Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Inching Toward Improvement

Since the first of the year, I've been setting goals/priorities for each month.  A few days before the month begins I write down 3 or 4 categories I want to work on and come up with a few mini goals for each.  As usual, I have much higher standards than what I actually follow through on.  That being said, I'm actually really pleased with the results.

For February I had 4 categories (Showing Love, Sign Language, Schedule and Bible Study) totaling 12 mini goals.  Out of the 12 I successfully reached 5 of them.  Less than half.  Sounds pretty pathetic when you look at it that way, but life really is all about perspective.  If I hadn't set those priorities, I assure you I wouldn't have even made it half as far as I did.  Plus, a few of the others I did about half way - not enough to say success - but improvement is improvement!

I will attribute some of my success to keeping a planner and actually using it.  That helps so much.  But a lot of it just has to do with writing the things I want to do down and then glancing at it once or twice a week.  There's just something about looking at handwritten goals that makes you punch laziness or procrastination in the face.  No really, you should try it.  It's quite refreshing to look at something you wanted to do and say "Yep! Did that!"  And even more refreshing to reap the benefits of those goals (like going to bed by 10 = way more energy).  So, today sit down for 5 minutes and write up some doable goals or priorities for March.  Even if you only complete one, that's better than last month when you didn't at all, right? :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Brighten Your Day: Bird Style

So, they say it's the 'little things' that make all the difference.  I don't know if it's going to change my world by itself, but it certainly has given me a lot of joy! If you don't care about animals (first of all what's wrong with you, ha) then you might not appreciate this that much.  I have always enjoyed putting up bird feeders at our house.  The trick, as with everything, is continuing to put bird food in.  I did some work outside over the weekend and installed one of these with a regular bird feeder on my bathroom window:
It was something I found last fall at least and obviously hadn't been in a hurry to use.  Well, if I had only known! Because it's relatively small, the feeder hangs right over the outside ledge, requiring most birds to sit on the ledge or on the feeder up against the window.  As a result, I get little birds hopping all around my window within a foot (sometimes less) of my eyes! A few have already acknowledged my existence, I think, and continued anyway.

Yes, it's small, but it made my day two days in a row! It's a great thing to do for someone homebound, sick or just anyone needing a little more joy in their day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Feeling Controlled By Kids

When you become a mother, it's true that a certain part of your life is committed and controlled by your children.  Feeding, clothing, nursing to health and loving are non-negotiable.  But as life goes on and they find their voices, it's so easy for their needs to be confused with their wants/whines.  Then the conflict begins to grow - when do I take care of my business?  We've all heard it (and probably said it) - "As soon as I get ready to {insert personal task here}, somebody wakes up, wants to eat, needs, needs, needs!"

So, we can all agree that it's normal to feel out of control sometimes when children are involved.  The question I keep asking myself is is it always necessary? The other day Jude just wanted to be around me.  I needed to be moving from room to room or focusing on a task on the computer.  It was so frustrating that he couldn't be occupied with something other than me! Instead of pausing to look for some wisdom in the situation, I just kept resisting him.  It wasn't until I sat down in the middle of the floor with a task that he calmed down.  He grabbed a book and cuddled up next to me for a good long while.

This taught me a few things:

-Toys and entertainment are no substitute for human/parental interaction.

-Control is largely a concept in our mind, dictated by our attitude.

-Life with kids is integrated - parent things and kid things should frequently be combined, not isolated.

Some days I catch myself expecting J to be an adult and understand what I'm 'dealing with' and act accordingly, but he's a child.  He just understands that he wants to be with me and things feel better when he can sit down next to me, 'doing' what I do.  When I focus more on my 'burdens' or long to do list, I shove us both in the wrong direction.  If I feel out of control because he wants to be with me, that's my issue and attitude to deal with, not something he's done to me.  Why do I feel out of control?  Usually because I'm not managing my time well, I'm trying to do more than possible or I'm just nursing a bad attitude.

