Oct 10, 2014

Finding Grace in Exhaustion

So I would be lying if I were to say it hasn't been a long week.  I. Am. Exhausted.  

But tonight at dinner I asked, after grace, for each of us to share something we are grateful for in our day.

I started with I am grateful I had an easy dinner and that they, the children, helped get it on the table.

The next child said “I am grateful we have a house and Daddy has a job.”

The second child said “I am grateful that our neighbor bought cookie dough for our school fundraiser”

The last kid who had a REALLY long day today said: "I am grateful I am tired".

Wow.  My world stopped.  Just stopped.  Talk about perspective shift.  I started to tear up.  Mostly, because right there and then I   Was   Exhausted.  

Lets be honest, most evenings and nights I am exhausted for a wide variety of reasons. 

Quite frankly they are not exciting reasons, like I was hanging out the opening of a hip new bar exhausted.
Or we just flew in from Bali, Hawaii, or Manhattan exhausted. 

NOPE, my reasons for being exhausted are probably the same as most mothers.  A child was up last night with nightmares, or I have to drop kids off at 3 different places at the same time across town, or the loads of laundry which may or may not be clean, or the dinner that still isn’t defrosted, the “MOOOMMMM! Hurry I stepped in DOOOOGGGG PPPOOOOOO” style emergencies that never seem to end.  Now, I acknowledge these are average little everyday things that just tend to add up.  But that is the point.  

NEVER in all my life have I ever equated being tired with something to be grateful for, rather it was something to be complained about, bemoaned, and begrudged.  But, certainly NOT thankful!

Well, at dinner’s grace out from the mouth of my child comes “thanks” for being tired.  Because, that means they had worked hard that day.  They packed a lot in and it was a good day.  

Talk about mind blown, perspective change and shift.

It truly made my life flash before my eyes of all the reasons I am tired.

I am tired because I have 3 great kids.

I am tired because we are fortunate enough for my husband to have a job that he loves so the hard work and long hours he puts in is "fun" for him.

I am tired because of our laundry, food, and dirty dishes after having dinner together as a family.

I am tired because I am pursuing intellectual challenges outside the home, such as professional designations and licenses, as well as, trying to be actively engaged in my children’s lives so that when they want to whisper a problem in my ear I truly try to listen.

I am tired, because I am BLESSED to have a full day.

Thank you child, I am grateful to be tired.

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Aug 18, 2014

What a computer virus taught me about Grace in Marriage

I was faced with buying new Anti-Virus Protection again this year and was deciding between McAfee and Norton.  McAfee was significantly less expensive.  So knowing they are a major competitor to Norton, I thought they were just trying to gain market share, so I read the online reviews and thought GREAT!  My husband, "Computer Guy", just looked at me with raised brow and said "OK, but I like Norton".  Well little Miss Independent that I am, I decided to save the dollars and purchase McAfee.

To Computer Guy’s Credit, he let me spread my digital wings.

To Norton: I will NEVER, EVER stray again.  I am so sorry, and thank you for graciously accepting me home despite the error of my ways and for cleaning up my mess.  

GROAN, big GROAN....

Then came this:

McAfee total found in scan before Norton: 0 

Norton total: 72, YES 72 at risk items.
OF WHICH, 8 yes 8, were HIGH RISK items, ie:  back door trojan programs, spybots, and other various virus concoctions.

And I was actually wondering why I was getting email Spam to contact Russian Mail Order Brides?

TRIPLE GROAN to infinity and beyond.

Hours spent working as tech support in my own home:
This crash:  7+ hours
Previous crash 1: 4 hours
Previous crash 2: 5 hours
Total hours it has taken me to fix my computer this summer: 16 hours of sheer unwelcome summer “stuck in house fun” as Mommy tries to fix the computer.

So thanks to Norton, my computer is now back up and running with improved performance because no ugly little virus’s are using it in the back ground.  I am grateful my old-on-its-last-legs laptop has lived to see another day.   Do yourself a favor, get decent virus software, of course I am now recommending Norton and not McAfee!

Also, if you are suddenly getting spam ads in your emails for things you would never want, like Russian “Brides”, (that is the G version for family friendly blogs mind you!) Please make sure your device is up to date on virus protection from a good company, or as Computer Guy graciously put it last night...

"Well, at least you are back to Norton, now go change all our passwords"

So what did I learn from all of this?  And where is the Grace you ask?

1) Not once did Computer Guy deride me or demean me for my decision to switch Anti-Virus software, despite this being his expertise and his domain.  He let me research, learn and make my own decision.

2)  When that decision went horribly wrong, he stood by my side and encouraged me to learn to fix it ON MY OWN.  He did not do it for me, but rather encouraged me on my journey of learning.  For this I am grateful.

3) After 7 hours of process, when I finally received the green light to restart my computer from Norton, my beautiful laptop would not restart.  In near tears, I looked at Computer Guy.  And his answer is “give it time”.

