If we could hear a recording of ourselves talking to our children and our family members would it change us? Would we cringe at every harsh word or tone? Would we laugh at the conversations we’d had the day before?
The funny this is, that if we want to know how we talk to our children and what they hear…we just need to listen to them talk to their siblings. What do they say? How do they sound?
I struggle with being overly critical. I grew up with a lot of critique and very high expectations and I knew when I didn’t meet them. I grew up desperately wanting to please those around me and it took me the first few years of our marriage to get out of that habit. I also grew up setting high expectations for myself and for those around me, including my children. I have, at times, struggled with being critical of them in the same way I swore I would never be.
I had a convicting moment this last week. I heard one of my children critiquing his brother about how he had done something. Older brother to younger. Older brother used the same words and the same tone that I have used…and I cringed. I was humbled and convicted. In that moment I prayed for forgiveness for not showing patience and kind words to my children. I prayed for God to stop those words before they come out of my mouth and to change my thoughts before they become words. I prayed it wasn’t too late to soften the harsh edge that has already begun to develop in my son.
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
It is so easy for the harsh words to just come flying out if we’re not guarding ourselves against frustration, anxiety and busyness. I have learned that when I am trying to “multi-task” too much, when I am trying to do 3 things at once that my patience and tolerance decrease significantly. I have had to be more disciplined with my time and what I allow to pull me away from where I am with my children. When my “work” duties interrupt my “mom” duties or visa versa, I get frustrated and short. I have slowly learned to put up boundaries and to be willing to put some things on the back burner for later. It means I have to be a better manager of my time, but it keeps me from getting so overwhelmed I say things I regret.
I encourage you this week to think about how you’re talking to your children, your family and your spouse. If we can engage our “filter” when we’re at work or church and avoid saying hurtful things there…we should be able to engage it at home too. Ask yourself would I talk to a co-worker or friend the way I’m about to talk to my child or spouse? Would I use this tone with them? Ask God how He would have you communicate with your family and children? What heart issues are there that keep you from using your words to build up your family?
If you really want some insight…ask your spouse how you communicate with your children or them. And remember words can cause deep, long lasting wounds. You’re teaching your children how to be as parents…you’re teaching them how to treat your grandchildren.
He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart is life to the body,
But passion is rottenness to the bones.
Communication. It’s so vital to the health of a marriage. But it’s often overlooked and taken for granted. Now women by nature are typically talkers. We like to talk out all the options of a scenario and possible outcomes. We like to know what our husband is thinking. We ask questions like “what do you think about…” or “so tell me…” We are whole story people, we want the whole story, little details and all the stuff from beginning to end.
Men on the other hand, typically are short answer kind of folk. Quick to the point. Short story, strictly need to know kind of information.
This can cause some (okay, a lot) of conflict in a marriage. First I have to say this to the ladies…life is not a romantic comedy. Our husbands can’t read our minds and really things rarely play out like they did in “how to lose a guy in 10 days”. Most of the time if you tell them that you’re okay, he believe you. Unless you use that tone that says…”buddy you should know what’s wrong” that strikes fear into his heart. He’ll spend the rest of the day trying to figure out why he’s in the dog house. So don’t expect him to read your mind. Tell him. You love to talk…don’t clam up and expect him to suddenly become telepathic about the stuff that is really important to you.
Guys…your wife wants you to talk to her. She wants you to tell her what you’re thinking and then she wants to verbally process it with you. It’s unnatural for you. I know. But try to give her more than just “it’s okay” or “fine” when she asks you a question. Communicate…it’s one of the ways she knows that you’re paying attention to her, that you care and that you love her.
Here are some general guidelines for communicating with your spouse…
1. Shut your phone off. Don’t facebook, tweet, check your email or otherwise send the message that you’re not really paying attention. (I have been known to try to do all of these while carrying on a conversation with Kerry…it did not go well.)
2. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, cross your arms etc. Again this says “I don’t really want to be here”.
3. Say something back. Seriously. If you’re listening to someone…say something back to them to let them know that you at least kind of understand what they’re talking about. Even if you say “I have to think about it for a minute”
4. Don’t interrupt. If your spouse can’t read minds…you can’t either. Let them finish their sentence.
5. Be willing to postpone the conversation if you need to. In our house full of 4 boys, we will sometimes have to put our discussion on hold so that we can attend to whatever emergency (diaper change, tantrum, fight or whatever) is at hand. One of our favorite authors has a policy in his house… when mom and dad need time together they tell the kids they’re taking a break. They shut their bedroom door and have time alone to talk, nap or do whatever married couples do when they’re alone. 🙂 The kids know that only in dire emergencies are they allowed to interrupt. Now, this wouldn’t work on our house Our kids are still too young yet, but it’s certainly a great idea.
6. Sometimes silence (gasp!) is okay…for a bit. Other times it means that your spouse has fallen asleep. Silence is helpful to collect your thoughts and formulate a response. But I’m telling you…I only give Kerry about 30 seconds before I start nudging his leg to make sure he’s still awake. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Don’t save big topics (or in some cases any topic) for right before bed. Your husband is tired. Once the lights go out I have about 2 minutes max to say good night to my husband. Now is not the time for me to bring up discipline issues, job conflicts, having another baby (no that’s not an announcement) or whether we should move again. I’ll get irritated that he falls asleep and the poor guy has no idea what hit him when the pillow comes flying across the bed.
