Nana Trip ~ It’s Tradition!

 

Labor Day is almost here and that means one important thing to me…Nana Trip!!! Every year since our first, precious grandkiddo arrived, my sweet husband has gifted me with an early birthday present trip. It’s a game of see the USA through my grandkids as they have lived all over the country. This year it is Washington, D. C. For me there is no agenda – I don’t need to see anything or do anything major – I just enjoy immersing myself into their lives and popping into their world for a few days. It doesn’t get any better than my only focus being playing, snuggling, reading, bath time, singing, etc. We make treasured memories and bond in a new way each visit.

I look forward to the trip all year and my husband buys my airplane ticket months in advance, building the anticipation even more. I am thankful for the gracious hosts of my son and his wife who make me feel welcome and special. I don’t take for granted this gift of grace and time and energy on their part. God is so good to me!

I even have a lovely purple carry-on Nana suitcase for such events. I now have my own messenger bag as well, but that wasn’t always the case. Five years ago as I set off on my first Nana Trip to Los Angeles, I experienced a traumatic event with TSA. Bill took me to the airport and saw me off in the terminal. He loaned me a computer bag, which had been used by several family members at various times. I had filled it with my computer, books, and snacks for the plane. I thought it was empty when I packed it.

So off I go to navigate TSA and try to look cool and not be a slowpoke. I filled the buckets with my belt, shoes, jacket…removed my computer and sent it off on its own, and sent my bags through the detector belt. I walked through the body detector with no pat-down needed. Whew…I had made it. Then, suddenly a harsh-speaking woman gruffly calls me to the end of the belt. She proceeds to pull out of the computer bag the biggest knife I have ever seen. I’m talking a bowie knife – at least 12 inches long. Seriously.

I start to panic – and I rarely panic. I’m talking full-on panic attack – can’t breathe, elephant on my chest attack. I choke out an apology and explanation that I had borrowed the bag and had NO idea the knife was there while the mean woman proceeded to convince me I was in serious trouble.

Now I’m starting to imagine going to jail, missing my flight, missing my Nana Trip…my head is swimming as I have no idea what’s going to happen to me. About that time a nice, reasonable supervisor responds to her loud exclamations about the knife. He took one look at me (I mean, really, do I LOOK like someone who would chop people up on an airplane?!) and began to attempt to encourage mean woman to retreat from her attack on me.

I continued to blabber how I didn’t know it was in there and I’m so sorry when he calmly asks me what he should do with the knife (from hell). I’m like – “just throw it away…I didn’t even know it was in there (for the hundredth time)” and, in true man-fashion he suggests the knife is expensive and someone might want to come and retrieve it.

“My husband…YES, my husband!” I suddenly remembered Bill was on his way to the car and tell the nice, reasonable man I will call him to come for the knife. Bill rescued me and returned, apologizing profusely and assuring me he didn’t know it was in the bag. Side note: no one wisely ever claimed putting the knife in the bag! I still have no idea how it got there.

The trip was saved and I made my flight and had a wonderful time – once I stopped shaking. Now I have my own lovely turquoise messenger bag no one else uses – ever!

One more side note to finish the story: ever since that flight we have had TSA pre-check when we fly. We don’t know how or why we have it, but we magically do. It may be due to security clearance through two of our sons’ Air Force security clearances. Whatever the reason – it eases the trauma I now feel with flying and I see it as a gift from God every time I fly.

Two more weeks!

Ecclesiastes 3   Amplified Bible

There is a season for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven—

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Missing the Mark

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If we are chronically unhappy with our offspring for missing the mark in life, maybe we need to make the mark clearer and more easily attained. If you always project you can do a task better – they’ll let you. For these frustrating seasons of inter-family dynamics, whether they be chores, school work, schedules, etc. I suggest simple lists and/or check-off sheets. When you create and use these tools the mark(s) in life suddenly become clearer and more easily measured.

