Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm gonna lay down my burdens, down by the riverside.

Last week our friends took us to a beautiful lake. It was such a treat for our nature-loving family who misses all of the beautiful lakes, trails, and creeks we said goodbye to in Texas. We know Morocco has just as many beautiful places but we just don't know how to find them yet!

After a little cane pole fishing, the boys got a hankering to throw rocks into the lake. It was such a fun site to watch Liam and Corey throw rocks into the water with such gusto. The bigger the splash, the better. Being out there in that peaceful place that God created for our delight brought so much joy to my tired heart. And as I watched my husband throw rock after rock into the water, each rock growing larger than the last, I knew that more than just rocks were sinking to the bottom of that lake. One by one, he was casting off his burdens. Weariness, disappointment, anger, frustration, and all the shock that comes with living in a new culture fell deep to the bottom of that murky water.

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Releasing the Pressure Valve

Our son (3.5) loves to play the bedtime game, you know the one where the kid comes up with all these wonderful reasons why he should keep getting out of bed. It can be so exhausting sometimes to deal with and so hard for us to hear him still up an hour after we've said our last goodnight. We want him to get a good night's sleep, not spend half the night fighting sleep.

About a month ago we tried out a technique from the Simplicity Parenting book called "releasing the pressure valve." The author talked about how kids have all this built up emotional energy and that they need outlets throughout the day to let it out. They need space to connect and share, to feel loved and cared for. This made sense to me because sometimes at night I go to bed dog tired but then find that I can't fall asleep until I share my thoughts and emotions from the day with my hubby.

So we started a little impromptu sharing game during our family dinner. We ask 3-4 questions and each person gets a turn to answer. "What was your favorite thing today? "What was your hardest thing about today?" "Did something frustrate you today?" "What are you excited about tomorrow?" Everyone is included and my son makes sure that even our 20 month old's day is interpreted since she can't yet speak up for herself.

If we don't share at dinner time then I make a point to ask these questions at bedtime. I honestly didn't know if we'd see the results that the author suggested, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Our son loves this game, so much that he even asked us these questions one night when we were eating dinner at another family's house. (The family doesn't speak English so he couldn't really play the game with them).

We found that after we created a purposeful space for sharing and connecting about our day, the post-bedtime craziness has become almost non-existent. There's no more hour long procrastination after we've tucked him in. Now he falls asleep much easier and it has made us much happier parents. I also enjoy the space we are creating to connect emotionally as a family, to stop for a minute to be introspective together, and to know the good and the bad from each other's day so that we know better how to care for and pray for one another.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ...But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.". Gal 6:12, 24b-26

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oops, I kissed a boy.

When you greet somebody in Morocco, you kiss them on each side of their face. That is, if you are a girl and they are a girl. It is still a bit awkward for me because different women kiss different amounts of times on each side, depending on how close your relationships are with them. But, because I love a good embarrassment, I have now kissed two men in Morocco, one as old as my Grandpa, and one a young University student. Oops. I guess you don't always learn your lesson the first time.

There is this little old man who is quite old and quite cute, and I swear to you that he looks exactly like my Grandpa Hays. When Corey and I were walking to language class every morning for the first six months, this cute little man came up to us and greeted us. We passed him 2-3 times a week and it became something we looked forward to. We can never really understand him much though, because he speaks a lot of French to us, and also he has very few teeth. He noticed Corey's sack and asked him if he had any Bon Bon. He laughed and said no. Corey bought him a chocolate Bon Bon the next week and gave it to him. Every time he sees Corey he asks if he has "beaucoup d' monet" in his sack (lots of money). Corey just smiles and says no. At some point the old man gave me the little cheek to cheek kiss. I guessed it was okay, seeing as how the man was in his 90s. But our tutor said it wasn't really cultural so after the second time I politely offered him my hand to shake.

Then tonight we ate dinner at a friend's house. He is a newer friend and it was the first time I had met his family. As we were leaving, I went around either shaking hands (with guys) or kissing girls/women on the cheeks. When I got to one of the sons (in university studying to be a doctor) I accidentally leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. After the first cheek I realized my mistake and then tried to stop the second cheek but it was too late. We sort of awkwardly laughed but who knows what he thought about me! Later in the car, Corey said "what were you doing kissing that young, handsome boy on the cheeks?".

Hopefully now I have learned my lesson.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simplicity Parenting

I just finished reading through a book called Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, More Secure Kids. I read through it slowly and enjoyed all the practical tips and ideas included. There is plenty of theory too, if you like that sort of thing. I loved the thesis of the book! Simplicity is better. Kids thrive on it. They need space to learn and grow, they need loving rhythm and predictability, and they surely don't need lots of "stuff" to keep them happy.
Corey and I have already incorporated some of the ideas from the book into daily life and I have definitely seen some positive, fun changes happening. I am noticing that one of the biggest shifts we are experiencing is coming from me, and it is a shift from a more activity-based parenting style to a more relaxed, experiential style of daily life.

Changing things up a bit

A few months ago, our language schedule changed and I started having one morning free again to stay home with the kids. I decided that on that morning every week I would focus all of my attention on Liam and Norah, and I wasn't even going to think about that day's language hours until the kids went down for a nap. I started getting hooked on these mom blogs, finding all sorts of fun preschool activities to do with Liam and Norah. There were art projects and learning games, songs and ideas for pretend play. So, I did a little planning before those particular mornings and we had lots of fun. The problem was though, that after about two weeks of this, Corey helped me to realize that I had inadvertently created a monster! Our son was beginning to constantly demand these activities and he seemed to forget how to sit and play by himself. He seemed extra fussy and whiny too. Corey explained that while I meant well, what I was doing wasn't really working so well and Liam seemed only satisfied when he was doing an "activity." It was also frustrating to me personally because I would work hard to create some fun activity (like set-up a little post office play area) and then he wouldn't even play with it for that long before he was ready for the next "thing."
About this time I read this book and it got me to thinking about some things I could do differently. I wasn't leaving enough open space for create play, for Liam and Norah to have to figure out and sort out things on their own. All the activities I was planning just led for the desire for more and more and more. (You should read the book because the author explains all this much better than me). Since then we started incorporating a few changes here and there, trying to create a little more open space, more rhythm and predictability in daily life, and more downtime to connect as a family. It feels really good.

A few things we are working on:

  • Simplifying and de-cluttering toys
  • Creating a calm, peaceful dinner time
  • Teaching the kids to be a part of daily chores
  • Reducing TV time
  • Letting the kids help more with meal prep
I am planning to incorporate many more over the coming weeks and months and I was thinking it would be fun to document them here. So, stay tuned for more.