I'm the kind of person that likes when things go as planned. This morning was not one of those mornings.
But as the Lord would have it, it was one of the best days we've had in a long time.
Andy and I started our morning routine just like, well, routine. We fed the boys and he dressed them while I showered (my only morning shower of the week and one that I look forward to every Sunday!) After I am dressed, I take over, preparing the diaper bags for the day and keeping an eye on the boys while Andy showers and gets dressed. It's a great Sunday routine, one that took eight months to evolve.
Just before putting the boys' coats on, Andy went downstairs to start the car and load all of the bags into the van. He came back up a few minutes later and said, "Uh, Min, we have no heat." Huh? (Andy knows that I like when things go as planned.) Apparently, the fans weren't working properly in our minivan, not only keeping the temperature just a few degrees warmer than it was outside, but also taking away the ability to defrost the windows. We weren't going to make it to church. We changed back into our comfy clothes and settled the boys into having a day at home.
I was bummed.
Not only do I love Sundays because I get a morning shower, I look forward to them because it means mommy gets a "day out." WITH my whole family! We both see our immediate families at church, we go out to lunch and many times, Andy drives around with the boys sleeping in their carseats while I run into Babies R Us or Walmart for a few things to hold us until my next big trip to the store. The fact that we didn't have a vehicle to get all of us out the door meant I would miss out on my much-anticipated trip to the Great Outdoors.
I wasn't as frustrated as I thought I'd be, though. After all, I would be able to be with my boys. All THREE of them! I was determined to make the most of it. We played with the boys a while and when it was time to put them down for a nap, we went to sleep, too! I couldn't believe it. We all had a two and a half hour nap!! It was wonderful. The boys were all smiles when they woke up (something that Andy rarely gets to see since he's working full time during the day) and were super excited to see their daddy greet them.
It has been a great day.
I'm so grateful that I didn't spend too much time sulking in my own situation that I didm't mis out on the blessing God had waiting for me. Perhaps this was His plan all along. Perhaps there was another situation He was protecting us from. I don't know; God is not Someone whose actions I can (or want to) understand. All I know is that God gave me a beautiful gift today. One that I'm glad I wasn't too busy to see.
Benjamin is in my left arm now, watching me type this one-handed. Every few moments he'll lean in to see my face and then giggle when I smile at him. Jack is in the bedroom with his daddy, learning about whales on Planet Earth. I just heard Andy laugh. We are all warm and our bellies are full.
Praise God for a great day and for blessings in disguise.
I am so grateful that my boys like to be with each other. As if they had any other choice, I know, but I truly believe that they like their brother!
In an attempt to get their brother's attention, they try a variety of tactics, which, strangely enough, all work. Some of it is involuntarily and others, they do almost naturally.
Shrieking. Gagging. Coughing. Gurgling. Making raspberries. Sticking out their tongue. Hiccuping. Burping. Tooting. (Thank God they can't do those last three on command yet!) They will do these things again and again, especially if it gets their desired reaction, all in the name of a good laugh.
Their cute interaction made me think. When was the last time I tried to make someone smile?
Thankfully, I don't have to burp or shriek to get someone to laugh, but I do know things that would make other people happy. Sending a thoughtful text. Writing a note. Wiping the snow off of someone's car. Making a favorite dessert. Reminiscing about fun times in the past. When was the last time I did those things without the other person expecting it? And without expecting anything in return?
It appears that I have a lot to learn from these boys.
I've never been a big TV person; I'd rather spend time on the computer and browsing the net. But when I do sit down to watch television, one of my favorite shows is Super Nanny.
If you've never seen it, I'll give you a quick synopsis. JoJo (aka Super Nanny) goes to a family's home with unruly kids. She observes their situation, gives parents a plan of attack and then helps them follow through with it. It's entertaining, but it's also helped give me preemptive ideas in my classroom and now, with my own boys. (If nothing else, I love listening to her British accent talk about doing things "whilst cleaning" and "togeva." :)
When you watch the show, they'll be situations where you may think, "I just don't think these kids are going to change!" Some families just seem impossible to fix. The kids are grown, swearing at their parents and refusing to listen. They smash walls, yell and physically attack their siblings.
But do you know what? Every single show has a happy ending. Every. Single. One. That's because no family is beyond hope.
As I'm watching the show, I always think about how JoJo's ideas are going to change the kids. And by the end of the show, they do seem different. But do you know what I realized? It starts with the parents.
JoJo doesn't take the kids aside and lay out consequences for their actions. Instead, she assists the parents in establishing a new routine, encouraging them not to yell and motivates them to spend more time with their children. She goes along side them to be sure they have the correct tools, redirecting them and giving them encouragement where they need it most. And it works!
Kids are starving for attention. Our attention. Perhaps some of these kids would respond if JoJo took a personal interest in them and there would be some kind of visible change. But it would only be temporary. The biggest changes occur when the parents are the first to step up.
It's up to us to decide what kind of environment we want for our family.
What kind of home are you creating? Is it one of peace or chaos? Is it loud or calm? Whatever the answer, we can be sure it's no secret to other people. They can see it in our kids.
I would have never thought that such a HUGE blessing would have come in such a small package. Jack and Ben are such a joy. Looking into their faces, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy. Pride. Love.
They are our blessing.
God has entrusted these boys to me and Andy to care for on this side of heaven. They are not "ours," but rather, "on loan," per se. They are His creation. His masterpiece. It is our job to help mold them into the men of God He wants them to be. To teach them manners, to wait for the prayer to begin our meal and to say "please" and "thank you" when someone goes out of their way to do something nice. To kiss Grandma when you enter her house and not refuse food you haven't tried.
We are raising men, though. We have the unique challenge of teaching them to gentle, yet confidently masculine. We want them to know to hold the door open for a lady, but also know the proper way to wrap someone in a headlock. To know that most times, it take just as much grace to win as it does to lose. To treasure the times with our elders and ask questions about what life was like before they were born.
Yes, it is a high calling. But thankfully, the Lord knew we were ready for the challenge. They're worth it.
I make lists all the time. I looooove them. I make lists of things for me to get done each week, what we'll eat for dinner, what groceries to buy, people to call, emails to write, appointments to make, and gifts to prepare. I make lists of ideas for my blog, pictures to copy and CDs to burn. I've even been known to make lists of the lists I need to make!
But there is one list I refuse to write. A Honey Do List.
My husband is a hardworker. A good worker. And as I've mentioned many times before, he is constantly working to make life comfortable for me and the boys. That is why I don't want to burden him with one. More. Thing.
When there are things I do need for him to do for me, I give him longer than This Must Be Done Right Now. "Honey, would you mind bringing this bin up to the attic when you get a chance? No rush." And then he usually says, "Oh, no problem. I'll do it right now!" I usually add, "Oh, you don't have to do it now. If you could bring it up by Saturday when we have company, though, that would be great." I give him enough notice so he can decide when it's most convenient for him, rather than ME deciding for him. Then, most importantly, I cross that off my list. I don't ask him again. And believe me, he remembers.
One of the best gifts I can give to my husband is to know that home is a safe place. A warm place. A place where no one expects anything from him and his presence is celebrated. A place where he is respected and treated like a king. And for me, one way I can do that is to NOT create lists of projects for him to complete. (Nothing says "Welcome Home and Relax" quite like a long list of things to do!)
Our husbands like feeling like the hero. Our hero. So let's give them the flexibility to feel that they are doing these things because they want to help us. Not because they want us to stop nagging them.
I will continue to make lists because it helps me keep my life organized. But I'll be sure to keep those to-do lists for myself. My husband has enough on his plate.
My husband is one of those people that's good at everything. You name it, he can do it. He's intelligent, outgoing, caring, funny and always supportive. He has a full-time job as a salesman, but has also managed several houses since he was twenty-three. He renovated our current house, self-taught himself much of what he knows, and can read people like a book. But there is one thing that I will never expect him to do.
Dates have always been my thing. Remembering people's names, too. I could tell you everyone's birthday in both of our families, anniversaries, when we had our first date, the night he proposed, that sort of thing. I even prided myself on remembering all 120 of my students each year within the first week of school (it's a lot more difficult for an 11-year-old to misbehave in your class if you know his first and last name!) But I would be foolish to assume that everyone shares my passion for remembering these things. Including my husband. So I have come to embrace our differences. I make a point of reminding Andy when one of these dates is coming up and if there is anything special I would like.
I do this for two important reasons.
Number one: a solid relationship is one of clear expectations. When each partner knows what the other expects of him or her, harmony resides.
Number two: I know that I would be crushed if I was (secretly) hoping for something, only to be disappointed by the fact that my husband wouldn't know!
So I am proactive.
About a month before one of those dates, I remind Andy of the date that's coming up and if there's anything I'd like. Almost without exception, I ask for him to take me out for dinner. For Valentine's Day, however, I like to cook for him that night and then we try and arrange for childcare some other time so he can cook (i.e. go to a restaurant.) Things are a little more tricky when you have kids! But he likes knowing whether or not to buy me a gift, how I'd like to spend the evening and what else he may be expected to do. And I'm happy because my desires were fulfilled!
If something is important to you, don't leave it as a guessing game. Some wives may refuse to remind their husband because they want to "test" his knowledge; after all, he should remember these things! Ladies, ladies, ladies. You're only setting yourselves up for disappointment. Our husbands do a great deal for us. Don't add this extra pressure to "test his love."
My husband is a very thoughtful friend and is constantly doing things to surprise me, but he also likes knowing what is expected of him. Come to think of it, I am the same way.
If you tell them they're stupid, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're dumb, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're slow, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're irresponsible, they'll believe it.
On the other hand...
If you tell them they're smart, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're kind, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're thoughtful, they'll believe it.
If you tell them they're special, they'll believe it.
This applies to babies too. Even minutes out of the womb, I firmly believe that they can sense your spirit as well as the intent of your words. Perhaps that's why they say that children are such good judges of character. Speak words of encouragement. Praise. Thoughtfulness. And someday, you'll get the same in return.
How high are your expectations for your children? They'll only rise as high as you say they can.
When your husband does something you like, do you tell him?
I hope so!
Yesterday, I noticed that my husband changed the toilet paper roll. It was a new toilet paper roll. He hadn't even used it yet. That meant that he put it up for ME, as I would assuredly be the next person to need it. Isn't that sweet? I really appreciated it. So I told him. (This is where many of us stop. We wouldn't think it was significant enough to mention.) He, of course, shrugged it off and said, "Oh, that's no big deal." Ahh, but it IS! To ME!
I get all excited when Andy comes home and says, "Wow, Mindy, the house looks great!" or "Man, that shelf is so organized now!" It melts my heart to hear him say those things. He noticed. I think he makes a point of noticing every little thing I accomplished that day, just because he knows it means so much to me for him to acknowledge when I'm able to do more than just care for two busy babies!
Ya see? It goes both ways! But... it starts with the wife.
Our husbands would do anything to please us. But first, they need to know what we like. I would encourage you to take the few extra moments to notice what he does do to help you. Even if it's as little as changing the toilet paper roll with the flap pointing down, just how you like it. :) After all, it was done with you in mind.
How do you refer to your husband? When he's there, and in front of other people? Would people recognize him as your partner, your employee or your slave?
You don't have to watch television very long before you realize just how demoralized men are portrayed in the media. They are viewed as "dumb" and "simple" creatures, most often put down by their very own spouse! The Simpsons. Everybody Loves Raymond. The King of Queens. Yes, Dear. In each of these shows, the husband is always the butt of the joke and always slow to learn.
Think back to the fifties. (Alright, I wasn't around then, but I've watched the reruns!) Father Knows Best. Ozzie and Harriet. Leave it to Beaver. There is a distinct difference in the attitude of these shows. The father is the head of the house. Authoritative. Compassionate.
I'm not suggesting that we all turn off our televisions and just watch reruns and old movies all day (though that's not necessarily a bad idea.) But there is an awful lot of negative language about our fathers and husbands today and it is having a huge impact on our families. Divorce. Extra marital affairs. Domestic violence. Men are encouraged to be more feminine and 'less male.' After all, that's how we go into this mess, right? No.
A man yearns to be respected. Appreciated. Adored. He needs to feel like he is protecting his family. Providing for them. He wants to be the king of his castle. Not in an oppressive way, but in a loving, protective role that communicates security and safety to those most important to him.
Kids learn how to respect from their parents. How you treat your husband is a pretty good gauge of how he will treat you. And your kids will learn from HIM how a woman should be treated. It's a cycle. If you disrespect your husband, there's a pretty good chance he'll do the same to you... and your kids will be watching.
Hollywood has done a pretty lousy job of communicating just how we should treat men. And therefore, how women should be treated too.
So, next time you ask your husband to do something - or refer to him in front of others - take a moment and think about what kind of message you're sending. Not just to your husband, but to your kids. And believe me, they can read you pretty well. Loud and clear.
My house is trashed at the moment. Well, at least my dining room and living room. Stuff is everywhere. Boxes, toys, clothes, bins... it's a mess. As a recovering perfectionist, that would normally drive me crazy.