In our family we used simple check-off sheets I created for multiple uses such as schoolwork (homework); chores; weekend projects; long-term goals, schedules – the list is endless. I simply created a Word document with a line for a check-mark on the left and the item to accomplish on the right:

______                        Take out the trash

______                        Read to your sister for 15 minutes

______                        Help Dad replace light bulbs

Each of the different personalities among our kids seemed to do well with this clear measurement of expectations. As moms, though, we tend to take on the martyr role at times and forget how important it is to make our needs/expectations clear. We get upset because what’s important to us doesn’t seem important to other members of our family. Then we tend to keep the bulls eye a secret, desire our family members to read our minds, become upset and sullen, and everyone feels punished.

Don’t expect your family to guess what is important to you, what you need, or how to do tasks. You will have to explain, teach, and show how to do jobs to meet your standards. It won’t usually “just happen”. Then you will probably have to relax in how the job turns out and resist the urge to go behind your little blessings and correct it to your standard. Pick your battles carefully and don’t nit-pick everything they do.

Remember, your family cares about you; they want to bless you and please you. They may not care if the trash is over flowing or the dust is an inch thick or every toy is on the floor – but they do care about pleasing you. So make your needs and expectations clear and measurable and more than likely your family will be glad to step-up and enjoy marking off those tasks!

Peacemaker versus Peace Seeker

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I prefer to avoid conflict at all cost. Insert four children. For years I prided myself on being a peace-seeking person. This simply meant I was a big chicken who would go around the block to avoid conflict. One day I learned Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, not the peace seekers. Ouch! The reality of that lesson and realizing the difference meant a life-adjustment for me. If the blessing comes in peacemaking, I decided I wanted to learn the skill.

My children provided me ample opportunity to practice this newly sought peacemaking skill. It meant I could no longer yell from another room, “Don’t fight with your brother!” I had to get in the middle of conflict and make peace. This included sitting with my children and listening to them to evaluate the problem and resolution. It might have meant a consequence where they had to work together at a task or maybe they simply had to apologize and hug. I love the new idea I see of the “get along shirt”, where children wear a large shirt that fits the both of them until they work out their problem and get along. I so wish I had thought of that.

It was easy for me to ignore and deny conflict around me. As a mom of four children I had become quite adept at tuning out the unpleasant. I had to purpose to press-in and tune-in to conflict and to be strong and courageous and not fear the gut-twisting emotion of conquering conflict. In time, with a deep breath and a cup of coffee I could handle most any conflict.

I continued to long for peace without all the “making”, so I always declared my birthday and mother’s day as “no conflict days”. Like that happened. There is less peace to need making at our house these days, but I am forever grateful for all I learned during those years of intense training in the art of peace making.

Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Tumultuous Teenagers

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The teenage years don’t have to equal an alien invasion into your home. So many changes happen in our child’s mind and body during the teenage years and we need to be educated and prepared to help them walk their individual path of growing into adulthood. Many times how we respond to these changes sets the stage for the atmospheric conditions in our family.

Life is a stage in this season with drama dancing across it regularly. As parents, we get to choose whether to react or respond. There is a calculated difference. When we react, our emotions take a central role. When we respond, we use reasoning and thoughtfulness. The difference usually equals time and patience. It may include leaving the room for a minute or thirty.

Life may be more dramatic with a female during the teenage years. Consider keeping a calendar of her menstrual cycle so you’re aware of when “those days” are coming. You can also forewarn the men in your family on the “extra grace needed” days. But, this only gives reason, not excuse, for attitude issues. Your daughter remains responsible for her words and actions and doesn’t have permission to be rude or disrespectful. An art to teach and we must set the example.

Boys tend to grow their buck antlers during the teenage years. They may become more independent and less open to sharing their life. Conflict with their father figure may increase as they naturally prepare to leave the nest. Give them space, but continue to press-in and be the loving, caring, interested mom they need.

If your teenager changes and becomes a person you hardly recognize, remember your responsibility and authority as a parent hasn’t changed. Household and family responsibilities should increase, not decrease during this time. Don’t avoid requiring their help because they are difficult. Consequences should continue on an appropriate level. If a cell phone is the culprit for negative issues, remember you own that phone which means it is a privilege, not a right. Take it away for a time-out if necessary – they won’t die and life will go on. Slamming a bedroom door, abusing time in the bedroom, hosting friends in the bedroom that go against family policy are all cause for consequence. Bedroom doors have hinges and can be removed for a time. It won’t be pretty, but these reminders will instill the truth that it is your home and you are in charge. Creative teenage consequences should be carried out with kindness and firmness – not ugly with yelling and words you wish you could retract. They will push your buttons – be ready.

