In Memory of Sparkle

Our doggie pal, Sparkle, went to doggie heaven today.  After a decade of living with us, he is now resting peacefully and pain free.  The past year was a hard one on him with several recurring infections that just wouldn’t go away even with multiple rounds of antibiotics.  Despite his illnesses, he kept amazing us with his energy level.  He was one tough dog.

He was a loyal friend who had a rough start in life when we met him at a cocker spaniel rescue home.  He was looking for a family and didn’t hesitate one bit when we opened the car door that day; he jumped right on in and came home with us.  He loved flipping over on his back for tummy rubs and dragging us on walks (we never could train him to heel).

He survived the addition of two kids to the household and treated them well, except for the occasional times he managed to snatch a waffle or cracker out of their hands when they were toddlers (the kids have since grown taller and smarter).  He was our first pet, the eldest “grandchild” as my mom liked to call him, as well as, our first “guinea pig” for parenting practice.  I’m thankful for all the lessons he taught us and how he got me accustomed to cleaning up pee and poop long before the kids came along.

E and Sparkle a few years ago…

I’m most thankful for the conversation he sparked tonight between the kids and me after we told them he had passed.  I was dreading telling them, but fortunately hubby graciously did the job and did it well.  The kids’ initial reaction when they heard the news was summed up in E’s question, “Can we get another pet?”  I was partly relieved and surprised that they seemed to take the news so well, but chalked it up to their young age.  Little did I know, this was just the calm before the storm.

While hubby took Sparkle’s body to the vet’s, I got the kids ready for bed.  About 20 minutes later, the bigger questions started coming.  And boy, was I not ready for them.

“Can we bring our toys to heaven?”
“Will our body become a skeleton when we are buried?”
“How big is God?”
“What will we do in heaven?”
“Do kids and babies die?  Will I die?”
“What will happen to us when you guys die?”

I had the hardest time hearing C ask the last question and seeing her on the verge of tears.  What are you supposed to say to a three year old to calm her fears about losing her parents?  All I could do was scoop her up in my arms and reassure her that we are still here and she doesn’t need to worry about that.

Sigh.  If only it was that simple.  The reality of life is that it is temporary; everything living will eventually die.

There was a time when I thought I would live forever (and believed turning 20 would be the end of the world).  But now that I am nearing 40, and perhaps mid-life, I see that life is in fact very short and totally out of my control.  And having to explain these facts to my kids throws me completely off balance.

The only thing I have that keeps me grounded is hope.  Hope in a loving and forgiving God.  Hope in a place where there is no death or fear or tears or pain or itching due to eczema (which E had been wondering about).

And the best thing I know to do is to pass on this hope to my kids.  So that when the hard stuff of life hits them (and after we are no longer around), they will be able to stay anchored and hopeful.  Cause hope is the thing that keeps us going through each and every day that brings us that much closer to eternity.

In thinking about eternity, here’s a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that talks about the “Long Way Home”.

How have you (or would you) talk to your kids about death?

Not Giving Up

I used to think it was funny whenever people would compliment our kids and hubby would proudly say, “Thank you!”  That’s because I feel like complimenting someone’s child is indirectly giving the parent(s) a compliment as well.  That’s because kids are the “creation” of their parents; they did get all their genetic make up from them.  So, if someone wants to hear endless compliments about themselves, the best thing to do is to have a child.  (I’m so kidding.)

Sure, I enjoy hearing people say positive things about my kids.  But on the flip side, there are times when I cringe when my kids do/say things that are not so great and I have to pause and ask myself, where did they get that from?  Cause we as parents can’t just take credit for the good and not the bad.  For example, it’s a good reminder to myself to work on the tone of my voice when I hear C yelling at her big brother, “Say sorry NOW!”  Sigh…

But there are some things that kids don’t learn by observing their parents; you could say these are the traits that were inherited and are ingrained in their DNA.  When I see E being cautious and wary of speaking in public, I unfortunately know where he got that from….and it wasn’t from hubby (both he and C love attention, haha).

From www.freedigitalphotos.net

It broke my heart when I saw E on stage at his preschool graduation, turned halfway around in his seat so he wouldn’t have to face the audience.  He sat and stood like that for about 45 minutes even when the teacher asked him to turn around and face forward.  I knew exactly how he was feeling – overwhelmed and uncomfortable, like every single eye in the audience was fixed on him.  But he did make it through and even happily skipped off the stage when it was all over!

