family

Sometimes I fantasize about a post-apocalyptic lifestyle

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The Walking Dead #TWD will start back up in October. The show always sparks something inside us that makes us believe we are invincible. Survivalists. We talk a big talk.

So we camped out for 3 days, trying to experiment with what life would look like “Post-apocalypse”. We tried to make our meals without the use of the refrigerator.  We slept in #ENO hammocks in the trees and keep all activities outdoors. The truth is, CAMPING is hard! Even when we are only camping 50 yards from the house!  We soon realized that we are no match for zombies.

1. Food:

Living off the land is a lost art. I can’t imagine trying to find food while being on the run! The first night, we cooked a delicious feast of meat and potatoes on the fire. Made monkey bread for dessert.  We discussed our meal with the children.  If we were survivalists, the meat we are eating would have to be trapped or shot, skinned, and cleaned before we could even put it on the fire.  These potatoes MIGHT be available to us, if we stayed in one place and could tend a garden.  Oh and forget about the monkey bread! The next morning I woke up at sunrise, went to the hen house and collected eggs (plausible), stoked the fire back up and prepared scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Then it hit me, I NEED COFFEE.  So, I went upstairs, got my coffee pot, and plugged it in at the camp site.  Hardly the way a survivalist would make her coffee! The rest of our meals, while consumed outdoors, made use of the fridge, oven, and microwave. It took me 3 meals to realize that I very much rely on the convenience of my kitchen!

2. Sleep:

We love our hammocks. We love setting them up, swinging from the trees, competing to see who can get their hammock the highest and tightest.  However, when it comes to sleeping in them all night for 3 nights… wow.  Not only did it get cold, but it was also creepy!  I would have to get used to all the night noises.  I kept two of the dogs outside with me, which helped me feel secure. They kept watch over us all three nights. But still, the places my mind wondered off to – it’s amazing.  I had all kinds of visions of how we might die if I close my eyes.  Needless to say, I did not get very much sleep!  Lastly, I desperately missed my bed.  Each morning, I got up and hobbled around like an 80 year old woman. Humans need rest!  I began to understand how living on the run would not only be exhausting, but without good rest, everyone would be grouchy and on edge!

3. Higiene:

We did make all three days without a shower or bath. But we sure were foul when we finally came in!  As I scrubbed the soot from my face and washed the sticks and ash out of my hair, I marveled at how someone could live this way everyday, for weeks, months, years. The children and I laughed at all the gunk between our toes and behind our ears and under our fingernails.  And we each enjoyed a long HOT bubble bath.

As a homeschool mama, I am always looking for opportunities for learning.  This 3 day camping experience  gave us much to discuss.  Our discussion generated three main themes.  1) We realize that the only way to get good at camping, is to practice.  2) We have a huge new found respect for survivalists.  3) We are immensely grateful for our creature comforts.

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Unattached to the opinions of others

Last week, a mama left me a voicemail, “Nikki, I need to have a conversation with you and it’s not going to be fun.”

You can imagine my angst in returning that phone call!  My mind was spinning about all the ways I might have offended her, or inappropriate deeds my kids might have done.  Was it a Facebook post that didn’t set well with her?  Is it my choice of reading material? My use of technology? Is she concerned that I practice yoga and have introduced it to my kids, and thus to their friends?

My mind spun for about an hour. Then I came to myself.  Although I know I have blind spots, I am parenting my children in the way I have chosen, and I have nothing to fear from the opinions of others.  This realization and reminder was so comforting to me that I picked up the phone and made the call.  I received her concerns with humility and understanding.

This mama and I talked through everything and it worked out fine.  The issue was regarding security and safety during playtime on my property. Her concern had to do with girls and boys mingling – and she needed to understand my play protocol. THAT WAS IT!!  What an easy conversation it could have been. Instead I allowed her initial voicemail trip me up into insecurity and self-doubt.

It is so freeing when we can be bold and confident in our own skin – and in our own intentions. When we unhinge our identity from external influence, we can soar without hindrance.  When we are true to ourselves, authentically, we can buffer the criticism and even judgement of others. And what’s even better?  When we respond with a clear head and interact with the person humbly, the conversation has nowhere to go but UP!

Ultimately, I am thankful for this experience because it reminds me that being attached to the opinions of others is toxic. There is no room for this in the healthy soul.  Call me and let’s talk more about this.  🙂

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JUICE!

