The Picky Eater Child: Chicken Nuggets, Lasagna and Sushi

What seems like an eternity (and oddly, also just a few days ago), my oldest son transitioned from Gerber Graduates to taste bud awakening, adult food. Before doing so, I fed the kid all the baby food veggie and fruit options, even those scrumptious green peas (insert sarcasm).

Based on the variety of foods he enjoyed as an infant and toddler, I just knew he would love to eat healthy. Yeah right! This, my friends, is an excellent example of first time parent ignorance. Just because your kid digs baby food sweet potatoes so much to the point they sport the orange nose, does NOT mean they will actually gravitate towards the orange root vegetable when prepared by the one that brought them into the world and placed on their beloved Mickey Mouse plate.

To date, my son is a meat and white potatoes kind of kid and like most children, would be 1000% content consuming chicken fingers and french fries for two of the three daily meals.

Some what successful attempts on my part have been: apples on his dinner plate, applesauce in his lunchbox, broccoli with his chicken fingers and 20% of the time I am successful at getting him to try a “no thank you” bite.

One time, I slaved in the kitchen for hours making Lasagna from scratch (with canned spaghetti sauce of course). The picky child emerged from a video game session, curled up his nose and said “What is THAT? It looks gross.”

I informed the  beast child that he was going to have to try one bite. At this point, he had worked himself in a tizzy. Tears, red nose, all kinds of drama. Dinner is served and after 15 minutes of more drama, he tries the Italian glory, begins to gag and up the Lasagna comes. “That’s so gross! I can’t do it mama. I just can’t!”

So annoyed, I throw my hands up in the air and pile a serving on my plate because SOMEBODY is going to eat my cooking.

So there you go. This is a how the opinionated, picky eater rolls. They make up their mind in advance of trying the food that they won’t like it and will pull out all the stops to prove to you that it is not a consumable product.

Then, one day, that same kid will shock you.

My best friend and I love sushi. It’s our thing and our go to food when we get together. Here recently, the picky eater child became curious of the infamous shrimp roll we were consuming. I mean, since the rice isn’t the healthier brown rice option and the shrimp is fried not boiled, then the shrimp roll could be an appealing option to the kid. 🙂

He then asks if he can try the sushi roll. Of course I say an emphatic YES since it isn’t a chicken finger or pizza. He takes about an 1/8 of a sushi roll bite, thinks a moment while chewing and declares “Mama I like it!”

What the what?

We get done with basketball practice this week: “Mama, I want sushi for dinner.”

Friday rolls around: “Mama, can we have a cheat night tonight and order sushi and not pizza?”

Yesterday’s conversation between the picky eater and his sister that likes most all food:

Bro: “Mom, can we get sushi again?”

Sis: “Ugh I HATE sushi!”

Bro: “What? You are a defective child.”

Sis: Rolls eyes.

Little Bro: “I want applesauce!”

This sounds like I never cook.

As all of us parents learn, those cute little baby creatures grow up with such diverse opinions and food is no exception. Offer new foods, throw a multivitamin at them and celebrate things like the fact your kid just ate seaweed and liked it!

SEAWEED…EPIC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Your Kid Says “I Don’t Like My Body”

One day my child will most likely try to suffocate me in my sleep for writing this but it’s what on my mind. I want her to one day be able to read this and know mama understood her “growing pains” and just how perfect she is despite how she  may feel.

The subject: children and how they feel about their bodies.

So, here’s a little background on yours truly. I was never the super skinny kid in elementary school. In fact, I grew faster than all my friends, so fast in fact, that I was the unfortunate recipient of stretch marks.  Not only that, but I had a prominent belly and was considered a “chunky” little girl until around the seventh grade when mother nature graced me with hormones and the activity necessary to lean out. Also, this was around the time I became involved in sports and band and was so busy burning calories, that I didn’t realize my body was changing for the leaner. The key point here: I don’t remember being overly concerned with my appearance. Comparing maybe, but not enough to where it affected my confidence.

When I was a child, most of my friends were much skinnier than me.  I loved food, ate what I wanted and was generally always the taller, rounder kid in the room.  My mother didn’t feed me a lot of fast food and tried her best to put healthy options in front of me. Most of my friends were bean poles, could eat anything they wanted to and remained bean poles. Do I remember it bothering me? Yes. Do I remember a kid or two making a comment about it? Yes. Was it a life altering of a situation? Fortunately, no.