Just last week, we faced another hurdle with him about public speaking, but this time the public part only involved us.  He needed to practice a memory verse for school and he refused to say it out loud to us.  It was the day before this assignment was due and we were at our wits end trying to figure out how to get him to cooperate.  (Yes, I can be a perfectionist when it comes to homework.)  Finally, we decided to reward him with a $5 toy if he would say the verse out loud.  He eventually agreed and mumbled his way through it, but he did it!  We were thrilled!  And he told us the next day that he was the only kid in his class to get the verse right on the first try!  Cue the happy and proud parent dance!

I am so happy to say that this week he has been so much more cooperative about the memory verse and practiced it with me 3 days ahead of schedule.  And he even said he did it this time without having to get a prize.  LOL.  Good thing, cause I didn’t know if I wanted to fork over $5 every week to get him to do it.

Sigh… It’s a strange thing seeing yourself in your child.  It’s both a blessing and a curse in some ways because there’s no denying what you see in the “mirror” in front of you.  But it’s also a lesson for me that our kids are worth our patience and encouragement, especially when they face the same challenges that we find ourselves facing.  It’s a reminder that yes, I have plenty of weaknesses and struggles, but I can get through them, just like E gets through his.  And I should be patient with myself, just as we try to be patient with him.

I really like the message of this song, “I Won’t Give Up”, by Jason Mraz, especially the part that says, “We got a lot to learn and God knows we’re worth it.”  Cause we all are worth it.  So don’t give up whatever you’re going through!

In what area(s) are you trying not to give up in?

The “Good” Girl

“I love you because you are a good person.”

These words of affirmation came from E one day out of the blue.  I stopped what I was doing and my eyes widened as I grasped exactly what he had just said.  Then I looked at hubby with a shocked expression and stood there speechless.  Absolutely speechless.  I was touched that E would say such a thing and pay me such a huge compliment because one – he obviously forgot about the last time I lost my temper and two – I secretly pride myself on being “good”.  Being the square person that I am, I am good at being good.  I have never gotten a speeding ticket, I am a stickler for rules and I try to be “nice” to people and do all the “right” things.  When I was younger, a family friend even asked my mom if I had attended some kind of etiquette school because I was so proper!  Haha!  You could say I am the perfect example of a good little Asian girl.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Lately though, I have been a little tired of being “good” all the time.  I told hubby I wished I could be the irresponsible, forgetful, unreliable one sometimes (I admit though the forgetful part has become more true as I age).  I would like to not feel like I have to color within the lines all the time.  I would like to be able to do something without thinking and not worry about the consequences.  But, honestly, I can’t stop being me.  For one thing, it wouldn’t be natural and I’d need to work really hard at letting go, which would defeat the purpose.  And someone’s got to keep the hubby and kids fed and cared for.

This also made me think about whether it’s natural for me to be “good”.  I believe a lot of times I try to do and say the right things because I know I’m supposed to, not always because I want to.  Whether it’s due to a fear of rejection or failure or just plain stubbornness, I am used to my square ways.  But I’ve learned that unless I am motivated by love to be/do good, it’s all a bunch of b.s.  It’s worth more to be known as a loving person than a good person.  So much more.

But how do I make that jump from being just good to being loving?  This is where my faith comes in.  For most of my Christian life, I believed I could be a good little Christian girl by following the rules and doing good things.  I was the perfect candidate to be a follower of Jesus.  What I didn’t understand though was that if I was so good, why did I need God?  God is not touched by good little Christian Asian girls who do good things and stay within the lines.  He is actually more moved by people who may appear “bad” (broken and ugly) on the outside, but are clinging to His goodness and love in order to live life fully on the inside.

When I was studying counseling, one of my assignments was to attend an AA meeting so I could better understand what life is like for someone with an addiction.  I admit that had to be one of the most uncomfortable and out of the box experiences of my life, not because the meeting was strange, but because it was strange for me (the good little Christian Asian girl) to be at a place where you were supposed to admit you didn’t have it all together and you needed help to change.  What a humbling and eye-opening night that was for me!  For the first time, I saw people who were moved by love and humility to be better people and to live better lives.  I also realized how similar I am to those people – in need of recovery from my prideful and unloving ways – but unlike them, I was nowhere as far along in the process as they were.  Because the first step of the 12 steps is to admit you have a problem and I was still happily hiding behind my facade of being a good girl.

