Hard Stories: Being Selfish

I was torn.  Little bit kept wavering on whether she’d stay at the main house or the bayou house, and the baby was wailing because of an injured ankle.  I started the car, it was already late because we had so many fireworks to pop, and tried to load the boys.

Little bit said she would stay with her grandparents, and the remaining four of us set off across the pasture.  The car parked at the back door with me still in a quandary over whether to stay with the boys or go back to the main house.

I got the baby settled in a chair with a wash cloth and icepack and decided to head back.  The boys were tearful and asked me to stay.  I said I’d come back if little bit was still dressed.

I drove back across the pasture with my headlights full of bugs in the dark night and lugged my bag into the main house.  Little bit was happy as a clam in her p.j.s “making her beauty” with grandmother, her pink blanket already settled in between her grandparents pillows.

She brushed her teeth and told me she would stay in their room.  I decided to stay put, and I washed my face and laid down in the guest room, alone.

And cried.

I didn’t stay where I was most needed mainly because I was angry at my husband.  As the night had worn on, we had a silly argument, and I could tell he was angry at how I responded.  I started the fireworks with the kids before he came out, and we didn’t interact for the rest of the evening.  I wasn’t particularly interested in staying with him.

Had we been home, we’d have gone to sleep in the same room, maybe angry, but we’d have slept in the same bed.  Yet here I had an out.  Another house and a paper thin excuse that the one child with two adults might need me specifically.

The baby with the injury and the eldest with his pleading, and even my husband who had taken my bags to the other house earlier, were the ones who really wanted me with them.  And I left for selfish reasons.

I had also had three glasses of wine over the course of the evening, and I can make foolish decisions when my brain is fuzzy instead of fueled with the clarity of action my faith requires me to take.

I had also shared a story with my mother-in-law about the first time I saw my father after the divorce, quite sometime as the case was and in less than ideal circumstances, and I had never spoken the story out loud before, not even to my husband.  I somehow managed to feel the wounds fresh on my heart all these years later.

I can still be selfish.  I can still be foolish.  I can still be wounded.

It was not an irreparable action.  Yet those selfish, foolish, wounded-fueled decisions in marriage and parenting can add up if you don’t watch it.  It becomes all too easy to write off the instance as “a one-off” and not ask for forgiveness and determine to do better the next time.  Then those costly one-offs add up to more distance and more damage.

There is hope.  In the midst of the I can be’s… (add your own laundry list of less-than adjectives).

I can do all this through Christ who gives me strengthPhil. 4:13

So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.  Romans 11:5-6

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ JesusPhil. 1:6

There is grace for a new day.  So I can be forgiven.  I can start anew.  I can do it better.  I can be selfless, and wise, and healed.

 

This week is about the hard stories.  The ones I’m not particularly happy to share.  But if we don’t start talking about the hard stories, how we will find our way to the other side?

Hard Stories: Angry Kids

I’ve struggled the past year with a particular aspect of parenting one of my children.  I haven’t ever written about it because I’m not sure I have any solutions and there’s a degree of shame parents experience with the hard issues.

Then, over the past weeks, I have encountered mom after mom who is experiencing the same struggle.

It never fails to surprise me because I never read about it.  No one ever really talks about it.  But because I’ve begun to open up about my struggles, out of desperation maybe more than anything, I begin to hear the exact same story repeated back to me.

The child’s age and gender varies.  The stories come from moms parenting boys and girls alike.  The children’s ages range from three on into the teen years.  Which makes this a struggle some moms have just begun to get a handle on and some moms have spent years honing their responses.

This is the story about the worry and confusion and guilt and frustration when trying to parent an angry kid.

These stories, including my own, are not about a child with a temper.  We’ve seen that.  We know the solution there.  The truth is, I was a nanny and babysitter and church nursery provider for years and never saw it.  I now realize those kids may have had the same struggle as my baby does, but you don’t often see it in public.  At least, in our case, you rarely see it in public.  We’ve had a couple of very explosive experiences, once with our pediatrician, but apart from that they happen at home.

