Friday, 30 May 2014

Easy does it

Over the last six weeks James and I have been participating in a parenting class on Sunday nights at our church.  We have learned so much, both from the psychologist-bent teaching and workbook, but also from the four other couples in the class.  We have the youngest children in the group; everyone else's youngest is at least six years of age, and all of them have teenagers.

More than anything, I feel like I have conquered much of my anger in my parenting.  I'm not an angry person, and I don't yell often, but I realized that those times when I do lose it don't accomplish anything.  Not one little thing.  Even though I yell as a last resort, out of frustration from non-compliance or disobedience, yelling rarely gets the result I want.  Usually the child in question is too far gone already for yelling to be effective.

I realized that a yelling match takes two.  If I am a calm wall, then the child can yell and yell and never gets any fuel in their fire, which eventually dies out.  I have been amazed that I don't need to match their tone/voice/volume in order to communicate.  In fact, it's pretty pointless to try and communicate at all when that kind of emotion is running so high.

Apparently 97/100 times if you calmly and clearly articulate the expectation, the child will comply by the third time.  The trouble is that usually by the third time saying something, I have a bit of a tone change, to exasperation, frustration or anger.  With my two oldest children (ages 6 and 8) this has worked beautifully.  With Juliette, it takes a little longer for her to calm down from a tantrum, but we are eventually yielding results.  With Benjamin it's a bit more of a wild card.  I guess he is one of the 3/100 for whom this technique isn't always effective.

James has expressed his frustration that Benjamin "seems to enjoy taunting others, making them angry."  I think it's a little different than that.  I don't think he "enjoys it" in that he wants to see others hurt.  I think instead he wants interaction with others and isn't always sure how to do that appropriately.  And mostly I think he is just thinking of himself and the fun, or pleasure, centre of the brain.  If he is enjoying what he is doing (like bumping into Juliette's bike, or running around with Colin's lego toy, or running free outdoors, even in a parking lot) he just gets so focused on that enjoyment that he doesn't listen or heed our council and warnings.  Rather than being malicious, he is simply being selfish.  Regardless, I have come to realize that, even with Benjamin, there is no percentage in getting angry.  Anger still accomplishes nothing.  It might take a bigger basket of skill sets to parent him, but hey, that's why we signed up for this in the first place.

Monday, 26 May 2014


The boys suddenly discovered playing "school."  This is something I remember playing with my sisters all the time.  Someone was teacher, and would create school work to be completed.  There were science projects and slide shows with my microscope/projector.  There was attendance and hand raising and dismissal.

The boys' first order of business?  Figure out the PD days.  (There were three the first week.)  And then what to do during recess and gym.  Eventually they got to some math problems.  They all really love math (just like mama.)  But they do call the teacher "Mr. Gawthroupe" which is really cute.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Character training

(Forgive me, for someone who might be reading straight through these entries.  I have a shadow of a memory that this might be familiar.  I only hope that, if I do repeat myself in my writings and thoughts, that as the years pass I have grown and learned a thing or two, and am not just riding the same merry-go-round in circles.)

I came across a wonderful idea about raising children the other day.  So often we are performance focused, and result based in our parenting.  For example, we might praise our toddler "Good job for going on the potty!"  While celebrating accomplishments is important, perhaps there is something deeper we can be teaching in these moments.

The example I read added one more sentence to this praise, and, to me, it made all the difference: "Good job for going on the potty!  You should real self-control by doing that."

Do you see the difference?  In the first instance, you have praised simply the action of going to the bathroom.  The child will feel affirmed, and hopefully want to repeat that action.  However, in the second instance, you have instructed the child that controlling one's bladder is a form of self-control, and that exerting control over your body is a worthy character trait.

Yes, I know that a two year old is not likely to make that connection.  But this parenting technique involves trying to tie a character trait to the positive actions of your child.

Here's one that I managed to get in today.  Colin proudly told of how he was really holding his own playing soccer with the older kids at school.  "I'm doing so much better!" he exclaimed.  I first shared in his joy, and then added "Isn't it amazing how your hard work and perseverance have helped you improve?"  Raising a child who is good at soccer is fun for him and I, but raising a child who is learning the value of hard work and the reward of sticking to something is invaluable.

