Creative Ways to Connect With Your Kids: Love Languages

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Two weeks ago I posted about a special way I had discovered to use in communicating with my oldest child. (If you missed it, you can read here about the mom/daughter journal we started.)  Today I am continuing this series about connecting with your kids by writing about another child of mine.  This boy is the funniest kid and has amazing talents in a lot of areas.  If I give him video game time undisturbed, he is the happiest boy on the planet.  When you first meet him, you might mistakenly assume from his personality that he loves to be the center of attention.  While he can definitely be louder than life, my little man often disappears to get some quiet time and is most content when he is left alone.  He is my earliest riser, getting himself some cereal and curling up on the couch underneath a quilt to eat by himself.  It has been quite the challenge to find a way to connect with this solitary boy.

One day while casually scrolling through Facebook, I stopped at one of my favorite homeschooling pages, Simple Homeschool.  There was a picture of a red heart with the title “The Five Love Languages of Homeschooling”, and underneath Jamie had captioned it: “Have you discovered your child’s love language? It might just be the homeschooling break-through you need.”  Intrigued, I clicked through to the post on Jamie’s blog and began to read.  Many years ago, I had taken Dr. Chapman’s love language test and found that mine was words of affirmation.  I had never considered the love languages to be pertinent to kids, but the more I contemplated it, the more it made sense.  There are five general love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  Jamie started off her post speaking about the love language of physical touch.  The first two sentences jumped out at me: “A child who best receives love through physical touch desperately needs hugs, kisses, and pats on the shoulder.  Not having enough can leave them feeling that they’ve done something wrong and that you are not pleased with them.”  Somehow I felt immediately that these sentences were describing my Mikey.  Physical touch?  Well, he had been a little cuddle bug when he was just a baby, always pleased to be in my lap with his head nestled near my heart.  But surely physical touch was not what he needed now.  If so, why did he always disappear and crave his alone time?  God’s voice persisted in my head.  “Yes, this is the key to your boy’s heart.”

I wasn’t so sure of this discovery.  I thought perhaps it was a wild guess, a shot in the dark in an absurd attempt to make a connection with my younger son.  So I prayed, and God said, “Do it!”  I decided to conduct it as an experiment of sorts.  Over the next several days, I would be very intentional in giving him high fives, hugs, fist bumps, back rubs, etc., and see how he received it.  I am by nature a very touchy-feely person anyway; so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me, but I hoped it wouldn’t be off-putting to Mikey or push him even further into his solitude.  The first day, I gave him extra hugs as he came stumbling into the kitchen to make his breakfast.  I offered to sit and snuggle with him on the couch while he ate.  To my surprise, he accepted.  Throughout the school day, I made sure to pat his back, touch his hand encouragingly when he was struggling with a word, and invited him to sit on my lap while we did reading.  The next day went much the same way, except this time I could feel him leaning in as if asking for more.  By the third day, he was actually seeking ME out for hugs and kisses and “love you Mama”s with his face buried in my neck.  I was astonished at the change in my kid.  The more we physically connected throughout the day, by hugs, shoulder pats, etc., the more he opened up and the less he crept away to his room for quiet.  Even his grandma noticed this change in him.

Now that I know with certainty that physical touch is my son Mikey’s love language, I need to make sure that I am “speaking” to him often in that language.  It fills up his love cup and spills over to the others in his life.  He is kinder to his siblings, more thoughtful to others, more expressive of his thoughts and desires, and more open to God’s work in his life.  He was a fantastic kid before we started this experiment; now he is a fantastic kid that feels loved and connected to in all the right ways.

I encourage you to take the time to find out your child’s love language.  If your child is old enough, they can take this online quiz at Gary Chapman’s website to help you both figure it out.  The time spent evaluating and determining their love language and then implementing it will be paid back in dividends you can’t imagine.

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(Also, as it turns out, there is a love languages book just for kids.  I think this one is going to be added to the Foster family library!)

