Too High or Too Low…Beware of Setting Irrational Holiday Expectations (and 6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset)

too high or too low

We’ve all done it. We develop expectations of our children, friends, family and of events only to be disappointed.

It could be an event we’re attending, or one we’re hosting.

It starts innocently. We pencil in a date on a calendar to go on a date, celebrate with family, attend an event, or just spend time with friends or family. We get excited.

Don’t get me wrong, being excited is a GOOD thing. In fact, if I’m spending time with someone, I WANT to look forward to it.

BUT. Sometimes, this excitement transforms into something unpleasant…and sometimes, into something downright ugly.

In our excitement, we start thinking of all the fun things that can happen,  and how lovely we will feel. Of course, we assume everyone there will be just as excited as us.

That would be a good place to STOP.

But often, we start to get carried away. We begin to assume that our version of events is what will work best for everyone. We jump down a rabbit hole and imagine everything we anticipate in vivid color. Our imagination skews the event to fit our personal desires and we anticipate something PERFECT.

Perfect is a dangerous word.

Perhaps we think our children will be elated with an activity, even if they’ve never done it before. We just know our family will make lasting memories and how everyone will never forget them.

Of course, everyone will be on their best behavior, our daughter will nap, and even if the kids go to bed late, it will be fine because everyone is having SO. Very. Much. FUN!

This daydream becomes our EXPECTATION for real life.

These types of expectations are not just silly, they are irrational.

Now, if something goes wrong, we’ve built things up in our mind so much that we may now find ourselves in the place of disappointment. We may end up trying to make others do our bidding, instead of just enjoying the moments as they happen.

OR, conversely, maybe the problem is not perfect expectations, but no expectation at all. Sometimes, we have such low expectations we assume NOTHING will go well, and we dread the event all together.

Do you ever find yourself dreading an event? Perhaps you booked it a while ago and now you don’t feel like going. Or maybe you booked so many things that now the next event just feels like just a hassle. Perhaps it is across town, late at night, or you are tired from a long week and just want to stay home.

There is plenty of danger here too.

When we expect the worst, we are likely to show up with such a poor attitude, that we may rob others of joy. We put ourselves in the mindset that something will NOT be fun, and then we’re surprised when we do not have fun.

We may take for granted, and poison someone’s efforts, good intentions and goodwill. 

Bad attitudes are infectious.

So what ARE we to do? I think there are a few practical tips we can follow.

6 Tips

6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset:

1. Choose to Have Fun

Walk into the event with an attitude that YOU will choose to have fun, regardless of what happens. No matter how many daydreams you’ve perfected, set them aside and CHOOSE joy, regardless of what happens, who comes (or doesn’t come), who throws a tantrum, or who leaves early. If you’ve simply decided the event will not be fun, stop, check your bad attitude at the door, and CHOOSE to go into it with an open mind, and to find something or someone you enjoy. Remember, Christmas isn’t about you, or your family, or your friends…it is about JESUS. Having that in mind will make it hard to be focused on your desires. Also, be wary of dragging others into your poor expectations, because it will be more difficult to break free and enjoy yourself while you’re commiserating with someone else. Find someone who is having fun, and join in their fun. Misery loves company, but so does JOY!

2. Leave Room For Spontaneity

While is nice to have some back up activities or ice breakers to use in case the party gets slow, don’t have everything so planned out that you leave no room for spontaneity. Go with the flow and don’t force something that seems to put a halt to good that’s already happening. Be open to others ideas and suggestions and if you don’t get to everything, be OK with it. Put your efforts into helping everyone else have fun, and you will too!

3. Laugh It Off

Often times, the worst thing you imagine happening (a burnt dinner, saying the wrong thing, or something else totally unexpected) becomes a topic for laughter for years to come. It’s all about how you handle it. Sometimes it is hard when something we worked hard on doesn’t turn out, or we find ourselves embarrassed. But, it can be done, regardless of what happens. When something goes wrong (and let’s be honest, something will go wrong), choose to make light of it, and move on to enjoying the moment.

4.  It’s Not About the Event, It’s About The Company

It isn’t about the perfect meal, activity, or gift. The joy is in the people who are there with you. Spend time with THEM instead of analyzing whether your plan is going well or if they are living up to any expectation you may have had. All these people came to the event and most of them are probably in a pretty good mood and hoping to have fun.

5. When It Comes to Children, Expect NOTHING!

Two years ago we took our son to Big Truck Day. He loves trucks and we expected him to be elated, to laugh, and to, well, love it. What happened? He cried most of the time, overwhelmed by all the people and noise, and we left with him screaming when he saw a person dressed up like Curious George (who was apparently TERRIFYING). Just because the idea is well-intention-ed and seems like a great fit, doesn’t mean a child will see it the same way you do. And, anytime sleep is lost, or over-stimulation is possible, give them a lot of room to act however they are feeling. Instead, take a step back and let their reaction surprise you, and marvel at how unique they are.

6. Be OK Staying Home, or Leaving Early

Just because you scheduled it doesn’t mean you have to go. Sometimes we have simply over-committed and taking a little time at home may be enough to set your mood right for the rest of the season. So, if your kids are over-tired, over-stimulated, ill, or if YOU are in that same place, it is OK to just stay home. It is your choice to attend or not. The people who invited you to the event love you, and while they want you there, they will understand if you can’t come. Be respectful: use tact, and honesty, and communicate using your VOICE not a text message or email. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable not attending. That is OK too. Go with an open mind, have fun for a while, and then bow out early. Or, if you find yourself where your children are falling apart, or you are falling apart or are detracting from the mood of the event, call it a night.