We love juice!  Well, I take that back. I love juice. The children love TO juice.  There is a difference….

We all have such a good time peeling and cutting and watching all the different veggies and fruits go into the juice machine. We can spend an hour creating different combinations of juice.  Pretty much, the only kind of juice the kids will drink – at this point – is Pineapple/Apple, or Pineapple/orange.  And that is ok!  Sure, I want their juice to be full of Kale and Spinach and Beet. That just isn’t going to happen anytime soon. But at least Pineapple/orange is better than red Gatorade or a CapriSun!IMG_0644

For the juicing mamas out there.  I want you to try my “hot mama” recipe.

  • 1/2 of a beet
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 3 apples
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 of a ginger root
  • 1 whole jalapeño!

It is amazing how the ginger and the jalapeño give this SWEET juice a spicy  kick!  Disclaimer: this juice is not for the faint of heart. Channel your inner TEXAN.  Of course, like any recipe you will need to play around with it.  Add another apple or two if you need to offset the veggies or the spicy. Depending on what I have, I will add a celery stalk or pear or mango here and there.  But you get the point!

What kinds of juice do you make with your children?

Have any ideas of how to get the kids to introduce more veggies into their juicing?

Calm, cool and collected

Do you think some parents have an intrinsic knack from being non-anxious in any situation? I was talking with a fellow mama the other day about children, sibling conflict, defiance and disrespect, and general fussiness. We joked about how easy it is to shout, “Would you stop SHOUTING!?”

How do you keep your cool as a parent?

Even though it may seem like some parents have a higher threshold for madness, I do believe that harmony and temperance can be learned and practiced.  When we are loving unconditionally, we have no reason to blow our top.  Even when I become the target of my child’s aggression, I must respond with compassion. I don’t see that as weak – in fact I see it as supremely strong.

I think there is a level of detachment that has to happen in intense situations with children.  I can not be tied to whether or not my kids like me in any given moment. I can not be worrying about what they might say to me. If I have clearly and consistently laid out boundaries for them, then I can confidently stand by those boundaries and not be swayed by their agitation or imbalance.

Let WAR fall to the FLOOR

Since adolescence is right around the corner for my crew (12 boy, 10 girl, 8 boy), I have experienced a few, ahem, outbursts. The increased changes of mind and body can generate a spike in emotional energy, and suddenly without warning, a battle ensues.

My daughter in particular, the 10 year old, middle child, has recently become a little more prickly.  Because I know that hormones are the culprit,  I can simply respond to her with compassion, even when she behaves in a less than gentle manner.  When it is aimed toward me, I say, “I don’t yell at you, so I would appreciate the same kind of respect.”  She sometimes takes a pause, and reccaliberates,  “Mommy, I am sorry for yelling, what I meant to say was….” And other times, she stomps off.  I can only assume that she is going on a pilgrimage to some safe space to soothe herself.  And that is ok.  Upon her return, she is greeted with a loving welcome.

When the children have an emotional flair up, I don’t take it personally.  And neither should you! When their heart is at war, I hit it head on with PEACE.  I respond non-anxiously and let the WAR fall to the FLOOR. I don’t have to engage in a battle with a child.  I really don’t. When I remain self-defined, their eruption carries no power. Kids need this, do they not?  They need to know that we are strong enough to handle the full gamut of their emotion.

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My mother [God rest her soul, 2002] was a great example of unconditional love.  We always knew where we stood with her. She never took her love away from us regardless of our mood or attitude.  And you know what – – we respected her for it.  She was confident and full of grace.  My mom is the one I channel during difficult emotional moments.  I try to remember my own adolescent turbulence.  I breathe, and muster up the tenderness these little ones need from me, to continue on in their journey.

My hope is, that at some point in their 20’s and 30’s, my children will look back and reflect on our time together. They will unquestionably say that their mom was consistent, tolerant, and gracious. That they were loved regardless of their actions or inner unrest.

C’mon mamas and papas, we can do this. We can get through these turbulent times together! Let’s lock arms and move forward.  But please, I beg you. Don’t lash out at your child, whether they are 4 or 14.  Don’t yell at them just to show them that you can yell louder. Be the adult. Be compassionate. Be aware. Show them that their turbulence is normal and that you understand what they are going through.

At the very least, you will give them less to talk to their therapist about when they get married and have kids of their own!

The force is strong with this one.