Some Trust in Chariots

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As usual, we were running a little behind schedule.  David could not find his shoes, and Mikey did not want to wear a coat.  Finally, I herded the last of the kids out the door and to the van, where we discovered that someone had left on the interior lights.  The van would not start, despite the kids’ pleas to Goldie (the name of our van) to get going so they could go play in the gym.  I looked at my antsy kids.  Hosanna was running in circles on the front lawn, and Gabi was attempting to stand on her toes and do a pirouette in the driveway.  “Let’s get the dog and go for a walk,” I made a snap decision.

Now, we live in a metropolitan area that is not exactly suited for walking with four young kids and a not-so-obedient dog.  There are several businesses on our own street, which means a steady stream of dangerous traffic.  Still, I was determined to exterminate the cabin fever and so we forged ahead.  Despite the dog almost darting out into traffic a few times and Hosanna loudly and mightily resisting her hand being held by her big sister, we managed to traverse the more perilous streets of the neighborhood before coming to the “nature trail” behind our local Wal-mart.  By “nature trail,” I mean a skinny asphalt trail with random trees planted on one side and a stunning view of the backside of Wal-mart on the other.  It didn’t matter – now I didn’t have to be on high alert for traffic and could enjoy our walk a little more.  The kids ran ahead of me, squealing with delight at each new stick find and giggling at the antics of the dog.  The trail looped around to the front entrance of Wal-mart.  The kids begged to go inside and “just look at the toys for one minute, promise.”  I was secretly relieved that we had the dog with us, thus eliminating a long stay in the Lego aisle as the kids examined the newest sets.  Reluctantly, the kids followed as I led them back to the neighborhood behind Wal-mart.

Just as we were starting to climb the ramp to the sidewalks beyond, I became aware of flashing lights and police sirens everywhere.  A police car pulled right up next to us, and the officer driving shouted something at me.  Confused and admittedly a little freaked out, I couldn’t understand what he was saying.  He pulled out a megaphone. “Ma’am, you can’t go back that way!  You ‘re going to have to turn around and go back to the store.”  What?  “But this is the only way we can walk home!” I protested.  ” Ma’am, that way is not safe.  A man shot someone and is somewhere back there with a gun.  Please go back to the store.”  I nodded and directed the kids to turn around.

The kids heard the words man shot someone and gun and panicked.  “Mom, I’m scared!  What if the guy with the gun is right here in the parking lot?  What will we do?  How are we going to get home?”  I heard the fear in their voices and almost automatically said, “It’s okay, I’m here.  Mom will take care of you and keep you safe.”  Because that’s what we moms do, right?  Whether it’s a boogie man in their closet or a very tall slide at the playground, we reassure our kids that we are there to help them and protect them in any way we can.  But if that man with the gun appeared right now in front of us, there would be nothing I could do to protect my kids.  In that moment, I realized that I didn’t want my kids looking to me for safety and protection.  I wanted them to put their trust and their safety in the arms of their Heavenly Father.

I gathered my kids in a circle and wrapped my arms tightly around them. I looked into their frightened faces and spoke the truth.  “I don’t know where the man with the gun is.  I’m not sure how we are going to get home yet.”  I chose my words carefully. “Let’s talk to God, right now.”  There, in the parking lot of the Wal-mart, I began praying for God’s protection on our little family and on the other people around us.  David hesitated and then joined in, asking God to help the police find the bad guy.  Gabi chimed in next, openly sharing that she was scared and that she didn’t want to be scared and would God please help her to stop being afraid?  A sense of calm enveloped us as we hurried back to the Wal-mart entrance.  We were told to go inside, dog and all, and of course the kids immediately headed to the toy section.  While they were occupied with the latest toys and games, I waited.  What was I waiting for – we certainly would not be able to walk home.  That was out of the question.  Maybe Christ could come get us – except the van wasn’t working.  I decided to call my mother-in-law, who within minutes of my call jumped in her van and headed out to rescue us.  When she pulled up to the store, the kids piled in, excitedly telling their grandma all about the man with the gun.  We drove past the neighborhood that we had just been walking in hours earlier and saw dozens of police cars blocking every entrance, red and blue flashing lights illuminating the area.  I thanked God that we had not been there at a different time, a time when perhaps things may not have ended so well.