I know I am capable of doing good things, but I also often act out of pride, impatience, and a judgmental attitude, which are all the opposite of what is good and what is loving.  I think I have shared before about trying to be more loving as a person, but it’s only because I have come to realize how petty and unforgiving I can be (especially post-kids)!  Sigh!

I honestly still don’t understand why E said I am a good person.  I know I am definitely not a perfect parent!  If anything, he is the one who is good because he is able to see beyond my moodiness and impatience and still find good in me.  And his unconditional love, and that of the rest of my family and God, helps me know it’s okay that I’m not a “good” girl and I don’t need to try so hard to be one.  I just need to know I am loved and to let that love move me to love others.

A big thank you to my friends and family who love me and my dark side.  🙂

Here’s Kelly Clarkson’s song, “Dark Side“, about the not so perfect parts of ourselves.

Who in your life has witnessed your dark side and still loves you in spite of it?

The In’s and Un’s of Parenting

There’s one question that my kids have been asking me rather often lately: “Are you not happy?”  Hm…why, do I not look like I’m having the time of my life?  Do I look as pooped and cranky as I feel?  Do I feel overworked and under-appreciated?  Well, I guess the answer according to the look on my face is: “Yes!”

I was just thinking today that if there’s one thing being a mom has taught me, it’s to “bounce back” from the in’s and un’s of parenting.  The in’s and un’s, in case you aren’t familiar with them, are events that are infuriating, interruptive, untimely and unpleasant.  And boy, these kind of situations happen all the time when you have kids because their goal in life seems to be to shake things up!

Image courtesy of Phaitoon/freedigitalphotos.net

Whether it’s a VERY LOUD tantrum that occurs in public or a change in schedule due to a shorter or longer than predicted (or non-existent) nap or an unexpected bowel movement during bath time (thank God that only happened once!), I have learned there is very little that I can control as a parent.  And the little that I think I do have control over changes from day to day.

So, you can understand why I might not look (or feel) super cheery all the time.  The only moms I see who resemble this are the ones in parenting magazines who are captured on film for a very brief moment, often when their baby is sleeping.  Being a mom is hard work and emotionally taxing, especially when you are a recovering perfectionist and control freak!

To be honest, I was a bit convicted about my negative attitude when my kids brought it up.  I mean, I always tell them to change their attitude when they’re whiny and uncooperative (basically when things don’t go their way).  But how can I expect them to bounce back from Grumpyland when I don’t model it for them?  Sigh!  These are times when I wish parenting was all about “do what I say, not what I do”, but unfortunately, that’s so not the case.

So, one of the most important lessons I’m learning and hoping to teach my kids is to accept the in’s and un’s of life and to move on from them.  This means having an attitude adjustment (ie. no yelling or getting frustrated and impatient) when things don’t go my way (ie. the kids wake up when I’m in the middle of a good book or whine about eating their veggies or forget how to share).  This will definitely take a lot of time to get down, but I have plenty of opportunities to practice!

The serenity prayer is something I refer to often when I start feeling down about the in’s and un’s of life:
Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Fortunately, our attitude is the one thing we do have control over.  I know that when I change mine, I am a lot happier and life seems more manageable and enjoyable.  Hopefully, I’ll continue to make progress in this area so that one day my kids won’t have to question how happy/unhappy I am.

Rachel Platten’s, “Overwhelmed” is a good song to listen to when you’re feeling just that, overwhelmed, and need to bounce back.

What helps you bounce back from the in’s and un’s of life?

Pinning Away

So, I’ve hopped on board the Pinterest bandwagon and to my surprise, it’s been quite entertaining and useful.  I’ve found several yummy and nutritious (ie. food with green stuff) recipes there that the kids actually like and devour.  I’ve never been the mom who makes happy faces with food in order to get her kids to eat (I’m a bit too practical, or maybe square, for that), but I’ve been able to find 3 easy ways to make food more kid-friendly.

1) Add cheese!  Cheese makes anything and everything taste better (this is why fondue is so popular).  I tried this recipe for Mac and Cheese muffins and added baby kale, baby spinach and baby chard (a packaged trio of veggies from Trader Joe’s).  E said he wanted to eat 100 of them (he actually ate 6.5) and C asked if I could make them every day.


