fast growth and the heightened speed of time once you have children, and thus could not fathom a time where my child could ever function, let alone sleep at all, without my constant attention. Sure, I was completely exhausted and irrational, but the thought of ever sleeping again seemed to be at similar odds as an alien landing on my lawn."

Christy speaks a truth that resonates with us all as we venture through a new tough season of parenting.  Maybe it is parenting a hormonal teen, or a sassy 6 year-old.  Some of the seasons end more quickly (due to our awesome parenting?), other seasons we just muddle through hoping it is just a stage and not the new normal.

For those who are stuck in a really tough time - a house fire, a divorce, grieving the loss of a loved one, job struggles, a really sick child or spouse, or other really hard times, your stages are different and I just can't speak to that. I can only pray that the larger the struggle and the longer the battle, the more grace God will poured over you. And at some point, God willing, you will have the ability to look back at the sleepless nights and gallons of tears shed, and you will be a beautiful example to others. You will have survived that nasty season of life.

In 20 years, we may look back at our earlier years of parenting with some nostalgia, but for now as I look at my friends with littler ones I can smile and think "I am so glad we are past that stage".  And when I am in some tough stage itself, I am trying (with God's abundant Grace) to appreciate the struggle for what it is, and how it is shaping me, knowing it won't last forever.

Thanks for stopping by and hang in there!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tattle-Taling on your friend's kids: 11 quick tips to make it easier

We all have a point in our parenting when our children do something awful around another family's children. If you haven't had that humbling experience yet - just wait. Your time will come. I have been called to the carpet about a number of poor child behaviors, everything from having boys who are too rough, to little girls with potty-mouths, to kids of all ages who like to take their clothes off in public. At the same time, I have found myself in situations where I have had to address less-than-pleasant behavior by children that don't belong to me. Generally when the children (who are all works-in-progress let's remember) act inappropriately and the parents aren't there, I just address it with the children. I am much more comfortable telling children "we don't do/say that in our house", than I am calling a friend to tattle-tale. But some of us aren't comfortable correcting other people's children, sometimes it just isn't appropriate to correct them, and sometime you do correct them and the problem persists. Below is a list of Dos and Don'ts when addressing your friend regarding her child's behavior when your friend was not around.

The Do's and Don'ts

1. Do... Think about whether this is really a big deal? Pray about it and listen to the Lord. If you think you should proceed, then pray again before actually making the call.  A great prayer is "Lord give me the words to speak. Please open her heart to hear my love".

2. Do... Talk about it before an issue arrises. If you are around a friend's children on a consistent basis (traveling together? carpools?), ask them first how they want you to handle the inevitable. Do they want you to address it at the time or do they want to address it themselves? This also gives you the chance to tell them your preferences too and opens the door for more friendly conversations when problems arise. I recently asked a friend and she wisely and honestly responded "I don't want to know anything about little sibling bickering. I already tell them to be nice to one another all day long! It will mean more if you just tell them".

3. Do... Be complimentary ."I know you are really on top of your parenting and would want to know".

4. Do... Stick to the Facts. Come right out and say what the actual problem is without emotionalizing the situation or rationalizing anything.

5. Do... Provide context about what happened.  Were the kids bickering all day before your child hit hers or did it seem to happen out of the blue.  Were they telling jokes to each other and trying to be funny? What happened right before the naughtiness? Had you asked them to stop? How much did you witness?

6. Do... Recognize you live in a glass house.  Today it is your friend's child but someday it will be your own child. Our kids are works-in-progress as are we! Keep that in mind especially when it comes to raising an issue. Is it really a big deal?

7.  Don't... Blame older siblings.  This makes it sound like the parent doesn't have a handle on what older kids say (which we usually don't -but still don't say that!), and implies that they maybe let things slide with the younger ones.

8.  Don't... Assume this is an ongoing problem about which they are aware.  This really may only happen when you or other parents are around.  Pointing out "I am sure you know..." makes it all the worse if they did NOT know.

9. Don't... Assume this is something that they aren't addressing at home.  Usually parents are very aware of their own children's faults. They may be very frustrated that their tactics at home are not working. If this is something that you have addressed before and their child persists in naughtiness, what makes you think they could fix it easily if they just knew?