68037_10100155434909179_1581607946_n 553929_997490309449_998139091_n My 8 year old son is a deep feeler. He is a passionate, seize-the-day kind of guy, taking in every moment. He has a huge heart full of compassion, empathy, and openness.  Kid never met a stranger.   IMG_5146

Thing is, he feels everything at full throttle.  So if he is happy, it’s 100%.  If he is angry, it is 100%.  If he is disappointed…. you get the picture. One afternoon about a month ago, I picked the kids up from a playdate and the dad commented, “Wow, Cosmo is a trip. He is either at a 10 or a 1!”  I certainly didn’t take this as a compliment, but honestly I was not surprised.   Cos is intuitive, loving, and generous. At the same time, he often carries his emotions on his sleeves.

So how do I help this beautiful one find his center, his calm?  We have been talking lately about peace, self-control and soothing and calming our hearts.  I believe that Cosmo has the ability to do this – to acknowledge his feelings and harness his energy.  He has a capacity for stillness and focus, so meditation and prayer have been a source of comfort. For example, a couple of weeks ago, the 3 children and I sat together in meditation, reciting Isaiah 26:3, “You keep in  perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you.”  At other times, he and I agree that it would be a good idea to go back to his bed and do a “reset”.  I encourage him to find his breath and to use his words. IMG_5200 1912210_10100487418371659_1429371650_n

With these techniques, my hope is to give Cos a toolbox he can draw from in dealing with his big emotions. Each child is unique and I never want to squelch or shame.  My heart is to shepherd and coach them along in becoming who God has made them to be.  

Do you have an extreme child?  If so, what are some of the tools in your parent toolbox?

Pop died last night.

Kids paternal grandfather, “Pop” breathed his last around midnight on Sunday. We had a great time with him over Christmas. His children and 12 grandchildren were all together.

IMG_268375 is still too young in my opinion.  Things just went from bad to worse: Flu, then pneumonia. A light-headed moment turned into a fall that broke his hip. Then 3 weeks in the hospital did him in. Everything started shutting down.

We were trying to figure out how to smuggle “nellie” into the hospital to work her magic as a rehab dog.  Alas, he decided to refuse treatment and move his bed to the house – so that he could spend his last few days with his wife, his dog, and all of his kids and grandkids.

 

Died in his sleep with his daughter and sons surrounding.

My little ones and I are leavin-on-a-jet-plane tomorrow morning for the funeral in Lubbock. We appreciate your prayers as we remember this kind, affectionate man. Generous, tender-hearted. A story teller.

We love you Pop! Miss you already. Thanks for loving us well.

We are Alexanders, we are learners.

My focus lately has been on family axioms, values and virtues that we overtly speak over our children describing the kind of people we are (ahem, suppose to be.) Call it a motto, maxim, adage, rallying cry….

On my post We are Alexanders, I describe what I mean by this, and list out many of the axioms we say day-in and day-out.

Today I am focusing on “we are learners”. This one is a tremendous parenting value for me. I am a learner, I was raised by learners, and I am married to a learner, so naturally I hope to impart this quality into the hearts of my children.

By learner do I mean over-edumacated academic elite? Heavens no. In fact, I agree with Albert Einstein who said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

This world has so much to teach us.

Culture, nature, myth, math, history, technology, poetry, politics, physics, linguistics, economics…shall I go on? How could we ever imagine that we are done learning as soon as we finish our educational requirements? One thing I admire about my dad, is that at age 66, the man aspires to learn something new everyday. Never assuming he has all the answers, he ask good questions. He reads, he studies, he works hard to keep up with the inexhaustible pace of technology.

There is always something to learn from this bountiful planet. Project-based homeschooling works well for us, because it is designed to help kids pursue the things they are passionate about learning. But weather you homeschool or not: Does your child have a favorite food?  Trace the origin and historical preparation of that food. Discover how that food is prepared today, here in America. (disclaimer – your child may not like what she/he discovers). Did your child get a letter from grandma?  Outline the process of how we send and receive mail. Take the kids to the US Postal office and ask for a tour! Did your kids witness the dogs procreating?!?! Talk to them about the reproductive system of animals and allow them to follow the process out all the way through birth, infancy and independence.  There is so much to learn each day. We need only to open our eyes and pay attention! Life is our Guru. Earth is our hands-on instructor. History is our counselor. Get out there and let your curiosity lead you!