When you have children you are shifting life automatically to life WITH children.  That means both parties will be accommodating to life with the other.  Kids do kid things with parents.  Parents do parent things with kids.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded to balance needs with wants and check our attitudes at the door.  And equally as important, remember that the days are long, but the years are short.  He won't always be satisfied to cuddle up with me and a book.  Shame on us (me) when we don't drink in moments like that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When People Disappoint

He didn't show up.  She wasn't there when you needed her.  People not pulling their weight.  Watching someone make foolish decisions when they should know better.  When it all just isn't what it should be or what you expected.

People disappoint us all. the. time.  Some days it's easy to slough it off, because "Honestly, what did I expect from them?"  But then it comes from those that really matter, those that know how important today is or how much you needed them and it hurts sooo much.  And what do you do then?  Well, I usually cry or get mad.  Or both.  In my anger, guilt trips well up within me, begging to be spewed onto someone deserving so that they will feel bad about what they've done.  They shouldn't be treating me (or the issue, situation, etc.) like this, after all!

Yes, extreme disappointment seems to be hereditary! :)
A lot of times I'm right.  They shouldn't have behaved this way and maybe it is all their fault, with no where else to lay the blame.  But the hard question that I usually ask too late is, will my shaming them or guilting them for what happened change their behavior, strengthen the relationship and quicken the process of growth?  Or am I giving them something else to resist or fight with that will ultimately delay a genuine change of heart or authentic concern for the person/issue? Usually, it's the latter.

There is a place and a need for expressing disappointment, concern, what I think is the right thing to do in this situation.  Boundaries need to be set with the people in your life.  Especially in raising children or in dealing with someone much less experienced than you.  But it's easy to forget that even those have limits.  We all are individuals with free will - our choices are just that - ours.  And loads of guilt piled up everywhere doesn't bring about a healthy loving person.  It brings about fear, obligation and ultimately resentment.

When someone hurts me, I want their love of me (and/or God) to bring about a change when they realize I've been hurt.  I don't want them to start walking on egg shells, trying to please me out of obligation and then resenting the place I hold in their life.  So, instead of a big guilt trip every time people disappoint, what can we do?  Here are a few suggestions that might help.  If you have some thoughts, please share them. This is a bad habit that just won't quit sometimes and I need all the help I can get.

-Pray for them.  They might not be your enemy, but praying for them can bring about patience and understanding on your part.

-Throw energy into not disappointing others.  Make wise decisions, carry your load - live the way you wish they would.  Sometimes an example holds much more power if words are left unsaid.

-Let them go.  They are not you.  It's hard to not get our own pride and self-worth tangled into wanting what's 'best' for others.  Love them, but understand you can't control them and it's not your fault if they don't go the way you would.

-Keep the relationship healthy.  Some severe situations this may not apply, but for most things watch your mouth.  Today may not be the day where they will make wise choices, but don't you want to be able to help when that day comes?  Bad mouthing and writing someone off only hurts.

-Consider that you might be wrong.  Maybe this will turn out to be for the best.  Maybe they were making a wise choice, you just didn't have all the information.  The Lord can make beautiful things out of horrible messes.  Pause and remember that maybe that's what's happening here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DIY Kid Activity: Shape Book

My desire and plan, unless circumstances or needs change, is to homeschool J - at least for a while.  Though he's too young to 'do school' in the traditional sense, I'm really trying to get into the habit of planning activities ahead of time.  Plus, time just gets away from me if I don't schedule in things - no matter how fun or productive it might be.  All that being said, whether you're homeschooling or not, there's always a good reason to spend time with your child being creative!

