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Laughter IS Necessary

It’s been a long time since I last posted. So much has happened. So many ups and downs and all arounds and discouragement and happiness.

And one of the main things I discovered this week was how much laughter helps me be a better, more grace-filled parent. I think I understand a bit  more about why God created some of the things He did. I get it a bit more about how a merry doeth good like medicine. Because for me, being able to laugh until I cry about something just releases a lot of  tension I didn’t know I had. 

In some ways, I think I need to take the time to build in laughter to my day. A little less stressing about needing to feed the villagers and little more time to see the funny.

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On Obedience and Biking

On Friday, I read through Crystal’s article on Kindness vs. Obedience. I thought it was a good article and filed it away in my “Things to remember” memory part of life.

Cue this last Sabbath afternoon.

The girls and I went to the park while Daddy was otherwise occupied. Sweetness rode her bike and I pushed Light in her stroller. The park was a blast as always. Lots and lots of lots of time on the swings and the slide. Light is really loving the park nowadays and quite the daredevil for being one year old. 😉

Before meltdown city could start to occur, we said good-bye to the park and started off. At least, I tried to do that. Sweetness had gotten on her tricycle and was taking off while I was still trying to round up Light and convince her that it was time to jet.

“Sweetnees, stop.”

She looked back at me.

“Stop now!”

Mild panic because she’s getting to the end of the block and Lightness and I are right by the road so I can’t abandon her to chase down the 2 year-old.

Super-stern voice. “Sweetness, stop now!”

She got to the shade and stopped. My heart skipped a few beats and I ran and caught up with her.

“Honey, when Mommy says stop, you need to stop now.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

We got to the corner and checked to see if there were any cars coming. No cars, so we crossed the road. I got slightly ahead of Sweetness as she stopped to take in the sight of a running squirrel.

“Mommy, stop! Stop and wait for me!”

“Okay honey, I will. I’ll stop.” And I kept on going until I hit the shade, which was just a few feet away. I looked back to see Sweetness frantically pedaling to catch up with me and yelling, “Mommy, stop and wait!”

Then it hit me. My daughter wasn’t being bad earlier. She was just doing to me what I had done to her. On our walks, I had constantly told her I’d stop and then keep going if she hadn’t caught up to me fairly quickly.

How could I expect her to be obedient and respectful when I didn’t comply with her urgent requests? She didn’t realize the danger she could be in and why I wanted her to stop. I didn’t realize how desperate she was that I wait and be a companion to her on her rides.

Man, I really need to work on this. I need to respect her so that she will respect me. How can I do any less, when she really will do what I do, not what I say?

Special K Cottage Cheese Loaf

One of my great victories as an SDA SAHM is mastering the cottage cheese loaf, aka Special K loaf. It was also what we had for lunch yesterday.

I found the recipe here, originally. I’ve made some adjustments and it is, if I do say so myself, pretty good!

Here’s what you need:

2-4 eggs

Large carton of cottage cheese

1 stick or so of butter (about 1/2 cup)

1 package of onion soup mix

OR

1/2 onion, finely sliced and 2 Tablespoons of broth (like George Washington broth)

Corn Flakes or Special K or Rice Krispies. Pretty much any crunchy flakes cereal that’s not sweet about 6 cups

Melt butter and put into mixer. Add in everything else. Mix together until it looks like a mush. Having a little help you is optional. 😉

Then add in some more cornflakes and mush them in by hand.

Unless you don’t like it extra crispy. In that case, just disregard adding extra cornflakes at all.

Now for the secret to my success. I don’t use a casserole dish. instead, I use that brown silicone pan and make loaf bites.

Almost everyone likes the crunchy part of the casserole, I figured, so might as well give them what they want so they’ll eat it up! I’ve also used muffin pans and they are good too.

So put your mush in the proper spots, put the oven on 350, stick it all in and let it cook for 20 or so minutes, until they’re super-crispy golden brown.

Healthy? Not so much.

Super-easy to make and eat? Yes! Even the 1-year-old loves them!

Parenting By The Spirit~A Review~Chapter One, Part One

As I read it, I decided to go through a chapter a week and really, really study through it, to see where in Scripture she drew her ideas from.

In Chapter One, she shares her story of how she came to talk with God about parenting and what her ideal of parenting is. However, I did not see a whole lot of Scriptural support for her ideals.

Hohnberger laid obedience of a child as the foundational principle for parenting. To say I was shocked is to put it mildly. After all, in my New King James version of the Bible, I had just read that Love was the foundation of God’s character. In Mark 12: 28-34, scribe asks Jesus what the first, or foremost, commandment is. He responds by quoting the Old Testament (Deut 6:4,5 and Lev 19:18) that the greatest commandment is to love God with all you have and to love your neighbor as much as you do yourself.

