My Journey in Pounds

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Health Plans Change... Often

At the beginning of November I was so stoked about going to Hawaii on December first that I filled my calendar with all these lofty health goals.  I was going to start by making sure I drank a gallon of water every day, do the 30 day push up, abdominal, and squat challenge, and go to the gym 3x a week for strength training and running (training for a 10K).  Then I was going to add a round of the 21 Day Fix to it all just three weeks before my flight and cut all carbs the last three weeks, on top of everything.  My hopes were that come December 1st I'd look AWESOME in a bathing suit (albeit once piece, cuz ... I just can't see myself wearing a bikini out in public... modest me).

Ha! Nope.  Either I had to do a lot of driving, or a lot of working, or I was sick, or had sick kiddos, or planned amazing but junk-food filled birthday parties for the household princess who requested chocolate cake and strawberries with a pizza on the side - and not just any pizza, but stuffed crust with cheese AND bacon!  And now that we're about 2 weeks away I can see, realistically, that I'm not going to drastically alter my diet or add ANOTHER work out program to my lifestyle because I still want to blog, and read, and homeschool the kids, and have a pleasant attitude on Thanksgiving.

So I've been spot on when it comes to drinking water, on less active days I drink a little less (about 48 oz), and on more active days I drink a lot more (72-112 oz a day), so I'm happy with setting that goal.  Specially since I realized it's very easy for me to drink 0 water at all for two or three days straight and only drink coffee.  But I managed at least the 48 oz on days when my lifestyle was far from healthy.

I did go to the gym 3x a week and I kind of worked out at home in between although lightly sometimes.  However, it wasn't the gym experience I had imagined.  My husband and I have different workout schedules and only about 40 minutes of gym time together before we split ways.  So I didn't do strength training more than one day a week and ran the other two, because I wasn't likely to have enough time to do both in one visit.  It's still my goal to do both every time I go to the gym.  But when all else fails I run on the treadmill because then I can just run hard and that's better than nothing once I get home.

I'm sorry to the 30 day challenges... but... no.  If I didn't have a chance to strength train at the gym I may try squeezing these in but if I did squats with 75 lbs on my shoulders, I wasn't going to do another 75 squats at home.  I'm good.  I don't think I'll ever do those challenges because it's so hard for me to consistently do anything for 30 days.  It gets boring.  And there's no background music.... It feels so lame...

I got used to working out every day.  But I learned that I need to recover in between work outs that last more than 30 minutes.  I feel awkward not breaking a sweat on a rest day.  And it's not like I know to eat less on a rest day.  But I walk, do yoga with the kids, maybe try running a mile with the dog... the intensity is WAY down on a "rest day" and I'm moving to help with restlessness and not necessarily to achieve my health goals.

Then came Brielle's birthday.  I had pizza twice on the weekend and a lot of it. I'm not even going to pretend I had one slice.  I also went to a Samoan wedding and ate gloriously at the reception... Yes, pig, rice, noodles, plantains, seafood soup... I had chocolate cake Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And Snickerdoodle cookies.  All of this completely ruins how hard I worked out (or not).  And this past week I didn't even make it to the gym more than twice, but I ran a mile and a half on Saturday (better than nothing!).  I didn't bother putting anything on MyFitnessPal.  I was bad.  I was also entertaining a monthly visitor and was likely to bite someone's head off if they dared say anything.

A good sign that this way of eating isn't "normal" for me is how bad my stomach hurt even up until this morning. I was zombie-like exhausted, and curled up into a little ball.  I barely slept last night.  My body definitely protested this abuse.

One good thing I found, in Carr's, in the organic section, is Coca-Cola sweetened with real cane sugar and stevia.  One can is 90 calories.  For a party favorite, that's not half bad!

Today I haven't hit the gym yet, but I feel well enough to go once the kids go to sleep.  My breakfast was coffee and a cliff bar.  We had to stop by Carl's Junior for lunch and the hamburger smell made me nauseous (which is unusual, trust me!) so I had a grilled chicken salad.  I've had mostly water to drink.  Dinner was brown rice, dinner, and nathan's franks (hey, I needed protein and we haven't done groceries. Don't judge).  I had greek yogurt as a snack while the kids finished the snicker doodle cookies (yes! I really didn't need any more of those).  And even though I didn't go to the gym yet I walked about 8,000 steps.  I think today was a great day!

So I'm going to stick to the water, gym 3x a week.  I'll intensify the gym time (which means I have to wake up earlier and run a lot faster), and I'll stay under my calorie goal of 1470 minus exercise.  But I won't engage in any other plans.  I know I'll run with my son sometime during the week because that's his goal and there's no snow on the ground. And I know I'll do yoga with my daughter here and there.  I may throw in some push ups and sit ups if I'm bored... IF being the operative word... I have a mountain of laundry to do and the washer and dryer are UPSTAIRS so I'll be pretty busy and active that way...

