Finishing Well

I ran a marathon.  Once.  It was a bucket list item that has been checked off and it will never happen again.  One reason is because I am not really a runner.  I tried to be for a long time but I run more like a giant….”Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum” with very heavy feet.  Another reason is a tap dancer passed me.  When a tap dancer passes you at mile 19 uphill, you look for another way to find your inner athlete.   However, the marathon reminds me so much of the school year and as an educator and parent, I must be honest, I am ready for the finish line.

At the beginning of the year, just like the miles in a marathon, the days and possibilities are laid out in front of you.  Your goals are set, the excitement is contagious, and the energy of everyone involved is apparent.  At the beginning of the race, people are running extra miles just to get warmed up. (I am not sure why one would do this since you have 26.2 miles to get warmed up….but here again…I am not a runner.)  Teachers have their rooms prepared, the floors are shiny from the hard word of the maintenance department, and all the students have their new supplies.

Then there is May.  There is a point in the race that is called “THE WALL”.  This is the place where you want to sit down on the curb, take your shoes off, and begin throwing them at people.  In the race of the school year, every educator, parent, and child feels this way at least once if not many times in the month of May. The teachers have a to-do list that will never end on top of all of the end of the year items.  The students can’t even find their school supplies and nobody is spending any money on them now.  And the attitudes of EVERYONE involved can be an emotional roller coaster in itself.  The parents have even questioned if it is necessary to go to school the month of May because really, beyond field trips, field day, celebrations, etc…let’s just raise your hand if we should end it in April.  Overwhelmed is an understatement.

In the race of the school year, the Bowers family is limping…no crawling to the finish line.  We have hit the wall.  We have a saying in our house.  “The Bowers girls do not quit.”  Weeelllllll…. I am raising my hand because I have thought about quitting May and school several times in the past week.   Even though we might want to, we do not quit.  We finish well.  What does that look like?  You take every ounce of your mental and physical energy and you not only do what is expected, but you do it well.

The month of May is almost over.  ALMOST.  I see the end on my calendar but the events that have to transpire for school to be over is overwhelming.  May is the most bittersweet time of the year.  It means another year that our kids are older.  The older your kids get means there are many lasts, too.  Chapters are ending and we get a brief pause before the next chapter.  As if we just blinked, the hand that held yours walking into kindergarten is now waving goodbye as they pull out of the driveway.

The juggling of the bittersweet can cause havoc if you are a perfectionist. I feel like this but I should feel this.  I can’t do anymore but I have to do more.  It is a never ending cycle.

I have to force myself to sit and be still.  To linger.  To listen.  To enjoy.  To breathe.  To let go.  In the craziness of life, my attitude seems to be copied in our house full of girls and lately, my attitude has been horrible.  If my sarcasm is normally a 10 then when I am tired and stressed, my coping mechanism takes my sarcasm (and everyone with it) to a 15.  The problem with that is that it does not solve the stress, it adds to it.

We were at Hopkins last week and I was reminded once again how valuable every day is.  I have been angry and anxious, stressed and rushed.  The way that I have responded to everyone has been less than stellar.  My eye rolls per minute could set world records I am sure.

I came home, sat on our back deck and looked at this.

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God painted me a reminder that He finishes well.  I am expected to finish well.  The girls and John need me to finish well.

During the marathon, I hit “THE WALL” at mile 23.  I wanted to quit but knew that I couldn’t.  There is that part of me that always fights for that last mile, that last rep, the last moments to finish well.  There is a coping mechanism that I have learned in life.  The storm passes.  The hard part eventually ends.  The girls and I have a saying, “You can do anything for ___________.”  A month, a day, an hour.  You can do it.  Finish well.

Our girls are growing quickly.  We have 3 summers until my oldest goes to college.  I am not going to waste it being rushed and stressed.  I am not going to be anxious.  I might be tired and frustrated at times but it will not stop me from finishing well.  I have complete control over my responses.

The end of any moment gives you a time for reflection.  What have you learned?  How have you grown?  These questions I ask myself daily even if the day has not been wonderful.  I can always reflect and learn.  And if I am blessed, I get to take what I learned today and use it tomorrow.

Our days are really numbered.  The doctors always remind us that they still do not know what the future holds for us and can’t make any promises. Every day in our house is really a gift.  I can only take one day at a time.  No matter what emotions have caused chaos in the Bowers house, we finish well.  Have I loved everyone in my house as well as I could and do they know it? If they do, then I have finished well….not perfectly, but good enough.

Just do one day at a time.

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Just do now.

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Just finish well.

 

Love. Respect. Work Ethic.

In my first year of being a principal, I learned so much…by making a tremendous amount of mistakes and dealing with a variety of students, parents, and teachers.  As student after student entered my office, parent after parent sat across from my desk, and teacher after teacher came in and out, I realized that most problems with students, parents, and teachers came down to two things.  Respect and Work Ethic.

As parents, our kids know that we love them.  We say it and we show it.  We do not claim to love perfectly.  Actually, our imperfect loving makes us more real than pretending we know it all.  Our girls have grown up with us apologizing for our mistakes, growing in our parenting, and being real and honest.  We hope to have provided them with a place to make mistakes and be who they have been created to be.  But many parents do not think that discipline is a part of love and we believe it is.