3)  After the computer did restart and reload Computer Guy said “Okay let me double check” and he came over to double check the logs and teach me more on what to read and how to do it.
 After which he recommended that after all the work I did, to make sure all the virus definitions were up to date and to run another scan overnight to get a clean scan with no “fixes” in the logs double check my laptop is up and running for the mornings work.  Of course I said YES Please.  If someone offers help in their area of expertise do not be so stubborn or independent not to accept.  Even more so if it is your spouse.

4) He stood by my side even with making a mistake in his area of expertise, so that I could learn something new, and then helped me learn to fix the problem with no “I told you so’s”

5) I said “Thank you for your help” and listened.  Sometimes we need to be humble and gracious and accept help, even when we don't feel like it.

It is okay to be independent and learn new things in life and in a Marriage, it is how we grow as human beings.  But we need to give each other space to learn, space to grow and then be there for each other as we grow and learn.  Computer Guy did not sigh, or roll his eyes, nor did I get a “lecture” of I told you so.  Rather, I received encouragement, and a gentle guide to help me.  It took time, a lot of time out of my summer.  The biggest lesson in this debacle?  I learned that Computer Guy respects me enough to help me learn new things, and stood by my side to help me undo my mistakes.  The least I can do is repay the favor to him and our children as they approach teen years.

Disclaimer: this is a true life experience and I have not been paid by or received any sort of compensation be it monetary or in the form of free products from any company mentioned.  

Aug 17, 2014

Paper or Plastic? 3 GOOD Reasons to use Re-Usable Bags

 This morning I went grocery shopping and as usual I carried along my pile of reusable shopping bags.  {I have been using reusable shopping bags for my weekly grocery shopping for more than nine years.}   To read more about my tree-hugging ways and why I believe in climate change you can read this archived post.

Back to this morning.  As the checker painstakingly prepared each of my bags to receive food on her little bag turnstile, she rolled her eyes and asked me frankly "I've been noticing a lot of people seem to dislike plastic bags, I wonder what the big deal is?"  I smiled at her and said "Oh, I am sure there are a lot of really good reasons."  She looked genuinely confused, "A LOT?  Why do YOU use these re-usable bags?"  So I told her.  And I'm telling you.
1. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Did you know that there are several large patches of plastic waste floating in the oceans of the world? By large, I mean the size of the state of Texas.  The generally held belief is that if we were to stop using so many plastic bags and just throwing them in our dumps, the large island of trash (also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) might start to shrink, and may even eventually disappear.   Why should we care about this?  Because it is beginning to impact our environment in a serious way.  To read more about it, you can check out this post from the National Geographic website.

2. Less trash, less guilt, JUST LESS.
Without hundreds of plastic bags taking up space in my garage (before I went to re-usable bags I saved my plastic bags to be "re-used"), I have more space to store the stuff I want to keep.  Honestly, I have never needed a plastic bag and been unable to find one, there are enough plastic bags that come home from trips to other stores, or those times I don't remember my bags, I STILL have never run out.

I have also cut down on the amount of guilt I feel for not being a better steward of the Earth.  Every time I throw away a plastic bottle or a dirty plastic bag I felt awful, like I WAS A PART OF THE PROBLEM AND NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION.  I need to "be the change I want to see in the world."  Now, my kids embarrass me regularly by asking the parents of friends if they are "planning on recycling that" when they see adults throwing recyclables in the trash.  {Though my pride might be stronger than my embarrassment}.

3. Living "Green" is important.
It shouldn't just be important to organic eating, composting, farmers market visiting, natural cleaner using people.  Especially if you consider yourself a Christian.  The Earth needs our help.  We are meant to be stewards of our natural resources, of our environment, of our planet.  Living your life in a "green" way doesn't make you a "hippy", it makes you a responsible citizen.   If remembering to bring re-usable bags to the grocery store decreases my carbon footprint or helps in even a small way, I am HAPPY to help!!

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Aug 9, 2014

3 tips for an ADHD friendly home.

More than a year ago I wrote a post talking about our decision to not medicate our son who was diagnosed with ADHD.  Now, 18 months later, the struggle continues.  As he enters middle school in two days (as a 6th grader), the symptoms don't seem to be getting any better, and I am not so sure he will "grow out of it" like some children diagnosed with ADHD can.

Children who have ADHD typically struggle with executive function: the ability to think and plan ahead, organize, control impulses, and complete tasks.  This means that you have to take over as the executive for your little one, while intentionally creating an environment that trains your child to acquire those skills.

Living with a small person who has ADHD can be exasperating.   One day over the summer I spent the better part of the day alternating between nagging my son and following him around; closing doors he opened, picking up socks he dropped, putting away milk he got out, during off televisions, lights and radios he left on and generally feeling overwhelmed by his inability to follow through on ANYTHING.

At the end of that very long day, I was venting to my husband about the hopelessness I felt and he gently reminded me that I had gotten really lax on our schedule over the summer.  Suddenly I realized that I carried some of the responsibility for my son's distracted mind.  The house was cluttered, our schedule nearly non-existent and my son was on a "see"-food diet, he saw the food, and he ate it. {So much junk!}

If you are looking for a way to deal with your child's ADHD, with or without medication, Cognitive Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might work for you.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a simple way to create new patterns of behavior or "systems" for daily tasks that allow children to learn executive skills with success.  In simpler terms, it is providing a "frame-work" for independent success for your child.  To read some more about this, check out this article from "Additude Mag". Here are 3 tips to create an ADHD friendly home.