The situation that I’m fretting over at the moment is that my daughter is built just like me at her age and I’ve seen her struggling over how she views her body. Yes, some kids have said things insinuating she is fat. Not cool. You never really forget how people make you feel, right?

Last night, I took her to a seasonal production performance practice where she danced for about an hour with several of her close friends and tried on her performance outfit.  All was fine UNTIL it was time for the trying on of the costumes. From the moment she was handed that red leotard, I instantly saw the look of dread wash over her rosy cheeked, perspired face. Pure panic. Girlfriend not only had me lock the dressing room door, but I had to literally stand there with my hand on the door handle just to make sure no one barged in on her.

She tried my patience I’m not even going to lie. I wanted to scream, “Just put the dang thing on so we can get out of here and to your next extracurricular activity that I’m taking you to on a FRIDAY night chika!”

Girls are drama. For the past few years, it’s the same issue with each shopping trip, every time she has to put on a swimsuit where her friends will be there and any time she has to change clothes with someone besides me around.

It is what it is. She looked different from her friends, knew it and it was devastating her. I mean, heck, I would cry if I had to put on a leotard too!

A mother wants to fix things right?: In this case, cook healthier, limit fast food, put the child in high calorie burning sports. Anything to help the kiddo get physically fit without making it enough of an issue to where dangerous self image issues manifest into the teen years and beyond.

I’ve tried all that over the years. Maybe it’s just one of those epic mom fails or maybe it’s genetics.

After we got in the car last night when the trying on of the hideous red leotard was over, she slide into her seat and burst into tears. “I don’t like my body mama! I look different than all my friends.”

“Honey, mama felt the exact same way when I was your age. I’m sorry you feel this way. I had friends that were so skinny that they didn’t like their bodies either. You are beautiful inside and out and I love you. We can always eat healthier and exercise more but we are who we are and we have to learn to love ourselves despite what stage of life our body is in.” (Which is kind of like the pot calling the kettle 50 shades of complete and utter pitch black since I had my tummy fixed last year. Maybe she’ll understand after her body is destroyed bringing life into the world, BUT moving on… 🙂 )

All I know, is that we are signed up for basketball, then soccer, I put fruit and veggie options on her plate most days, she loves food like I did, is a great student, is a pretty darn good piano player, she sees me working out and having a balance of the types of food eaten and I try not to make it a big issue since all the experts say DON’T. You all know why.

If you see her, don’t mention mama wrote a blog post about her. The introverted diva darling would seriously slip her homemade slime in my food to show out.

My daughter knows we adore her and will support her every step of her journey in this crazy world. Who knows. Maybe one day when she has leaned out and is smoking hot with curves I may wish for these days to return!

Parenthood: all of us figuring it all out on the job and who ever REALLY has it figured out. 🙂

 

 

 

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How A Letter Became My Burning Bush

How A Letter Became My Burning Bush

God spoke to me in a very unconventional way last night. I feel led to share the story. Please read with reflection into your own life and know this lesson is for all of us.

As one who possesses a highly extroverted personality, there isn’t much about my life that I don’t mind sharing with others. That quality is inviting to some and cringe worthy to others, but we are who we are and it is what it is!

However, lately there have been exceptions to that personality trait. Over the past several months, life circumstances have caused me to draw inward and trusting people doesn’t come easily anymore. My relationships with others must be thoroughly tested to prove they are worthy of my openness. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, maybe it’s fear or maybe it’s just simply the smart thing to do.

THE LETTER

Back in the spring, I was asked to write a deeply candid letter. It was for a family member and only a select few were privy to the content. It was a short three pages long (extrovert remember?) and what I said was incredibly raw and honest. What was written was meant for a time of reflection, support and motivation and it was personal.

Having it saved on my computer, I decided I didn’t need the hard copy. I remember it being in my purse and thought with certainty that I threw it away.

Yesterday afternoon, I’m in the car with my quiet, sit in the corner, yeah right NEVER, children with my husband driving to a friend’s house. All three kids are multitasking between iPads and the radio stations. The conversations:

“Mom, can you turn it up? That’s my FAVORITE.” (starts singing that Spanish Beiber song) Big Beast Child 

“Ugh mama I HATE that song! Change it! He ALWAYS gets to listen to what he wants and I never do!” Diva Darling Middle Child

“I got dat chicken mama and it had babies. Oh no! ‘Dere’s a skeleton coming! I’ll save ‘dem! (swoosh swoosh, growl growl)”  Tazmanian Devil Child

In the middle of the chaos, a private Facebook message alert from a stranger comes over on my phone.