I think that I'll still look awesome when I go to Hawaii.  Because going from 207lbs at my heaviest to the 177-ish I am now, I already look better.  It's so hard to compare when, at my heaviest, all my pictures were selfies of my face.  The husband HATES having his picture taken and won't raise his phone to take a full-body picture of me unless I specifically demand it.  Which I didn't.  Too many noticeable imperfections that I wasn't comfortable with.  And the thing is, I don't necessarily want washboard abs and a thigh gap right now (or maybe ever - on the thigh gaps at least), but it's nice not to look like you're bulging out of your clothes in every direction.  I'd like to hide my belly under my clothes, thank you very much!  And this is what I have accomplished.

Overall, the point is that your plans change, your goals shouldn't.  I may not do all I propose to do in one month, but I shouldn't lose sight of the goal and eat junk and forgo the gym as a habit.  Even while I'm "figuring it out".  When I started I was training for a 5K by running outside and doing the 21 Day Fix in my living room and I was proud of accomplishing my weight loss without going to the gym.  But - as happens with life - things change.  I had to change the plans to accomplish my goals.  I'm not very effective at running on snow.  I wouldn't be progressing if I repeated the program.  I think I could still benefit somewhat from the 21 Day Fix but for the intensity of running that I want to do I need to lift much heavier weights or I'll run muscle-mass off my legs - no bueno.  After my 5K I decided that my next goal was a 10K and that I wanted to be ready for it come April of next year.  Maybe even a half marathon (what's another 3 miles or so, right?).  So I have to adapt my exercise routine to be ready and reduce injury.  My goal is still to be able to run further and faster than before.  I guess overall my goal is a healthy lifestyle and a strong, lean body.  It's ambiguous but my goal won't change no matter how often my health plans do.  Who knows? If Zumba ever comes to town my plans might change to become a certified instructor - Zumba being the only thing I love more than running - but my goals only grow and become more challenging as I master them.

I'm loving SIMPLE Homeschooling

Last week was an experiment of sorts on "unschooling" or "simple schooling", which in essence means you don't have a set curriculum or workbook to progress, but rather the children learn by experience, curiosity, and play.  They kind of set their own goals for their educational experience.

Being the control-freak I am, this terrifies me.  But there's a hidden gem in this that God revealed to me - in order for my children to succeed in life, even as adults, they have to 1) be willing to learn 2) know how to find out what they want to learn 3) use what they learned practically.  Success in any area is us moving through these 3 processes - whether we want to lose weight, get our Master's degree, write a book, be a missionary, whatever... Successful adults stay humble and stay hungry and that's how they rise above the crowd and become noticed in their field.

But you can't force a child to learn.  Just try it.  It's the equivalent of dragging that proverbial horse to water, and hanging from it's neck to try to get it's lips to water. It ain't happening!  So it is my job to make them independently interested in their own learning progress, whether they are homeschooled or if they ever go back to public school (over a parent's dead body... and I mean that quite literally).

That's not to say they are ready to be un-guided.  So we sat down and set some goals: Spiritually, Physically, Language Arts, Math, Arts/Crafts.  These are the foundation of the Homeschooling experience at the Hass Household.  Social Studies and Science are like icing on a cake.  Anakin set a bible study goal, wants to start running and doing strength training on days off from Karate (at least one extra day), he wants to read his library fiction book and for his arts/crafts wants to illustrate it, and master fractions and division at a 3rd grade level.  Brielle wants to prepare a song to sing at church during the offering, finish reading her American Girl book, master telling time on an analog clock and counting currency (which she has, but has a hard time with pictures in books.  She has to feel the coins to really know how much they're worth), do yoga twice a week, and knit a scarf.

Caleb is the proverbial horse by the river of knowledge... who cannot be forced to drink.  He has 2 new Star Wars themed kindergarten workbooks in Reading and Math that he works through oh so patiently and then builds stuff with legos or blocks, or plays with puzzles.  The joy of a pre-school life.

It was pleasant that it was our first week home without any other activities.

We started our day after breakfast reading our Bible and praying as a family.  Then each kid split up to work on their own spiritual goals - Brielle borrowed my phone and went to her room to practice her song, Anakin did a Bible study plan on YouVersion (on my account).  Then we read for 30 minutes.  Then they practiced math - most of which is on Khan Academy, and we can only have one kiddo on the computer at a time, so the second kiddo worked on their physical goal and then they swapped.  They were both done before lunch.

After lunch, I added the "sprinkles" - a science project on cloud formations that involved art work, Spanish lessons, practicing the recorder.  Brielle usually knits next to me when we watch TV as a family.  They also learned some Social Studies by playing Carmen San Diego and the Oregon Trail - and that as a team of 3, so they all learned to some degree or another.

