The Story in My Head


I just finished reading Rising Strong this last week. It’s the first book I’ve read by Brene Brown, and I loved it, which is evidenced by how many page corners I folded down to remind me where my favorite passages were…

The whole book is amazing, full of many different ideas which I will be mentally chewing on for some time, but the one which impacted me the most was the idea of “the stories we tell ourselves”. She writes about the tendency we have to fill in missing details in our effort to understand ourselves, as well as other people.

“Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we’re in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn’t have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn’t like me. Our stories are also about self-protection. I told myself Steve was blaming me so I could be mad instead of admitting that I was vulnerable or afraid of feeling inadequate. I could disengage from the tougher stuff. That’s what human beings tend to do: When we’re under threat, we run. If we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame, or blame ourselves before anyone else can, or pretend we don’t care.”  (source)

I love to analyze, and I spend a lot of time in my own head, trying to figure things out. This can lead to some nasty storytelling, which I’ve been aware of for a long time, but it wasn’t until I read this book that it became clear to me while I was in the process of doing it.

It was one of those long, bumpier than normal kind of days, and I had already helped our sweet children through a long list of complaints, negative attitudes, and many other parenting challenges by the time Ben got home from work. While he was still by the door, yet another behaviour issue exploded, and I reached my limit. Ben could tell I was done for the day, and any parenting after that point could get a bit scary, so he, in an effort to be helpful, said, “Why don’t you go into the other room and let me handle this?”

Because of the frustration of the moment, I misunderstood his intent – Ben was trying to be helpful, but I thought he was telling me to go to the other room because I couldn’t keep calm while dealing with the situation. Instead of getting mad at our kid, I got mad at Ben. I held it in until I got to our bedroom, but I was furious with him, and feeling extremely justified. How dare he suggest that I was not capable of parenting our children in an appropriate manner? How could he make such a comment in front of our kids, criticizing my self-control and ability to handle the situation? “Somehow,” I thought to myself, “I manage to care for all three children every single day, all day long, while he is off relaxing in his office at work without any tantrums, screaming, or bad attitudes exploding in his face repeatedly!” (Like all he does all day is relax, but in the moment, I was not entirely reasonable!)

As these very heated thoughts blazed their way through my mind, Brene Brown’s question popped up: “What story am I making up in my head?” Immediately, I started to get curious. Why was I responding this way? What was making me so mad? What was going on behind all this anger?

The realization struck me – I was taking Ben’s words and interpreting them in a way which fueled insecurities about my parenting, rather than hearing what he was actually saying. He was offering me a break after a long day, but I was taking it as criticism of my parenting, and responding with anger on the surface, when deep down, I was actually feeling hurt and insecure in my parenting. I was ashamed that I couldn’t keep things under control, and disappointed with myself for how the day had gone.

It’s a lot harder to be honest about insecurity than about anger, but it makes for a much calmer, less explosive conversation. Because my issue was not even about anger, we would have gotten nowhere trying to work out what was making me “mad”, until I could recognize what was truly going on underneath. Once our kids were in bed, we had time to talk it over, and I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to tell him I was feeling shame and inadequacy as a parent, as well as hurt because I misunderstood his offer to help as a subtle sign of judgement.

I wanted to be mad, because it was easier, but admitting to the messier stuff underneath brought things to the surface which I needed to work through on my own, and had nothing to do with Ben.

Brene Brown Quotesource

It is really tempting to deny responsibility, or deny the messy, ugly truth deep down inside us. But that incident with Ben, which really had nothing to do with Ben, made me feel so much better when I could identify what was truly going on, and face the messy stuff. I still have a lot more internal housecleaning to do, but it makes a big difference already to be aware of these feelings of insecurity or inadequacy I have as a parent, and the lies they’re telling me.

All of this makes me curious about what else is lurking down there. I think I have a lot more stories to explore, and some brave new endings to write!

Adults Choose Their Work, and So Should Kids!