My heart sank into my stomach, my hands began lightly trembling and I experienced the all too familiar “fight or flight” rush of heat from your core to extremities.

Somehow, some seemingly impossibly way, that very letter had mysteriously ended up on the floorboard of a complete stranger’s minivan floor in Florida. This lady was asking if I was the same person by the same name listed on the letter that contained certain subject matter. Oh wow. It absolutely was. There was no denying it. Exposed and on the verge of becoming an emotional train wreck, I give her my number.

Who else knew? At least two people. The person sending me the message wasn’t the same person that found the letter. At this point I knew the letter had been posted on social media. Let’s just say this “open book” who has zero problems keeping it together 99.9% of the time, was about to be straight jacket bound. Like a nightmare.

Four long minutes later, she calls.

A sweet, eloquent voice begins to speak. I quickly learn that she is a member of a closed, Christian mom’s online group and from North Carolina. She confirmed that my letter had been mysteriously found on the minivan floorboard of one of their group members and she had posted the letter to their secret group to pray for us. Complete strangers.

That’s nice and all but I’m still mortified at this point! How in the world? Dumbfounded.

“Your letter has blown up our secret group page and has really led to incredible discussions. So many of us are going through similar circumstances and your words have impacted us. We’ve been searching to find you to let you know you and your family have been being prayed for constantly. We’re also taking the letter down out of respect for your privacy, and for what it’s worth, you’ve touched a lot of people.”

My voice breaks. Is this sincere? It sounds authentic but how do you really know? My inwardness regarding this struggle has become a familiar friend lately. This isn’t easy.

After hanging up, God then spoke.

As God came to Moses through a burning bush that wasn’t consumed by the fire, this was a hot mess of a season but it would not destroy those of us affected. God also orchestrated this encounter with Moses as a call to action to free those enslaved. The action required of Moses was uncomfortable, wasn’t logical by human standards and forced him to operate in his weaknesses. Truthfully, there have been moments recently where I have felt as a slave to circumstances. I mean, don’t we all? Was this letter being found forcing me to act to free myself of negative mindsets and unnecessary strongholds I was allowing within myself?

What I have refused to share to only a select few, got shared out of my control for a greater purpose than my own.

You see, last night many of these women sent messages my way of encouragement, revealing how widespread the commonality of our struggles really are.

I facebooked stalked them all. 🙂  From New Jersey, Tampa, South Africa and more. Again, all complete strangers.

It’s really a small world and I’m still completely overwhelmed. The unconventional means that God orchestrates to communicate with us are evidence of his constant presence and relentless actions behind the scenes in our lives.

When you feel alone, you never are. For months I have praying for the very thing I received last night: evidence of God’s hand and a bird’s eye perspective in the stormy fire. I am surrounded by great friends that aren’t strangers and fabulous people that are.

May God also give you your burning bush moment that you need at the very exact time it is needed. Finally, let this be a reminder that sincere words of encouragement really do help heal.

Be the good.

 

 

 

 

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The Most Important Life Skill To Teach Your Child

Past tense, if I had to answer the question of what is the most important life skill a parent should teach their children, I would have answered with something along the lines of kindness, respect, character, commitment, etc.

Furthermore, I would have also held up a blue, Lion King imprinted Pull Up along side the porcelain potty and described how I delivered an ingenious and convincing SWOT analysis on potty training to the four year old. Why? That was the focus of the day. The half bag of Pull Ups in my kid’s bedroom is a testament to the strong willed genetic predisposition my children are “blessed” with.

Current tense, I have more of a bird’s eye perspective.

Every single one of our children are strategically placed into a war the moment their DNA begins to replicate. For some, the struggle begins in the womb and the fight to live a whole life begins before the first breathe. Other children undergo environments and experiences that directly cause them to start life’s battleground on the front line with no training and no arsenal with which to defend themselves. The scary part is even those kids who have ideal circumstances are still failing to live whole, happy lives.

How do we as parents ensure that our children turn out okay? I ask myself this alot.

I don’t know if that is a realistic burden a parent should put on themselves. Do many of us ignorantly attempt to control their destinies anyway? Sure we do. So what can we do now while they are young and in the training stages of life that might make a real impact?