The Wonder Of It All – Mary’s Response

Behold

Since having children, the bible passages telling of Jesus’ birth have become a different kind of real.

The experience of pregnancy, the expectant waiting, the joy and heart-stopping love at their birth that took me by surprise – even with our second child, and the daily blessing of watching each child grow and develop gives new perspective of the beauty of God’s plan with Jesus.

As a mother, I find myself trying to step into Mary’s shoes. I find myself wondering how she was so obedient, so in agreement with God’s will for her that when the angel came and told her that she would have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, her response was so simple, bold, and profound:

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38 (The Holy Bible, ESV, emphasis added)

We are not told much about Mary before this occurrence, but I think it is reasonable to assume that she was God-fearing, humble, and willing to serve Him in any way He asked. I have no idea what life experiences and truths she had of God that made her this way. And yet, she did.

Lets be clear: the words spoken by the angel must have been amazing, but they must have also been equally terrifying. She, a virgin, was going to be a mother. She didn’t get to plan for it. I’m sure her heart was pounding, and the sheer shock of the angels presence would have done as much. But his message would have been perplexing, frightening, shocking, and wondrous all at once.

When my husband and I were ready to have our first child, we were in agreement that we were ‘ready’. We believe each child is a miracle, and created intentionally by the hands of a loving, creative, and skillful God. We ultimately knew it was up to God’s timing, but as a couple, we had entered a place in life where we were open to it, and were expecting it to happen. Even then, when that pregnancy test was positive, it was easily one of the most exciting and scary moments of my life.

I cannot even begin to fathom how it would have felt if an angel had, first of all, appeared (that alone is unfathomable to me), and then spoke such words. I can’t imagine being told while I was unmarried that I was going to become pregnant.

By the Holy Spirit.

Whoa.

With God’s son.

The words must have stolen her breath.

We are told she was ‘greatly troubled’ (Luke 1:29) by the angels presence and greeting – BEFORE even speaking about pregnancy. We don’t get a description of how those words left her.

And perhaps it is because there are no words to describe it.

Surely, greatly troubled is not broad enough of a term to accurately describe the immensity of the emotions and questions she must have experienced. If I can’t get my head around it, how could she?

I can only believe she was empowered by her faith and that God’s peace was poured out to her in its fullest measure.

When she responded, she couldn’t have known that Joseph would also be visited by an angel and that he, too, would be obedient and believe her, and the angel. She was simply open to God’s plan for her life, and trusted He would work out the details.

Thinking of her, I find myself questioning my own faith and obedience. I question my need to know all the details, and if the often, much-too-analytic-thinking part of my brain would be my detriment.

I wonder if I would have been more like Zechariah who doubted and questioned the angel (Luke 1:18-25) when he was told that Elizabeth would have a baby. And let’s be clear: Zechariah was a priest and knew and served the Lord. His doubt is nothing to criticize. It was a moment of doubt, in a life of service to God.

He just wanted to know MORE, and like me, he wanted something concrete to grab onto. I see this tendency in myself. But who am I to think that God needs to prove Himself or share all the details of His plan with ME?

While it is comforting that God still used Zechariah despite his moment of doubt, blessing his family with John, it leaves me wanting to be sure my heart is ready to respond with the humble, bold faith of Mary.

Zechariah reminds me that God has a purpose for me, and that any day, any moment, I could be called to serve Him in a way I don’t expect or understand.

Mary’s response is surely why God chose her for this special job; He knew her heart. She could have chosen to reply in any way she wanted to.

She chose to completely surrender her life to God. She was open to His leading, and not so caught up with her worldly life that she couldn’t see past it.

It takes my breath away.

Her path of obedience was not easy, and one could argue it was certainly not logical. The social repercussions of an unwed pregnancy could have been life-ending, but she risked it all and trusted God to take care of her.

She birthed Jesus.

Mary held our savior in her arms and loved Him as only a mother can, but also with the knowledge that He was a true miracle. A gift.

She then did her best to raise God’s own son.

Imagine the complex feelings and challenges of raising the son of God!

Parenting often leads me to see my own shortcomings. Does this happen to you too? Can you imagine the shortcomings that would become evident if you were parenting the perfect and sinless child? His perfection could only show our imperfection. And yet we know he was gracious, kind and gentle. I am sure He was all of these things with His mother.

Talk about true sanctification. I’m sure the process was often painful, and always humbling. And yet, she served the Lord, willingly.

As a result, she was blessed to be the His mother. She was close to the son of God before His ministry began. She knows all those details about Him and His life that the Bible does not record. Precious things. She knew of His true origin, and of the truth of His perfect and righteous character.

I have no doubt she knew He was without sin and marveled at His wisdom.

Can you imagine all SHE learned from Him?

While I do not believe that Mary is worthy of our worship, I certainly believe she presents a worthy example of a woman of faith to emulate.

This Christmas season, I’m looking to increase my faith and be willing to be bold and obey whatever He asks of ME.

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Our son turned 4 on Halloween and we celebrated the occasion with a dinosaur birthday party. I’ve already shared the DIY dinosaur decorations, and will follow up soon with invitations and party favors. Today’s post is dedicated to food.

Brunch is a great option for a kids birthday party. We invited 3 to 6 year old kids and their families, which included many younger siblings. Brunch allowed us to start at 10 am, and be done at 1 pm, just in time for afternoon naps. Brunch is also a good option because baked goods, eggs, and chicken salad can be made inexpensively, be made a day ahead, and provide a great variety for even the pickiest eater.

The meal needed to:

  • accommodate both kids and adults, including a few picky eaters…
  • be completely nut-free to accommodate a peanut and tree nut allergy
  • include some dairy-free options
  • be plentiful and filling enough to feed a crowd of 14 kids and 20 adults
  • be able to be prepared a day ahead, with minimal prep time
  • be easy to set out and finish up the morning of the party

Our dinosaur birthday brunch & dessert included the following foods and beverages – bold items are described in further detail below.

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Brunch

  • 4 Varieties of Muffins
  • 3 Different Egg Frittatas
  • Chicken Salad and rolls
  • Dinosaur Juice-Jello Jigglers
  • White Cheddar Pirates Booty
  • Veggies and Dip (cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots sliced thinly, and cherry tomatoes)
  • Grapes (because there were NO watermelons at 3 stores! Otherwise we were going to make a dino-head from the rhine like this one – sad it didn’t work out)

Dessert

  • Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs
  • Brownies and rice crispy treats

Beverages

  • Mini Apple Juice boxes
  • Coffee
  • Sparkling Water
  • Ice Water
  • Orange Juice
  • Dinosaur Ice Cubes

 

Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

We made Cinnamon Streusel, Lemon poppy-seed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins. Even though these could have been made ahead, we made them the morning of the party. It took under an hour using 2 ovens, and made our house smell delicious as guests arrived. Looking back, this was too many muffins; next time, for a group this size, I’d just make 3 flavors (skip the Lemon poppy-seed – the only flavor hardly eaten).

 

Egg Frittatas – Spinach & Sausage, Ham & Cheese, and Plain egg

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Egg frittatas are inexpensive, simple, healthy, and look great on a platter. You can mix and match fillings to your liking. These can be cooked a day ahead; just cool, wrap with foil and store in the fridge. Reheat in the oven at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, or until warmed through.The recipe recommends to serve at warm or room temperature, so they’ll still taste great even if they’re not piping hot when eaten.

Overall, these fritattas were liked by both kids and adults. Ham & Cheese was the clear favorite and was gone long before the others.

All three recipes were adapted from this recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Healthy In A Hurry Cookbook, as follows:

  • Spinach and Sausage Frittata: substituted spinach for arugula, omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and substituted rice milk for dairy milk to make it dairy free
  • Ham and Cheese Frittata: substituted 8 oz ham for sausage, and added 1 cup cheddar cheese (omitted sausage, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese)
  • Plain Frittata: omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sausage and arugula.

 

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is a go-to recipe for me when hosting brunch and lunch. It is easy to prepare, can be made the day before (just wait to add the apple until the day-of), and can be eaten alone or on a roll as a sandwich. Using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise creates a great healthy option. Kids and adults will enjoy the fruit and veggies that make every bite a little different.

This salad was prepared using the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (from Costco – they’re huge!), 1 cup dried tart cherries or crasins, 1 chopped large apple (I used honey crisp), 2 diced stalks of celery, 2 chopped green onions (green only),  1/4 tsp dill weed, salt & pepper to taste, mayonnaise or plain greek yogurt to desired consistency, and a drizzle of honey, to taste. If you want it just a little sweeter, add some chopped grapes just before serving.

 

Dinosaur Juice Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jello Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jigglers

What child doesn’t love jello, especially when dinosaur shaped? When made with 100% juice, they’re a pretty great option for parents too. Two flavors of juice gelatin (100% White Grape Juice and Apple Cider) were made and cut out with T-Rex and Triceratops cookie cutters. In hindsight, I wish I’d used something with a brighter color so they looked a little more fun. Just buy plain Gelatin and follow the package instructions.

 

Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

I’m not much of a baker and it can be a challenge sometimes to find a cake that is nut-free, so I was really excited to see the idea for these Dino-Dig Jars on Two Prince Blog. We filled our cups with chocolate pudding, crushed O cookies, and put two Hairbo Gummy Dinosaurs (nut free if you buy the factory-sealed bag) on top. This no-hassle, nut-free dessert was a hit with the kids. We also set out the gummy dinosaur candy, brownies and rice crispy treats for parents and kids who didn’t want a dig-jar.

Tip: The only problem with this dessert was when my son went to blow out his candle, the Oreo cookie ‘dust’ blew back into his face and all over the table. May want to mix the cookies into your child’s cup if doing candles so they don’t blow cookie crumbs into their eyes.

 

Dinosaur Ice Cubes

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

I found this idea for dinosaur ice cubes on Pinterest. I found these tiny dinosaurs in the Dollar Spot at Target (20/bag-a STEAL compared to other stores), washed them, and made a set of 12 cubes for the party. These dinosaurs floated when water was added to the tin, so ice cubes were made by filling each tin half-way, freezing, then adding water and freezing again so the dinosaurs were mostly encased in ice.

Clear cups with lids and colored straws were provided so the kids could see their dinosaur melt from the ice during the party.

 

 

Our dinosaur party brunch was delicious, and required minimal effort the day of the party. The food was enjoyed by toddlers, preschoolers and parents. Here are a few more pictures of everything the day of the party.

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Desserts

Desserts

Happy Celebrating!

 

 

 

7 Tips For Moms When Your Spouse Travels For Work

spouse travel

Whether you stay at home with your kids, or work during the day, life is just a BIT more complicated when your spouse travels for work. Suddenly, your parenting partner is unavailable during evening hours, and your kids are missing their daddy (all while YOU are missing your spouse!).

A traveling spouse means you’re IT. You and the kids are on your own for meals, activities, bedtime and emergencies.

Per Murphy’s Law, SOMETHING unplanned will happen. At our house, it’s usually a sick child. I’m not sure how this happens, but literally, the moment my husband’s plane leaves the ground, one of my previously healthy children falls ill.

Almost. Every. Time.

Weeks without daddy can be especially difficult when a child is ill. Now, no one is getting out of the house. This means no adult interaction for the mama, and no alternative entertainment from friends, family, school, or activities.

Whether everything goes as planned, or not, here are some practical tips for thriving when we’re the one on our own with our little ones.

 

7 Tips For Moms While Your Spouse Travels For Work

1. Practice Gratitude

I know, I know, you’ve seen me write this before. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but for me, it’s crucial. My situation looks mighty different when I look though a lens of gratitude for all the blessings God has provided to our family, and specifically, to me.

When the weeks or days (or HOURS) get long, remember to be grateful that your spouse HAS a job (hopefully one they enjoy and are challenged by). Savor that your kids are amazing, and that you have the chance to see them every day (and acknowledge that your traveling spouse does not get to)

If you’re a stay-at-home mama, be grateful YOU CAN. It is a special privilege not given to many.

2. Be Flexible

When my husband will be gone, activities have two purposes: to entertain the kids and to give me a little break. Our schedule is selective and is sometimes designed specifically to save my sanity. But, even a well planned schedule has pitfalls; illnesses and cancellations happen. I can’t rely on a carefully planned schedule alone to carry me through the week.

It can be disheartening when you can’t go to activities. WHEN it happens, remember that as the parent, YOU are the one who sets the tone. Bad attitudes are particularly infectious.

BRIEFLY acknowledge your own disappointment and theirs. Console. Then, adapt and move on. SHOW your kids how to be flexible. Even if you ‘fake’ a good attitude at the beginning because you are discouraged, as they cheer up, so will you.

3. Soak It Up

When one parent is gone, you’re IT. You are on-demand. You are needed and wanted possibly more than you’d rather.

When daddy is gone, my kids are more attached to me than usual. They have been known to start getting upset when I leave the room for just a second, and suddenly a bathroom break causes chaos. Sometimes all that attention makes me want to just run away and find a closet to hide in. Even for just. ONE. minute.

When I feel smothered, it helps to remind myself that the kids miss their daddy, and that I need to extend extra grace. I intentionally lower my voice and try to speak gently, even when I’m feeling emotionally raw. I do my best to welcome their requests to be close (as in hugging-my-leg-the-entire-time-I-make-dinner ‘close’). The more available I am, the better their behavior, overall.

So, set those dishes down, leave the crumbs on the floor, and let those little ones climb into your lap. Read to them until you’re hoarse. Love them up, and enjoy every second of it. It may sound cliche, but it really WON’T be this way forever. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that these moments are fleeting, even if they feel like they’re taking For..ever.

Let their demand for more of you FILL your soul rather than drain it.

4. Check Your Perspective

During a two-week stretch when the kids and I were all sick and stuck inside, I had a moment of intense jealousy of my traveling husband.

Sure, traveling to Bangkok may sound glamorous, but 30+ hours of travel in a MIDDLE seat, then enduring wicked jet-lag, and FULL days of business meetings (with maybe 2 hours of sight-seeing during an entire week) is just NOT enviable…THEN traveling to Amsterdam with full days of meetings, even more jet-lag for another week, (also with little-or-no sightseeing)…THEN coming home to sick kids and a sick wife….taking care of them while enduring MORE jet-lag….IS. NOT. FUN. It just isn’t. Then after one day home (taking care of us), he was back at work, exhausted, and bombarded with people and problems who needed him. NOW.

My jealousy was absurd and unfair. My bad attitude didn’t help me be patient with the kids (which is why one of my first blog posts was about patience), and I felt drained, cranky and tired. If you start to feel this way, and you think life is more pleasant for your traveling spouse, step back and be honest about what traveling for work is REALLY like. Trust me, the grass is NOT greener on the other side and it isn’t as glamorous as you may assume.

Kick that jealousy to the curb and be grateful you endured your week without jet-lag, and that you slept in your own comfy bed.

5. Stay Connected

Whether you are getting out of the house or not, find ways to stay connected with your spouse, friends and family. Set phone and skype dates with your spouse and KEEP THEM (even if just for 5 minutes). Do the same with friends if you can’t get out because your kids are sick. When healthy, accept invites with friends and setup play dates, or meet a friend to go for a walk or to the park. If you have family in the area, quality time with beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles can work miracles with children who miss their daddy and need some extra loving. And, don’t let being BUSY while your spouse is gone deprive you of your quiet time with the Lord. Staying connected there will remedy a whole lot of problems and leave you feeling refreshed in the midst of what may be chaos.

6. Find An Outlet

Regardless of your next ‘break’ out of the house, you need to find something that gives you a ‘mental’ break. FIND an outlet that energizes and restores you. Look for something to learn, read, do, make, exercise or play. Doing something productive is always a bonus and mood booster.