10.  Don't... Preface it with how you feel. "I feel so bad, I am so uncomfortable, I don't want you to be mad..." Just tell them the problem.

11.  Don't threaten. "I want our kids to be able to still hang out but...(but if this continues they can't)" You don't even need to complete the sentence to be offensive. This whole line of thought sends the message that a. you wouldn't otherwise take the situation seriously, b. there is a likelihood that the child is going to keep being naughty, and c. your child is too good to be around their demon child. Generally not ideas you want to convey to your friends.

Recognize we are all on the same team. You can't and shouldn't be the only adult guiding your children's actions. We all have the same general goal of raising good citizens that we would someday want to spend extended periods of time with. Make sure your conversation conveys that 'team' attitude and comes from a loving, nonjudgmental heart, and I am sure it will go well.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

One-on-One: Making the most of the moments

A few years ago I found myself in 'parenting' conversation with a stranger. Her children were older than mine by about 10 years and she was telling me about The 12-Year Trip.  She and her husband took each child, at age 12, on a vacation of their choosing.  Beyond the fabulousness of being able to pay for that (cha-ching!), I found myself thinking of all the great places my little ones may choose.  My husband, the realist, decided that was a little extravagant for our family.  "Besides if we have money to do that let's just take a trip alone". Which we did (read about it here). And it was awesome.

I didn't, however, forget the notion of The 12-Year Trip, and when I found out that a trip to Las Vegas was going to be necessary for my son's soccer team I admit I was probably as excited as he was.  Although it has been a pretty good year for us, the idea of getting him to myself for three nights was really attractive.  I generally attend all his games, but I usually have his sisters (and sometime brother too) on the sidelines. The idea of a weekend 1:1 interspersed with soccer and food and some Las Vegas shenanigans was pretty cool.

Seriously who looks more excited?
One-on-one all my kids are fabulous, but as a crowd they can be a little much at times even for their mother. Just sayin' what we all feel. As a family we do what we can to steal away 1:1 time with the kids. My husband does daddy dates with the girls.  He also coaches JR's team now and they get lots of time away together.  He drives the carpool for Anthony's team giving him a chance to debrief each week as well.

I take lunch to the kids at school once a week. Their lunch times are back-to-back and I can sit at their table, share the meal and chat with them and their buddies.  If we want we can take the meal outside and sit alone which we do about 1/2 the time.

When Anthony left our parish school and started attending the local charter school, I lost my lunch time with him. We still have plenty of time together in the car, but often he is doing homework and his sisters are almost always around. He is up later than his siblings so we still get more time alone with him, but I am usually exhausted then.  As he grows physically in stature I am faced with a a physical reminder of the reality that my time with him is limited.  I feel as though I am going to blink and the next thing I know I will be packing his bags for college.

With this in mind, his soccer trip became OUR soccer trip and I planned out some great fun for the two of us.  We ate at the buffet, he rode his first roller coaster, he played soccer, rested, played more soccer and ate more fabulous food. We were able to do what we wanted without negotiating the desires of four other people and I was able to appreciate a kick-back attitude that I rarely notice at home.  As the eldest he is full of opinions on how we parents his siblings and we were able to talk those through just the two of us. I pushed him though his fear and made him ride his first REAL roller-coaster.  We found an amazing patio overlooking the strip for our last dinner in town and we had a wonderful meal with his coach's family.  I goofed up on directions (I zigged when we should have zagged) and we wandered and wondered and just had fun together.  For the first time, my son really experienced a real vacation- not just a family trip.

Taking him on this trip solidified something between us.  He is on my side now in a really cool way and I am appreciating it as long as it lasts.  Our time together let him see my humanity in a way that I don't think he sees often enough at home.  At home I am the cook, the cleaner (sometimes), the taxi driver, the shopper, the babysitter... I fill a number of roles and responsibility. This trip gave him a chance to see me aside from all of those roles and I was just me. I laughed, I loved, I supported, I ate, I wandered, I was easygoing. I didn't have to wipe noses or cut up food or worry about nap times or doctor appointment.  I could have a glass of wine and watch a football game with my son and just hang out. I could venture out for a morning cup of coffee and to his delight bring back a bagel for him to nosh on in bed.

One-on-one time with your growing ones is a beautiful gift.  As they get older that 1:1 time becomes ever more important because they are able to pay attention to who you actually are when you are not being pulled in 100 different directions.  Being a middle-child, I don't remember getting good 1:1 time with my parents until I got married, had a child, and moved away. They came to visit and it really was the first time I had more than a few hours alone with them. I cherish those days we had together and I hope Anthony remembers this trip and all of our special moments together.

How can you carve our special moments with each child? What special memories do you have of 1:1 time with your parents?

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Maui Trip Tips and Tricks

This year I turned the big 4-0 and my husband and I took off for a little R & R alone.  After our more recent road tip, we were ready to leave the children in very capable hands for 6 days. Maui was our destination of choice for a real vacation. We had always wanted to go to Hawaii having never been before, and we decided that it was too expensive for us to take the family.

Getting There
Maui is one of the islands that had direct flights from Arizona so that also made the long flight less daunting, and cost-co offered a pretty decent package deal with airfare, hotel, and car rental. At the airport we were given a great 'deal' to upgrade our sedan to an open top jeep (yes please). After some debate we had the price dropped to an extra $100 total for the week and it was the best spent $100 of the trip.

We had a few choices on where to stay and we opted for a condo with a kitchen, right on the beach, in Lahaina.

We were able to cook some of our dinners and eat them pool side, walking out the gates of the hotel onto the beach to watch the sun drop.

Lahaina is also a great place for shopping and touristy stuff.  Many of the Luas are in Lahaina and there are a few good places to eat as well.  A short drive gets you to the Safeway for supplies, and a short walk lands you at the harbor where all the dinner cruises, snorkeling adventures, and pretty much anything on the water happens.

Lahaina is on the dry-side of the island and offers the islands amazing views of the sunsets.  It is nestled between the mountains and the shoreline.  We slept with the curtains open and had an amazing view to wake up to each morning.  Coupled with our fabulous sunset each night and it really couldn't have been a better location. If Ka'anapali is a resort town, Lahaina is a beach town. Accessing the actual beach can be tricky if you dont know where you are going.  If you are just visiting the town for some good food and the beautiful sunset, park where you can find a spot, and then head over to the harbor.  On the south side of the harbor you will find beach access. You can walk this beach for quite a ways as you pass just a few condos, many more beach houses, and even a little park. If you come at sunset you can even take a peak at the Feast of Lele Luau.

Things to Do
There are a ton of free things to do on the Island!  Our base camp, Lahaina was just a short drive from places like the upscale shops at Whalers Village, the Blowhole at Pipoa Point, and Honolua Bay.  The blowhole was fun but be sure you dont get too close.  People die there 'all the time' according to one local we spoke with. The hole call suck you in! The bay we just happened to discover along the way and it was amazing!

Honolua bay is great for snorkeling, swimming and even paddle board yoga.  I think one of the coolest things about The Bay is that it is accessible through a little rainforest path. 

If you are a water-fall lover you will have to take the road to Hana.  Hana is a sleepy little town on the East side of the island towards the bottom. It is a a curvy road filled with switch backs (I read there are 617 of them) and it carries you down the coast and in and out of rain forests.  Single lane bridges and hairpin turns make the trip slow, but also enable you incredible glimpses of waterfalls.  Be prepared to stop anywhere you can park along the road.  Hop out and look for paths back to the waterfalls. We found two amazing falls with great swimming holes and I was able to cross something off my bucket list!

As you continue south along the road you come to arboretums (which we skipped) and little fruit and snack stands (also skipped).  We packed our lunch and ate it at the Wal'anapanapa Wayside Park. This park has black lava beaches and trails that run along the coast.  We took one trail thinking it was a loop and turned back after a mile. We weren't disappointed thought! Succulents grow right out of the sharp black lava rack and it is striking in its beauty. The park was jammed packed with tourists so it was nice to get away from the crowds and explore. There is an awesome pirate cave to walk through at the beach so be sure to check that out. I have a few more photos of that beach, more waterfalls, the beautiful succulents, and the cave on my Instagram feed.

Tip: Wear good shoes! I was shocked at the number of folks wearing flip-flops. My fit-bit tracked us at over 20K steps that day (that is over 9 miles) and we wouldn't have gotten to the most beautiful places without good shoes. I had a pair of keens and my husband had a pair of speedo shoes and our feet were happy all day. We were able to cross slippery rocks and easily enter and exit the water as we wanted.

After Hana, you can continue South on the Hana Highway to the pools at Ohe'o Gulch.  About three miles before the park there is a wonderful waterfall, swimming holes and accessible with just a short hike. They also had a stand selling 'jungle jewelry' for amazingly cheep prices so we did a little souvenir shopping after our swim.  It was good that we did our souvenir shopping cheep because admission to the National Park was $20 a car.  The Haleakala National Park runs all the way from the crater to the coast so Ohe'o Gulch is actually National Park Land.  The admission tickets was good also at the crater which is accessible from the center of the island, but we didn't have time to see that. The admission price was understandable when you got going on the hike.  We took the Pipiwei trail to Waimoku Falls which is 2 miles in and 4 miles round trip. The trail takes you through the rainforest, along the Seven Sacred Pools, and into the bamboo forest.

The bamboo forest was spectacular. The trail ends at the Waimoku falls, which is impressive, but like the Drive to Hana, the journey to the falls in worthy the effort alone.

We were feeling brave, and had upgraded at the last minute to an open top jeep, so we continued south from the National State Park.  The road south of Kipahulu is not recommended for tourists, but the locals we spoke with all suggested we take it. We clarified with the Park Ranger that the road was open and accessible for us and he since we were in a Jeep he suggested we take the less populated south road.

The road south was rugged in places and less maintained than the earlier stretches of the 37 but we loved it.  We were able to see the change in the island from rainforest, to almost a high desert, to lava land, all while driving along the side of the ocean. It was breathtaking in its beauty.  The total trip around the island too us about 12 hours and that included a quick stop at Walmart to grab more water before returning to Lahaina. We left about 645 so were got back just in time to watch the sunset.

We sat through a timeshare proposal which was only mildly distasteful in order to get free passage on the whale foundation boat for a snorkeling eco adventure done by the Pacific Whale Foundation.  All of the crew are actual college educated, some at the masters level.  They are highly knowledgeable about not just boating but sea-life.  We had a great crew!  The boat took us around Lanai to the cliff side where we snorkeled for a few hours. We were served a light breakfast, lunch and drinks on the boat and even encounter a huge pod of spinner dolphins. The dolphins themselves were worth the sea sickness.  My recommendation - take some dramamine with you! Getting sick at sea was rotten and really put a damper on the whole excursion!

A note about booking your excursions.  Check the weather and plan accordingly. We had hoped to do the drive to Hana earlier in the week because it was our #1 thing to do - but the weather was bad the few days before we arrived. We had rain before us and rain forecasted for the day after we left, but beautiful weather while we were on the island. That meant that all the roads were a little soggy, the snorkeling wasn't going to be clear for a few days, and the people that had been on the island for a few days already while it was raining were itching to get in a boat or helicopter and start seeing the island. On Monday, the only available snorkeling tour was on Thursday and we were not able to get our 'first choice' boat and tour to see the sea turtles. We still got a great trip, sea sickness aside, but if you are serious about doing something then check the weather and book for the right day early. Give yourself a few days after a rain before trying to snorkel too. Murky water means you can see much and also is the only real time you need to worry about sharks.

One evening we took in a show - The Ulalena show in Lahina.  We got 2:1 tickets through our concierge and we were so glad we went! The show gave us a little glimpse into the culture of the island and provided a nice relaxing night. The Maui Theater is very small so you dont' need to upgrade your seats. There isn't a bad seat in the entire place. The show was just over an hour and we were out in time to see the sunset and grab some dinner. I was really glad we did that rather than the Lua.  The resort we were staying at was next door to the Lua and we snuck a few glances. It was not nearly as impressive as the show we had seen.  The academic in me was itching to know more about Hawaii culture and history so we did a little reading after the show.  I highly recommend reading up on the island before you come.

Where to Eat
In your own kitchen.  Hawaii isn't know for its fabulous food. There are a few local dishes like Kahula Pork tacos or Loco Moco (a burger toped with an egg and smothered in gravy served over rice), and of course get some shaved ice. Lahaina has a shaved ice stand across from the harbor and you can grab a humongous shaved ice to eat while you walk the beach at sunset.