The most important life skill I want to teach my children is this:

Know what you will do when life gets hard.

The good times are fairly easy to navigate. The difficult times are the moments that define futures.

These are the conversations I’m now having with my kids, or, more accurately, ATTEMPTING to have with them.

“What will you do when things don’t turn out how you expected or when circumstances aren’t fair?”

“Bruh! I’ll go to college for a few years. It’ll be dope” Kid#1

What or who will you turn to when you experience devastating loss? How will you relieve negativity and sadness? What are the pros and cons of specific choices and paths?”

“Eat cheese puffs, go on my iPad with my headphones and watch videos” Kid#2 

“Here are the options laid out for you clear as day my dears. Guess what kiddo? It’s your choice. My job as a mother is to steer you in the right direction the best way I know how, communicate what can happen in this life either through our choices or by mere circumstances and direct you to find the best coping strategies based on your personality and interests.”

“What’s coping? You know what I’m interested in mom? You buying me a cell phone because I’m the ONLY sixth grader without one.” Kid#1

The world’s definition of success and real success are two different things. I want your life to be a real success, but in the end, it is your choice.”

“Mom, you have a weiner.” Kid#3

“Mama isn’t perfect. She messes up sometimes and it’s okay for YOU to accept that you will never be perfect. Never use imperfection as an excuse not to do the right thing. I love you no matter what but I will hold you accountable. You have a lot to learn and I will help you.”

“I don’t know what this subject is but I don’t like it.” Kid#2

“This is who God is. He is real, this is why we love Him, here are examples of what He wants you to become and this is why you are valued and loved by Him.”

“Wait what? I wasn’t paying attention.” Kid#1

“There are also bad guys that will try to get you to make bad choices every single day. Some you can clearly see and some you can’t. There are good guys that will be there to help you along the way. Some you can see and some you can’t. Sometimes you are that good guy and sometimes you are that bad guy. You’re learning wisdom when you can recognize the difference and change behavior for the better.”

“Zombies are bad guys. I kill dem. I cut off dier weiner. Hi-yah!” Kid#3

So there you have it. I think it’s the most important life skill I want to teach my kids. I never said it was going to be easy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Gravity Of Your Marriage

If you ask NASA their official word on what gravity is, their response (before all the technical jargon) is “We really don’t know.”  Although the best and brightest scientific minds are unable to tell us exactly what gravity is, they can with confidence say that it is a “field of influence” because they only know how it operates or behaves.

What defines marriage? That means many different things to a whole lot of folks but we can witness how two people behave while in it.

I would argue that marriage and everything resulting from it influence us the remainder of our earthly lives.

Interestingly enough, gravity and our relationship with our significant other are similar entities in that they both can be studied and understood by how they affect the energies around them.

How?

1) Gravity and marriage both cause energies to come together.

Gravity is defined as a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward one another. All forms of energy, including light, are under the influence of it.

Can’t you remember that first time feeling of twitterpated bliss? Under the influence of raging pheromones, sweaty palms and racing heart possibly resulting from, oh I don’t know, broad shoulders, manly hands and the perfect blend of auburn red hair?

You can’t escape gravity and you surely can’t escape cupid all dolled up in his baby diaper with bow and arrow. As a scientist about to delve into basic understandings of one of the most intriguing universal elements and two people beginning a new relationship, this is the fun stage.

2) Gravity and marriage both causes movement and change.

Now these two entities start to become tricky. It’s all about the formula of the situation. As the new wears off in our relationships and you throw stressful jobs, 2.5 kids and a fur ball or two into the mix, the tides start to turn.

Symbolically, gravity impacts the planetary courses and based on other factors, can also be an influence in planets colliding. Boom! Ever changing, always moving, yet there is some predictability of pattern we can study. Marriage, and the elements of both parties, changes us.

3) Gravity and marriage can cause consequences, some one may never fully escape from.

Science is sexy. Hang in there with me here.

The Theory of Relativity describes gravity as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by an uneven distribution in mass or energy from which nothing can escape, not even light.

As gravity can create potentially inescapable circumstances, such as a Black Hole, what two people do to themselves or one another can throw a marriage into a deep, dark abyss with no light and no seeable path to climb out of. That’s a scary place to be. Most marriages experience this.

4) Gravity and marriage can become such after thoughts that we aren’t even aware of how they affect us.

Two establishments of human existence and yet they are such commonalities that we sometimes fail to appreciate and focus on them. Whether it’s about science or relationships, we should take the time to dwell on those things that are good and not take them for granted.

