Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Days That Are Tough: LOVE is the ANSWER (and so are chocolates)

Today is one of those days.  You know the ones where you are just grouchy - and so are the kidlets.  I can rate how my day is going depending on how many oreos I'm popping.  Some moments we just fill to the brim with frustration.  Yet in those same challenging days, we have sweet, precious moments.  I just watched in awe as my cute dimpled red head toddled her very first steps.  My little boy with tears in his eyes came running for a hug after he got corrected for spilling milk and food all over the "kitchen floor," which is actually carpet, bright purple carpet I might add :)!  I loved snuggling up on the couch to read books and smiling at Bradyen blowing me lots of kisses as daddy carried him to bed.  We want to be wonderful mothers who love our kids unconditionally and who teach them and cherish them!  We want that vision but somedays it can just seem so challenging when our patience and energy tank is on low.  What do we do when we have lots of little dependents needing every ounce of our time and attention?  What do we do when the very kids we give our life to and love so dearly - drive us bonkers?!  I'm learning the key is to LOVE MORE.

In those moments, sometimes I say in my mind this little poem/prayer I memorized:

A Mother's Prayer
O give me patience when tiny hands
Tug at me with their small demands.
Give me gentle and smiling eyes 
and keep my lips from sharp replies.
Let not fatigue, confusion, or noise       
Obscure my vision of life's fleeting joys.

For this love month, I've been reading "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Chapman and Campbell. The five love languages being: quality time, gifts, service, words of affirmation, and touch.  I've been so inspired by the emphasis how our children need to know of our UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  To experience our love in their understanding and so very deeply that they don't doubt it - even when they are disciplined for misbehavior or they do things we don't like.  That's what Christ does - He corrects us because he loves us, and His love is always unconditional.  Whew, I've sure got loads to learn, but I am grateful for this great refining journey!

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Unconditional love shows love to a child no matter what.  We love regardless of what the child looks like; regardless of her assets, liabilities, or handicaps; regardless of what we expect her to be; and, most difficult of all, regardless of how she acts.  This does not mean that we like all of her behavior.... A child's emotional tank must be filled before any effective training or discipline can take place."  Oh and check out page 21 - LOVE this.

"Even if your child's primary love language is not quality time, many children [I would think most] crave the undivided attention of parents." Quality time "means giving a child your undivided attention.... Few of us have enough time to do everything we need and want to; giving a child quality time may mean that we must give up something high on our list of preferences.  As children grow toward adolescence, they often require time just when we parents are exhausted, rushed, or emotionally out of sorts." Yet, giving of ourselves and our full attention "conveys this message: 'You are important.  I like being with you.'"

This afternoon I let out a great sigh of relief and utter exhaustion... My two kids were finally down for naps!  Wahoo!  Being in my isolated quarters, I needed some help and to know that I wasn't alone, that other mothers know it's hard sometimes.  So, I turned on a POWEROFMOMS.COM PODCAST from Saren, Shawni, & Linda about how "LOVE IS THE ANWSER".  Here are just some ideas that really stood out to me:

  • Convey "I LIKE YOU" (I like being with you.  I like who you are) as well as "I love you" (because I'm your parent). 
  • At night, watch your children's eyes light up as you talk about what good THINGS YOU NOTICED in them that day.
  • Set them aside somedays and write what they are good at - ONE ON EACH FINGER.  So, if you think a child is good at doing flips on the tramp write "F" on one finger and "B" on another if they are good at babysitting!
  • "LOVE MORE." When a child is misbehaving, think - he needs more love and attention (perhaps more sleep/food too!)
  • Many times our immediate reaction is  - you are driving me crazy! Or we just want to send them away.  Yet, when they are the most irritating, that's when you NEED TO LOVE THEM THE MOST. 
  • Explain WHY WE DO NOT DO SOMETHING - perhaps hit a sibling or take toys - because of LOVE.  WE are a family.  We love each other.  Jesus taught us how to love.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

More LOVE in your MARRIAGE - ideas from a remarkable lady

Ok, this woman - Shawni - is one of my greatest motherhood heros.  I feel like I know her just for reading her book "A Mother's Book of Secrets" and many of her mother - Linda Eyre's - books which are amazing!  I've never met her, but I do absolutely adore HER BLOG   Shawni puts her husband FIRST and that tremendously blesses her marriage and her children.  I love how hilariously down to earth she is and at the same time incredibly inspiring.  Her website would be definitely worth your time.  For Valentine's Day, here's some of HER LIST of how to show your husband you LOVE HIM:

Go to bed at the same time. (I know this doesn't work for everyone, but it makes a world of difference for us.)

If you go to bed at the same time, you get to have "pillow talk" which leads to belly laughs, which make me happy.

Find at least a few of the same things to be interested in together.

Never underestimate the power of touch. Even just a touch on the shoulder or a on his knee at dinner.

Tell your kids how excited you are to go on a date together with stars in your eyes.

Hug in front of your kids.

Continue "dating" regularly forever, even if it's an "at-home date" after the kids are in bed.

