Looking Back at Lily (2020-2021)

Make-believe Lily is always up for an adventure! Her magical schemes lead her out into the yard using sticks as sceptors riding imaginary horses and jaquins. While she is not your everyday princess, Lily’s magical spirit and transform a room from gloom to laughter.

She is a natural entertainer and hopes to foster her skills at singing and playing the ukelele. Thank you to Uncle JD and Papa Ron for her lessons!

Lily is also an animal lover and is committed to helping Cooper (our new goldendoodle) stay active everyday. She also makes it a point to say good morning and goodnight to Mittes, our kitty, too.

Lily’s eyes are set on becoming a baker when she grows up. She hopes to own her own cafe where she is the lead cook and baker and keeps a secret menu for those who may not have enough money to pay for their own meal. I have a lot to learn from Ms. Lily’s perspective on life.

Join me as we take a look back at Lily’s last year to the tune of Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves…

Lily at seven years…

Lily at six years…

Lily at five years…

Lily at four years…

Lily at three years…

Lily at two years…

Lily’s First Year…

Looking Back at Rosie (2020-2021)

Little Miss Rosie remains our firecracker who routinely goes from zero to 60 in emotion and physicality. She is the household gymnast and is committed to doing at least 30 gymnastic tricks each day to fine tune her cartwheels, splits, front walk over and back handspring. She is excited to try team gymnastics this fall.

Ellie prides herself in her organization skillset and takes pride in the cleanliness of her space.

Rosie was also over-the-moon this last year when we purchased a family cat, named Mittens. She has commenced her journey as a cat lady.

Now, a look back at our Ellie Rosie over the last year set to the tune of Fast by Luke Bryan…

Ellie at seven years…

Ellie at six years…

Ellie at five years…

Ellie at four years…

Ellie at three years…

Ellie at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Ellie’s First Year…

Looking Back at Theo (2020-2021)

This year, we decided to sandwich Theo right in the middle of his four sisters! This is how this gentleman felt over the last year and a half. He was a trooper in playing whatever his sisters had in mind but also got an abundance of boy-time with Dad.

Theo dove head first into his first little league in house and traveling seasons this year coached by his Daddy. He continues to love short stop but worked his way around the diamond and strengthened his skills at third, first and pitcher. He even got his first home run at the last tournament of the season. He is looking forward to continuing to play with a 8U/9U team this fall and explore boys gymnastics with the sister crew.

When Theo doesn’t have a mitt on he typically is building, creating or seeking answers to his many questions. He proudly presents me with a fun fact of the day. I’m learning a lot, too!

Now, a look back at Theo’s last year to a song by Florida Georgia Line entitled Simple…

Theo at Six Years…

Theo at Five Years…

Theo at Four Years…

Theo at Three Years…

Theo at Two Years…

Theo’s First Year…

Looking Back at Bella (2020-2021)

Isabella Marie remains the creative quint from singing to a variety of art; Bella loves to create!

Her sweet voice continues to be heard at night, long after her sibs have fallen asleep. Her lullabies last until Mom and Dad’s bed time and are usually the sounds that we all wake up to. This night owl also has the strongest gratitude practice in the house. It is not uncommon for her to sneak in a quick thank you, hug and kiss for even the smallest of tasks.

This last year, Bella fell in love with American Idol and was Willie Spence’s BIGGEST fan! However, her love for Willie is rivaled by her fandom for Javier Baez and Patrick Mahomes.

Now, a look back at Bella’s last year set to the tune of the Friends Theme song…

Bella at seven years…

Bella at six years…

Bella at five years…

Bella at four years…

Bella at three years…

Bella at two years…

Bella’s First Year…

Looking Back at Kali Mae (2020-2021)

The birthday countdown to 8 begins! This year we’re starting with Kali Mae!

As many of you know, Kali is a unique blend of sugar and spice. She has been on a journey of exploration this last year. The social isolation that accompanied COVID-19 was hard on Kali; she would often comment on how many days, weeks, months it had been since she saw her besties.

As we open back up, Kali’s spirit returns and is highest when she’s with friends.

Kali’s curiousity rivals Theo’s and her love for animals is great! She has also discovered a new adventure- horseback riding! She even hopes to become a professional equestrian!

Before we dive into our montage, due to copyright claims all music had to be muted in the videos. Kali’s song for this year was Refrigerator Door by Luke Combs.

