Anger Management

I lost it this morning. 

 

While trying to correct a certain child’s behavior, while I was in the middle of moving a very large pot of boiling hot oatmeal onto our buffet, I managed to spill the entire pot on the floor. No one got burned. My slippers DID get covered in oatmeal. I sent all the hovering children to their bedrooms and told them I would call them when breakfast was ready. I went in my room, put on socks and shoes, announced that I was going to the pharmacy (an errand I had planned on doing after breakfast) and that I would make breakfast when I got home. The fifteen minute errand barely calmed me down, and when I got home and had to start scooping up oatmeal off the floor, I felt my emotions start boiling again. I picked up the worst of the oatmeal and announced that I was going to the store to buy cereal. I didn’t have it in me to cook another breakfast. I went to the store, bought cereal, corn dogs and apples, returned to the house, called everyone to breakfast and announced to my husband that I was going out for an indefinite amount of time. Here’s food to keep you covered while I’m gone. (Just to keep it real, while I didn’t say anything mean to anyone this entire time, I was practically vibrating with pent up frustration.)

 

And then I took myself out for breakfast and escaped to the library. My happy place. 

 

And I started doing research on Anger. It has been the topic of conversation in our house for the last couple days. How do you help children who are dealing with a lot of anger? How do we help kids realize that Anger in itself is not a problem, it’s what you do with it? How do we help kids understand that Big Hard Emotions are not something to run away from or pretend they don’t exist, but we have to find healing ways to handle these emotions, not damaging ways that just make the problem worse? 

 

As I have been brain-storming, trying to help the children in my life with their anger problems, it was a bit of a surprise to find myself completely losing it this morning. Why am I so angry?? 

 

I found a really good article online put out by The Center for Parenting Education, called “Parents Anger Turning Down the Heat in Your Home”. The quote that helped me is this:

 

“Many times what passes for anger is actually another emotion such as sadness, jealousy, hopelessness, the sense of being ignored, overworked, overlooked, disappointed, or exhausted.”

 

Ah. Yes. That makes sense. I am definitely feeling overworked and exhausted. Overwhelmed. In need of a break. 

 

On my way out the door, I told my husband that I just needed some time off. I said I probably hadn’t been anywhere in over six weeks. But, if I think that one through, I honestly can’t remember the last time I just took a day off. It’s got to have been a lot longer than six weeks. 

 

And so, I am taking a Mental Health day. Hang out in a building full of books. Maybe do some shopping. Maybe call some people. Recharge. And maybe, in a roundabout way, this will be helpful to the kids in my life. Look, I get angry and overwhelmed too. Let me demonstrate to you a healthy way of dealing with it. 

 

 

Life is a Battle

I am a day late in writing. I could have made time to write yesterday, but I had no idea what to say. I am trying to walk a fine line between being real and authentic, and not whining and complaining. Yesterday was all about whining and complaining. So I didn’t write. I am also trying to find the fine balance of guarding the people in my life’s privacy, but at the same time sharing the struggles of parenting, and now foster parenting, and being a wife and friend etc. Bear with me while I try to figure this out. 

 

Yesterday afternoon the school called and said they were cancelling school for the rest of the week due to high numbers of sickness. After getting that phone call, I felt like huddling in the fetal position and sucking my thumb. We have had sick kids home all last week, and yesterday was the first day that I finally had all my children healthy and back at school. We are at the stage of fostering where everyone is settled in and now we are starting to deal with some behavior issues that can’t be tolerated any longer. Even though I have been parenting ten children of my own, these are issues we have never dealt with because we’ve had our own kids from day one, and we have laid some basic foundations from the very beginning that these kids don’t have. And so we stand back and scratch our heads, wondering how we get these kids from point A to point B. I just bought a parenting book specifically for foster kids on Kindle this morning and I am contacting some local resources to see if they have some parenting classes available that would fit our particular situation. And I have a couple friends in mind that I might call today to get some advice. So, I am not in total despair, I am certain that there is someone out there who can help me get on the right track. But, I will admit, having the kids at school during the day was a much-needed mental break. 