5) The good news: Gravity and a strong marriage give us life.

Gravity centers us and keeps us from flying off into outer space, being suffocated, scalded in the atmosphere or loss of muscle mass, just to name a few. A fully functional marriage makes our outlook on the world a much better place and positively affects all those around us.

The gravity of the situation is that marriage is hard but it’s such a worthwhile fight. It matters, it’s eternal, it’s life changing. We are fooling ourselves if we think we will never be in a season where our closest relationships won’t be tested.

So, here’s to those of you out there in your own relationship hurdles. It’s inevitable but it can be done. Commitment and love are our foundations of existence.

Marriage can either turn into a really tragic, C-Grade, Star Trek Deep Space 9 episode with fake sets and faulty voice communicators OR a Gone With The Wind omitted scene where Scarlett and Rhett reunite on the steps of Tara, forging through all the mess they created in their relationship, rebuilding the life they were supposed to have in the first place (with a full moon and Venus in the background of course).

So there. Nerdy content with a message. Keep the faith in one another and the One who brought you together in the first place.

 

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Top 21 Of Going Back To Work

I’d like to be able to say which is easier: being a stay-at-home mom or career mom. My verdict? Differing daily functions, yet both are equally challenging and rewarding in their own way.

Random observations from my first two weeks back at working in hospital sales and management and juggling family:

  1. Ditched my summer Yellowbox sandals habit for some stylish heels to match every black outfit in my closet arsenal. BLISTERS y’all. Blisters after ONE hour! I like fashion. I like comfort more. Amazon…two day shipping…$25 comfy, basic pumps. BOOM.
  2. I love the way a hospital smells. Minus rare C diff encounters and such, of course.
  3. Developing a keen distaste for hospital fluorescent lights. They bring out every facial flaw, eye bag, wrinkle and stray gray root hairs within seconds of exposure. I’m a 41 year old mom of three. Help a sister out!
  4. I like to get to work early. That means leaving the house an hour early for kid drop off.  Thank goodness for my in-laws with summer camp schedules. One word: Phew!
  5. My oldest two are becoming more responsible because they have to. Thumbs up.
  6. The wild child is LOVING full-time versus part-time daycare. Begged to go to school on a Saturday. Celebrate the win.
  7. I work with a lot of quality people. Since we spend just as much time, if not more, with our work family than we do our own family, that helps my heart.
  8. One night, the kids missed me so much they snuck their mattresses into our bedroom and camped out. Those mattresses are STILL there. It’s summer and mama picks her battles. New meaning to “piling in like pigs.”
  9. I’m so busy at work I don’t have time for luxuries like a lunch break. I scarf down something semi-healthy I bring from home and I’ve lost some weight. Raise the flourescent ridden roof people!
  10. I cleaned toilets one night at 10pm.
  11. Just found some dried slime on my couch from wild man intercepting his sissy’s daily collection from the last two weeks. Seriously considering just turning the couch pillow over and walking away.
  12. I wore my supermom cape a few times this week and threw dinner in the crockpot at 5:45am. Say what?
  13. One night I was so tired I completely forgot about the food in the crockpot and left it there overnight. (Yes, I remembered to at least turn the dang thing off.)
  14. I’m drinking more coffee.
  15. More socialization. Work has been like one ginormous family reunion because I know so many people and have missed getting to see them.
  16. I have ALOT to learn but I’m a lucky girl. I get to work in a job that mirrors my strengths. No job and no one is perfect but I’m going to be good at this.
  17. I haven’t mastered giving the family all of me when I’m home because I’m still adjusting to the transition. However, I will and it’s a positive that I understand that should be the end goal.
  18. The gym is still a priority because that’s my outlet and the one thing I do for myself. (Fist bump.)
  19. I ate a donut this morning. It was GOOD.
  20. Haven’t watched the news in two weeks and it’s been FANTABULOUS.
  21. Woke up spooning the dog this morning. Scandalous.

This season in life is an adjustment but it’s kind of one of those times where you dust off your super mom cape, maybe even iron it a few times (after you dust off the iron), and save the world one snotty nose, raging preteen hormone and customer complaint at a time. But first, more coffee and nerdy web content surfing…because it’s Saturday. 🙂

 

 

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Finding Value As A Mother

I’ll let you in on a little secret I have learned. It doesn’t matter if you are a mother who works outside of the home or one that spends every waking hour with your children. All mothers struggle with finding their value.