8. Keep your personalities in mind. One of the most helpful things we did in our marriage counseling was take a little questionnaire. To be honest the biggest take away I have from this survey was that our personalities are very different. I typically answer questions with either strongly agree/strongly disagree, while Kerry answers them with agree/disagree or neutral (I’m rarely neutral on anything). Eventhough we answered questions similarly, I almost always picked the strongly option. Early in our marriage this proved to be huge. I tend to get excited and worked up about things quickly. I wanted Kerry to do the same. When he would respond calmly or would take time to think about stuff (this is a great quality as I tend to make pretty snap decisions) I would get irritated and interpret it as lack of caring or that he wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes your spouse might need to take time to let it sink in.
9. Be respectful but be honest. This goes without saying I think, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a reminder. Be nice and tell the truth. 🙂
I would encourage you this week to think about how you speak with and to your spouse. Communication isn’t just about conveying ideas. It’s about connecting. It’s about meeting the needs of your marriage and building your relationship.
So let’s spend our five minutes of writing today, sharing about community. Fight it, love it, hate it, hurt or healed by it, we were certainly built for it.
Set a timer and just write. Don’t worry about making it just right or not.
Go all in with your words.
Are you ready?
1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:
I grew up in a small community, 500 people. There were good things and bad things about growing up in such a little place.
- We had lunches made in our school, by our “lunch ladies” who also happened to be moms of kids going to school too. I was so thankful they put out a cookbook. I’ve made many recipes for my family that I remember eating as a student. I know now, how blessed we were as students to be cared for each day.
- We played 8 man football. Our basketball team one year only had 6 girls out, just enough for a substitute. We had a stellar band and choir.
- If you shot a deer in the morning before school, you could probably miss the first 2 hours while you drug it up to your house. It wasn’t uncommon for kids to come to school in camo with a gun in their gun rack. We weren’t worried about getting shot, we wanted to know what they shot and where.
- We didn’t have homework on Wednesday night usually because everyone went to church.
- We had a spring concert with a huge BBQ for the community. We walked to the nursing home for social studies when we were in junior high.
- We have a Threshing days celebration every year that is an impromptu class reunion for anyone who happens to be visiting. The band marches, we eat, we watch sand volleyball and we catch up. I knew the name of every person in my high school and really, for several years before and after me.
- Our school was “haunted” and our art teacher was a great story teller.
But there were drawbacks. It was sometimes hard to find a niche’ where you felt like you belonged. I moved into that little town when I was 8, third grade. I remember feeling like such an outsider. Like there was some kind of secret I was supposed to know but didn’t about being there. When I graduated 9 years later, I still felt like an outsider. It was a shell I never felt like I could break through. The town motto painted on the side of the grocery store was “Small town, Big heart”. Sometimes, it could feel like it was the other way around if you weren’t born there or were just a little bit “different”.
There were people though, who did their best to make everyone feel welcome. I remember my bus driver stopping me before I got off the bus so she could zip my coat for me. We had a long driveway and the wind was cold. When she retired, we were blessed with another bus driver who came to my wedding. I had a math teacher who invested in my future and who spent lots of time with me helping me understand trig. I had a wood shop teacher (yes, I took wood shop), who would spend late nights at the end of the semester helping students finish projects. He’d also draw all over the top of your board to make sure you sanded it good enough.
I met and started dating my husband in our little community. We were 15. We made an unlikely pair because we were so different. I am so blessed though in reality we couldn’t have been better matched.
When I think of community, there are so many different things that come to mind…church, family, work, school. But most often what comes to mind is the little community I grew up in, in south central Kansas. The place where I learned about making friends and enemies, acceptance and rejection and that no matter where you go small town living has no rival. That little community taught me far more in terms of “life” than any other place I’ve been. I’m thankful for my experience growing up there and as a parent I try to capture and teach some of those same lessons to my children while living in a much bigger city.
Since we have no idea what we’re going to be doing or where we’re going to be going in the next few months, I dream a lot. It’s kind of fun to dream about what we’d like to be doing someday. I don’t know if it’s God’s will for us to do these things, but they’re things I think I’d really enjoy. Here’s my list…
* Live out in the sticks, off grid. I would love to live way out yonder, with solar energy, my own well and be as self sustaining as possible. The idea of raising our own food and living as independently as possible is exciting to me. I’m talking big garden, lots of animals, goats, chickens, a cow or two, possibly a pig, definitely dogs and cats running around outside. If I could justify a horse I would, but since we don’t milk them and eating them is a bit taboo, Kerry is going to be a tough sell on that one. I know it would be tough and a lot of work, but I think it would be rewarding. The fresh air would do everyone good. It would help us appreciate the effort it takes to grow food, appreciate hard work and the role that each family member plays in making the home work. I would, of course, need internet access a girl has to blog afterall.
