Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mandy's Turn...The Sun Above the Clouds

Mandy generously agreed to let me share her Facebook post from a few days ago. I've seen this progression in her relationship with her two precious, funny, exasperating-at-times, blessings from God. If it's true that there's a special place in Heaven for mothers of little boys, Mandy will surely be the honored gate keeper welcoming her comrades of giggles, tears, body sounds - that should remain private but rarely do - into their eternal Calgon-infused mansions.
I love you Mandy and no mom/nanny has ever been more proud.  

     "This has turned into a slightly longer post than I intended, but is one that I've been pondering for awhile... I hope it's encouraging! smile emoticon
Brendon and Big Brother Barrick
     I have many parenting fails, but wanted to share a success that was good positive reinforcement for me recently (and there have been more fails since:)...
     A few weeks ago, I had left my favorite coffee mug sitting on the edge of the tub... loved the colors of it, the shape, how it felt in my hand... I bypassed the 25 other coffee mugs we have for this one on a daily basis. Brendon (4) was in the bathroom with me and turned quickly, accidentally knocking the mug over and breaking it on the tile. I said quietly, "Ohhhhh, Brendon... that was my favorite mug!" He was already mortified and his little eyes filled up with tears, and he started crying and saying over and over, "I'm so sorry Mom, I'm so sorry!" For all of his orneriness, he is so very tenderhearted heart emoticon. I made the decision to stay calm and assured him, "Honey, it's okay. You're a lot more important to me than that coffee mug. I'm sure I can find another one like it, or maybe even the same one. It's okay, don't worry about it." He cried and apologized a few more times.
Brendon in his element
     A couple of nights later, it was close to bedtime, and he had set up his cars in a parking lot arrangement of sorts on his and Barrick's bed earlier in the evening. I was straightening up their room and told him two or three times he needed to get the cars cleaned up off of his bed, because it was bedtime, and he could set them up again the next day. He ignored me and kept playing with other cars (so many cars!:) in the floor. So I cleaned the ones off of the bed and put them away. A couple of minutes later he saw that the bed was clear, cars gone, and started to melt down. He really let me have it for a few seconds, very upset with me for moving his cars, then settled himself down and said, "Mom, it's okay... you're more important to me than those cars being on the bed." As many times as I've seen my negative reactions come back full circle when the boys act or talk in a way they've seen me act or talk (convicting!), how rewarding it was to see the positive reaction from the coffee mug incident mimicked and come back full circle as well. Encourages me to try that more often wink emoticon.
     To share a little more of my heart about Brendon to hopefully encourage some of you who have little ones packed full of passion and intensity...
Papa Bud, Barrick, Mandy and Brendon 2015
     Brendon and I had a challenging time with each other from before he was 18 months until he grew closer to 4 years old (he'll be 5 in Dec.). There were some sweet moments, but they were fewer and farther between. It was like the sky was almost always overcast, with the sun shining through in an occasional break in the clouds. From early on, he would bang his head into the tile floor or into the cabinets, or side to side in his carseat, when he was frustrated. He wanted something, but he didn't... but he did... but he didn't. He wanted me, but he didn't... but he did... but he didn't. It was a constant push and pull, a daily tug-of war. I was so often battle weary. His natural instinct was to be contrary, to resist (I've often said, it may save his life as a teenager if he still feels that instinct to not go along with what's being suggested. My less dominant side, the resistant, contrary side, was the dominant part of his personality.
     He was also constantly miserable with allergies, even with medication, and not old enough to just deal with it yet, so when he didn't feel good, he was mad at the world and there was no pleasing him. Before he was two, he would angrily rake at his nose and say, "Nose hurts! Take nose off!" Poor little guy. I was in tears frequently, and often cried with him or out-yelled him in an effort to shut down the fuss. I would cry to Ken and say, "I keep pouring in love, and all that's coming out is fits!" Brendon wanted to keep me engaged, but in an emotional mess kind of way. There were times I just had to disconnect and would turn from him and walk away, and he would be even more upset because he sensed that emotional disconnect in me. There was no winning. I recognized the passion that God had gifted (yes gifted) him with, but what's a mom to do with that in a 2-and 3-year-old? Many times I have said, if he can survive me, we'll see what God has planned for all of that passion.
Barrick's first piano recital with mom/teacher Mandy
     Fast-forward to these last few months as he's gotten further into year 4... The sky is mostly sunny and only occasionally overcast and stormy (hooray!). I've shared all of this to hopefully encourage any other parents out there with small, passionate children. As Brendon has gotten older, I can rationalize with him more in a way that you can't do with a baby or toddler. He doesn't like losing his privileges which helps motivate better choices on his part. The fits are fewer and farther between, instead of the other way around. And all of the love that I kept wearily pouring in during those hard years has been spilling back out the past year. Unsolicited "I love you's" and hugs and kisses. And all of the other gifts God has given Brendon are shining through more and more all the time... So much compassion, friendliness, love, concern, tenderheartedness, and much more.
     So with some thankful tears welling up in my eyes as I finish typing, if you're needing it, please be encouraged that the sun is most definitely brightly shining above the clouds if you have an intense little one and are in those challenging early years. Many of those things that are so hard now will become easier as they get older, simply because they are growing cognitively and learning how to manage things better. Keep pouring in the love even if all that is coming out is fits. It will eventually come pouring back out heart emoticon."