This is a follow-up post to The Box That Cleans My House – collecting kids’ items left lying around into a box, and having them do a chore to “buy” back their stuff. As I’ve read the comments on Facebook, I realized there was more to say on the topic….

A few months ago, I read this post about “paying” your children to do extra chores around the house, pointing out that adults choose to work for money, so why shouldn’t kids? Ben and I talked about the idea, but felt it didn’t fit with what we choose to do in our family – our kids get an allowance because they’re part of our family, and we work together because we’re a team.

However, I loved the idea of allowing kids to choose what work they want to do. There are days when I am suddenly motivated to do something in particular, which on any other day might have felt like too much work. I like to go with what motivates me. Also, Ben got to choose his job. He has to work, but nobody is forcing him to do the job he does.

So I sat down and made a list of every job I could possibly think of that the girls could do, and put the list on the fridge. We’re trying to have them do any two each day, but if they’re buying back items from the box, they do extra. These are in addition to the regular chores they have to do every day – make beds, clean up their bedroom, polish the bathroom, empty the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen/dining room floor, and set and clear the table.


I wanted to find easy, manageable jobs for them to accomplish quickly, because this isn’t supposed to feel like a punishment – I try to talk a lot about learning to enjoy work, or at least enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done.;)

Here’s the list:

  • Wash bathroom, entrance, or kitchen floor
  • Sweep bedrooms
  • Fold towels
  • Wipe bathroom cabinets
  • Dust baseboards
  • Dust piano
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Wash a window (inside)
  • Organize the Tupperware drawer
  • Organize shoes in the closet
  • Empty garbage
  • Collect garbage/random objects from inside the SUV
  • Water the garden


Sometimes I let them help in the kitchen or take care of Everett as a “chore” – depends on what needs doing each day.

What has been most interesting to me is seeing which jobs the girls choose. Kaylia chooses anything in the kitchen, or organizing things, and a shiny piano is her new pride and joy. Anika loves washing floors or sweeping.

Judging by that list, one would think my house is spotless all the time, but it’s not – things get busy, and I don’t always have the time or energy to make sure the girls are doing two extra chores every single day. But it’s a process – I loved this post: Why Teaching Your Kids to Do Chores is Like Paying Your Mortgage. We’re thinking long term here – long term benefits for me and for them. I like to think about what kind of adults they will grow up to be if I can train them well!

So that’s the list of chore choices at the moment, but I’d love to hear your suggestions! Can you think of any quick chores I can add to the list?

Learning to Love Well

Ever done the whole “Love Language” thing? My main language is quality time, followed by acts of service. This means that if you want to show me love, you spend time with me. Or do something practical and nice for me.

It also means that when I’m trying to love somebody, I’m going to give them my time, and make them food or do their laundry. Most of the time, this means I feel like I’m being super loving to my family – I stay at home all day, and do stuff for them around the house. How much more could they be loved??!!

The only problem is that they have different love languages than I do. So I try to work on that, because saying “I love you” in French to someone who only understands English does not get you very far.

But something important clicked for me recently – Ben and I were talking about parenting, and I said something dramatic, like “I’m giving EVERYTHING for our girls!!”

As soon as I said it, something inside my head stopped me, and I thought, “Wait, no, I don’t. I don’t give EVERYTHING. I give most of my time, every day, but there are lots of other ways in which I could be less selfish, and love more.”

I’ve never thought about it before, but I think this may be one of the reasons why I homeschool. I’m giving our girls my best love by spending all this time with them. Why would I want them in school all day, and spend my time on something less important to me than them?

I think it’s a significant thing for me to realize, because it gives me permission to not be with them all the time. I can still be a loving mom, even if I do other things.

Kendra and Anika

Even more importantly, maybe I can hold time a little looser, and not see my love as being measured by how tightly I hang on to this time with them.