In fact, every individual desperately desires significance and we often look for that in all the wrong places before ideally understanding our purpose.

Life circumstances, divine intervention and the financial reality that my husband and I will most likely have three children in college over a span of TEN years, has resulted in a major life change for us. Mama is going back to paid work! In fact, I start TOMORROW. Fortunately, I thrive on change and I’ll be resuming career work in a field that I thoroughly enjoy. However, regardless of job status, my “value” remains unchanged.

Interestingly enough, when my oldest two were little and I worked outside of the home, I always felt guilty for being away from them so much. Ironically, for the first three years of being with them full-time and adding on a third kid, I felt guilt for not contributing financially and frustrated with having little tangible goal achievement. In either role, I had a hard time determining my value. For the last three years, I found contentment in my role and changed my mindset. Now that my daily duties are changing again, I now know that my value is steadfast.

If you are a mother struggling to find your value in whatever season of life you are in, I share these three truths on motherhood that I have learned.

1. Our purpose as mothers is to love our children

It’s quality time not quantity. When we are with them, make the time count. Play with them, make lasting memories, meet their daily needs, allow them to grow up in the healthiest family environment you can provide and show them the discipline when they need it.

Also, when you have bad days and feel you have accomplished no loving of any kind, then that means you are normal.

2. Our purpose as mothers is to communicate with our children

This one is particularly tough. Why can’t they all be the same and why are we always tired, right? Of my three kids, one tends to keep emotions bottled in, the other won’t stop talking and the third tends to want to have heart to heart discussions right at bedtime after he has stalled for forty five minutes and I’m about to drop from exhaustion.

As they get older and spend more time at school and with friends more than they do with us, we have to make the increasingly limited one on one time intentional, introspective and investigative. Regardless of our employment status, there is the certain reality that our influence and talk time will become less but diligently working to communicate a safe and honest open door policy is a must.

3. Our purpose as mothers is to provide for our children

Whether that means through food on the table, a trip to the park, college funds, our limited free hours spent at their extracurriculars, etc., mothers make it happen.

Learning and accepting our value as mothers is a process and it isn’t how much money we can save for or spend on them. Nor is it how many awards our children can accumulate. Value also isn’t necessarily defined if our children choose to make the right choices 100% of their adult lives because at some point they become accountable for their own actions.

What mother is perfect? None. What mother tries their best? Most. What mother has value in what they do and who they are? ALL.

As I return back to career work tomorrow, I take these truths with me and believe myself to be a better mother and employee. When mothers are at work, we’ve got this, because we can juggle chaos 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When mothers are at home, we’ve got this, because we know that loving our family means putting the family unit first when we are together.

Mothers are imperfect, yet perfection in our own unique way.

Do what you do and how you do it mama because the value of motherhood is priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Unchartered Territory


In this life, it is never a question of “if” but “when” your life is forever altered by some unforeseen incident. Whether self-induced or uncontrollable, these are moments that define you and, depending on your choices of response and action, they can either digress us or grow us exponentially.

This is particularly true when the family unit is concerned.

For example, we learn after years of marriage that two imperfect people will have to remain diligently committed to one another to avoid being a negative statistic. Look around you. Marriage is hard. A lot of unions don’t make it. It takes a lifetime of learning to get it right. Unless you mirror your partnership(s) after “Sister Wives”, there are two people that must play equal parts to the whole process.

Sometimes, there is an unbreakable connection where there is no one else on the planet you would rather spend every waking moment of your life with: always touching, laughing uncontrollably and delighting in a union you are proud of.  Other times we fail one another and want to pour a gallon of hot sauce in one another’s eyes, smother somebody with a pillow until they beg for mercy and throw a blanket on the trampoline for their sleeping arrangements just to make a point.

We also learn after years of parenthood that children, while they may either share our DNA or even adopted, are strange and foreign creatures that take dedicated effort and analysis to figure out how they need to be taught, guided and loved. To make it that much more difficult, they are all unique and require different parenting approaches.

Often times, the stars align and the days are marked with an expected order of familiar patterns where you easily connect with who they are, identify with their life stages and are preparedly equipped with the tools to help them shine.

