Tag Archives: #savemyfamily

Scars are Beautiful

A few weeks ago, our small group at church was discussing transparency with others and being vulnerable and sharing the “real you”. I believe the question was asked, “Who here struggles with being vulnerable?”

Reverting back to my middle school days, I quickly avoided eye contact with anyone else in the room (dang circle-style seating) and studiously examined the carpet pattern.

Heck no I am not going to raise my hand. The question was “Do you have problems being vulnerable?” Duh. The last thing I am going to do is raise my hand and say “Yes!” enthusiastically.

(Please note, the teaching in our small group is excellent and we have many people who are braver than me to step up and acknowledge the hard truths about themselves.)

Vulnerability is hard. Fluff and rainbows and unicorns are much easier than diving into the difficult areas of our lives.

However, I am quite vulnerable and open about the fact that in two months, I hit the big 4-0. Getting older is not something I fear or shy away from but rather eagerly embrace. Sure I keep investing in under-eye cream and bread is a distant memory of my past because although 20 year old me could consume a cheeseburger post-work-out, the almost 40 year old version of me can merely look at bread and my hips widen just a bit more. Despite those things it feels amazing to have been around for four decades, with hopefully more lurking in the my future.

40 has also brought just a touch of wisdom (A touch, mind you), a breath of confidence, and a spirit of bravery. Remember how I said I hated being vulnerable to others? I do prefer presenting a happy side of life, that things are all sunshine and cute puppies  and everything is FINE. Part of that stems from being a naturally optimistic person. Part of that stems from not wanting people to truly see the hidden parts. Yet 40 is showing me that opening myself up to others is okay.

One goal I set as I approached 40 was to complete a half-marathon. This is no way a unique “Hey! I am almost 40!” goal. Just search Pinterest and you will see that me and every other Suburban mom addicted to Starbucks have all had the same idea. The slight difference is the fact that a half-marathon is not simply completing 13.1 miles to me.

The half-marathon is a statement to myself that I can tackle the hard stuff in life.

As some of you readers know, I was born with a condition called Spastic Diplegia. Three years ago, I underwent a surgery to help with some of the symptoms of this condition. The way Spastic Diplegia works is that the brain sends faulty messages to nerves that control muscles. These nerves tell the muscles to contract 24/7, rather than only contract when in use. Imagine walking around with consistently tight rubber band muscles. SDR (the surgery I had three years ago) is an operation in which those nerves sending the faulty message are cut so they can no longer tell the muscles to stay tight.

After 36 years of having really tight leg muscles, I no longer walk around with rubber band legs (my term…obviously not one used by the medical community. However, they are free to trademark it if desired.)

Recovery was long after that surgery (I had a second surgery three months later that really took a long time to bounce back from) but now I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. There is a catch to all of this: The 36 years spent with tight muscles wrecked some havoc on my body. A few months ago, the husband and I were discussing all of this and he asked, “How often do your legs/feet hurt?”

My response, “Every step.”

He lives with me and he had no idea. (He knew there were aches and pains, good days and worse days.) The reality is that 36 years of tight muscles have done a number on my feet, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and my back. I know those areas of my body are breaking down faster than they should for someone of my age and health. One of the reasons I am so diligent about working out is to keep everything moving and working. I also am aware there could come a day in which those things do not work anymore and my life could look different than it does today.

And that is okay.

It is hard for me to be vulnerable and put this out there. In fact, normally I would not even mention chronic pain to others. Remember that marathon? There is another goal attached to it. I also want to raise money for an important organization that is close to my heart. The OM Foundation is a non-profit organization started by Bonner Paddock, a fellow individual dealing with CP. He has recently devoted his life to speaking and to raising money and awareness for children with CP who need therapies and medical interventions to ensure they have a good quality of life.

Although I deal with daily pain, I also know things could be worse. The deal with Spastic Diplegia and CP is that cases can be significantly different. CP is caused by brain trauma either in the womb, at birth, or in the first year of life (Please know I am not a doctor and merely use Google for all medical diagnosing purposes). Most likely I did not receive enough oxygen while being born, thus the trauma to my brain (and the nerves sending the faulty signals.). I have a slight disability, one that many people who encounter me daily do not even notice. Yet there are others who are left unable to walk, whose upper body is affected, who cannot speak, or who may also experience some cognitive difficulties as well. Aches and pains are nothing compared to how hard those individuals work every day. I have met many families whose children live life with complicated forms of CP. Their kids are always happy. They are brave and courageous even though they fight their body every moment of the day.