Here is a list of 49 character qualities found on the chart I printed off from here.  (This chart includes a scripture for each trait also.)  The chart also includes the opposite of that character quality, which is useful in providing a quick idea of what that trait is about.  I have hung this chart on my fridge so that each day my eyes will fall on these traits, and hopefully they will lodge themselves in my mind and be on the tip of my tongue throughout the day.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Enough with the chocolate already

Lately I have turned to chocolate as a survival mechanism for the lack of sleep I'm getting.  But my body is starting to reject that now.  Mentally I know it's terrible for me.  I'm not usually one with a sweet tooth.  I don't buy cookies or candy or chocolate or chips or treats regularly.  I skip those aisles completely at the grocery store.  But if I'm out running an errand I find myself throwing something in the cart at the checkout, and way more often than is good for me.

Now that the good weather is here, I'm hoping to substitute biking and walking for chocolate.  I find the physical activity stimulates me the same way a sugar kick does.  Actually, the real answer is to start sleeping more than two or three hours a day, and hopefully that will come soon also.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

From distracted to disciplined

Lately everything in my life and in my head feels like a giant ping pong game.  I can't seem to finish anything I start. I first noticed it in regards to reading.  It's completely normal for me to have three or four books on the go (different genres.)  But usually I finish at least 75% of what I start (I don't make myself finish something that isn't holding my interest.)  Lately I've started and abandoned so many books within the first couple of chapters, not because they aren't interesting but because I can't seem to stay focused.

I've also had several writing projects that I've jumped into and then left after a chapter or two.  I have some really, great solid ideas that I'm excited and passionate about and should leave me desperate for time to steal away and write.  But I can't stay focused.

I can't even stay in a two minute game of solitaire without jumping over to Sudoku.

I'm sure much of it has to do with the fact that I'm still getting very little sleep.  A couple of hours here and there leave me in a general fog.  Regardless, I'm tired of feeling so unproductive.  If these are the sleep-deprived, toddler overwhelmed circumstances in which I must work, then I must learn to do just that.

I have a strong feeling that what I need is some good old-fashioned discipline.  While being at home means that I have a never-ending load of work, it also means that I am my own boss, which leads to a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to deadlines.  I need to do the laundry but people can pull their clothes from an unfolded basket if I don't get to the folding.  That child that really needs some attention will still breathe and function if I'm too exhausted.  The toy room will look like a bomb hit it ten minutes after I clean it, and so it's easy to not bother.  But all this doesn't mean that I'm working as effectively as I can or should.

This is by no means a personal guilt trip.  I think guilt is useless and have never given it corner in my life.  This is motivation.  I want to be doing things more orderly and more effectively not because someone else is defining expectations, but because I believe in these expectations myself.

I'm not sure what the answer is just yet.  These are the early ramblings of desire without a plan.  My first stab might be just to simplify.  Stop multitasking and just focus one on thing at a time.  Discipline myself to stay with one task and see it through to completion.  We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Terrible Twos

Sigh.  I feel like as soon as each stage of a child's development is passed, it disappears from our memories.  When the next child suddenly hits that stage, it all comes flooding back.

We are entering the terrible twos.

In today's culture of making things positive and cheery, I don't think you can sugar coat this.  Irrational and emotional, defiant and stubborn, tantrums and tears.  I might understand at a cognitive level that it is because she lacks communication skills, is frustrated with physical limitations, and needs to learn to assert independence, but in the end, it still sucks.

Juliette is already a strong-willed child.  She knows what she wants and can't handle not getting it.  We listen to tantrum after tantrum after tantrum.  The tears start and stop on a dime.  I have noticed that things are generally better when she is outdoors, so thank goodness she is turning two as the good weather hits.  But the rainy days, the nights, the mealtimes, and the times when I have to get something done are just miserable.

It's time to crack out some old favourite books about parenting strong-willed children.  Even if none of the techniques work, it's usually good just to read about other children and know I'm not alone.

I read this quote the other day, and I'm clutching it with all my energy:

"Perhaps there are children who have come into the world that would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances.  Likewise, perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any mother or father." (Howard W. Hunter)

This is a good reminder that I can't measure my success as a parent necessarily by the actions and behaviours of my children.

