Training Your Eyes

I wrote this a couple years ago and for some reason it never made it on the blog. I was reminded of this struggle and lesson as the Halloween decorations started appearing this weekend. 

I don’t know why but for some reason people in Utah LOVE Halloween.  So many people here full out decorate their houses, plan elaborate costumes for their kids AND themselves, and even get off work early to get ready! The haunted houses and haunted-themed events abound for the whole month of October.

Because we are attempting to raise our kids to be able to relevantly relate to their culture and not just build a christian bubble around them we’ve chosen to celebrate this holiday in certain, thoughtful ways rather than just excluding it from our lives and vocabulary. We try to find ways to redeem and reclaim that which sin has darkened and perverted. So on this particular night in the past we’ve let our kids dress up and we go to the local senior center. We walk through the halls and greet the residents and talk to them. We talk to our kids about trying to bless others with their presence and I’m not gonna lie, they get a ton of candy too. I’m not saying that everybody should do what we do, it’s a personal decision that has to be made with lots of evaluation and prayer.

Recently we moved to a new neighborhood. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of our neighbors and are really enjoying getting settled into our new surroundings. As this holiday approaches we’ve watched as a few houses here and there have put out hay bales, pumpkins, and the occasional spider or scarecrow. Pretty much just cute autumn stuff. Then this week it happened. Down around the corner from us the little house and well manicured yard overnight turned  into an evil graveyard. Now, one of my biggest pet peeves in the blogesphere is exaggeration for poetic flair and I try really hard to write honestly and realistically. So I hesitate to say that our neighbor’s decorations are “evil” but honestly I can think of no other accurate way to describe them. These decorations are beyond the typical Halloween scary stuff you see, they are just horrible, dark and, well….evil.

The first time I drove past this transformed house I shuddered, shook my head in disgust and then got irritated. I thought, I have to drive my kids past that house every day. Thanks a lot jerks!  All that morning that stupid house was on my mind because I knew later that day I would have to drive past it with my kids in tow. What was I going to say when they saw it? Then an idea popped into my head, we don’t have to drive past it! There are other routes to our house. I can just use those routes until those decorations are gone. Yes, no other route is nearly as direct. Yes, I will have to drive out of the way, multiple times a day, for the next 30ish days…ugh. This is not looking like such a good solution. Back to the drawing board.

So I continued to pray about this irritating house. I contemplated paying these neighbors, who I’ve not met yet, a visit and just letting them know how offensive their decorations are to me, my children, and probably any other family with young kids in the area. I can just visualize how well that would turn out: Hi, I’m the new neighbor down around the corner. Well I just wanted to let you know how I feel about your horrible Halloween decorations…

So my next solution, I pray that God would blind my children’s eyes to this house for the next month. God, you can do that right? I’ve heard stories of bible smugglers in other countries who have watched in amazement as police have searched their bags and literally not seen hundreds of bibles and study materials. So God, please blind my children’s eyes to these decorations so I don’t have to deal with them seeing them and don’t have to drive out of my way.

Fast forward to that afternoon when I pick my daughter and her friend up from kindergarten. My son is also in the car with us. We drive by the house, I silently pray and hold my breath. Then I hear:

“MOM!!! DID YOU SEE THAT HOUSE!?!!?

I look in the rear view mirror and see all three kids with their faces practically plastered to the window visually sucking in all the horrible things on display. So no blindness, huh God?

Then, amazingly instead of freaking, out of my mouth come words that I believe had to have been from God, because I certainly wasn’t thinking what I was saying. I listened to myself as I told the kids that sometimes there are yucky, scary, or icky things in this world. It is sad that some people chose to like those things and sad that they chose put them out so that everybody has to look at them. So what we have to do, I told them, is to teach our eyes to not look at those yucky, scary things. We have to tell our eyes, “I know you want to look at all that stuff, but it isn’t good for you, so you need to look away.”

The kids responded so well. They said, “Okay, we have to not look at that stuff cause it isn’t good for us?”

“Yes, that’s exactly right.”

And that’s what they’ve been doing ever since. We don’t drive out of our way to get home, we don’t talk poorly about those neighbors for liking that stuff, we simply look away. The more I think about it, the more I see the need for this at other times in our lives. Down the road I know there will be times when my children will need to choose to look away from something. A website, a photo in a text, a billboard, etc. There are lots of things they will be exposed do that I can’t control or protect them from. I hope this simple exercise of training their eyes will give them strength to make the right choice when the consequences are greater.

Even now every time we drive by this particular house we talk about training our eyes. The other gem that has come up from this house is that we cannot control those people and what they put in their yard. But we can control our own bodies and what we allow our eyes to look at and our minds to think about. So I guess in the end I should be thanking these neighbors for the good life lessons. 🙂  

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Summer 2011: A Summary, Part 2

Here’s more:

We went camping in Wyoming and my sister took us on a trail ride. Jennika got to ride her very own horse!
Korban and Mama's big horse.
Camping
Me and my beautiful sis...in her territory.

While I was in Belize the kids stayed and my parent’s house and had a wonderful time!