Mandy Sullivan Kniskern
October, 2015

The Kniskern Clan: Mandy, Brendon, Barrick and Ken

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Taste and See



     Has this past summer been like a high speed chase toward fall for you like it has for me? Time 
flies. Before we know it the scare crows and fall flowers that have emerged in anticipation of cooler temperatures and wonderful autumn aromas will soon flow forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. And we know what THAT means:

     Cookies, cakes, Christmas candies, stuffing, pumpkin pie, hot rolls all wrapped up with family and friends and, hopefully, centered around the true meaning of our special holiday – the birth and life of Jesus Christ. What if we begin now to prepare mentally and emotionally for a new focus, one that might be less centered on over-indulgence and the regret of added pounds once the tinsel and favorite recipes have been packed away?

     Thanksgiving or Christmas without pumpkin pie or Grandma’s special recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? No whipped cream or Brown Betty fudge? That would never do. We can enjoy those wonderful traditions and still keep them in their proper perspective. Begin now to include exercise in your daily routine to get that metabolism working at optimum efficiency. Learn the discipline of drinking plenty of water during the day. Gather new recipes or healthier versions of favorite ones from the abundant supply online.

     When party season arrives, be prepared. Scope out healthy dishes to prepare and take as your contribution to the festivities. You’ll be doing others a favor as well as protecting your own good intentions.

     Don’t skip meals, rather have a light snack of veggies and/or fruit before leaving for the party. Drinking plenty of water will help take the edge off of your hunger. And NEVER shop hungry!

     It’s so easy to load up that desert plate with a sample of each offering until the flavors really blend together and we lose that particular, delightful texture and taste of our favorite seasonal experience. Take only your very favorite offering and pass on the things that you can live without. Make the gathering more about the people. Engage in conversation – away from the food. Offer to help clear the table and/or wash dishes.

     When planning that special time in your own home, engage your senses with beautiful colors and textures. Make a feast for the eyes rather than the pallet. Fill the room with beautiful music and scents. 

     Keep plenty of calorie-free beverages at hand for yourself and your guests: Iced tea, diet soda, water pitchers filled with cold water and slices of fresh, colorful fruit.

     Replace those huge disposable ovals with smaller dinner plates and desert bowls. Use smaller serving spoons. Cut the meat into smaller serving sizes. Limit the number of dinner rolls per guest. In the long run, you’ll help prevent their overeating and, probably, have much less wasted food for the disposal. You and your guest will enjoy ending the day satisfied, not stuffed.

     Having containers at hand for packing away or sharing the leftovers could signal that it’s time to move on to non-food socializing. Maybe some planned activities and/or games to draw your guests away from the table will help ward off the continual nibbling simply because the food is so accessible.

     As for your own enjoyment, delay that tasty dessert or treat – set aside a special time (and your very own serving) to indulge and savor every bite. Maybe that quiet moment with your senses could be at the end of the festivities when you’ve traded your apron for your comfy robe and fuzzy slippers. Just you and, well – you fill in the blank. Eat slowly and deliberately, and enjoy. 

     Statistically, we gain an average of ten pounds from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Is it any wonder that the resolve to "go on a diet" or "lose ten pounds" usually lands at the top of our ever-fading list of resolutions for the year? After losing 60 pounds a couple of years ago, I thought I was bullet proof and decided I could indulge over the holidays and beat the odds. Ummm...NO! I'm still trying to undo that lie! Think ahead of where you want to be on January 2, 2016 and keep your eyes on the prize rather than the pies.

     It will serve each one of us well to remember that the extra calories of the season will result in added pounds that will linger long after the treats, meals, and leftovers have been tasted, served, and scraped into oblivion. At least until next year.  

     Don’t wait for the inevitable New Year’s resolution to shed those holiday pounds that have been adding up over the past few Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Get a head start, then maintain your success with wise choices and by remaining focused on the real Reason we gather in thankfulness and celebration: God’s wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 “O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
(Psalm 34:8, NASB)

“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house,
they were taking their meals together
with gladness and sincerity of heart
praising God and having favor with all the people.
and the Lord was adding to their number day by day
those who were being saved.”
(Acts 2:46, NASB)





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