"A successful parent is one who has loved, one who has sacrificed, and one who has cared for, taught and ministered to the needs of a child." (Howard W. Hunter)

If I am conscientiously fulfilling the work of being a mother, then I am a successful parent.  If my toddler melts down in the grocery store (yep) or I'm chasing my 4 year old through the aisles (yep) or my school age child is in trouble for fighting (yep - and all of this in the last week!) I am not failing at my job, I just have challenges in my job.  I have a set of circumstances that are refining me as a mother and a person and I need to draw on my patience and put on my problem-solving hat, not throw in the towel.

And if nothing else, "this too shall pass."  Last week someone asked me if I was nervous or stressed about a presentation I had to do.  Not really, I replied.  I have come to realize that, no matter what, time marches forward.  The minutes tick on, the hours roll by, and time will pass.  No matter how terrible the twos are, time will not freeze indefinitely for this year.  No matter how many tantrums, how many tears, how many screaming matches, the days and months will go by and "two" will pass.  I know there are many older, wiser parents of grown children who warn against wishing away the stages.  I'm not necessarily wishing it away, just assuring myself that there will come a day (soon) that I do not have to listen to 12 hours of my two year old screaming and crying at me.

Until then, don't mind me if my hair is torn out and my knees worn out.  I have a feeling I'll be doing a lot of letting out the frustration and praying to get me through.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Colouring in the lines

I read this just before Mother's Day, and I don't think I have heard a better message to mothers in a very, very long time.  This used to be very true for me, and is sometimes still true today.  Nevertheless, I find with each passing day I am less and less concerned with colouring in the lines.  (Funny enough, I never cared for it as a kid, and when I colour with Juliette today, I often scribble right along with her.)

(original post found at Proverbs 31 Ministries)

I was elbow-deep in soapsuds when my 4-year-old’s cries prompted me to drop my dishrag and race to the other room. Maggie had been coloring a picture, but when I reached her side, the paper lay crumpled and torn on the floor. 
“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked. 
“I can’t color in the lines,” Maggie complained. 
I retrieved the wrinkled paper and smoothed it with my palm. The kitty on the coloring page looked like it had been caught in a crossfire. 
“See?” my preschooler said, as she rubbed the crayon furiously over the holes on the paper.  I could feel Maggie’s frustration as I watched her shoulders tighten with each squiggly stroke. The more she pressed that plum Crayola upon the page, the more the picture ripped beneath her efforts.“I just can’t make anything beautiful,” Maggie declared. 
What a curious remark from this child who sculpts gourmet cakes from Play-Doh and creates masterpieces on the driveway with a fistful of sidewalk chalk. An artist indeed, my daughter doesn’t yet know that beauty isn’t always measured between the lines.  Maggie sighed and set down her crayon, and I recognized myself in her try-hard weariness. There, in my 4-year-old’s furrowed brow, I saw the mom who had once tried to live within a set of invisible lines.No one had written out the rules of good parenting for me. They were the result of my own expectations, noble ideas shaped by well-meaning mommy books, fabulous Facebook posts and my personal good-girl gospel.  My lines declared that a good mom keeps a clean house, bakes bread from scratch and arrives everywhere on time. A good mom knows just what to do when her teen slumps into silence, when a toddler refuses to eat her veggies, or when a 6-year-old strings a web of lies.  No matter how hard I tried, my life kept spilling outside the lines. 

Saturday, 10 May 2014


A tough moment in parenting this week.  Colin and Caleb were grounded for the first time.

We got a note home from Colin's teacher that there had been an incident on the morning bus ride.  The boys were forthcoming in all the details, and the story amounted to this:

An older 10 year old boy was teasing Caleb and the other younger kids.  Mean teasing.  And Caleb, being the emotional volcano he is, eventually lost it.  At first he just kicked and punched in the air in the boy's general direction, but the other boy responded in kind, and eventually they found themselves fighting in the aisle.  Colin joined the group of kids around them yelling "fight! fight! fight!"  Upon arrival to school, the teachers were notified and the boys threatened with a pink slip, although they eventually let it go.

After talking through the incident with both boys, James and I conferenced and decided on the consequence.  A two-day grounding.  When not at school, the boys had to be in their room.  They had to cancel on a much anticipated play date with a friend at our home, and they missed both movie night and the next hockey playoff game.

It wasn't complete torture, since they had each other and whatever items were already in their room (a few lego cars and a shelf of books.)  Thursday went quickly enough because they had their last ball hockey game, which was exempted from the punishment.  Friday was really tough for them, since it was almost 5 hours in their room.

Friday afternoon I went in to chat with them.  We talked about how they felt regarding the situation, how they felt leading up to and in the fight.  We talked about sticking together as brothers, and how Colin can distract Caleb when he starts to boil over.  I read them a passage from the book of Matthew in the New Testament that talked about "turning the other cheek" as opposed to "an eye for an eye," and about trying to love your enemies and those who hurt you.  We talked about how these aren't random rules by mom and dad, but advice for living from God, who knows what it takes in life to have joy.  Then they wrote some apology notes as they considered how their actions affected others.

The fighting is foreign to both James and I, who were compliant children and didn't battle high running emotions.  I know that this will probably not be the last time we have to deal with this kind of thing.  Caleb is only six, and it will take years before he learns how to control his temper.  I know that many adults, who have never actively worked on it, still can't control their tempers.  And with today's zero-tolerance policy in school (any fighting, no matter the reason or cause, whether in defence or not, results in immediate suspension) there is a good chance we will even have to deal with suspension in the future.

Let me tell you, it completely changes your view on things when you are on the battlefield.  Before now I would have been horrified that any child of mine would be suspended.  But now, as I realize the raw material of Caleb, I see that he has a wonderful quality in that he feels things so deeply.  It is just that it will take time for him to learn to use it properly.  And these consequences will serve to mould and shape his little soul toward a good end.



I received some more details yesterday about the fight. It turns out that the other boy wasn't teasing Caleb, but  his own right year old sister. Caleb jumped in to defend this girl, who is in Colin's class. Because of how small the school is, the friendships and relationships span across grade liness. Caleb knew this sweet girl well and  stood up for her. While the fist fighting on the bus is still inappropriate and needed discipline, I am proud of my son for defending this girl.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Calebite (Business plan)

Caleb saw a poster in a book for two young boys who made a lawn mowing business.  From that poster, he proceeded to spitball with me his own ideas for such a business:

"I think we could start when I'm 10 and Colin is 12, because then we would be old enough to do the work..  We could hire Ben once he turned 10.

"We would mow lawns in the spring and summer, rake leaves in the fall, and shovel snow in the winter. We would have to set the price different for mowing lawns, because if it's bigger it takes more time.  Small, medium, and large, probably $10, $15 and $20.  The same with leaves, because the work is about the same.  With snow shovelling they would have to pay each time it snowed.

"We could also offer to water people's gardens, but that would only be $5 because the work is easier and shorter.

"In order to get the business we would have to send flyers around the neighbourhood.  I bet I could pay our newspaper boy $25 to deliver our flyers at the same time.  I would have to pay that on my own, because Colin would draw the poster and that would take him extra time, so that's like his share of that money.

"We would have to be very specific with our scheduling, because we would have to make sure that we only booked one at a time.  Unless it was a smaller job and we could split up.

"We would have to make sure we did an excellent job.  If the job wasn't done well, then the person could ask for their money back and I would have to give it to them because the work wasn't good.  And then they wouldn't ask me back. If I want to make more money I need to make sure they want me to come back each time.

"I would have to make a certain amount each year for it to be worth it to do it again next year.  Probably $100, at least.  And then the next year I'd want to make a little more money than the year before.  And once Ben was working with us we could make even more."


I told Caleb that I think he had just covered everything from a first year University business class.  And probably understood it better than many people out there.


My friend posted that she buckled down to plan her summer, which made me want to do the same.  These minus temperatures in May are bumming us out, so we all needed to dream a little dream of sunnier times.

Swim lessons for all, once a week on Friday mornings.  It means that we might miss one or two here and there, but I like that it stretches out all summer instead of trying to go every single day for two weeks.

We will start our summer with a week long cottage retreat with my grandmother and cousins, like we did last year.  Everyone is another year older, which makes it a little easier.  I feel more comfortable with the boys wandering on their own, maybe even bringing their bikes.  I plan to spend every day either at the beach or at the park.

