Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monkeys in Williamsburg

When my friend, Lisa, from Phoenix, wanted to visit colonial Jamestown and Williamsburg, I had vivid memories of the place.  In Richmond, where I grew up, those attractions were standard fare for fourth grade field trips.  I already knew what fun the boys and Lisa's kids were in for.  Here's a quick run down...
When you visit Williamsburg, you can rent costumes for the kids to wear.   Christian and Lisa's boy, Colby, were regular colonial boys with their haversacks, rifles, hats and colonial shirts.  These two looked like identical twins when Colby lived here three years ago.  Especially as four year olds when they both sucked their middle two fingers the same way! Colby has since filled out much more than Christian has.  Christian is still a skinny picky eater, but they still could pass for brothers!  Colby's sister, Charlotte, wore the colonial girl's costume.  What a darling!

Next we headed down Duke of Gloucester Street,  Of course the kids had to stop at the stockades.  It's no fun unless they get to lock up us parents!

At the Capital Building, the kids learned where the seeds of our separation of powers started.  Would you believe that the members of one of the legislative houses were also the justices on the highest court handling all appeal cases?  Surprised us adults, but the kids were more interested in how first time offenders got to choose to go free if they allowed themselves to be branded..  "T" for Thief.  Ouch!

We stopped at the magazine, where the kids got to join the militia.  Here's Colby getting strict instructions from his sergeant on how to properly handle his gun.

We couldn't tear those boys away from watching the blacksmith.  I'm thinking I better be careful.  They were so fascinated that if I don't watch what they're doing, they might try forging something in our garage!

Finally we lunched at the King's Tavern.   Hot soup and cider were welcomed by all of us.  Temperatures were in the frigid forties.  What a shock for Lisa and her kids after seasonal temperatures around the nineties in Phoenix!  Something about cold temperatures while site seeing is just fine with us, though.  It makes the whole experience more memorable!

Coming back home was nice, but something about being on vacation is just so relaxing.  Lisa's telling me she hopes her good mood will last. I see what she means. I'd like to think we could just hold on to those peaceful moments with no pressure but to take in the sites and learn!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ten Crazy Time Saving Ideas for Moms with Boys

Okay, so my friend, Hillary, over at wants me to post something crazy.  Check out her list, she's pretty crazy all the time, and I love to read what she's up to!   Flat out running all the time, I feel like I'm always a bit crazy myself.  So here are some of the crazy ways I manage a household of four boys as a single mom.  Hope they make you smile. Maybe you'll think something in here is so crazy it just might work for you!

  • One....   the  Box O Sox....    Once we find a  volume discount, we get 40 IDENTICAL pairs of sox, and get rid of all other boy socks in the house.  Voila! We never need to match.  We keep them clean with a good dose of bleach in the wash and toss each clean sock into the same box- no pairing no rolling, no sorting!  
  • Two...   I Mark my Territory in Pink...  I remember looking over at my stepson's feet when he lived with us years ago.  "Mike, why do you have my Anne Taylor socks on?"  He didn't know any better, they were an elegant coffee color.  I learned my lesson.  When I want something left alone, I get it in pink or at least with dash of pink flowers.  Pink's not my favorite color, but wow it repels boys!   My cell phone skin, my Macbook cover, my socks, my hoodie--all pink!  Pink chases away boys faster than spiders chase away girls! 
  • Three...  I'll be in the car!    Learned this from a genius mom at a dentist office years ago.  With four school aged kids in the waiting room, she stood up and announced, "kids, I'll be in the car."  With that, she calmly left without looking back.  I was shocked.  How could she leave them like that?  Actually, I was a bit jealous, and soon I knew why she had such confidence.  Within seconds, the kids calmly put away their coloring books, arranged their backpacks, and were out the door only steps behind Mom.  No whining, nagging, or fighting.  I adopted her ways from then on.  I still pinch myself-  it works!  I never have trouble getting the kids gathered up to leave.  Just lead.  When it comes down to it, kids really want to follow you.
  • Four...  Assembly Line Groceries:  It's tough enough clipping all the coupons and keeping up with shopping for five.  So when I get home, I leave the unloading to the boys.  They turn it into fun. When I hear them shout, "ASSEMBLY LINE", I get curious and peak in on them.  This is what I find... the oldest grabbing the bags from the car, knotting the handles so nothing falls out, tossing it to the second oldest who's riding a scooter and scoots over to the third who's standing in the back doorway and handing it over to the youngest who brings it to the kitchen counter.   Once the car's empty, they form their next assembly line to the refrigerator or pantry.  In case you're worried, by now I've gotten wise enough to carry the eggs and bread in myself!
  • Five...   Videogamerama Kitchen Clean Up:   Years ago Dad showed them where they can find dozens of audioclips from their favorite video games - like Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog.   They take turns switching the clips on the kitchen computer from one to another while they work as a team to clean up in the style of the clip.  When Mario's swimming clip comes on, the younger ones "swim" through the counters as they wipe.  When the sped up clip comes on, they rush like little madmen to get the kitchen done.
  • Six...   Count Your Age Pick Up:  With four boys and a puppy chocolate lab (who takes those 'indestructible' dog toys as a challenge, chewing them into a thousand pieces within about 20 minutes), I do have my moments where I simply have to have a picked up house.  When I'm at the point, I simply shout out "Count your age pick up!"   The boys rocket into action, grabbing objects that need picking up (from bits of trash to books that need to be shelved), counting as many as their age.  Within seconds, the house looks fresh and clean! 
  • Seven...   Secret Hideout Devotion Time:  We find a special nook in the house for devotions, like an empty closet we can all fit in (including the dog).  We take our flashlights and a lit laptop and huddle together to make the moment special.  I love this not just because it gets us feeling warm and cozy, but also it keeps the younger ones from having too much space and wrestling around.  We can actually get some cool discussions going on.
  • Eight...   Brotherly Love Bucks: Occasionally we'll resurrect a form of allowance that's based on heart.   Each day they have the opportunity to "earn" extra rewards through character.  Oh, they have to do their schoolwork, chip in with chores, and practice their violin, anyway, but if they have a cheerful heart, they earn dividends on top of it.  The icing on the cake is the brotherly love buck.  They get together and vote, and only one of the four boys gets the buck.  As they cast their vote, they have to explain what that brother did to earn their brotherly love buck.
  • Nine...     Fiddling Around:   I wanted the boys learning an instrument, and when they didn't seem to have a particular one in mind, I figured why not streamline- just make violin part of their school routine.   What a crazy blessing now.   When they get really rambunctious and I need to whip the house in shape, I send them all in the backyard with their violins.  They've figured out on they're own how to play songs together and have a blast.  The oldest now plays "Devil Went Down to Georgia" and all of them can play a decent Swallowtail Jig together.   Other times, like right now, as I'm typing, they decided they all HAVE to practice their violin at the same time, and my house becomes a funky cacophony of four fiddles.  Cracks me up!
  • Ten...    Buddy Brothers:  From an early age, I paired up the brothers.  The oldest with the third, and the second oldest with the youngest.   Makes my life sane and keeps the boys mentoring each other.  At a restaurant when someone needs to go to the bathroom we simply say, "Buddy Brother" and right away, that little guy's big buddy walks him to the bathroom
Hope these were fun to read.  By now you either think I'm nuts or maybe you have a peek at how I survive with my sense of humor intact!  Blessings!

