Thursday, February 28, 2008

Patience verses Anger

Kat chose Practicing Patience as the topic today for Parent's University. For me, to talk about patience in parenting, I must address the flip side of that coin- anger. I am not an endless font of patience (notice photo of red hair) and my response to my patience being tested is anger in a range from slight irritation to mad as a wet hen. What I know is that with any breach of patience with my children, I can see the hurt on their faces and eventually in their behavior. Patience builds trust. Impatience tears down relationship. And if my child's face no longer registers something when I show irritation, things are not as they should be.

Anger is not a pretty thing, but the consequences of leaving it unresolved in parents and children leads to devastation of families. The best source I've ever read on this has been Dr. Ross Campbell in his book
Relational Parenting.

It's tough stuff, but check out his anger ladder.
The Anger Ladder
1. pleasant~seeking resolution~focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically
2. pleasant~focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically

Positive and Negative
3. focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud
4. holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud~ displacing anger to other sources
5. focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud~ verbal abuse
6. thinking logically~unpleasant, loud, displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints

Primarily Negative
7. unpleasant, loud, displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior
8. unpleasant, loud~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse
9. unpleasant, loud ~cursing~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse
10. focusing anger on source~unpleasant, loud ~cursing~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~
throwing objects
11. unpleasant, loud ~cursing~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse~throwing objects

12. focusing anger on source~cursing~unpleasant, loud~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse~destructive behavior
13. unpleasant, loud~ cursing ~displacing anger to other sources~ destroying property~ verbal abuse ~emotionally destructive behavior
14. unpleasant, loud~ cursing ~displacing anger to other sources~ destroying property~ verbal abuse ~emotionally destructive behavior~ physical abuse
15. passive aggressive behavior

This chart helps me keep number one as my goal for myself and my children in every test of patience. If I don't seek patience as a lifestyle, I'll one day be facing my growing children as they exhibit negative behavior I may have taught or left untrained, God forbid. I remember:

"Children have no defense against their parents' anger."
–Dr. Ross Campbell

There are only two ways to express anger- action or words. If anger cannot be expressed outwardly, then it turns inward. We've got to allow our children to fail and mature in expressing anger. If not, the results can be tragic.

The bottom rung on the ladder, passive aggression, is the best motivator of all for me to operate in patience as a parent. A passive aggression person is someone who found no means for learning to deal with anger. The child has so disconnected from relationship in self protection that they no longer understand their own actions. If I continue to be bothered by my own child and angry with my him, I could end up with a child who is depressed, sneaky mean, or self destructive yet unaware of the "why" behind it all.

Onto the pressing question of, "What if I blow it as a parent?". And I do. What if I speak to my children in an unpleasant or loud way? What if I get off focus? Or move off primary complaint into a litany of pet peeves? Here is where I apply the monastic principle of beginning again. You may have heard God's mercies are new every morning? Well, I say God's mercies are new every moment for a mom- we are simply to shake off the dust and begin again. I am to apologize and move on back up to the top of the ladder toward resolution as soon as possible. Being in the habit of self examination in the midst of conflict is not easy but worth everything.

The other key is to allow myself to be accountable. Last week, a gigantic conflict appeared between one of my sons and myself, and in fear, I did not handle things well at all. I had exercised no patience or understanding, but went straight to anger. I called Buck to warn him that we'd need to have a sitdown as soon as he got home from work. The three of us huddled in the living room, and I asked my son, "Want to explain our day, or shall I?" My boy requested me to tell Buck our broken situation with the stipulation that he could take notes on all the things to share after my turn, because he was quite certain I would leave out my negative behavior. I started from the beginning being sure to bring forward every loud, unpleasant, intimidating fault of mine. In the end, my son didn't write a single thing on his paper, and I could see his relief growing as I took responsibility for my anger and apologized to him in front of my husband. I'd have damaged my child's heart further if I'd have done it any other way.

Sleep, a peaceful family schedule, exercise, and healthy food remain essential to the patience equation also.