Other times, you are so overwhelmed with chaos and your own darkness that your babies’ moments can pass right by you and you miss them. Unless those moments involve biting, yelling, toy throwing, screaming for you incessantly, running around the house with sharp objects, sloppy wet kisses and bathwater overflowing onto your freshly mopped floor. Those tend to get your attention regardless of circumstances.

The point is that anything new in life, positive or negative, is unchartered territory.

When it comes to marriage and children though, unchartered territory must be handled strategically and you have to ensure that you do everything in your power to acclimate to your new norms successfully. It’s like an explorer who goes out on a adventure to find new land, stays lost half the time but is eventually able to slam that flag of conquer into the freshly discovered ground.

Examples in marriage and parenting could be:

  • If you have to be more for your spouse because he or she can’t reciprocate in return at that period in time, then you do it.
  • If you have to discover several styles of parenting because that’s what’s best for your children and their unique personalities, then you learn it.
  • If your plans for your family become altered through unforeseeable factors, you recenter and make new ones.
  • If you get overwhelmed in the process, you take time for yourself, surround yourself with God’s promises and good people, and you get right back to it.

When your life takes a journey into unchartered territory, I say the key is adaptability and attitude because how we respond as parents and spouses dictates how the future will be for the entire family.

Unchartered territory is meant to move us because we can never grow in maturity and wisdom unless we are forced to go in a different direction.

That direction, however, is up to us.

When faced with the same set of options, I will choose to move forward. Life here is a training ground and I don’t like to lose. 🙂

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What Defines Family

It has always befuddled me how some siblings can be raised in the same family, under the same roof and turn out polar opposites. I don’t mean the normal personality predispositions and differing affinities for various likes and dislikes, but how some fight to get on or remain on a good path and others go “dark force” rogue without any regard for others.

Every family has some level of dysfunction I have come to learn. Some prefer to keep their issues quiet and others just may be more blatant and broadcasted for the world to see. I guess it would be impossible for a group of humans to think they could ever cohabitant together or remain in close relationships without their own unique set of challenges.

Families break apart every day. Sometimes we have to become emotionally disconnected from certain blood relatives to remove that cancer from our lives.  It’s reality that I’ve accepted but what I can’t accept is that happening within my own children.

As a mother, I’ve begun prepping my kids to always remain close, despite their differences and regardless of what life brings their way. Our twenty minute car ride to school each morning, although hair pulling and cortisol inducing at times, provides prime opportunities to reinforce this.

That is, ironically, in between this joy:

“Ugh, she is SUCH an idiot!”

She cleans your sink, kid. Zip it.

“I HATE him and wish he had never been born!”

How would you feel if that was the last thing you said to him?

“Ha ha! This is hilarious. She is crying like a baby.”

YOU are about to be crying like a baby if I have to pull over.

“Mommy, I got dat zombie. Mwahahaha.”

Whoop whoop! Wait, I mean, thou shalt not kill.

“Stop kicking my seat!”

“Mom, slow down! Wait, can you go back? There’s a Charizard!” (Pokemon Go…and no I don’t turn around)

“Mom, you are so mean.”

“Mom, mama, mommy, mamaamaaaaa!”

Sheesh.

It’s chaos and I parent the best I can through it.

My children remaining close, even though they are at that stage they want to kill each other, is an incredibly important goal to me. Why? Other than the obvious, I’ve witnessed the long suffering, the kind that you don’t ever get over, soul heavy pain of betrayal by blood. I don’t want that as my legacy.

I take what I’ve observed over the years about what defines real family and remind my kiddos of these things.

  • We tend to cling to family members that are transparent and accept us for being us
  • We eventually avoid those with a vengeance that have developed a long standing pattern of repeated harm
  • Just as in friendship, trust is earned.
  • Unlike friendship, trust and family tend to go hand in hand. Therefore, the disloyalty scars more deeply when dished out by a blood relative.
  • Going to church and claiming to be devout Christians has zero merit within family dynamics. We know how people really are when related. Actions validate…period.
  • Children remember so easily. To this day, I can pinpoint exact moments in my childhood where I felt unconditional love from some family members, conditional love from others or little to no love at all. Interesting how those feelings carry over into our adulthood.

I also tell them that families are a lot like marriages in that you have to work diligently to keep them together. As it takes two people and not just one to remain in a positive state of matrimony, the same goes for family. If one refuses to prioritize the relationship with respect and love, then a break up may be in store.

Since most everyone reading this will have family dysfunction of some sort they are dealing with, I say this:

What is the definition of family?

