Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Watch Them Watch You

I am going to get straight to the point! 

I have seen a very simple truth these past few months. My children love because we love, period. It is just that simple. Sure they are getting older and forming relationships of their own - teachers, friends. But from the beginning we have modeled love and respect, they watched, they mimicked and they loved, unconditionally because we did.

I greet my parents with a joyful hug when I see them. I love my parents, I respect them and I demonstrate that. So, since the beginning of their lives my children have had that same kind of love for them. Jarrod loves and serves me. They see that and they respond in a similar manner. Breakfasts in bed, notes around the house, a patient tone of voice, etc.

My relationship with the Lord lately has been, shall we say, lacking. And I have watched as, slowly but surely, my kid's own precious friendship with Him has unraveled. In the past we could not go but a few minutes without talking to or about Jesus - in the car, in the kitchen. He was our friend, a vital part of our family and it made more since to include him in conversations than not to. Sadly He has been suspiciously absent from all of our lives for the past few months. I keep thinking, I'll get back to where I was someday. There have even been a couple of half hearted attempts. But really I have been under the impression that it is only affecting me. 

Parents, be not deceived. I know you know they are watching. I know you have heard they will do what you do, not what you say. 

But FOR REAL!!!!! They are watching, EVERYTHING! They are listening, to EVERYTHING!! Where are you at? This will likely be where they are at. Are you in the word? Are you praying without ceasing? Is Jesus the main topic of conversation? Hopefully that is the case, keep up the good work and pray for me that I'll do a little better! 


Monday, April 21, 2014

I Am Already a Little Lady, Think I'll Just Embrace The Old

My life this month reads something like an 80 year old woman's. 

Last week, an appointment with my Rheumatologist. 

This week an appointment with my Neurologist. 

A consult with my rheumatologist to get orders for my upcoming appointment with my Cardiologist. 

Endless trips to the pharmacy to pick up medication, sort out medication mix ups and then more trips, to pick up more medications. 

Early bed times, early dinners...

Checking for fiber in my cereal. 

It's like I took a ski lift up the hill and then just took a crashing roll down the other side. 

I think I am going to just give it up, give in, turn on The Price Is Right and call it done. 

I wonder if my kids would mind if I start picking them up from the bus stop in my housecoat and slippers?! ;)


Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Are My Friend, You May Not Even Know It

Elyse, my oldest, my 4th grader, is really struggling. Girls her age are mean. I don't know if you remember being that age but I do. I was definitely mean. My friends were mean. It was a big mean old world. 

This is the world Elyse is in right now. She is not innocent. But she is, sometimes, the victim and it breaks my heart. 

I have very much wanted to call up a mom or two or four and give them a piece of my mind. No doubt a few moms have wanted to call me up as well. (Nana, if you are reading this, yes your precious granddaughter indeed can be mean, ask her brothers.) 

I keep telling her that it is going to get easier. As she gets older girls get nicer. Women, in my general experience are not near as mean. 

I have had the privilege over the past couple of years, of making some great friends. 

When my husband and I were house parents to some amazing teenage kids we did not really have opportunities to invest in grown up relationships. (still wouldn't trade it)

We then spent the next four years in a tiny, itty bitty town were friends were hard to come by, and the majority of our time was spent with, teenagers. (we really are mature, I promise) (and still wouldn't trade it)

I am a closet introvert. Yep that's a real thing - on the outside, upbeat and friendly - on the inside - crippled with fear, exhausted by the time I leave a social environment because of the energy it took to pretend to feel comfortable, much preferring to be at home, quiet, reflective, perhaps writing my thoughts and feelings. 

God has basically had to arrange situations that drop me in the path of other women that have sought me out and demanded a friendship! 

It's a small circle of women, my relationships may not even look like what you would call a friendship. There is a really good chance a few of these ladies would be surprised I consider them a close friend. But over the past couple of years I have been overwhelmed and blessed by these girls and their companionship means to world to me. 