Ellen White tells us the same thing in The Mount of Blessing, pages 116-117. “With untold love our God has loved us, and our love awakens toward Him as we comprehend something of the length and breadth and depth and height of this love that passeth knowledge. By the revelation of the attractive loveliness of Christ, by the knowledge of His love expressed to us while we were yet sinners, the stubborn heart is melted and subdued, and the sinner is transformed and becomes a child of heaven. God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart. By it He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.”

Nothing in there about obedience being the key principle of life. As we read through the Bible, we discover that out of love, there comes obedience to God’s commandments, but even then, He helps us become like Him, not compels us to become like Him. This is a premise that I will explore later, in another post.

Back to the book.

I will go through this chapter and share my observations on it.

At the beginning, Hohnberger shares a story about her two-year-old son not obeying when she told him to pick up the spilled dog food, even after she spanked him five times. She gets upset as she tries to make him obey, she relates on page 12. I was taken aback by this, as I imagined the scenario taking place in our home. Well, actually, it is a scene that has taken place at our house–not the spanking, but the spilled dog food. 😉 That’s why one of our standing rules is, “If you spill it, clean it up.”

When Sweetness was that age, she spilled the dog food. I went over to her and said, “Okay, let’s pick it up” and picked up a handful and tossed it back into the bowl.

When she didn’t want to do pick some up, I took her hand, made it pick up some food and toss it into the bowl. I then said, “If we spill it, we clean it up. Do you need Mommy to help you more?” For the average two-year-old, having help is a horrid, horrid thing, so she continued to pick up by herself. I picked up the outliers and in a minute or two, all the food was back in bowl. No yelling, no punishment, no repeating myself. Just coming alongside her, at her level, and showing her what I meant. Now, since she is a toddler, I have to repeat and repeat and repeat the lesson when she spills something, but I have to say that nowadays, if she spills something, 8 times out of 10 she picks it up or grabs a towel so that she can clean it up. The other 2 times, I remind her and help her. It’s a principle I learned from here (just as a side note, for babies/early toddlers, skip from step one to step four and add in step two and three as you note your child is developing).

After all, God gave us the 10 Commandments and comes alongside us to help us keep them. Why wouldn’t I help my child obey me?

Parenting By the Spirit Overview

One of the things I love to do is read. And I particularly am interested in parenting books at the moment, for some odd reason. 😉

A book that I’ve heard about time and again in Adventist circles is Parenting by the Spirit, by Sally Hohnberger. I poked around on their website quite a lot, thumbed through one of her books at the ABC and finally, a friend sent me her copy.

So far, I’ve been rather appalled at what I’ve found. A lot of fear, a lot of works-based/behaviorism things, a lot of misunderstanding of basic child development and the God-given design for breastfeeding. Very few verses given, most not cited in context..

Yes, a lot of red flags for me. Not a whole lot of Ellen White stuff either.

I was really taken aback about the insistence of teaching obedience as one of the main calls of parenting. All under the guise of reaching the heart of a child so that they will follow God. Oddly enough, I don’t see that in my version of the Bible (New King James Version, if you’re interested). Rather, I’ve been reading about a God who seeks to draw me into relationship. A God who says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Nothing in there about, “If you keep My commandments, I will love you.”

So I’m going to be going through the book in detail, to outline some of my thoughts and the research (Biblical, EGW and scientific) behind the reasoning.

I’m trying to figure out the best style to do this, so please bear with me.

Trigger words

There are certain words that we hear a lot that can trigger strong emotions on our parenting journey. I know I have several that make me cringe; do you have any?

Some of these are:

Defiant

Sinful nature of independence

Self-willed

Rebellion

Disobedience

Tantrum

Why do these words trigger such strong emotion? I think part of it is because in Christian culture, there is a lot of baggage and self-image involved. We want to look like a good Christian family. And of course a “good” Christian family has children who do NOTHING like the above, especially in public.

At least, before we become parents, that is our intention. My children with NEVER act like that, we think smugly to ourselves.

And then one day it happens. We’re at the grocery store, close to naptime and the meltdown occurs.

Or, as happened to me at one MOPS meeting. Sweetness was not willing to go into the MOPPETS section that day. I have a policy of not forcing children to stay in a place at church where they are unhappy, so I brought her into the main group with me. She sat with me for a bit and ate and drank some.

Then she and her sister started playing. It’s a fairly big room, with the tables set up front and big windows overlooking a field in the back. They were crawling all over, looking outside, playing with things and just having fun. Then they got into the area where all the sound/video equipment was. I don’t remember all the particulars, but Sweetness started touching different knobs and switches while Light was crying because she’d just hit her head. I was telling Sweetness stop and she just would. not. stop. touching things.

In the process of jerking Sweetness’ hands away, I knocked over the VCR. Light started crying harder. I stage whispered extremely angrily to Sweetness. “See what you made Mommy do? Are you happy now? You should be so ashamed of yourself for not listening to me.” Sweetness started melting down too.

Naturally, that’s when I heard someone behind me asking, “Do you need some help?” I was about ready to crawl into a hole, ashamed that she’d heard me say that to my own daughter. I shook my head and told her that we were going to go out to the hall and talk.

And as I did, I realized how much in the wrong I was. Here I was, an adult!, shaming my 2-year-old child for being curious. And curiousity is a God-given trait that just needs to be managed. Fortunately, my friend either didn’t hear me or chose to ignore my words to my child.

But you know what the worst thing was? I wasn’t upset that Sweetness had gotten into something she shouldn’t have. I was upset because I looked like a bad mom to these other women. I had a child who was–wait for it–defiant, self-willed, rebellious, sinfully independent and having a tantrum. Could I look anymore like a bad Christian with the resultant bad Christian child?

But that wasn’t the truth. That is what it may have looked like to some of the women, but it wasn’t the truth.

As I discovered that afternoon, Sweetness was getting sick (had a temp of 103 that night). She didn’t want to play with MOPPETs because she was feeling sick. She wasn’t being defiant and not listening and tantruming because of her sinful nature of independence was being crossed. She was getting sick.

People who feel bad, act bad.

That’s as true for a child of two as an adult of 37.

Defining Our Terms

Before I go too much further with things, I need to define my terms. I took English classes from Chris Blake at Union and that was one thing he was VERY insistent on when we had discussions. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Define your terms!”; neither can I tell you how many times I’ve used that same phrase. 🙂 

Anyway, there are several hot topic words that seem to come up a lot. I want to lay them out here; at least, the ones I remember offhand. If I’ve forgotten any, please let me know.

Discipline. Discipline does NOT equal punishment. Discipline comes from the word ‘disciple’. It is a lifestyle commitment, not a one-time event.

 For example, I want Sweetness and Light to not hit the dog.

What does (grace-based) discipline look like in this example? I pet the dog, saying “Gentle. Look, Mommy is petting the dog gently. Do you want to pet the dog?” And when they go to hit the dog, I stop their hand, take it in mine and stroke the dog, while saying, “Gentle.” This is repeated over and over and over again. Eventually, I can just say, “Gentle” and they will check their swing and pet the dog gently.

The girls have now internalized WHAT to do and what gentle looks like and feels like. I still need to remind them and help them, every so often, but hey, sometimes I need to be reminded to be gentle with the dog and I’ve got 30+ years on the girls. 😉

So, discipline isn’t swatting their hands when they hit the dog–that is punishment. And punishment does NOT equal discipline.

Grace. What is it? Well, I can tell you it’s not “cheap grace”. I’ve heard that expression a lot, as in, “Living in grace and doing that with kids? That just cheapens it and makes it cheap grace.”

My lightbulb moment this afternoon was that when people leave legalism behind, a lot of times they swing all the way over into permissiveness. Grace-based discipline is NOT permissive. But here they are, these former legalists, working their way to find balance and erring on the side of permissiveness rather than being punitive, but claiming it’s all grace.

Grace says, “I love you just the way you are. These are my expectations and I will come alongside with you and help you be able to meet these expectations.”

Grace does NOT say, “I love you just the way you are. These are my expectations I expect you to meet and I will punish you if you don’t.”

Grace does NOT say, “I love you just the way you are and you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.”

I mean, this is some pretty awesome stuff to wrestle with and apply in parenting! God knew we couldn’t do what we needed to do. He didn’t punish us into being saved. He came along side of us, in a way we could understand and relate to. He modeled His expectations and worked with us. He gave no quarter to evil, but accepted imperfect attempts to follow Him. Can’t we offer that to our kids?

One online source I have put it this way: God’s Grace and actions are the determining factors in our salvation, even to include His working in our lives to develop a lifestyle consistent with salvation. (Eph 2:8-10; Phil. 2:12-13).

Look at that–He works with us to develop a lifestyle. Not, He expects us to live, laugh, learn, love, a certain, pre-determined way.