Now, let’s look back at Kali over the last year…

Kali at seven years…

Kali at six years…

Kali at five years…

Kali at four years…

Kali at three years…

Kali at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Kali’s First Year…

Exploring 7-year-old Wisdom

It has been quite some time since I posted. In all honesty, I didn’t have words or perhaps enough emotional energy to put my thoughts into words. The last 365 days have forever changed our lives. Rollercoasters of feelings as we witnessed a viral pandemic that sent us to our homes. It was hard to swallow the fact that for many their home may not feel safe or be secure.

Inequities came to light. Racial and class tensions grew. Politics continued to polarize and many didn’t know how to process. “Flatten the curve,” “quarantine,” “new normal,” “coronavirus,” “COVID,” and “pandemic” are all words that were foreign over a year ago and may be everyday language now and forever.

As the country re-opens, people are emerging from a yearlong hibernation. Some appear scared, timid, and anxious while others are over-joyed and excited to “get back to normal.” In conversations, at home, at work, at the grocery store you hear people recounting what they’ve learned and what they finally took time to do. Habits and routines they worked hard to develop and don’t want to lose, Some open up to share how old, ugly coping strategies have returned due to periods of high stress in socially isolated homes.

While we didn’t choose to share all of the events that unfolded in the last year, I believe our children learned more than we sought to teach them. I continue to be humbled by their perspectives and learnings.

Most dinners, the kiddos chat about anything and everything while the adults take turns playing crowd control and wait staff. But, the other night we shifted the conversation to reflect upon how this Spring break was different and what they had learned because of the pandemic.

Theo shared that masks are uncomfortable and don’t feel good but they’re important because they protect others. We need to continue to wear our masks.

Lily echoed Theo’s sentiments about masks but shared how important she believes it is to be kind and put others’ first.

Bella recognized how she hadn’t been to a store to browse, dream or purchase everyday items. She shared her gratitude for online shopping conveniences which helped us to keep home feeling “normal.”

Ellie pointed out that not everyone had it the same. She is grateful that we always had what we needed. She also shared how good it felt to be able to spend a lot of time with her family.

Kali wrapped up the children’s contributions by sharing how more time at home created more time for each other and other activities.

We sat and smiled and thanked them for their wise words. As I sit here now, I continue to believe that my children will forever teach me more than I will ever teach them. For this, I am grateful.

It is my ongoing hope that we’re raising game changers. We aim to preserve their precious outlook on life, foster their imagination and creativity, encourage their curiosity and willingness to ask questions and the ability to know when to speak up and share their voice and when to be quiet and simply listen. Our home has privilege and I believe our children are beginning to realize this. It is my prayer that they will continue to share this power, dismantle imbalances, explore history and its implications so that we can have a more equitable and just tomorrow.

Change is the only constant in life

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
We have all experienced significant changes over the last several weeks. We are familiar with change but, often only anticipated change such as the growing of our children, the changing of seasons and of course the dreaded time change. But recently we have all experienced changes which were unanticipated and have left many of us feeling confused, anxious, sad, and lonely.
As I reflect over the time of this pandemic, I see that it truly has only been a few short weeks but has felt much longer. It is also hard because we don’t know how long these “short-term changes” will last. We know that they are necessary to “flatten the curve” the changes were successful in doing just that. We also know because the curve is now flat that we are destined to long-term change.
It is too easy to dwell in the darkness and rehearse the sad stories over and over in our minds. I have heard that negativity is like velcro in our brains. We have to work hard to not think about the shortages across the world, the astronomical number of deaths and those who have died without anyone by their side, the lonely funerals, the distance between loved ones and the unknown future. It is much harder to rehearse the blessings in disguise. These are often like a fried egg slipping off a well-greased pan.
We need to practice gratitude and slow down enough to smell the roses and see the beauty that will rise again. With great tragedy comes hardship but I know that our lost loved ones, our economy, our country will rise again.
There is beauty amidst this darkness; like the opportunity to spend more time as a family. The time which used to fly by has slowed; days used to feel like minutes and now those same days feel like weeks. The weather is warming and many are seeking outdoor fun and a breath of fresh air. Organizations have had to think creatively and divergently about staffing solutions, shortages and strategies for the pandemic, this has brought about new leaders, teamwork and efficiency. Again, it is too easy to sit back and complain but much harder to take this change in stride as children do.
I have taken time to think about how my children have handled the last several weeks. They have grown accustomed to schooling at home and now love it! They have never complained about not being able to leave the house or not being able to go to the store. They have been flexible with the food we have available to us; while there was complaining at first this has become the new normal. They question out of curiosity but never argue with the answer that “this is how it is for now.” They’ve soaked up the extra snuggles, enjoying having everyone at home and look forward each and every day to the high fives and embraces that await when they reunite with their friends, their teachers, and loved ones.
So, I hope that all of us can take a moment to let go of the darkness and for a brief moment welcome in the light that our children so easily see. This too shall pass, the only constant in our life is change so, let’s enjoy each and every step by finding the goodness in each day. For without rain we would never see the rainbows.
Here are some of our blessings and memories from Quarantine in 2020…