1. Create a healthy culture in your home

Evidence shows that eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can help manage the symptoms of ADHD.   If everyone in your family are eating healthy foods (fiber and protein are really important) and exercising together, it will make a huge difference!  Healthy foods and regular exercise both help your mood, so you may be less inclined to get furious at your child.

Exercise can make the difference for your child with ADHD.  Taking a bike ride or walk as a family may give you an opportunity to have fun together and more relaxed interactions, which is important when your child is frequently being nagged for their negative behavior.  

2. Establish structure and stick with it
We want our children to be successful.  A child with ADHD is more likely to succeed in completing tasks when the tasks occur in predictable patterns.  Creating structure in your home is the most important job you have, so your child knows what to expect and what they are expected to do.

Plan - Establish simple and predictable patterns for every aspect of their day.  Morning, meals, homework and bedtime should happen at the same time every day in the same way.  Bedtime is especially important.  Children with ADHD can struggle with sleep and bedtime, but they desperately need adequate sleep to cope with their symptoms during the day.  Stay away from stimulating activities like television and video games 2 hours prior to bedtime to help your child begin to wind down for bed.

As an adult with ADHD, I did this naturally as a way to cope with my distracted brain.  It is somewhat counter-culture to have an established schedule, but it is worth it!  My son's structured schedule (which I started with him as an infant) kept him off of medication.

Time - Teach your children how to read a digital clock early on and make sure there are clocks in every room of your house.  Following a routine is easier when you know what you are supposed to be doing.  Timers are helpful for short-term tasks; like cleaning a mess up or doing an assignment.  Kids are more likely to stay focused if they know they only have to focus for 15 minutes at a time.

Peace - Keep your home clutter-free and organized.  It isn't easy, but the more cluttered and disorganized your child's environment, the more difficult it will be for them to focus on what is really important.  Create a clutter free and quiet space for them to do homework, preferably without a television or window in their line of sight.

Simplify- A child with too many after-school activities is more likely to be distracted and "wound up" than if they have protected "down-time" to enjoy their routine.  You may need to remove one or two activities from your child's schedule if those things are keeping your up late and destroying your ability to maintain a structured routine.

3. Set clear expectations and rules
Consistency is key to every parenting dilemma, but is doubly important when dealing with your child who has ADHD.  Spell out family rules and expectations in advance and post them where your child can see them.  The use of Chore Charts, Behavior Contracts and Behavior Charts can be especially effective.  I posted our family rules, the descriptive list of chores and our chore chart here for an example.

Accountability is extremely important for children with ADHD.  Providing clear expectations and the rewards and consequences of his behavior has helped my son immeasurably with follow-through on tasks.   With this comes the incredible opportunity to "catch your child being good" and praising them as regularly as you can.  If they are school-age, they may spend their day being reprimanded for their behavior, make sure you take the opportunity to love your kids with praise.

It is a thin line you walk, as a parent of a child with ADHD.  You don't want to allow them to use the diagnosis as an excuse for irresponsible behavior, and at the same time you are trying to figure out how high you can set your expectations for them.  Parenting is a game of trial and error.  Something not working?  Try something else.  Just don't give up on your zany, busy, creative little people, they have so much potential!!

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Jul 31, 2014

{C}ROCKING it Thursday! 9 can Tortilla Soup

I love my crock pot.  (Slow Cooker... whatever) Unlike my partner in crime, Kelley, I have never named it, but I have a confession:  I actually have three crock pots that are three different sizes.  I suppose I could name them baby bear, mama bear and daddy bear.   Because both Kelley and I love our crock-pots, we decided to {C}Rock it on Thursdays with a recipe and/ or slow cooker tips and ideas.

Today I am quickly writing out this post to share a favorite crock pot recipe for a friend.  This recipe is fabulous because you can change it, shrink it, stretch it and personalize it easily!

9 Can Tortilla Soup

1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney or red beans
1 can white or navy beans
1 can corn (mexi-style if you can find it)
1 can mexican style tomatoes (like Rotell)

1 can chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 10 oz can chunk chicken *
Garnishes: Tortilla chips, cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, etc.

Drain and rinse beans. Drain corn.
Add beans and corn to crock-pot.
Add tomatoes with juice from can, broth, cream of chicken soup and chicken to beans and corn.
Stir together.
Heat on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 5-8 hours.
* If you want to use fresh or frozen chicken breasts, add to soup and cook on low 6-8 hours, remove from crock-pot, shred (or slice) and stir back in and serve!!

Serve hot garnished with crumbled tortilla chips, cheese and any other garnish you might enjoy!

A simple and tasty family favorite!

Note: You can make this smaller by adding fewer beans, larger by adding more beans and more broth and can make ahead and freeze by adding it all to a gallon size bag and freezing it!

Happy Crocking!!

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