I have met adults who plow through life with joy and gusto, despite the toll CP takes on them.

It is for these individuals that I run. Because I can. I may not be fast. I may not be the most graceful runner. And I may walk at times. But right now I can run and I can do so for all those children who currently cannot.

For so long the scars on my body of years and years of surgeries (there were many during my childhood) were signs of defeat to me, signs that something was wrong while everyone else was walking around being just fine. Scars made me vulnerable and seemed to scream that something was wrong. Remember how I said being almost 40 brings about some wisdom? Well I can now realize that we all have scars. Some visible. Others hidden on the inside. I can see that the scars up and down the backs of my legs and the large one on my back are beautiful. They show resilience. They show strength. They show that I can do hard things, even if what I do looks different than the norm.

Here is where you come in to all of this, dear reader. No, you do not have to run along side me in two weeks. Rather I would love it if you would donate money in my name to the OM Foundation. Read their story and see the ripple one person is trying to make in the lives of children. Click HERE and check out my fund-raising website. I would be honored with any donation you are able to give.

March 5, 2017 is the big day. The calendar on my fridge is full of the miles already run in anticipation of this day. I currently have three outfits picked and ready to be worn, depending on the weather (Because if one is gonna run 13.1 miles, one should at least attempt to look cute). The list of what to pack sits next to me at my desk.

It should be a great day. Not because it will be easy or because of the medal and t-shirt given at the end.

Rather it will be a great day because I proved to myself that I control my story. I can be vulnerable and show those scars to others, knowing they do not think twice about such things.

And together we can all make a difference in the lives of children, showing them their lives have purpose and beauty regardless of a medical title placed over them.

 

No Tired Like Back to School Tired

backtoschool

I  feel like I could sleep for the rest of the week and still be tired.

We are in the middle of our third week of school. I have been doing this homeschool thing for six years. Prior to that I taught in public education for four years. Way before that I have 13 years of grammar school and six years of high education.

One would think that I would not be surprised by the complete fatigue that hits at the beginning of the school year.

However here I am wondering why my eyes can barely stay open past 8pm and planning that night’s bedtime as soon as the alarm goes off in the morning.

We are off and running on our sixth year of homeschooling. This year we have jazzed things up a bit by adding a second co-op. If one is fun, then two must be a blast, right?

The reason for the addition was to have a structured classical model guiding us each week. Also, the kids needed to take chemistry this year. I pretty much sat through high school chemistry with a confused look on my face so outsourcing this subject was a no-brainer for me.

Everything else is fairly routine around here. The extra cirriculuars are slowly picking back up. I am back to pinning crock pot recipes that I will actually never try. The lazy days of summer are starting to fade from memory as we remind ourselves how we do this how school/life thing.

 

 

In the Time of Love and Chore Charts

Nothing makes me happier than when all the major retail stores start rolling out the school supplies and the fall clothing.

Sure, I live in an area of the country in which we will not see fall temperatures until approximately November 14th, but I am still Fall’s biggest fan.

As we begin to prep casa de phillips for the 2016-2017 school year (coming at us in ONE WEEK. Summer, where did you go? Oh yeah, I decided to write a book this summer. That is where you went.), I start to evaluate our chore system.

Or our lack of chore system, as things seem to have gone as of late.

chore

I cannot tell you how many chore charts I have crafted over the years. I have had “check off the box” systems, match the cute icon systems, fancy chalkboard systems, and “For the love! Someone just pick up a dirty towel!” systems. No system seems to linger too long and often I wonder why I cannot manage to create a simple chore chart that works for our family.

I have a masters degree.

I paid big money to take courses on Behavior Modification.

Surely my brain could configure a chore chart that works.

This speculation causes me to dive deep into the root of the problem. The problem is not that I have yet to create the perfect system.

The problem is that I have yet to create the expectations.