The Most Magical Place On Earth

After nearly a year of planning, our family took on Disney with confidence, gratitude and sheer awe. The Disney experience is truly life-changing. From the built environment to the personalities of the cast members, they truly transform the world for kids of all ages. Our 8-day plan included a 4 park pass to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We made sure to keep our park days manageable by getting their at rope drop and bowing out around dinner time each evening. This helped with the traffic and prevented major meltdowns. Since we were staying off property our fast pass opportunities were fair, especially because we were booking for a party of ten. But, it still helped to provide the necessary structure for our Disney Park agendas. At the end of the day, we were tired but not exhausted and after our 2-day respite we were ready for the remaining two parks.

Instead of rambling on about our daily itineraries, I’d like to tell the story in pictures, which starts of course with our BIG REVEAL!

A Language of Love is A Guide to Discipline

I often get questions about if our routine as a big and busy household is any easier now that the V5 are older. I always must pause and reflect to think about what it was like when our life revolved around 90-minute feeding regimens, or the 3 critical naptimes. It is in these moments that I realize life is speeding by us and while moments can be difficult making the days long, the weeks, months and years feel quite short.

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Our difficulties in previous years revolved around time management, physical safety and growth. While these are still priorities, our focus today is on social and emotional health. I have been reading Dr. Gary Chapman’s book entitled, “The Five Love Languages of Children.” I am a big fan of individualizing the way we love others to best fill their “tanks.” This has been important in our marriage and is becoming more important in our family. I have recognized from the beginning that even though the V5 are a unit; this unit is made of very different parts. Parenting is not one-size-fits-all. A post from Positive Parenting Connection states,

“When parents take into consideration that each child comes into the world with a mind and heart all their own, they can then explore the most effective ways to connect with and guide their child.”

This quite holds so much truth for me. It helps me to realize that not only do I need to individualize the way I love but also the way I teach, guide and discipline each of my children.

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The Love Languages can also shine light upon the best way to discipline, or “the practice of training,” our children in the way we should go. We are not simply trying to modify behaviors, establish good habits and make little “yes” men and women, but we are in the business- as parents- in making good humans with strong and compassionate hearts. I don’t want to stifle my children’s questions and creativity with over-scheduling or take away their voice because I believe my way or ideas are better. I don’t want to raise robots; I want to raise 5 resilient, empathetic, creative adults who are not afraid to work, play, or even combine the two.

I am still investigating my children’s dominant love languages and in doing so I am also experimenting with the most effective way to discipline them. For those less familiar the Five Love Languages include:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Quality Time
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gifts

I’m certain all my children enjoy getting gifts, but this doesn’t light their eyes up like a note in their bed-time journals, special time with them on the weekends, or getting to sit on our laps during story time. The more effort I put into loving them in their own way, I find that their trust and respect for my changes. These are two things that I hope to never lose. These languages also help me to prevent hurting their spirit when I need to discipline them.

We have tried several different strategies for discipline and sometimes we believe the lie that they will always be this sassy and disrespectful. In the moment, my frustrations, anger and lack of patience are at a climax but at night when the house is quiet I reflect on what was really going on. Often, I was modeling sass and disrespect seeking to “steam roll” versus redirect. I would love to be a perfect parent but I’m not. I’m an emotional parent who is easily over-whelmed. I also find that when I take away their voice, give them a time-out, or send them to their room that this doesn’t work for everyone. Some of them need this time and space to process; others feel abandoned in their inner turmoil. Finding the time and space to process these encounters is difficult but it is necessary. We know anger is a secondary emotion and underneath hides fear and sadness. We need to take the time to dig deep to help our children resolve these insecurities, fears and emotions.