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Child Whisperer

    "… and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

    While praying and preparing for our new puppy last winter, our family watched a weekly TV show to learn about dog training. It's the Dog Whisperer. There's this amazing guy- Cesar Millan, who teaches dog owners how to train their dog using the pack psychology of canines.

    In every show, Cesar looks for the one person in the home whom the dog will see as the leader of the pack. Looking at my family as a pack, no one can argue that without Tom, I'm the pack leader.   Seems I get more than just canine training while watching Cesar Millan. He makes me think about how important my role is, as mom, to be the proper kind of "Child Whisperer".

    Cesar talks about "energy".   He says dogs sense and respond to energy in the room as opposed to understanding what’s being said or done in the room. When my eight year old creates a commotion, Jeb starts to jump in circles and wag his tail.  And when two of my boys argue, Jeb will lower his tail and slink to the side of the room.  If someone in the room is crying or worried, you can see that Jeb's not interested in play or even eating.  He'll sit right by that boy as if to say, "go ahead and hug me.  That's what I'm here for." 

    When the energy Jeb feels in the room consumes him, it's pointless for me to try to teach him anything new.  I first have to bring the energy to a peaceful level if I want Jeb to relax and obey.  Caesar calls that level "calm assertive energy".

    Calm assertive energy.  Isn't calm assertive energy a secret ingredient for helping my children through grief over losing Dad.

    With each challenge of grief brings, the Holy Spirit plainly directs me to respond with confidence. And since that direction unmistakably comes from Him, He also provides the confidence. He fills me with it as I take calm steps to obey and take my role as leader of the pack.  I feel the filling, and joy fills my heart as I look them straight in the eye and tell the boys the Lord’s got their future under control. We are safe in His hands, just as He declares in 
    Matthew 28:20.

    During that first  year after losing his father, Brian, then ten years old, felt a heavier

    weight of grief than his brothers.  It's the age. At ten years old, a child's understanding of death hits with all its weight.    At first I wasn't sure how to help him. When he had a melt down about missing Dad, my natural instincts as a mother would make me want to give in to tears. I'm glad for motherly instincts. They allowed me to curl up and cry and grieve with him- something he needed to know was normal. But Brian has instincts too. He knew that there are safe places to cry, and not-so-safe places to cry. Sometimes in public he needed to manage those tears, saving them until he’s safe at home with me.  Together, Brian and I learned to function through his grief with school and in other areas where life simply must go on.

    That’s where calm assertive energy that only comes from God came in. When one of the boys comes to me missing Dad, I respond with understanding hugs and tears that come easily.  But when it’s time to help a child move forward, I feel this surge of unexplainable peace. It’s only then that I’m able to calmly reassure him without my own eyes welling up with tears. 

    And when the boy responds with calm assertiveness, I'm so rewarded. It brings me such joy to see resolve return enough for Brian to walk into the classroom he needs to join or the violin recital he needs to perform in.

    No matter what helpful tips people offer on raising kids, only one is at the heart.  It’s a God-filled attitude around our home that carries kids.
    Calm assertive energy. Isn’t that what the Holy Spirit offers?  Two years after his Dad died, I have the Holy Spirit to thank for the peace in Brian's heart today.

    Lord, thank you for the one gift that You steadily offer me – peace and calm. The confidence I have in the future isn’t based on this world, but only on You and Your promise that You are with me, even to the end of the world. You give me the vision of seeing these four boys, not as children, but as young men prepared to spread Your glory to the ends of the world. Your Holy Spirit’s calm assertive energy will stick with them, knowing You are with them always.