 

Extreme stress has also done a number on my blood sugar problems. Yesterday I faced facts that I am in a battle and in order to do my part I am going to have take care of myself to a much higher degree. I can’t do this job if my blood sugar keeps crashing. So, this morning I drank my nasty nutrition-filled protein shake and I got on my elliptical. I have mentally pushed my sleeves back and said, Ok, we’re going to do this. 

 

Over the past weeks I have found my thoughts racing from one problem to the next, doing an anxious dance that never gives me rest. In order to get out of this crazy cycle, I have found myself mentally imagining the throne room of God. And in my mind I imagine myself just kneeling in his presence. And my heart rate slows down and my shoulders lower a couple inches and I feel peace settling on me. And I am reminded that yes, this life is a battle, and my strength comes from the Lord. 

 

So, that is all I have to say today. This is Life With Esther. Signing out. 

 

Self Care not Self Indulgence

I’ve been thinking a lot about Self-Care lately. I have been on a journey as I try to get to the root of my over-eating problems, food addictions, bad habits and life-style choices that have left me in a state of being overweight and unhealthy. I’ve been trying to figure out why I keep self-sabotaging all my attempts to be healthier, lose weight etc. What is wrong with me? 

 

Through this process, a couple stories from my childhood have come to mind. I wrote them down. I thought about them a lot. And slowly, a pattern revealed itself. I use food as a form of Being Kind to myself. In my mind, allowing myself to have that: extra helping, piece of chocolate, bakery delight, ice cream etc. is a way that I try to be kind to myself. I’m feeling depressed. I go eat something yummy. I’m stressed out. I buy myself a chocolate bar. I’m overwhelmed. I go eat fast food.  In all these situations I am feeling the need to be kind to myself and food has become the way that I do that. 

 

Obviously, this actually not being kind to myself. It has caused me to be overweight and unhealthy. That is not kindness. 

 

During these past weeks, I had a friend who was doing an “88 Days of Self-Care” where she described every day what she was doing to take care of herself. But I didn’t really grasp what she was doing until I read a post someone had shared about Self-Care by SORT THIS. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The main point that I carried away is that Self-Care is basically Self-Parenting. It’s not Self-Indulgence. I have definitely been completely into the self-indulgence thing. As a Parent of Many Children, hearing the term Self-Parent starts all kinds of bells ringing. I understand this concept. I know how to parent. I do this all day. No, you can’t have that candy. You don’t need to be eating sugar. Get your butts outside and play, you’ve been sitting around the house all day. Go get some sunshine, you’ve been cooped up in a dark room all day. Eat your vegetables! You need the nutrients! Take your vitamins, it will help you stay healthier. Have you had enough water today? Don’t forget you need to drink water all day! No, we’re not having dessert tonight, you don’t need to have dessert every day. 

 

I know all about parenting. 

 

This has been a paradigm shift for me. How to be Kind to Esther? Parent Esther. Don’t Indulge Esther. Stressed out? Go for a walk, get on the elliptical. Journal. Play the piano. Feeling Depressed? Repeat the above. Unhealthy? Talk to your doctor, find out what changes you need to make. Make the changes. 

 

In the past, my biggest hang up was that self-denial felt like being mean to myself. And after a while I would just get over it. Life is hard and I want someone to be kind to me. And not getting to eat dessert during the holidays while everyone else is, felt mean. Not getting that special treat when I was stressed did not feel kind at all. 

 

But now, I’m trying to see it through the lense of parenting. When I see a child walking around with an armful of junk food, stuffing their faces, I don’t think, “Oh what a lucky child! Someone was so nice to give them that!” I think, “Why is this kid’s parents letting him eat all that? It’s going to make them sick!” Parenting. Saying no because you’re looking at the Big Picture instead of the in-the-moment desires. I know you want to stay up all night watching tv, but you have school in the morning, so you need to get in bed on time. Saying No because you love this person and you want the best for them. And the best involves discipline. 

 

So, for the upcoming year, that is my goal. Start parenting myself. 

 

 

Which Voice Will You Listen To?