How did it work out?  Awesome!

For one thing, we were all de-stressed.  Everything was met with joy.  There was no pressure to meet a schedule.  The kids were so pumped that they worked quickly and efficiently and the evenings were a joy!

For another thing, come Friday the kids had worked on all their goals, so we participated in co-op.  Faith Homeschool Connection has a co-op for homeschooling parents at their church - it's a great group of support for moms.  The kids are all split up by age groups and there is one or two moms per class, teaching a subject in a group setting.  My kids in particular had Physical Education for the first session, lunch break, and then Brielle and Caleb went to a health class where they learned about a balanced diet and Anakin went to a Super Hero physics class.  They made new friends.  They still learned.  They were happy kids (Caleb protested a little at first but 15 minutes into it he was ok with it.  At least, I think he was. He stopped planking in the middle of the gym.).

I want this to be our routine over-all.  I told them that every day, Monday through Thursday, there will be Reading, Writing, and Math.  They can expect that no matter what.  Fridays is co-op.  Everything else is as we get to it.  They love having the option of "Would you like to work on your Spanish or do yoga instead?"

The curriculum I originally bought was from Oak Meadow.  They have an "unschooling" type of system too, where they give me a general guidance of what to work on week to week and I have the power to choose how to implement it.  It's how we're learning to play the recorder or learning our science/social studies.  I don't spend as much time as the curriculum emphasizes on the fairy tales because a) they read the Bible first b) they read fiction stories they chose second and I think it's a bit too much.  But I'm saving those fairy tale stories to read to Caleb between next school year and the one after, until he learns how to read himself.

Their language arts skills are ahead is of the curriculum but I have them practice cursive anyways.

This whole homeschooling experience comes with a learning curve that involves the whole family.  But we're all appreciative of the freedom it provides!  So the kids aren't just doing the work but it's sticking in their minds and seasoning their conversation.  I think it's efficient.  I love it because it's simple.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Actually, it looks like Spring!  The snow is completely gone from our yard and the pavement is wet.

But the Holidays are coming, and our family is excited.  Brielle's birthday is this weekend.  Then in 2 weeks is Thanksgiving, then Paul and I go celebrate our 10-year anniversary in Oahu, Hawaii for a FEW days, then the busy Christmas season begins!

It all becomes madness... starting... now!  Time out! I need to make lunch (it's 2pm already? My gosh, where has the morning gone?!  We read our Bibles, and we prayed, and we read our story books, and we are crafting cloud formations out of cotton balls so kids could remember the difference between cumulus, stratus, and cirrus clouds... that's where it went)...

Be right back...

Ok 2 hours later I'm back.

Anyhow the point is that we are approaching the Holidays and this year feels new.  Last year I vividly remember feeling like a boat hopelessly lost in a hurricane; I went with the flow of whatever everyone else had planned and I was tossed about by every circumstance.  From October through New Year's in 2013 I lost my dog, was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, had problems with Anakin at school that involved Child Protective Services, wrecked our van, lost my job, and had a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor (and he passed away suddenly in January), and my grandmother passed away.  My life felt like a roller coaster I wanted to get off ASAP.

As a result, our holidays were spent in a "whatever" kind of way.  I got the kids presents and set up the tree, but nothing was intentional or purposeful.  We spent time with great company and friends - they truly help the stress of this load be easier, doesn't it? And my Dad visited us, so we spent time together.  But we didn't plan anything - just hung out.

I lost the opportunity to give it meaning - and I love Christmas!  I feel like the time I spent with my dad and with the kids, had I been a bit more intentional about it, could've been a lot more meaningful and I wasted some of the time.

This year, I want us to start building traditions.  I actually want to take ownership of our Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I want to plan what we're going to do and how to make it special. I want to cook (I must be coming down with something).  Don't get me wrong, I want to see friends and love on everyone.  But more importantly I want it to teach my children something!

We also have a lot to celebrate.  We've survived staying home with each other for one year.  The kids have worked really hard and have accomplished a lot of cool things.  I feel like I'm a completely different person with the 29 lbs and counting that I've lost and the running I have done.

And I want to set some goals to start the New Year right.

So as far as our household goes, I've come across a little poem that helps narrow down the Christmas shopping in my home: "Something you want, something you need. Something to wear, and something to read!"  Nothing more than that.  And I think my kids are ok with this too.  We talked about it and I really don't want more stuff for stuff's sake, the frenzy of opening presents that eventually get lost or forgotten. I want them to remember what they got for Christmas and appreciate it.  Caleb is not too stoked about something to wear or something to read, but he's ok with it.

