Friday, June 29, 2012

Check yer Trailer and yer Dishrag

Two very short thoughts that I'll allow you to ruminate on yourself:
Keep checkin' yer Trailer, 
 One day, the dishrag will do it's job in a timely manner.

First things first.
I recently packed, put down, hooked up, towed, set up and lived in a pop-up trailer.
It was only 5 days of camping, 
and we were near our Grandparents' house where we'd hang out for parts of the days.
I didn't do it single-handedly (thank you, Peg, Justin, and occasionally, Aus.)

We came home with the expected, nasty, swamp-thing smell in the dirty clothes bag and the unexpected new pet in the cat carrier. 
(Thank you, Aunt Robin for your help in our getting Hunter home.) 

That has nothing to do with Checking your Trailer, except it (kinda) proves I did indeed camp.

We pull our trailer with The Big Van.
It's the 10-seater on a 15-seat chassis which is known in these parts as 
The Derschmobile.

Yeah, really.

Once it was my primary mode of transportation, but Mark has lovingly provided a much more fuel efficient minivan for our daily use. I never really minded toting us all in it, hopping out at Publix and then filling the back with a ton of groceries. 
I like to make a (quiet and controlled) scene sometimes.

Anyway, as I left Ocala on Tuesday morning with 6 kids and my mom,
I was getting used to the feel of pulling the trailer again. My extended van was extended another 18 feet, and my brakes and accelerator needed a little more than I usually give them to get the same job done. 

It didn't take long to recognize that when I'm in the right lane (where I don't often travel on the interstate, since that's where the slower vehicles are) I tend to hug the left dotted, white lane line. 
I didn't mean to; I just noticed that I did. 
The van didn't hang over the line (often) and it was never a traffic issue.

But the trailer is a tad wider than the van...
and it would inch it's way onto, and sometimes, over that same line I was hugging.
As many of you know, even when I try not to, I often think in metaphors and analogies.

Every time I got to close to the restrictions placed on me (reasonable restrictions, for my safety and the safety of others, I might add) the stuff following me went a little farther than I did.

Can you make this one up yourself? It has "parenting analogy" all over it. 
Even my dear G. might get this one without explanation, eh?

That's all I'm saying about that one. 

I really hate that I like this cat!

There is absolutely no clever "tie-in" between that and the next thought, 
except they both happen to be in my head. 

Don't you enjoy the look and feel of the kitchen counters wiped, the sink empty, the floor taken care of by you or the dog, possibly the dishwasher running (sorry, Tiff) and the leftovers put in the frig? The kids all head in their different directions, and you get to sit at the computer for a few minutes Even typing it makes me a little heady.

For those of us who have older kids, it happens more and more often.
For those who still have pre-school and young elementary kids, not so much.

Here is my little encouragement for y'all in the throes of the not-tidy kitchen years:
The dishrag will one day do it's job in a timely manner. 

Really, it will. 

And you'll be glad to see the counters are still the same color as when you moved into that house, and the amount of food left on your floor will no longer be able to sustain a small family, and the pots will get scrubbed nearly every time something gets stuck on them.


So, go look after them youngin's and maybe even a hubby, 
and let the corn sit on the counter until after their bedtime 
(But, not the meat. Put that away now.)

Whatever their ages, enjoy that stage.
They'll only be there for a little while. 
(And while we justifiably thank God for that sometimes, 
we should also remember to slow down and "roll in it" when we can.)

Go. Really. Before I put a Cheeto up your nose.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Crock Pots and Microwaves

As I typed the title, I realized I just threw out my crock pot last month as we were prepping for the wedding (not to give us the pittance of space, but because the crock pot didn't work.) I wonder if I'll end up with an analogy from that. No, I know I will; I just wonder if it will be a good one.

The oven chimed a minute ago that it was beginning to "time bake" our seasoned, boneless chicken breasts for tonight's dinner. It will take around an hour to get the flabby pieces of white meat cooked through and ready for our consumption.
Had I used the crock pot, our meal would have taken about 8 hours.
The microwave could cook them babies in about 10 minutes.

So, why pick the oven vs. the microwave vs. the crock pot?
I knew the answer to that question before Rachel Ray cut her first onion.
(not really...I'm only 4 years older than she is, 
and she was probably cutting onions before I figured out what a crock pot was used for)

We choose Method based on desired Product.

What do I want produced and when?

I've been mulling this particular thought for awhile now.
(which means this post may have two parts)

Those who have had to endure me via MOPS or other forced encounters have already been introduced to one of my passions: Parenting.

Choosing the method (discipline style) to create the product for which we pray (our children being godly adults) is at the heart of Purposeful Parenting.

When I am able to keep the end-product in mind (read here), it seems that I choose better methods.
When I interact in today's peanut butter-and-jelly world with the mind set that I am preparing humble servants of God that will change our society, I act and react in ways that are more effective.