That night, as I tucked the kids into bed, Gabi stared at me anxiously and asked if the police had caught the bad guy yet.  She kept looking at her bedroom window and admitted that she was afraid that he might come to our house.  I told her that I understood her fear, but that we just had to put our trust in God and in His protection.  Because that’s what it’s all about.  My kids can trust in their mom and dad.  They can trust in their grandparents.  They can trust in locked doors and in the police and in loaded guns.  But all of those things will eventually fail them.  Only God is worthy of complete trust.  When we trust in Him completely, He will direct our paths.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.  Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:1-3, 10a

Creative Ways to Connect with Your Kids

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I have been doing this parenting thing now for nine years, but the complexity and differences of my children still never fail to amaze me.  There are four individuals who call me “Mom”, and although they definitely look alike, their personalities and character quirks could not be more diverse.  I have a child who is artistic and friendly, a people-pleaser and an overachiever.  Another child is class clown, the center of attention, loud and funny and yet introverted in his own way.  In discipline, what works for one child does not work for another.  In housework and other responsibilities, what motivates one child will not motivate another.  In school, what helps one child learn confuses another.  And, I have found, my relationships with each one of my children work in pretty much the same way.  The way I communicate and interact with each of my children varies based on their personality and also their age.

Gabi is my oldest.  She recently turned nine and is moving toward those preteen years faster than I would like to admit.  We named her well, as she loves to talk my ear off about cute kittens and puppies and Minecraft and her friends and books and cool science facts and, well, you get the idea.  Several months ago, as I was half-listening to her tell me about her latest issue of Kids National Geographic, I thought “When was the last time Gabi and I talked about something deeper than books or video games?”  The realization that it had been a long time motivated me to try harder.  I would purposefully bring up spiritual topics or body topics in an attempt to dig a little deeper and build my relationship even more with my oldest.  And while this did work, in a way, it felt forced, manipulated, and completely artificial.  There was nothing wrong with me bringing up these conversations, but it didn’t seem genuine and never led to more conversations on the same subject.  In other words, she was not coming to me to talk about these things.  I started praying for a better way to connect with my daughter.  I thought about the activities she liked the most – writing, drawing, creating, making things – and how I could incorporate those things into a more beneficial way to communicate with her.

That’s when I came up with the shared journal idea.  When I was Gabi’s age, I would keep old notebooks with doodles scrawled on the covers and in the margins.  I wrote things like “Today was a happy day” and “Rachel is my best friend always and forever” with lots of illustrations and stickers.  What if Gabi and I had a journal we would write together?  I could write her a note or a question, pass the book on to her, and she could write her answer and anything she wanted to ask me before passing it back to me.  From my own childhood experience I know that sometimes it’s easier to write about hard topics than it is to actually say them aloud.  I searched the local bookstores for the perfect journal and fancy pens to accompany it.

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As it turns out, someone else already had this idea.  At a small stationery store in the area, I found a journal written by a mother and daughter team called Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. (by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs)  The concept of this journal is similar to what I had in mind, only better.  The journal is filled with writing prompts like “What I was like when I was a daughter your age/What I’d be like if I were a mom” and “How you and I are the same.”  There are lots of pages that have free space to write whatever you want.  With this journal and a new set of sparkly gel pens in hand, I sat my daughter down and explained to her how sharing a journal would work.  She was tremendously excited and couldn’t wait to get started.

At first, the things we shared in the journal were superficial and light, things like “Mom, you should make pancakes tomorrow for breakfast” and “My favorite color is still green, in case you wanted to know.”  She would write these things, dotting her i’s with hearts and surrounding her precious handwriting with smiley faces before leaving it on my nightstand so that I could write her back. I would try to write her back as soon as I could and leave my ribbon in the place I had written so she could find it.  Gradually, the topics in the journal got deeper and more personal.  One time in particular, we resolved an argument and misunderstanding by writing down our feelings in the journal.  I won’t share an exact situation since the journal is “just between us,” but it has become quite evident that both of us can express ourselves better in writing sometimes.

I bought this journal many months ago, and we are still using it faithfully.  Of course, it is not our only means of connecting with each other.  There are still long conversations in the car, Starbucks coffee dates, chat over folding laundry, etc. But we have this method for when it’s too hard to say it aloud or when it just really needs to be accentuated with lots of exclamation points and glittery hearts. Someday, my little girl will be all grown up, but I will always have this journal to remember our “conversations” when she was young.