We also drew our household's name out of a hat and did a gift exchange, only the gift has to be hand-made.  The only shopping for this gift is for supplies or materials.  This way they spend some time putting thought and effort into loving on someone else, instead of thinking of themselves.

And before all that, before Thanksgiving, we're filling up 3 boxes for Operation Christmas Child, one for each kid, to fill it with items so that a less fortunate kid can celebrate Christmas.

That's the present department.  There will probably be a lot of Christmas related crafts too. And I would love attending a concert - specially since I normally sing in the Singing Christmas Tree at our church, but this year I've worked through rehearsals and won't be able to participate.

We will learn Christmas carols and maybe even get to go to Broken Sparrow and sing there, the way we did the year before that.  And draw a nativity scene on the windows spread out across the balcony.  And make stuff to ship to the grandma's and grandpa's in Florida and West Virginia.

I'm getting warm fuzzy feelings already!

Brielle is learning a choreography to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" and "Over the Rainbow" and we'll love to see her dance.  And we will probably attempt sledding too (if it snows!).

We will make a "Thankful Jar" and have everyone write blessings and throw them in there, to read in Thanksgiving.  We're going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner with the neighbors.  But I have all day to spend time with the kiddos!

Speaking of food, I'm so glad I don't diet.  I'm not setting myself for holiday binging failure!  Portion control is everything.  Drinking lots of water, eating a LOT of vegetables and nutrient rich foods, and exercising every day.  Guilt free holidays - I have goals set that are not scale related.  So I know as long as I'm progressing at the gym I'm not worried about the number on the scale or the slice of pumpkin pie I KNOW I will have.  But, in all fairness, it'll only be one. Per Holiday.

Lessons from Ephesus

I'm doing a personal Bible Study on the books of Hebrews, James, 1 2 3 John, and Revelation. And I read Revelations 2:2-5 which says,

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you[b] and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

As I'm learning about the first few chapters in the book of Revelation, I am taught that the writer of Revelation is listing churches and identifying their strengths and weaknesses as told by Jesus in, well, a revelation.  And so I listed these too, in a chart, I only read about 4 churches at the moment, but it helped me to capture a thought I felt compelled to write about.

In the game Diablo III, there is a character named Tyrael who says, "The longer you spend fighting evil, the more you are corrupted by it."  How I know about this game and this character at the moment is irrelevant, but this toon made a point that stuck with me and I believe Scripture confirmed it.

It's not that you ever give up and say, "Evil wins! It's whatever!"  But that you can get so lost in the fight you lose the love you had in the first place.  I think this warning to the church in Ephesus was a real warning to me too.

In essence, paraphrase mine, Jesus was saying, "You're working really hard! I see you at church and doing godly things.  I see you stand up for what is right, and argue unapologetically to defend My Name.  I see that you don't give up or back down from what you believe no matter what the consequence is.  But I do hold this against you; you have forgotten to love Me!  In all your right living, you have made it all about the fight and you forgot it's about the love. My love.  You need to make our relationship, our love for each other and for those around us, the priority of your life again.  Or you will become someone who has nothing to do with Me, and I won't know you in the last day."

I'm pretty sure I've read this before but it didn't click like today.

I'm a very hard-headed political person.  I have strong opinions on right and wrong.  I'm very argumentative.  And I probably have a lot of bitterness and anger deep inside me that makes me want to fight.  I want to argue with the whole world - and yet, I hate physical confrontations.  So much so that thinking about a fall-out face to face with someone makes me nauseous.  But very easily, with politics, local news, and world news, I get more and more into the fight of it all and I forget my first love.

I'm very angry with our President and most of his current decisions.  I want to physically yell at him, to his face.  This is honest me.  And I was humbled today when my daughter, during prayer time, started praying for him.  Now I know we're supposed to pray for our leaders - the Bible says so, and I have taught so to my children.  In all honesty though, I was beyond praying for the man and more willing to gather pitchforks and storm the White House demanding his impeachment.

I never assume to be right or wrong in anything I've blogged about. I'm just being as transparent as possible.

And here comes my 6 year old daughter, during prayer time, and she prays for him with the most respect she can muster, and with all the love she knows she's asking God to give him wisdom and keep him safe so he in turn can keep us safe.  She said that God alone can touch his heart and help him change his mind if he's making a wrong choice.

I am all about the fight.  But my daughter has not forgotten her first love, and the supremacy in the love of Christ, and the power therein.

So I'm encouraging you to remember that it's not about doing the right things, or taking the right stance all the time, but about being in love.  For me it means being in love with God and finding that one-on-one time before I face the rest of my day - so I'll probably wake up earlier from now on.  We shall see.

