Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Parenting 101: The Golden Rule

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

And Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
-- Matthew 22:37-40

This week’s parenting focus is how we should treat others – and why.

The “how” is generally the easy part. I mean, really. We know how we want our kids to act: be nice, share, say the magic word, don’t hit/pinch/bite/scream/yell/flush your brother’s Legos down the toilet. The “how” is easy.

“Don't act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don't be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.” -- Philippians 2:3-4

But WHY???
• Because Dad and Mom said so? Well, that’s a good start, but what if Dad and Mom aren’t around? Do I still have to? What if they didn’t exactly say so?
• Because the Bible tells me to? That’s good, too, but it’s a little abstract for most kids. Plus, isn’t the Bible more than just the 10 commandments?
• Because I’m going to be punished if I don’t? What if I don’t get caught?

A child who is taught to behave correctly, but is never taught why they should behave correctly, becomes a moral puppet – and they’ll have no backbone. They will be at the mercy of the one who holds the strings.

A child who is taught to think correctly will become morally strong and free to make his or her own choices.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

So, the trick is to train our children to think correctly. How do we do that? First of all, we need to model right behavior. It’s hard to teach your children to be honest with you when you tell lies in front of them.

Second of all, we need to have on our minds the reason behind our desire for their right behavior.

Let me explain that better.

I need to know why it’s important for my child to not lie/hit/steal/scream/run out into the middle of the street. If I don’t know, how can I explain it to him?

Does that mean that I always need to answer every “WHY?” my son comes up with? Absolutely not! Especially if he’s four! You could go on forever about where salt comes from! :^) It means that I train my kids to think things through. One day, they'll arrive at their own moral conclusions because they've been trained to think about the outcome of their actions -- not just whether a specific action is permissible! I pray that I've trained them so their conclusions are Godly.

You know one interesting way this principle helped me in my parenting? I used to say NO a lot. I like being in charge of things, and I really enjoy things being “in order”. When I began to apply the principle of moral training to my kids (who were then 5 and under), I realized that I didn’t have a good reason for a lot of the things I did or said. I eased up. I did get firmer on the important things, but I eased up a lot on the more “fun” stuff.

“Mom, can we eat on the back porch?” No. Why? ‘Cause I’d have to move all the food out there, and it’s all set up here. Lame reason. If I have to actually think through and explain my reasons, I’m more likely to be reasonable!

“Mom, can we eat in the living room?” No. Why? Because the carpet is new and white and this is a rental. Valid reason. Let’s eat on the back porch!!!

Do you think giving your kids a moral reason for not fighting/being selfish/stealing/whining or whatever would cause a change in their behavior? Are you willing to give it a try? Let me know what happens!!! (Be sure it probably won’t change overnight, but you might be surprised!!!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Know When to Walk Away

There's a certain point when you've had an unfinished project laying around for SO long that it's either time to DO IT or toss it. My kitchen curtains are one such project. Would you believe that I purchased fabric to make black-out curtains for our living room in Oregon almost 10 years ago...and never made them? Why? Lots of reasons, really. First I misplaced the backing fabric. Then I found that and misplaced the lining fabric. Then we moved. Grr.

I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

The "plan" was to make large quilts to cover the windows using a rubber-backed fabric as a lining to keep out the sun and the heat. Great idea, but it never happened.

I'm really not a quilter. The only quilt I ever made ended up as a parallelogram, rather than a rectangle. I love to sew and have made my own clothes since I was 7, so curtains aren't that difficult. The thought of how many different quilt blocks I would have to make scared me away, I guess.

So, I finally decided (10 years later) to finish those curtains. I have two huge windows and two small windows in the kitchen/dining area of the house. I thought that thick curtains would work great to block out the afternoon sun which blazes in those front windows. So, I gathered all my fabrics together and began to cut squares for my patchwork curtains.

Then, I sat down a couple of weeks ago on a Friday afternoon to begin to make my new patchwork curtains and worked for 6 hours straight. The next day, I worked another 4 hours. Here's what I had at the end of 10 hours of sewing:

I'm sorry. I'm just not that dedicated.

So, I scrapped that idea (no pun intended) and decided to make something else. Here's what I ended up with. How do you like my new patchwork curtains? :^)

Maybe next month I'll take a jaunt to the fabric store and just buy something cute to make kitchen curtains!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Parenting 101: Intro

Doug and I took some parenting classes decades ago (feels like!) and I think we really learned a lot. OK. I know we learned a lot. I’ll be honest: I was a ding-dong mom for at least the first year of Sarah’s life.

I was, in fact, such a ding-dong that I remember talking to Aunt Nancy on the phone one evening when Sarah was almost two and Caleb was bouncing away in his bouncy seat. During the course of our conversation, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t have the table set nicely for Doug when he came home from work. She asked me why not, and I told her it was because every time I got the table set for dinner, Sarah climbed up on the table and destroyed everything. She would pull the table cloth down, knock over candles (unlit, of course. I wasn’t that much of a ding-dong.) throw dishes on the floor and whatever else she could find to make me want to yank out my hair (or hers).

Nancy said something at that moment that I’ll never forget: “Tell her, ‘No.’”

It was like a lightning bolt from a clear blue sky.

Sometimes we just need a place to start. For me, the beginning of victory in my Mom-Journey was when I realized that I was indeed the Mom and my kids were, by definition, the kids. That meant that I out-ranked and out-voted them, even when there were 6 of them and only one of me. My battle cry became, “Let’s take a vote. Mom counts 10.” I still say that.

So here I am, 15+ years later and the student has become the teacher…sort of. We started parenting classes in Boca a year ago and had a really great time. We certainly learned a lot! We struggled a bit with the Spanish – lots of words we didn’t know! Now we’re starting our 3rd series and are really excited!

I’m so excited that I decided to make weekly blog posts about the classes and share the “theme” of the week – starting this week. I’ll call it “Parenting 101” and I hope that you’ll check back every week to see what I’m learning, er, I mean teaching.

Seriously, even in the introduction to the book we’re using I was reminded of important truths – things I hadn’t thought of in ages, and it did me good to be reminded of them. Here’s a “sneak-peak”.

Two points to consider:
1. We can’t teach our kids something that we ourselves don’t know or don’t put into practice. If we want our kids to be godly, respectful, honest, dependable, trustworthy, etc., we can’t just tell them to do it, we need to model that behavior for them.
2. Our childhood experiences affect our parenting. Duh. Yeah, I knew that, too. But here’s something you may not have known:
• If your parents were of the “my way or the highway” mindset, you will tend to be a more permissive parent.
• If your parents were very laid-back, wishy-washy or just plain negligent, you’ll tend to be more strict.

Yes, that’s a generalization. But we tend to swing to the opposite extreme of our parents. The goal is to be at neither extreme, neither permissive nor authoritarian, but to work toward balance and consistency.

Well, that was the intro. Whadaya think? Each class is over an hour of lecture with discussion questions and such, so this is a very, very small nutshell, but I don’t feel like typing four pages and you probably don’t feel like reading them! I pray that these sum-ups become an encouragement to you and maybe even a challenge to reevaluate your parenting strategies to see if you can improve in certain areas.

Do you have an “Aunt Nancy” in your life? Someone who has said what needed to be said or just stood alongside you when you needed her to? Why not send her a note telling her thanks!!!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Cake Lady

I’ve never really considered myself a professional cake decorator. I do love to bake, but cakes just never really were my “thing”. Of course, I made all the kids’ b-day cakes, but they were never what I would consider works of art; just a cake. Tasty and sometimes a bit ugly, but made with much love. However, when the ladies of the village discovered that I knew how to bake, I quickly became the “Cake Lady”.

