Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How to raise a happy teen.

We don't have any teenagers yet, but we've got a preteen and I have a sneaking suspicion that now is the time to develop healthy, happy ways of interacting with teenage her.

I came across this article years ago, and reread it every few months because it just rings TRUE for me.  You know how sometimes you're reading something and you can feel it in your soul, that there's treasure in the words?  That's this.  I'm putting it in this blog because I want to have it on hand so I don't forget a word of it.

How to Raise A Happy Teen
originally published by Christie Halverson, May 2014

I occasionally get asked by mothers of young children what the secret is to raising great teenagers.  My initial response is that I have absolutely no clue.  My kids are who they are IN SPITE of having me as a mother.  [The young moms don't find that answer too helpful.]

My kids are pretty amazing, but I am also fairly confident that I had a teensy bit to do with it.  (A very teensy bit, mind you).  And just yesterday, on Instagram, I was asked once again what the secret was.  I thought about it all day long, and could not get it out of my head.

The first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parents.  Some do that, but the overwhelming majority do not.

Every one of my kids' friends are just as happy and fun as they are, so I know that it's not just us.

Teenagers are incredible.  They are funny, smart, eager to please, and up for just about anything as long as food is involved.  They have the most generous hearts and want desperately to be loved and validated.  
They are quirky, and messy, and have the best sense of humor.

So, here is my list of rules.  These are the secrets we have found to be successful:

Number one:  I would say my number one rule is to love them fiercely.  Love everything about them, even the annoying stuff.  Love them for their actions AND their intentions.  Let them know in word and deed how much you adore them.  Daily.  Love their wrinkled shirts and Axe-body-spray-covered selves.  Love their bad handwriting and pimpled cheeks.  Love their scattered brains and long limbs.  All these seemingly insignificant details are an amazing, magic process at work.  It's like being witness to the miracle of a diamond mid-formation.  All this imperfection is going to one day yield a responsible, serious adult.  A loving husband and father.  Or a wonderful wife and mother.  It's a privilege to be witness to such glorious growth.

Feel that way.  See your teenagers as a privilege.  Don't see them as a burden.  They're more perceptive than you can imagine.  How you feel about them will be no secret.  So just love 'em.

Number two:  Listen and pay attention.  When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes that they will divulge the secrets of their day with you.  Be excited to see them.  Put down that cell phone.  Don't waste this time making dinner or taking a phone call.  Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying.  Make their victories your victories.  Be empathetic.  It is really hard to navigate high school and middle school.  Don't offer advice at this time unless they ask for it.  Don't lecture.  Just listen.  It makes them feel important and valued. We all need to feel that way.

Number three:  Say yes more than you say no.  The world is forever going to tell them no.  For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave-after-wave of you're not good enough and you can't do this crashing down on their heads.  If nothing else, I want to be the opposite voice in their lives for as long as I can.  I want to instill in them the belief that they are not limited, and that they can do anything if they're willing to work hard enough for it.  I want to be the YES, YOU CAN in their life.  I want them to leave my house every day feeling invincible.

Number four:  Say no often.  You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness.  Don't let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice at age 16 in front of their peers about alcohol.  Don't let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex.  Be the parent.  Set up rules for their safety, both physical and moral.  You would think this rule goes without saying, but we have known a shockingly large number of parents who don't.  

Number five:  Feed them.  A lot.  And not only them, but their friends, too.  These bodies are growing and developing at an astonishing rate, and need fuel to do so - most of which they prefer to be loaded with processed sugar and hydrogenated-something-or-others.  When their friends know your pantry is stocked to the gills with treats, they will beg your kid to hang out at your place.  This allows you to, not only meet and know their friends, but to keep an eye on your teen, as well.  Make your house the fun house.  Buy that ping-pong table.  Get the newest gaming system.  Put in a pool.  Or a basketball hoop.  Your return on investment will be greater than any other options out there.

Number six:  Don't sweat the small stuff.  When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the living room as laziness.  Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible.  Instead, and before you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes.  Find out about their day first.  Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it.  Maybe they're tired from all that growing, learning, working, and hormone-ing.  If you waste your chance and yell at them about the backpack or shoes or [insert every other possession they own], they will not open up to you.  Breathe.  Ignore it for a bit and put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug.  Talk to him about his world.  Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing.  THEN, and only then, ask him to pick it up and put it away.