It has huge implications for my children, who are with me a LOT.  And who observe more than what I pencil down to teach them as I prepare the lesson plans for the week.  As we scale back on result-driven school work we are focusing more on attitude.  My kids see my attitude as I'm browsing through Facebook or talking to my husband.  I need to teach them a Bible-centered attitude towards life so they can tackle everything appropriately.  I need to model the right attitude in all circumstances first, even if that means I do a whole yoga session before I open my mouth on the subject.

I'm not ever going to agree with everyone.  And I've always said that people are very, VERY hard for me to love.  But I would hate my kids to see this attitude and think that I will only love them if they see eye to eye with me and I would never really love them for who they are.  I know the answer to this problem: to soak up God's love, like a sponge.  If I just spend enough time loving God and letting Him express His love for me, then when I'm wrung out or stressed or pushed, what will pour out of me will be love - and it would be as natural as water from a sponge.  This was the main point of 1 John.

Most Theologians believe that John who wrote the gospel and was the "disciple that Jesus loved", also wrote 1, 2, and 3 John later on, and finally wrote the book of Revelation when he was exiled to Patmos.  And his unique perspective on Christ as God, coming down to earth to love on us really set him apart from other writers - his style of writing is pretty simple and warm.  I concur with these theologians because the books with his name on it are just full of John's love for God and it works like... a finger print.  And it makes total sense that this man wrote these documents in this order; first he experienced Christ and felt His love.  Then he writes 3 epistles to instruct other Christians on the love of God and the love for others.  And finally, in a grand culmination, Jesus shows John the end of it all - the final throw down, so to speak.  So I see, as God is the primary Author of the Bible, how intentional God is - with all the theology and history, and do's and don'ts, and instructions (all of which are important), God uses John to remind all believers, "Wait! In all this, don't forget your first love!  Don't get lost in the work and lose the love! I am love! And it all starts and ends in Me!"

Lord, help me to be less about the fight in this life and more about the love You have for all of us.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Parenting from a Biblical Perspective

After last night's post, I was up late with ideas swirling through my head, so I figured right now would be the best time to put things down on paper.

I was thinking about yesterday's post, wondering if perhaps I have been kind of harsh.  I didn't mean to imply that I did things right and other moms do things wrong.  I just meant to explain why I cannot relate to some of the parenting frustrations other moms go to, and why I sometimes cannot offer appropriate encouragement or advice.

I laid in bed last night thinking about why I have done things the way I described.  I was raised outside of the church by half German, half Venezuelan families.  I have no question in mind that I was loved.  But I also remember a lot of times where I was not "spoiled".  From my earliest memories I remember that I was loved not because I got what I wanted but because my parents, grandmothers, aunts and uncles loved me.  And I believed how my momma and daddy raised me, well, works.

But then as I was praying and thinking about it, God revealed to me some verses that also guide my parenting thought process more than any other "school".  There is a kaleidoscope of ways to be a mom, from the co-sleeping, breastfeeding forever, super attached moms to the disciplinarian, apparently distant moms that are more common in cultures outside of the United States.  Did you know that in some tribes in Africa moms will avoid eye contact with babies?  Their way of life requires for children to be as independent as possible by the time they're 3 years old.  Children that young may be left in homes while adults go hunt or work for food.  It's hard for me personally to imagine not responding to my baby's smile, but I cannot judge these moms and say, "They don't love their children!"  The point is, their parenting is intentional because they are raising children that will survive in their society.  They cannot have needy, crying children that chase after mom, or refuse to stay home, or want to be held all the time.  I'm thankful my way of life is a lot easier.

And whether you are raising children in Africa, Japan, Germany, or the US, your parenting needs to be intentional too.  That is the point!

You can read thousands of parenting articles from different schools of thoughts and do all the research on the subject, but as for me, I turn to the Bible.  I cannot separate God's Word from what I do.  So this is where I start:

What the Bible says about me as a MOM:
1) Proverbs 22:6

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. 
It is my belief that we begin this parenting journey with the end in mind.  We mold them while they're young with the hope that it will shape them as adults.  It involves guidance and being future-minded.  And active parenting.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that, in the words of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid, "children should be free to lead their own life." It also puts me at the driver's seat of our home.
In a practical application, I can say that Caleb has lost his temper and hit his siblings when he doesn't get his way.  I think of how this kind of attitude would look like when he's an adult - is it ok to hit his wife? To smack his kids?  So I don't tell him he can't do that simply to referee in my household, but I work on his attitude that it's not ok to demand your own way to the point of hurting someone else.  And I teach him to express his emotions using words.  Because if it doesn't look cute as an adult it really isn't something to shrug about as a child.  I don't expect my children to "just get over it" or "outgrow that stage" when the Bible says it's my job to lead the children in the way they should go because the habits (emotional, physical, and spiritual) they develop as children will be what carries them as adults.
On the note of habits, practice doesn't make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.  So if you do an exercise with improper form three times a week for a year, you are not improving your health at all.  You've just taught your muscle memory to do things wrong permanently.  So having my children interact with the same attitude over and over will not miraculously cause them to think or behave better - I have to guide them with the right attitude so they practice that from the get go.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Some people believe that you should let children choose their own faith.  I believe I'm supposed to raise my kids according to my faith.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it's the Children's Pastor or the Youth Pastor or the Sunday School Teacher or the Public/Private School's job to teach them the instruction and training of the Lord.  Teaching children about faith is specifically listed as the parent's responsibility.
I find it interesting that the Bible says the solution to avoid exasperating your children is to train them in the Lord.  And the way I can reconcile this is by putting all things into a Biblical perspective.