There is not an easy formula to parenting.  Parenting is THE HARDEST job that I have ever had.  Teaching is not easy but one of my strengths is taking a goal and breaking it into the smallest steps so that the goal is obtainable.  How could my husband and I raise two very different daughters to be loving, compassionate and independent?  As much as we love them, we want them to be self-sufficient, hardworking, and caring people that can take their place in whatever or wherever they choose to go.

As a mom, I looked at my parenting and decided to keep my expectations fairly simple.  I had been majoring in the minors A LOT…because when stress comes in I like to hold on to control the best that I can.  Since I am constantly evaluating myself in every role, I knew I needed to stop majoring in the minors and be very clear in my expectations with our daughters.

We sat the girls down and basically told them that there were two no- negotiables in our house.   These expectations were communicated with love and an established relationship.  Respect and Work Ethic.  Those two items are our only rules.

Respect Became a Non-Negotiable

We established “first-time obedience” in pre-school.  There was a day that my youngest (the one that we thought we would send to Military Pre-School) refused to hold my hand and ran out in a parking lot ONLY for the car to stop 6 inches from her.  In retrospect, I knew that I needed them to listen the first time I said something.  Not 3 times.  Not twice.  The first time.  Every moment is a teaching moment.  Whether it teaches you or your children.  They needed to learn respect now.  There wasn’t time to wait.  Just like myself, we would work on one or two of these at a time based on their developmental stages.

What it looked like:

  • First-time obedience means I do not repeat myself.
  • No means no. No matter how much you cry or throw yourself on the ground.
  • Take care of your things and appreciate them.
  • Manners matter. Yes ma’am.  No sir.    Thank you.  Always.
  • It is not what you say. It is HOW you say it.
  • Eye rolls and talking back are not allowed. Use your words and tone respectfully to disagree.  If not, I can think of many creative consequences.

Questions I use to get them to think about it:

  • Would you like to rewind and try saying it in a respectful way?
  • Was what you just said respectfully said to your sister? Could you say it again in a more respectful way? Thank you. (And if they couldn’t there would be consequences.)

 

In Caroline’s words:

“My mom and dad have always drawn the line with two things; work ethic and respect. At the same time, they have always expected those two things at all times. Nothing has changed. To me, respect is in a way, a type of appreciation for anyone. For example, in the Bowers household we are taught to use our manners.  We say Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, Yes Sir, and No Sir.  My parents say it, too.  So far, respect has taken me a pretty long way in life including; in school, in the arts, and at home. One time I had so much going on inside of my head and I had no clue how to say it out loud to my mom. There wasn’t a way that I could’ve done it and she wouldn’t be mad. (So I thought) Finally, I just said it. But it came out with respect, and I just told my mom and she wasn’t angry with me. She was glad that I told her, but not only that, she was glad that I said it to her in a respectful way. From then on, we both have grown to respect each other every day, and yes we are not perfect, yes we don’t always have the best attitude, and yes we mess up sometimes, but at the end of the day, what really matters is our love for each other, our moments that we celebrate when we accomplish something, and what we do for each other.”

Work Ethic Became a Non-Negotiable

I am a mom that knows that she MUST prepare her children for the real world. I have seen so many kids fail at life because they just DO NOT KNOW HOW TO WORK.  Parents tend to their every need and do everything for them.  The key is that we were consistent and followed through every time.  We would also allow natural consequences to take place.

What it looked like:

  • They do their homework.
  • They make their beds.
  • They complete all projects.
  • They finish their job and I would call them back to do it.
  • They do it right or they do it again. (at age appropriate expectations)
  • I taught them how to study for their learning style.
  • Work hard then play hard.
  • They did not get an allowance. Everyone participates in our family. (They get paid when they get jobs outside of our house.)
  • Their responsibilities were not mine. (putting folder in book bag, putting things away, etc.)
  • If they were old enough to do it, they could do it. (draw their own bath, laundry, dishes, packing their own lunch)
  • Complaining about what is expected equals more work to do. You can work with a joyful heart or a mad one but you will still work.

Questions I would ask to get them to think about their work ethic:

  • How could you exceed expectations?
  • Look around, did you finish your job?
  • What do you think needs to be completed first?
  • How much time do you think this should take to be completed?
  • Should we set the timer? (to stay on task)
  • Would you like to rewind and respond differently to what I asked you to do? Thank you.
  • What are YOUR goals? How do you plan to meet those goals?

In Grace’s words:

“Work ethic is a steady trait that remains beneficial throughout all areas of life academically, personally, and athletically. Growing up with the expectation of a solid work ethic pushed me to not make excuses when faced with tough situations, but rather to suck it up and do the things I don’t want to do. Academically a strong work ethic pays off by completing homework and seeking extra help if needed, allowing positive test results. Athletically, a powerful work ethic pushes me to become stronger and better every time I step into the weight room or on the field. A strong work ethic carries you far in life and is easier to learn and apply if learned at a young age.  Developing it in small doses as I grew has helped me pace my work now that I am older.  I take my goals and work on them day by day and that hard work has paid off in school, at home, and on the field.”

Writing this blog has been very fun as we dissected and laughed over motivational moments that have grown and shaped them.  We use questions to get them to think about what and why they are doing something and give them a chance to go back and correct it so they learn to do it well.  Love, respect, and work ethic build upon one another but are so closely related.  We are still in the thick of learning these lessons but the foundation has been laid.  We are now “gradually releasing responsibility” to them…. and that will need to be another blog for later.