You know how people always tell you to enjoy every moment with your kids, because they grow up so quickly? This has always put a ton of stress on me, because of this whole “loving with time” thing. It’s as though I see the best part of my life as being with my children, and this precious time is slipping away, and I MUST HANG ON TO IT AND SOAK IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT!!! Because even random strangers tell me to do so.

But I read an amazing blog post this week:

There is a difference between having an awareness that time is fleeting and having anxiety that time is fleeting, and the latter is born out of the same fear of scarcity that makes women panicky for their opportunities in life. There are only so many chances–get it because another woman will. There are only so many baby days–soak them in because you’ll never feel this happiness again. Lies, lies, fear and lies.

The truth is, time is moving just as quickly as it moved 100 years ago–as quickly as it moved for our mothers and their mothers and their mother’s mothers–60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day.

Last year, after accepting that we were done having kids, cleaning the baby clothes out of the attic and tucking Lainey’s kindergarten projects in a safe place to save forever, I challenged myself on the language I use and the terminology that folds over and over in my mind and heart when reflecting on my kids’ childhood. They’ll never be this little again. Time is fleeting. We’re done with 6-9 months clothes. Toddler days are over, soak up the preschool ones! Never, fleeting, done, over. Scarcity much? I’ve worked hard to replace these words with powerful, progressive ones in my motherhood vocabulary–growing, moving, learning, blooming–and take great pride and pleasure in the opportunity of forward movement, the gift of time and more time.

Guess what? I get to love my kids and give them my time, even when they are adults! And there are tons of ways to love my kids well, that don’t involve all this pressure on time. I need to know that.

I need permission to let the days flow through my fingers with pleasure, instead of tightly grabbing hold of every single moment. I need to know that when I look back, this time will have been good, and I gave a lot to them, in the ways that mattered most to me and to them.

Anika started randomly listing all the things she loves about me one day. I think she knew I was discouraged, and wanted to cheer me up, so this is what she said:

  • “You let us play Civilization on the computer.” (True love right there, hey?!)
  • “You homeschool us when you could send us away to school.” (Melt my heart – she’s speaking my language!)
  • “You believe in Jesus.”
  • “You’re a good cook.”
  • “You love us.” (Maybe they’re getting the important stuff??!)

Then Anika asked Kaylia, “Why do you love Mommy?”

Kaylia said, “Because.”

She was quiet for a bit, and I wasn’t expecting anything more from her, but suddenly she said, “She prayed for us before we were in her tummy.”

My sweet girls, I don’t love them as well as I should, but how wonderful to be reminded that sometimes I get it right, and they feel it! And we keep trying.

Kendra and Kayliaphoto credit: Morgan Braun

The Best Advise I’ve Ever Been Given About Fighting

It drives me crazy when my kids fight. I’ve struggled with this one for a long time, and I’ve written about it before, but I’ve never really felt as though there was significant improvement in this area.

I’m tired of being told, “Kids just fight.”

I’m also tired of hearing that “Kids should work out their own problems.”

I can’t live with all the fighting, and I can’t just leave them alone to work things out. Maybe that works for some people, but with an age difference of five and a half years between our girls, “working things out” generally goes the same way each time: Anika talks circles around Kaylia, using manipulation and vocabulary far beyond what Kaylia knows how to deal with, Kaylia gets so mad and frustrated she ends up biting Anika or pulling her hair, and then there’s lots of screaming and tattling, and me losing my sanity well before it’s even lunch time.

I refuse to believe this is what I have to accept as “normal”.

A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a very wonderful, wise lady whose children are all grown up and awesome. She gave me some advise that has completely changed the way I think about fighting between siblings, the role of a parent, and what we need to accept as normal.

She said that when her kids were small, she never listened to music – she just listened to her children. All day long, she always kept an ear open to what was going on.

She claimed that a mom can always tell when things are starting to go in a bad direction, and she said the very best way to deal with fighting is to prevent it from ever happening in the first place.