The Lord made us all different, and with different personalities.  I accept that between you and me as moms. I also accept that between my children and me.  I know Brielle is not as organized as me.  I know that Anakin is not as courageous as me.  I should not exasperate them by fussing at them to be more like me, because that's a dead end that only leads to frustration.  We may never see eye to eye on how to put laundry away or whether or not to eat french fries.  And even though the Word puts me at the driver's seat of my household (or at least, the front passenger if my hubby is home), that does not mean that their individuality and their will gets thrown out the window.

Rather, it means that in all things I teach them to be like Christ.  And Christ taught us to love and honor one another even if we're right.  He also teaches us to submit to Him and to others, to put others before ourselves, to speak the truth in love.  Our individuality does not allow us to be disrespectful or disobedient to anyone, but we learn to express ourselves within the confines of love with one another.  Here is the key to teach a child why he should obey you even if he disagrees with you.  

So as a practical example and with this end in mind, I can tell Brielle to clean her room.  And Brielle has a random, typical artist type of brain so her version of a clean room is usually NOTHING like what I have in mind.  So I work with her and with myself and make clear some ground rules and expectations: No clean clothes on the floor - it goes in a drawer.  No dirty clothes in the floor, it goes in a hamper.  No toys on the floor, it goes in a toybox.  I will not lie to you, Brielle puts her toys in her drawers and keeps her clothes in toy buckets because it's more accessible to her.  But she'll pick everything up off the floor.  I can choose to exasperate her by yelling my head off because her socks aren't matched and she has pjs and blue jeans in the same drawer.  Or I can teach her that the Bible tells us to be good stewards of the things we are blessed with, and that even in creation God is a God of order and not chaos.  So the happy medium is that as long as a) her stuff is being cared for properly b) she can find what she needs immediately when she needs it - then we're good! And more than just teaching her not to roll her eyes at me when I say she needs to clean her room or how to have her room the way I would have it, I'm teaching her that in all things she needs to obey Christ.

3) 2 Corinthians 5:20
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 
I am fully aware of how little we care about our ambassadors in this day and age.  But in the heart of the matter, an ambassador is an exact representation of the Kingdom he/she represents, and whatever the ambassador says or does is as good as if the King from that land had said so Himself.  Food for thought when it comes to parenting...
The relationship the children have with me will be their prototype for the relationship they will have with God as adults.  This is not something I take likely.

Although "submission" is such an ugly word in today's society, the gospel truth is that we cannot have a relationship with God without submitting to Christ.  And my children learn what all submission means from me.  And it's a good thing, really.

Submission implies a certain level of respect, or what the Bible describes as "fear of the Lord".  It means we cannot have a loving, healthy relationship with the Lord while we simultaneously disrespect or disobey Him.  So the kids need to practice, and that with me, how disobedience or disrespect doesn't work in a healthy relationship.

Submission implies a certain level of trust.  We submit to Christ because we believe His character is good, and He is trustworthy, so even if we don't like what we are instructed or we are afraid we follow Christ - at times blindly - because we know He has our best interest in mind.  How much more in parenting!  I need my kids to trust me and know that everything is for their good - whether they like it, understand it, or not.

And guess what - we are all in submission to one thing or another.  No man is above the law.  We submit to our spouses, to our bosses, to our teachers.  The best leaders are the people who can be trusted to have people in submission to them because they are in submission (or accountable to) someone higher than them.  The best athletes submit to their coach.  The best students submit to their teachers.

But within the boundary that this submission concept establishes, lies a relationship filled with unconditional love, comfort, and wisdom!  Relationship being the key.  Submission is the means to a much greater end and if my kids can't practically see that end between them and me than they will have no motivation to submit to God.  There are treasures to uncover if you follow the instructions on a treasure map - and this applies to obeying God's Word, and to obeying Mom and Dad, and I want my children to experience these treasures in me as a representation of the relationship they can have with God the Father.

So practically speaking, it means that even though they are not allowed to sleep with Paul and me, doesn't mean that I won't pray with them at their bedside after a nightmare or won't get up and help them clean up if they puked.  They may have to eat all that's on their plate but when I can, I ask them what they would like to eat and take them up for suggestions.  Jesus expressed that even us, in our wickedness, long to meet the needs of our children and give them what they ask for (and how much more the Father wants to bless us!).