* Live in an old farmhouse. I grew up in an older farm house and I thought it was great. I like the character of older homes. The craftsmanship in old farms is so incredible compared to the cookie cutter houses we see being built today. In order for it to really work though, Kerry says it would have to be energy efficient. I’m good with that as long as it still looks and feels like an old farmhouse.
* The boys say they’d like to live in the country. They want to have chickens and rabbits. We recently visited our farm supply store here in Pueblo and the boys saw the little bunnies and chickens for sale. They fell in love. I’m good with the chickens for sure, we go through 5 dozen eggs every 4 weeks or so. I’m not so sure about the rabbits. We have more than our share here and I have no desire to encourage them. It’s a must that they be allowed to shoot guns where ever we end up. They also want to be able to hunt and fish. Otto has been talking about when he’ll be old enough to have a .22 rifle. Ummm after you’ve taken hunter’s safety and even then…it might be a bit.
In a nutshell, we want to get to the simple life. We’re not overly involved in a lot of stuff, but we’re always busy. We feel like we’re constantly going and we would like to get away from that. I’m hoping that quitting my job will allow me to help slow the pace down here at home, regardless of where we end up. We long to be able to spend more time together as family, learning together, playing together and just being together.
Notice I didn’t say anything about a job other than working for our family. Partly because we don’t have a clue what we’ll end up doing. And truth be told, my full time “job” (as of two weeks from now) will be stay at home mom. I can’t wait. So yeah, if we’re going to be changing what we’re doing…we might as well change it big time, and besides it’s fun to dream. So dream big.
Seems simple enough. To borrow a line from Popeye “I yam what I yam”.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. As I try to navigate this road of discipleship with my children, homeschooling them and leading them, figuring out how to be a mom and keep my house clean, I sometimes feel like I’m not enough.
I read books, blogs, articles, watch movies to help me try to figure it all out. I get some great ideas, but sometimes I just feel bad. I hear folks talk about how they’re teaching their kids history and I think “I haven’t even really started that yet” or I hear the fun activities they do for unit studies and I can’t help but think “I wish I had the energy/time/imagination to do that stuff with my kids.” And I wonder if I’m failing them. Sure they did fantastic on their required standardized tests this year, but for some reason that doesn’t feel good enough some days.
It is so hard not to compare yourself to every other homeschooling mom, working mom, stay at home mom out there. But you know…I’ll bet there is something undone at their house. I’ll be they have dirty socks under their beds, or maybe there is a fine layer of dust on their book shelf, oooh! or maybe they hide their dirty dishes in their oven when people come to visit. The truth is, as much as we’d like to, no one has it all together. Even the families on the covers of magazines.
I have be concentrating on not being “perfect” but in having realistic expectations for myself, my boys and our home. As much as I would love to have a spotless house…with 4 boys I’ve decided it’s just not going to happen. Truth be told, there are days when I wonder why I even try…and then I see a mouse run across the floor and I remember. I can’t do every cool unit study out there we don’t have time and I don’t have the energy. So for now, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing (after all it is working).
We’ve made certain things a priority for our family, our home and our boys. Those are the things we focus on and we do the other stuff when we can. We’ll work it all in somewhere. But our priority is not to have them know every little fact about world history before they get to 5th grade.
There are some days that it’s easier said than done. I still walk away some days feeling like I’m missing something and failing some how, but I “yam what I yam” and for right now that has to be enough.
I’ve been making my own laundry detergent and household cleaners for several years. Here are a couple of recipes that I’ve used.
1 bar of laundry soap (Fels Naptha, Zote or Ivory). Ivory and Zote are softer and a little easier to find at places like WalMart. I usually use Zote or Fels Naptha. I think Ivory smells too perfumey. Grate the bar. (I use my food processor to speed up the process).
2 cups Washing Soda. This is different than baking soda (although you can use that too). Washing soda comes in yellow box. We find it here at King Soopers (for Kansas folks that would be Dillons).
2 cups Borax.
Mix all together. I usually use 1/4 cup in a load of laundry. This detergent works great in high efficiency washers because it doesn’t suds. You can add several drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance. When I make a batch I usually triple the recipe and mix it in a 5 gallon bucket (with a lid). I then take out smaller batches for ease of use. The cool thing about this is I can use different oils for fragrance with each “smaller batch”.
Here’s one for a homemade fabric softener that I like to use too.
1 cup baking soda
1 1/4 cups warm water
8 cups white vinegar
- First mix the vinegar and water together then add the baking soda gradually, stirring the whole time. You will want to make sure to use a large pail to accommodate the fizzing activity from the baking soda and vinegar reaction.
- Use a funnel to pour this mixture into a washed, gallon sized milk jug (plastic), add 1/3 teaspoon of your favorite essential oil, cap and seal then shake well.
- To use: Shake each time before use, adding 1/2 to 1 cup at the start of the rinse cycle.
If you don’t want to make the mix, you could easily just use vinegar (which is what I do more often than not). Vinegar also makes a really great hair rinse. 🙂
1 cup baking soda + 1/3 cup table salt + Water
I will often use essential oils in my scouring powder like lemon or orange to help with degreasing.
Salt is also really great for getting blood and other stains out of fabric.