For me, one of the things that came out of my husband’s travel is this blog. The blog was and IS STILL a necessary outlet for me to write down thoughts. It encourages me to DO something productive and stop vegging out on the couch, eating junk food, and watching garbage TV at night. I do hope you enjoy reading this, but in reality, this blog is for ME (Selfish, I know). I’ve also found an outlet doing some part time work from home, and in craft or DIY projects while the kids are asleep.

7. Ask For, and Accept Help

This is not one of my strong suits…but important to acknowledge and DO! We all need help. Admit it. Accept it. Ask family, friends, or hire a baby sitter if you have to. When someone offers, take them up on it. Also check around your community for other forms of help:

  • Check into events that can lighten your load: See if your church, (or a local church near you) does a meal any night of the week – they often have children’s programming that the kids can attend for FREE. Everyone benefits.
  • Utilize the child care at your gym to give yourself an hour break and to work out: Your body and attitude will thank you.
  • Consider identifying a daycare source if you need somewhere for the kids to go in a pinch: There are some pay-by-the hour places, and some companies have backup daycare for children of employees. Get the paperwork in order, so it is available if you need it.
  • This might be a good time to take advantage of ECFE, Parks and Recreation, and Community Education programs in your area.
  • Check out things like open gym, open swim, or other similar activities that can let your kids play while you watch, sipping a coffee.

 

At times, the schedule may seem grueling and the days may sometimes feel like they go on forever, but we can still do our job as a mom WELL and enjoy it whether our spouse is in town or not. The trips aren’t stopping for us anytime soon, so I would love to know your best tips. What do you do to make the most of the days when you’re on your own with the kids?

Thrive

My Thoughts On Riots…More Heartbreak…More Damage

In wake of recent events, I think few of us have escaped the images on our screens and newspapers after the rioting broke out. No matter what your view of the Ferguson decision is, I think we can all agree that the rioting is heartbreaking. News stories like these grab the attention of even the most sheltered news consumer.

I have often been guilty of turning off the TV during times like these. To shut it out and pretend it isn’t happening. My life is easier that way. My soul, lighter. But this summer the news of persecution in Iraq threw me for a loop and I was challenged to approach difficult news differently. While I don’t write about emotionally charged topics like these often, sometimes I can’t sleep until I do. In fact, I’ve written and rewritten this post several times, searching for peace-of-mind over these events in the haven of writing. Here are my thoughts and reflections – I apologize in advance that they are a bit jumbled; this is hard to wrap my head around.

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, “ri·ot (noun): is a situation in which a large group of people behave in a violent and uncontrolled way”

I guess if rioting had a purpose, it would be to attract attention. So, in that way, I guess the rioters in Ferguson achieved their purpose.

Attention.

However, I must say, the effectiveness of rioting goes no further. The kind of attention they have drawn does nothing for their ’cause’.

Now, I am a suburb-living, stay-at-home mom, living a generally sheltered life. So let me be CLEAR that I make ZERO claim to know whether this decision served justice or not. It is not mine to decide and I am so far removed that I would consider myself far too ignorant to pass judgement. Please don’t read into these words as me saying what was right or wrong about the incident that sparked these riots. What I am pondering here is the riot that ensued. What I know is that what has resulted from the decision is utter chaos.

And yes, rioters, we are ALL seeing this; WE SEE YOU.

But instead of making me want to understand what has transpired, and who has been hurt and why, I find myself shrinking back, and just SAD. This behavior isn’t going to change or fix anything. A riot is painful to watch; painful to ponder.

Damage being done to the physical property of residents of the community, BY other residents. And to what end? Neighbor against neighbor. Creating a greater rift between the people and those who swear to protect it. And which of those store owners who were looted were involved in the event that sparked this? On what planet did their store and livelihood deserve to be the punching bag for your unleashed anger?

Where healing is needed…an already deep wound is instead ripped open. Exposed. Infected.

Uncontrolled anger and hate is a tangled and sticky web, snatching up more as it spreads. Those whose lives were already at risk serving the people are at even greater risk of harm.  In danger, just because of their uniform as people stew in emotion.  A riot can begin from just ONE person, intent on violence. I wonder if those who began this riot were trying to express an opinion, or just to stir up trouble and cause chaos? I wonder if the decision had been different if the riot would have occurred anyway?

Whether the anger and hurt are justified or not, these actions are NOT.

I’m sure some who joined in the chaos did so because they got swept up in the moment and did what others were doing.  I’m guessing many ended up where they maybe didn’t intend to be. These hurt, frustrated, and at-the-end-of-their-rope people rioting in the streets, requiring force to be subdued to restore the peace. People finding themselves arrested. Jailed. Now a part of criminal acts against their own city. For many, a city they actually love.

Was it worth it?

As the national guard and police restore the calm…the peace is fleeting. A mask. Covering the swell of emotion, rising up, and uncontrolled. Deep rooted. Bubbling over. What has been accomplished here? Nothing. Just more damage.

The damage is much more than bruises, burned cars, and broken glass. The cost is higher than the insurance claims. Riots perpetuate despair. Afterwards, all eyes have seen the emotions, but little has been accomplished. Now those who have felt wronged are seen as wrong.  Their purpose of being seen has certainly been accomplished, but they’ve tarnished our empathy. The problem isn’t their emotions; they may have been justified in feeling hurt, angry, bitter. In fact, I have no doubt that the emotion they felt was powerful and painful and awful…it was the ACTIONS that were born out of those emotions that were not right.