Lucky for us Lahaina town has "The Best Burger" in Maui 12 years in row.  This awesome dinner called The Cool Cat Cafe even has gluten free buns (you can't see it but I really did a happy dance).  We ate there twice. They also have good happy hour drinks and specialize in their burgers and shakes (which they can make in for the 21 over crowd).  They have a little air hockey table inside and a few arcade games to keep the 21 and younger crow happy too. We did a little research before we went and we asked around to all the locals and found Aloha Mixed Plate - the food was mediocre.  It was nice that they actually had parking. They provide the food also for one of the Luaus - think about paying hundreds of dollars for mediocre food!  We also tried Malo, a greek-type place, and they had some pretty good gluten free flatbread. We hit Safeway a few times and tried very hard not to over buy.  We got some fruit and breakfast foods as well as stuff for a few dinners.  Our resort had a grill and we kept meals very un-complicated.  We generally only at one meal out each day.

Two of our favorite meals were in Paia.

Mama's Fish House has been around forever and had amazing (and expensive!) seafood.  Turn after you see the fishing boat on the left and if it doesn't look right you turned just a little too soon.

It is off the highway and down the road from town but there is a reason everyone recommends it.  They have a little private beach, valet parking, and you can still go in your bathing suit.


Another gem in Paia is Charleys. We stopped there for breakfast and for $25 got a breakfast burrito and a Huevos Rancheros. The servings were HUGE and the meal was excellent. It is more of a western style saloon that plays classic rock music. It felt a little out of place but the food was dynamite.

What to Pack
Are you ready to get the suitcase out?  Leave your jeans and sneakers at home.  Really. I didn't even bring socks. I am a total jeans and t-shirt sort of girl but I am glad I saved some space in the suitcase. It is humid here so you don't want tight stuff.  Bring a sundress or two, a pair of shorts, sunscreen, a few tank tops or t-shirts, swim suit and cover up, flip flops, water/hiking shoes, hat, snorkel set, and maybe a sweater or hoodie if you tend to get chili. I brought two nice pair of sandals too and that was a waste. Bring a backpack for hiking and towels unless your hotel provides them (we called before hand to be sure). Everyone is casual here so pack accordingly.

Hawaii is a magical place. On the North and East side of the island everywhere you turn you see shocking beauty. Keep in mind that I am not a photographer and I took all these photos with my iPhone! The beauty here is such a visible reminder of God's great love for us, and His enormous creative power. To be surrounded by such varied beauty gives us a glimpse of His majesty and is a great example of how diverse the nature of beauty actually is. Beauty does not come in just one form and neither does God's love for us.  There is something for everyone and God's love is for everyone too.  For more photos of the trip and other "normal life adventures in parenting" follow me on Instagram @parenting_with_peer_review.

Safe and  Happy travels and Mahalo for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Growing Together in Christ with Blessed is She

About once a month I send you all a lovely little Facebook message to let you know I am the writer of the day for Blessed is She.  Blessed is She is the online community that sends the daily reading and devotional to your inbox while you sleep each night. I love Blessed is She because it has allowed me, for the first time really, to get into a routine of reading God's word daily.  Behind the scenes as a writer, it has been amazing to get to know 50 or so powerhouse Catholic women who work as writers or editors or graphic artists or photographers.

Jenna, our founder and creative director, wants our Blessed is She community to grow in depth not just numbers, so she is working with the writers to create webinars now too. Bonnie Engstrom will be giving the first webinar on July 12th on the topic of Building Intentional Communities. I love this idea because it will give the readers a chance to start engaging with the writers and one another in real time albeit still over the web.  I will be hosting a session on Intentional Parenting in December and there will be various topics at least once a month for paid subscribers.

Yes, I used that word. Paid subscribers.  In order to grow the community we need to have a consistent revenue source.  People say the web is free but it really actually isn't when you have a web presence as large as BIS.  For $9.99 a month or $99 a year you get the monthly (or more) webinars, plus we will send you the Advent and Lent journals automatically shipped to your door.  No more having to order them before the season starts (and find your purse and type in all those numbers).  Just sign up once and you will have access to everything.

Side note: If you haven't actually been to the site you should just check it out. They have some really beautiful stuff in their store too!

I hope you will join me in joining the Blessed is She community and together we will continue to grow in Christ.  Click here to join! 

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