Hiding His Word in Your Heart: The Whys and Hows of Scripture Memorization

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David sighed when he looked at the math paper I had given him.  “Do I have to do the whole thing?” he complained.  “It looks too hard.  I can’t do it all!”

“Not ‘I can’t,’ David,” I reminded him.

“I know, I know.  ‘I CAN do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,’ ”  he rattled off quickly.  He was still disgruntled with the amount of work he had to do, but he bent his head purposefully over his paper and began his work.  In that moment, a scripture had come to mind that was encouraging and full of promise.  He had memorized that verse long ago during our family devotion time, and now it had come to his aid when he needed it.

That, fellow Christians, is why we memorize scripture.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Clearly, God’s Word is a powerful spiritual tool that we as Christians can use daily, and we would be foolish to put that weapon aside to rely on our own strength and wisdom.

Every morning, the kids and I work on taking some of God’s Word and putting it in our hearts.  The psalmist talks about “hiding” God’s Word in our hearts in Psalm 119:11.  The ESV translates it as “I have stored up your word in my heart.”  Scripture cannot be treasured in our hearts unless it is memorized.  Here are the reasons I want my kids (and me!) to memorize God’s Word.

1)  It is commanded by God.  In Deuteronomy 6, Moses instructs God’s people to take God’s words and put them in their hearts.  He reminds them to teach God’s words to their children and put those words everywhere they look – on their homes, on their doorposts, and even on their own bodies.  He said they were to talk about God’s words constantly in all their daily activity.

2)  It is encouraging in difficult situations.  King David often found comfort in God’ Word: he states “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”  (Psalm 119:50)  When I am afraid, I can call upon my memorization of this verse: “The LORD is on my side, I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)  When my husband is trying to make the right decision for our family, I can encourage him with “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Proverbs 3:5)  Whatever struggles you may be facing, there is a Bible verse that you can draw upon for reassurance and comfort.

3)  It is useful in fighting off sin and temptation.  It has already been mentioned that God’s Word is a sharp and powerful sword.  Ephesians 6:17 lists the word of God as the sword of the spirit in its description of the armor of God.  Jesus made use of this powerful weapon when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  Each time the devil offered up a new temptation, Jesus fired back with a scripture verse.

4)  It is crucial to making good decisions.  Undoubtedly, you have heard the verse “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Many times when I have found myself wondering what to do next in life, God brings to mind a specific scripture that completely answers my internal questions.  “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

5)  It is practical for sharing the gospel.  Peter directs us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”  When I meet someone that does not know Christ as Savior, I do not have to stumble around in my own weak words and explanations.  I can use the influential words of God Himself.  I can quote “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  The Word of God is a mighty tool, remember?  Let the Word of God speak for itself as you witness to others.

6)  It is beneficial in praying more effectively.  Sometimes, there is just no better way to pray than to pray the scriptures.  Jesus promises “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)  Don’t forget – Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6 and even gave us words to say when our own words fail us.

7)  It is critical for spiritual growth.  David starts off his book of Psalms by describing to us a man who delights in God’s word and meditates in it day and night.  This man is like a tree, growing, flourishing, and firmly rooted in the storms of life.  When you memorize scripture, God’s words are always with you.  Think of it as portable wisdom that will guide you throughout your day and help you mature as a Christian.

It is not difficult to see the importance of memorizing God’s Word, but how do I do it?  There are many methods to accomplish the memorization of Scripture.  I want to share a system that I found  while researching the Charlotte Mason method of schooling.  Here is the link that explains the Scripture Box system very thoroughly, but I will give you a quick overview here.

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I purchased a 3×5 notecard box at Walmart along with two sets of plastic dividers to go inside it.  The dividers were labeled with a permanent black marker in this order: Daily, Odd, Even, Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sun., and the numbers 1 – 31.  I then wrote out on several note cards the scriptures I wanted to start memorizing (I got some inspiration from this verses list) and placed them in the front of the box.