Wrestling with Uncle Modi

 

Reading with Aunt Jilly
And even Uncle Stephen...he's not so scary, once you get past all the hair!
While I was in Belize, Kris went rock climbing in Wyoming.
Amazing!

 

We came home just long enough to do some laundry, check our email and catch  up on some reading and then were off on our next adventure…..

 

Until Christmas

Jennika’s concept of time is growing and developing. She will often ask me what time it is and what day it is. Currently her form of measurement for anything that is or will be a long way off it “until Christmas”. This also applies to anything big–she hasn’t quite distinguished between length of time and amounts. This simple understanding will lead to statements like the follow:

“I’m not going to talk until Christmas!” This is a popular saying in our house. There are times I want to respond with, “Yeah, I wish!”

“You can play with my doll until Christmas.”

When asked to wait for something, “It’s taking a long time. It’s taking until Christmas!”

And my personal favorite:
“Mommy I love you so much…until Christmas!” Which does not mean she will love me a lot until Christmas and then stop or just love me a little less, but that she loves me a whole, whole bunch…or in other preschool terms “a super-duper-duper lot” 🙂

Thank You For….

I am prone to turn on the radio or a kids’ CD as soon as we get in the car to go anywhere. However I’ve been challenged recently to spend that time in the car talking with my kids (and husband when he’s with us). From our talks together we have developed one of the sweetest activities I’ve experienced with my kids. It started with suggesting that we pray together in the car. To my daughter prayer always starts with “Thank you for….” So we started doing this, saying “Thank you for __________.”  We alternate and say as many things as we can think of. It looks something like this:

Jennika: Thank you for flowers.
Me: Thank you for sunshine.
Jennika: Thank you for mountains.
Me: Thank you for Daddy.
Jennika: Thank you for Korban.
Korban: Tank uh tractor.
Me: Thank you for grocery stores.
Jennika: Thank you for food.
Korban: Tank uh dump trucks.
Me: Thank you for Jennika
Jennika: Thank you for Halle.
Me: Thank you for red lights.
Jennika: Thank you for policemen.
Korban: Tank uh tractors. 🙂

It’s quite simple and so often we are reminded of something we see while driving that we are thankful for. But for all its simplicity few things in my day bring me more joy than this simple exercise in prayer and thankfulness.  My daughter thinks it is lots of fun so she usually asks to pray as soon as we get in the car. Many times we’re still going when we reach our destination. I am often brought to tears by Jennika’s insightful comments and am saddened when I can’t immediately think of something to be thankful for. Jennika never has that problem. In her eyes the world is full of things to be thankful for, even owies.  Whenever I have to pause and think I hear a little voice from the back seat, “it’s your turn Mommy.”

What a good reminder for my life.

Why My Kids Make Me Cry

Jennika has a list of responsibilities for every day. They are little things like: get dressed, set the table, make bed. If she does them she gets a star on her chart next to each responsibility. At the end of the week we count up her stars and she gets a dime for each star. She is earning on average about $1.60 a week.  She and Korban both have little banks and Jennika also has a wallet. After we have set aside money for giving to God she has decided that all paper money (dollars) will go in her wallet to spend and all coins will go into the bank. I feel like this is a good saving plan for a three year old. 🙂 She has also decided that she will also put some of her coins into Korban’s bank each time she puts some in her bank. Kris and I have told her that she does not have to share her money with Korban since this is money she is earning but she always happily replies, “That’s okay. I want to share my money with Korban.” And she cheerfully plunks half of her coins into his bank, every week.

Korban likes to hold hands with me. He will hold out his hand to me and look at me with his beautiful green eyes and say, “And peeese!” Of course whenever it is physically possible I agree to this. However he does not like to hold hands the “normal” way. He likes to ball his hand up into a fat little fist and then have my hand completely engulfing his. If I try to change this he will correct my hand so that it is all the way around his again. I love the picture of security and rest in this simple action. Often times in the car at night, when it is dark and quiet he will ask for my hand. Then once we’re arranged he leans his head back in his seat and just rests.  I love these sweet times but my heart is already dreading the day that his tiny little fist won’t fit completely inside my hand.

Recent Conversations

Recently on our way to church I said Korban looked so sharp with his dress shirt and tie. Jennika asked what I meant and I tried to explain that people don’t typically say that boys look beautiful like we say for girls. I explained that we usually say that they look handsome or sharp.
So yesterday we were listening to music in the car and I said, “This lady has a beautiful voice doesn’t she?” Jennika agreed. The next song was sung by a man. She asked if his voice was beautiful too and I said that yes it was, just in a different way. She then told me, “Girls are beautiful and boys are poky.”
It took me a while to make the connection between poky and sharp. 🙂
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Korban’s LIFE right now is tractors and dump trucks. So most conversations with him go something like this:

Me: Korban do you want to play with your toys?

Korban: No. I want tractors!

Me: What are you doing?

Korban: Tractor! Tractor!

Me: What do you see outside?

Korban: Tractors! (Singing) Tractor, tractor, harvesting the wheat.
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Super-dooper is a new word that the kids have recently adopted in our house. The usually use it to say they are super-dooper hungry or tired.