During the teenage years at our house, we began using contract agreements to navigate changes in rules and guidelines. We wanted them to be part of making the new rules so we could refer back to them when challenges arose. We made use of the family meeting and discussed options about phone rules, curfew guidelines, ongoing chores, etc. Once we settled on the current plan they signed the contract in agreement. There was our plumb line in writing, co-authored and signed by the teenager.

Speaking of cell phones. Don’t let them run your life with your teenager. There are helpful parental controls today that allow you to set time limits on usage. Use them. Once you have decided on the rules together, set the controls accordingly. Make sure you see more than the tops of their heads each day. The drama of too much time on social media and texting breeds co-dependency.

Your teenagers will struggle with the desire to stay under your protective covering one second and fighting to be on their own the next. Make it your focus to maintain relationship with these ever-changing people; no matter what stage of craziness they are experiencing. They need you to be their rock-solid cornerstone. They need you to be healthy and confident in yourself and not expecting them to meet your needs.

As a mom of teenagers and beyond, my motto was and is to be available and “be there”. As your children grow-up their needs and neediness will be fewer and farther between, so it’s easy to move on in life and not stay tuned in. They still and always need us to be their mom and be available. We must be their biggest fan. Go to their events; even when they say you don’t need to attend. Even though you may be tired and just want to sit at home on the sofa. Be there – you’ll be glad you did. Be that obnoxious paparazzi mom. They may act like you’re weird, but in reality they will appreciate it, while their self-esteem is built knowing you think they’re amazing and you want the world to know.

Believe me, when your nest is empty you’ll have plenty of time to sit on the sofa and catch-up on your shows or rest. You won’t want to sit there wishing you hadn’t missed those special occasions.

There is no better time than now for a refresher course in your teenager’s love language. Ask them to take the survey again so you know how to effectively love them. The survey can be found online. Another idea is to have your family take the Myers Briggs personality test for a new level of understanding of each other. It may help you relax a bit about kids who spend more time in their room than with the family, once you discover they are an introvert and the behavior is normal. Do you have a teenager that can’t be roused in the morning, yet you regularly find them in your bed chatty and ready to talk about life at 10 pm while you’re dozing off? This teenager is probably an extrovert and also a night owl. Having an understanding of the various personality types will go a long way in achieving grace for one another.

Teenagers need to be reminded regularly that your love is unconditional and not based on what they do or don’t do or how they look or what they achieve in life. Tell them in each crisis that every little thing is gonna’ be all right. They need to hear this and you should be the first in line to say it.

Pray for wisdom in understanding and loving your teenager:

Proverbs 2:4 (NIV)

and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure”

 

If Ya Can’t Say Somethin’ Nice…

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How do you deal with discovering your family, or someone in your family, has slipped into a habit of grumbling and complaining? One of life’s greatest quotes and lessons comes from the movie, Bambi, when Thumper’s mother asks him what his father told him that morning: “If ya can’t say somethin’ nice…don’t say nothin’ at all”. This is a great motto for families to adopt and maintain in regards to attitude.

Everyone struggles with slipping into a negative mood at times. Every age, personality type and gender hit spots in life that cause grumbling and complaining. As a family we need to be accountable to one another with our attitudes. No one knows us better or loves us more than our family. Sometimes we need a boost or restart to inspire a family attitude adjustment. I have seen families adopt a constant reminder, such as a bracelet everyone wears, that brings to mind every time it is noticed to cease complaining. Your creativity could go wild with ideas to make this attitude adjustment fun for your family.

I also encourage you to consider if there is media overload going on in your home when you sense complaining has increased. If news is constantly ringing through your house, that could be a cause of attitude issues. We noticed some electronic games caused negative attitudes in our home. Limits should be set for electronic input in your home…including and especially in the kiddo bedrooms. Don’t allow the television to constantly ring through the house. If this is a habit, try a week with limits and see how attitudes improve.

And, once again, we as parents must lead out by good example in the quest against grumbling and complaining. Monkey see, monkey do!

Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

You’re Going to Do What?

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At times our adult children make life choices that cause us to scratch our head and say, “Really?!”. How we respond to these scenarios will be crucial in maintaining positive relationships. It is important to remember our position in their lives at this point.

Once our children are on their own, navigating the playing field of life, our position as a parent changes. We are no longer in the coach or quarterback position, but should move into a cheerleader or trainer position. We should no longer call the shots or direct the plays in their life. A cheerleader stands to the sideline and encourages – whether the players are winning or losing. A trainer is there with a cool drink and bandages to help when needed.

Be available for consultation when asked. Did you catch that – when asked! If your adult child asks for input, be ready with a positive response that will make them think without appearing controlling or judgmental:

Have you thought about…?

One thing to consider…

How will you handle…?

As opposed to:

Are you crazy?!

That will never work.

What are you thinking?!

If you struggle with worrying about the outcome, a good phrase to ponder is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” We have lived on this earth longer and probably know what is best for our children at any age. Once they are adults it is an art to watch a possible disaster scenario and be who they need for the particular time and chapter. Pray for wisdom!

James 1:5 Amplified Bible

If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.

 

 

Where Do Babies Come From?

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Important life questions always seemed to come up in the car – when I couldn’t get away or avoid answering. How do we answer the tough questions our kids throw at us at the most inopportune time?

We should be honest and answer only as much as they need to know at their level of maturity and understanding. Sometimes as adults we make the subject too broad and give more information than they are really asking. Give a simple, concise answer and see if that satisfies their curiosity. If they want to know more on the subject we can give more, simple details and offer to get a book on their level to study the subject together.

We shouldn’t act embarrassed or weird when the questions come as this causes children to feel shame for asking. Children need to see us model honesty and observe us explain that if we don’t know something, we’ll find the answer for them. Good parenting doesn’t include being a know-it-all, but it should include investing the time to really hear our children and respond honestly and appropriately.

If you are concerned the level of tough questions your child is asking seem inappropriate for their age, I encourage you to choose entertainment and friends wisely. Any input into their lives should be carefully monitored when they are young (and beyond). Protect them from being inundated with information beyond their ability to process and understand.

In regards the “where do babies come from” question, I suggest the following excellent resources:

The Wonderful Way Babies Are Made

By Larry Christenson

Description: Teach your children about families, babies, and sexual intimacy from a joyful Christian perspective! Updated with soft watercolor illustrations and a section affirming adoption, Pastor Christenson’s thoughtful classic helps you convey a positive, biblical overview of sexuality using read-aloud rhyming text (for ages 3 to 8) and in-depth informational sidebars (age-appropriate for ages 9 and up). 48 pages, hardcover from Bethany.

And…

A Child is Born

By Lennart Nilsson

Description: In this latest edition of a classic originally published almost 40 years ago, photographer Nilsson and obstetrician Hamberger explore the miracle of birth, from attraction between a man and a woman to fertilization, pregnancy, labor and delivery; they also discuss infertility and developments in IVF and other treatments. Over 350 new photographs have been added to the fourth edition, including in utero pictures captured with endoscopy and three-dimensional ultrasound technology. Nilsson zooms in on sperm racing towards the egg, the brand-new zygote, the embryo clinging to the lining of the uterus, a tadpole-like fetus and the remarkably developed ear of a 18-week old fetus, among other moments in the process of human reproduction. With Hamberger’s updated text on guidance for new parents, progress in fertility treatments, genetics and pregnancy health, the volume should continue to be a vivid reference for the whole family.

Happy question answering…you can do it!

What Language Are You Speaking?

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Children rise to the expectation of their parents. The flipside of this statement is also true – children lower themselves to the expectation of their parents. What determines the altitude at which our children choose to live? I believe what we speak over our children and into their lives greatly affect their attitude altitude. Children believe what we speak over them – the good and the bad.

I love the part in the book and movie, The Help, where she speaks into the child’s life over and over: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. She is speaking not only what she sees, but also what she wants the child to believe about herself. We need to be about this as parents. When you see something positive in your child’s life, say it – don’t just think it…they can’t read your mind!

Another way to invest in a child’s self-concept is to learn what their love language(s) is and speak it. One of the toughest parts of parenting is that children don’t come with an instruction manual. We have to be students of them and of resources available in order to be successful in raising confident, positive, secure children in today’s world.

Study each child to learn what his or her specific love language is. Speaking their love language will equal love. You can attempt to show love all day long in the way you would prefer to be loved, but that won’t equal love to them if it is not their preferred love language. The five love languages are: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts.

A resource for learning more on this subject is the book The 5 Love Languages for Children by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell. Other resources are available, including games to determine your child’s love language. Here is a description of the book:

Children need to feel loved to best succeed. But if you and your children speak different love languages, your display of love might get lost in translation–affecting your child’s attitude, behavior, and development.

In The 5 Love Languages of Children, Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell M.D. have applied the innovative system of the 5 love languages to children. This easy-to-read resource gives practical suggestions for understanding how your child gives, receives, and interprets love.

Through real life examples, this book will help you discern your child’s love language and learn how to create a secure environment in which he or she can thrive. Discover how to successfully express your respect, affection, and commitment to your child, and notice the improvement in his or her behavior and in your relationship.

 

…and the greatest of these is Love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

Little White Lie

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Oh be careful little ears what you hear

We teach our children not to lie because lying is a bad thing that can lead to serious life consequences. But do we teach our children not to believe lies, as well? This is an important life skill that is usually not addressed in the training of our children. The best way to lead out in this is to be adept at it ourselves.

Our children will be inundated with lies in every arena of their lives. They need to be marksmen at identifying them and shooting lies down before they reach their little hearts. We need to teach them to take up the shield of faith, with which they can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Being skilled at this concept will improve their self-esteem as we teach them who they are in Christ.

Lies from people can be damaging and can separate us from what we know to be true, but lies from our arch-enemy in the spiritual world can be the most destructive in our lives. Lies are Satan’s weapon of mass destruction. I never knew this more than when our older two boys were young. We lived in California during their toddler/preschool years. During this time my husband travelled about half the month, leaving me home with two small children. I struggled personally during this time and was challenged by a dear friend to identify what lie I was believing when I began to spiral down.

So the next time I experienced the emotional spiral I was tuned in and recognized the culprit. The enemy would say to me, “You’re a bad mother.” That was a lie – I wasn’t a bad mother, but it worked – every time – until I began to identify it and call it out as a lie and renounce its power over me. Wow, what an incredible difference once I realized I was in control and could reverse this habit!

When you hear your little blessing repeat something you know is not true – stop right there, whatever you’re doing, and tell them, “That is a lie. The truth is…”. Practicing this will develop a lifelong habit in their life that will help them stay on the high road.

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Five Minute Warning

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Kids are complex creatures with simple needs. They need structure and to know you’re in charge, but they also need control over their lives at every age/stage. Everything doesn’t have to be a battle! One way we found to conquer this tug-of-war was to give a five minute warning and use a timer many times each day. When our kids knew what to expect, they were better obeyers.

It went something like this:

You have five minutes to play and then it’s bath time.

We are leaving in five minutes, so finish what you’re doing and be ready.

I need you to finish that job, assignment, game, etc. in five minutes.

We have to stop the movie in five minutes – but we can finish it later.

And on and on

We usually set a kitchen timer, but now phone timers may be easier. It’s helpful for kids to see the timer so they can gauge how much time they have left. This helps them feel in control of their little world. Some kids are more easy-going and go with the flow, but most need specific boundaries and to know what to expect. If they feel in control, they won’t act so out of control.

Another way to help kids feel in control is choices. Give them choices instead of just commanding one way on everything. As parents we do know what’s best for our children, but we are raising them to be independent people who can make their own decisions, so we should start that process early. A practical way to do this includes clothing choices. If you are home for the day, I encourage letting children make their own selections for what to wear (within reason, of course). But if you’re going out and need them to dress appropriately, consider laying out two outfit selections, both of which you approve for the occasion, but still allowing the little blessings to choose what they wear. Then it’s a win/win.

So choose your battles wisely and don’t make everything a war. Life is hard enough.