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Then we started using the box.  The first card (Ephesians 2:8-10) went into the slot behind Daily.  Every day, I would simply read the verses on that card out loud to the kids two times with them repeating the reference after me.  After a few days, they started saying some of the words along with me, and by the second week, they could say the verses without any help from me.  When I was satisfied that they knew it, I moved that scripture to the Odd slot and placed Philippians 4:13 in the Daily slot.  Now we practiced the new verse every day as well as the previous verse on odd-numbered days.  When they mastered Philippians 4:13, the Ephesians scripture moved to Even, the Philippians scripture moved to Odd, and Mark 12:30-31 took the Daily slot.  Now I read Mark 12:30-31 every day, and together we recited Ephesians 2:8-10 on even-numbered days and Philippians 4:13 on odd-numbered days.  And the system continued on, with verses in the days of the week slots only being practiced on that specific day and the verses in the numbered slots being practiced on that specific date of the month.  In this way, scripture is learned quite rapidly without much time or stress, and then it is practiced regularly to be sure it is not forgotten.  It is working astonishingly well for us.

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The kids’ minds are like sponges; so they memorize things quickly and easily.  For me (and my crazy brain that is always going in a million directions!), I need a little extra practice.  Consequently, I used an app (PicsArt) on my smart phone to put whatever scripture I am working on at the time on a photo and use it as my lock screen.  I probably look at that screen dozens of times each day; so it definitely helps with memorization practice.

Accordingly, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

Paleo Kids

DSC_0047So we plunged headlong into eating Paleo that Monday.  Surprisingly, for myself and Chris, it was not too difficult a transition.  We didn’t have any grains or dairy around to tempt us; we just ate what we had at home.  Plus, I had drawn up the detailed meal plan for the week which pretty much mapped out everything we would be eating and when we would be eating it.  Well, this is going better than I envisioned, I thought to myself.

Enter the children.  Children who have been used to bowls of cereal with milk and peanut butter toast for breakfast.  Children who voraciously ate string cheese and crackers and pretzels and popcorn for snacks.  Children whose favorite dinners involved fluffy pancakes or creamy macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the transition for these children was not going to be easy.

The kids ate the eggs I made for breakfast and snacked on fruit and veggies throughout the morning.  There was no shortage of questions asking when will we be able to eat crackers again and what’s wrong with cereal anyway and seriously can we just have some cheese, Mom?  It was a little discouraging, but I had to remind myself that this was a big change for them and that it would take time.

Also, I had to immediately google “helping kids transition to paleo” as everyone knows that Google has the answers to everything.  If that didn’t work, we were all going to run outside to the backyard and jump on the trampoline while I figured out what in the world we were going to do next.  Thankfully, Google pulled through.  With articles like this one on Paleo Leap and this one by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo, I quickly learned that it was advised NOT to take it all away at once but rather ease them into it a little at a time.  Oops.  I had already packed up all the non-Paleo food and given it away.  No, the little minions reminded me.  There’s still a bunch of string cheese from Costco in the fridge.  Well then, it was string cheeses all around and everyone looked a little relieved and dare I say it, happy.

Another helpful suggestion was to try to make their favorite foods, only Paleo-style.  Apparently there are recipes for Paleo chicken nuggets and Paleo pancakes and Paleo waffles and Paleo crackers and pretty much anything your child could ever want.  I immediately made a Pinterest board for all the recipes that sounded like my kids might actually eat them.  I decided to work on finding a good Paleo pancake recipe first.  We tried a few different recipes throughout the week, none of which were favorably received.  Finally, I tried Sarah Fragoso’s Paleo Pal Pancakes.  Although Gabi proclaimed them “still not as good as the ones you used to make”, all the kids enthusiastically ate theirs and asked for seconds.  That’s a win in my book.

And speaking of books, I found that recipe by googling “books about Paleo for kids” and discovering that Sarah Fragoso had written a children’s book about Paleo a few years ago called Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship.  A quick check at our local library later that day led to us bringing the book home as well as Sarah’s Paleo family cookbook.  The kids read and re-read the book.  They pored over the recipes in the back and begged to try several of them.  It was a cute way for them to learn a little more about the “whys” of eating Paleo.