But this is a good kind of mess. It's all in the name of progress.
Anyone with kids knows that they are constantly in a state of transition. Bassinet to crib, swing to jumper, infant carrier to carseat, 0-3 months clothes to 9-12 months... babies are constantly moving from one stage to the next! The challenge for us is to keep up with them!
That's what we've been trying to do, especially now that everyone is healthy once again. I moved all our valuables from the bookshelf to bins in the attic, making room for their toys and other things I don't mind them touching and possibly breaking! We took out their infant carriers and replaced them with bulkier, larger (and more inconvenient!) car seats. We said goodbye to their Bumbo seats and hello - again - to their high chairs. Not to mention the Christmas stuff that still needs to be put away! But we're making progress. Still, looking at the state of my house, you could easily get overwhelmed by everything. So. Much. Stuff. Everywhere!
Sometimes, we need to make things messy before they can be clean again.
Organizing is the obvious example. You have to take everything out of a drawer before you can clean the structure, come up with a new system that works for you and then only put back what you want there. It's messy, but worth it.
Forgiveness is much the same way. It's tough. It's messy. It doesn't always look good while you're in progress. But the finished product is something beautiful that everyone can enjoy.
Is there someone you need to offer an apology to? A friend? Your sister? Your husband? Believe me, saying you're sorry is a lot easier said than done. It's confrontational, it's uncomfortable... it's downright messy! But I've been on both sides of the issue. While it can be messy for a little bit, the freedom that comes from it is WELL worth the effort!
Start your new year off right. It's time to clean house, starting from the inside, out.
It is now January 7th. My Christmas tree is still up. My Christmas decorations are still up. I haven't even put all of our Christmas gifts away. They are all in a pile in our dining room, almost exactly as we left them more than two weeks ago.
The reason? We've been sick. All of us.
The boys started with a runny nose over the holidays, which quickly graduated to a full-blown cold the day after Christmas. I got it just as they began to recover and then (sadly) passed it on to my husband a few days later. We just can't seem to shake this thing!
When we're not feeling well, it is even more important to remember our priorities. For me, that means attempting to put together dinner each night and order out when I'm not feeling up to it. That means holding my little ones when they need to be held and refusing to make progress on my list. That means resting when I have the chance so I am healthy enough to be there for those I love most. That means supporting my husband and trying to keep him well so he can do his job too.
My to-do list is a mile long. I want to un-decorate from Christmas, put the gifts away and get rid of stuff we don't need. I need to clean my refrigerator, file some paperwork from last year, begin this year's taxes and do laundry. I have been able to do some things as I've felt more healthy, but I cannot forget my most important job: taking care of my family.
My house will be messy for a little while longer. Thank God my husband doesn't mind. (He's actually done more to clean than I have!) For now, I have much more important things to do.
Don't worry. I'm not going to ask you what your New Year's Resolution is. I'm afraid to make one myself.
I could say "lose weight," but I understand that I need to consume an additional 1,000 calories a day to make enough milk for my boys. Plus, I'm enjoying it. So that one's out.
I could say, "exercise more," but let's get real. The only exercise I'm able to do right now is managing two 20-pound babies in my arms at the same time. Moving in different directions. That is a workout, though. Trust me.
I could say, "get organized" but that's something I have to do with two babies in transition all the time! We are now in the "creeper" stage; they're not on all fours, but they are both doing one mean army crawl across the floor. You would now find everything in my house about 2-3 feet higher than normal.
People can easily get stressed out about making (and then keeping) their resolutions. But I'd like to encourage you not to be too hard on yourself. I have a feeling that you're already doing a pretty good job being wife, mother, friend, and daughter as well as all of the other roles you fill on a daily basis.
If you do have a new goal, make it a realistic one. Make a plan that will fit within your (already demanding) schedule and then be flexible when and if things don't go exactly as planned. It may take some time for your new goals to fit into your lifestyle. Even if you make a positive change for just a week, that's one more week than you would have normally had!
I am so grateful for new beginnings. Second chances... and third and fourth chances. This is a good time for us to evaluate where we have come and where we want to be. A time for us to redefine our goals and align ourselves up with our ideal. To refocus. Reconnect. SUCCEED!
And the other piece of good news is the fact that even if we fail miserably, we don't have to wait for next New Year's Day to make a new resolution. The Bible tells us that God's mercies are new EVERY morning. Not bad. Not bad at all.