A fresh start

Hello! I’m back after a blogging sabbatical!

Being one of those weird people who loves school supplies, I get excited about the start of school to see what new school supplies have been invented or changed each fall. However, as a mother of two school-aged boys, I was not thrilled about the prices.

Anyways, the start of school represents something we all need in life at times. We need a fresh start. Sometimes we need a change of careers, a change in wardrobe, a fresh start in our perspective, the chance to make new friends, try new ministries, or maybe even a fresh start with our loved ones..

A fresh start with others is often prevented by fear. In this instance, fear is often rooted in the fear of rejection. Public speaking is one of the greatest fears documented, and I believe it is rooted in the fear of rejection. Sometimes, a fresh perspective can help us to realize that our fear of rejection is actually just that… a fear and not a reality. Most people in your life are likely not trying to reject you. While I realize that in some cases some people are rejecting you or have rejected you, consider forgiving and try to work towards a fresh start even if only in your heart. Often times people who’ve been rejected in the past also assume that everyone in their life is somehow trying to reject them. Consider trying to stop, slow down, think, and finding out where this fear of rejection is truly coming from before reacting.

Some of the ways we can work towards a fresh start with others is by asking for a fresh start which often requires forgiveness.  It also helps to learn how to apologize well. Don’t apologize by coupling your “I’m sorry” with a “but” in any way. Just say, “I’m sorry”. It will go a long way I promise.

In closing, if you truly have been rejected or have tried something and it didn’t work out, be care not to say, “I”ll never do that again”. When you say “I’m done trying or I’ll never do this again” then God can’t use you. Faith is risky but worth it. Maybe you have to change your situation a bit, try a different place/scenery, or be patient, but don’t stop trying altogether especially if you are seeking the good of others and to please God.

I’m thankful that God’s mercies are NEW every morning. Seek to give others and yourself a fresh start everyday.

Natalie

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I really shouldn’t…

read the news before I go to bed…I discourage this for my clients all the time, but for some reason, this week I’ve read my “news briefing” (which makes me feel important like they are specifically ‘briefing me’ :)) before I go to sleep. The news is …ugh… most of the time, I can’t watch it, but need and want to stay somewhat informed whether it is fake, real or somewhat in the middle, so I typically go to the ‘NEWS’ app and scan the titles. HOWEVER, last night I dug a little dipper into a couple of horrible stories including the evilness of the California family (a blog for another day) and the Nassar doctor (I just can’t put the Dr. before his name right now) story surrounding 100s of young athletes over the years which led to me not sleeping well and getting up at 5:15 feeling the need to blog…

The funny thing is or actually I believe the spiritual thing is, I have thought about/felt God prompting me to write this post for the past couple of weeks. I was going to title it, “SPEAK UP” or “How to teach your children to SPEAK UP”.

In my profession, I have the bittersweet task often of being the first one to hear people disclose terrible things that have happened to them sometimes 40 years prior or 4 months… It has been a true humbling and honorable experience to be someone God uses to help people heal from true evil that has been done to them. People often think if they don’t talk about it or deal with it that it doesn’t affect them. I explain that it is similar to having a house that hasn’t been dusted in many years. It may look like everything is in place but you still sneeze and are affected by the dust and may not realize that just keeping things neat and orderly isn’t enough. Yes, once you start dusting, it may feel worse at first and your sneezing may increase momentarily, but when it is all clean out and up, you feel so much better and free.

My approach to teaching parents and encouraging victims always includes:

SPEAKING UP! Preferably sooner than later! Whether a boss or co-worker is saying inappropriate things to you, a dirty old man at church (unfortunately church is full of imperfect people) makes comments to you, a classmate smacks your bottom, or a family member/neighbor/stranger or ANYONE says or does anything (even if the person touches your shoulder and you feel weird) SPEAK UP, tell someone you trust and if you don’t have someone you trust, keep searching until you find someone who hears you!

The good news about SPEAKING UP!

Speaking up helps people learn: If you inform an adult that your 8th grade classmate smacked your bottom and he gets in trouble. You are actually helping him to learn that you DO NOT touch a woman inappropriately and without her permission. He hopefully will learn early on NOT to do that again. Boys this applies to you as well. If a girl says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or touches you, when you SPEAK UP and call her out, you are helping her to learn.