And now it’s late and I need to sleep. More later. And suggestions are always welcome!

Wait! Who AM I?

Well, welcome to my world. 🙂

Who Am I?

Oooh, that’s a very good question! And one that I would love to answer. 😉 I was born in South America and my parents, who were missionaries there at the time, adopted me when I was about 8 days old. 5Except for one year in the States, we lived down there until just before I turned 7. Then we came to the US—the Midwest to be specific—and stayed. Well, my parents did at least, all through my grade school through high school years. I was in the Midwest as long as they were, and even longer! :bwahaha

I worked at a boarding academy in the Southwest for one year, between my sophomore and junior years. After finishing at Union College, I taught in Asia for over two years before coming back to the US to work on my master’s degree. I’ve lived in the Great Lakes Region for, let’s see, almost 9 years now.  I’m currently working on my terminal degree in curriculum & instruction.

When we got pregnant with our first daughter over 3 years ago, my husband (aka Pitmaster—think BBQ) and I got a crash course into parenting. Who knew there were so many options and so much information out there?!

As we sifted through things, one particular philosophy of parenting kept coming up: grace-based discipline. I read through things, talked with other moms, talked with Pitmaster, prayed, prayed, prayed.

And then Sweetness was born. And we KNEW that we wanted to treat her like the gift from God that she is. Since I had a great support team, I was able to feed her the way God designed (nursed on cue) and we decided to love on her and discipline her the same way God works with us.

When Light came along, she just fit right in with our family. Lucky for her, we were more confident in our choices as parents. We’d already seen how well grace-based discipline helped us with our firstborn.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I put the Bible as the top of the list of the ways to learn about God and His character. Everyone else is below that. Ellen White is a great supplement to flesh out our knowledge. And I have my print resources and seminary friends I call on for knowledge in learning the Hebrew meanings/logic/culture and the Greek meanings/logic/culture.

Since I am a student at heart so that I can be the best possible teacher, I am always learning about the subjects that I’m interested in. As an ENFP, that means I have a lot of knowledge about many things (since I flit from one interest to the next 😉 ). Because I love to be able to help others discover things for themselves, I know how to find current and past research. God gives some of us the ability to go deeply into a subject and become renowned experts in most of the details and minutia of that area. God gives others of us the ability to absorb quickly in a variety of areas to create a big picture. The latter is how God created me.

So, that’s where I’m coming from. Those are my biases that you get to understand so that as you read through, you have a big picture understanding so that we can engage in great dialogue. And that’s why I started this blog–so that I could write out our journey into grace-based discipline through an SDA perspective.

What is Sin in a Toddler?

One of the most common ideas I am encountering in Adventist parenting today is that we need to parent sin out of our kids. Maybe it’s not phrased that exact way, but that is the essence of the ideas I hear. Things like “I help my child to connect with God so that they can war successfully against their flesh and follow God.” Or “If I can show them how to live a Christian life now by teaching them at all possible moments about the good Christian life, they’ll always be a part of God’s kingdom.”

Unfortunately, a lot it boils down to a need to have a child’s immediate outward behavior only look happy and ‘Christian’. One of the side effects of this is the idea that having a meltdown is sinful. It assigns a lot of negative intent to a wee one.

I think of Jesus in the wilderness, having not eaten for so many days. He was hungry. Is being hungry a sin? No. But hunger may be a result of sin. Or God may have created us with hunger pangs that needed to be assuaged. I just don’t know how He designed Adam and Eve.

In the same way, when a baby/toddler isn’t able to communicate their needs, they have a meltdown. Is a meltdown a sin? No. Is having a meltdown a result of sin? I don’t know. I don’t know if toddler behavior is how God created humans to be when they are little or if it is a result of the Fall.

One of the beauties of the briefness of Scripture is that we don’t get a lot of guidance as to HOW Mary and Joseph raised Jesus. Just that the Child grew and increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). And when someone grows in an area, it implies that they didn’t come that way in the first place. 😉

We are also called to put away childish things when we are grown. So neurotypical adults having a meltdown? No. That’s not how God designed us. He designed us so that when we are grown up in Him, we have the fruits of the Spirit.

Just as a side note, fruits bloom at the right time, in their season. All fruit trees are made with the capacity to bear fruit, but they need to have the proper nourishment to grow up and bear fruit. Even so for us. We can all have the fruits of the Spirit, but it’s only as we’re attached to the One Who gives life, that we can bear these fruits.

In other words, while my children are the fruit of a womb, not even necessarily MY womb, I cannot make them sprout the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

So, did Jesus ever have meltdowns as a baby or toddler?