2) Bake it!  By baking veggies, I have gotten my kids to eat green stuff with no problem at all (no bribing or threatening required!).  The key is to cover the veggies in olive oil, season them with salt and pepper and bake them till they are brown and crunchy!  Here’s a recipe for cauliflower and one for kale.  You can also sprinkle cheese on top to make them even more appealing.

3) Throw in some chocolate!  I found a recipe for Chocolate Avocado Pudding and it tastes a lot more yummy and less strange than it may sound.  It’s healthy, too, which makes it even more tasty.  I may have to add more honey next time so the kids will eat it, but if that doesn’t work, there’s more for me!  Another recipe that is chocolate-y and delicious is Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins (made healthy with whole wheat).  You can also add nuts for more protein. 


I thought I’d include Beyonce’s song “Single Ladies” for this post because you can change the words in the chorus to “If you like it then you shoulda put a pin on it!”

What cool and useful things have you found on Pinterest?

Booster Seats

It’s the same question every time.  As soon as we sit down at a restaurant, the server will notice we have young kids and automatically ask, “Would you like a booster seat?” to which we automatically reply, “No, thanks.”

Why do our kids not need a booster seat, you may wonder.  Well, we are their booster seats.  And if it’s just me and the kids, I become two booster seats in one.  Pretty cool, huh?  Let’s just say, I’m glad I have two legs.
Ever since E was born, he’s been attached to us, including during meal times.  There was a time when he would sit in his high chair, but since he outgrew it, he upgraded to sitting on our laps.  When C came along, she went through the same process as well.  Hubby likes LOVES holding the kids when we eat and says they will only be small enough to do this for a little while.  I hope he means they won’t be sitting on us when they are able to drive.
 
We get varied reactions when people see us acting as booster seats, ranging from amusement (ie. “You really like kids, huh?”) to frustration (this is usually from the grandparents) to awe (especially when I try to spoon food into my mouth while dodging two bobbleheads in front of my face).  I think though that people are truly just surprised because, to be honest, most (if not all) of the other kids in the restaurant are sitting by themselves.
 
Recently, however we got a completely different reaction.  The server had come to fill our water glasses and was smiling approvingly at us (imagine that!) and said something about it being nice that we were holding our kids because not many people do that these days.
 
Hm…were we on candid camera or something?  🙂
 
Her remark got me thinking.  Our kids like to sit with us (or to be more exact, on us) because it makes them feel secure and happy.  Even hubby feels happy being close to them.  (Me, well, that’s another story for another day, haha.)
 
I was reminded of the story of the 8 cow wife.  If you’ve never heard this, it’s basically a story of a man who pays a dowry of 8 cows for a woman that everyone (even her dad) considers to be worth – at most – only one cow.  The man and woman marry and move away from the village, then return a year later.  To everyone’s shock and amazement, the woman has been transformed and is no longer the same woman; she is totally beautiful and confident and worth every one of those 8 cows.
Image courtesy of xedos4/freedigitalphotos.net

That woman was changed when she started believing she was valuable and worthy to be loved.  The villagers started believing she was worth 8 cows because both she and her husband believed it and lived it.

Sigh, sounds like a great chick flick, right?  Sure it is, but even more so, it’s a great example of how we influence each others’ views and how people are shaped by their own beliefs and the beliefs of those who matter to them.
 
So how does this relate to booster seats, or the lack thereof? 
 
Simply put, I hope I treat my kids like they are 8 cow kids.  (Sometimes they can have 8 cows in a day(!), but that’s beside the point.)  I want E and C to know they are loved and to feel secure in my love for them.  This may mean acting like a booster seat for a meal (or two or ten), but essentially it means going the extra mile to make them feel secure.
 
Hubby and I joke sometimes that it feels like we have become servants and the kids are the prince and princess of our castle.  There might be some truth underlying this joke though.  If we want our kids to have a healthy and confident sense of themselves, we almost need to treat them like royalty.  (Note: I don’t mean in any way to lead kids on to be arrogant, selfish or to think they are better than others.  Every child is precious and deserves to be treated as the precious gifts that they are.)  A lot of the royal treatment is innate to parents, such as buying the safest carseat or booster seat (if they use them!), feeding them healthy food, and choosing the best schools possible.  But other times, especially for me, it’s easy to overlook our kids’ emotional needs, especially since this part of their royal treatment requires a lot of patience and understanding.  
 