Next,  I figured if they were helping me in the kitchen more, they might actually be more inclined to try the food we made.  I promised that there would be lots of knife action, and all the kids clamored to be the first to help.  We made a schedule – Gabi helps me Monday nights, David Tuesdays, Michael Wednesdays, and Hosanna Thursdays.  There is a lot of fervent vegetable chopping and meat sizzling going on around here.  I give them my meal plan but allow them to make some changes if they want (for example, switch out the carrots for green beans or mash the cauliflower instead of roasting it.)  Not only are they learning valuable kitchen skills (hello homeschooling!), but they are eager to try new things.

Each day, I saw a little more of the resistance fade away.  I’ve tried to make special treats too to make this whole thing a little easier.  One favorite is Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy Grain-free Coconut Muffins.  It’s easy to whip up a batch of these to take to Grandma’s or have with some fruit after dinner.  But the family’s favorite Paleo treat so far?  Grain-free chocolate chip cookie bars.  You can find the recipe here on Tasty Yummies.  They are incredibly fluffy, not too sweet, and just perfect for a tasty snack.

The last thing I did to help the kids embrace Paleo a little more was open the kitchen.  In our dining room, I have a long buffet table that holds baskets of bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and tomatoes.  In the cabinets, the kids can find containers full of cashews and almonds, a bag of pumpkin seeds, a bag of raisins, and some beef jerky.  In the fridge, I always have a dozen or so hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, leftover meat, nitrate-free lunch meat, grapes, and sometimes berries.  I told the kids with great fanfare that they would no longer have to ask me for a snack.  If they were hungry, they could help themselves to any of these foods at any time.  My oldest is especially happy about this change.  She really thinks about the choices she’s making, and just the other day I saw her put a banana back and choose carrot sticks instead while she worked on an art project.

So no more pouting.  We are a Paleo family!

The Starting Line

Our family had a new mission: start this Paleo lifestyle together and stick it out for thirty days at least to see if it would help our health and well-being.  (What’s Paleo?  Why are we embarking on this journey as a family?  Read this post to catch up.)

I knew that in order for this mission to work, we had to be organized and have a plan. We had to be fully committed.  We had to figure out how on earth we were going to get the kids on board with this. 🙂  So, for our first week of going Paleo, we decided to just focus on the food changes.  Proper sleep and exercise would come in time, but it would be too overwhelming to conquer it all at once.  I wrote out a detailed meal plan for the week, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  I tried to incorporate the leftovers of the previous night’s dinner into either breakfast or lunch the next day, as eating so much protein would definitely be expensive and I wanted to make sure we utilized every bit.  For example, Monday night’s dinner was hamburgers in lettuce wraps with roasted green beans. Then, Tuesday’s breakfast consisted of a fried egg over leftover hamburger with nuts and a little fruit.  After writing up the meal plan, I made a list of all the ingredients for a shopping list and added things like fish oil supplements and magnesium capsules.

I headed to Costco first to get the majority of the groceries we needed.  Due to financial constraints, we decided at this time to forgo grass-fed beef and just make do with the best meat we could afford.  After Costco, I went to Fred Meyer to get the remaining ingredients on my list.  Here’s a little breakdown of the foods I bought to start off our Paleo adventure.  The fruits I purchased were bananas, clementines, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. (We already had apples at home.)  The vegetables I chose were kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, onions, and spaghetti squash.  Proteins would be very important in this new diet; so 10 dozen eggs, lean ground beef, 10 pounds of chicken breasts, sirloin steak, nitrate-free applewood ham, and nitrate-free herbed turkey made their way into the cart.  For healthy fats, I bought macadamia nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, almonds, avocadoes, and pumpkin seeds.  Other items on the list were organic marinara sauce (from Costco). fish oil supplements, magnesium capsules, and salsa.  The total cost for all of this was $322.64.  Gulp!  I had to remind myself that a lot of the stuff I bought would last much longer than one week.  The olive oil and unrefined coconut oil was bought in bulk, as I knew we would use it frequently.  Of course, the supplements would last for quite a while.