People have so much to teach us.

Do you think you have it all figured out? You don’t.  Your experience or degree make you an expert? Nope. Feel like you really have a handle on things? Guess again. Don’t assume that you know the perception of a Republican or the viewpoint of a Democrat until you share a meal with one.  Don’t expect to tell a teenager what they should do before you embrace them and listen to their heart. Don’t judge a buddhist until you are willing to sit quietly and let them share the experience of their faith journey.

Ok, I am no expert – but here are a few suggestions for us about how to lovingly approach people:

  1. Ask good questions.  Before my husband goes into a group meeting or a one-on-one coffee, I always remind him to ask good questions.  He grins and replies, “I know, I know, don’t talk too much….”  He is joking, but always comes home and reports the success of simply listening and asking good questions.  Not only do we learn so much more about the other person, but we come away nourished because listening is receiving – and our souls love that.
  2. Don’t give advice unless someone specifically asks you for it.  Over and over I hear people discharging dogma like an M2 machine gun (yea, I totally googled that). I want to stand up and shout, “NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR YOUR OPINION!” Although it is difficult to sit and listen and keep your mouth shut and ears open, please, for the love of all things vulnerable and tender – – please wait until you are asked before doling out your answers to life’s questions.
  3. Approach every conversation as an opportunity to learn. Every person you meet has a unique story. Try to engage them in that story. Strive to understand their perspective.  Think of your friends (and even random people you meet on the street) as mentors.  My friend Heather mentors me in self-dicipline. My friend Anna mentors me in a healthy lifestyle in regard to food and movement. My friend Laura mentors me in intentionality with children….and so on.  Every person in our lives has something to offer, something to teach us. So let’s tap into that wisdom.

We are Alexanders, we are learners. It’s an important message to my children to ALWAYS look for learning moments – every outing, every activity, every project, every movie they watch, every book they read. With every person they encounter, with one another, with home schoolers, with public schoolers, with babies, with elders, and with Mr. Henry – the mail carrier.

I must go now, because my friend is teaching me how to make organic apple muffins.

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Change it.

I have been focusing a lot lately on our family axioms – values and virtues that we overtly speak over our children describing the kind of people we are (ahem, suppose to be.) Call it a motto, maxim, adage, rallying cry….

Yesterday I had the opportunity to use my new favorite: Change it.

We had a German family over to play for the afternoon, a family I have been wanting to connect with for a while.  All the children were having a grand time outside for a couple of hours. But as soon as we came inside for cake and milk, my younger two children began to bicker and fuss at each other for every little thing. “You know how to work it out”, I reminded. Their clashing continued. Finally after about 6 minutes, I pulled each of them aside for these two simple words. CHANGE IT.

Why does “change it” work?

1. This quick two-word command is powerful. The word change is powerful. It is like a pinch in the arm or a glass of water in the face.  It snaps them out of their funk, and offers a real solution.

2. It reminds them that they are in control of their own actions and emotions.  Sometimes children get stuck in a feedback loop of powerlessness. “Change it” puts the responsibility back in their hands and kicks blame to the curb.

3. The third reason this works, is because we talk about it ahead of time.  I help the children prepare for an event, and plan their intended actions accordingly. I am a huge fan of James Lehman and The Total Transformation program.  One thing he talks about  is a concept called cuing.

CUEING:  It can be valuable if the parent and child have a cue -or signal they can give in times of high stress or intense frustration that signifies one party needs to take a break.  A cue can also be used as a signal to stop some troubling behavior from escalating.

I have a cue meeting with my kids before nearly every social activity. Cue meeting in the car before going into the grocery. Cue meeting before heading to the swimming pool,  the movie, a dinner out, a birthday party – whatever social situation we may be in.  It’s not a lecture. Cue meeting simply sets up the event and prepares the children for the choices they will make.  “Change it” has become a staple for us in the cue meeting.  The message is clear. If I say, “change it”, that means that something that you are doing is causing friction and negativity.  Do not try to explain, do not try to defend. Just change it. Then we can talk about who did what, and “this about her” and “he started it” blah blah blah… later.  Because I spoke to my children ahead of time, they were able to make an adjustment upon hearing the cue, “change it”.

Dawn and IPROPS to my friend Dawn who introduced me to this tasty little morsel.  When we visited last summer, Dawn shared a couple of her family axioms with me. Change it is one of them.