Monday, September 26, 2011


I keep memories.  Lots of them.  Scrapbooks, boxes, folders and journals with stories of life that I pray one day will fall in to an order that will make sense to my kids someday.  I have dreams of them flipping through the pages and knowing the history of their first steps, how Mama and Papa met or what life was like as the grew up.  I have always done this and I probably wouldn't know how to stop, even if I wanted to.

But life isn't slowing down and there comes a time when you must get rid of some things before you end up on that show Hoarders.  During spring cleaning, I found a box filled with old letters and emails I had printed for the purpose of keeping to record history.  They were from a wide assortment of people and it was really quite fun to read over them and relive a few fun moments of the past.  Mixed in the tall stack were some from my husband when we were in the dating stages.  Those were special.  Those I set aside to read with him later.

Yeah right.  Like I have patience.  After sorting for a few more minutes and tossing 75% of the stack that were just forwards I apparently thought were funny/historical, I thumbed through the treasure pile.  On the top was hillarious poem I wrote about his willingness/comfort to fart in front of me and how important that made me feel.  I know...odd.  Don't judge us.  ;)  Following the "cute" rhyme was a collection of emails and quick notes filled with angry and sarcastic words that we shared about who knows what.  It hurt to read the words.  In an instance, I felt unloved by the man I have been married to for nearly seven years.  The man I KNOW loves me.  Sitting on the floor of my bedroom, pouring over these ink filled pages, I was questioning his love and how we ever made it this long.  My hurt turned to anger and then to guilt and then who knows where.  I was a wreck.  And then he walked in.

Unprepared for the emotional onslaught that was headed his way, he smiled at me and asked what the heck I was doing.  I handed him one letter, watched him read it and then twinged a bit as he laughed it off.  "What was I even talking about?" he asked me as he casually handed it back.  I didn't know.  I just knew that he wasn't happy with me in that letter and it hurt that he ever even thought of me that way.  Ever.

The evening went on and my heart was still hurting about past hardships we had had.  I was needy for his loving attention and for him to tell me how much he loved me...all because of my stoopid trip down memory lane.  In my pity party, God interupted.  It was like he was reminding me that we all have an ugly past.  In the middle of my pity party, it was like there was this awesome slideshow of our lives and how far God had brought us.  Not only together as a couple (which in itself is a miracle) but how God had changed each of us in such huge, individual ways.  Yes, we had some horrible conversations via written word (and spoken) but we are here, now, with each other and with God leading our lives and our relationship.  It is clear that without him, the institute of our marriage would either have crumbled or not lasted much longer.  But He interupted.  And saved us from ourselves. 

And that history I can't seem to let go of?  That simple criss-cross-applesauce moment on the floor really affected me.  When God promises us that He will seperate our sins as far as the east is from the west...He does.  Maybe I should be more forgiving as well.  Yes it was a part of our story but who really needs to see the exact details?  We have forgiven each other, we have moved on and we have seperated our past from the hope that God has promised us.  And that iself, is better than any scrapbook.