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Dr. Chapman, in the aforementioned book, states that the most profitable strategies for discipline are to love them through the correction. Start with an expression of their love language, avoid a discipline that is contrary to their love language and end with another expression of love. For example, if a child’s love language is words of affirmation, it would be best to start by identifying that you could see they were really trying to XYZ because you know that they do their best to XYZ. Then, move on to what you observed allowing their voice to clarify. End with more specific comments on their strengths and value. If we use harsh words with a harsh tone this can tear our little ones’ hearts apart who find vitality in others’ words. Another example, is if a child’s love language is physical touch we want to initiate and conclude discipline with endearing touch such as holding their hands, rubbing their back or embracing them.

This also makes so much sense when I read it and write it but is ever-so-hard to put into practice. But like most things practice makes more practice but eventually becomes routine. Thank you for joining me on this 6-year catharsis, I hope it inspires you to hold yours a little closer and love them a little harder.

 

Finding Calm Amidst Chaos

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Our house is loud. Our house is competitive. In our house, choices have consequences. Our has a schedule where there is a time to eat, play, sleep and head here and there. There is no doubt that this environment is stressful. I, the keeper of the schedule know that better than anyone. But, our home is also filled with love, laughter, prayer, gratitude, grace and mercy.

This home’s environment is much different than the one I grew up in but the values remain the same. Because of this I see my children evolving to be different than I was when I was younger. They are more confident, outspoken, expressive. They have to share everything from their bedroom to their time. None of this is bad. I just wonder at times what they are thinking and what this experience- this childhood- is really like for them.

There are moments when we find ourselves one-on-one where I catch a glimpse of them with their guard down. Whether it be their soft eyes, gentle smile or genuine laugh, it is then I know that they are doing okay, that they’re going to be okay. Rarely, are there uninterrupted conversations, but now that they can read and write, our conversations have become asynchronous. They can leave us a note, or a picture and we can do the same. It is in these stick figure drawings and scripted words that again I know that they’re going to be okay.

With each passing day they grow up a bit more. They become more independent and more united at the same time. They need others a bit more and us a bit less. While this is hard, I know it is good.

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Translation: “Nobody go in this room”

But, I have to consciously combat the worry and the fear that perhaps this environment may perpetuate invisible illness and may pay a toll on their young hearts and minds. Our children, like all others, are developing a sense of mastery of their environment and themselves with each passing day. They can understand reasons for why life is the way it is; these may be logical or magical. I believe it is vital that we, as caregivers, know when to step in and when to step back, in order to foster resilience and not dependency or injury.  The following 7 strategies were adapted from the American Psychological Association’s suggestions for fostering resilience across the lifespan.

Strategies to Foster Resilient Families

  1. Make connections. Relationships expose us to another person’s journey which provides us with perspective and increases the skill of empathy. A strong network of friends and family can also provide social support which can provide a non-judgmental safety net when we fall.
  2. Empower through Service. Age-appropriate volunteerism can help the helpless.
  3. Maintain Routine. Most thrive with consistency because it can provide comfort. In times of change, it can be helpful to find rest in celebrating the child’s routine.
  4. While routine and structure are beneficial if they lead to worry, they become counter-productive. Hit the pause button on life to explore with the child the source of worry. If it is the routine, celebrate spontaneity and re-construct the routine together.
  5. Practice and Preach Self-care. Finding and making time to care for one’s self through solid nutrition, exercise and rest is pivotal for keeping one’s tank full; this is a necessity to prevent burn-out especially when caring for a child with any illness- visible or invisible. Children will also bare witness to our self-care and establish their own methods.
  6. Nurture Positivity. Hardship can be handled with greater ease in the context of hope and trusting relationships. Helping a child trust the process, look for the positive and trust themselves to overcome life’s hurdles can build resilience and strengthen their self-efficacy towards present and future difficulties. While children may not be able to assess long-term consequences, we can help them see past the current situation and find hope while exploring optimism amidst fears.
  7. Accept Change. Change can be scary but learning to accept and roll with change at an early age can foster resilience. Navigating opportunities for self-discovery amidst change continues to build into the child and provides a reflective skill-set which can aid in changing with change.

Big picture

Resilient parents raise resilient children who have “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” and find calm amidst chaos. This ability to bounce back and grow is not just a process for self-development but a philosophy. We have the opportunity to plant “seeds of strength” and self-care so, our children can overcome the challenges of illness, a busy household, and/or hardships at home, work and school to courageously take on life with grace, generosity and gratitude.

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Additional Resources on Resilience