Now they have taken what is already a deep-seated issue that needs miraculous healing and have made it worse. Adding to the pain. Adding to the fear. Adding to the damage. Collateral damage. There was no healing here. No pain was relieved. Instead, this historical, emotional pain leaves another physical scar.

And it breaks my heart.

Riots for this reason are not new. Perhaps you remember Cincinnati in 2001. It has happened before but we haven’t prevented more from happening. And as of now, I don’t see an easy way to prevent this from occurring again. This is not a post saying I know how to fix this. I don’t. The solution is not clear-cut. It will take WORK from all in our country, or history will repeat itself in a different city, as it has before.

So while I can’t fix this, I can do my part to step back and ponder if I can do my part to love others. If I can do my part to make sure my actions do not cause others to hurt, or to feel that lashing out is OK. On days like these, especially before a holiday when we’re supposed to gather together and express our gratefulness, we must consider how our actions affect others.

We must realize that justice is only rightly served by God. People are, well, human. Flawed. And our system is equally flawed. Regardless of the issue being decided, someone will always disagree. This is WHY we have courts to decide these things, or we’d have vigilantes deciding for us. The emotions will be strong any time a life has been lost and people have been hurt. Because we love and miss what is lost. I know the rioters are hurting. I have no words to soothe them.

When we lose what we love, why respond with hate? No matter how much it hurts, hating never brings a GOOD solution. It brings more darkness. More pain. More grief. We must THINK before we ACT. And see the long-term consequences of our actions. We must learn that emotions betray us and that they can lead us down a very dark, and destructive path. We must think about how our actions teach children, and how they will learn to either promote peace, or chaos by our actions. 

Chaos and hate are dangerous things. Adding to pain, fueling the fire where emotion has been smoldering, waiting for a chance to erupt.

There are some deep and very real issues at the root of this riot. As a society, we must acknowledge those issues and the hurt and pain associated with them. As a Christian, I know that we are the ones who need to lead the way. We are called to LOVE others by the one who CREATED love. And we are called to love with not just a ‘feeling’ but with action – With a sacrificial, laying-down-MY-rights-for-another kind of love. When so much hurt and hate has ruminated like this for so long…only love can overcome.

While I am saddened by these riots, I find myself angry. But I don’t see how my anger helps anything. I’ve written this post 4 or 5 times in the past couple days, and pretty much every word has been typed, deleted, and rewritten. As I mentioned at the beginning, it has been very difficult for me to write about this, to find words, any words, that adequately describe the mixed emotions I have been thinking and feeling. And now that it’s written, I am sure I could rewrite it again a few more times, but at some point, I need to move on. To think of happier things.

To move to action. But what action? Here are the best I can come up with for now:

First I need to set aside my own anger. While the riots do infuriate me, today I set aside my anger and say that I know I don’t understand where the rioters are coming from. Who am I to judge? I have no right to judge them. So while I do not condone the actions performed by the rioters, I also know that they are hurting. Not a surface level hurt, but a deep and profound, hurt. I won’t diminish it. They don’t know what else to do. I decide to love them and to pray for them. And I ashamedly admit that I was not ready to pray for them yesterday – I know that isn’t right. Lord, forgive me for my OWN anger. It only adds to the problem.

Today, I pray for softened hearts around the country. Hearts open for healing. Hearts willing to seek change and to lift others up when hurting, rather than lashing out and causing more harm. And I pray for the country to stand up and choose hope and love over hurt and hate.

And I pray for a mighty healing work to overcome the hate, so the next riot doesn’t happen. 

I’d love to live in a world without riots. Wouldn’t you?

Thanksgiving – Are You Feeling It?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

Thanksgiving is coming. Are you feeling it?

It’s coming…

Whether you celebrate with family or friends, and whether you eat turkey or something completely different, Thanksgiving is almost here.

I remember how when I was working Thanksgiving week (and any other short-week) ended up crazy-busy. There was always a rush to complete last minute projects before the holiday. And while I remember most people being cheerful, it was often a stressful time.

But this year is different.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that looming holiday stress. But it presents differently since I stay at home with the kids now. Instead of work deadlines to meet, I have errands to run, activities to attend with the kids and a husband who travels often. The pressures are different but still exist.

But this year is also different because I’ve been doing my best to focus on gratitude so when stress comes, I can look upon it with a different perspective.

And you know what?

It’s working.

Sure, I’m still struggling in some circumstances to be grateful. In fact, if you lived with me, you could have called me out during plenty of those ungrateful moments. They most certainly occurred.

This year, I feel like ungrateful moments have been shorter in length and that, in general, I’m actually experiencing the gratitude and the joy that is talked about this time of year.

It’s a wonderful thing. Beautiful, really.

My son and I have been making note of what we’re grateful for, daily, since November 1. We’ve made an effort to find something NEW to be grateful for each day, so there are no broken records here.

Inspired by this, we made our own index card calendar journals, and bought 2 containers for $1 at Target in the dollar section.

My son's and my gratitude journals for November

My son’s and my gratitude journals for November

Inexpensive. Simple. Effective.

My barely-4-year old son’s choices are simple. Sometimes they’re just food (aka. grapes are his favorite food and were his FIRST entry), but often times they are someone, or something that he encountered that day.  He’s really starting to get the hang of it and isn’t asking ME what HE is grateful for anymore. After the first week, he began to freely come up with his own answers.  In fact, some days he was on such a gratitude roll, we made lists.

We then apply his gratitude list to how God has blessed us in this way.

For me, the daily recording is a way to look at life and the experiences we have each day, and actually pause to recognize the blessing and the joy experienced from those moments.