Monday, September 19, 2011


My 8 year old son does not come by anything naturally, maybe most kids don’t, I don’t know. My 4 year old comes by things very naturally…I only have the two children to compare so maybe some of you can identify, or have a child similar to my 8 year old. He needs to be shown or coached through everything. Teaching him things is not always easy. I relate to my 8 year old. HE IS ME when I was growing up. I was always so frustrated and felt like my brain didn’t work because I didn’t get some of the concepts that others did (well, that’s another blog). 
I have been struggling over the last year to teach him the value of work and money. My husband and I believe that it is our job to teach our children how working on commission is how the world works. You do the work you get paid. You don’t do the work, you don’t get paid. There is no allowance. We also believe that there are certain responsibilities you have in a family that you do because you are part of the family. 
I struggled to find balance between what he should do as a member of our family for free, and what he could do for money, and it seemed that at every turn there was negotiations going on about “If I do that how much will I earn?” or “I’m not doing that for free, I want a quarter” Then there would be whining and grumbling the entire time.
So I did what the typical house does and made a chore chart. My attempt at a chore chart was defeated when he decided he would only do enough to make the money he wanted then he wouldn’t do any more. 
If I asked him to help me out in picking up he would say “I didn’t make that mess, why should I have to…?” Again, the grumbling.
We were constantly arguing over the “Why should I have to?”
I finally had to sit down and ask myself, What is it exactly that I want him to learn? What is the end result? When he is an adult, what do I want this to look like? Do I want him turning to his boss and saying “I didn’t make that mess, I’m not cleaning it up?” Do I want him on the job doing the bare minimum to get his paycheck? Do I want him to grumble and complain about what he has to do? I could name 5 people off the top of my head that do this exact thing in the adult world…The answer is NO! Nothing I was saying or doing was helping this attitude problem.
I was thinking about all of this as I was listening to my favorite afternoon radio show, and the host said something that hit me. He said (talking to a caller), “If you worked for me, you’d be fired by now.” And the light bulb turned on. If my husband went to work with the attitudes my son does he’d be fired by now. 
I realized that he was failing at what I was attempting to teach him because I hadn’t started with the basics…a work ethic. My son, needed to be taught how to have a good work ethic. He completely respects and loves his father, so why not use him as an example?
Here is what I devised:
#1) THE SALARY – You are only allowed to make $2 a day (in the summer), no more. School year rates will be different.
#2) THE WORK – You will do what I ask, when I ask, no matter what.
  • This is not a chore chart. I assess every day what household things need to be done and he is to work for me until I say he is done with no negotiation on how much he will make for each thing he does…he just keeps working until the work is done.
#3) THE ATTITUDE - If I hear grumbling of any kind…YOU’RE FIRED, and you don’t get paid that day…we try again the next day.
#4) THE BONUS – If you see things that need to be done and do them without being asked you have potential to earn a bonus at the end of the month. 
I sat him down and explained to him that:
  • Daddy goes to work everyday, and he has a salary. Dad only gets to make so much every day. No matter what he does in that work day it’s the same.
  • Daddy does what he’s asked when he’s asked, or has it done by the deadline given. 
  • Daddy cannot go to work and grumble about what he is asked to do, or he will be fired. 
  • Daddy does his best to see what needs to be done before he is asked so that his company knows he is a good employee and worth keeping around (even in the tough times). Sometimes, because of that, Daddy gets a bonus from his company to show appreciation for what he has done above and beyond what he was asked to do.
We made an agreement that the first day would be a trial run and I would just point out what attitudes would get him fired (because he really didn’t know). He was fired 4 times that day and each time he made a mental note and didn’t do it again.
In the days that followed it got easier and easier and he became happy to do whatever I asked. I didn’t hear “Why do I have to do that” or “How much for this job”. He was happy to get his money and I was happy to give it to him. He still hasn’t quite caught on to the bonus system. Like I said, he doesn’t come by things naturally, so he doesn’t really see that there is anything to be done outside of what he is told. I’ll help him through that in the next couple of weeks. 

This system works for my 8 year old. I don’t expect that it would work for every child, in fact, it doesn’t work at all for my 4 year old. He gets overwhelmed by the “you’re fired” maybe its just his age, maybe its him and his style. 
I’ve learned over the years that sometimes we as parents need to give up what we think of as the “right way” of doing things and try to find what works best for the individual child.  We all learn different. I am very lucky that my son is exactly how I was when I was a child, so I can relate to him. I know what it’s like to not see that anything else needs to be done. (Those socks on the floor are perfectly fine where they are…they’ve been there for 3 days isn’t that where they belong now?) I literally had to learn everything. 
Don’t hear me say that I’m not guilty of nagging my children…I so am! Asking God for help to break that cycle and to bring ideas to me that will help me and my children is where the glory goes for any success I have had. 
Now to work through the kinks of the “because you are part of this family” system…

We would love to hear your ideas of how to teach kids a good work ethic. If you try out Adrian's idea, then please let us know how it works for your family. Lastly, if you have any tips on teaching "because you are part of this family", please do share!


Monday, September 12, 2011

You Is Smart...You Is Kind...You Is Important

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to the movies to see "The Help" with a bunch of girlfriends.  I have anxiously been counting down the days until this film came out because I fell in love with the book a couple of years ago.  The book was a little hard to get into at first, but I fell in love with the characters, the time period, and the setting.