I’ve also come to realize that how I treat my kids and, subsequently, how they view themselves (as an 8 cow person vs. a 1 cow person) will affect how other people see and treat them.  I once witnessed a scenario that convinced me of this: a child had done something wrong (by accident) and was quickly and harshly reprimanded by her parent’s friend.  I was really surprised to see this happen, but I’m thinking the parent’s nonchalant attitude toward the child may have had something to do with how the friend reacted.  It’s just like this – if a person bought their favorite car and took a lot of time and effort in maintaining it (ie. using the best gas, keeping it polished and waxed, etc), other people would in turn respect the car and be careful with it.  However if a person treated his car in the opposite way (ie. kept it dirty, worn down and without care), other people would as well.   
 
This brings us back to the beauty of the 8 cow wife story – that one woman was completely changed for the better because of one man’s love and belief in her.  Hopefully in the same way I, as a parent, can mold and shape my kids for the better through my belief that they are worthy and valuable (and benefit from sitting on my lap for the time being).  And as they become 8 cow kids, my hope is that they will influence other people for the better, too.
 
This song is more related to the chick flick part of this post.  🙂  It also shows I’m trying to keep up with young people music (for a while I had no idea who these guys were)!  Check out “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction.
What do you do to help your kids know they are worth 8 cows to you?

Hamster Wheels

Image courtesy of James Barker/freedigitalphotos.net

“I wish I was a hamster.”

We were at Petsmart getting some dog food and we had just walked past the aisle with the hamster cages. E saw the little wheels inside those cages and wished he could be a hamster so he could run on one of them.

While I’m sure there is some element of fun to running in place and not going anywhere, I can’t imagine that the fun would last for very long.

How do I know this?

Well, sometimes I feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel. I wake up, make breakfast, do the dishes, entertain C, prepare lunch, pick up E from school, eat lunch, entertain both kids, get them ready for a nap, prepare a snack for them, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up, get the kids ready for bed, go to bed … and start the whole process over again the next day. It’s kind of like being in the movie “Groundhog Day“, where the main character wakes up on the same day over and over again. Hmm, there seems to be a trend going on here with small rodents.

Thinking about rodents has made me a little philosophical. I was wondering today, What is the meaning of life? (I might be on the brink of a mid-life crisis, so bear with me!) Is the whole point of life to just run on this hamster wheel and keep it moving? Because sometimes I would like to get off and rest. But if I can’t get off, I would like to at least feel like I’m going somewhere.

The reality though is that the sun rises and sets each day and there isn’t a pause button to press to make it stop. And a lot of what makes up one’s life is the routine and seemingly mundane stuff that happens on a daily basis.

I realized that’s why I like distractions – whether it’s in the form of eating good food, shopping for new clothes, watching my favorite TV show or going on vacations – because they bring some excitement to the ordinary. Distractions make my time running on the hamster wheel more enjoyable. I considered for a brief moment how hedonism could be an attractive philosophy to live by.

But then my sense of reality (and frugality – cause pleasure usually equals big bucks!) woke me up from this daydream. Sure, God wants me to enjoy all the things He’s given me, but hopefully there’s more to life than making myself happy. I spent many years as an only child, so I know all about focusing on myself (there can be too much of a good thing)!

I started thinking that as a parent, I totally want my kids to be happy and to enjoy life. I want them to find pleasure in running on their hamster wheels. But I also want them to look outside themselves and spend their time and energy on what is meaningful and long lasting in life.

So, what is the meaning of life? I finally came to the conclusion that it is to love. To love God and to love our neighbor (other people). To value people over things. To make someone’s day with a smile or listening ear or helping hand. To know you had a positive impact on someone’s life. It doesn’t get better or more meaningful than this!

I may be like a hamster running on my little wheel, feeling stuck in my cage, but I can move my furry feet with purpose. And that purpose, for the time being, is to care for my family the best I can. So, here I go, taking it one day at a time, all with the hope that each step will bring me closer to what I was made for … to love.

Here’s a great song by Mat Kearney, “Closer To Love“.

What do you do to make your time running on the hamster wheel more meaningful?

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo… margaritas!

That’s probably what most people think of in relation to the 5th of May. For me, however, I think of a white gown, spring allergies and 90 degree weather with no A/C!

Cinco de Mayo is my and hubby’s wedding anniversary and this year we celebrated eleven years. Yes, eleven years.  That seems like a very long time, long enough where I no longer just think about growing old with hubby, I am growing old with him.  Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but marriage, unfortunately, isn’t all fun and games.  Having a happy, fulfilling relationship takes a lot of work. I repeat, a lot of work.