At Thanksgiving dinner, does your family go around and say what each person is grateful for? Have you given it any thought?

Perhaps instead of a generic answer this year you can give a well-thought out answer…

Perhaps in thinking of your answer, you will find your spirit lifted, and the JOY seeping in…

And perhaps you will find that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with turkey

Perhaps there will be more things than you have time to share…

It’s OK if it takes practice to think this way.

Gratitude doesn’t always come easy or we would all be joy-filled.

Are you feeling it?

Here’s my sons answers for the past 25 days (my list became more of a novel than a list so I won’t publish it here).

aidenHappy Thanksgiving!

I am THAT Food Allergy Mama: Something Good HAS To Come From All Of This…6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

There Must Be Good That Comes From This: Here are 6 life-skills our kids can develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Something good HAS to come from all of this..6 life-skills our kids CAN develop as a result of having a food allergy.

Yes, calling out ‘benefits’ of food allergies may be putting on rose-colored glasses. But I am a mama who needs to see that there is good that comes from such strenuous effort and from these challenging experiences. I need to know that there are things I can do to help my child thrive in the midst of something very serious and not-so-fun.

Food allergies can be incredibly scary for parents and children who live with the reality that food can cause harm. In no way by writing this, am I saying that food allergies are desirable; all of us would rather not deal with them and put our Epi-Pens prescriptions to rest. But what I AM saying is this: as parents of children with food allergies, we are charged to not only teach our children to navigate food safely, but to make the most of the experiences they encounter. And yes, this is also true of parents whose children do not have food allergies; we need to make the most of WHATEVER experiences they have.

What does that mean for us? It means we praise and encourage skills and character traits that are both required for safety and developed as a result of having a food allergy. All those lessons in label reading, asking questions and in developing personal discipline and responsibility can be an opportunity for you, your child, and family. Despite the fears, and the harsh reality when a reaction occurs, something good can and will come of all of this, if we are committed to it.

The key word here is can. While a select few children will harness these skills on their own, most need our help. We help them apply their food allergy skills to other areas of life. Instead of raising children who view their allergy as a hindrance, we can help them see it as an experience that taught them life lessons and skills that they will actually use as adultsAs we teach the skills they NEED to keep themselves safe, we can champion their efforts, recognize their growing independence, and encourage their empathy for others.

But before listing the skills and character traits we can encourage, we must first ask ourselves…How do I view my child’s allergy? What do I convey to them? Do my attitudes, words and actions reflect that I am annoyed with it, frustrated by it, or hindered by it? They are looking to US to see how to act. Our attitudes must show that we will make the most of this. We must make it our goal to equip, empower and trust these little ones…first with a little, and step by step, we will have to trust them a LOT….they won’t be in our care 24/7 for very long. It starts with US.

It is my goal to make sure our child knows I am in their corner. That I am doing what I NEED to be doing to keep them safe, and at the same time, they need to do the same. There are times when a feeling is hurt, a food can’t be eaten, a child is excluded, or a reaction happens and all they need is someone to grieve with and to be comforted by. I’m there. But otherwise, I want to be sure they know to be proactive and take necessary precautions, but to also ENJOY life. I want them to tangibly know what they are learning from this, and that they will succeed in other areas because of what they’ve learned and endured.

6 Beneficial Life-Skills Our Kids CAN Develop As A Result Of Having A Food Allergy

1. Food Awareness and Healthy Choices

In a society filled with wide availability of sugar, fat, and sodium packed foods, there is value in knowing that what we put into our body MATTERS. Children with food allergies and their parents KNOW this on a whole new level. Why not use this food-awareness as a stimulus for life-long healthy eating habits? With intentional education from us, these safe, and healthy food habits will promote a lifetime of food choices for our whole family. Here are a few of the lessons we intend to pass on to our children (allergic or not):

  • Label Reading Fosters Wise Decision-Making: In general, the more food is processed, the more likely it can be cross contaminated with a food allergen. AND the more likely it is loaded with less-than-healthy additives. Diligence is key and can be taught NOW. Teaching that we read labels not only to check for an allergen, but also to see if it is healthy. You know, you are what you eat – It may not be scientifically proven, but I am convinced that if you eat enough processed, high sodium food, that you can pickle your body from the inside out! Food allergy kids and parents have to read the label anyway, so why not read it together and make wise decisions together?
  • Whole Foods are Safer and Healthier: Even with diligent label reading, we all know from recalls that the label isn’t always right. WHOLE, RAW fruits and vegetables and plain, unflavored meats are safest. Not only is the raw food less likely to be contaminated, but is packed with natural nutrients. They are also free from strange chemicals with complex names that I used to use for science experiments in the genetics lab.
  • Cooking at Home Promotes a Love To Cook:  Watching and helping a parent cook creates lasting memories and imparts life-long skills. Sure, it takes longer to let a 4-year-old help, but it is worth it. I hope his future wife appreciates that he will know how to cook before he leaves his stay in this house.
  • Knowledge is Powerful: A child with a food allergy and their siblings simply HAVE  to know more about food than others.  It goes with the territory; they know about cross contamination, manufacturing, and how reactions happen. It is my hope that knowledge about how allergies work will someday generate curiosity about science and drive our children to search for their own answers.
  • Passing on Dessert is a Good Idea: As adults, we all know that passing on dessert is a good skill. In an allergy household, pre-made desserts can be particularly difficult to find allergen-free, so food allergies often make baked goods a rare treat. Instead, fruit at the end of our meal has become our go-to dessert; grapes, blueberries, and strawberries are the coveted ‘treats’. These kids won’t expect a baked or creamy treat after every meal because most have not grown up that way.