The movie lived up to my expectation and went beyond my dreams.  I do believe this was the first time that a book turned movie was, in my opinion, as good or maybe even a little bit better than the book.  My favorite line throughout the movie was when Aibileen, a maid, would get down on her knees and look the little girl she took care of in the eye and told her, "You is smart, you is kind, you is important."  This scene happened several times, and all were moving to me.  It moved me so much that it has stayed with me since the movie.

Fast forward to this week.  When I got in my car on Tuesday morning headed to work at 6 am, Pink's song, "Perfect" came on the radio.  For some reason, it brought tears to my eyes.  I thought about a conversation I had with a dear, dear friend about struggling in high school to fit in because of choices that we made or didn't make and how girls still struggle with finding positive groups of friends.  I began to think about the negative self-talk that I have been guilty of participating in on a regular basis.  The words that tell me that I'm not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not important enough.

In the midst of all this deep thinking, I had a glimpse of my two precious nieces sitting in high school thinking they were not enough, not valuable, not important.  It broke my heart into pieces.  If there is one thing I'd like to leave them it would be to know that you ARE enough.  You were created EXACTLY the way God wanted to be.  The perfect hair, eyes, shape, tastes, etc.  That you ARE valued and loved and significant.

Here are the lyrics:

Made a wrong turn
Once or twice
Dug my way out
Blood and fire
Bad decisions
That’s alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss “no way it’s all good”
It didn’t slow me down
Always second guessing
Look, I’m still around…
Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like your less than
Less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like your nothing
You are perfect to me
You’re so mean
When you talk
About yourself
You are wrong
Change the voices
In your head
Make them like you
So complicated
Look how big you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
It’s enough
I’ve done all i can think of
Chased down all my demons
see you same
Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like your less than
Less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like your nothing
You are perfect to me
The world stares while i swallow the fear
The only thing i should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in lying and I tried tried
But we try too hard, it’s a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics, cuz they’re everywhere
They don’t like my genes, they don’t get my hair
String ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that?
Why do I do that?
Why do I do that?
Ooh, oh, pretty pretty pretty,
Pretty pretty please don’t you ever ever feel
Like you’re less then, less than perfect
Pretty pretty please if you ever ever feel
Like you’re nothing you are perfect, to me
You’re perfect
You’re perfect
Pretty, pretty please don’t you ever ever feel like you’re less then, less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please if you ever ever feel like you’re nothing you are perfect to me.

After processing all of this in my short drive, I made a change to my classroom because not only do I want my nieces to learn this important lesson, I want my students to know it too.  I want each child to know how valuable they are to me, to our classroom, and to our school.  So, I took the full length mirror in my classroom and I found a set of window markers.  I decided that when my students stand in front of the mirror they should see positive affirmations.  I wrote "You are..." at the top of the mirror and then wrote positive statements - smart, handsome, beautiful, valued, important, loved - all around the mirror.  

I have to say that sometimes, I find myself standing in that mirror reading the words that I've written out loud so I can hear them before my students arrive.  And today, when one of my students who needs more love than most came up to me and said, "Mrs. is smart, you is kind, you is important," I melted.  Even big girls need to hear that some times.

Guest Post by SHASTA  LOOPER

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


My parents grew up in the generation that could tell you exactly what they were doing the day JFK was shot. My mom was working in Berkeley, California when she tried to use the phone and was told none of the employees could use the phones. How odd - within 30 minutes, talk was spreading like wildfire that the President had been shot! Within another hour everyone was sent home in shock learning their President had died. And I am part of the adult generation who can tell you exactly what they were doing the day two airplanes flew into the Twin Towers.

I was making the bed in our master bedroom and hadn’t had the TV on all morning when I got a call from my husband. His tone told me something horrific and huge had just happened as he said, “Christie, do you have the news on right now? Turn the TV on! You’re not going to believe it!” As I turned on the Today Show I remember seeing the footage of the first airplane flying into one of the buildings and thinking …. How can this be real? What on earth is going on? I remember calling him back and both of us reeling in shock and fighting the tears.