 

 

What Can Your Body Do?

I survived bathing suit shopping with my teenagers.  Let us pause for a moment of silence and ponder why they do not sell wine in fitting rooms for moms.  For years I have been taking them both shopping separately because they are both so different.  One grew tall before she grew out and the other grew out before she became taller.  My thinking this year was that everyone is the same size and at a good place mentally so this should be easier.

I was wrong.  Very wrong.  We left sullen, grouchy, tired, and I was just sad.

How is it that when women look at themselves in the mirror, we feel such self-hatred?  No matter the progress that we make, it is never enough.  IT IS NEVER ENOUGH.

We constantly hear:

  • Low carb? No carb?  More carbs?  Paleo?  Gluten free?
  • In six weeks you can look like this if you do this.
  • Try this drink.
  • Put this in your coffee.
  • Eat eggs. Don’t eat eggs.
  • Do cardio.
  • Lift weights.
  • Eat this. Do not eat that.
  • That food is bad. That food is good.
  • I cheated.

And we will do almost ANYTHING if we think it will work and work fast.

Soooooooo…..everybody should look the same?  Everybody should do the same thing.

I am not buying it anymore.  I quit this craziness.  I have been in the process of quitting this craziness for 27 years because that is how long it takes me to grow.  I am always in the slow lane of progress and I am really okay with that.

I would like to offer a solution for you. THIS IS NOT A SOLUTION YOU WILL SEE ON A MAGAZINE COVER. It is a different way of thinking to help you in your process of self-acceptance right where you are now.  Let’s turn the focus from the numbers and what we look like to the question I ask myself every morning:

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

I believe our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that we are more than the number on a freaking scale and a pair of jeans.  We were created to do amazing things with our bodies and our minds.  Why do we not celebrate what we can do?

I began this conversation last year with our girls and I will continue to refocus them when caught up in the superficiality of their looks.  I, too, am just as guilty AND I REALIZE IT.  Once you realize it, you have to look at how you can change it.  Soooo…

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

  • I can get out of bed in the morning.
  • I can walk down the steps pain-free.
  • I can play ball with my crazy dog.
  • I can do “the worm” when I dance.
  • I can pull weeds and mulch my yard.
  • I can change all the light bulbs in my house.
  • I can do push-ups and pull-ups.
  • I skateboard.
  • I surf.
  • I can jump on a trampoline and sometimes not pee my pants.
  • I can jump rope and sometimes not pee my pants.
  • I can squat both my daughters at the same time.
  • I can also wrestle them to the ground. (Yes, we do that for fun….don’t ask.)
  • I can walk on my hands.
  • I can run but I do not like to do it.
  • I can move better now than I did 5 years ago.
  • I can swim.
  • I can jump off cliffs.
  • I had two beautiful girls when I was told that I would never have children.
  • I have recovered from an eating disorder.
  • My digestive system is finally on track and has made great strides.
  • My migraines have improved.

This is what I celebrate.  We have two ways to always look at our life…what we have or what we do not have.  What we do not have can push us and motivate us but it can also debilitate us.  I am always forced to change the way I think before I set goals and begin working to get there.

While I am raising two girls, I pray that they will not have an eating disorder.  It is one of my biggest fears.  And yes, it could happen.  Easily.  I am pushing against the current of society, social media, and my past to help create healthy thought patterns.  However, it is their process that they have to do.  Only they can do this.  It is one of the realities of letting them grow up and realizing they need to own their thoughts because our thoughts become actions.

So here is one of my speeches or “Motivational Moments”…

“Ladies, look at you.  Really look at yourself.  You are beautiful.  That beauty shines from the inside.  And as we look in the mirror do you see all the possibilities that you can do?  One of you is made for a completely different purpose than the other.  So why compare?  Grace, you were made to run.  In order to do that you need strong legs with muscles.  In order to compete and do what is asked of you, you are going to need to be physically strong in all areas, mentally and physically.  Look at how far you have come already.  Look at what your body can do!!!  Caroline, you sing.  You need a completely different skill set and training.  Why would you expect to be anything like your sister?  You will need to train your talents differently.  Will you need to be strong?  Yes, but for different reasons. You will need to be able to sing and dance at the same time.  You will need lung capacity and different training.  GO and DO YOUR THING.  YOUR THING.  Go and use the body and talents you have been given to accomplish your purpose.  You are just getting started.  BUT ALWAYS….ALWAYS…celebrate what your body can do for you every day.  Feed it well.  Celebrate how you can move.  Celebrate the small things it does that we take for granted and the big things, too.  You are so much more than your reflection.  You are more than the number on that tag.  You were created for something amazing.  Go do it.”

Daughter:  It is really hard.

Me: I know.  If I could prevent you from going down my path, I would.  But it is your journey.  I just want the words you say to yourself to be the ones that pull you together not unravel you more.

And just like each of us, they have to work through their insecurities, anxieties, and comparisons to celebrate what their bodies can do.

WHAT CAN YOUR BODY DO?

 

 

 

 

My Kid Is Not Great

 

I thought it was bad when I was 16 and was learning to teach swim lessons.  A parent said to me after their child refused to sit on the wall, swim, or stay at the pool, “We never say no to our child.  It is not a nice word.”

