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Keeping a Record of Rights

20 May

The hardest part of homeschooling (or–schooling at home): learning how to live and work together well.  Anyone who knows me in real life can testify that I am not patient at all, about anything.  Secondly, it’s hard for me to breathe with my house this messy.  Both of those things continually rage against me, as we’re living in here together, perpetually, with no breaks.  

But impatience and filth are not my biggest challenge.  The solitary thing that puts me on my back at the end of any given day is the endless chastisement, re-directions, reminders, and corrective training.  Over time it builds up.  It feels like my words are all negative, all the time.  It absolutely takes its toll on the children; and before long, it feels like I am the one who is actually failing at everything.    

I have felt desperate, thinking, “Oh my GOSH!  I never see any good in them!”

Love keeps no record of wrongs, and this seems like a paradox for parents raising wayward children.  For years, I’ve earnestly prayed for the gift of encouragement, especially within my own family, which should be automatic, considering how much I love these people!

We know what we want it to be, but neither they nor we can keep it together long enough to rise out of the cycle of negativity.  It can feel we are stuck in the same place day after day.


My family has found a simple but concise practice to counteract some of the negative, critical talk that inevitably permeates our daily speech. 

As much as possible, I try to keep a running “record of rights.” 

I jot down anything good I have observed from each child over the past day or days: their kind words spoken, their helpful actions, loving gestures, and taking initiative.  I look for instances they produced any of the fruits of the Spirit!  I try to record as many occurrences I can think of, and God brings many to mind. 

Some days I just have one for each person.  If it has been a while, I think back over the past week or so, and I record five or six per person.  At the end of the day, usually at the dinner table, my husband or I read the list aloud.  Every child receives a round of applause and a decent dose of positive affirmation. 

They are tremendously pleased to be acknowledged and thanked for the good things they have done. 


What an aroma of grace over our family!  For one thing, it verifies that I am, in fact, encouraging and seeing the good in my kids.  And it warms my heart toward them when it’s beginning to grow cold.  It infuses reassurance, approval, and praise into each of our relationships. 

Kids adore the recognition.  Because they know there’s potential for commendation, this is also a great way to foster in them a habit of thinking, “Have I done something good for someone else today?”  (Then again, they should do it whether anyone notices or not.  Different lesson.)

Encouragement is a gift of the spirit and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is within reach. This builds a framework for just how to intentionally and quantifiably give this gift. 

Try it out!  The fruit of this will multiply in your home and out your front door as everyone in the family has their spirits lifted—they will be filled enough to potentially fill others.  It models and demonstrates the art of encouragement in just a few minutes per week.  It will brighten the spirit in your home…and, you can lay your head on your pillow at night knowing that not everything you say to them is negative or critical!

We are all doing our best!!  Stay safe, and continue your pursuit of spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional wellness!

Let’s keep track of everything good,
Leigh

The Other Guys. Best movie ever.

5 Creative Systems To Awesomize your Family Life

30 Apr

Peek behind the curtain: even though I have 5 kids I don’t absolutely love my life like this. 

I have become known “Leigh-with-five-kids.”  This was especially true when we were living in England.  Let me tell you, it’s not the exact identity I had in mind for myself!  When I wake up in the morning, I find myself just as astounded as everyone else that we had 5 kids!!  I gotta dig DEEP before I can move through yet another day with all of them.  I do love them (but not all of them all at the same time).  There is always one or two hindering my tranquility at any given moment. 

The days are hard, but not impossible.  In order to minimize the impact, we have been forced to develop a few coping mechanisms.  I mean, systems.  I probably have hundreds of systems at this point…and they really do improve daily life.  

Even if you don’t have a large family, these quick-fixes might help streamline your hectic life also.


I *was* going to start with the classic trash-bag-as-food-storage hack.  But I changed my mind.  This one is probably a stretch for outsiders, not relatable at all, or makes the impression that I am a maniac.  In my defense: have you ever made a salad so big that it outgrew every bowl you own, and won’t even fit in your upside down Rubbermaid cake keeper?  A-ha!  Thank you, 13-gallon trash bag, you are the unsung hero of the large family!  They have so many uses–I always travel with 2 or 3 of them.  Below you will behold the greatest feat it has ever accomplished:

Chicken Pesto Orzo Salad has never looked more appealing. 

Yes, I have served them dinner out of a trash bag.  Anyone?  Just Me?  I am not saying show up to the company potluck with a trashbag-salad slung over your shoulder…but come on.  This does do in a pinch. 

If you are still reading…perhaps the next five things will be more realistic to put into play.


PACKING CUBES

When we travel, these are an absolute must.  They keep me from breaking out into impulsive violence while we are trying to enjoy our mandatory vacation.  Nothing makes you regret having 40% more kids than all your friends, then by spending a week in a small room bestrewn with 7 people’s laundry.

Amazon Basics Packing Cubes

 

Enter packing cubes.  Each person gets one for the entirety of the trip.  They contain ½ week of clothing.  The cube contains 2 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, 4 socks/undies, 1 sweatshirt and PJs.  They will be wearing another entire outfit.  I shove the packing cube inside a regular backpack, and everyone effortlessly carries their own crap.  We do laundry once or twice while on the trip.  It is so simple.  It also keeps our accommodations very tidy.