As the day unraveled, I learned of the third plane that crashed into the Pentagon ... And then the fourth plane that didn’t make it to Washington, DC because of some amazing heroic American citizens! It was terribly hard to make sense of all the emotions and conflicting thoughts. 
  “How could anybody penetrate our country’s intelligence and defense?”
  “Lord, please keep people alive in that rubble until help gets there.”
  “I want vengeance and I want it now.”
  “Where can I get an American flag for my car, my house, my yard?”
  “I need to call my family and tell them how much each one means to me.”
  “I feel utterly vulnerable.”
  “I can’t stop hurting for all the breaking hearts that have no one coming home tonight.”
  “What senseless tragedy!”
Personally, I don’t believe that life is fair or always makes sense. But I do believe that each of us can learn and can grow from every experience in our lifetime. So, instead of remembering what each of us was doing the moment 9/11 became historical, I want to remember what I’ve learned from that day and how I can be a better woman because of living through it.   

~ I have learned that security doesn’t come from believing your borders are impregnable. True security is found within me. His name is Jesus. 

~ I have been challenged to be willing to stand against anyone or anything that wants to hijack my life … even if it means dying in the process.

~ And I have been reminded that each day is not a right but a gift – and my greatest gifts are the ones that I come home to every night!

What about you? What were you doing on 9/11? But even more importantly, what have you learned from 9/11?  


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A NEW DAY: Our Special Need's Summer Vacation - Part 2

Hume Lake 2011 - The Lord is good.

“Yes, boat”, our oldest boy said with a huge grin.  His eyes scanned each of ours as he awaited our response.
A glimmer of hope rose up in me, “Do you want to go on the boat this morning?”
“Yes, boat”, he said a second time.  It was our third day of summer vacation, and our boy with special needs was beginning to drop his guard.  He was slowly adjusting to the change in environment and opening himself up to fun activities.
We barely finished breakfast, but we all intuitively knew to take advantage of the situation.  No one bothered to put on their bathing suits or sandals, instead we scurried off to the boat house.  This time we avoided the creaky wooden dock and the rowboat which rocked so much it shook his footing.   I stopped to pick up paddles and life jackets while the boys walked straight to the kayaks—the red ones, because red is AJ’s favorite color.  It made him equally happy to adorn the red life jacket.
AJ cautiously walked through the muddy path, weaving in between the other boats, then awkwardly swung his leg into the kayak.  Dad held the boat steady while brother helped AJ sit down.  The kayak was a good choice.  He was able to sit securely on stable land while his Dad gently slipped the kayak into the lake.
The rest of us stood on paddle boards and glided alongside the kayak.  He was not protesting with the anxiety he displayed yesterday.  Quietly grunting to express his discomfort, he suddenly changed his tune. “Yea!” he yelled and then applauded his own accomplishment.   I dug my paddle through the water as my toes dug into the board.  Our other two boys stood beside me gliding through the lake on their own boards.
My youngest boy teased me and reached his paddle out to nudge my board.  My feet changed positions to regain balance, but down I went.  I crashed into the water with my skirt flowing up around me.  Thankfully, most of the campers were still eating breakfast and there were no other boaters on the lake.  With little grace, I crawled and slipped my way back on the board.  What a great morning.  We floated and laughed and enjoyed each other for a couple of hours.
This is a rare occasion.  Do you know how often some of us special needs families are able to enjoy adventures together?  Often times either my husband or I hang out in the hotel room watching Lion King with AJ while the other parent takes the siblings out for fun.  What a gift we experienced this morning; two parents together with all of our children enjoying the lake.
Carefree in the kayak
We pulled our boards and the red kayak ashore after a great morning of water fun.  The boys stripped off their life jackets when AJ requested, “more boat ride”.  So, out went he and his brother on a second adventure.  This time he was done after 10 minutes, but he was able to build one success upon a previous success.  The praise and the high fives and the gummy bears were flourished upon our boy for the happy choices he made.
The family was encouraged with progress while the heart gives credit and gratitude to our Lord. Thank you Jesus, for a carefree spirit in our boy today.  Please give us more. 
I’m going to pray this prayer relentlessly.
AJ enjoyed many moments of relaxation on vacation