I thought it was bad when I was asked to change a grade from an F to a D during my first year of teaching because we didn’t give “F”’s even though the child did nothing.

I thought it was bad when a sophomore got her feelings hurt when I was coaching volleyball when I said, “They do not pay me enough to shag your volleyballs….hustle.”  The parent said I was OBVIOUSLY in it for the money.

But no…it has become worse.  Much worse.  Look around…do we really think this behavior is acceptable?  Parents…we are to blame.

We Reward Mediocrity

I cannot tell you how many times parents came into my office when I was a principal and told me how smart their child is because they can download an app.  No.  Your child is not smart because they can push buttons…so just stop.

Yay!  You did a chore. Reward.  Yay!  You were well behaved.  Reward.  Yay!  You participated.  Reward.

We are limiting our kids because we reward everything.  What happened to knowing you did your best just because it was expected?  What happened to internal motivation?

There Isn’t Any Delay of Gratification

There is nothing to look forward to or aspire to in childhood.  Kids get to do everything now.  All stars in minor league?  Yep.  Three teams of all stars?  Yep.  Eighth grade formal…let’s act like it is prom.  Kindergarten graduation?  Let’s dress them in robes and celebrate that they know their letters!

We have bought into the idea that kids have to have everything now and when they do, why would they have to work for it?  If you get to experience everything, what do you get to day dream about or work towards?

Kids Lie…Stop Believing Everything They Say

Kids will do whatever it takes to get out of trouble and work.  Be aware that your child is VERY capable of lying.  It is not always the other person. Kids are manipulative.  Very manipulative.

The World Does Not Revolve Around You

In the big bad world of adults…

  • You get your feelings hurt.
  • You do things that are not fun. Most of your day is not fun.
  • You do things that are gross.
  • You do things that require work with nobody giving you a sticker…it is just your job…so you do it.
  • Nothing is free.
  • You are responsible for you.  Don’t blame others.
  • Own your mistakes.
  • Fail forward.
  • Life is boring and mundane.
  • Details matter.
  • You have to finish your job.
  • You are not in control.
  • There are MANY THINGS YOU DO NOT KNOW!!!
  • You have to start at the bottom. Every single time.

What are we doing now to prepare our kids for this?  There shouldn’t be a new flash at the age of 23 because that is what is happening and they do not have ANY COPING skills to deal with this.

And here is the BIG NEWS FLASH:

STOP EXPECTING SCHOOLS TO DO THIS!!!!!  IT IS YOUR JOB AS A PARENT!!!!!!! 

My kids are not great.  They are average.  They have talents and they have AT TIMES been big fish in small ponds.  Not anymore.  Both girls know that anyone can be a middle school super star, but work ethic, hustle, and personal responsibility get you where you need to be in life.  AND…there is always someone better working just as hard.

Scenario 1:

Daughter: “Mom…I do not understand my Math.”

Me: ”I wasn’t in class.  That is your job.  I have my degrees and I got them by myself.   How can you figure it out?” (Besides she has passed me with math.)

Daughter: “It is hard.  I can’t do this… The teacher…. I am not good at this….”  Insert sobs, kicking of feet, etc.

Me: “Pity Parties are fine for about 20 minutes MAX.  Then, get over yourself and be a problem solver.  Let me know how it goes.”

Drops mic.

She gets on Kahn Academy…..teaches herself….does not get F.

Scenario 2:

Daughter at 12: “I want to play midfield.  I do not want to play defense.”

Me: “Play defense. You do not get to choose where you play.  Learn to play defense the best. You are not consistent as a midfielder.  You have to work harder and get better.”

Daughter crying: “But, it is hard.  I deserve to be a mid fielder.”

Me: “No. No you do not.  You are not the coach.  Play where you are put.  Complaining isn’t going to make you better, working hard is, so suck it up and stop being a pussy (yes, I said that, notice mom of the year trophy doesn’t exist).  You do not get your way just because you want it.  AND EVEN WHEN YOU WORK AT IT DOESN’T MEAN SOMEONE IS NOT BETTER THAN YOU!!!”

I hope I am not the only mom having these conversations.  I know people are doing it better than me and more articulate.  After working with kids from the ages of 3-Early 30’s over the course of 20 years, I can guarantee one thing…..my kids will not be spoiled brats.  I love them too much to allow that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Emotionally Strong Girls

Raising emotionally strong girls is an ongoing process.  We are not there yet.  Not at all.  I do not have all the answers, but I have used several strategies in the classroom, my principal’s office, and my home that have helped girls grow emotionally.  These strategies are not always celebrated in our “child first society”, but they are effective in a loving environment.  Growing strong girls is not easy, but life isn’t easy.  We need to prepare them to be able to respond to what life throws at them and we need to be patient with the messy process.

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

My girls were really “lucky” to have their mom as the principal.  I had a key that opened every door in the building.  Anytime they forgot something we rushed back to school so they could get it.  NO….SORRY….THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN.  They could use the key once during the school year.  I think they used it twice over a course of years.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

When one daughter in fifth grade chose to wait until the last minute to complete a project the night before, I stayed up with her and helped her finish.  NO…SORRY…THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN EITHER.  I went to bed.  I had a job, she had hers.  She got a C.  She learned more lessons that night about life than if I would have helped her.  Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.

I could rush in and save my daughters most of the time, but I do not.  I let them struggle.  The struggle helps the lessons we learn to stick.

