Spring Bliss 2015

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Yesterday was blissful – the sky, the warm sun with the cool breeze, we ventured out as a family to find some fun… and we did!  I had to leave my camera at home to charge so the pictures came out not as clear with a phone camera.  It was just too beautiful to not take photos!

Spring & Summer clothing, for me at least, is lightweight and comfortable.

Striped dress for Spring

Striped dress for Spring

Victoria's Secret Nail Polish in Flirt Away

Victoria’s Secret Nail Polish in Flirt Away

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Blue-eyed Cutie

Blue-eyed Cutie

Haha his expression!

Haha his expression!

Our view looking up

Our view looking up

Love being with him!

Love being with him!

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Kids & Bad Attitudes

This morning, we were getting back into the swing of things of doing school in the morning for my 4 year old son.  I’d made bean and cheese tacos for breakfast, beautiful music was playing softly in the background, that sweet coffee aroma filled the house, and the sunlight was shining through the gray clouds, gently lighting up our sun room/classroom area.  It felt like the perfect Spring morning.

We love Spring.  We love celebrating the Jewish holiday, Purim, where it is remembered how one brave woman, a Jewish girl who became the Persian Queen Esther, saved all the Jews in Persia.  We love how our crazy city celebrates St. Patrick’s day by dumping gallons of green dye into our river…

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But this morning, my son was not ready to come back from break.  He didn’t want to practice writing, and he became frustrated with himself when he would try to write with a dry erase marker and mess up because it was writing “too fat.”  He eventually stopped, folded his arms, made the cutest face of disgust and anger & decided to sulk.  Ironically, he’d stopped in frustration when he only had one last letter to write as part of his practice words.

Aren’t we all a little (or a lot) just like that?

We give up in frustration, or become easily angry when something minor goes wrong and decide to sulk for the rest of the time.  Even while enjoying a perfect serene morning, one little frustration can pollute our entire outlook and attitude in life.

After I motivated him to finish that one last letter, I decided to impose a break so that we could learn about Joseph.

Dear Joseph.  That sweet boy who bragged too much, he was the 2nd youngest child, with 10 older brothers – all of whom had a mother whom their father loved less than his own.  He was the special & favored child, along with his younger sibling, because they were born from the wife Jacob really desired and loved.  To make matters worse, his father decided to give him a special coat – a brightly colored symbol of how much more he loved Joseph than the rest of his children.

His brothers despised him because of this, and hearing him brag about the dreams God was giving him sent them over the edge – they plotted to kill him and make it look like an accident.  They threw him into a well, decided to say an animal had killed him, and ended up selling their brother into Egyptian slavery.

While I was relaying these events to my son I asked him if he thought Joseph had a bad attitude at what God had allowed to happen to him, and he said yes.  How could Joseph not?  This young, coddled boy, never used to being without, the favored child of his father, suddenly betrayed so abruptly that he found himself at the bottom of the totem pole in the slave trade.  He’d more than likely never worked a day of hard labor in his life, and now he would be solely valued based on his ability to work & labor for the rest of his life.

But Joseph… that sweet young man, didn’t.  He didn’t let his circumstances dictate his choice of how he would respond.  He decided to become the best slave.  He was so faithful, so trustworthy, and such a dedicated worker, that his owner, Captain of the guard Potiphar, decided to make him preside over everything he owned!

Then enter Potiphar’s wife.  It was the classic set-up of the bored housewife and the hired hand.  Joseph had grown up to be “handsome & built,” he was not only intelligent and good-looking, he was now rough and masculine.  She wanted him to be with her – but he would never be with a married woman, let alone the wife of the very man who trusted him with everything he had.  I admire Joseph so much, he could have easily rationalized that having his master’s wife on the side would’ve made up for the injustice of what had happened to him in life.

But he didn’t.

He chose to have integrity, and he paid dearly for it.  She accused him of harming her (child’s version – you know she accused him of false-rape), and Joseph lost everything he had built for himself – his reputation, work ethic, the trust of Potiphar, and he was thrown into jail as a prisoner who had raped an official’s wife.

He went from being a treasured & pampered son, to a slave whose only value was based on what he could do, to a prisoner and forever remembered sex offender.  I explained to my son how even when we do the right thing, we can still be punished and have to suffer because of it.  But did being a prisoner and convicted rapist let Joseph give in to having a bad attitude?

No.  Joseph rose up the ranks within the prison to become the Prison Guard.  He went from being held behind the bars to being the man who held the keys to the others’ freedom.  His attitude, his integrity and trust in God gave him power to rise above his circumstances. Joseph still chose to keep a good attitude, and it showed in the way people reacted to him.