I pack like this for short and long trips.  I even packed in cubes for our 2-month PCS from Hawaii to England!  The seven of us moved abroad with just two and a half suitcases!  These things streamline everything and minimize loss.  It also minimizes laundry, because it forces us to wear things twice (or 3x) whenever possible.  You know, most kids want to wear the same three things over and over anyway.

For a 5-day trip to Paris, I packed all of this for 6 people…

stuffed into these four backpacks


STOP FOLDING

When you have a family of seven, the laundry is utterly bananas.  I don’t need to paint the picture. 

Actually, I will:

Do you remember that trash monster, in Fraggle Rock…it lived above the Fraggles’ underground construction site?  Yeah.  Think of that.  Our trash monster is loaded with all sorts of fearsome finds.  It is like an active trauma scene: still-steaming workout clothes, dripping-wet bath towels, trousers covered in english manure-mud…and it’s peppered by seven people’s worth of soiled underpants.  You know its bad when my own hallowed clothing has actually been stained by the laundry pile itself!!!!!  I think you get the picture.  Don’t be jealous.

I spend a lot of time with this…pile.  And don’t forget the amount of time it takes to sort it once it’s clean.  But I learned a little secret from Heidi St. John:

Quit folding

I know what you are thinking.  I would have never even CONSIDERED the thought of not folding my laundry either.  I would have thought it would only increase our chaos.  But then I remembered:

No one keeps the clothes folded.  It’s all scrambled up once it hits their dressers.  True confession: I don’t keep mine folded either.  Whether it’s balled up in a drawer or hanging in my closet, I end up ironing almost everything anyway.  

I am never folding again, and neither are you.  As the clean clothing emerges, you just effortlessly stuff it into the person’s basket.  Done.  Folding laundry: an inconsequential, futile, unproductive, fruitless use of time.  I lost hours of my life folding for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

Note: I do fold our socks, my type-A hubby’s clothing for him, as well as the linens. 

I do fold my linens and my husband’s stuff–because I love him. ❤


THREADBARE TOWELS

When first lived in Hawaii, I blissfully invested in lush, beautiful, fluffy beach towels.  The instant I laid out them out, they were wet, salty, and embedded with flour-consistency sand.  And heavy.  They never really dried, and the sand never shook completely out.  I quickly realized that the crappiest towels make the best beach towels because they dry so fast and are easy to clean. 

The same thing applies to the kids’ bath towels.  When the towels are cheap and chintzy, who could care that they were used to sop up mess of an overflowed toilet, to clean up nail polish spills, or wipe off rugby cleats?  Save the plush towels for yourself and guests, and equip your kids with the thinnest, cheapest, lamest towels that money can buy…even better if you can get them for free!  Think one step up from paper towels.  They dry fast even when they are balled up on the floor, and they’re easier to maintain overall.

Next time you see an ad selling towels in the dollar store, and you think to yourself, “who is buying their towels at the dollar store?” The answer is you.  You are.  

Downside: the kids constantly go after the nice guest towels; they must be guarded with my life, and that’s another challenge altogether.

If you simply can not bring yourself to buy crappy towels, but you want the benefits of light weight and quick dry time, then you can invest in Turkish towels…which have the same exact benefits of the chea-pass towels, but at a much higher price point.  Wowsers, they are so much cuter too, and can be used as a beach wrap to boot. 

the posh version of “threadbare towels” are called Turkish towels, and they are great–but no need to waste your money on them for the kids. (But these are a wonderful gift idea!!)


UNWANTED CHORES

Assign your kids the chores that YOU despise doing.  Those are their burdens now.  Stop giving them the jobs you can do with your eyes closed. 

Some household tasks just seem to happen, and I accomplish those mindlessly.  For instance, laundry.  I am OCD about my trash monster, so no one can come near it.  Loading/unloading the dishwasher just happens for me.  Also, I effortlessly do quite a bit of vacuuming, probably because of the enchanting and glorious white noise that obscures my surroundings. 

I don’t make them do anything that I automatically seem to do. 

However, I happily burden the kids with every bit of grunt work.  The worst jobs of all.  The stuff I never get around to.  I’m talking baseboards, cleaning out from under beds (even mine), mopping, vacuuming stairs, tidying the front and back stoops…this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Insider secrets:

  1. Have them clean your laundry room.  This is the best kid chore of all.  Nothing is more refreshing than walking into a sparkling clean utility room…after all, I spend a great deal of time in there not-folding the kids’ clothes. 
  2. Skip the mop bucket altogether.  Make them wash the floors Cinderella-style, with Windex and paper towels.  This is the most efficient method.  Sloppy mops and buckets just create so much more work and mess, IMO.  It is so fast, and much easier for the kids to do without too much of your oversight.

 You can create your own set of housekeepers–they are guaranteed to get it right!  

Now, just how you get your kids to do these jobs well is another article altogether.


TWO WORDS:

One of the chief complaints of most parents is the total lack of privacy.  I have great news.  Kids after a certain age do NOT bother you if there is any risk whatsoever of seeing you naked.  On the contrary, they actually run for their lives. 