Be encouraged. I didn't grasp patience vs. anger in my home growing up. Instead, I've learned by failing and learning as a parent. It's never too late.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Early this morning when I was five minutes from shewing the children out the door for science class, Pooh Bear whined about Wise One getting more breakfast than her. She weighs a whooping 37 pounds at the grand old age of seven, so I assumed the two packages of oatmeal had filled her tummy just fine. She moped until I agreed to toast her an additional frozen waffle. "But Wise One got two waffles and a big bowl of peaches!" she exclaimed. Next she narrowed her eyes, shot me the look of death, placed her hands on hips, screwed up her chapped little lips to whimper, "And I don't think there is really such a thing anymore as the greatest mom in the world either."

I turned my head to mute my giggle and hide my smile.

You are so right about that one, Pooh Bear. There is no such thing, at least in this house.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Tennessee home schoolers have a job to do. State legislature votes tomorrow on a bill(HB2795) to impose state testing of TCAPS on home schoolers. I know many home schoolers oppose testing at all, but we have our children tested with a national test every year. I use the results from the Stanford and from daily work and tests to plan goals for the next year. However, I would be discontent with a government which forces my children to take additional, unnecessary, and state-centric tests, because they want to have a thumb on my children's education. I guarantee the state does not care about the education of my child more than I do. Why would I want my children to endure three more grueling days of testing to the three they already have? Why has Tennessee stopped using national tests to gauge progress? Is it because we fall so far behind nationally?

A friend Miriam brought this point to my attention. What is to be done about the results of the TCAPS? If a home schooled child gets behind, will the state demand we put the child in public school? There are multitudes of children failing in public school. Will the government demand those children be home schooled?

Call or email your Tennessee reps today on this matter.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Peace: Mom, I have a slight fever. My head hurts. I don't feel like throwing up or anything, but I'm really tired. What do you think it is?

Me: (with a completely serious face) That is exactly what I'm told it feels like just before you die.

Peace: (gets a huge grin past the pain) How do you feel, Mom?

Me: Oh, I'm just fine, honey.

Peace: I'm told "fine" is exactly what people feel like just before they die.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wanna help save the Smoky Mountains? A friend who is an amazing adoption attorney has left her job for a time to lobby with integrity in Nashville.

The Weeks in Review

Last week had been a doosey. Buck was on the long road home from Uncle Earl's funeral when I came to the conclusion one of our milk goats just might have rabies, because she'd suddenly become aggressive. I called goat experts, my vet, UT Veterinary Hospital for advice. UT asked me to bring the goat in immediately. Buck had the van, the farm van wouldn't start, and I had a child I couldn't leave at home alone. The fleeting thought of taking a biting goat in a little old Honda did not appeal. I decided to wait till the next morning to take her and had Peace put the nanny in seclusion for the night. Of course, she cried out like a baby. I considered the fact that we drink the raw milk (no conclusive research has been done, so the route of caution would be taken), and our entire family would have to go through the rabies series at no less than $400 a shot. That's $14,400 and pain for the lot of us. The medical conclusion? After three excruciating days of waiting and observation, UT vets told us we had a goat with new behavior problems brought on because she missed Buck, the one who usually milked her.

She's home now happily munching her hay, and has discontinued her aggression now that her (and my) favorite man is home on the farm. Insert an annoyed smile from me here.

In the very good news department, last Sunday we got an air card to replace our dinosaur dial-up service. It works like a charm, but I can't figure out the technological parts of document sending- essential to the course I'm teaching. The update in technology will probably allow me to put my own pictures back on my blog again. Blogger paired with dial-up became downright contrary about loading photos a few years ago, so I stopped trying.

Monday started this week with difficult news. The school we hoped our oldest son would attend decided against providing high school next year. Parents, including myself, were visibly shaken by the announcement. There are no schools like it in the area, and I have a very late start in finding an alternative for next year. My son, who is not scholarly by nature, needs academic minded folks around him to inspire his best work. Other choices offer godless arrogance, good hearts and intentions which graduate high schoolers to junior college, cut-throat culture, Christian Lite. Nothing fits the bill. I'm grieving the loss of an excellent choice as I wrestle through a new plan for Peace's high school years.

Mid-week I attended a college reunion dinner. I knew my two favorite friends from those years wouldn't be in attendance, so I went with a bit of self conscious awkwardness. What if no one would talk to me, and I had to sit in secluded silence? "I could enjoy people watching", I told myself. What if people I liked pretended not to know me? "I'll move on", I reassured myself. Still reunions are tricky personal business for me. The first person I saw when I stepped out of my van was a friend from my church studying counseling at the college now. She put my heart at ease immediately. After we chatted, I walked over to the cafeteria where dinner was to take place. I scanned the crowd and glanced at a vaguely familiar face and read his name tag. Joyfully, it was someone who had been very good to me at time I really needed a friend in college.

I walked up to him with anticipation and announced my name. I expected a hug, but got more of a look which read, "I don't really know you. I'd like it if you wouldn't talk to me." I tried my charismatic approach of questions to help him let his guard down but was unsuccessful altogether. Not a great start.

My natural confidence waned.

I spoke cordially in line with a few friendly people I recognized but didn't know well. I walked into the assigned reunion room and saw only one table with open seats. At that table, I spotted three faces of people who had never been my friends, and it was likely they were not especially interested in getting to know me now. I forced myself to sit down with them next to someone at that available table I couldn't quite place. Until he warmly spoke. I breathed in a sigh of relief, because I'd be able share my dinner with at least one kind and genuine gentleman, Drake, I'd connected with in college classes. The other folks at the table turned out to be interesting and funny. I discovered Drake and I share common interests in things ecumenical and contemplative, unheard of from this crowd.

Everyone from our class was asked to share from their life now. I tried to fade to the background but was discovered at last. I kept my words few- an accomplishment, I know.

I enjoyed a few more conversations with sundry people and even an invitation, and drove the hour back to common life as I know it.

Friday and Saturday I've studied for my upcoming teaching weekend away.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

This is what I've been listening to lately. It's not really a video, just the song. A worship leader at church introduced it to us about a month ago. Don't know anything else by the songwriters/singers, Brian and Jenn Johnson (misspelled on the intro), but the lyrics are intense and fabulous for me.

By the way, I am of the opinion that three minute worship songs are for sissies. Wink.
I admire my son, Peace. Yesterday he came in from his early morning chores before school and explained to me he'd taken care of a dead hen in the chicken house. Being a city girl, I am squeamish about thinking or touching any hurt or dead animal. I mostly let my men handle the dirty work 'round the farm. Without telling me, Peace simply took out a plastic bag from the kitchen, suited up with gloves and coat, and placed the dead body into the bag and then into the trash can. Can't throw things like that into the woods because it attracts coyotes. Have to bury things deep and put rocks on the grave otherwise which we did with our goat for the same reason. When Peace was done, he threw his coat and gloves in the laundry. How many 14 year old boys do you know in America can take care of business like this without batting an eye?
I was touched by the solemn and matter of fact manner in which Peace dealt with the situation. We think it may have been Petunia, my garden digging buddy. Petunia followed behind every time I went outside to see if she could collect worms I'd uncover from flower beds or the garden. I thanked Peace for his care and teared up a bit. "Mom, it's just a chicken," he responded,"And by the way. When I die I'd prefer to be buried in a grave than put in a plastic bag in the garbage."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Time Won't Let Me Go

Kat poses the question of finding personal time in the midst of parenting for Parenting University.

You're not getting the typical response of "Make sure to make 'me time'" from me. I have spent too many parenting years selfishly and unsuccessfully looking for ways to make me happy.

The last few years I've lived with far more intentionality and integrity. I've reformed my social grid drastically from accepting any and every invitation outside my home I could squeeze in, to carefully weighing the cost of each and choosing wisely. I used to believe that the more fun stuff I did, the better and more pleasant mother and person I'd be. It simply wasn't the case. I began to see my own children as getting in the way, and I think I was running away from any serious self examination. I'd been pouring my life into a sieve when I was under the illusion I was filling my bucket.

Eventually, I did not like the shallow person I was becoming and set out to change. I cleared my calendar and began to listen to the still small voice of God inside. He helped me to lay down all the "good things" to save for "the best things". With great trepidation and a deep seated fear of loneliness, I quit book and Bible studies, teaching/speaking, attending concerts, homeschool support groups, coffee/lunch out with friends, cooking/jewelry/craft type parties, and retreats altogether for a good long while. I even limited my time on the phone and at the gym. After some reclusive months, great opportunities opened which I'd never had before, and I was at last spiritually more prepared to accept. I know those opportunities to be directly connected to obedience to God.

The result of quitting the rat race? I've become introverted, introspective, sensitive, a better listener (not that I don't have much more to learn about listening), and more effective at everything I do. I work smarter. I understand the difference between cutting down the time tree with a sharp edged ax and beating it with a baseball bat.

As for personal time today? I refuse to be that frantically busy person with a chaotic life again. Now I don't require enormous amounts of personal time. It's built into the day even though my family is present. When my responsibilities of the moment are fulfilled and my children feel enough enjoyable connection to me to be at peace among themselves, I can steal away to my room and read, write, and most of all, just be and remain in the True Vine.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

He gets it from his dad

Peace casually posed this question yesterday afternoon in conversation, "You the know the Miss Universe Pageant? It doesn't seem quite fair. Why is the contestant who always wins from Earth?"

Buck retold the joke to friends at our lovely Valentine's Day dinner last evening. Someone asked from across the table, "Well, is there also a Mr. Universe?" To which Buck responded by pointing his fingertips into his chest, haughtily wagging his head, and replying, "Hello?!"

Thursday, February 14, 2008


When I don't feel loved,
I try to make myself feel better
by thinking of my mom and dad
hugging and kissing me.

When I do feel loved,
I feel joyful,
and honorable.

by Pooh Bear Vyne
The Daring Book for Girls, twizzlers, a Star Trek movie, a necklace, a shirt, a dozen long stemmed red roses, and some pink toile pj's composed the Vyne's Valentine's Day celebration.

This blogger shares a more thoughtful approach. Tonia, I admire your family's ways.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Developing Compassion in our Children

Compassion. My favorite word. Kat
has made developing Compassion in our children the topic for Parenting University this week. For me as a parent, I hope to live the principle which is a far better teacher than words.

I believe compassion is a gift given by God already present inside children. It's a gift something like innocence and purity. Ever seen a small child cry when she stumbles upon a dead bug? Ever had a little one gently rub your hand when you are shedding tears? So why don't all children continue to exhibit compassion? I think it has more to do with adults not preserving, even stomping out the gift in children. Tragically, I know I have done so with my own children. For example, when we lived in the city, my children cried out, "Mom! That person has a sign that says they are hungry. Aren't Christians supposed to feed the hungry?" My answer? "We don't have time for that. We're on our way to..." or "It's too risky to talk to a stranger." "We already give to..." I wrestled my conscience for a long while over these calloused positions and finally came up with doable solutions. One great remedy was pulling together bags to hand out with pop top food, napkins, and shelter phone numbers plus fifty cents for the call.

Country life does not afford that kind of opportunity, but opportunities of compassion come abundantly in other forms. When my child excitedly shouts, "Hurry! Come look at the bluebird." I decide I'd better drop everything to take the time enjoy the moment with him. Otherwise, I'll diminish the importance of my child's passion. I also try to eliminate judgement from my talk in daily life as much as possible, especially about people not present. No more "He's such a creep, because...", "What a jerk!" "She deserved everything she got." "He's a bad person for all these reasons." "What a loser." Every single human being on the earth has value whether they continually make poor choices or act exactly as I'd like. We strip away compassion in ourselves and our children when we make out anyone, stranger or lover, as disposible in some way. The message of "bad guys, good guys" with no hope of forgiveness leaves everyone in a vulnerable position of moving to being unforgivable themself one day. How many times have I done just what I'd hope I'd never do? Lose my temper with a child? Use cutting and thoughtless words? Manipulate someone for selfish purposes? Use force rather than waiting for natural consequence to take it's course? I believe I owe compassion even to myself in order that I might offer it to others.

Here are some quotes which tell it much better than myself.

“Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Frederick Buechner

"All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives."
Dalai Lama

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
Dalai Lama

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
Dalai Lama

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“Make no judgements where you have no compassion.”

"Without a rich heart, wealth is an ugly beggar."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Buck, Pooh Bear and Wise One have been gone for days to dear Uncle Earl's funeral in Pennsylvania. Uncle Earl has battled dreadfully with cancer for years now, and I know death has brought him final peace and rest. When we got word about his passing, Tater had just been diagnosed with the flu, and I volunteered to stay home with him. Peace stayed home to help me with the animals. The peditrician prescribed everyone doses of Tamiflu. Tater got better in three days, and none of us have any symptoms a week later. That's a miracle. Tater got the flu around this time of year, and everyone in the family caught a version of it following. Those were miserable days for everyone. So, I 'm feeling lucky to have avoided that same plight.