Brilliant, right?! Prevention is always best! It reminds me of how we can get so focused on healing a sickness, when really, it’s much easier to stay healthy than trying to get back your health once you’ve lost it! But it requires staying on top of things, and being very vigilant and intentional.

So, how do you prevent fighting? This wise mom said her mom had always used distraction.

Announce that it’s time for everybody to go outside for 15 minutes.

Set the timer for three minutes, and see how much everybody can clean up before the time is up.

Play a game.

Do anything to change the atmosphere, and get the situation going in a completely different direction.

I asked her if her kids ever resisted her suggestions, because they wanted to keep doing whatever they were in the middle of. She said no, because by the time things were heading towards a fight, no one was having fun anymore, and they were ready for a change. She also said her children had absolutely no idea how often she had used distraction to prevent a fight.

At first I thought, “Isn’t that cheating?! Don’t I need to let them pick fights so they will learn how to resolve them??”

But then I realized there are lots of things we do to prevent bad moods and behaviour. How much we sleep, what we eat, how much down-time we get, etc, all contribute to our moods and our ability to interact with others in a positive way. As my massage therapist would say, these are all “tools in our tool belt”!

I’m sure there will still be plenty of opportunities to help my girls learn how to positively work through conflict (I wrote about some of our techniques in this post), but I’m completely fascinated with the challenge of redirecting and distracting as we pursue peace and harmony.

I haven’t been trying this technique for very long, but it’s been working beautifully, so far. The wise mom is right – I can always tell when it’s time to shake things up. I’m spending more time being aware of what’s going on in our home, and thinking more intentionally about how to guide and direct my girls.

washing dishes

Keeping kids busy keeps them out of trouble. And when we see trouble coming, it makes sense to steer clear of it!

Any ideas you use for distraction?!

5 Tips to Stop the Yelling

I don’t even want to have this post on my blog. I never thought I would be a parent who could ever yell at my darling children. But one of the most important things I’ve learned about yelling at your kids is that it really has very little to do with your children, and everything to do with the parent.

Five Ways

When we only had one child, I was a fairly fantastic parent. I never yelled. Ever. There was no need to. Anika was very well behaved and obedient, and there was no other kid in the house for her to fight with, or have to share with. We spent hours reading together, all cozily curled up together, and life was quiet and awesome…but a little lonely! We definitely knew we wanted a sibling for her.

I finally got pregnant, after years of hoping, and suddenly, I wasn’t quite so patient. I was sick, grumpy, and hormonal. It was during that time when I first started to lose control of the volume of my voice. I hated it, because it wasn’t the kind of parent I wanted to be, and I loved Anika so much, but it was a problem that I’ve struggled with ever since.

I didn’t yell a lot, and when I did, it was usually connected to PMS or pregnancy hormones, but whatever the reason, it needed to stop. Things reached at climax when school ended this spring, because the girls were having a hard time adjusting to a summer schedule – or lack of schedule, and seemed to be filling their free time with bickering and fighting. It drove me crazy, which didn’t take much, because once again, those pregnancy hormones were raging.

I had read something in a book that stuck with me – Dr. Caroline Leaf writes in Switch on Your Brain that in order to lose weight, or change any kind of habit, it has to begin in the mind. Your thoughts need to change before your behaviour can change. I started thinking about how I could use her three week Brain Detox program to stop yelling. I had no idea if it would work, but it was worth a shot.

I learned the most interesting things about myself, and my sweet children. I can’t say I’m now perfect, and will never yell again. What I can say is that things are different around here, to the point where one night, Anika turned to me and said, “Mommy, you don’t really yell much anymore.” Bittersweet moment – I was so glad she noticed the difference, but she should never have needed to experience the yelling in the first place.

So for all those parents out there who dearly love their kids, and want to stop the yelling, I’m offering this little list of what I’ve learned as I’ve worked to change my mind, in order to change my mouth:

1) Start a Journal.

Part of the three week Brain Detox is being very intentional with what you think and say, and writing is the best way to keep track of what’s going on, as well as to plan for what you’re going to do differently.