2. Empathy

Any child who has sat alone at a nut-free table, been excluded from an activity or treat, or had an allergic reaction knows how important it is to have the support of others. Or, even better, someone to step into it with you and pass on dessert WITH you. When they see others going through their own struggles (food or otherwise), it is my hope that they will be better equipped to come alongside others and meet them where they’re at.

As parents, we can guide and encourage our children to reflect on how they have felt in similar situations. We can teach them how to ask questions to understand what others are going through, and how to stand by them and lift them up. It excites me how this will affect them long-term. These kids are going to be some of the most kind and loyal friends out there.

3. Appreciation

Many of us take the freedom we (and our kids) have to eat whatever we want, for granted. Our family never will again. We feel the occasional pang of jealousy or disappointment when a nutty treat is being passed around. And frankly, it will hurt when we see our child hurt. But we will also be proud when he makes the right choice. But, because of those moments, we have learned that where disappointment and self-control is great, so is delight, surprise, and gratefulness when it goes the other way.

When someone makes a special effort to buy or make a dessert my son can eat, it brings delight; he knows it is really special.  We recently attended a birthday party where a parent did her own research and found a store that will sterilize all their equipment to make nut-safe cupcakes (you know who you are-THANK YOU isn’t enough). When that nut-free cupcake was placed in front of my son, he looked at me and said, “But mama, doesn’t it have nuts?”.  I was first proud that he asked first, on his own, and then it was my pleasure to explain that his friend’s mom had gone out of her way to make sure he could have one. His surprise was evident and the look on his face was so sweet.

To say he was grateful is an understatement. He will always know it is a privilege when someone makes a special effort on his behalf. These lessons foster a sense of gratitude that only experience can teach.

4. Self-Advocacy

I recently read this article, which states that children may develop helplessness from their food allergy experience. Helplessness? Sigh. Initially, I was offended. But as I read the whole article, I saw how my PARENTING will largely decide whether this is true. Fear and the knowledge of the danger in food makes it hard for me NOT to control every aspect of their food and environment. But while we need to do our part to keep them safe (and do it WELL), we also need to make sure they are learning to do the same on their own. Whether they’re only 2, or 3, or 4, or…

The article did change my thinking and motivate me. Instead of asking all the questions for my son, we need to help my son learn to ask questions, NOW…This doesn’t mean that we don’t keep asking those food allergy 20-questions before we get together. These questions still need to be asked and I will continue to advocate for my child! But it DOES mean that we need to take the time to help our child learn WHAT to ask, WHEN to ask (always), WHY it is important, and HOW (respectfully, kindly) to ask. In essence, to practice self-advocacy.  As they learn this skill, it will be our job to show them how to use it in others areas of life, and on behalf of others.

5. Real Faith

There are just some things that parents can’t provide on a life-changing, fulfilling level; we are limited, but God is not. When a child finally understands the gravity of what a life-threatening food allergy means, they will need all the hope, comfort and faith they can get. This can only come from a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ our savior.

Tell them when you pray for them; they should know the prayers being said on their behalf and understand that their parents are putting their trust in the Lord’s protection. As they get older and express their own fears and frustrations, it will be time to share some of your own and to show them how you have worked through them with the Lord’s help. Being honest about our struggles and how the Lord helps us will be a powerful example for them to emulate. We will teach our son how we know that no matter what happens, the Lord will be with us ALL as we walk through it.

When our children grapple with their own fear and discouragement (allergy related or not), we WILL turn their faces towards the One and Only God. We will teach them verses about worry, God’s protection and our reliance on Him to meet our needs. We will demonstrate what faith looks like; how we need to do OUR part (wise choices, proactive planning, and carry medications), and then, when we can do no more, how we rely on God to do HIS part.

I can’t think of any better skill to equip them with.

 6. Accountability and Responsibility

A child with a food allergy is responsible for a LOT, at a young age. They need to be aware of their surroundings, what is in EVERY bit of food or beverage they consume, and are responsible for expensive medications that they will need to know how to self-administer. It is a lot on their plate. They need our encouragement, guidance, and TRUST. They need us to equip them as best we can, making sure they understand consequences, and then, we need to pray for them, and let them go….to school, to a friend’s house, to an activity…I feel like this goes without saying, but, when they return from…[insert activity]….we need to hold them accountable. We will ask questions about how they made decisions and we will praise their efforts to be safe, correcting when necessary.

When we make it to the Epi-Pen expiration date and not only has it not been needed, but they haven’t lost it, froze it, or heated it up…that is worth celebrating. When parents, teachers, or their friends mention how our children are being diligent when we’re not there, we need to tell them how proud that makes us.

 

These are 6 skills, but there are plenty more. Our experiences can make or break us. Lets make sure our children’s allergy experiences (good and bad) are a starting point for something wonderful.  There is no doubt that these lessons will take time and effort. It will often be faster to just do it for them. But, bear with it. The long-term outcome will pay dividends; not only will they be safe, but will excel in many areas as a result.

Our kids are pretty amazing people, whether they have allergies or not. All of these skills (and more) can be learned by any child, but our food-allergic children and their siblings have experiences that require them.

Oh, they are going to be some neat kids…And I can’t wait to see them as adults.