They have quietly come in and set up shop in my heart. These are the few that remember that my life has recently taken an odd turn. Most conversations with these friends begin with, "how are you feeling?". They think to pray. They think to check in. They ask about Isaiah, knowing his situation is near and dear to my heart. They quietly ask if they can take over a task, knowing it hurts me. It's really that simple. Occasionally we meet up for some late night, mommy type fun. Mostly we have a sporadic texting conversation that may take an entire day between bible studies, nap times, second and third trips to the grocery store. But that's ok. I feel encouraged, I may get a good laugh, I am stirred to pray for somebody other than myself. 

Thank you ladies, for taking an interest in a mess like me. Thank you for reaching out when you get in return insecure, socially stunted, self centered me. 

We have met up on many different platforms - from MOPS, to message boards, through sharing our thoughts, hearts for healing and desire for answers for our little boys suffering with tourettes. From preschool pick up to the convenience of living across the street. YOU reached out, YOU kept reaching out. You smiled, laughed, prayed, encouraged your way into my life and I am eternally grateful. 

I find it difficult to help Elyse, to teach her how to be a friend. I have long been out of touch with what that even looks like. You, my friend have been an example - not just to me but to a precious little girl, very hurt, confidence crushed by the actions of others, likely every bit as insecure as her. 
You remind me what friendship looks like and I in turn am finding it easier and easier to teach my daughter. If you don't know who you are, I am sorry I have failed to tell you what you mean to me. You have hung in there all the same. In my book that makes you amazing. 

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!   Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Thanks for lifting me up!  


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Second Nature Shouldn't Be Second Best

The other day my kids wanted to know what all the yard signs decorating the lawn of our local courthouse were for. Why did they each have a blue ribbon printed on the front? 

I told them it was to raise awareness for autism. Many more questions ensued after this. What is autism? What does it mean to raise awareness? 

I reminded them how, from May 15-June 15, I wear a turquoise ribbon on my shirt or my purse. It is to raise awareness for Tourette's. 

I explained that we want to raise awareness about things so that people will better understand the disorder or disease. And so that medical professionals and scientists will be encouraged to do more research to find cures. 

Isaiah piped up from the middle seat, "I don't want a cure, I like my tics." 

This has been a fairly new development. In the past he has very much disliked them. Some are painful, some make it difficult for him to fall asleep, some are very noticeable and make him very self conscious in public. 

Lately he has been rather attached to them. Despite the fact that he reports, nearly weekly, whether he has been successful at managing them in public. Despite the fact that his room has to be very dark at night to better help him fall asleep. Despite the fact that his neck popping tic does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon and it causes him pain on a regular basis. 

He does not remember a time in his life that he did not feel the "need" to scrunch his nose, knock his knees, shrug his shoulders, throw his head back, stop walking to drag a foot, touch EVERYTHING to his chin, repeat things under his breath, or some variation of these and many more all of the time. 

Tourette's is very much a part of my child's life. He dislikes it but cannot fathom a life without it. Life would just be strange without tics. 

This got me wondering, what other things are a part of my children's lives that, whether they like it or not, they don't know any different?

The words they are exposed to that, though I do not allow them to say, I say a plenty? Crap, I hate that I do that. ;) 

Perhaps the freedom I feel to lambast a fellow driver on the highway, and how casually I dismiss my negative outburst, because I felt I had a good reason. 

Have they become so accustomed to running late for everything that commitment just doesn't seem all that important?

I know they don't like hearing me yell. I use to get a lecture from the back seat when I "told off" another driver from behind my steering wheel. But I explained why it was ok, they had it coming -  and so it became ok for mommy to yell. 

I know that they like me to keep my promises to them. But when we are running later  than an agreed upon time to be somewhere, I have a very good reason. Sometimes it was even their fault and so this part of keeping our word is really not all that important. 

I guess I feel like I do a pretty good job teaching my kids to be kind to others. They get in trouble for saying yucky things. I make them stick with something if they have given their word. I make these things a priority. So surely they will grow up and desire to live this way. 