Drop everything you're trying to juggle some evenings and just snuggle on the couch.

Watch a show you like together while sitting in front of him on the floor...he rubs your back while you rub his feet. (or visa-versa)

Text him love-notes in the middle of the day.

Make an effort to give him a sincere compliment before you go to bed each night...something you noticed during the day. Be looking for the good instead of for opportunities to nag.

Laugh. A lot. Keep a sense of humor.

Someday, I want to do what Shawni does the month of February.  They decorate and write on hearts reasons they love each member of the family.  Then, they post those hearts up to enjoy the whole month!  Brilliant!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

50 WAYS to Show Your Husband You LOVE HIM

1. Choose to act, not re-act. 
Isn't it so natural to react to others, to become offended when someone is offensive?! To mentally blow up your spouse's faults to justify your "better," standing? To reflect shortness to someone's being short or irritable? You cannot ever change others, but you have the power to choose how you act and how you love.

2. Be the first to change. 

My husband and I once heard the advice to look into a “mirror,” when there’s any particular marriage issue…definitely NOT in an effort to blame yourself, but to ask yourself, “How can I change or make things better?” Or, “What can do differently?” Really, you are the only thing you can control, and your efforts can and may inspire your spouse.

3. Flirt with each other. 

It's funny how we totally flirt while dating, but once we're married we can easily forget to be fun with each other! Just because you've snagged him or her, don't stop flirting. Try to bring it back :).

4. Laugh more.

Remember when you were dating and you laughed about everything? We all can get into a rut and forget to have fun,  but we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to not be so serious all the time. The other night, my husband and I were bantering and laughing, and I caught a glimpse of my son’s wide eyes and sheepish smile. Children secretly light up inside when they see their parents laugh and connect!

5. Text each other.

Surprise him with a spontaneous, flirty text, or a sentence about why you are so grateful for her. Finding small ways to connect during the day makes a difference.

6. Initiate intimacy.

Through extensive research and experience in married couples therapy, Dr. Willard Harley discussed the top 10 marital needs in his book "His Needs. Her Needs." The needs that women rated as their top 5 were typically men's bottom 5, and vice versa. Harley explains that the marital need of "sexual fulfillment" doesn't necessarily mean just quantity, but even more - quality.  Interestingly, men feel most fulfilled and loved only when they feel their spouse is also desiring and also fulfilled. Dr. Harley counsels wives in therapy to discover how they personally can enjoy intimacy more and more, prepare for it, and especially choose to initiate.

7. Offer praise and show appreciation.
When your husband or wife works hard, or does something for you, let him or her know you appreciate them! Everyone desires to feel understood and valued. In a moment where you could become frustrated, first think of something you could be grateful for in your spouse. Interestingly, researchers have found that "praise and appreciation" are actually one of men’s top five needs in marriage. 

8. Drop everything. 

Try putting aside your eternal to-do lists just for a moment, and give your husband or wife your sincere, undivided attention.

9. Start a hobby together.
With our babies asleep at home one night, we decided to write a “bucket list” of fun things we wanted to do together.  We love rock-climbing, so we've started buying the gear. Find something you both would enjoy!

10. Read a book together. 

11. Plan a date night.
Even if it is in your own home, when the kiddos are asleep (but I love it when we actually leave the house!).  If you need some fun date night ideas, click here. It’s so important to have that time to fall in love all over again - just the two of you. Find what works for you, and maybe even officially ask each other out!

12. True love is never about you. 
I love the article "Marriage Isn't for You" where we learn "you marry to make someone else happy."  How can you build, and serve, and add to the happiness and well-being of your spouse?  

13. Feel beautiful.
Trying to oversee that four people get their teeth brushed, clothes on, hair done, and tummies fed means it’s easy for me to get last pickings on personal time.  One day with all my little buddies finally strapped in car seats, we made it all the way to the store before I realized I forgot my own shoes! However, I have made it my New Year’s resolution wife-goal to somehow find a way to feel more beautiful for my husband, because it seriously makes such a difference to me.

14. Remember the "real" golden rule.
In marriage, it’s not just treating your spouse the way you want to be treated, but meeting their needs in the way they want.  This takes lots of time, practice, trying and understanding - over and over again.

15. Make a surprise breakfast. 

16. Say you are sorry (sincerely).
Say you are sorry even before your spouse does, and irregardless of whether he/she gives an apology, too. I love the quote by Ruth Bell Graham, "A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers."

17. Remember the power of touch.
Spontaneously decide to dedicate an entire day to as many random acts of physical touch as possible… back scratches, hugging while talking, touches in passing, etc. 

18. Write a fun love note.
Maybe a "Top 10 Things I Love about My Wife," on the bathroom mirror, or post-it notes or a letter thrown in his car, or on the bedroom door. 

19. Light candles and give each other massages.

20. Grab a kiss while you wait. 
Kiss your husband or wife while you're waiting at the stoplight, or in the food drive-through, or at the grocery store...just because.

21. Remember the power of exits and entrances.
As you and your spouse say goodbye's and reunite again after a long day, be aware of how you show love during these important cross roads. 