Every night, I would write down everything I had yelled about. I would write down the behaviour that bugged me, how it made me feel, and how I could handle it differently the next time it happened.

I wrote down inspiring quotes on parenting and loving your kids, and verses about parenting and love, and anything else I thought would fill my mind with desirable thoughts.

Journaling was an incredibly helpful exercise in getting me thinking about what the root problems were in the negative situations we were facing.

2) Figure out what behaviour makes you yell, and find a different way to fix it.

Once I started seeing patterns in my journaling, I could come up with a consistent consequence or solution for those specific problems. When the situation would come up, I would be prepared with what to do.

For example, the big things that tick me off and get me raising my voice are:

  • Being spoken to in a disrespectful voice (Obviously, yelling is NOT going to help that situation!)
  • Repeated complaining
  • Repeated disobedience, when I’ve just dealt with that exact problem five minutes ago
  • Misbehaving when we’re late, and I’m trying to get everybody out the door as fast as possible

It was those same things, again and again. So Ben and I discussed it, and we tried to come up with consequences for those problems. And something as simple as getting the girls to wait in the car for me, instead of fighting with each other in the entrance, helped me to feel less frazzled about getting out the door, and I couldn’t yell at anyone because they weren’t there!

3) Recognize what puts you in a yelling mood, and keep it from happening.

My journal helped me to realize that I start yelling every Saturday morning around 10:00am. Up until then, our Saturday mornings are perfect. Ben makes waffles, we have a slow morning in our pajamas, we usually don’t have anywhere to go, and it’s very relaxing. But the fun always stops at 10:00. Why??!

Well, I came across this awesome article which opened my eyes. I may never be the same again. I would never have considered myself a “highly sensitive parent” before, but as I read that list, I could relate to so much of it. She writes about how we can be extremely affected by our physical environment – smells, touch, noise, etc.

You know what bugs me? Sitting around in my pajamas without brushing my teeth, combing my hair, or washing my face, for too long. I’m good till about nine o’clock. After that, I feel disgusting.

Yet every Saturday morning, I was doing this for hours, until I was totally grumpy. I started pulling on a pair of sweats first thing in the morning, and I felt SO MUCH better, just because I was dressed! I stopped waiting so long to get ready in the morning, and it made a huge difference.

A messy house also makes me grumpy. I don’t need the house to be spotless, but I like things picked up and put away. I’m trying to get the girls to do that before it starts aggravating me too much, or else I remind myself that it’s temporary mess, and at the end of the day, they’ll clean up their toys, and my house will be clean. It IS clean, under those toys.

Even what I eat makes a difference in my mood! How much I sleep, or if I’ve exercised that day – all these things affect my mood.

If I pay attention to my environment and things that make me grouchy and uncomfortable, I can take steps to prevent myself from going there, and will be less irritable, and less likely to yell.

4) Recognize what is behind the misbehaviour.

Just as I have reasons for yelling, my children have reasons for acting out.

A friend reminded me of this after we had spent a very hot afternoon at the beach with our kids. Both of my girls were unusually grumpy, and I was tired and impatient with them. I couldn’t understand what in the world was wrong with them. But then my friend said, “All kids get grumpy when they’re hot and tired.”

I suddenly realized I had forgotten to think of them as little people with problems as real as my own. I started to imagine how they must be feeling, instead of just being frustrated with the behaviour it caused.

There are tons of things that make my girls cranky – too much sugar, a bad night’s sleep, not drinking enough water on a hot day…the list could go on and on. Most of the time, they aren’t trying to be naughty or annoying. They don’t recognize what is making them uncomfortable and irritable. I need to recognize their needs, teach them to recognize their needs, and not put so much weight on the crankiness – often, that’s the symptom, but not the problem.

5) Choose what eyes you will use to see your children.