And I am probably correct, they probably will want to live this way. But the other way of living will be like second nature to them. Doing anything any different may prove very difficult for them. 

As best I can I need to create an environment for my kids where second nature is a good thing. Where what they are accustomed to will be the ways we bless others, the ways we honor commitments, the ways we speak words of encouragement. 

There are some things in their lives I cannot control, and no matter how much a want to remove the negative I just can't. Tics would be long gone if I could. But for all the rest, there's visa (oh wait, that's not right). There is me, being the grown up, taking responsibility and creating an atmosphere where not knowing any different is a really good thing! 



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Will Your Snapshot Look Like?

I got paid a pretty big compliment yesterday. It was like the best kind of compliment. Really I feel like I received some sort of trophy and am standing up here on my podium looking down on all the little people! 

Bahahahaha!!!! Like I know what it's like to look down on people (In case you don't know I am 4'10".) My kids barely qualify to me as little people. 

Seriously, even when my kids were babies I felt like a little 7 year old apprehensively being handed a baby to hold for just a moment. 

My babies never fell asleep on my shoulder. Rarely did any of my 4 kids even fall asleep in my arms. I am sure it was just not comfortable nor did it feel like a secure place to them. I couldn't even cradle a new born in one arm. Most newborns come out longer than one of my arms.

This is Hannah, my youngest, at 4 weeks old. Like, for real, you can' tell me that does not look like a little kid getting to hold a baby. 

Ok, now I am going way off subject. Here is how this awesome compliment came to be. Through a texting conversation with my sister-in-law, Laurel.

Me: And an hour later we are leaving office max. Think I will just go home. 
And then after I realized that message had not been sent to my husband, it's intended destination, I texted Laurel back and said. 

Me: That was meant for Jarrod...but you're welcome for the unnecessary info. ;)
Laurel: LOL
 Me: Apparently it takes an hour to print 4 pieces of paper when you take a 4 year old with you!
Laurel: Was it at least an interesting hour of printing?  
Me: More like 45 minutes of going to the bathroom and then taking stuffed Mickey Mouse to the bathroom, wiping his rear and all. Then lathering, rinsing, and drying both sets of hands. Followed by 4 seconds of printing. Followed by 14 minutes of stopping to ask for EVERYTHING we passed on the way from the printer to the register. Followed by 56 seconds of paying. ALWAYS interesting when Hannah is around! 
 Laurel: Lol!!! Well, at least Mickey is learning good bathroom hygiene! Lol! You're such a great mom! You've got 4 very blessed kids! 
See me up there on my podium, trophy in hand? Don't I look proud?
Me: I have to admit, I did a great job faking patience! It was suppose to be a quick run in run out trip to print stuff to register Hannah for Pre-K. After an hour there we didn't make it to the school. 
Oh the joys of chronic illness, some days 1 errand is plenty!!! 
Laurel: For what it's worth...I think you did the right thing today. Years from now, Hannah won't remember (or care) that she wasn't registered for Pre-K today. But she will look back and remember the times you invested in HER HEART. Which is what you did! 
And that is why my SIL is so wise, and so right. 

Those were kind of my thoughts when I gave Hannah permission to get some toilet paper to wipe a stuffed Mickey. And as I waited quietly for she and Mickey to wash up, dry off and slowly make their way out of the bathroom. 

Not because I am a great mother, in fact I am making up for a lot of lost time. 

I have been making a lot of attempts to slow down, relax, and let my kids enjoy being kids. Some days are not conducive to that. Like today as we flew through Wal Mart after picking Hannah up from Mother's Day Out and before time to pick the big kids up from school. 

But yesterday we did not HAVE to be somewhere. Sure I had an agenda, but it was much less important than a lovely little 4 year old getting to nurture her favorite Mickey Mouse friend. 

Maybe she will remember it one day, maybe she won't. But at some point, one of these memories she is making will stick. I want there to be a good chance that it's a fond one. 

I have come a long way in my 9 years of being a mommy. Yes, I have a long way to go still. 

I am done trying to keep everything in perfect order. I am done with rigid schedules for the sake of having a rigid schedule. 

I want kids that mind, I want kids that do what I ask when I ask. But I am trying to listen to what they are asking for as well. They don't always make it as clear as I do. I have to pay a lot more attention. But when I hear, and I do comply, we both have a beautiful snapshot that might just last a life time. 

I can't think of a single schedule I've ever written that I will look back at in years to come and smile!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Gently Led, Lighter Tread

A friend shared a verse with me the other day that I had not remembered hearing before.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11

My friend said, and I agree, those of us with young often times need a bit more gentle hand. 

We tend to be too hard on ourselves, second guessing, expecting self perfection in a world where chaos often rules. 

God knows this, He knows the life of a young mother. Rather than judge and condemn, He gently leads! 

I don't believe God meant for this job to be so hard on us. I think fears, uncertainties, and insecurities are things we pick up all by ourselves. 

Matthew 11:28-30 says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

I love this passage, it has many times been a comfort to me. I want my burden lightened. I want rest! What mother doesn't?

Reading it again the other day I took note of a few key words that I often hurdle over in my attempt to get to the end. 

Come to meall you who are weary and burdened. 

Not I will come to you, He already has, He's already shown up to the party. 

He has already put in the time and work and, as a gentleman, has left the ball in our court. 

We come and then Jesus takes the lead once again. 

He gives us rest. 

But he asks us to Take (his) yoke upon (ourselves). 

Incase you missed it this, once again, requires action on our part. 

Take, used in this verse, according to the Greek, means take up, lift up. 

The "yoke" is offered, we receive it, we pick it up. 

(I believe this can be done by simply praying, thanking Him for what He offers and maybe asking for a little help getting it on)

And then... learn from me. From Him. 

As we take the time to learn from him, or as the King James version says learn of him, we can more easily portray those attributes of Him to our children and our husbands

For (He is) gentle and humble in heart. 

We can more easily except those things for ourselves, gentleness and humility.

And (we will) find rest for (our) souls. 

For (His) yoke is easy and (his) burden is light. 

His yoke is easy because we no longer have to carry around condemnation, or expectations for perfect actions. 

He already carried all of that Himself to the cross for us, and left it there and now offers to us a lighter burden, His yoke. 

As we continue in our work, fitted with much less burden, learning of Jesus, becoming more like Jesus, He gently leads us, especially during this time of our lives when we are tending to our young! 


Friday, April 11, 2014

I Procreated, Lectures and Interrogations May Now Commence

Kids are a joy. Being a parent is a privilege and an honor. A whole new world opens up to you when children come on the scene. Your priorities change, suddenly staying out late sounds like a waste of time. Your perspective changes, you begin to think things like grimaces, hiccups, and toothless grins are the cutest thing in the world! Your vocabulary enters a whole other dimension completely. No longer do you say things like, "good night" or "use the restroom." Suddenly you are saying things like "nighty nighty" and "make tinkle." It's not just you though, everyone around you begins to act differently when you are accompanied by your offspring. Without warning people are saying all kinds of things to you. It seems everywhere you go people, friends, strangers are offering unsolicited advice and voicing unwelcome opinions. For instance, I hear the following ALL THE TIME. If you have more than 3 kids, you have heard it too.
* "Are all of them yours?"
I always resist the urge to say, "You know it was the strangest thing, I got to the store today and all these random kids started piling into my cart. Then I realized, they all look suspiciously alike." One day I might just go ahead and say it!
Then there is this 
* "You do know what causes that, right?"
 Hey, if your mom didn't take the time to sit down and explain to you where babies come from, that's not on me. Your are going to have to find somebody else to tell you what caused this!
Or when somebody says
* "you sure have your hands full!" 
I say "You sure have a lot of wrinkles! Oh sorry, were we not pointing out the obvious?" Ok, I don't say that... out loud.
Somehow, with a child or two in your midst, you are suddenly attracting some mighty strange people. 
* I always felt sorry for the elderly woman that would walk up to my 4 month old baby and ask, "where are your socks? Don't you know you are going to get sick?" Obviously she was a little crazy thinking my baby was going to answer her. I always thought it was the saddest thing.