22. Take interest in each other's interests.
Doesn’t it make you feel close to someone when they take a keen interest in what you love?! If it matters to your spouse, then it should matter to you because you love them. 

23. Dance together. 
Dance in the kitchen, in the parking lot, under the stars, in your home, anywhere... as long as you both would enjoy that.

24. Verbally show appreciation for your spouse in front of your family and friends. 
When with his family, for example, share real sincere appreciation for what your husband does or who he is. When you are around her friends, mention something specific you love about her.

25. Buy or make a surprise gift.
Surprise her with a fun gift that she would really enjoy. Or save the money and don't buy anything, if that's his love language! 

26. Find some sanity at home.
No matter how much we all work together on cleaning and organizing our house, it usually feels so overwhelming.  I do care about the environment of our home because it does affect everyone, especially me and my ability to focus more on relationships. I've also found that cleaning together as a couple can also be a good time to chat.  

27. Encourage his hobbies.
It will make a huge difference, and help him to feel more balanced, and to be his best self.  I sure need this, and I know he does too.

28. Take a hike or walk, while holding hands. 

29. Eat an ice cream cone together.
Buy one large cone and eat it together at the same time.

30. Pray together each night. 
Recently I attended a wedding ceremony where I heard some of the best marriage advice, it was this, "As you are praying together, express 1) something you love/appreciate about your spouse and 2) what you personally want to work on (to improve yourself)."  If you're not a praying couple, you could just verbalize this to each other.

31. Have a wrestling match.

32. Exercise together. 
One time, while doing a P90x workout, my husband caught me drinking milk during a "water break"... and dunking Oreos.

33. Cuddle while watching a movie. 

34. Make his favorite treat. 

35. Play a game together.
I kind of pride myself on being undefeated in Settler's...

36. Look in her eyes.
Try looking your wife straight in the eyes when she talks to you, to show her that she is your number one at that moment. Walking over to her and being close helps you be more focused on her, and helps to show you care.

37. Stick to the budget the two of you have worked out. 

38. Let her sleep in. 
Your wife probably seems to be the one who is always getting up with the kids, or getting up before you do. Let her sleep in from time to time. She will love you for it. 

39. Smile.  
Sometimes we are so bombarded with what we are doing we forget to smile. When your spouse is around or walks in the room, try smiling more.

40. Cook her favorite meal. 
Even if you don't know how to cook very well. Do a little research, call your mom, and surprise her with a special meal. It will mean a lot to her. 

41. Say, "I love you," in creative ways. 
It's easy to say the words "I love you," but it is way more fun to leave those words for your spouse to find in creative ways. Spell it out with cereal, with lipstick on the bathroom mirror, or little game pieces while you're playing a board game.

42. Offer to help. 
Your husband or wife has a kajillion things going on and it never hurts to take him or her by the shoulders and just say, "What can I do to help?"

come from the book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" by Dr. John Gottman, who has revolutionized the study of marriage.)

43. Soften your startup. 
John Gottman wrote "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," and hisresearch shows that “discussions invariably end on the same note they begin. … If you start an argument harshly – meaning you attack your spouse verbally – you’ll end up with at least as much tension as you began.  But if you use a softened startup – meaning you complain but don’t criticize or otherwise attack your spouse – the discussion is likely to be productive."

44. Enhance your "love map."
Dr. Gottman describes how couples need a "richly detailed love map," which means continually seeking to understand your spouse's current needs, stresses, worries, friends, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. We need to better understand how our spouses really perceive love. Here's the link to take the 5 Love Languages Quiz. It also goes deeper and more personalized than that, so keep exploring what helps you feel most connected and loved!

45. Nurture your fondness & admiration. 
Every now and then, stop yourself and just dwell on all the things you spouse does do, and all the little things you do admire about him/her. As you do this, your tender appreciation grows, and these inner feelings affect how you interact and treat your spouse. Just as people choose to dwell on their frustrations, "nurturing fondness," is also a choice.

46. Sometimes just go to bed!
We don’t always believe in the adage to "never go to bed angry."  Our kids sure struggle when they are overtired, and so do we. In a moment of frustration, when tired and cranky, sometimes it is best just to go to bed. You'll likely wake up in the morning with a renewed perspective! 

47. Turn towards each other rather than away.

48.  Inspire the best in each other.
Choose to see the immense good in the other and treat each other as such.  You are your spouses greatest supporter, and as you believe in him/her, they will aspire to really become that.  Tell him or her today one great attribute you see!

49. Hold your wife close.
Sometimes just hold your wife close, let her cry to you, let you unload all her feelings, tell her that your love for her and your relationship is more important than any problem to be solved.  If you spouse is inwardly hurt and being hurtful, sometime hold him and show an outpouring of love.

50. See your spouse as a person. 
Sometimes we can view those closest to us as objects to blame or criticize.  Remember that your spouse is a person, a part of you, that has real concerns and needs just as legitimate and important as your own! 

I hope we all can be filled with hope and charity and seek to just make ONE small step and change for the better!