Buck and the two youngest arrived home late last night after a wintery drive through snow Cincinnati to Richmond. He told me I'd have been nervous as a cat with those slippery road conditions. I could tell the long drived taxed him, but he's off to take a sick goat to the vet. Sigh. No rest for the weary here.

Winter brings many things. Right now things seem dreary to me- drabness of nature, bitter cold, death, missing my husband, sickness of people and animals, difficulties with children. All these things seem to be an expression of Lent.

As with seasons, even seasons of the church, things are sent to remind of what is to come. Peace and I noticed a family of cardinals which live near the top of my driveway, and another flock on down the road. The flash of brilliant red feathers darting against the browns of barren thorns and trees encourages me to look toward the bright greens, cheery yellows, and romantic pinks of warming weather. I wait for spring. I wait.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Triple Negative from the Runway

As spoken to an air traffic controller with whom I am intimate:


"I will be on the side of the taxiway, and I ain't gonna be no factor to no aircraft"

After thoroughly dissecting the sentence .. the controller decided it was OK to proceed with business as usual.


Kat has picked the subject of organization for Parenting University today. I can tell by her orderly personality she'll have some great advice to offer, but organization is not my strongest suit. However, there are two areas which work for me at this time- homeschool and meal planning.

Since I have four children in four different grades, I must find a way to keep track of all the books required. Each child has the following books of his or her own: language arts, vocabulary, math, literature, practice test taking, composition, and at least three teacher's guides per child. Every student has at least one novel to read at all times apart from the textbooks. We also have several references for history, science and Bible. In the course of one school day, that comes to about twenty eight books in use.
How in the world do we keep up with so many texts? I consulted with other homeschool mothers and borrowed their ideas. I've come up with a system which works for us. I've color coded each child's materials. Peace is red, because he is melancholy. Pooh Bear is purple, her favorite color. Tater is green being so very full of energy. Wise one is blue because he is serene and peaceful.
According to the person's color, I've bought painter's tape at Wallyworld to match. Each child's text has a strip of colored tape across the top spine and an inch around the sides. I tape two strips of colored tape to the bottom spine and side of teacher's manuals. If I spy a book with green tape on the couch, I know to call Tater to come fetch it. If Peace leaves me something to check, I know to find the blue taped teacher's manual.
Each child has a basket with a colored ribbon attached to catch sundry books and carry them around the house or out and about. It's fairly easy to take work on the road with a prepared basket. We have one assigned shelf where the baskets rest and another for books to placed in colored order when not in use or in the basket. The notebooks of paper I've purchased also match the child's color.
Around 1:00 in the afternoon, children, books and papers are spread all over the house on couches, kitchen table, homeschool table, breakfast counter, living room floor, my bed, my floor. It takes about five minutes to clean up the chaos at the end of the day.

Meal Planning
I don't like to cook or shop. I hate to think of "What's for dinner?". I'm always looking for new ways to make this work for our family. Currently I'm subscribing to a website which masterminds a five day dinner plan, shopping list, and recipes for each meal. Once a week, I shop big for breakfast items, bread, milk, yogurt, fruit, orange juice, snacks, and the website's list, and the deed is done. The recipes are fairly easy, so cooking is not too big of a deal.

There. you have my very best organizational tips. You might not want to ask about other areas of home order, because I have entirely too much stuff. I think if I was a rich woman, a library and office might solve every problem, because books and papers are the things in too great of abundance for our allowed space.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My mother braved the seriously juvenille antics of Alvin and the Chipmunks with my children, so Buck and I could see

There Will Be Blood

in the theater. I wanted to like it, because of the brilliance of Upton Sinclair, hero and reformer of the American industry.

Truth be known, I suppose I like a screenplay to be a really good and terrible tragedy or something somewhat redemptive. Neither was true of this movie.

It's no spoiler to sum the plot up for you, so you don't have to sit through the tedium. Oil companies, like the main character in the film, never had and never will have any kind of heart.
After a splendid weekend with Grandma, I spent the day helping a friend get her new homeschool cooperative off to a good start. I learned applied algebra from an eight year old boy and a game of dice. I admired others playing a real pirate game called "Shut the Box" which formed math equations. We looked at a map of the world to find the true size of Alaska compared to Texas. Watching children learn is a wonder. I'm grateful for the opportunity.