I didn’t go on, even though Joseph’s whole story is truly inspiring, this 5 minute break was enough to shift my son’s thinking – he was genuinely in awe of Joseph and his attitude.  My son’s entire outlook changed, we prayed and he went over to his little brother and hugged him.  And I read him this last verse:

“Even if you should suffer for what is right,

you are blessed.

‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.'”

1 Peter 3:14

Dads & Sons – Leaving a Legacy for Your Children

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My guys minus the littlest new boy!

When it comes to our children, we want to be the best we can be for them – as a mother, this intention is always at the front of my mind as I try to make interactions and daily life as helpful as possible for our children to feel loved and nurtured and ready for adulthood.  My husband has frequently let me know it is also something he thinks of often.  It’s important to him whether he’s doing things right – being a good father, and leading our older son towards developing true masculinity in a society that tries to feminize men & say that boys are the same as girls.  Raising men is a task that needs a father, a good role model… certainly someone who is able to step in (when the father is absent) to mentor a young boy or man into finding his true identity of the man God created him to be.

This is not at all meant to be a slight to single mothers, that is hands down one of the hardest positions to be in, without a husband and father to your children & trying to manage everything (that takes two people) on your own.  If you do find yourself in this position, however, one of the best and most wonderful gifts you can give your children is to either ensure they still have their relationship with their father and that he is allowed the most possible access in their lives (in cases of being divorced), or that they have another strong male role model (a grandfather, uncle, or even friend or coach) to look up to, and to mentor them later on.

In an excerpt from Dr. James Dobson’s book, Bringing Up Boys, you can capture the unique role fathers must fill for their children, and especially their sons.  It is the father who shows the son what kind of man he should become, and his example (for better or worse) will likely stay with the boy well until old age, and he will forever identify with either having a great father, or a father who he vowed to never be like.

(Four traditional roles that men have played at home.)

The first is to serve as the family provider.  No one disputed fifty years ago that it was a man’s primary responsibility to be the “breadwinner.”  This is less clear today, which is unfortunate.  Even though the majority of wives and mothers work outside the home, it is still a man’s charge to assure that the financial needs of the family are met.

The second… is to serve as the leader of the clan.  This role became highly controversial with the rise of the women’s movement, but it was rarely challenged before the 1960’s.  It was often said in those days that “two captains sink a ship,” and “two cooks spoil the broth.”  Dad was the final arbitrator on issues of substance  Admittedly, this “headship” role was sometimes abused by selfish men who treated their wives with disrespect and their children like chattle, but that was never the way the assignment was intended to function.  … (in Scripture) Husbands are told to love their wives as their own flesh, being willing to give their lives for them.   They are also warned not to treat their children harshly or inconsiderately.  That system generally worked well for thousands of years.

The third contribution made by a father is to serve as protector.  He shielded his family members from the outside world and taught them how to cope with it successfully.  He was the one family members came to when they felt anxious or threatened.  If another man tried to abuse or insult his wife, Dad would defend her honor (even against extended family members).  It was his responsibility to see that the house was safe at night and that the children were home at a reasonable time.  Each member of the family felt a little more secure because he was there.

The fourth contribution made by an effective dad was to provide spiritual direction at home.  Although he often failed in this role, it was his obligation to read the Scriptures to his children and to teach them the fundamentals of their faith.  He was the interpreter of the family’s moral code and sacred rituals, and he made sure the children went to church every week.  Admittedly, not many men in years past performed each of these four duties adequately.  But there was a broad consensus in the culture that this was what they were supposed to do.

Sons need a strong, confident father to look up to and emulate – not a dad who is intimidated or “whipped” by his wife, or a man who fails to lead his family.  He needs to be able to be a rock for his family to turn to in the midst of the hard times of life – sicknesses, financial woes, or job losses, the husband should be able to handle these life occurrences while still providing his family with the comfort and shelter of a peaceful home that he leads.

If you’re a woman reading this and you wonder if you’re hampering your husband’s God-given role as a strong father, you may be doing just that.  It’s hard for women to give over the reigns of family leadership – to me, it goes back to biblical times.  Eve’s curse (besides being cursed with pain in childbirth) was to want to control her man while at the same time, he would “rule over her.”  Women have this innate desire to control our husbands, it is the most frustrating and damnable thing I personally have ever experienced. The sheer desire to wish that I could dictate how he will do things or how things should go can be very frustrating, and is a lesson in learning true Godly submission and showing respect to your husband.  Men were designed by God to lead, and facing their own wive’s stubborn lack of respect for their authority in their own homes causes them the deepest kind of frustration (and eventually resentment) as well.