I made this book for Jude, but older kids could do it themselves or with a little help.
Obviously, it's nothing high dollar and I'm not a creative genius.  But, the cool thing about learning is that often it doesn't require fancy things, just time invested!
All you need is construction/colored paper, scissors, small (notebook size) sheet protectors, glue,  (notebook) rings and markers.
Nothing to it. 
Be careful with younger children until they can be trusted not to pull the papers out or try to rip them off the rings.  And as you learn or discover new shapes, you can add pages.  Also, this type of setup can be used for any kind of book you'd like to make for pretty cheap (letters, new words, etc.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Prompted Writing: Childhood

Writing is good for the soul.  No question about it.  The trouble is finding/taking the time to do it and then once you've carved out that time, knowing what to write about.  Most of the time, it just doesn't matter the topic.  I ran across this quote in a friend's office and knew it needed to be in my possession.  Take some time this week and write about what comes to your mind when you read this.  Below is what came to mine.

"There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer and the morning more fragrant than ever again." -Elizabeth Lawrence

A single digit age, probably around 8 or 9, in the middle of a sweltering summer.  My granny and papa's house and that window air conditioning unit.  Sticking my face in it and that moment being frozen into my memory.  The contrast between the heat and the blast of air on my face was almost too much to handle, but not quite.  The excitement of being at their house was only matched by Molly (my favorite cousin) coming over to do whatever we did.

My love for children is rooted in this saying's truth.  Colors are brighter, the world is gentler and more real when you are small.  Being close to a child, experiencing their heart rubs off on your own.  It reminds us of heaven and the way we were designed to live - close to God, with eyes of joy and wonder.

Milestones are difficult for anyone, but saddest for parents.  The wonderful thing is that even when children leave childhood, it can still be remembered and touching it with our hearts, visiting that beautiful garden even for a moment.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Letting the Notes Lead

There is something in human nature that compels us to put on a good face and act as though we have it all figured out.  In playing the piano, it's common to want to play a song perfectly the first time without allowing a few runs at it to figure out what's going on.  Many students work so hard at guessing and second guessing instead of taking a little bit of time to really understand what's expected.  "Is this right?"  "Oh, now I get it." All before they've really looked at it and figured it out on their own.

We all want that in life.  We want everyone else to think we've got everything all sorted out.  Instead of taking time to really see what life is all about, what a certain direction really means, we try to second guess everything.  Sometimes I can't go a day without dreading something, complaining about something, panicking about something.  How is that trusting God with my life?   I honestly catch myself trying to feed God plans like telling Him why this can't happen because that will result.  It's just

With new piano songs, I still have to remind myself that nothing is too hard for me and just to let the notes lead me where it's going.  The parallel to our life is beautiful.  Whether it's through sickness, pain, struggle or blessing, God is trying to take us somewhere, mold something, cultivate growth somewhere.  It's us and our second guessing or micro-managing that gets in the way too often, I think.

Below are the lyrics to a beautiful song you might have heard.  This is really hard for me to swallow, but I  can't deny it's truth.  Who am I to decide what's going to bring about the best version of me for God?

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Butler Sign Language

About a year ago I started seriously looking into using sign language with Jude.  Since then we have progressed, but this mom puts her fingers in many pies so you probably won't be all that impressed.  However, I would like to share how really useful it is and easy to pick up once you decide to.

The majority of signs that Jude knows and uses surrounds food.  In the last month or so he's really taken to whining more - a lot of it has to do with molars coming in, but still - and I've had to really work with him to not whine instantly when he wants something different.  But since he already knows a few signs -specifically more, all done and please - all I have to do is to remind him to tell me what he wants.  The whining stops and his hands start moving!

One of the handiest tools I've discovered in learning new signs is Signing Savvy.  It is an asl dictionary that you can access with a free membership.  There are paid options that look interesting, but they certainly aren't required to simply learn words.  With the free option you are allowed only 5 (I think) dictionary searches a day, but you can always browse the alphabetical index.  Plus, I've discovered that if I just google asl and whatever word I'm wanting to learn, signing savvy is usually one of the first hits and it will take me straight to it. Shortcut!

I'm not really proud of how much time I spent working on sign language with J over the last year, but I'm really excited to still be learning and using it now.  Hopefully if there is ever a baby Butler #2, J can help me keep up the signing.  Regardless of our limited strides, it's definitely been a blessing to utilize in our household.  So, if you've ever thought about trying it - DO IT!

Oh, and happy February!