The last couple of days I have had some loud voices in my head. The first voice has been systematically pointing out all the ways that I’m failing. It has pointed out the dust and cobwebs that I haven’t gotten around to cleaning. It has pointed a finger at my pantry that needs a serious overhaul. It has reminded me that I have a hole in my dining room floor that needs repairing. It has kept a tally for every time I have lost patience with my children and yelled. It has shone a spotlight on each of my children when they have not obeyed or been sassy. It even brought up some old stuff, like the fact that I didn’t write my (now deceased) grandmother regular letters when I was younger. Every time I have put any food in my mouth it has shouted out how I am a fraud, I claim to be a Christian, but here I am being a glutton and stuffing my face. If I just had enough faith, I would overcome this sin habit. 

 

This voice has been responsible for at least one day where I could barely drag myself out of bed. I would say it has also been responsible for the sharper tone of voice I’ve been using. And it probably plays a big part in why I’ve been losing my temper so quickly. It’s really hard to be nice when you are fighting a feeling of worthlessness. 

 

I said that there were voices, more than one. There has also been another voice. It’s been quieter, but it’s still been there. It’s the voice that quietly says, being a mom is hard, you’re doing a good job. It’s softly said, here, you have some spare time, why don’t you get on your elliptical for a while? It’s calmly reminded me to go and apologize to my little boys for yelling. It’s urged me to pull out my Bible in the mornings, instead of staring at Facebook. It’s whispered, You are Saved by Grace, not by Works. It’s gently suggested I put on some praise music while cleaning to counterbalance how annoyed I always get when cleaning up my kids’ messes. When I have completely given in to fear, it’s firmly told me to recite my creed of faith, ground myself again in truth. 

 

It’s taken me a couple days to realize that there is actually a battle going on in my brain. And I have to make a choice. Which voice am I going to listen to? One is the voice of judgement. The other is the voice of love. 

 

I’m thinking I need some love. 

 

You would think I would recognize immediately that one voice is for me and the other is against and I would just shut down the ugly voice. Life has been a little crazy lately. We’re going through a lot of transition and we have a lot of things in limbo at the moment. And that makes me feel insecure. And feeling insecure makes me lose my vision. And suddenly that loud obnoxious voice kind of sounds like it’s speaking the truth. And the more I listen to that voice, the louder it gets. 

 

Honestly, about the only way I can break free of that voice is to purposefully focus on truth. What does God’s word say? What does God say about me? 

 

As I was writing this, I took a short break and checked my Facebook. My sister-in-law had just posted a song on her page. It was just what I needed to hear. 

 

I hope you have time to click on this link, it’s a song about listening to the voice of love. 

You Say by Lauren Daigle

May you have the grace to listen to the voice of love this week.

 

 

How do I Keep Up?

This week I ran into an old homeschooling friend. Though we are often in the same vicinity, we haven’t stopped to have a conversation in a while. I was asking how homeschooling was going and we talked about that for a while, then she asked how public schooling was going for me. I said it was going great. She asked how on earth I keep up with everything. I said something along the lines of, “It’s easy, I just don’t care.” Which, while flippant and funny, probably did not really convey how I feel. It’s kind of been nagging me, and I keep thinking of how I should have clarified that statement…So, my dear friend whom I’m going to tag in this post, I’m going to expand a bit. 

 

Homeschooling is all-consuming, and mentally exhausting. Especially if you are trying to homeschool multiple children. In your mind, at all times, you have a working knowledge of each child’s abilities. You know what they can and can’t do in Math and English and Science. You have a list of things you are worried about for each child, and also a list of things you are proud of. You can’t have a casual interest in your child’s education because YOU are the Educator. It’s a big load to carry. It was too big a load for me. I went through a long depression and in the middle of it, completely fizzled out in my ability to school my children. We put our kids in public school. We’re in our third year with our younger kids. My oldest two kids homeschooled through eighth grade and then went to public high school. My third daughter is in her fourth year of public school. 

 

My view of public school is, my children now have teachers. I no longer have to keep up with all the minutiae. That’s the teacher’s job. Yes, I look at all the papers sent home. I ask my kids what they learned today. I go to Parent/teacher conferences. I look at report cards. But as far as knowing how well they are doing in multiplication or whether they are mastering their fractions or whether they used proper punctuation in their writing assignment, I have no idea. Since their report cards all say that they are getting good grades, I’m presuming that they are learning what they need to learn. 