As an almost only child (aka. someone who is selfish and used to getting my way) and non-communicator (verbally that is!), I’ve had to learn some tough lessons about a marriage relationship. Here are 3 of those lessons that have helped me tremendously in becoming a better (though not perfect!) and happier life partner.

1. Be positive. There was a time right after the honeymoon period ended when I started working on my math skills. More specifically, I got really good at keeping score.  I would have conversations like this in my head:

50 points for me for doing the dishes
100 points for me for cooking
50 points for me for doing laundry
– 30 points for hubby for not taking out the garbage
– 20 points for hubby’s “lost socks”

I may have gotten really good at addition and subtraction, but keeping track of all the things hubby wasn’t doing right (in my perspective) turned me into an unhappy, critical person.  I lost sight (and track) of all the things he was doing well, like surprising me with a milk tea at work or taking the time to listen to me vent about my job.

So I did the “Men in Black” trick – I tried to erase my (negative) thoughts and memories about hubby and focus on the good ones.  I didn’t have a fancy neuralyzer to help me do this, but just relied on good old fashioned technology, namely an attitude adjustment.  It’s amazing how having a positive outlook of hubby helps me to be a happier spouse, too.  🙂

2. Never assume.  You know how there are some people who speak their minds all the time so you know exactly what they are thinking about?  Well, unfortunately I’m not one of those people.  I’m all for the idea that silence speaks louder than words.  🙂  So, in the early years of our marriage, I admit I subjected hubby to many experiments to see whether or not he was a mind reader.

It took me a while to realize that I should never assume hubby would know when I was upset about something or, even more importantly, why I was upset.  How could he know I’d been waiting two days for him to take the garbage out if I didn’t let him know?  Sure, I could hope he would see the garbage piling up and the flies buzzing around it (I’m kidding!), but it would be a lot easier to just bring it up.  Expecting hubby to know exactly what I am thinking about without telling him is like having a body full of hives and not wanting to do anything about the intense itching – it’s unrealistic and frustrating!

As I began to open up and speak up (and stop relying on my Jedi mind tricks), communication became a lot easier and simpler for both hubby and me.  Once again, learning this lesson made me a happier person to live with.

3. Row together.  On our honeymoon in Kauai, we spent a morning learning about kayaking and marriage from a tour guide.  He told us that tandem kayaking is a great way of seeing how well couples, especially newlyweds, work together.  He couldn’t have been more right!

Image courtesy of wiangya/freedigitalphotos.net

I learned on that day, and the 4,015 days that followed(!), that rowing together takes lots of humility and patience – humility to listen and take directions from each other and patience to keep rowing until you get the right rhythm.  Marriage is like kayaking; it’s all about cooperation, doing what’s best for the team and making sure you have your partner’s back.

The hardest lesson I’ve had to swallow is that all is not fair in love and war.  There are times when one person needs to do more than 50% (or whatever they think is their share in the relationship).  If one person can’t row for a while, the other teammate will need to do more to keep the kayak going.  It won’t be fun or easy, but this is definitely the “for better and for worse” part of love.

Hubby and I took turns “rowing more” so we could both finish our degrees.  He took on all the financial burdens of our family when I quit working full-time to go to school.  Later on, I took on much of the responsibilities at home (with a toddler and newborn) when he took night classes.  There were some crazy days (and I’m so glad I had family around to help), but we did our best to support each other.  We really made it a joint effort of earning those diplomas!  Now, if only I could claim his degree on my resume.  😛

In reality, I guess eleven years isn’t that long of a time period.  It’s barely like a teenager in terms of people years (it’s a completely different story though in dog years!).  I’m sure there is still much to learn about marriage.  So, I’ll just keep on rowing with hubby and see what the next eleven years (and more) may bring.

Here’s Colbie Caillat’s song for the one I said, “I Do” to on Cinco de Mayo… 🙂

What lessons have you learned about marriage (either your own or someone else’s)?

Less Square and More Hip

Jesus is so not square!