Are you being a problem solver?

“Hey Mom!  I can’t figure out this problem!”

“How have you tried to solve it?”

“I haven’t.”

“Come back when you have tried it two different ways.”

I am not lazy.  I can help them after I have seen an effort on their part of solving the problem.  I do this a couple ways.  When they were younger, I would give them a couple ways they could solve a problem and then they could choose which way.  As they grew older, I would ask them how they solved the problem before coming to me.  This was with homework, each other, social situations, etc. and now, as they are older, they usually tell me the problem and how they are going to attempt to solve the problem.

A conversation when they tattled on each other would look like this:

“Mom, Grace will not give me a turn.”

“Mom, but she…”

“Girls, would you like to figure out how to solve this or do you want me to solve this?  If I solve this, I will take the toy and nobody will be allowed to play with it for a long time.  If you solve the problem, you can still play with it.  Here are some ways that you can solve it.”  And I would give them options.  Now, at 13 and 15, I will simply ask, “Would you like me to step in?” and their answer is usually, “No.”

As a professional that has worked with children through college, I can see that problem-solving skills are very important at every age level.  We, as parents, have to give them opportunities to be problem solvers in all situations at home and school.  As they get better at it, their confidence grows in this skill area.  There is always a time that you may need to step in, but we should allow them the opportunity to work through it first. I never get upset when they have tried to solve it and it fails.   I love complimenting their creative problem-solving skills.  You will often here our girls say, “Hey!  I was trying to be a problem solver.” Even if the fire trucks show up.

Give them the space and grace to grow.

I have a daughter that has struggled with anxiety since she was eight.  It is a fine line to allow her to struggle, give her the tools to deal with it, and the opportunities to overcome it.  It is not easy.  I get anxiety through it because I hate seeing my daughters hurt or struggle.  I have learned that the struggle teaches them so much more than me trying to fix everything.  In my heart, I hate to watch it, but because she has struggled, she has so much empathy for others and she has learned so many valuable tools to deal with it.

Recently, she had to make a decision about saying yes to be on a team or not.  She was obsessing over all of the possibilities socially, academically, etc. and then she said to me, “I think I may be overthinking this!  I am just going to say yes and see what happens!”  Yay!!!   She didn’t have paralysis of analysis.  She recognized it, worked it out, and made a decision!  GROWTH!!!!!!

We have a tendency to suffocate our children.  I can be guilty of this.  I have learned that giving them enough space to make decisions, independence to try new things, and welcoming arms to fail into is an amazing growth opportunity.

Allow them to feel pain and disappointment and help them process it.

My husband didn’t make Little League his first year.  I sat the bench my entire freshman year in softball.  I actually had a real splinter in my butt because I couldn’t sit still on the bench.  Those moments fueled a fire in us to get better.

Being left out is okay.  My daughter was not invited to many parties in elementary/middle school.  The kids would tell her because her mom was the principal and I might not approve.  Or maybe they didn’t like her.  We really do not know.  Many tears were shed, but she learned many lessons through that.  She learned what a real friend is and her value isn’t based on the acceptance of her peers.  This was a VERY hard, but valuable lesson.

Small and big disappointments help us grow.  Low grade on a test?  Not making a team? Not playing a position you want?  This is life.  We have to let them experience this.

I see parents on a daily basis orchestrating their kids’ lives so that there is constant success.  Everyone is an all-star.  Everyone gets a prize.  Everyone makes the team.  Parents make excuses.  Parents tell their kids how great they are and that they are the best.  What does this do?  This creates a trap of complacency in our kids.  We tell them, “You are the exception!  You are great!”  This helps our kids slide into the habits of excuse making and doing just enough to get by.

When my daughters do not make a team or a show, I tell them to get better.  We have a pity party with chocolate and I listen to their disappointments and frustrations.  They cry.  They sulk.  Then, I say, “How will you get better?  What is your plan?”  Disappointment and failure prepare them for life and make them resilient.  They need practice working through this with me before they go into the real world.

There have been so many situations where I see adults, including me, just wanting to tell kids what to do because it is fast and easy.  However, the process of learning is so much more complex than that.  Parenting is truly being our child’s first teacher in more areas than academic.  Their emotional growth depends on our responses, opportunities to grow them, and the way we view success.   I do not view success as reaching a certain goal.  I view success as hard work, decision making, good risk taking, failure, and learning.   In the long run, this creates young adults that realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them, creative problem solvers that exceed expectations, and confidence in what they are created to be.  Sit back, mom and dad, and allow your child to truly grow.  The long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term struggle.

 

 

How I Am Raising Girls To Love Their Strong Bodies

This isn’t a lecture to all moms.  This is written from a woman that suffered from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and anxiety.  I now have two girls to raise to be healthier than I ever was.  I cannot prevent anything, but I can give them tools to see themselves in a different light than I ever did.  Since children do not come with a manual, I have learned much through failure and I have compiled successful things that we have done to grow our girls to see their bodies as strong.   We are not finished yet, but we are on the right track.

When I was in second grade, I looked down at my thighs and I thought they were fat.  When I had girls I knew I was going to have to be proactive in this area as the media, society, and moms have a strong influence on young girls’ body images.  As a mom, I have to model good habits.  I have to be growing in this area as well.  They need to see what the process looks like of loving our bodies at every stage.

Before Puberty:

  • I did not get magazines that came to the house.
  • I limited TV, commercials, and ads. TV also included the Disney channel until we could watch it together and then I pointed out the way they portrayed girls.
  • They played with American Girls, not Barbies. Barbie is just unrealistic.
  • I never went on a diet, talked about diet, or even complained about my body out loud.
  • I did not give food as a reward or when they were bored.
  • They ate what we ate at dinner. I was not a short order cook.
  • We ate goldfish, waffles, and lunch meat.
  • We also ate chicken, fish, eggs, and whatever John killed while hunting.
  • We rarely did fast food except for Chic Fil A…I think they put crack in their chicken.
  • We ate dinner together every night and never in front of the TV.
  • We celebrated what our bodies did and their growth.

During Puberty:

  • We talked about how girls will gain about 20-25% of their body weight during this time.
  • When they gained or grew, we did not say much, just went and bought things that fit nicely.
  • One grew first and is now gaining. One gained and is now growing.  This was really, really, hard.
  • Since they were so different, we shopped separately for them.
  • We looked at how every person’s body is different and that is okay. Be okay where you are now. This is hard, but we have to keep trying.
  • We did physical things together. We had fun doing it.
  • We do not always eat our feelings, but sometimes chocolate is the best. This is a term we say while we laugh.  We do understand the power of chocolate.  We know chocolate can help some things…sometimes you just shove chocolate at them and walk away.  This is how we survive puberty.
  • We squat. We lift.  We get really excited about the barbell numbers going up.
  • We do not compare.
  • We eat doughnuts…just not every day.
  • We do not weigh ourselves. Scales and jean sizes do not matter.
  • I show them how women’s clothes vary depending on size and cut. We talk about how stupid it is if we let a designer make us feel bad because we are strong.
  • We have learned to dress the body we have with class.
  • I model how our bodies are in constant transformation depending what kind of training we do, what we are asking our bodies to do and they are starting to see that and celebrate it.
  • I count my macros and they see me at the end of the day usually trying to figure out how to eat more.
  • We do not overeat….except when we eat pizza and ice cream. I always finish mine and theirs.
  • We are learning to listen to our bodies.
  • I have one daughter that eats like a horse. One that does not.  It took years for them to appreciate the differences.  I think we are getting there.
  • We have good days and bad days. It is what it is.
  • We look for the good things we like about ourselves. Eyes and hair we have going for us.  We MAY be related to Sasquatch.
  • We pop pimples. This makes us laugh and we laugh at the weird things our bodies do.  WE REALLY CELEBRATE ALL THE WEIRD THINGS….and all the things that happen during puberty and menopause.  Seriously, just think about that….
  • We also talk about sex, and sex, and more sex. I answer every question they have no matter what.  This has helped them see their bodies as a gift that it is. (These discussions should be videotaped…they are quite…comical and informative.)

I have a 15 year old and a 13 year old and my time is going quick.  We say that we are “wonderfully and fearfully” made.  When we say that, we need to show them the process of loving their bodies no matter where they are in the process of growing, changing, and developing.   We do that by showing them how WE (as moms) love our bodies.  If they can learn that at an early age, the foundation can help to carry them through seeing their body as a tool to accomplish things.  It needs to be taken care of and treated well, just like their hearts.  And as moms, we are just the people to lead them through it by the use of modeling, wisdom, honesty, and laughter….lots and lots of laughter.

 

3 Ways To Thrive In Middle School

Dear Sweet Middle School Girls,

Words cannot describe the transitions you will go through in middle school.  You will grow physically, academically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.  During this time, you will be outside of your comfort zone often, but this is where you will grow and change the most.  Your focus is to change for good and you will need to answer the question, “What does that look like for me?”

Only you and God can define that because he has a purpose for you that you are only beginning to discover.  He has made you wonderfully and you are in the process of finding what makes you wonderful.

My daughters and I brainstormed 3 things for you to ponder as you begin a year in middle school.

1. Focus on your lane.

In this picture, “What do you see?”

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We see Michael Phelps, a gold medal winner.  The winner is looking ahead, focused on his goal.  He is not looking and comparing himself to anyone.  He knows what he is about and he is going for it.  The other swimmer, Chad le Clos, is looking and comparing himself.  He is more worried about what other people are doing than swimming his race.

We can easily get distracted in middle school wishing we were taller, shorter, smarter, faster, etc.  Look at who YOU were created to be and learn to do that.  This lesson is an ongoing lesson in life.  Keeping your focus on your lane helps you grow to be the best you can be.

2. Your friends matter.

In our house, we always say, “Be kind to everyone, but keep your circle small.”

Jesus had 12 disciples, but in those 12 disciples, he was closer to Peter, John, and James.  I have used this example many times with my daughters when we had friend issues.  Jesus had 3 close friends.  How many close friends do we really have or need?

Friends in middle school will be challenging because EVERYONE is LEARNING to “swim” and figure out life.  Many people will be learning to just keep their head above water.  Some people will be hanging on the side afraid to let go. Some people will be tired of swimming and they will complain the entire time.  Some people will be good at backstroke, but really bad at freestyle.  And many kids (including YOU) will not be sure of which lane to even get in let alone stay in.  Everyone is at a different level with different needs.  Sometimes it will be hard to be a good friend and have good friends.  Remember this.  Forgive quickly and move on.  Every person you come in contact is going through the same learning process, they just will be going about it in a different way.

This is from Caroline, my 13 year old daughter:

“Last year, I was tempted to go with the “popular” group, even though they were really mean to other people, and would talk about them behind their backs. I struggled with this because I wanted to be part of a group that seemed to get everyone’s attention. My other friend and I were talking about this and I realized something. I didn’t want to be the people that they were, just plain mean. Then it hit me, do I want to be the person that puts other people down or who brings them back up? I decided, to be the person who brings people back up. It took me a while to find a good group of friends. Eventually, I found like two or three people that were there. It is OK to just have one or two people that have the qualities. Those are the ones that will last.”

3. Finish Your Job….Everywhere You Go.

This is from all the moms, teachers, and adults in the world.

Did you see any of the Olympic athletes quit?  No.  Successful athletes do not quit and they finish what they start whether they win or lose.  When they fail or fall, they learn and grow.

Put away your things.  Complete your homework.  Put it in your folder.  Turn in your homework.  Put your cups in the dishwasher.  Pick your clothes off of your floor and into the laundry.  You get the gist.

This will make your life easier in SOOOOO many ways.  Just trust us on this one.

The girls and I will be writing letters to you throughout the year.  Start out well and stay in your lane!!!

Love,

Nikki, Grace, & Caroline

Every Woman Needs A Team of Friends

When I was hired as a first year teacher in 1995, I was the youngest teacher in the school.  The average age of the teachers in the school was 40.  These women took me under their wing and it was very hard to do that.  I had a lot of energy and passion. I once rode the overhead cart down the hall like a skateboard and almost hit one of the more experienced teachers with it.  She was smashed up against the wall, eyes as big as saucers, and when I expected a dirty look and reprimand, she began to laugh.  I wanted to be like these women.

Twenty three years have passed since then, but I learned so much from those ladies and so many women that were older and wiser.  I learned about teaching, life, and friendship.  I remember thinking, “I want to be like them when I grow up!” and I know that I have.  Strong women and men have made an impact on my life.  I celebrate my friendships with all kinds of people, but the common thread that always stands out is that these people are always strong.  Strong can come in all kinds of ways, but dedication, grace, redemption, and courage always shine through our experiences and interactions.

I do not look at my friends as a tribe, but as a team. Sometimes, my friends are guys.  Yes, I have always had a supportive “guy” group throughout my life.  Guys can see things differently than women.    We have a goal to not just survive life, but thrive throughout it no matter what situation we are in at the time.  My teammates have different strengths, values, and play different roles, but we are all focused on the same thing…growing to be the best we can be.

Older women mentor younger women…naturally.  Women need women of all ages in their lives to support them, encourage them, laugh with them, and grow them.  I have been blessed with women that have gone before me to guide me.  Recently, I have remembered one teacher in particular in that first school.  Her husband had cancer and she was his caretaker.  She had to walk through my room to get to her room, and every morning, she smiled, joked, laughed, and pushed through the realities of life. She would wear bright red Reeboks on Friday and she enjoyed the life she had been given by not majoring in the minors.  I have drawn on her strength and example from 20 years ago these past months.  I think of her often and I am blessed to have witnessed that strength and dignity. She had an impact.

Friendships with people of the same age are indispensable!!!!  We are in the trenches together.  Whether it is diapers, toddlerhood, adolescence, or rookie drivers….we need a strong support group that can laugh and mourn these moments with you.  I am selective about these people because time is not something I have to spare, so these friendships must be authentic and fierce.  When I think of this group of friends I have in my life, I do not just smile…I laugh out loud.  Our conversations are brutal, honest, sarcastic, and blunt.  We do not apologize for who we are and we do not hide behind any masks.  They are truth tellers.  Sometimes their honesty might surprise you, but when you walk away from them, you feel better than when you came.  They make an impact.

I also love having friends younger than me.  They keep me young.  I see myself in them.  I am glad I am not in my twenties or thirties anymore.  I look at their lives and the brightness that their futures hold.  I laugh with them.  Sometimes, I lecture them.  I like to listen to them!   I celebrate where they are right now and give them a blessing of where they will be one day.  I want them to enjoy the process, but they can not see that yet, just like I couldn’t.  I love celebrating the chapters they are starting and I encourage them through the chapters they are closing.  These friendships are important to me and I value these amazing young women that have so much in front of them.  Their youth and energy leave an impact.

These friends do their thing and do not compete with one another.  They are amazingly interesting and genuine.  Their “thing” is what they are passionate about and as a team, we celebrate it!  One friend is a bodybuilder.  I have NO idea how she can do that, but she is determined and dedicated.  I respect that.  One friend picked up a mountain bike and can not be stopped.  I would have to be shot if I was on a bike longer than a mile, but I celebrate her “thing”!  She was willing to be a beginner and her passion has grown her in so many ways!  I have other friends that scrapbook, cook, run marathons, play tennis, dance, knit….you name it, they do it!  Our differences do not divide us, but draw us close, celebrating the accomplishments of one another.

I model these kind of friendships for my daughters.  They see their importance.  They are working on choosing their friends wisely.  So much is caught than taught.