All you have to do is shout, “I’M NAKED” and you have bought yourself 20 minutes of privacy, minimum

This amazing parenting hack does not start working until the children are age six or seven, however.  So, in our case, 40% are still not phased by parental nudity in the least.  I guess we have another three years or so before we are entirely home free. 

If you have a 5-year-old, try shouting this at them, just to test the water and see where they are at.  Your 5-year-old may have early-onset nudaphobia, and you are golden. 🙂


 

There you have it.  All these little systems have been wonderful breakthroughs for us!  Don’t parent for 14 years before you adopt some of these.  All of this is free chicken for everyone!!  We are all in this together.  Anyone else have any must-share parenting hacks to save you time, eliminate hassle, or buy you some privacy?  Don’t hold out on us!

 

Leigh

 

Two Truths to Fight off Mom-Guilt

9 Jun path of grace in parenting

mom guilt

Not enough exercise.
Their/They’re/There still stumps my 12 year old.
We move them around too much.
I let their pet bunny roast in the Texas sun accidentally.
In a rush, I threw the bunny’s corpse into the garbage in front of them.
Not enough time spent reading.
Too much yelling.
All their food is either beige or neon orange.

I delegate every request to play pretend.
They never see our other side of the family.
They don’t like team sports.
Too many empty threats.
Allowing too much screen time.
Not allowing enough screen time.
Not enough Easter egg hunts.

You read right.  I cried this past Easter, because we didn’t do an egg hunt.  To be fair, it’s not that much of a thing in the UK…not to mention they don’t have those convenient, plastic, fillable Easter eggs.  But still—the parenting anxiety that I even might have deprived my children of a candy-centric holiday custom brought out liquid tears.  I had to go check my Glow App just to see where I was in my cycle, in order to rationally categorize my Easter-onset distress.

Mom-guilt.  I have taken every trip!  Times five kids, there have been many!  You’d think I would see that guilt-trip train rushing toward me from a mile away and avoid it.  But I still get on board, after all these kids and all these parenting years later.  So many nights I crash-land into bed, ruminating over the coulda-shoulda-wouldas.   

Some of the guilt is warranted–and the conviction leads me to say I am sorry, and restore the relationship.  (Great opportunity to model the art of apology!)

But most guilt is useless and cumbersome.  It’s all self-doubt which throws me sideways and strips away my confidence.  (By the way, tripping on mom-guilt is a huge indicator that I need to rest from social media.)  This luxurious and modern American culture causes us to overthink the definition of success in parenting!  The truth is that parenting is hard, but we don’t need to get cynical or discouraged.   

Here are two thoughts that refocus me when the negative thought train comes barrelling through:   

  1. The path of grace in parenting is very wide.
    .
  2. The gospel of parenting is this: if they know they are loved they have everything.

First of all, your commitment and desire to raise children well means that you are on the right path.  No matter what side of the aisle you are on, your viewpoint on screen time, whether you stay at home or go to work, breast or bottle feed, homeschool or send them to the brick-and-mortar school.

The path…the right path…is graciously wide enough for everyone! You’re on it.

Secondly, and most importantly.  If you stripped everything away until all they had left is your love: they would have everything.  Strip off everything. Everything you consider good, bad, disappointing or super advantageous in their lives. Take it all off, and imagine their life without any of those conditions and circumstances.

Sit on that for a minute.

If it all went away, and all that remained was a tent, rice, water + your love, they would have EVERYTHING.  Everything they need to become high-functioning adults, contributing members of society, and capable of spreading this love to others.

This is old news, but it’s all we need to parent entirely guilt-free.  You can check off every box, and your children could be a total success on paper.  But if they don’t have love, they are nothing.  This is a simultaneously simple yet somehow monumental challenge!  Maybe it is just me, but I have to continually recenter on this over and over.  In this way, parenting is inherently a spiritual practice. 

Since love is action and not just a feeling–here are a few, off-the-top of my head ways to demonstrate your love to your children on the daily:

  1. Hug and kiss your children as often as they are fed.
  2. Tell them you love them–may as well be when you are giving them that hug.
  3. Listen when they share.  It is possible to disagree with them without voicing it the moment after they share with you. They need to be heard, and this is central to their feeling loved.
  4. Encourage and point out every good thing.  I have even created handwritten lists of the good things.  Because, sadly, I am much much better at keeping track of their shortcomings–such an unloving tendency.  We are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, but we definitely ought to keep a record of rights!
  5. Discipline from a place of peace.  When it’s time to give correction or consequences, ask them to go to their room and wait for you.  Take five minutes to collect your own emotions, and even say a prayer before you approach discipline.
  6. Be quick to forgive.  We are often much harder on our kids than God is on us!
  7. Find every easy yes.  There will always be so many necessary nos.
  8. Create spaces where they can express themselves in a healthy manner.  This one is hard because we are territorial about our living space.  They want to cook, dance, make messy art, create potions, dig holes in the garden.  The home should be their haven for self expression See #7.

After all this, you have permission to sleep well at night because you gave them everything.
Let that be an encouragement to you.

Leigh

 

 

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