 

As far as homework is concerned, I don’t believe in homework for elementary school kids. I’ve been upfront about it with the teachers. Sometimes my kids choose to do their weekly “homework” packets because they want whatever award the teacher is offering. And sometimes they choose to not do it. That’s fine. I think that several hours of running around our yard, playing make believe games, and creating things with legos is going to help them a lot more than sitting down and doing a page of math reviews. I do expect my middle-schoolers and high-schoolers to do their homework, but they’re old enough to be in charge of their own work, so I don’t stress about keeping up with it. 

 

Of course, you have to ask the question, What if they aren’t learning what they need to learn? What if they are getting good grades, but are still getting major gaps in their education? 

 

Well, this is where my philosophy on learning helps me out. I am a reader. I have been a bookworm since second grade. While I can remember a handful of odd facts that a teacher taught me in a classroom, most everything that has stayed in my brain, came from an interesting book. I believe that if I can foster a love of reading in my children then I’ve won half the battle for educating them. 

 

We are a reading family. I always have a book on my kindle app that I pull out whenever I have a spare minute. My husband reads a book most evenings to unwind. My older teenagers have long, loud discussions about characters and events in various book series that they have all read. We have eight large bookshelves in our house and books are scattered on every surface. My kids go to the library at school and bring their books home and have fights about whether they have to share their library books with each other or not. 

 

I have one child whose brain is wired differently. In three years of homeschooling I was not able to teach him how to read. In public school they put him in a remedial program and the reading experts got him reading pretty quickly. (YAY!) But, he still struggles. It doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s still getting extra help in this area. But, he read books. Maybe not at grade level, but he still wants to read. This past week I had to take him on a rushed trip to the library because he needed the fourth book of the series and we only had the first three books at home. So, while I know he may struggle all his life to read easily, I’m not worried about him. My kids all have a natural curiosity about life, and they know that reading books is an easy way to learn about whatever they are interested in. 

 

I see public school as an opportunity for my kids to learn about different cultures. It’s a chance to be with the kids from our neighborhood. Learn how to make friends. Learn how to work with all kinds of people. It’s an opportunity to put into practice everything that we’re trying to teach them at home about “Loving your neighbor as yourself”. It’s a chance for them to think about people’s stories. What are some of the reasons why that particular child might have a hard time behaving in class? It’s an opportunity for them to learn how to be problem-solvers: if you see a problem at school, what can you do about it? All of these things naturally come up in our daily conversations, so I get a good gauge on how the kids are doing in these areas. 

 

So, how do I keep up with everything? I don’t. But, it seems to be working well for us.  

 

How do I Parent?

Recently I had my parenting questioned. It’s kind of hard when you feel like you have been judged and found lacking.  It always sends me reeling a bit. I have to really think about what was said. Is there merit? Is there truth? Am I wrong? Should I change things? 

And then, I have to just stop. 

 

The truth of the matter is I am merely human. I am not perfect, nor will I be any time soon. In fact, not on this side of eternity. I am a flawed human being trying to raise ten other flawed human beings. It’s a recipe for messiness. 

 

Then you have to consider all the different goals parents set for themselves. Am I trying to raise a child prodigy? Am I trying to raise an athlete? Am I trying to raise an activist? Every parent you talk to is going to have a different set of goals in their parenting. And that’s because each of us are different with different strengths and talents that we hope to pass down to our children. 

 

Even when we have what seems like the same goal, “I want to raise Godly children”, the way we envision that is very different. The way we hope to implement that is very different. 

 

For some people, raising Godly children means that they are going to keep their children from being exposed to ungodly things. For some it means that they are going to immerse their child in the scriptures until they can almost recite the entire Bible. For some it means getting their children very involved in a church community where they live, eat, and breathe church. For some it means awakening a heart for the lost, encouraging their children to pray for the nations and look for opportunities to reach out to the lost whenever possible. 

 

I can guarantee that whatever area you as parents decide to focus on, that is probably an area that is close to your heart and an area where God has done a lot of work in your life. We naturally want to pass on to our kids the things that we know and are learning. 

 

So, here is what God has been working on in my life. Grace. No Fear. Love your neighbor. 