I would not have survived the last 2 years without my friendships.  My friends have held me up more than they realize.  Their prayers, time, hilarious texts, support, and acceptance saved me in so many ways.  And just like the best teammates, when I was stranded on third base, someone would step up to the plate and knock one out of the park sending me home with a smile on my face. Every woman needs a team of friends to play this game we call “life”, skilled in grace, courage, perseverance, and humor.  And every true friend becomes an “impact” player no matter what the timing or how they enter your life.

 

 

 

National Make Your Daughter Cry Day

Warning:  This blog is totally sarcastic.

When the girls were little, I could tell what was wrong by their cry.  If they were hungry, they had a whiny sound and they would move their heads back and forth.  When they were tired, they would arch their back and turn.  When they were down right mad they would just wail.

You get a break from the crying around the age of 3 until about…puberty.  Out of nowhere, it happens…the tears start and you do not know why.  You have to learn a complete crying language all over again.  And this time it is much MUCH more complicated.

There are many times that Caroline lives on Caroline Street, Grace lives on Grace Street, and John lives on Johnny Street.  I drive along their streets just dropping everybody off at their destination and picking them up as needed.  Since John can drive, he just shows up when he is not working.  Soooooo, when the street goes to two ways, it can get a little complicated.  When adolescent girls are reminded that the world DOES not revolve around them, it can be an eye opening experience!!!!  Guess what happens?  Tears= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Then, I am the bubble popper.  You have to pop the bubble that they float around in thinking about themselves.  Ummmm, excuse me, but let me set you straight.  One, until you pay the bills, your phone is mine.  Two, I am not your uber driver because you do not pay me any money to drive you.  Do not assume I can take you anywhere anytime.  It does not work that way.  Three, we have four schedules in our house and you are responsible for yours and the work that it takes to prepare for your day.  I will pick you up, Dad will pick you up, someone will pick you up….sometime.  Be patient.  We may be late because we have lives, jobs, and commitments. The realization on a daily basis that the world does not revolve around you= National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

Finally, the “Do Hard Things” speech can be delivered in a variety of ways.  It can be delivered gently at the end of the day when nobody has cried and mom is calm and has not been sucked dry by all of the people in the world.  The speech can be delivered in a “you can do it” cheerleader attitude with a glass of wine in hand making dinner or probably just ordering pizza.  Another method could be before coffee in the morning, when you are standing in front of me crying because you forgot a project that is due today and didn’t do your job….that speech will result in yelling, crying, and gnashing of teeth…mine and yours.  “Do Hard Things” Speech +Timing=National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.

As I sit here tonight, glass of wine in hand, interpreting the language of adolescent tears…I declare every day National Make Your Daughter Cry Day.  I do not think we have had a day this summer that tears have not been shed.  I am making it a national freaking holiday.  And if you have an adolescent girl, you are welcome to join in the festivities.  Tears….I mean CHEERS!!!

 

 

A Letter To New Moms

Dear Young Momma Bears,

Nobody can prepare you mentally, emotionally, or physically for the journey you are beginning.  It is the most amazing job that you will ever have and the hardest job you will ever have.  I am enjoying watching your babies grow in my news feed.  I enjoy that you get to share their firsts with me on Facebook.  The smiles, giggles, cooing, and raspberries melt my heart.  As an older mom and teacher, there are a couple things I want you to remember.

1. You will feel every emotion 100 times more. Embrace it.

Joy, love, fear, etc. will occur within the first hour you are awake every morning.  Your heart is now walking around in this world.  This feeling is exciting and scary all at the same time.  Relax.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Turn off the news and cuddle your babies.  You do not have to put them out in the world today.  Today, you can protect them and love them in the biggest ways.  Do that.  The rest can wait.

2. More is caught than taught.

Be the example always.  The “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work.  As a teacher, when we meet parents, we understand where the child is coming from because the child will act JUST like their parents.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.   Think about how you want your child to turn out as a person and be that person.  Kindness, love, respect, and work ethic are modeled by parents.  Children see and understand more than we think.  Be wise in this endeavor.  This does not mean you have to be perfect.  Actually, when you mess up, admit it and ask for forgiveness.  This models more to your kids than you can possibly imagine.

3. Read, read, read to your child.

Readers are made on the laps of their parents.  It is never too early and never too late.  I read to my children as soon as they were born and found that they fell in love with books. When they were crying, I could get them to calm down by reading books.  That is a win.

4. Child development is not a race.

At graduation, you can never tell which kids walked first, talked first, read first, or peed on the potty first.  It doesn’t matter.  Let them develop at their own pace.  Celebrate growth and maturity always.

5.Turn off the screen.

A child is not smart if they know how to download an app.  I hear parents tell me this all of the time.  Your child’s brain will be in much better shape if they are not given a cell phone or ipad.  Trust me on this.  Limit screen time.   Their brains are very fragile and growing much.  They need development of large motor skills and fine motor skills to develop their brains.  Attention spans are trained by screens, too.  Let them dig in dirt, play outside, and create things with their little hands.

6. Pray for your child.

Pray for your children.  I pray for my children every day.  I pray for their safety, their growth, and their futures.  I pray for their friends, their teachers, and their coaches.

The firsts in your child’s life will come and go.  The lasts will come and go, too.  The last day of kindergarten, the last time you can carry them on your hip, the last time they call you “mommy” and shorten it to “mom”.  Enjoy the little things as much as the big things.  The little things are what build a life.  Congratulations.  I will love watching you grow as a mom, too.  It is going to be a great adventure!!

Love,

Nik