All the moms I talk to know it happens at home “because they feel most comfortable with you,” as well as all those other things people say to make you feel encouraged about the hurricane that hits, but it’s not helpful.

For a while, we were convinced it was the work of asthma medicine causing our son’s outbreaks, and we had the studies to back it up.  After months of natural allergy treatments, we were able to back him off all asthma medicine (his is ultimately a minor case), and he hasn’t had any asthma treatments for over a year.  There was a pause, but still the explosions come.

For the moms who have multiple children, and most of the moms I’ve talked to do have other children without this same issue, the situation can wreck an evening at home trying to parent all the children and get things accomplished.

There is no ideal reaction when the meltdown occurs.  Reason never works.  Anger in response doesn’t work and, if anything, it fuels the reaction to greater heights.  Removal of the child during an episode is challenging, because you can never get him to stay where you want him, and trying to move him, when the anger fuels an incredible strength, can be nearly impossible.

The other children lose the attention they were receiving from their parents.  Often everyone loses a privilege or experience because you can’t reward the angry child.

What have other moms done?  There have been assorted therapy sessions which I wish moms would talk about more because sharing could help tremendously, but it still seems to be the dirty little secret of parenting.  Like it’s somehow admitting failure.  I’ve heard about family sessions and individual sessions and play therapy and a number of options.  We tried therapy a couple of times, but with other children involved in the session the behavior didn’t come out (and it’s an expensive option when you’re not getting closer to a solution).  Some moms do try to remove the child to their room, and have had more success, and keep them away from the rest of the family so the anger outbreak is less disruptive.  Those moms recommend talking about what happens in the child’s head when the child is calm but not to try reasoning when the episode is happening.

From my experience, and talking with other moms, we generally cannot find a consistent trigger.  One day it could be complimenting another child leads to a complete disruption while another day it could be exhaustion and another it could be losing a privilege because of an initial act of disobedience.

For me, it is not a daily experience and therefore even hard to predict.  Most moms seem to have the experience I do with their angry child also being incredibly loving, giving, sensitive, and prone to heartbreak.  These are kids whose nerves are right there on the surface.  We mommas are in love with these precious ones.  We are also at a loss for how to keep the anger from swallowing up our family on the hard days.

This week is about the hard stories.  The ones I’m not particularly happy to share.  But if we don’t start talking about the hard stories, how we will find our way to the other side?

Fashion Fridays: Happy Fourth!

Are you off today?  Well I am and I’m taking the kids down to Kemah!  But not without a nod to the upcoming 4th and your inevitable appearance in parades or backyard picnics fast upon you.

So let’s take a break from our career focus, and have some fun with fashion this summer!

How do you make Fourth of July casual wear work without looking too hokey or overdone?

We start with the obvious: the color palette is red, white and blue.  But you can incorporate those colors without plastering a flag on your chest.

Here was my look for the 4th of July parade last year at the farm:

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Start with a staple – BLUE jeans!  (Although I know it may be too hot here friend, I went ahead with it to avoid my legs being eaten by mosquitos).  I topped it with a short sleeve knit top that was navy with white polka dots.  My favorite is that lightweight white cotton jacket I’ve had for a million years – it covers my arms, but is so light weight, and brightens up any casual outfit.  My red – it was the pop of color in my wedges and a beaded necklace strand.  Simple makeup and accessories and voila!  It was still plenty easy to chase kids around (and the rest of the family used blue as the primary festive color and the boys gave their look a cowboy spin!).

Layering allows you to incorporate festive colors without it all having to appear on one garment.  If you really want a nod to the flag, think about incorporating a lightweight striped jacket or skirt – my colleague was wearing a blue and white jacket yesterday with a small flag pin which was adorable!

Sundresses are also a great option in the summer.  You could sport this adorable Chevron sundress (imagine it’s one piece) in navy instead of black, or this two piece more overt Fourth look.  These are lightweight in the heat but still easy to move and sit in.