I did get one warning early on. 
* My mother said to me, 1,999 times growing up, "just wait until you have kids of your own." I wish she had told me just one more time. I really think I could have better mentally prepared for the day that I had kids of my own. It's helpful though that she often erupts into uncontrollable laughter when she's around us. 
* In the same way, if one more little old lady had patted my arm and said, "enjoy it while it lasts, it goes by so fast," despite the fact that every trip to the grocery store felt like 3 years of my life, I really think I could have stopped and enjoyed my 3 year old pulling every cereal box off the shelf and into our cart, while my 2 year old cried hysterically because I had not agreed to buy diego gummies, and my 9 month old threw veggie puffs, screamed for more and threw those too. If just one more little old lady had taken the time to warn me, I just know I would have enjoyed it while it lasted.
I had slightly older friends too, ones that already had kids in school. There were two different types of these people.
* The ones that consoled, on a regular basis, "just wait, it gets easier." I never felt comforted by their ability to look into my future and see that life would indeed become easier for me.
 * The other group of slightly less well meaning older friends would exclaim with a sigh, "just wait, it gets much harder!" At least these friends had the guts to be honest with me, but I always felt like this just minimized the current mental break down I was in the midst of having. After all, their life was much harder!
* To the stranger who said to me, "I think somebody needs a nap!" 
"I do, I really do. It's unclear though, are you offering to watch my kids while I take one or are you just pointing it out?"
This well intentioned nugget
"Don't be so hard on them, they are just kids after all," always gives me mixed feelings. It is almost always said by a sweet gentleman at church. For a few seconds I think I can relax, after all we are not being judged. Then I remembered, wait yes we are!
I consider striking a deal with him. "Ok, you get up in front of the congregation and make an announcement that, 'today we will allow the Brooks to take it easy, their kids will be, just for today, allowed to act like kids!' And I will happily stop being so hard on them."
I have only heard this one a couple of times, 
* "when we had kids they were expected to be seen and not heard" 
But honestly, if I am gripping the sides of my chair - knuckles bright white, speaking through gritted teeth, eyes large and bulging - very nearly out of my head, and my children have managed a four way fight over a pregnancy magazine at the doctors office, the only helpful words that you could possibly say to me are, "I will adopt every single one of them right now!"
There are many well meaning people out there, wanting to give a word of advice. There are also flat out mean people, wanting to make a stink. Sometimes I take it to heart, other times I blow it off. Often it is just said at an inopportune time. I am learning to make a mental note and sift through it later. There are a few treasures I'd do well to learn from. For all the rest I will just hit delete! 


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shame On Mommy

I was chatting with a friend (whom I met through her fabulous blog that you should definitely visit) a few days ago about sponsoring children through programs like Compassion International and World Vision. Our conversation brought a lovely story to mind that I wanted to share with you.

About 4 years ago my husband came home from a conference mightily moved to help someone in need. Specifically a child. He had heard a testimony from Wess Stafford, CEO of Compassion International, and fully recognizing a need, was stirred up to act. We were not in a place to afford it financially but decided to pray and hoped that God would soon open the door for us to sponsor a child. 

Within a few days Jarrod came home from work and told me he felt that we were suppose to go ahead and give out of our need. We sat down that night and through Compassion's website found a little girl named Sarai to sponsor. We have been supporting her since then. It has been a pleasure to hear from her, to see her grow, to receive word about how she has been blessed by our meager and humble giving. As the year went on we continued to feel urged to do more. But had not acted upon that feeling. 