Often times we set the bar low for our children. I look at their sweet faces and see toddlers rather than the nine and eleven year old standing before me. No longer do they possess chubby little baby hands useful for only grabbing Cheerios. Nope. Those kiddos can WORK and it is time for me to set the expectation for them to do so. I do not have to deem myself Cinderella (pre-glamorous makeover and missing shoe), busting my booty attempting to do all the chores while the children simply do their heart’s desires. It is time to have them earn their keep around the casa.

High expectations move children forward, providing a sense of responsibility and pride in their abilities.

Low expectations fuel a generation of entitlement and a belief that life is served up on a silver platter.

We are all out of silver platters over here, kids. It is time for us all to bust our booties.

How does one establish expectations, especially when one’s children only expect access to Minecraft 12 hours a day and a constant stream of entertainment?

Training

This morning I drug myself out of bed at 4:30am and got myself to the gym. Friday morning’s exercise regimen involves a total body conditioning class taught by a perky instructor who must live on caffeine and puppy hugs. As she cheerfully ran us through a tough workout, she reminded us that our planks (with a froggie burpie combo, mind you. No one should ever combine the two, in my opinion) only improved with training.  Apparently if I do train my body to do planks at any given moment, my body will not complain so much when it is time to hold said postion for two horribly long minutes.

The same theory applies to our children and chores.

When we train them on how to do chores, we provide them with the muscle memory to do those chores on repeat.

When we train them on what is expected of them, they learn to rise to the occasion.

Be Realistic

The expectations we set forth for our children must be realistic. This is a delicate dance between being real about what they can accomplish and setting the bar high enough based on ability.

For example, I have one child who is extremely creative.

Want to know what goes along with extreme creativity?

A trail of paper and glitter and half-completed projects that are always in some sort of work-state.

Keeping her room tidy is my Everest.

However, we work on keeping floors clean and containing her creative space to her desk top.

That desk top might not ever see the light of day while she lives under my roof. However, I am being realistic about the cleaning I expect of her when it comes to her personal space while allowing her spirit to shine.

Clear and Consistent

Remember that perky gym instructor I mentioned?

Every Friday morning she is quite consistent with those elaborate planks.

When we are consistent with our children in regards to chores, they understand that we actually do mean for them to get those chores done. Expectations have to be consistent.

The best way to establish consistent expectations is by setting the example with our own actions.

The Phillips’ Family budget is not set up for us to have a housekeeper come on a regular basis. Therefore the children and I set aside Friday mornings as our cleaning time. This is a consistent time we have established to clean our home. Although some people around here pretend to act shocked when I mention that once again we must pull out the cleaning supplies and get to work, in their little hearts they are expecting it.

Recognize Success

Want to know what warms my little heart?

It makes me feel like I deserve a big gold start for the day when my husband walks through the door at night and proclaims that the house looks nice.

He does not need to know that thirty minutes prior to his arrival lunch crumbs were still on the floor and a science project was scattered through the living room.

When he acknowledges the work I have put forth, I feel like I have won wife of the year.

The same philosophy holds true for our kids.

Recently I read how it is important for our children to know the positive impacts they have on our lives. I have been trying to put praise in tangible terms, rather than muttering a “Great Job” as I fly through my day.

Saying things like “You really blessed Mommy’s day when you unloaded the dishwasher and put the dishes away” recognizes their effort and shows them that said effort mattered.

If we want our children to take an active part in maintaining our homes (and we do, sister!) then we must acknowledge their work and the effect their work has had on our families lives.

Teamwork Mentality

Team sports were never my thing because I am not what one would call “athletic”. (Just ask that perky gym instructor). I did swim competitively growing up and would be on the occasional relay team for meets.

Those relay teams would be their most successful when we would all work together, figuring out the best configuration of swimmers to ensure a positive outcome.

Chores have a purpose. They are the mastermind of adults just wanting to make kids miserable.

When our children understand that as a family we work as a team toward a common goal (Not having the family home featured on Hoarders) they can adopt a team mentality. As mentioned, we do big cleanings on Friday mornings. The kids know that when our cleaning is done, we get to move on to more enjoyable tasks. We work together so we can play together.

 

As you stock up on three-pronged folders with pockets (Bless that requirement.) and search Pinterest for a cute back-to-school Teacher gift, do not feel like the solution of Back to School sanity lies in the perfect chore chart.

The solution is found in the expectations you establish for yourself and your family.

 

 

 

 

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