It’s a coveted title we give to those we place the highest value on and who value us the same in return. Family consists of individuals whom we have developed a mutual relationship of trust, respect and admiration.

If we have people that share our common ancestry, blood and DNA that don’t fit this definition, then the good news is that we get to choose others to become part of our family.

I choose, you choose and my children will learn to choose who gets placed in their inner circles. That close knit group of people we call “family.” My hope is that when they have grown into highly successful adults, when the baby daddy and I are gone, that nothing will sever their closeness: not distance, not wickedness, not spouses and certainly not money.

 

 

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The Time I Failed My Husband

There are some things that come super easy to do for our significant other. What makes my man happy? In our home, it’s me performing acts of service such as cooking, running errands and back scratches. Well, not so much back scratches anymore. Why? Three kids, one dog, all over me, all the time. Sorry babe. Get in line. 🙂

There are other things that I LOATH within my domestication arsenal. I mean, stuff I REALLY dislike doing in our home. I hate it so much that I literally put it off until the rack in the laundry room can hold no more. I don’t pay someone else to do it because, well, I’m a full-time mom and that makes me feel guilty. That wretched thing is IRONING people. It backfired on me this weekend though. I failed my husband. Here’s my story:

This weekend the baby daddy and I were able to get away for a wedding where our children were not invited. (Yassss! Thank you unnamed bride from heaven above. High five, fist bump.) We bolted out-of-town as fast as we could, cruised the interstate for a few hours and then joyfully checked into our King Suite hotel room. Ah…freedom!

We were getting all dolled up to go adult on a hot date and the father of my three children asked me. “Hey babe, can you please iron my shirt?”

I am under zero stress, it’s only one measly shirt and there is literally nothing else for me to do so I sarcastically say with a smile, “Sure! I love to iron and, also, I’m staying at a Holiday Inn Express.”

I whip out the ironing board from the closet, plug-in the iron, let it heat up for a few, grab the dress shirt and get to work. Shoulders done. Sleeves accomplished. Why don’t I do this more? It’s really not that bad when there’s no chaos going on.

Then, I move to the torso of the shirt. What the? The shirt is dirty! “Babe, why didn’t you have me wash this shirt before we left?” He replies, “well, I didn’t know if you would iron it or not.” Ok, solid burn. Point made.

I wash it as best I can under the circumstances and get it looking acceptable. I present the flawed merchandise to my beloved husband. My shock? He grins from ear to ear, is so appreciative and bear hugs me while thanking me profusely.

The next night, same thing. I whip out the iron, grab the shirt, start the process and I find that shirt also needed to be washed! I straight up hang my head in shame as I double-check all the creases and make sure the collar is crisp.

I think to myself, “how long has it really been since he threw a dress shirt in the laundry? Surely I would have taken care of it if I would have known. But wait, there is that one shirt he gave you that’s been hanging in the laundry room from five months waiting to be ironed.”

Gah! Reality came crashing down on me. My poor husband hasn’t been putting his shirts in the laundry because he doesn’t have the confidence in me that I will get it back in his closet cleaned and ironed in a timely manner! Just go ahead and slap the Scarlet Letter on my forehead and stone me in the city center. Oh the shame!

I felt so bad that, today, I went through every article of clothing in his closet, washed everything that was dirty or needed to be ironed and made it happen. It took all of seven hours to be exact because I’m not the most proficient ironer and, as always, had to multitask. I even put the clothes back in the closet. Say what?

I guess I say all this to point out the fact that sometimes the things we dislike doing the most are the very things that make our spouse feel loved and appreciated. Life goes by so fast with kids. We blink and literally it’s been months and we have neglected our spouse in some way.

As nerf bullets whiz by my face, the four-year old yells “get ’em daddy” and my eldest ducks behind the couch with his double barrel, I remember that I forgot to put up the four articles of freshly ironed clothing in one of the kid’s closets. I pause writing to knock that out before I forget.

Well, no good deed goes unpunished! Low and behold the dog has had an apparent accident of epic proportions and the kitchen still needs to be cleaned. For real? I’ve been a good wife today. That pup sure is cute but…”Honey, help!”

He delivers. We are both happy. In this moment, we have an exchange of teamwork and mutual appreciation. Marriage isn’t always this way but what a reminder of how good it is when we get it right.

I despise ironing but I’ll learn to “tolerate” it. Wink wink.

For love, marriage and unwrinkled clothes.

 

 

 

 

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