November 25, 2013

How Do You Teach “Thankfulness?”

Thanksgiving is a fantastic holiday.

I am all about getting together with family (which will hopefully happen again on a Thanksgiving someday). I am all about eating great food (mostly the dessert). I am all about kicking off a few months of holidays (because I love Christmas). And I am all about sharing what I am thankful for (including the bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard that I sneak small handfuls of, and that Jocelyn laughs every time we take her clothes off because she loves being naked).

But about a month ago my friend Kaylee came to visit, and in one of many great conversations she asked, “How do you teach kids to be thankful?”

And I had no idea. And in light of Thanksgiving, I would like to know the answer.

It’s hard enough to teach kids the politeness of consistently saying “please” and “thank you” (which I have always been impressed with how Kaylee, a career super-nanny, enforces this great habit with the children she cares for).

But her question reaches at something deeper than being polite and saying “thank you,” (because when I was little, if we fought in the car on the way home from Chuck E. Cheese’s, my mom would glare in the rearview mirror and yell, “So this is the ‘thanks’ I get for bringing you to Chuck E. Cheese’s today?!” And I was always confused because I never remembered saying “thanks” in the first place.)

Rather, I think her question points more toward an attitude or an action of being thankful.

So in your opinion, how do we (as teachers and parents) actually teach kids the deeper attitude and action of being thankful?

One thing that I found from being a first grade teacher is that kids learn by example. If I wanted students to speak with their “indoor voices,” I simply lowered my own voice. If I wanted students to not interrupt me, I simply listened first. If I wanted students to be honest, I made sure to admit my own mistakes (usually followed by me exclaiming, “Silly Mrs. Broekhuis!”).

And part of me guesses that thankfulness works the same way. (“Monkey see, monkey do,” right?)

But if that’s the case, how do I model thankfulness? Is it by saying “por favor” and “gracias” to the nice boy who makes our ice cream cones at McDonald’s every weekend? Is it by saying one thing I am thankful for every day of November? Is it by dressing Jocelyn up and putting a sign next to her that says “Be Thankful?” Is it by showing her our poor neighbors and saying “be thankful, because you have way more stuff than they do?” (which can be tempting in a third world country).

Thankfulness, I believe, is related to contentment.

So when I attempt to model thankfulness to Jocelyn, I hope I don’t just say “thank you, Lord, for all the awesome blessings I have in my life.” I hope she also hears and "sees" me say, “Lord, what I have is enough.” And even more importantly, “Lord, what I have is Yours.”

I hope that when days are “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” that I can show her how to keep a trusting attitude about where God has us. I hope that when I take her shopping I don’t have to buy the best, the most, or sometimes anything at all. I hope that when she sees us tithe, she sees us tithing joyfully, just as we saw and learned from our parents. I hope that when Jocelyn sees how generous our friends and family are towards us, that she will also see us being generous towards others (so that as we have freely received, we freely give).

Simply stated, I hope that we turn “thankfulness” into something we are (in the attitude that we portray), and something we do (in the actions we show).

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

So I am curious, (teachers and parents with way more experience than I have), how do you teach “thankfulness?”

Grace and peace,

November 12, 2013

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yesterday was a rough day.

And when I say “rough day,” I’m not talking about one big, horrible, life-changing event that is actually “rough.” I’m talking about lots of teeny tiny things that happen and screech your brain like nails on a chalkboard or a hair in your sandwich. Think Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

So let me complain and tell you all about it.

It started with not enough sleep. No, it wasn't Jocelyn's fault. It was bad dreams about tarantulas climbing up my pajama pants. (Yes, my nightmares almost always include spiders. You try sleeping while there are tarantulas crawling up your pajama pants.) 

In the morning I woke up with a crick in my neck, and a little diarrhea. (Oh wait, is there actually such thing as “a little” diarrhea?)

Halfway through my much-needed shower, Jocelyn woke up screaming from her nap. As I rushed out of the shower, I realized there were no towels in the bathroom, and that the closest towels were two rooms over. (Which made for one chilly streak to two rooms over.)

And after Jocelyn’s much-needed bath, she pooped through her diaper onto her clean clothes.

And for some reason on this day, I stopped enjoying nursing for a little bit. I think it's like a cruel joke that the child you are struggling to care for also has to literally be attached to you for 8 hours of the day. And pumping is not much better. Pumping is the cruel joke of making moms everywhere feel like cows on a dairy farm, hooked up to loud machines making weird noises.

But later, I pumped four ounces of milk for Collin to feed Jocelyn her first bottle.  Three out of the four ounces of that liquid gold spilled onto our bed.