When I got back home and put away and organized all the new groceries (hello, workout!), I faced the task of purging the pantry and fridge of non-Paleo foods.  Things like oatmeal, granola bars, and canned soups were boxed up to give to others.  I wanted to be sure that there was no way I could cave to the kids’ begging that was sure to come that week.  That night, we kicked off the week with a celebratory dinner of grilled steaks and tossed salad.  We briefly explained the coming changes to the kids and told them that they would be “mostly-paleo.”  For us, this meant that when the kids were invited to parties or friends’ homes or even out to eat at a restaurant, they would be able to eat whatever they wanted and not worry about it being Paleo.  Chris and I however were going to stick to eating strictly Paleo.

The last thing we did before going to bed that night was to measure and record our starting weights, waist size, and hip sizes.  Chris and I took pictures of each other as our “before” shots, hoping to document a very visible physical change.  Our Paleo journey had begun.

Having a Tea Kettle Moment

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“How many times do I have to remind you to brush your hair every morning?” I said, yanking the brush through the thick tangles in her hair.  She cried, begging me to be gentler because it hurt.  “I wish I could be gentler, but I can’t! We have to leave in two minutes, and your hair isn’t done!  I would have had more time to do it nicely if you hadn’t fooled around getting ready this morning.  And really, if you were brushing it every day, like you’re supposed to, it wouldn’t be this tangled.  Come on, hold still.  Now I have to start it all over because you moved.  I really wish you had brushed it this morning so this would have been easier.  Please stop crying.  It’s not my fault we’re running late now is it?”  And on and on the words spilled out of my mouth, too quickly for me to hold them back.  I couldn’t let it go.  I continued to berate her about her shortcomings until her hair was done to my satisfaction and we were out the door.  I looked at the clock – we were on time, but at what cost?  The uncomfortable silence in the van spoke volumes.

How did I let this happen, again?  Everything in my world of parenting seems fine until I lose it, especially with my firstborn.  Instead of one quick reminder or admonition, I find myself hammering away at her, over and over again until my child’s confidence is in shreds and I feel like a crappy mom.

The more entrenched I get in this mom business, the more I see the wisdom of seeking out the advice and experience of the older women in my life.  Titus 2 talks about the older women living for the Lord and then urging the younger women to do the same.  On this day, when I felt this awful divide between my daughter and me, I went to my mother-in-law.  She listened to me sob out my frustrations at not being able to curb myself, not being able to stop the constant hammering away at my child, and not being able to be the mercy and grace of God to my kids that I so desperately I want to be.  She listened and listened, acknowledging the seriousness of my behavior but not judging or condemning.

Finally she offered up some sage insight on the matter.  First of all, it wasn’t my daughter.  It wasn’t that she was a particularly stubborn child that pushes boundaries or mom’s buttons: in fact, she is quite responsible and eager to do right most of the time.  It was me.  My mother-in-law pointed out that I don’t lose my temper all the time or hammer away at the kids all the time.  It only happens when I’m too full, like a tea kettle about to boil.  Full of homeschooling and home keeping and parenting and marriage and busy schedules and my relationship with God – these are all good things, all necessary things – but like that tea kettle, it’s going to boil over unless there’s a vent, a way to let some of the steam out.

So how do I vent?  I need to recognize the condition of my tea kettle and learn to catch myself before I even get close to that boiling point.  Together, my mother-in-law and I came up with some strategies to vent my tea kettle.

1) Pray. There is no one like God to calm a hurried and frazzled spirit.

2) Get away.  When I feel the pressures of life building up to a breaking point, I need to go to my bedroom or some other quiet place for five minutes or so and regroup.

3) Call.  Sometimes it’s needed to call a trusted friend and just let it all out.  I know I can call my mother-in-law and just say that I’m having a tea kettle moment!  She’ll understand and allow me to vent all my frustrations and feelings.  This is a lot better than me taking it out on my kids.

4) Recite.  I have a few scriptures that I keep saying so that they will come to mind when I most need them.  A few that have been very helpful lately are Proverbs 15:1, I Peter 4:8, Colossians 3:8, and Ephesians 4:31.

I don’t want to boil over.  I want my children to have a (mostly!) calm mother whose spirit and demeanor are steady no matter the day or the circumstances.  Taking time to vent so that my tea kettle doesn’t get all steamed up is helping me be that mom for them.