That being said, do I completely ignore the state of my boys' bedrooms all the time?  No, I do not.  But I pick my battles, and I pick the appropriate time to fight them.  Once every seven to ten days or so, I tell them their bedrooms need to be picked up.  Which they do happily, because it's not the running loop of a nagging mom.  They know when I ask, it needs to be done.

I will not have a bad relationship with my kid over a pile of clothes on the floor.  It's. Not. Worth. It.   I love my kid more than I love a clean house.  I am confident that I am raising humans capable of picking up after themselves, and I know as they mature and grow up, these things will sort themselves out.  I have taught them how to do it.  They will not be in college and literally unaware of how to bend down and pick up their socks.  

Number seven:  Last, but not least, is to stand back and watch the magic happen.  If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine.  They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness.  They are hilarious and clever.  They are thoughtful and sensitive.  They want us to adore them.  They need us to adore them.  They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.

They are just about the greatest gift that God gave to parents.
And I'm beyond lucky to call this crazy group mine.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tucker's collarbone update:

Well, we visited Dr. Richard Reynolds at Nemour's today, and it's clearly broken:

We were NOT expecting that!  The ER made it sound like a minor fracture, so we were envisioning hairline.  When we saw the displacement, both of us prepared ourselves for pretty intensive treatment, but that wasn't the case at all!  The ortho treated it like it was no big deal, said to just leave him in the sling for a few weeks and let him use it as he felt comfortable.  No PE or other major physical activity until we go back in 6 weeks for another set of xrays.

He said that the bone will actually regrow a bridge between the break, and while he will always have a lump there, it will not impair his function in any way.

We can't get over how tough he has been.
I could just eat him up.

He's very proud that he is the first kid in our family to have a broken bone.  
He keeps reminding us "I  beat Lana!  I broke a bone first!"

She has been so wonderful taking care of her brother:
writing down his answers for his make-up work,
doing his chores,
even feeding him:
She's the best big sister in the world!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

First broken bone.

Well, it was only a matter of time.
Tucker was playing dodgeball at recess yesterday, and dove for a ball, landing right on his shoulder, with apparently just enough pressure to break his clavicle.

Dan got to the school before I could, and I met them at the emergency room.
He was calm by the time I got there, thankfully.
Dan is so good in a crisis.  Me....I'm more like a chicken with my head cut off.

 He was in quite a bit of pain after it happened,
but you could almost visibly see his pain level decrease when they got him in a sling and took the pressure off.

 He was pretty thrilled when the doctor told him no written work or chores for several weeks, at least. 
His expression wasn't nearly that cheery when he found out he couldn't jump on the trampoline, play basketball, or do recess and PE at school.

The toughest part so far has been getting him undressed and in the shower.  It was pretty agonizing, and there was no good way to do it.  I was ready to just cut his clothes off, but Dan somehow made it happen.  I had to leave the room.

We put his mattress on the floor so there was no risk of him falling.  Getting in and out of bed is pretty tough, but 24 hours later, and he's already figured out how he can move with the least amount of pain, so that's good.

 The ER doc said that he was fine to go to school,
but he woke up this morning in pretty significant pain,
so I kept him home with me for some TLC.

This is him giving me directions from the couch on how to make a smoothie.

You can see on his face that he wasn't feeling super great.

The Motrin wasn't really touching the pain,
so I got to work:

He's spent all day today doing various adaptations of this:

He has been the sweetest little love, 
telling us thank you over and over.
Thank you for taking care of me.
Thank you for taking me to the hospital.
Thank you for getting me this sling.
Thank you for getting me so many drinks.
Thank you for doing my pillows so its comfy.
Thank you for making my bed low (putting his mattress on the floor).
Thank you for bathing me.
And it's not just while we're caring for him, either.
He'll thank us for something we did hours ago.
Oh my HEART.

We've got an appointment with the ortho at Nemours tomorrow afternoon to see where we go from here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What's happening to our kids, and how we can help.

The article below was originally published here in May of 2016 by Victoria Prooday, and is in my opinion, an incredibly insightful look into what is happening to children of this generation, with some very practical action points.

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated, and have no real friends?

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.  

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

1. Technology
Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

2. Kids get everything they want the moment they want
“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions -- to make our children happy -- but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.
The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

3. Kids rule the world
“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

4. Endless Fun
We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

5. Limited social interaction
We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!
The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally
  • Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights
  • Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games in my previous blog post), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening
2. Train delayed gratification
  • Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
  • Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”
  • Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games
  • Limit constant snacking
3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!
  • Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time
  • Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.
  • Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!
  • Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games
4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”
  • Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed
  • Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.
5. Teach social skills
  • Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others , using “please and thank you”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting.  Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Round here

Today was the last day of our Christmas break.
We've had a wonderful 2 weeks together, and are sad to see it end - 
here are a few of the things we've been up to lately:

Dan's been busy embarrassing Lana,
because what else is the dad of a preteen supposed to do?
She could not bear the humiliation of him pushing this little basket.