In the afternoon, I began researching how much milk I would have to pump for Jocelyn when Collin and I take a trip to Mexico for our adult-only family vacation. And all of the mommy forums were full of mommies who “can’t even IMAGINE leaving one of their children behind to take a trip before they are two years old,” and how “there would be NO WAY they could leave their 7 month old behind,” and how “it would take a medical emergency like surgery or a coma for me to leave their 7 month old overnight, let alone a week!” (But laying on the beach at an all-inclusive resort for a week will kind of be like a coma, right?)

And to make myself feel a little better, I thought I would start a 30 Day Fitness Challenge. You know, simple exercises to make my post-pregnancy body a little less soft and saggy in areas that didn't used to be so soft and saggy. Well, doing crunches after having a baby does not actually make you feel better about yourself, but actually a little worse. What once used to be a nice, smooth crunch is now more like the jerky climb up the first hill of an old wooden roller coaster.

In the evening, Jocelyn cried for an hour and wouldn't fall asleep for her usual cat nap.

And later she peed through her diaper all over her clean pajamas. (Apparently we need to try different diapers?)

And then I looked at Jocelyn and saw once again that her head is getting flat in the back from “sleeping too long in the same position,” or whatever. And we try to move her head and make her sleep on a different side and everything. But my vain mommy self thinks “What if she ends up having to wear one of those stupid helmets someday?”

And sometimes being a #SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom…I just learned that this week) is really not that fun, and it’s kind of terrible-awful, and the same old routines get boring, and it makes me miss teaching every day, and I feel like I might go crazy if I spend another day in our house, and I think I just might move to Australia with Alexander.

But in no way do I regret our decisions. In no way am I ungrateful for the opportunity to stay home with Jocelyn every day. In no way am I not "enjoying every moment while they are this little" like every grandma tries to remind you. In no way do I hate being a mom. It’s just that today was not the best of “mommy” days.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to admit we have bad days, and that not every day is perfect or Facebook status worthy. I mean, I could always write a status update like the following: “Jocelyn woke up today! And then she nursed for about 10 minutes on each side. And then I changed her diaper. It was SOOO wet, so I threw the diaper in the trash. Then she played with a rattle for about 20 seconds and threw it on the ground. And an hour later it was nap time. She slept for 45 seconds. But then she woke up again! And started screaming!”

(Let’s be honest, some of our Facebook friends would find that status-worthy, but that’s an entirely different conversation.)

So I would like to raise a glass (hopefully of something with a little alcohol in it…) and make a toast to everyone else out there who had a rough and crappy day. No judgment. No superficial, overly-enthusiastic, or annoying tips on how to make your day better. Just a “yeah that kinda sucks,” and “let’s all hope for a better day tomorrow.”


And yes, usually this sweet face is pretty easy to love.

November 3, 2013

I don't know what to write about...

I could write about how we have finally gotten our two-year visas, after a year and a half of paperwork and way too many unsuccessful, 4 hour trips to the capital and back. (Who knew a little stamp in your passport would be so hard to get, and have so much power?)

I could write about how Collin ran in a 10K race organized by our Community Service class, which raised money to fix a local school’s roof.

I could write about how my friend, Kaylee, came to visit us for a week, and how it was the first time we have been able to spend more than a couple days together in about three years. And how we went to the hot springs, 

and we made pancakes for the shoeshine boys in the park with InnerChange, 

and we baked and we talked and we really enjoyed our quality time together.

I could write about how it was All Saints Day on Friday, so Collin didn't have school. 

And how we ate traditional “fiambre” (a meat and vegetable salad), and we went to the cemetery to look at the flowers,

and to fly kites.

I could write about how today was the Xela Half Marathon, so we watched people run past us for an hour so that we could cheer them on, including the man in a cow suit and another man dressed up like Jack Sparrow.

I could write about how I can’t count the number of times women have come up to me and told me that Jocelyn is going to get sick from the cold, or from me having her “in the street” at such a young age. And how on a 75 degree, sunny day, one of these women had her entire face wrapped in a scarf. And how to avoid judgment on these 75 degree, sunny days, I have to make sure she is wearing a hat and is wrapped in at least three blankets.

But I could also write about how Guatemalans of all ages adore children. And how it is a Psalm 127 culture, where “children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him,” and “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” And how people here teach their children to greet everyone, including the babies still in their mom’s tummy. And how so many men, women, and children come up to us so they can kiss and coo at Jocelyn, and tell me how beautiful she is. And how the birthday party we went to last night for a three year old turned into a worship service, celebrating children and praising God for the wonderful gift that they are.

I could write about how Jocelyn is three months old today. And how she is 13 lbs. 11 oz., and 25 inches long. (In other words, she has sky-rocketed off the charts here.) And how she is a very happy, content baby. 

And I could tell you how parenting, the thing I feared and worried about for 9 months prior to her birth, has now become one of the greatest joys of my life. And how I am so thankful for the gift of another month of life with Jocelyn in our care.

But I don’t know what to write about.

Grace and Peace,