-Speaking up helps individuals stay out of trouble: I have boys and they are silly, which is normal. However, they at one period thought they could give me a love tap on the bottom like their dad did while flirting with me. It is my job as a mother to inform them that is it NOT appropriate to touch a woman like that unless you are married and know one another is joking. Basically, my husband had to stop doing that because they needed to see it modeled. Maybe you think this is extreme, but if it helps my kids learn, then it was worth it! Of course, there are times when the kids aren’t in the room ;).

Speaking up breaks the cycle: I’m that weird mom who stands in the doorway of men’s restrooms talking to her boys the entire time they are in there. Yes, they’ve had karate, Yes, they are getting older, BUT… I WILL CUT YOU  if you touch my kids inappropriately. My boys think I’m nuts and hate it, but I’m not their mom to be cool or friendly. Part of my job is protecting and preparing them. Things happen in public restrooms and other places. Teach your kids this…Yes it is an ugly truth but knowing it will hopefully help them. If enough crazy moms stand up, maybe we can begin to break the cycle for some.

Speaking up shows love: This one is very personal to me…You see I firmly believe that children must be taught to speak up against anyone. My neighbor and I are like family, but we’ve even had the conversations with our children that even if one of us tries something, they should speak up! They should learn that even those that are closest to them can and should be held accountable. One way to teach this to your children is to create an environment where your children feel safe telling you anything. My parents are not perfect, but they got this one right at a very crucial time for my older sister and me…A family member once tried to “show himself” to us “and have us touch him” as little girls and my very brave (sometimes she doesn’t realize how brave she really is, although she can’t even give someone the stink eye she looks and is SO sweet…) SPOKE UP. My sister told that person to stop and we got out of the bathroom and when our parents came, she told them what happened. She felt safe telling them and they responded by protecting us. Part of your children feeling safe is knowing you’ll listen and respond (this is love)!  I want go into long details except to say, our dad confronted the person (mom couldn’t go or trust me she’d be in jail to this day, which is basically what she told our dad…You go or I will…) and eventually we were NEVER around that person EVER AGAIN until his funeral. I truly believe I would not be who I am today without my parents allowing us to speak up and then responding appropriately. It wasn’t easy and it tore a family apart, but it was worth it! If you have to tear a family apart, turn a neighborhood upside down, or take on a corporate executive, DO IT!

Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (By the ways, this proverb was based on what a mom taught her son).

God love you and He didn’t intend for us to ever even taste evil, but because of Adam and Eve chooses to think they knew better, we live in a very broken world. The good news though is that Jesus came to make all things new…He is doing that now and will wipe away all evil one day. This is what I have hope and faith in that keeps me going. I hope you will consider this hope too.

With love,

Natalie

Wolf dad

Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled, Six ways to keep the ‘good’ in your boy, by Dannah Gresh because I’m raising boys, interact with others doing to same, and have realized it is not a task for the faint at heart to say the least. Just yesterday morning, my son came in after taking our puppy out and explained that he had to grab poop out of her butt…(stay tuned for the rest of this story…)

It is a great book with some practical advice on raising boys. By the way, she has one written for ‘good’ girls too. She starts out addressing the fears of mothers, transitions into the importance of connecting with your children and then explains her six ways. Some of the ways aren’t surprising such as encouraging boys to go outside, hosting fantasy football parties, giving them a book to read, etc. However, one story in particular has really challenged me..

She discussed reading a book herself called, The Man who lives with wolves, about a true story of a man named Shaun Ellis who studied wolf behavior to the point that he was accepted into a pack. Wolves apparently are very family oriented and cubs are raised in two distinct stages.

In stage one (the first 5-6 weeks of the cubs lives), the pups are sheltered and nurtured by their mothers. During this time, the mothers teach them to be intimate by cuddling them and bathing them. She also keeps them safe during this time and teaches them to bathe, eat and rest. The cubs are rarely seen by the rest of the pack also during this time.

In stage two, the cubs start to come out of the den and learn about risk and purpose with their dads. The wolf dads begin by teaching them through games similar to a relay game. As the weeks progress, the dads lead the cubs further away from security and their den. The intent of the relay type game they are taught is to teach them to hunt which is how wolves survive. Dads teach the cubs their purpose in hunting and then they come back to the den where moms continue instilling the value of community. The moms and dad work together to teach their cubs needed values for survival.

Ok, you say, that is nice and we can learn from that but it’s nothing shocking, maybe not but this next aspect of “wolf dad” is. Shaun, the guy studying the wolves, was actually accepted into a pack of wolves. However, one day when Shaun and another male wolf was left behind during a hunting adventure to guard the den full of younger cubs, Shaun got thirsty and left the den to only to be found and pinned against a tree for several hours by the wolf dad. I can’t imagine how intimidated and scared Shaun must have felt. Eventually, the wolf let Shaun go and Shaun realized that evening walking along the stream where he was trying to find water to alleviate his thirst, that a grizzly bear had been where he was and the wolf dad knew this from experience. The wolf dad pinning him against a tree for several hours potentially saved him from being ripped apart by a grizzly bear. Wolf dads teach their cubs to play, take risks and eventually hunt for survival. They know when to push their boys and when to punish or discipline them. The mothers also know to stay back and let the dads do this at the needed time.

As human mothers, somehow we tend to want to stay in stage one way too long. We want to secure and nurture our baby boys and often get in the way of their fathers teaching them to take risks, push them to work hard and accept challenges which includes loving discipline at times. It is hard as a mother to see your husband parent differently at times than you do or feel is right. We may think they are “being too hard on them, etc”. However, I do not know what it is like to be a man in this world. My husband has experiences, gifts, talents and abilities according to his design by God as a man that I simply don’t have and vice versa. I have seen my boys grow as I have stepped back at times and not tried to nag the manhood out of the men in my house.

For example, the story about my oldest from the beginning is that he took the puppy out to pee and poop before school and noticed that our dog couldn’t get the last bit (turd-sorry but that is the best way to describe it) out by herself so our son grabbed a paper towel and helped the dog to get it out and cleaned her up. At times, I may have felt my husband was being tough on our son when it came to taking care of the dog. However, hearing that my son who is in still in elementary school saw a problem, figured out a solution and took care of someone else without coming in to ask me for help or wine about it…made me realize that I need to sit back at times and allow my husband to push my son to be the man God created him to be.

Again, I realize that there are single moms in this world and parents who abuse their children and this is not at all what I mean by loving discipline. I encourage single moms to find a good man to mentor their boys. The beauty of the family of God is that we are supposed to look at one another as family and help one another. Families need to be available and willing to help single moms also. I encourage fathers to lovingly push their boys to reach their greatest potential. Finally, I encourage mothers to nurture and teach intimacy but also allow dads to teach the other needed skills for their boys to survive and flourish in this world!

Proverbs 29:11, “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.”

TGIF,

Natalie

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I said, “Give me the dang iPad…”

Most of my friends feel the same way I do at this point in the summer, which is that we are ready for the wonderful children that God has blessed us with to return to school. Routine, structure and order are great things. God is a god of order. The sun comes up and the sun goes day each day. There are seasons and things function mostly along with a natural order. Summer is a nice time to relax and try new things with your family and friends if you are a parent, but it can also be challenging.

One of the challenges I am having is to cut out technology with my children. I limit their time better during the school year, I’ll admit. I try during the summer and I’ve had days where we’ve had zero tech time, but my kids sure fight me on it. Why is this, one may ask?

Well, it has been argued by many researchers that screen time creates notable changes in brain chemistry, mostly in the area of dopamine release. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical and is highly related to addiction. People want to feel pleasure and if screen time increase pleasure then of course, one wants more and more. Dopamine also plays a role in sugar and cocaine addictions to name a couple. In May 2013, “internet use disorder” (IUD) will be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. So what is the harm, well first of all, you do not want to allow your child to become predisposed to any type of addiction.

Harmful effects of too much screen time in children:

  • Harm to the ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary
  • Weakening of cognitive muscles (which may not be reversed)
  • lack of the ability to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Loss or harm of empathetic abilities—the near-instinctive way you and I can read situations and get a feel for other people—will be dulled, possibly for good.
  • Difficulty in friendships or other relationships. Screen time can become preferred over real-world interactions due to the pleasure associated.
  • Agression, losing touch with reality.
  • Anxiety: being overstimulated constantly can increase anxiety
  • Increased risks of pornography exposure
  • Increased risks of other types of exposure that you are ready for your child to have.

These effects  and others have been known for years. (Psychologytoday.com) However, sadly the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that the average child spends seven hours of their day looking at a screen, be it a video game, computer, cell phone, or television.

Suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org)

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
  • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.

Here is a helpful tool: HealthyChildren.org/MediaUsePlan.

My recommendations:

-Teach your kids how to limit and the value of limiting screen time. Make them want to spend time with you doing things outside of using technology.

-Model limiting screen time for them. Don’t be an absent parent b/c you are too busy looking at social media.

-Learn how to turn off all technology and go to bed on time. No one needs to be on all of the time. Those who need should not need you 24/7. At some point, they need to figure out what to do without you. Your kids should know how to get help if you aren’t available.

Have dinner together. Don’t allow technology at dinner time or at restaurants. Why do people go out to eat and stay on technology? Can’t they at least just order take out and go home to ignore one another?

Enjoy God’s beautiful creation, go outside, enjoy his creation of actual humans and interactions with them not just interactions online.

Setting new limits as we speak for my family,

Natalie

A lot of wasted toilet paper: Anger and Love

Growing up in a small town if you didn’t want to drink and party on the weekends at a friend’s house, you had to find something else stupid to do, so we ‘rolled houses’ (aka throwing toilet paper in trees) all the time. At some point it became so much fun to roll the ‘Roper girls’ house that my dad would sit and wait in his car (a very scary 1980 something red Nissan Sentra) laid back in his seat ready to scare some teenagers. It became quite comical and was really a ton of fun. Teens will be teens, right? I’m thankful that my parents let us have fun and didn’t make a big deal out of it as long as we cleaned it up…Parents often get very frustrated parenting teens and teens often get frustrated with parents. As kids, many will go through a phase of saying, “I hate you.” which can truly hurt a parent’s feelings. So how do we deal with angry kids? How do we deal with anger?

Truly, there is a fine line between love and hate. People get angry at the people they love and about the things they love. Anger in and of itself isn’t bad. God may allow anger in us to motivate us to correct evil such as child abuse or poverty or to help us set others things right. Hopefully as adults we’ve learned to manage our anger effectively, but let’s be honest, most of us are still learning in this area. At the same time, for those of us raising children, we need to help them learn how to manage their anger effectively also.

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell in the book, “The Five Love Languages in Children” state, “The primary lifetime threat to your child is his or her anger.” It’s not pornography, sex trafficking, being kidnapped, drugs, etc. I tend to agree with their further statement, “The mishandling of anger is related to every present and future problem your child may have,–from poor grades to damaged relationships to possible suicide.” Teenagers are often the most difficult to deal with because parents often think, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works.” Teens are often being passive-aggressive, which is a subconscious determination to do the opposite of what the authority figure (parents in this case) wants.  Sometimes, passive-aggressive behavior in teens can be drugs, violence, sexual activity resulting in disease or unplanned pregnancy, school failure or even suicide. The good news is we can learn to manage anger and teach others how to positive manage anger as well.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all anger is wrong and needs to be disciplined in children. Teach them how to manage it. Here are some tips:

-Give them choices. Ask them, “What is/was a better way of handling this situation?”

-Let small things go while parenting teens such as messy rooms or toilet-papering trees! Proverbs 19:11, Overlook offenses at times.

-Encourage physical activities such as mountain climbing, ropes courses, white-water rafting, sport, biking, etc that can help teens to satisfy their desire for excitement and danger.

-Model how to deal maturely with anger. Apologize to you kids when you haven’t done this so well.

-Allow them to tell you they are angry at you. When my kids starting saying, “I hate you or ____ person”. I  encouraged them to say, “I had what you did or I hate what this person did” instead of “I hate you”. Let your kids verbally express anger, which can be better than behaviorally expressing it at times. Let them get verbal at home when you are there to help them so they hopefully won’t do it at school. Allowing this isn’t permissive parenting, it is an opportunity to teach them. Proverbs: 15:1 A gentle angers turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger. This take time and practice!

-Give behavioral alternatives such as a punching bag. My kids will go punch their pillows. Some kids will hit themselves and I tell them they don’t have the right to harm a body that belongs to God, but they can punch the stuffing out of their pillows!

-Take time to listen to your kids, love them unconditionally and spend quality time with them. Explain your reasoning behind decisions to your kids. Most angry adults felt unloved by their parents. It is a sad but often true reality.

-If you need help, contact a family counselor who can help. Never let pride stand in the way of seeking good counsel. Proverbs 12:15 Wise people realize they don’t know it all and seek wise counsel!

God Bless you all for reading and use anger for good!

Natalie

p.s. A great toilet papering trick: My friend, Jill’s dad was one of the local assistant fire chiefs and he told us to light a match at the end of the toilet paper and it would burn right out of the tree without burning a tree! It worked for us! Just don’t try alone..lol

 

 

My mom and Jane Fonda…

I’m sorry I’ve been gone from the blog scene for a while, life is too busy at times I guess. I do love to write and encourage you all (my two faithful readers).

Since Mother’s Day is this weekend (hint to all those who still need to get something to show their appreciation for the mothers in their lives), I figured I’d write about my mom.

My mom truly is one of my heroes. I really think she can do just about anything. I grew up watching her at home keep an immaculate house. The times we talked were typically on Saturdays as we cleaned the house together with my sisters, and listened to the “oldies music” of the 50-70s. Somehow my oldest sister convinced me that the toilets were my job! Although sometimes her borderline OCD cleaning tendencies drove me nuts, one thing I learned that she kept things nice because it made them last longer. Our house was small, but it was so nicely kept we though it was as nice as anyone else’s. Now, I try to keep my house clean too, but not quite like her. I think my husband married me because he loved how clean my mom was, lol.

Dressed to the nines is definitely a term used to describe her at work. Her work ethic was solid from the tasks she completed, the reputation she acquired, to the clothes she had on. She wasn’t a mom who tried to dress like a teenager, thankfully, but was always dressed professionally no matter what job she did from working in insurance to being a school secretary. She always looked like she could be working in Manhattan. She takes her job seriously and all of her daughters have a strong work ethic as a result. We also like to dress nicely too :).

However, my mom dressed completely different while mowing the lawn and weed-eating. Basically, she looks like Jane Fonda from the old work out VHS days. She wears a headband, truly a sweatband. Somehow she was always outside with that headband on when dates came to pick me up. She had nice arms from weed-eating she says. She is very strong physically and was a great softball player yet the ultimate portrait of a business woman during the week. I think I’m tough anytime I pick up our week-eater!

Lastly, she was faithful and supportive as a wife although it was not always easy. She always taught us to “never say never” and be careful not to judge others because you never know what types of situations you will find yourself in one day. My mom supported my dad while he was in the military and as he serves in other ways today. She is not easy on him though and expects him to bring her coffee every morning! “He brews” is a book of the Bible by the way…:)

Raising three girls wasn’t easy I’m sure, but we weren’t allowed to get too dramatic so as difficult as having a home with three girls may sound, she just didn’t tolerate our crap… We thought she was mean, but now I’m so thankful for the way she raised us and the example she showed us. The lessons are truly unending but Proverbs 31 probably sums it up minus the Jane Fonda headband.

So thankful for my mom who still doesn’t put up with my crap,

Natalie

My Grandma taught me about the “bird and bees”.

I think I was in the 6th grade and stayed with her sometimes after school and I’m not sure how it came up but it was something like…”A girl has a garage and a boy has a car, don’t let a boy put his car in your garage until you are married…” No, my wonderful, amazing parents did not have this talk with me, but good ole’ Granny did…:)

I’ve been studying effective communication between parents and children. One startling statistic I read from http://www.fivethirtyeight.com this week is that on average parents spend about 3 minutes a day in meaningful dialogue with their children. We wonder why they don’t listen…maybe it’s because we don’t.

I also read in an article from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships called, “Parental behaviors related to adolescents’ self-disclosure: Adolescents’ views” by Ana Tokic ́ Ninoslava Pec ́nik,

that the following are reasons according to one study why adolescents’ don’t talk to their parents:

-Parents are distracted, unavailable, show mistrust, interrupt, lack understanding, break confidentiality (I just told grandma…), argue/yell, lecture, show disapproval or disappointment only and give the silent treatment.

Adolescents stated in the same study that parents who do the following make them want to talk to their parents:

-They are positive, creating opportunities for disclosure, ask open-ended questions, recognize their mental status, invite unconditional disclosure, wait for them to talk, provide support, self-disclose, are empathetic, appreciate adolescent disclosure, trust them to keep secrets, give constructive feedback, and approve requests.

So when should this start, if you are a parent, now…even if you have young children…If mine are in trouble and beating themselves up about it, I may share one of the many stories of when I got in trouble like the time I tried to do pull-ups on the towel rack and the sheet rock came down with the rack…Children learn to overcome mistakes and failures by learning from you sharing yours.

Make time for your kids today. They are worth it!

Have a great week!

Natalie