 

Grace. It is imperative to me that my children know that God loves them, he has forgiven them, and he is the only one who can enable them to walk the Christian life. Their own will power will never be enough to keep them from turning in the wrong direction. Only God can save us and then change our hearts. 

 

No Fear. It is imperative that my children not be afraid. Not be afraid of losing God’s love. Not be afraid of losing my love. Not be afraid of being rejected. Not be afraid of people who don’t believe the same as them. Not be afraid of going out into the world and sharing love with whomever they meet. Not be afraid of making mistakes and not being perfect. Fear not. I believe that phrase is repeated a ridiculous number of times in the Bible. 

 

Love your neighbor. It is imperative to me that my children learn how to love their neighbor. Though this is an action that we need God’s grace for, I need them to keep asking God for grace and keep pressing in to this. Keep trying to understand the people around them. Keep seeing each person in their life as a highly valuable treasure that God loves. Keep on learning how to love. It’s the second greatest commandment. First, Love God, second, love your neighbor. 

 

How do you teach your children these things? Beats me. I’m not the parenting expert. Each day is me fumbling around in the darkness, trying to do my best on my good days, on my bad days, just trying to keep everyone alive. I have no idea how to raise Godly children. But, thank you Lord, God does know. He gives me just enough grace for one day at a time. And one day at a time I try to model a complete dependence on God. I try to model Grace. I try to model No Fear. I try to model loving my neighbor. That’s about all I can do. The rest is in God’s hands. 

 

May we have grace for each other as parents. Instead of getting caught up in the comparison game, let’s just encourage each other. 

 

A Boy and His Kitten

kitten

We got a new kitten this weekend. Or rather, my ten year old son got a new kitten this weekend. Because of course, that’s what this crazy house needed, another pet.  

 

But, my son has been asking for approximately two years now for a pet. And I’ve been putting him off because his brothers had pet ferrets and a pet dog, I had a pet cat, his dad had pet fish and I didn’t feel up to taking on more than that. In fact, I have been pretty emphatic that we were done with getting pets. In fact, my husband said, no more pets unless some of the current pets find a new home. In fact, we were united in our stance against new pets.

 

But he kept asking. Pleading. Coming up with all kinds of creative ways he could manage a pet so we wouldn’t even notice it was around. We tossed around the idea of him getting a fish. No. He wanted something he could cuddle. Then I suggested that he take part ownership of the ferrets and dog since his oldest brother was very busy and was on his way to being gone for a year. No. He wanted his Own pet. 

 

And then a week or so ago he told me that his friend who lives down the street had kittens at his house…could he have one of the kittens? And I thought about it and really couldn’t think of any reason to keep saying No to this poor child, and so, I ended up saying Yes. (And his father grudgingly agreed.)

 

Why? Because he’s quirky and I think he needs his own special animal friend. Why? Because  he is not wired to enjoy school work and yet his teachers tell me that he works hard and is a model student in their classes. Why? Because I let my older children have pets and I want to be fair. Why? Because I secretly like kittens and while he’s at school, I’ll get to hold it… 

 

This parenting thing is complicated. Finding the balance between not losing your own sanity, making sure your kids are happy, and making sure they’re also learning how to be responsible. Not killing their dreams, but not spoiling them. 

 

I love my son. He’s very different from me and I have found it a challenge to meet him where he’s at, instead of trying to force him into a mold that is easier to handle. And that is the essence of parenting. Learning how to let go of your own expectations and instead work with what you’ve got. 

 

What I’ve got is a highly intelligent, creative, business-savvy boy who tends to create waves amongst his siblings, who loves to learn new things, (just don’t ask him to read it out of a book), who knows how to wrap his teachers around his little finger, but struggles with the daily playground politics. He’s a kid who is willing to work hard if he’s going to be compensated. He can take a cardboard box and tape and turn it into anything you want. He is a Master Lego Builder, and the arch-nemesis of his younger sister. He frustrates me and delights me. He’s a boy. 

 

And now he’s a boy with a kitten. 

 

And my pet tally has now gone up to: 

 

1 dog

2 ferrets

2 cats

5 fish

3 crawdads

 

I have a feeling those numbers will change again.