Tucker tried to learn to say new words: negotiate

One of our family Christmas gifts was the throwback Nintendo - 
it seems to be a hit!

5 or 6 years ago, when we lived in NC, long before our family began using essential oils, Lana woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying with stomach pain. I did everything I could to help her, but the pain wouldn't relent and we ended up spending the entire night and most of the next morning in the ER to discover the culprit of her pain....gas. 

Fast forward to one night last week, when Tucker woke me up sobbing with stomach pain. Tummygize on his belly to support his digestive systems, Peace and Calming in the diffuser to help him relax, a warm compress and a good long snuggle from Mommy...and he was back to sleep in his own bed within 30 minutes.

In all seriousness, one of the major blessings in using Young Living oils is that I have so many more tools in my mom-arsenal...natural, easy ones that make me so much more confident and capable as I care for my family.

I get that essential oils sound weird to some, and make others nervous, but listen: they're a tool!! And we want to have as many tools in our belt as we possibly can because MOM-ing IS HARD and these little bottles of plants can make it just a bit easier on all of us sometimes. Like at 1 a.m. when your little one is sobbing.

If you've got some Christmas money to spend, getting started with essential oils is one purchase you will never regret, and I'll make it my business to be sure of it. 

This sweet baby's eyes are giving her trouble again.
She has needed lots of extra snuggles lately.

When her vision started going again, she began crying in her kennel at night.  We tried everything; comfort items, a new bed, toys...it just wasn't like her.
In desperation we tried just leaving her to sleep in her favorite spot on the couch one night;
she (and we!) slept so soundly!

One of my favorite Young Living products is back in stock,
so you can be sure I stocked up!
Every southerner should have a bottle (or 5) of it!

My favorite spot to prepare for a talk.
(Side note: the oatmeal is gross.  Don't waste your money.)

Our very talented daughter:

Speaking of that precious girl, she has started wearing her Daddy's hat lately, and it's the sweetest thing to me.  She loves him so much!

Tucker has a new hat, too: the one that Lana knitted for him, in his favorite colors.

Our friends the Lourceys stopped by again this year on their way back to Austin from visiting family in central Florida.  We love getting to see them!

Lana pushing the littles on the tire swing.
She is such a good big sister!

On New Year's Day, we were getting ready for church,
and I came out of our bedroom to find the kiddos like this:
I pray 2017 is filled with lots of precious, quiet moments like this.

 He's so big.  
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him doing regular, everyday things
and my heart catches in my throat.
I can see the man he'll become,
and I just want to freeze time.

Speaking of that man-child,
he left me this precious note on my desk a few days ago.
He has my heart.

We were so thankful for quiet moments these past 2 weeks;
I found Lana in her room, knitting and watching the rain fall out her window.
So peaceful.

This cutie went out to pick up a missing ingredient for dinner,
and snagged one of my favorite treats!  He loves me!

This break was clearly full of lots of sugar;
we threw most of the rules out the window.

The warm weather made it perfect to practice bike riding and playing ball!
Tucker bike riding
Lana bike riding

Riding bikes isn't an easy thing for Tucker -
we are so proud of how he's been willing to learn to do it anyway!

Tucker practicing coach pitch

Tucker loves his new Action Bible, and we find him reading it all the time,
even while waiting for a table at a restaurant.  LOVE.

We spent one day downtown,
enjoying our home and the wonderful weather and our people.
We met a man in the park who was feeding peanuts to squirrels;
he gave the kids a handful, and we enjoyed it so much!

A little cha cha downtown....

a stop by Bubba's Sweet Spot to spend some Christmas money...

and a ride on the trolley all around the town!

It's free and really lovely!  

Dan even got in a bit of pinecone golf!  Ha!

 She really is our youngest child.  She has my heart!

 Dan's Apple watch came through with a timely reminder during the Alabama/Washington game:

Our favorite babysitter in the world moved to SC this past summer,
and we were so sad not to get to see her during her quick visit home.
That darling girl left gifts on the front porch for the kiddos!

And today we spent our last day of freedom at Fast Eddie's!
I had to work, but got a long lunch break,
so I met Dan and the kids there for some fun!


Family is everything.