Getting an “F” in parenting

Every.single.year. October kicks my butt.

I love October. Two of my three babies were born in this month.  The weather turns cool (well, it’s supposed to, this year has been quite the exception with 80 degree days!).  The leaves start to turn amazing hues of orange, yellow and red.  School is mostly in swing (though I still can’t understand the elementary school multiple days off each week!  It’s hard on our kiddos who have high structure needs.)

This year we added Homecoming to the docket and a third child in sports alongside another sport – flag football.  Every.single.thing was good.  But as you add up each item, it makes for a super full calendar.

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It also makes for some spectacular fails.  Last night Matt and I got a big fat F in parenting. Our third child thrives in a high nurture, high structure environment.  We make plans and we have to stick with them.  Each day we discuss the happenings – sports, driving, expectations, homework, etc.  We all do life as individuals, each of us having specifics ways we thrive.  For our daughter, regular routine is a GREEN zone – she thrives and lives to her fullest potential.

For those not familiar with the Fire Engine wheel of emotions, it’s been a valuable tool for me.  Take a half moon shape, divide it into three zones – one red, one yellow and one green.  Red zone means I’m DONE – angry, out of control, belligerent, out of balance.  This is the hot button zone that we want to avoid.  Yellow zone means I’m starting to lose it. My patience is slim, I’m frustrated and I need to self correct or else I’m headed to RED.  Green zone means that while things might not be happy and wonderful, I’m okay.  I’m stable and I can handle this.

For many of our kids who come from hard places, this little tool is a wonderful way to begin learning how to communicate feelings.  A three year old can point to the zone they are in and you, as the adult, can help them out.  Perhaps they need some food or water, maybe a few jumping jacks or a hug.  As our kids get older, they can begin assigning words to how they feel.

It takes a lot of work to live in the green zone.  Matt and I have to be super intentional communicating with each other and with Desta.  I will admit, there are times, even for this highly organized mama, that I wish we could just “go with the flow.”

After a super busy weekend celebrating Caroline’s birthday, attending 5 sport’s games and being chauffeur, Matt and I were ready to be “off the clock” for a few hours last night. A simple dinner out to chart out our week plan.

For those of you with high nurture, high structure kids, you know that any deviation from “the plan” can create chaos.  Last night we made a few simple changes, thinking “no big deal” and ended up having to cut our date short and came home to chaos.

The good thing, the thing I’ve learned since therapy is how to take chaos and turn it into a loving and supporting environment.  For us, it’s essential oils rubbed on Desta’s feet and hands while listening to Hillsong.  It takes time.  It takes patience to go from RED to GREEN.  It’s hard work and it’s easy to feel as if it will never get better.

Yet when I look back at past Octobers, I can see how each year we get better at this month.  We are learning balance as a family.  We are working hard to make sure every.single.person in our family feels loved and safe.  Every person has a voice – they can speak how they feel and there is not judgement.  It’s not intuitive and it’s not always easy to do.  It takes intentionality, it takes work, it takes patience and it takes communication.

I’m okay with getting an “F”last night.  Because they are far more Green zone “A”s than red zone “F”s.  Each failure teaches Matt and I how to be better parents – how to love our child in the way she can feel and know.  Along the way, I have become a better person as well.

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It’s been a whirlwind weekend.  Five sport’s games, one birthday, and high school Homecoming.  For those who have not yet stepped their toe into high school, get ready. Homecoming week is no joke and if your daughter is on Student Council, it’s a solid week of late nights, early mornings and your entire weekend – GONE!

When my kids were little, I used to moan about how mundane and ordinary our life appeared.  It was filled with routine – up at 6, breakfast, play, nap, and so forth.  Parents, you all know the drill.  It’s a tedious and tiring haul.

Now that my little kids are big, there are many weekends when I sentimentally look back at those early years and wish I’d soaked in them a bit more.  I don’t want to go back in time but I’d love to visit every so often.

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This weekend Tobin turned 12.  It’s true when they say once that baby is in your arms, your heart feels like it could burst.  It’s also true that the longer your children are in your lives, the bigger that love gets.  This boy and his heart is something I fiercely pray that God guards and protects.  He was born with a unique gift of tender care for people, hilarious humor and empathy that is as deep as the ocean.  We call him our O+ kid – he gets along with everyone.

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This weekend Desta and her soccer team had two games. This girl, when focused, can boot a ball like nobody’s business.  It’s been such a joy to watch her name be called to play and hear a loud and joyous, “yes” each time she sprints out on the field.  Her fast Ethiopian blood runs deep in her veins and she is all over the field!

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This weekend Caroline had her first high school Homecoming.  All week she’s been working hours with her Student Council group to prepare.  It was so fun to watch her transform from her daily Coloradan wear of Birks and flannels to this graceful and lovely woman.  I watched her take photos with her friends, eat Chick Fil a all dressed up and head off to dance.

Mamas of littles, hang on, because the life ahead of you will be busier and richer and fuller than you imagined.  The mundane and ordinary will seem like a blur.  And try, as you’ve heard a thousand million times, to enjoy the simplicity of these days.

Mamas of olders like me, soak in the trillion little seconds you get with your bigger kids. Because, if you’re like me, sometimes the constant busy wears you down.  You feel more exhausted than you ever though.  Your worry meter starts spiking every hour instead of every few days.  BUT you also get the reward of seeing these little babies your heart thought would burst when you first hold them – these babies are now growing up to be amazing people.

 

Why do you run?

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Anyone who knows me, knows that one of my favorite things EVER is to run on the Sante fe Trail.  There are literally miles of trail that wind you through all kinds of Colorado Spring goodness.  Lace up the shoes and out I go.

So naturally in conversations, the topic of running comes up when outdoor activities are discussed.  Invariably, if I’m taking to most people, I hear the phrase, “I hate to run.”

Want to know a secret?  About 90% of the time I hate to run too.

I hate the actual running bit, especially if I’m headed up a hill, huffing and puffing after a few days of not running. I hate the way my legs feel in the first 2 miles of my run, like they are carrying solid lead.  I hate how my butt refuses to stay put, instead sloshing all over the place. I hate when my leggings are constantly pulling, creating chafing and awkward tugs.  It’s a battle, almost every single time I head out for a run to actually RUN.

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However, I LOVE how I feel AFTER a run.  My mind is clear, my thoughts are fresh.  My body has heaved out all the toxins and left rich oxygen in its place.  I feel strong and my soul is renewed.

The actual act of running is a battle. The benefits of running keep me at it day after day.

That’s my life a lot of times.  I make goals and lay out plans. I have places to go and people to take care of.  The actual life, the living bit, that is hard people!  I struggle with self doubt, I wrestle with wondering “Have I done enough?  Am I doing it right?”  I find myself slogging and pushing and just wishing it would be easier.

HOWEVER, when I stick with it – whether it be eye to eye contact when talking, staying up late to listen, breathe in/breathe out patience with an out of control child – when I do the hard work, the benefits are rewarding.

I breathe out chaos and chatter and breathe in felt safety and calmness.  I run out aggression and fear and welcome in peace and love.

Running teaches me lessons, EVERY SINGLE RUN, about my life.  Running helps me feel, to my very core, that working hard and staying with it benefits me in every aspect of my life.

I don’t love running.