Mid July is the church Pageant in New York state.  We might just make this a day trip this year, but it's always a fun yearly tradition.

Mid August is the mom and kids camp.  A few weeks back I mentioned the camp to the boys, and Benjamin piped up "Oh, that's where Janelle is!  She is my very best friend ever!"  This camp is always the highlight of our summer.

We end the summer with another camp, a long weekend with our best friends and their kids.  They have a brand new baby as of last month, but the troopers they are, are still in!

I also plan to try and get out at least two other weekends camping with the family.  The kids love to be out roaming in the big outdoors.

Other than that, I foresee lots of ball hockey and soccer and long mornings at the park.  Some good books, some writing, and hopefully a chance to document it on photograph also!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sacred Pathways

Tying into to what I wrote the other day about liturgy, I heard a radio broadcast about "Sacred Pathways," or the different ways in which we individually worship.  It was eye-opening to first identify my own pathways, but also to realize that just as strongly as I walk mine, others walk theirs, and each is as valid and effective.

For reference, here is what Gary Thomas wrote about the nine pathways he identified: 

Nine Sacred PathwaysSpiritual temperaments that God creates in human beings so that we can connect and worship Him in unique ways. (Based on Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul’s Path to God by Gary Thomas © 1996)
1. Naturalists — love God best outdoors. These people worship in the midst of God’s creation. They celebrate His majesty and discover spiritual truths through nature2. Sensates — love God through their senses. These people worship through sensual experiences — sights (like art), sounds (music), smells, and more3. Traditionalists — love God through religious ritual and symbols. These people worship through traditions and sacraments of the Church. They believe structure, repetition, and rigidity, like weekly liturgy, leads to deeper understanding of God and faith4. Ascetics — love God in solitude and simplicity. These people worship through prayer and quiet time, and the absence of all outside noise and distraction5. Activists — love God through confrontation, fighting for godly principles and values. They worship through their dedication to and participation in God’s truth about social and evangelistic causes6. Caregivers — love God by serving others, and worship by giving of themselves. They may nurse the sick and disabled, “adopt” a prisoner, donate time at a shelter, etc.7. Enthusiasts — love God through mystery and celebration. These people worship with outward displays of passion and enthusiasm. They love God with gusto!8. Contemplatives — love God through adoration. These people worship by their attentiveness, deep love, and intimacy. They have an active prayer life9. Intellectuals — love God with their mind and their hearts are opened up to a new attentiveness when they understand something new about God. These people worship through intense study, apologetics, and intellectual pursuits of their faith.
Please note:We are a mixture — we rarely rely on a single approach or temperament to connect with God every time; we are more likely to be a mix of severalTemperaments change — spiritual temperaments evolve over time, much like couples love each other differently over the course of a marriage. We are likely to find different ways to connect with God during our lifetime

A few weeks back a church in the next city burned to the ground.  The news coverage showed beautiful pictures of the church with a Catholic history.  The fire actually started from a candle lit for a prayer.  There were also paintings, statues, and other objects used in rituals and worship.  Having grown up in a more minimalist setting, I never understood such repetition in honouring God.  I think I even condemned it a little in my heart, brushing it off as "vain repetitions" and relics bordering on idol worship.  As I opened my mind up to Gary Thomas' concepts, I realized how narrow my view was.

Of course, knowledge will get dusty and rust without use and application.  I find this all helpful not just in understanding those with whom I attend church, but also within my own family.  I can't expect that my husband and all my children will all experience God in the same way I do.  Knowing the different sacred pathways to God will help me help my children worship in their most effective manner.


Yesterday after school I found Caleb curled up by the couch, sobbing so hard he could hardly catch his breath.  Alarmed, I gathered him into my arm, rubbed his back, and asked what was wrong.

"I was just imagining what it would be like to not have any parents."

Caleb feels sympathy to such an extent it borders on empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, which usually means you have experienced the same thing.  Sympathy is to feel sorrow or pity for another, which usually means you don't have direct experience but can understand their emotions.  Caleb does not know what it would be like not to have parents around, but he was going through that experience in his mind with such vivid imagination that I think he was truly feeling that pain.

In him I see a very special gift.  During moments like these, I gaze afar off into the future and wonder how these gifts will take shape in his life.