I was in the kitchen one afternoon, summer was fast approaching. A then, 6 year old Elyse and 5 year old Isaiah would soon be coming to the end of their first and second year of school and I would have a 6 year old, 5 year old, 4 year old, and 20 month old at home all day, EVERY DAY! I began to mentally make summer plans. The year before we had been able to purchase Sea World season passes for the whole family. After the initial cost it was a relatively affordable way to spend many Saturdays that summer and the kids loved it! I am the family bookkeeper (because I have way more free time than Jarrod.) I am also the family, shall we say, tightwad. I knew what our banking account looked like, it wasn't encouraging. Maybe the zoo would be a better way to go, cheaper, still fun. As I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned counter tops I thought through all the possibilities, my penny pinching fingers trying to loosen their hold so we could have some fun in the coming months. 

It was lunch time, Jarrod came home for a quick bite. As we visited while I made him something to eat a familiar conversation took place. He wanted to sponsor another child, he did not want to keep putting it off. Suddenly my fists tightened ever tighter around those pennies. Every fun plan I had made for the summer floated out the back door my husband had just walked through, being whisked away by a spring breeze. I conjured up a smile and nodded in agreement but children hundreds of miles away, over seas that I would likely never cross were nowhere near and dear to my heart as my own children. A couple of weekends of fun were being jeopardized by my husband's compassionate heart. Maybe this was something we could continue to talk about. Perhaps we could put it off for a few more months. 

That hope began fading a few hours later as Jarrod sat at his computer looking at the faces of near starving children trying to decide which one to help and how in the world to leave so many others behind. Our daughter, Elyse, walked in to the kitchen and joined him at the table. Ever curious she peaked over the laptop screen and asked every inquisitive child's second favorite question, "whatcha doin'?" He quickly explained it to her. Our oldest three were well aware of our sponsored child, Sarai. She had been faithfully prayed for by the three of them every night. As Jarrod showed Elyse pictures of thousands of children waiting for a sponsor, waiting on hope, her sweet little heart was also moved. An answer came to her so simply, and out of her mouth so easily and innocently, "Let's just 'adopt' them all!" Touched but realistic Jarrod informed her that we would not be able to afford to help them all. With even less reluctancy than her first response she rationalized, "let's just stay home this summer, we don't need to anything fun like Sea World!"

SCHOOLED by my 6 year old, that is what had happened, right then and there!

Unfortunately we were not able to sponsor over 3000 children. But we also did not get season passes that year. We did however "meet" a little 5 year old boy named Redwan, who shared our own 5 year old boy's birthday. He has been added to our prayers and, hopefully, been blessed by the little bit we have had the opportunity to send his way.

Continuously will I be grateful for the abundant blessings that God has given us. I do not understand why us, not them. Always will I admire the compassionate hearts of my husband and our oldest daughter, I know no one with more tender hearts than their own. Forever will I remember the precious way a 6 year old helped to open my own heart. Never will I regret a summer spent in our own yard, in our own town, coming up with creative ways to keep 4 very precious and abundantly blessed children entertained! 

*If you are unaware of what is going on with World Vision please read this bit of news that a very kind hearted friend shared with me a few days ago.
"World Vision lost 10,000 sponsors this week because they considered hiring gay Christians in states where gay marriage is legal. The sponsors left as protest. I understand people have strong views rooted in (their) faith, but it breaks my heart that the sponsors couldn't have reached out and expressed their opinion in another way instead of just revoking aid to the kids who need it."

Today she shared more news with me 
"They (World Vision) turned the decision around within one day, but I think they still lost 10,000 sponsors over it because people wanted to make a point. So sad."
I agree, very sad! I have no desire to share my opinion over the decision to hire or not hire based on sexual preference. I have even less of a desire to, nor will I, enter in to a debate about this. I tell you only to make you aware of a very unfortunate incident that has done little else than hurt and cost innocent children very much in need. Perhaps God will move in your heart to do something to help a few of them. Please, at the very least, join me in prayer for them. 

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