No where in the Bible does it say it's my job to make my children happy.  Or anyone else for that matter.  Can you imagine if I posted on Facebook, "Your job as a wife is to make your husband happy."?  Feminists would burn me alive.  Wanting someone else's happiness is a byproduct of loving someone else and comes quite naturally.  But it's not our responsibility.  And we can create a whole bunch of problems, one of them being codependency, if we make it our job to make other people happy.  My role as mom and ambassador of Christ is to teach my children to find their joy in Christ and point to Him for the emotional stability only He can fill.  So they don't expect anyone else to make them happy.

And so, as it relates to crying, I don't believe that a child needs comfort every time he/she cries.  What they may need is a change of perspective, much like I need as an adult when I'm throwing a pity party. It's not my job to stop their crying and turn every tear into a smiley face.  Christ alone was the one who promised that He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  I handle tears within the confines of my Biblical responsibility.  There is a huge difference between crying because they want a toy and crying because the dog died or their friend moved away.  I don't diminish their emotional need for comfort but I won't foster a self-centered attitude.  Personally I rely on the Bible for the wisdom to know the difference and to know what I want to cultivate in my children deep in their hearts, in the wellspring of their lives.

I personally believe that these Biblical principles are universal.  You may not apply them exactly the way I do and your children are entirely different from mines - so that's probably a good thing.  But at the heart of this parenting matter is the fact that whether we do or don't, whatever decision we make for our children, it needs to be intentional.  It is nobody else's job to raise our children but ours!  How many children are handed the crackers and the TV remote ONLY because mom wants them busy and occupied so they can move on to something else?  How many absent-minded parenting decisions are made to make things smoother at the moment without having the long-term consequence of that decision in mind?  Then we wonder why all these children turn into teenagers that have no earthly clue what the purpose for living is and the answer is because very few parents in this society do any purposeful parenting!  So whether you choose to respond a certain way - or not - if nothing else understand the Biblical implication that these decisions carry a heavy long-term weight, in this life and in the life to come.  I write of what I know, but whether pagan or Christian or Muslim or Jew, parenting is one thing we cannot do haphazardly.

I can't relate to a lot of Mommy posts...

I've always wanted to write, and I've heard that you write about what you know.  And now, what I know is how to homeschool my kids and to live healthier-ish.  But then I also heard that you should write to an audience.  I thought well, Moms!  Because who else would my audience be, really?

And then I read other blogs by other Moms or talk to other Moms and I feel like I can't relate... at all... and I think, "I'm not normal".  And then I wonder, could I write and connect to other moms?

I have invested all of my motherhood in not having needy children.  As babies my socialization goals was for them to be comfortable with anyone and away from my presence.  I had the babies everyone else loved to babysit.  They never cried to see me go, and they were always happy when I came back.

So when a child is crying at the church nursery and mom is like, "I don't know, what should I do?" I'm honestly speechless. 

I didn't breastfeed for long, I let them cry through the night to extend their sleep cycles so I didn't get up during the night after they were 4 months old.  They never got anything from me by crying after they were old enough to recognize my face - even at 6 months old I waited until they soothed themselves to give them what they were crying about (as it relates to food and diapers I tried to anticipate their needs so they didn't have to get to a crying point to begin with, though).  Honestly, when a baby is crying and I see a mom rushing to soothe him my first instinct is to think, "Why would she do that?"  The only reason I comfort a crying child is if I know he is in physical pain or discomfort.

I've also taught my kids to be as self sufficient as possible.  I don't care if my kids have their underwear inside-out and their socks don't match.  I stopped dressing them as soon as they could put it on themselves.  They eat all of whatever I put on their plate because I would reheat the same meal until it was finished or let them skip the meal.  My plate is as much my personal space as my privates - my kids are not allowed to touch my food and they've never shared off my plate.  And my kids always go to sleep on their own bed - they have NEVER spent a night between my husband and me.  My parenting catch-phrase is, "this isn't a democracy.  It's a benevolent monarchy that belongs to me!"

So here is a common scenario:  I'm at McD's with my kids.  I see a mom come in with two young kiddos.  I hear the kids fussing the whole way to the table.  I see the mom get the food and serve them.  I hear the kids demand ketchup.  I see mom go get ketchup.  I see the kids spills the drinks.  I see mom get napkins and clean up.  I see kids leave their food and demand to go play.  I see mom pick everything up and head to a play area.  I never once saw Mom take a bite of her food.