As a wife, I’ve continually found that when I step back and let my husband lead, he proves over and over again to be an amazing and sound head of our family.  My oldest son and I trust him completely, while feeling the deepest kind of comfort, knowing well that we are safe under his watch.

We have a model of how God set up the family, and it’s amazing to see it play out in the way He intended so that children are raised in a healthy, God-intended environment.

It’s even better when you experience it firsthand. ❤

Kids & Boundaries

We want our kids to have a good life.  As parents, we are always hoping and planning and prepping them in our instruction for a very good life – a life of success.  A life of happiness.  So why are so many people unhappy with their life when they grow older?  What happens that makes someone with a good childhood discontent with their life after they grow up?

I think one of the main reasons could be whether or not we teach our children boundaries.

An easy example of a good boundary lesson is to simply listen to your child when they tell you “Stop” or “No.”  I’m always kind of surprised to see parents not listen when their child asks them to stop tickling or wrestling, or to put them down & the parent stubbornly resists.  From psychology stand point, that parent is teaching their child that they don’t have the right to tell someone to stop doing something to them that they don’t like.  Indeed, sexual molestation is the ultimate abolishment of a child’s sense of their own boundaries, of course not listening to their “No” or “Stop” during tickling isn’t as severe, but it is the same concept of respecting a child’s boundaries.  Of teaching them that they can have boundaries.

Many times kids grow up with a sense of over-responsibility… in some way, they feel responsible for the parent and their feelings.  This usually happens when a parent confides too much information to their children.  They treat their child like a little adult, which can be good in some ways, but when constantly pressured to think and talk to them like an adult friend, this makes a child less attune to their own needs and desires.  It makes them too “others-centered,” to the point that they go through life as an adult neglecting themselves… usually for the sake of others.

I’ve seen these kinds of things play out for people, and having really great parents who were sensitive and always into psychology and learning, I want you as a reader to know that these things are relatively easily avoidable if you have the right knowledge and mindset.

God never promised us a perfect life – but even through all the imperfections, I feel like we should be happy – we should have a deep, untouchable joy.  A serious part of that joy and happiness that no one really talks about, is knowing how to take care of ourselves well.

So take care of yourself.  Know your limits and embrace them with grace.  Be kind to yourself… pay attention to your own feelings if you haven’t been.  And then turn around, and listen to your kids and their feelings.  Let them be real with you – angry, sad, or depressed – let them feel things without judgment so that they learn that to feel an emotion is ok.  Feeling guilty for an emotion is ridiculous.

Give them the gift of boundaries… it’s one of the most beautiful things in life.

 

(Thoughts inspired from the book, Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend)

Kids Chaos & Mistakes

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I think having a child is one of the hardest things in life – knowing how to raise them, deal, in a good way, with their sometimes difficult behavior, and maintain a good relationship with them through to adulthood, sometimes seems impossible when you’re in the thick of it with toddlers or even pre-teens/teenagers.  Being a parent is hard, I was reminded of this fact these last few days – maybe the weather change, or maybe the excitement from knowing Christmas is closing in, had my 3-year-old upping his tantrum-mania anytime we went out.

Obviously, it’s best to stay calm in any situation, but it’s understandable when it’s been their 5th tantrum of the day, or when they try to hit you with their little plastic golf club, that you can make the mistake of losing it & screaming at them.  For me, I truly have to remind myself to stay calm, have clear expectations beforehand, and carry-out the discipline already decided in the calmest manner I can conjure.  This of course, doesn’t always happen, but it is our go-to for dealing with the normal tantrums & chaos that children are known to do.  I try to keep in mind the kind of man I’m raising, the character I want him to have.  Feeling like his success wholly depends on you, however, can also put too much pressure on your parenting needing to be “perfect,” leading you to feel massive amounts of anxiety that you’re failing your children, when in reality, they are just kids who sometimes behave difficult.

 If you do make a mistake, punish the wrong child for something they didn’t do, overreact and lose your temper, you need to admit your mistake to your child/children.  They will love you so much more knowing that you have the character to be able to do this.

I love Elaine St. James’ words on this topic,

Children need to see that it’s natural to make mistakes from time to time.  The last thing you want is a child who is unable to own up to the fact that she was wrong.  If you’re trying to teach your kids to be open-minded and responsible for their actions, you must demonstrate this behavior yourself.  How better to learn than from a parent?

Some parents believe their authority will be undermined or that it’s a sign of weakness if they allow themselves to be swayed or to admit they’ve been wrong.  With others it’s often a false notion of how a parent should behave, or simply bad judgement. Whatever the cause, you’re doing a disservice to our children by taking this position.