Since the day our girls were born, I would sneak into their rooms each night, just to watch them while they sleep. So innocent and peaceful and adorable. Those soft, warm, relaxed cheeks, and hot little hands poking out from under the blanket. What parent in their right mind could yell at such angels??!!

And then the next morning, they’d start making choices that annoyed me, and there we’d go again. No more soft-cheeked angels!!

Except… they were still the same kids – I was just seeing them differently. I started trying to take a breath, gain a bit of control, and remind myself that these were my sweet girls – my precious children whom I loved so much.

I tried to delight in them more throughout the day.

And they are really quite delightful! The more I delight in them, the less I feel like yelling at them when a problem arises.


But like I said, as awesome as these tips have been, I am not a perfect parent. I’ve needed to remind myself many times that we get a fresh start tomorrow. I apologize when I mess up, and then we try again.

Do you have any tips to add? How do you keep your cool when your kids are going crazy?!


Replenish: Sneak the Good Stuff in Through the Back Door!

I received an advanced copy of Lisa Grace Byrne’s new book, Replenish, for reviewing purposes earlier this summer, and have been wanting to share my thoughts on it with all of you…

A few months ago, I read that the best way to add a healthy habit into your life is to stop focusing on the junk you need to take out, and focus instead on how much good you can bring in. That way, as you fill your life with goodness, the junk will gradually get squeezed out, and will happen with less pain and discomfort!

The example used was eating more vegetables, and less junk food. When we focus on the guilt of how bad we’re eating, and make strict guidelines, we’re constantly thinking about how deprived and depressed we are. Instead, we could be choosing to celebrate all those awesome, healthy choices, and feel really good about what we’re adding to life, instead of what’s being taken away.

ReplenishSmallBoundariesThe thought has stuck with me, and so when I started reading Lisa Byrne’s new book Replenish, I was fascinated with her use of this strategy for moms who are feeling stressed, depleted, and exhausted. She suggests the need to bring balance in “through the back door” – instead of trying to get the stress under control, let’s rather bring in tools that grow a sense of calm, balance and rest. As we do this, we’ll equip ourselves to deal with the craziness, and eventually it will start to diminish. As we take steps to bring the calm in, we will notice the stress ease without needing to fight it head-on.

She writes about small, manageable steps that are easy to take, and she makes them sound so easy, so attainable, that I found myself willing to try strange, new things I’d never considered before. Suddenly, Lisa Byrne has me breathing in lavender oil to calm myself, or trying to get to bed a little earlier each night.

She writes about seven different ways in which we can bring in more balance: a calm mind, sovereign thoughts, a nourished body, restorative rest, joyful movement, anchored quiet, and authentic connection. As she focuses on each of these topics, she provides a list of simple, helpful, practical steps which can be easily included throughout the day.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, as I’ve enjoyed Lisa Byrne’s blog and many webinars over the last few years, and I was not disappointed with Replenish. Loved it.

I would recommend it to any mom who’s feeling tired, and needing some fresh ideas for getting rested up and refreshed!

Are you a fan of Lisa Byrne? Check out her blog here if you haven’t before!

Remembering How “The Basics” Can Make Such a Difference

I read a fantastic blog post a few days ago, and now I can’t find it again anywhere, but it’s stayed on my mind constantly ever since. It was about how we as parents can have more patience with our kids. Five steps to becoming a better parent. I read it very eagerly. And guess what – most of them had nothing to do with the kids.

Most of them had to do with getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating well, exercising.

I was expecting great new parenting strategies. It was an excellent reminder that if  you’re not taking care of the basics, nothing else will go very well.

I’m painfully aware of that this morning. A friend was over last night until midnight, and while the conversation was inspiring, I knew I would feel it in the morning. And feel it I did. Anika and Kaylia felt it, too, I’m pretty sure.

It’s very hard to be patient when you’re tired.

So I could beat myself up for being a crumby parent today, or I could realize that I need some sleep, and we’ll try everything again after a nap. I’m trying to be realistic about limitations and expectations. Naps are a wonderful thing.