Well no wonder parenting is not viewed as enjoyable.  I don't feel compassion for her.  The overall picture is that you survive 10 years of childhood for tiny glimpses of hope where the child isn't acting like an animal and maybe then you'll see the reward.  You'll spend years without sleep, without eating a meal of your own, you'll sacrifice your sex life with your husband, you'll never have the time to do your nails or your hair or take an uninterrupted shower and you'll never hear a thank you.  The only satisfaction you'll get is the smile on your little angel's face.

But why?

Call me selfish, but my mental and physical well-being is priority.  I need to function in order for my household to function.  There will be nights of staying up because of illness.  There will be moments where your child genuinely needs your comfort.  There will be days when you barely have a chance to eat because you are at a hospital or some other situation with your child.  But I would not make this lifestyle your habit.  I'm not even going to get into what consequences living like this - regularly - can have for your marriage.

Go back to the McD's scenario with my household.  I'm already walking in with tensions high because I'm nervous or running late.  The only reason I would stop at McDs is if I know we won't be home for close to 8 hours.  I send my kids to get napkins, ketchup, and silverware while I order the food.  They may get happy meals.  They may not. They may have a choice.  They may not.  It all depends on our household budget.  They know that if it is in my power to do so, I will give them anything they want - but if I can't, I will definitely give them what they need.  I bring the food to the table, and we enjoy conversations - about Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and whatever else comes up.  They will ask me if they can play in the gym and I will check my time.  I tell them that if they finish and clean up within the time we have they may have 15 minutes.  It is probable that Caleb will spill the chocolate milk - at which time he will say, "I'm sorry!" and Anakin and Brielle will rush to get napkins and Caleb will help clean it up.  They will clean up, go play in the gym, and when I say, "We gotta go!" they will get their shoes on and we'll be on our way.  And the employees at McDs usually comment on how good my kids are.  But my point is that I'm very strict on some rules and work on them consistently to prepare for a time like this.

Am I saying that my children are perfect?  They're not even good. And I can laugh about it.  As a matter of fact, all behavioral issues that come up in our household usually have to do with whether I'm with them and engaged or not.  They smell weakness in other adults and test everyone's limits with everything they know they cannot get away with at home.  Only one public school teacher put a stop to Anakin's nonsense, and she was an old, crazy cat lady that couldn't be moved by any kid.

I have struggled with inappropriate behavior, embarrassing moments, and difficult childhood stages.  Every caring mom will.  But through it all I'm reminded of 2 key points I learned from other godlier women who came before me: 1) The point of godly parenting is to raise God-seeking adults, not have children that make me look good. 2) The point of parenting is not to be the cruise director of my children's childhood, as if I was put here to entertain them.  Even I understand, as a mature-ish Christian, that God seeks to build my character more than my comfort.  How much more, as the sole agent of God for my children until they mature enough in a relationship with Him, do I need to prioritize building their character! And teaching them manners! And helping them be successful members of society, children that know proper etiquette and how to show respect, that ask for help politely...

And if you are still reading this far, and your mouth is hanging open, I want you to know what a joy it is to be a mom for me.  Even more so that I've quit my full-time job, and have been home with them for a year.  What a joy that I taught Brielle how to read.  What a joy that Caleb will sit for vaccines, cry his poor little eyes out, and he will not struggle or move his arm.  What a joy that on my sick day I can ask Anakin to grab a stool, wash his hands, and make sandwiches for his siblings.  Even their less than ideal behaviors and comments, moments where I cry and pray, remind me about grace and mercy.  And about how none of us are perfect.  And that correcting our behaviors, when less than ideal, are a process of time and consistency, right?  So it's a joy to wake up each new day and try again.

I'm pretty sure that after all my political rants, my off-colored not-so-popular opinions, and my annoyingly traditional biblical views I probably only have, like, 3 readers.  So if I do write a book it will be entirely by faith.  I started homeschooling entirely by faith.  No woman in my family has ever been a stay-at-home mom, let alone a homeschooling mom.  I graduated through the public school system.  I've also never had anyone in my family work out regularly or lose 27 lbs or so or change their eating habits so drastically and permanently as I did.  Nothing I have blogged about has been something I learned by observing.  This year has been a brand new adventure led entirely by what God has told me in times of worship and prayer.  If writing a book is a task I am to accomplish it'll be because God told me so too.

My hope is not to have moms read this and feel horrible or inadequate, but so that they would be less fearful... burnt out... I want moms to realize that they are not slaves to their children and their God-given role is so much more than unpaid servant-hood.  This mom thing is really hard!  I wouldn't even dare give advice because each child is so different that what works with my kids may be disastrous for you.  But if any mom out there can see the grace that God bestowed on me, the humor at the end of the night, and how brilliant my kids are in spite of my imperfections - then maybe they can be encouraged... perhaps even emboldened.  They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  Let's start living this mommy-hood life like we're ruling the world instead of being ruled by the little people in our home!