This was a revelation of mine recently. You would think that someone who’s been going to church for close to three decades and attended seminary (for a counseling degree, not theology, mind you!) would have a better understanding of who Jesus is. Unfortunately, all those Sunday school stories went in through one ear, straight through my very square mind, and out the other without making much sense to me. I suppose I’m just so accustomed to viewing things through my perspective that it’s hard to think of things in an un-square way.  😛

When it comes to God, the creator of the universe, I have no problems understanding Him. I think we’re kinda on the same page. I mean, I’m pretty sure He is a perfectionist because if He had put the earth even a mile closer or farther away from the sun, it would be uninhabitable. And God is the one who came up with the ten commandments, which means He likes rules, and square people always follow the rules. 🙂

Jesus, on the other hand, is so out of the box! He healed a blind man by putting mud, mixed with His own spit, on his eyes. To be honest, that sounds just a teeny bit messy. He also hung out with people who were shunned by society, and not in a ke-chi kind of way either (translation = be polite even though you don’t mean it), but with genuine acceptance and concern.

So like I said, I just recently realized how different Jesus and I are … and this realization makes me appreciate Him even more than before. I’m so thankful He isn’t square like me and that He’s willing to get his hands dirty, literally and figuratively, cause people (myself included!) are messy. Knowing people and loving them for exactly who they are, even when they don’t love you back, is hard work. And that’s what Jesus did when He came to this earth, died on the cross for us and rose again.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer/freedigitalphotos.net

I used to like Christmas a lot more than Easter, but they’re equally special to me now. I see that they both represent hope, the hope that there is so much more to this life and the way things are. They also give me hope in my quest to becoming less square and more hip, just like Jesus.

Here’s a happy and hope-filled song about Jesus by Jamie Grace called “Hold Me”.

How do you see Jesus?

Sibling Rivalry 101

I hate conflict.

You could say that conflict and I have never gotten along and we likely will never become friends. I prefer hanging out with my pal, Passive Aggressive, over the other guy, Direct Confrontation, any day. But we know people have all kinds of different ideas and opinions, so conflict is (gulp) inevitable in relationships. This was a hard fact for me to swallow when I got married, especially since I married Mr. I-Love-Debating. :p  It’s taken me a good decade’s worth of work to be willing to look conflict in the eye, instead of avoiding it, but have no fear, I have plenty of more opportunities to face it. This is where my kids come into the picture!

I never realized how peaceful life was when we only had one child. Of course there was a lot of crying and screaming with our high need baby, but at least I knew how to deal with it (ie. meet E’s needs by feeding, holding him, etc).  However, three weeks after C joined our family and E realized there was a “no returns/no exchanges” policy on siblings, things began to get a little sticky.  This is when I got a crash course in Sibling Rivalry 101.  And ever since then, conflict has been a part of my every day life (faint!).

These are some of the things I’ve learned so far:
1. Siblings can fight over anything and everything.  Sometimes I think they just want whatever the other person has, regardless of what it is.
2. There is a resolution for every conflict, but cutting mom in half isn’t one of them (this was C’s suggestion for how she and E could share me).
3. Conflict can bring siblings closer (if they are taught how to work through it).  It’s amazing how E and C can say to each other, “I’m not your friend anymore!” and then, “You’re my best friend in the whole world” a few minutes later!

I’ve had to learn a lot of conflict resolution skills over the past few years.  It hasn’t been easy with my lack of experience in this area, but believe me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have plenty of  opportunities to practice.  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to hear both sides of the story and to address each person’s feelings, especially if I was in the other room when the screaming started.  Once I know what’s going on, I can then give some advice on how to end WWIII and also prescribe a “make-up hug”.  🙂  I’m finding that the more we deal with conflicts, the less frustrating and emotional they are (at least for me) and the easier it is to move on from them.  But of course the fewer conflicts I have to deal with, the better!

I do have to say that I appreciate sibling rivalry for the good lessons that it teaches my kids.  Having a sibling means that E and C are learning how to share, how to wait and take turns, how to consider another person’s feelings and needs when making decisions, how to forgive when they are wronged, how to apologize, and most of all, how to develop lasting friendships.  They are light years ahead of me when I was their age in terms of their relationship skills.

Image courtesy of sattva/freedigitalphotos.net

Even though conflict isn’t my friend, I guess I shouldn’t consider it my enemy either.  It’s just one of those things that you can’t live with, yet you also can’t live without.

Check out Pentatonix’s cover of Sugarland’s song, “Stuck Like Glue“.  It reminds me of E and C’s bipolar friendship.  🙂

How did/do you handle sibling rivalry?