Here’s a quick culture lesson: in most parts of the world, the standard kitchen does NOT include an oven.

This picture, taken at a local migrant camp, is actually pretty representative of the kitchens of our village, too. Notice the BBQ grill – it’s an old fan. Recycling at it’s finest, eh?!

So, most ladies don’t have ovens, but the culture demands that if you have a party you need to have a cake. What do you do? You go find the village cake lady and order a cake.

This is the cake I bought for Sarah’s XV birthday. It cost $30 – including the borrowing of the decorative base. I didn’t have the pans – or the time – necessary to bake a cake of this size. I thought I got a good deal. But, I had to drive to Palos Verdes (about 5 miles away) to pick it up. Since then, I’ve been collecting pans, decorator tools, food colors and all the other “extras” that a good cake decorator needs so that I can make cakes. It’s been a good ministry and at times it’s been a good source of income.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the young moms from our parenting class asked me if I’d be willing to teach her how to bake cakes. She wants to open a pasteleria in Boca del Rio. I told her I thought that was a wonderful idea! She came over last week and baked her first cake…

Her husband was impressed and everyone in the household said it was delicious. We had fun working together and agreed that we should make it a weekly thing. I dunno – it might be dangerous to bake so much. What if the cake flops? Then we’ll have to eat it!
I’m looking forward to spending more time with Sobeyda. She’s a sweetheart, and I think she’ll do well as Boca’s Cake Lady! Pray that she sticks with it, too!!!

By the way, does anyone know a recipe for a frosting that can handle extreme heat and humidity? I’ve tried several recipes, but haven’t found the right thing yet. The frosting they use here is a vegetable-based whipped cream type of thing. It’s thicker than Cool-whip, but has a similar taste. I’d settle for a way to make that topping from scratch, so I wouldn’t have to pay $2 per liter for it. I know that there has to be a cheaper way. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search and experiment! Love those experiments!!!

Sunday, July 04, 2010


WARNING: Construction Zone!

This website is receiving a facelift, so things are liable to look a discombobulated for the next couple of days. Most everything that was here last time you visited is still here...I hope. I did save my template, and I'll be working to make everything all neat and tidy just as soon as I have some free time. Hmmm. Maybe I'd better schedule it in. Free time doesn't happen often around here!!!

I just got tired of fighting with the html in the old template, so I decided to start fresh. At least now it looks the same no matter which browser you're using. je je

How do you like the new header???

Andrew's Bike Repair Shop

If you ride a bike, popped tires are just a part of life. Here in Las Glorias, it’s even more common due to the wonderful cactus and thorned bushes growing everywhere. The kids have all become proficient at patching bike tubes. Andrew, though, has a special knack for things mechanical.

When we first arrived, Andrew was only 8 but he quickly became known around our village as “the kid who patches bike tires”. He enjoyed the fame and soon his ministry grew to include adjusting brakes, tightening seats and even installing new gear cables.

While we were in the States last winter, Andrew was adamant about needing to find a specific part for a bike. I wondered at this, since at the time he didn’t even have a bike. It turns out that for quite some time Chuy, a man who works around our village doing odd jobs, had been coming to Andrew to adjust his brakes. Now the brakes were completely worn out. Andrew knew that Chuy wouldn’t be able to purchase the replacement parts and that they would be better quality in the States, so he bought them.

The day after we returned home, Chuy stopped by to say hello and while he and Doug chatted, Andrew replaced his brakes. I told Andrew later that I thought it was really cool that he was willing to bless Chuy in that way and then asked if he had given any thought to a small business. Maybe he could earn a few pesos to purchase more bike parts. He smiled and said that he wouldn’t feel right charging the people to fix things. “Mom,” he said, “these guys don’t have money to buy gas. That’s why they ride their bikes. I really don’t need anything…just more patches, I guess.”

Philippians 4:19-20 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

Have the kids around you reminded you of any spiritual truths today? They often do that, you know!