Jennika: Mommy, I super-dooper-dooper love you.

Me: (Heart melting) Thank you Jennika! I love you too!

Long pause

Jennika: Mommy do you super-dooper-dooper love me too?  🙂

Words I Would Like to Send on Vacation

I have a two year old. That’s probably all the explanation I need to give. 🙂

Here’s my list:

Whhhyyy?

I do it all-felf (translation: all by myself)

I don’t wannntt tooo!

I’m all done crying! (When told to go to her room…as she is crying)

Whhhyyyy?

I can’t!
(and his brother)It’s too hard

What words would you like to send on vacation?

Cute

The other night we had an adult dinner party at our house. Rather than getting a babysitter we just scheduled the party to start a little later and planned to put our kids to bed early.  They skipped naps that afternoon and then were taken to the park to exhaust themselves on the playground.

Everything was running so smoothly. Korban was sound asleep and Jennika was in bed, though not yet asleep. In the middle of our meal I heard her yelling, LOUDLY and repeatedly. I rushed upstairs, angry at her for being so loud and possibly waking up Korban. Thankfully when I reached their shared bedroom I found him still asleep. Still, I was ready to scold Jennika and rushed to her bedside.

“Jennika! You can’t yell like that. You have to be quiet! Why were you yelling?”

“Cuz” (really that’s how she says it) Just before I laid into her with scolding curiosity got the best of me. So I asked, “What were you yelling?”

“Ummm, halleluiah.”

I kissed her sweet face. Told her not to yell it, just say it quietly and went back downstairs. 🙂

Why Did I Even Get Dressed Today

Have you ever had this thought? If you’re a mom, I’m sure you have. Today was my day to ponder this. Actually, I was more wondering why I even bothered getting my kids dressed today. Here’s the story….

My two year old daughter is a little bit shy and withdrawn in larger social settings. On her own or in small familiar groups she does great but whenever I take her to a public place, with lots of kids (playground, zoo, library, etc.) she pulls into a shell. She stares at the other kids like they are freaky aliens and refuses to leave my side/lap/arms. In an effort to help her break out of this shell I’ve been trying to expose her to more activities. Last week we went to the library’s story time. I loved it, I loved the books, the silly songs, and watching the other kids–she didn’t. Oh no, I will not sit on the rug with the other kids! Oh no, I will not do the hand motions to the songs. Oh no, I will not take a shaker and shake it with the song…okay I will take a shaker but I will NOT put it back when the song is over. I’m sure you can picture how our story time went. All the while my adorable, laid back four month old sat sweetly in the stroller, never making a peep.

I was not deterred, however by last week’s theatrics. And so this morning I got us up and dressed and with books in bag we returned to the library. I had studied my enemy (newness) and prepared a strategy this time. We arrived early, perused the books and got comfortable with the surroundings and the other kids. Jennika was doing great! I was so excited as story time approached.

Then, it happened.

Not two minutes before story time started, my little man filled his pants…man style. I didn’t have time to check out our books, run out to the car with both kids in tow,  and change him. So I made the fatal error of hoping his diaper would hold until story time was over. Thirty minutes, just thirty minutes, please God!?! In we strolled to story time, Jennika still smiling, though a little uncertainly. She didn’t sit on the rug and didn’t do most of the hand motions, but she did listen to the stories and was having fun. Somewhere into the second story Korban started fussing. I tried distractions and movement but he wanted out of that stroller (who wouldn’t when they are sitting in their own poop?). I undid the buckles and scooped him up…then I almost dropped him as my hands felt icky, sticky poop all over his pants.

What to do? I glanced at the clock on the wall, still a good 15 minutes before story time was over. I glanced at the exit door and all the children and moms I’d have to weave through to get out. What to do, what to do. Well, some of you may frown and shake your head and I know I’m not going to get nominated for any Mother of the Year awards after this admission; I put him back in his stroller. For the next several minutes I distracted him any way I could, short of holding him. Korban handled his poopy pants like a champ…for about five minutes and then he was done. There was nothing I could do in that little library room to make him happy. So I apologetically pushed my stroller with screaming, offensive-odor-emitting child and carried my disappointed daughter through the sea of little hands, feet, and big mormon mama purses.

In the car, as I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned all that was poop-covered I wondered, why do I even bother? Why does it have to be so hard? Why can’t we go to the library for an easy relaxing story hour? Had any experienced mother sat me down before kids and told me just how hard, exasperating, and humiliating being a mother would be, if she had really and truly told me all, not sparing any of the gory details, I think I would have signed up sterilization that day. But no wise mother did, because she knew that the joys and the love wash over those moments when we want to pull out all our hair and scream. That those moments when we think we would willingly sign up for chinese water torture in exchange for just a few minutes of a normal life without food on our clothes and sleep-deprived circles under our eyes are really just one bitter drop in the bucket of all the sweet experiences we have with our children.

So though I am frustrated and discouraged, I will not give up. Next week we will go back to the library. And next week I’ll have better studied my new enemy (poop) and will have a strategy for victory (pants fashioned from plastic bags:-) ).

I have to go now…Jennika is standing on Korban’s tummy. 🙂