When I am just getting through the day and allowing my personal annoyances or petty irritations or general fatigue rule my parenting responses (because I'm never proactive on those days!) then my tirade, or my verbal slap-down might make me feel better...but the kids haven't been given the opportunity to
See the problem-Fix the problem.
~~that's "real world" training to me~~

In our North American society of wanting it now (remember, I'm a "closure" type of gal, so I understand wanting things completed and off my list) it's difficult for me to take the slow road while the quick-fix tantalizes me with fulfilling my own perceived need (to rest, to be brain-dead on the internet, to finish the chapter I'm reading, to cook without interruption, to make a phone call...)

I often choose to be the dictator-parent because it's a "short cut" to improved behavior.
Admit it, the results are often quick to come when we're in the kids' faces hollering like they may soon learn the definition of Baker Act.
But the results are only surface changes that don't effect the heart.
And that means we don't truly improve the direction they are headed.
I loudly, and with careful enunciation, detail the problem for them
(thus removing owning the problem from their hands) then I shove the answer onto them
(which removes the problem-solving skills from their hands.)

The other end of the spectrum to which I swing some authors have called the laissez-faire parent. "The phrase laissez-faire is French and literally means 'let [them] do', but broadly implies 'let it be.'"
(Thank you, Wikipedia)
 That parenting choice often stems from the same self-absorbed places as my military-style parenting, but I feel less in control of the outcome (my future, grownup child) when I succumb to the numb of non-discipline. I am then living the lie that God isn't big enough or He doesn't care enough to change my kids' childish or sinful behavior into His image. If He isn't gonna change the kid, why would I think it was worth my energy? I'll just shrug my shoulders and guise my lack of self-discipline
as "kids will be kids."
The kids don't even see a problem, so they can't fix the problem.

Those styles both seem rather "microwave" to me.

So, what does it look like to be a crock pot parent?
(No snide remarks about my being a crackpot parent.
There are kids present...and they have enough of their own jokes about me.)

Crockpots use a constant, low heat to do their job.
Ouch on the constant part, eh?
Consistency is definitely the most difficult part to any job.
Think of a profession (carpenter, athlete, physician, chef, secretary,...) and consider how consistency is the benchmark of a "good one." A physician that misses a major disease diagnosis frequently, or a chef that can't turn out a predictable menu...well, they shouldn't have jobs for long.

If I yelled at my daughter for leaving clothes on the floor today, but I picked them up myself yesterday, and tomorrow I completely ignore the same about confusing my daughter.
Consistency in training is obviously a key to a "good outcome."

I used the word, proactive. It's not just skin-care, gals.
It is setting up standards on the front-end of training so the kids know what the dern goal is in the first place. It took Mark and I a little time to learn that in our "early training years." How could I expect a behavior that I hadn't really told them was my expectation?

A concept that leads to the idea of purposefully parenting.
(I know, I know. I say that all the time, but it's where I live...)

A few practical ways to crock pot your children:
Give yourself a few minutes to think how you want the situation to go.
(Say, we're heading to the back yard to garden or do weeding)

Give your kids a quick (as in short) monologue on what a happy time looks like out there.
(Guys, we need to get the weeds pulled from the west side of the fence.)

Give them the consequences of a good job.
(If we can get it done well before Daddy comes home, we'll get in the sprinkler!)

Give them the consequences of not meeting that goal.
(We need to get it done, so let's not waste time on complaining or lazy work. You'll have to do more work if that happens, and I'd rather spend time in the sprinkler.)

Let's go!
(and in theory, the ducks pick up their hand-made weeding bags, embroidered with their individual names, and waddle happily to the west fence where they work tirelessly, enjoying the camaraderie  of their beloved siblings before they ask if I mind them weeding the east fence also.)

...oh, back to reality...

If I lay out my expectation clearly, I have a real disciplining/training leg to stand on because they understand and should be able to follow through in obedience, or choose to rebel. I'm removing the "oh-I-didn't-know-you-meant..." foot out from under them. I can rightfully address behavior that deviates from the expectation IF
I've stated the expectation.

NOW, here is my particular pitfall; do with this knowledge, what you will.

Did I actually give them clear instructions when I thought I did?
I am learning (still!) to slow down and be purposeful in things I ask of the kids because I have to do that for survival. At one time, I could click out orders five different directions, use the proper kid's name when assigning a task, and know I did it when it came time to check on them.
Not so much any more.

Slow down, Dorothy.

And no discussion on parenting (which this has been since I've been hearing you in my head while I type) is complete without talking about one last, absolute necessary step:


Check that the instructions you've given a kid have been completed in a timely manner.
I currently don't allow my kids to "do it in a minute"
since we've had a recent issue with
"I was gonna do it, I just forgot."
With some of the kids at different ages, I do let them get it done "later"
but I assign a time when it must be completed. ("Get it done before lunch.")

Crock pots and microwaves.
Perfect tools for the right tasks; let's purposefully use the right one.

Blogging in a quiet house is my one weakness.