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These simple shorts outfits could translate to a barbecue or boat ride (although you folks with littles may want to avoid that all white top!):

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Where are you headed for the Fourth?  How do you infuse patriotism in your look?  Have a wonderful long weekend and I’ll see you back here on Monday!

 

Shorts outfits courtesy of Love, Elizabethany.

What Are You Doing This Summer?

I’m off to D.C., hobbling as I go, though my knee is much improved.

And I’m curious friends, what are you up to this summer?  Where are you going?

If you’re in Houston, what’s your favorite activity – as a couple or with kids?

We just wrapped up swim team this week.  Little bit was the only five year old that made it to finals!  I am so proud of her but the boys, especially the baby, were less than good sports about it.  Mercy this is a competitive house.  We had the final team party on Sunday and she won a medal as well as the little team trophy – the boys ribbon paled in comparison to her proud medal worn around her neck.

We’re just now starting to schedule play dates for July.  Vacation has passed and the kids are starting to get on each other’s nerves.  The boys are starting to play more “boy games” that little bit is less interested in and she went to bed crying last night that she didn’t have a girl who lived at the house to be her girl buddy.  So sad.  They really do all play together but inevitable one ends up on the outs.  While we’re playing with friends from the old school, I’m hoping to set up some play dates with new school kids too so it’s not brand new faces when they start in August.

We saw Inside Out this weekend at the movie theatre and it was wonderful!  Great for kids and adults and it helps start conversations about the emotions that are sometimes hard for kids to understand.  We were invited to a law firm’s big family event in a few weeks to see Minions and have breakfast and fun and a rented out theatre – that’s a big hit each summer.

We rotate the Science Museum (Houston’s is wonderful), Children’s Museum and occasionally throw in the zoo and Aquarium but we’re not members there so it’s pricier for us.  Maria takes the kids to the park, splash pads, and jumpy places during the week.  She also takes them to the $1 Wednesday kid movies Cinemark puts on.  We swim at our pool every day and my mom, the retired teacher, comes over and does reading comprehension, math, and spelling a couple of times a week to keep their new skills fresh in their mind.

I take the baby on a weekend trip to Alabama in a month, it’s his turn as I rotate each kid on a solo flight with me to a different destination each year.

So how about you?  How do you pass the summer?  What do you cook?  What do you do?  I’m a sponge always looking for ways to break the monotony and keep things fun without the stress of running ninety-to-nothing.

Fashion Fridays: The Basics, Fad

Finally – the last in the four Fashion Fridays Basics series.  We covered fit, feel, and fresh, and now we’re covering fad.

I love fads.

I just don’t love all fads.

Embracing trend can keep you feeling modern and young, and there are ways to keep up to date on trends that fit your age and budget.  But there are some fads that are worth skipping.  Think jellies and parachute pants :)

What are things to look for in any given trend?

* The “color” of the season – it’s easy to spot by window shopping or picking up a current issue of In Style or Vogue.

* The “pattern” of the season – think of the Chevron pattern that swept fad a few seasons ago.

* The “shape” of the season – this can come in the form of cigarette pants or a hobo bag.  Most items of clothes get cut and recut and if you keep certain looks around long enough they are certain to make a return.

Filter through the various trends of the seasons.  Discard the ridiculous ones or the ones that don’t work for you (e.g., a balloon skirt or mustard as a primary color).  Gravitate to the ones which work beautifully for you or ones you can incorporate in small ways like a pair of earrings, a scarf, or a new costume handbag.

Check out a few fashion websites – according to Harper’s Bazaar, the trends that came into vogue this season were fringe, the poncho, poplin, and the color red (see style trends, fabric and color…):

fringe

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poplin

red

You can probably see, like I did, that it would be easy to incorporate those first two looks into your career wardrobe.  While the next two items don’t translate as well as pictured, you could easily grab a poplin shirt, or a crimson blazer, and be on trend while making the fad work for your day to day life.

What is a fad you wish you hadn’t embraced?  What’s on trend this year that you LOVE?

 

Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar