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Monthly Archives: March 2013

“But this man of no reputation loved the weak with relentless affection, and He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are to the man of no reputation”…

“Why do we call it Good Friday, mommy? I mean, it’s really sad what happened so I don’t see how it’s good.”

I understand. I thought the same thing when I was his age. And I am going to go ahead and admit that for a long time, I thought we called it Good Friday because we didn’t have school that day. When I explained to Josiah why we call it Good Friday, he said “Oh, I get it. Sort of. Like, it’s sad because it was awful but also it’s good. It’s pretty much a truth mystery.”

Sometimes my child is much more wise than me.

When I was his age, I honestly didn’t think much about the bible. To me, church was a social place, a place you go on Sundays and maybe Wednesdays. I knew all the stories, the paper cut-outs stuck on felt boards, and I could sing about how I knew that Jesus loved me and all the other little children. The bible was a collection of stories, no more important to me than my collection of coloring books or Cabbage Patch Kid. My favorite story then was Moses leading the people out of Egypt, and Pharoah and his armies being swallowed up by the sea. I think the justice of that appealed to me, as I was already aware of the injustice of the world, and the idea that someday God might even the stakes a bit for me was appealing. As I grew into a teenager, while I had “accepted Christ”, I still felt like the day was coming when He would make up for all the losses I had experienced. And the longer I lived without seeing things be made right, the more confused and angry I got. Where was the fairness?

How could He possibly love everyone the same? How could He really have died for everyone? Would you offer your child to die instead of the convicted murderer? Would you eat your last meal with someone you knew was going to claim to love you but betray you instead?  It’s a truth mystery that…

The woman who screamed at her family last night…you are loved.

The girl who wore a long-sleeved shirt in the warm weather to cover up where she cuts…you are loved.

The man who is stealing from his company…you are loved.

The woman who is proud that she hasn’t eaten in four days…you are loved.

The mom who has despised her child this week…you are loved.

The man who stole from others to pay for his addictions…you are loved.

The woman who cried last night over a cold passionless marriage…you are loved.

The boy who gave his girlfriend money for the abortion…you are loved.

The man who served and taught others about Jesus, then went home and surfed for porn…you are loved.

The woman cheating on her husband today…you are loved.

The girl giving her body away for just a moment of attention…you are loved.

The man who took that body and used it for his pleasure…you are loved.

The man who hates those with a different skin color…you are loved.

The woman who is reading this and believes God likes you more because you haven’t done any of these things…you are loved.

The boy who has thought about the gun in his father’s office this week…you are loved.

The man who has hurt a child…you are loved.

The boy who cried last night because he’s attracted to a boy in his class…you are loved.

The mom who feels like she’s failing at every turn…you are loved.

The man who just got that diagnosis…you are loved.

The woman who looks back at her life and feels nothing but shame and regret…you are loved.

The dad who abandons his family this week…you are loved.

The man who thinks believing in God is weak and small minded…you are loved.

The mom that secretly wishes she never had kids…you are loved.

The girl who has written that suicide note in her head a hundred times…you are loved.

The person who reads these words and feels rage because you feel anything but loved…you are loved.

All that time, I was watching and waiting for Him to bring justice to my world, missing the fact that He already did. And in the courtroom of all time, I had cast myself as the innocent party, the persecuted Israelite waiting for justice, and missed that I was the guilty party. There had to be justice but the justice needed was for MY sin. When I realize that I deserved the ocean’s swallow, I deserved the cross, but He took it for me- I’m astounded and I scramble to try to make it up to Him, by being “good” or devoted or all of the other human measurements of worth. I’m uncomfortable with grace, I don’t understand it. It seems reckless and irresponsible. It feels impossible. It’s a truth mystery…

I don’t get it. But I’m okay with it being a mystery.

Because while it’s His justice and sacrifice that saves me, it’s His grace and love that sustains me. He doesn’t just stitch me up, He heals me. He doesn’t just correct, He comforts. He doesn’t just forgive, He restores. His power gives me breath, but His goodness makes me want to breatheHis actions then compel me to consider Him, but His actions today compel to love Him.

“Good” can’t contain all that Friday is. Easter wrecks my heart, messes up my categories and continues to remind me of why I want to follow Him. I pray that I will always remember what He’s done. I pray you do too.

“Can’t you feel ’em circling honey, can’t you feel ’em swimming around, you got fins to the left, fins to the right, and you’re the only bait in town”…

Something happens to your brain when you become a parent. It’s like you have a certain number of brain cells and they rapidly fill up with thoughts of shoes sizes and school projects and do we have enough diapers and dear Lord what is that smell and I’ll give you a cookie if you’ll let mommy sleep just a little longer…it just doesn’t end. Once those brain cells are filled up, that’s it- you don’t get any more, so moms rely on lists and phone reminders and grace, oh so much grace is needed. If you don’t have kids and you’ve ever wondered why your mom friends seem to have lost a few IQ points, this is why. And the worst part is, kids are crafty little parasites in sucking up all your intelligence while still being so cute so you don’t notice.

Until you are at the drive through of the pharmacy…

Me (pulling up to pick up my medicine)-  “Hi, I have one for Brandy Butler”

Lady-  “Sure, what’s the birth date?”

Me-  “3-16-05”

Lady-  “Hmm, I am not seeing it. What’s the name again?”

Me-  “Brandy. It’s me.”

Lady-  “And what’s the birth date again?”

Me-  “3-16-05”

Lady (giving me a quizzical look)- “that’s your birthdate?”

Me-  “Yes”

Lady-  “That’s YOUR birthdate.”

Me- (thinking geez lady, that’s what I said)-  “Yep. That’s me. 3-16-05”

Lady-  “Um…are you sure that’s your birthdate?”

Me- (trying to have a patient voice but quickly losing the battle because I have NO TIME for incompetent pharmacy workers)-  “Yeees. I’m sure. I think I know my own birthdate!”

Lady-  “Do you??”

Me- (thinking oh, it’s on lady)-  “Yes. I do. It’s 3-16-05. That’s March sixteenth, two thousand and…oh. Um. Yeah, that’s my daughter’s birthdate.”

Lady- (smirking)-  “Oh, okay. I thought that didn’t sound right. I mean, not that you don’t look seven years old but…”

Me-  “Right. I mean, maybe ten, but seven is stretching it”

But even this embarrassing moment doesn’t top what I did this morning. Before I tell you, let me just say that the fish is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE MY RESPONSIBILITY. I think we have clearly demonstrated that I have a difficult enough time taking care of the kids and house and myself, much less adding fragile animals to the mix. And I don’t know the deeper psychological meaning to this, but apparently I am determined to traumatize my daughter utilizing this fish. (need I remind you of the Jomalah incident? http://followingbutterflies.org/2012/12/12/the-sharp-knife-of-a-short-life-well-ive-had-just-enough-time-so-put-on-your-best-boys-and-ill-wear-my-pearls/ )

So Blueberry the fish lives in a beautiful vase that sits up on the windowsill of the kitchen because I am a nice person who is not prone to animal cruelty and thought the fish would enjoy looking outside. Selah helps take care of Blueberry, but for the most part, cleaning out the vase is something I do, as to not allow her time to add anything to the vase, like glitter or cookies or a tiny sculpture of Taylor Swift made out of play-doh. The process is multi step- put Blueberry in a bowl with some of the old water, wash out the vase, add hot water and a few drops of water purifier, wait for the water to get to room temperature, then transfer Blueberry and the old water back into the vase. Its complicated and only a person who graduated from Hogwarts could be expected to do it perfectly, okay?  So I got her into the bowl, washed out the vase, and put it back up on the sill, knowing it would take a while to get to room temperature, and I decided to finish loading some dishes into the dishwasher while I waited. Blueberry was happily swimming around in her bowl next to the sink and I know what you are all thinking- Oh no, poor little fish got knocked into the sink and is now in the ocean because all drains lead to the ocean and now Blueberry is shark bait. Hoo Ha Ha.

But no. I wouldn’t do that. Come on guys, have some faith in me. I was putting dishes away, humming along to the new Justin Timberlake album, and thinking about how it would be cool if there was a full-sized dryer in your shower so you could dry your body and hair before even getting out and that way you would never be cold and towels would be obsolete so that would probably never be patented because of the vicious towel special interest groups and then I looked up and realized that there were no dishes on the counter. No. dishes. on. the counter. I gasped as the gravity of what I had done hit me, and I looked down into the dishwasher to see Blueberry, her little body flopping all over the bottom of the dishwasher, her eyes wide with terror.

I bent down and tried to pick her up but she was too slippery, and meanwhile, Malachi comes in and asks “What’s wrong? Why did you make dat noise?” I knew that I couldn’t tell him what happened because he’s a little narc and the whole neighborhood would know and probably every person we came in contact with would hear the tale of how his mom killed a fish in Reno just to watch him die. I smiled brightly and said “oh, um…there’s a spider in the dishwasher and I am just getting it out!”. Malachi narrowed his eyes suspiciously and said “You don’t like spiders.” and I replied “I know. But uh…I am trying to be more brave…uh…but only for this one time…all other times you still have to pick them up for me, okay?” He rolled his eyes and wandered away, while I turned and mouthed “I’m so sorry!!” to Blueberry, who was getting closer and closer to becoming sushi. I decided maybe a spoon would be better, but she just would flop into the spoon and flop right out. I was worried that she would flop out of the spoon and take a hard fall onto the tile floor and then I would have a fish with oxygen deprivation AND a traumatic brain injury and really, haven’t I done enough?? I tried a paper towel, a ladle, and in a flash of really poor judgement, a turkey baster. Finally I used my hands like a scoop and quickly transferred her back into her vase, trying to squeal as quietly as possible because there was a live fish in my hands ew ew ew…

Blueberry breathed a sigh of relief and swam in circles, grateful to be back in her home. She swam up to the glass and we made eye contact. We shared a near death experience y’all, and that bonds you to someone. She turned to swim to the bottom and I can’t be positive, but I am almost sure she flipped me the fin.

Moral of the story? I am not as skilled at multitasking as I think I am. Fish are wretched ungrateful little creatures.

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Mama Mondays- “Baby, don’t you cry, I will give you every little bit of love that is in my heart, I will bake it up into a simple little pie”…

A little over a week ago, the kids and I decided to make some pies for National Pi Day, and so we headed off to the store to get our ingredients. They decided they wanted an apple pie, a peanut butter chocolate pie, and a banana chocolate pie. We gathered what we needed and started to head to the check out when Selah stopped and said “Mommy wait! We forgot to get the pie crust!” I assured her that we didn’t forget, we just were going to make the pie crust. She said “but I don’t know how to make it. Why can’t we just buy it?” I told her that I would teach them and that homemade pie crust wasn’t too difficult and tasted so much better than store-bought.

On the way home, Josiah and Selah complained about this plan- “It will take too long!”; “We could eat it faster if you don’t have to make it”: “Is this boring?”
I tried to tell them that making pie dough doesn’t really take too long, and it would be worth it- trust me guys, it will be worth it– but they were unconvinced. We got home and they mixed flour, butter and water and wrapped up the dough to put in the refrigerator.

“See?? This takes soooooooo looooooonnnnnnngggggggg” – unnamed dramatic child.

“Guys. Just trust me. It will be worth it.”- Me

Dough was rolled out, pie was made, and after we all sampled our hard work, I asked the kids what they thought about the crust. They said they couldn’t believe how easy it was, how few ingredients it needed, and how much better it tasted than ready-made dough. I asked them- “If making pie crust is not too hard and tastes so much better, why do you think people buy it so often?”

They thought for a while until Josiah piped in- “They just didn’t know.”

We live in a “now” world, where fast is good and instant is better. We microwave our dinners and check email the second it hits our inbox. There’s no sin in that (or in store-bought pie crust), but sometimes we look for ways to rush and shortcut the really important things. Things like relationships. Trust. Growth. We buy books that promise faster ways to have a happy marriage, healthy kids, increased church growth. We get frustrated with others because we’ve told them what to do and they just aren’t doing it. We get angry, at God and ourselves, when He doesn’t heal us, when we mess up again, when His way seems illogical or not at all what we expected.  We want our best life- and we want it now.

Years ago, nobody bought pie crust, but somewhere along the way, someone figured out a way to make it and sell it to others and soon, we forgot that homemade pie crust really isn’t that difficult AND is so much better- both tasting and for you. We complain that not taking shortcuts is boring, that it takes sooooo looooonnnnnngggggg…but the truth is, real authentic relationships take time and effort. Real growth doesn’t happen in the 30 seconds it takes to open a box. And when we can step back, take a deep breath, and take these things step by step, the end result is sweeter. And here’s a bonus blessing- not only did our pie crust taste great, but taking the time to make it meant we got to spend some time together and learn together. How often do I forget that when I don’t try to rush Him, I get the blessing of getting to know my Father more? I get to see the steps He takes, instead of just the end result? I get to take that knowledge and teach others and see the fruit of passing along that wisdom? And once, like making pie crust, I just didn’t know there was another way…but now that I do, I won’t trade it for the “easy” way.

Guys, trust me. It’s worth it.

Lord, help me enjoy the journey as much as I enjoy the destination.

Perseverance Pie Crust-(this is enough dough for two single crust pies or one double crust)- Tip- this is easy enough to just double the recipe, then freeze the extra for when you need a pie crust.

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

I cup (2 sticks) butter, very cold, cut into small squares

Ice water

I use all butter for my dough- I know many recipes use shortening, but honestly, I don’t like the taste or texture of it, and while no one would say pie crust is super healthy, I think using butter is a better choice.

Whisk your dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Using a food processor or pastry whisk, combine the cold butter with the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas in the flour. DO NOT OVERMIX. You should be able to see the butter in the dough. Using a tablespoon at a time, combine the dough with the ice water until it comes together. Again, do not overmix this- overmixing will create a tough crust. You should still be able to see the butter in the dough. Separate dough into two balls and flatten into disks, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

When ready, roll the dough out into a circle that is roughly two inches larger than your pie pan. Place the dough in the pan and cut the excess dough off of the sides. Use a fork to press down the edges of the dough to make a pretty scalloped edge. If you need to bake your crust before filling it, poke a few holes in the crust, place pie weights or dried beans in the pie crust and bake it at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. If you do not need to bake it before-hand, fill it with your filling and bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 50-60 minutes, watching the edges carefully to make sure they don’t burn.

Tips-

If you have a dairy allergy, you can make this with all shortening.

I like using a pastry whisk instead of a food processor. Both work, but a food processor is more difficult to control, and easier to overmix the dough.

Keep everything as cold as you can- I refrigerate my dry ingredients, my bowl, my whisks, my pie pan, and my rolling-pin. Keeping the dough cold is the key to flaky pie crust.

I like using a spray bottle for my water instead of a spoon- spraying your dough distributes the water more evenly and helps keep you from overmixing it.

If you are making a single crust pie, roll out the second dough and allow your kids to cut out fun shapes to place on top or along the edges.

If you are making a double crust pie, brush the top with egg white or cream and sprinkle it with sugar.

Place your pie on a baking sheet to catch any spills from the filling bubbling up.

pie

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“Who are the treasured and the prized? Who is the apple of God’s eyes? Who is? We are, we are, we are”…

For many years, I thought of God as a sort of friendly police officer, standing on the side of the road with a radar gun. He was looking out for me to break the law in some way, and He would pull me over, give me a stern warning or a ticket if it was bad enough, and send me on my way. He was busy, there’s a lot of people speeding, so after He dealt with me, He didn’t really think about me much, until the next time He caught me speeding. This was reinforced by a church culture of performance based theology and adults in my teen years that taught me that my worth to them was wrapped up in how well I behaved.

I know this isn’t true. My head knows it and my heart knows it, but I’m human and that belief was well entrenched, so sometimes I forget…and He allows me to be smacked over the head with truth.

1 John 3:1- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are!”

We went to an open house tonight at school with the kids. We walked into Selah’s classroom and she showed us her desk and reading station, her locker, where her friends sit, and then she showed us a little questionnaire she had filled out that was displayed on the board. One of the fill in the blank questions was “I wish…” and Selah had written “I wish Mrs.Yeaton was my mom” (Mrs. Yeaton is her teacher)

My heart sank, and I am going to be honest, it was really hard not to cry. I spent the rest of the night trying not to cry and in a sort of a daze, wondering why she would say something like that. I wondered what her teacher thought when she saw that, what other parents might have thought, what Wes would think. I wondered what I had done to cause her to say that, if our relationship was damaged in some way. My pride and my heart hurt.

For the sake of authenticity, I need to say this- I didn’t want to talk about this. I don’t want anyone to think I am a bad mom. I didn’t want anyone to think that Selah and I have anything but a great relationship. But as I processed through all this, I felt like He was teaching me something really important about Him and I felt Him saying- Yes. This. Share this, even though you don’t really want to.

I asked Wes to walk ahead with the boys and I walked with Selah and asked her to talk to me about what she wrote. She and I sat at the park and had a good conversation about it. She said “Mommy, I don’t know why I wrote that. I really don’t know.” I asked her if she was mad at me when she wrote it and she said “I don’t know. Maybe a little. I wanted to wear my boots and you said no.”  I explained to her that I wasn’t mad at her for writing it, but I wanted to be honest and tell her that it hurt me, but that I loved her and it was okay to be mad at someone you love.

I don’t know why she wrote it. Selah is impulsive and filterless. But this isn’t really about her. The truth is- no matter what her reason, no matter if she meant it or not, no matter if we reconciled or not…it still hurt really badly. I am her mama, and she’s my girl, and I love her more than life. It hurts to feel replaced. It hurts to feel like maybe your child doesn’t love you. It hurts to be rejected. And even though I am the adult and the mature one, even though my emotional needs are not met by her, even though I have a hundred other ways that she’s shown she loves me, the rejection and replacement of another stings. It cuts. It caused tears, more tears than I expected.

God isn’t a police officer. He’s my Dad. He doesn’t need me to fill Him. He knows better than me. He’s the mature one. But like a ton of bricks, it hit me that I don’t often think about the sorrow and pain my rejection of Him causes. I see Him as being annoyed- sort of an eye rolling, here we go again, can’t you pull it together sort of attitude, but in reality, He’s my Father and my rejection hurts. When I choose my own way, He hurts. And the thing is, I kind of get why Selah might want another mom. I’m impatient and irritable sometimes. I say no when I could say yes. I forget stuff and don’t listen. I am flawed…so her rejection wouldn’t be completely unjustified. But my rejection is rejecting a parent who never fails. Who loves perfectly. Who doesn’t deserve any of it. To think that He forgives so quickly- well, that causes a different kind of tears…

Jesus, this hurts. I don’t like it. But thank you for the lesson, thank you for reminding me what my sin does. Continue to remind me that You aren’t aloof, just waiting for me to mess up. Retrain my heart to remember that you love me the way I love my children, except you do it perfectly. Teach me that you are a Daddy- it’s SO hard for me to learn this.

Thanks also for laughter…tonight, Selah came in and she was sleep walking. She laid down next to me and snuggled up and said “Mommy, I didn’t mean it. I meant I wish I had a horse. I mean, I wish I was a horse. I mean, I wish I was a horse and had a Taylor Swift poster. ”  Sweet laughter after a tough night…

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me, he was a stranger in this land, and I am that, no less than he, and on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep, I may falter in my steps, but never beyond your reach…”

This isn’t what I had planned to publish today. I wrote something yesterday. It was silly and sarcastic. It wasn’t deep or meaningful, it was just supposed to be funny. But throughout the day, I felt more and more uneasy about it- there was just something about it that was bothering me. I sent it to some faithful friends, and while no one said no, you should not publish that, they agreed that it just wasn’t representing what I wanted to represent. It was a little too sarcastic, a little too biting. It might make you laugh, it made them laugh, but it wasn’t worth the potential of hurting others and causing drama.

Later, I sat and thought about why the tone of that piece was different from others I’ve written, and I realized- I am having a homesick day. I’m homesick and I’m grumpy and I’m just feeling done.

When I traveled to Ethiopia for Malachi’s adoption, the first 72 hours felt like a complete blur. After the third day, when I started to get into a groove with this new little boy, I found myself feeling antsy and crying for no apparent reason. Malachi was adjusting well, and I was incredibly happy to have him, but I just felt off. It hit me as I cried over a take out menu that I was just in a bit of culture shock and wanted to go home. There is a raw beauty to Ethiopia that I haven’t found anywhere else, but along with the beauty is pain. It was almost too much to take in, too much to make sense of. You barely have time to process one scene of poverty and hunger before you are hit with another one.  And the thing is, you can’t just mentally check out, because you feel compelled to soak it all in, for yourself and for your child. So there I sat, feeling out-of-place, wanting to just be home.

And today I sit, and I acknowledge great beauty and joy in my life, but this isn’t my home.

 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”- Phil 3:20

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”- Hebrews 13:14

Growing up, it seemed like there was an unspoken rule that you just don’t talk about your struggles, and you especially don’t talk about if you struggle with sadness or depression. I’ve struggled with both. The “solution” to sadness seemed to be just decide to be happy, count your blessings, suck it up and move on. The result of this for me was feeling alone, like I was the only one who felt this way. I felt like a wayward daughter, like the one who just couldn’t pull it together like the rest of His kids. I’m grateful to be in a place and in a church where I know this isn’t true, where people are authentic in their struggles, and not just after the fact, but right in the middle of the mess.

I’m not depressed, but I will be honest- I am weighed down. I am tired. It’s a physical and emotional exhaustion that creeps over me, slowly pressing down until I have a day like this where I look around and say “I wanna go home. I want my Daddy.” It’s nothing huge or dramatic. It’s just a thousand tiny swords. I am weary of sickness, of physical pain, of misunderstandings, of fatigue, of laziness, of apathy, of crime and hate, of injustice, of financial worries, of children with no parents, of adoption red tape, of messes, of laundry and dishes, of homework and school problems. The introvert in me is crying out for a few days of silence and being alone, to sit and play guitar and go kayaking, to read entire chapters of books.

I am blessed. I have a wonderful husband and amazing kids, and great loving friends. I have so many good things. But none of them are my Daddy and I just want my Daddy.

I will rest in the fact that He knows and He understands. And that’s really it- I am going to rest. I’m not going to read a new book about it, or make a list to be more organized, or run around and try new coping mechanisms to feel better. I am just going to rest. I will continue to fill my heart with His words, and be still in knowing that this isn’t my home, and it’s okay that I feel homesick. And just like in Ethiopia, I don’t want to just check out, I want to look around and catch the beauty that is here.

Friends, would you pray for me? And would you allow me to pray for you? Let me know how I can pray for you this week, because praying for others is a source of comfort to me as well.

Do you have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Mama Mondays- “I’m screaming, screaming, show ’em that we are fed up, come on put your hands up!”…

I got a question this past week about dealing with preschool boys and anger. Most moms of boys would say that they have dealt with this issue in one way or another. For some boys, anger may look like being physically aggressive, for others it is verbal aggression, and still others, it is more passive aggressive behavior. If you are lucky, you get all three!  If you are a mom who didn’t grow up with brothers, this can be especially confusing, and you may find yourself wondering if there is something wrong with your little one. Chances are…there isn’t.  Of course anger and the display of it can venture into pathology, but for the majority of the time, displays of anger is completely typical for young boys.  So how to survive?

*Take a deep breath. This is normal. It probably doesn’t feel that way, and you might look around and see other boys frolicking sweetly through the aisles of the store while they sing the praises of their mom’s abilities in the home, but just know that those boys are likely driving their mamas crazy too. It never feels good when your son is throwing the mother of tantrums in public, but just know that it is normal and you are not alone.

*Realize you have a little caveman. Kids feel strongly but have weaker skills to communicate. They sometimes operate on this caveman level of lower level thinking and behaving, based solely on what they are feeling. Our job as a parent is to be a safe place to express and explore those feelings and also to guide them in understanding the better way to express those feelings. Try to see from his perspective- it must be so frustrating to not be able to explain that the purple cup is unacceptable because he thinks the green cup feels better on his mouth. So in that frustration because YOU ARE ABOUT TO FORCE THE PURPLE CUP ON ME MOM AND REPRESS MY FREEDOM AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, his caveman brain just thinks- scream. This will get her attention. So know your goal is to teach and train, but understand where you are starting.

*Understand fight or flight. When we are stressed, all kinds of chemicals are released in the brain to prepare us to take action. When boys begin to get angry, cortisol and other hormones increase in the brain, blood flow increases to the limbs to prepare to fight or flight. When people are in this heightened state, it is very difficult to use logic and reason to calm down. The brain is screaming DANGER DANGER, and I’d guess your child hears only about 25% of what you say. If you can first calm the sympathetic nervous system down, you have a much better chance of getting your child is listen to you. This means, do not try to verbally reason your child out of a tantrum. Explaining to your son why he shouldn’t be screaming at you and how it’s disrespectful and all the reasons you are saying no- it just doesn’t help. You may be able to spot the physical signs of this in your child- dilated pupils, increased heart rate, faster breathing, opening and closing fists. Helping their body calm down before you try to engage their mind will help you hopefully shorten the tantrum.

*Engage physically- when children misbehave or display anger, we often tell them to go sit alone and calm down. The dreaded time-out. The problem with this is, many boys don’t have the skills to calm themselves down, so not only are they angry, then their body is being forced to sit still when their brain is screaming to move. It may seem counterintuitive, but next time your boy is about to throw a fit, engage him in some physical activity. My boys run laps in the backyard when they are getting overwhelmed with anger. (my girl too, by the way). The muscle work involved in running helps regulate that testosterone and cortisol level and burns off some of that excess energy. If you aren’t in a place where he can run, try a very firm bear hug. Ask him to hug you as hard as he can. Have him hold your hands and jump up and down twenty times. I might know one mom who has this blog who made her child who might be from Ethiopia drop and give her ten push ups at a store when he tried to throw himself on the floor over not getting a candy bar. Some kids need to be physically walked though calming down- sit on the floor and have them sit with their back to your chest. Rock side to side and ask them to breathe the same as you, then take slow deep breaths. If you have a boy who hits, find something appropriate for him to hit like a pillow, stuffed toy, etc. Boys NEED physical outlets. Preschool is a good age to think about sports, but even if you aren’t in organized sports, make sure your boy is getting a lot of physical activity.

*Set clear rules- be clear with your boys that being angry is okay. Hurting people with words or hands or objects is never okay. Let them know ahead of time what the consequence is for these offenses. For us, I try to tie the consequence with the offense like- you got angry and knocked over your sister’s legos, so for 30 minutes, you have to sit and build anything she tells you to. Or you kicked the door because you were mad, so you might not get to play soccer (their favorite activity). If my son chooses to be hurtful with words, I might give out sweet treats to the other kids but he will have to miss because his mouth was ugly. For any way they hurt each other, they always have to say they are sorry and ask for forgiveness and I often make them do this in a letter as well. The reason I do both is because it’s so easy for kids to apologize quickly and not really think about what their action did to the other person, but writing in a letter an apology and explaining what they think happened and why forces them to examine their own heart.

*Watch their models. Remember that they are watching and picking up what is around them. Watch yourself and your spouse to see if your son is imitating anything you do when you are angry or frustrated. Pay attention to the media they are exposed to. Cartoons can be so sassy and kids will imitate that!  Point out to them when you are tempted to be angry and choose to handle it in a way that honors God. Help them understand WHY you want to honor the Lord and why you don’t choose to give full vent to your anger. (Example- we are driving in the car, and I might say “Malachi, that man right there isn’t being safe when he drives. I feel like I want to yell at him and use a mean face. But you know what? I want to love Jesus more than that, so I am going to take a deep breath and choose to smile at him instead) Yes, you will feel self conscious. But probably not more so than when your son is tearing his clothes off in anger over not buying Lucky Charms. Hypothetically.

*Pay attention to nutrition and sleep. My kids will get more aggressive when they are tired. If they have had a tough day with anger, I will tell them- “You’ve struggled a lot with anger today. Sometimes it’s hard to be on guard of our mouths and hearts when our bodies need more rest so you will be going to be a little earlier tonight”. I will also say all my kids struggle WAY more with anger and tantrums when they are eating processed foods. If you would have said that to me a year ago, I would have smiled politely and thought you were a tree hugging granola head yuppie, but I have seen the dramatic difference in my kids when they are eating good whole foods versus a lot of fast food and processed food.

*Step back, mamas. If you are able to, sometimes anger and aggression is better handled by another man. If the boys have been verbally or physically aggressive with me, Wes will quickly step in to lay down some daddy law and let them know that not only are they to not do that, they also are not allowed to treat his wife that way. Dads, don’t abandon your wife in this! Little boys want to be like daddy, and Wes and I can say the exact same thing but my boys hear it through a different filter when daddy says it. If you are single, know that first- you are prayed for, and second- God has not abandoned you to raise this boy alone. Reach out and find some Godly men who your son can look up to and imitate. Men, if you know a single mom with a son, be willing to step in and invest in this precious one.

Put the kids to bed early. Have a glass of a beverage of your choice. Take a bath. Read a book. Know you aren’t alone, mama. Know that today a certain Ethiopian screamed at me for twenty minutes because he had to do extra chores and almost cracked his skull throwing himself against the piano. Serenity now.

"Are you kidding me?! The lack of Lucky Charms in our home is ruining my life!"

“Are you kidding me?! The lack of Lucky Charms in our home is ruining my life!”

What ways have you guys handled anger in your boys?  Share your tips!

Have a question or subject for Mama Mondays? Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“In my daughter’s eyes, I am a hero, I am strong and wise, And I know no fear, But the truth is plain to see, She was sent to rescue me, I see who I want to be in my daughter’s eyes”…

Dear Selah,

Tomorrow you will be eight years old. I have ten years until you are eighteen and I’m choosing not to think too much about that, as not to confuse you with my weeping. As I sit here, thinking back to that day in the hospital when I saw you for the first time, I want to tell you some things that I am praying for you.

I pray that your heart will always be as soft as it is now. Right now, you forgive so quickly, and then the offense is gone and you are back to love. You don’t know how grateful I am for this, precious girl, for I need your forgiveness many times a day. You don’t hold grudges towards those who hurt you, and in fact, you almost seem surprised when someone hurts you more than once, like you have forgotten their earlier actions. Sometimes that keeps you in a line of fire, so I continue to pray that you will be wise in your relationships, that your heart will be seasoned but not seared.

I pray you’ll keep your passion. When you love something, you love it with your whole heart. Someday, someone is going to tell you what you love is uncool or not good enough. I pray that you will feel so loved by Christ that you are confident in the passions He’s given you, and that you’ll feel so accepted by daddy and me that you will hold onto them, knowing that you don’t have to be like everyone else. Because baby girl, let me tell you, you are like NO one else.

I pray you’ll see yourself clearly. I watch you, and I’ve seen it. I see you checking your hair in the mirror, or posing for pictures. I’ve watched you gaze across the school lawn at that girl, that one girl who always has the most fashionable outfits on, the one with the gorgeous long hair and the Justin Beiber backpack. I’ve seen you glance at her boots and sparkly shirt, and then look down at your sweatpants and tennis shoes. I know sweetheart. Baby, I can’t even pretend to be amused, because your mama looks around on sunday mornings sometimes and wonders if I’ll ever look like that girl, the mom who has the fashionable boots and the adult version of a sparkly shirt and Justin Bieber backpack. I know, I know the day is coming that you’ll look in the mirror and all you will see is what you think are flaws. I dread the day I see you learn the girl tricks of how to stand and what smile to use for pictures. I pray instead that all your photos are messy- that you are so full of life and joy that you don’t have time to stop and fix what you think is wrong. And when you learn to do that- teach it to me. I pray that you will know that your beauty is wrapped up in Who you belong to.

I pray that you’ll keep your charm. I’ve never been in public with you when you haven’t had a conversation with a stranger. This week we took you to dinner and you sat next to two strangers and chatted with them like they were your new best friends. You are fearless and it is a blessing to your mama. Someday, the enemy is going to tell you that what you say isn’t important, that people don’t want to talk to you, that you are just going to embarrass yourself. Here’s the truth- people might not want to talk to you. You might embarrass yourself. Do it anyway- because what you say IS important.

I pray for your future adventures. I’m already preparing my heart for the day that you come home with a random piercing or interesting new hair color. Your imagination is boundless and I pray that you will continue to think- what if? You ask me a million times a day- “mommy, what if…”, and my heart prays for you to ask- what if I love deeply? What if I give all to Him? What if I just trust Him and jump in? What if I don’t understand and I do it anyway? I pray for you, and I pray for my mama’s heart for the day you decide to live in Africa or approach the homeless man or go for that big audition. Pray for me too love, because you must understand that while you’ve been swinging higher on the swing, I’ve been checking it’s sturdiness, and when you ride your bike fast, my eyes constantly look for cars. Be patient with me.

I pray for your relationships. Right now, you see daddy as prince charming and you are the princess he rescues on a regular basis. I know it won’t be long before your eye is turned to other boys, and their eyes trained to you. I pray that daddy and I are showing you what romantic love is and what it isn’t. I pray that you won’t settle. I pray that I can help you sort through all the messages you’ll be bombarded with daily, all the Notebooks and Bachelors and pop music. I pray even more that I can recognize and sort through the less obvious, the nicer packaged messages you might get from the church- that merely not having sex is the most you can please God, that you are not complete until you are married, that children are the ultimate prize and your purpose and meaning in life, that not divorcing is the only goal of marriage, that only men struggle with pornography, and on and on.

I pray that your heart falls in love with the One who is passionate about you. My girl, right now your world revolves around daddy and me, and that’s okay, but my highest prayer is that you come to a place where you see your need for a savior. I won’t be with you forever precious girl. It’s so short baby, life is just a wisp of a vapor. Don’t try to do it without Him. I promise it’s worth it. There will be days that you will rage in your heart that daddy and I are wrong, that we just don’t understand, that this God thing is pointless and just a crutch and you are above it all. I get it. I can’t convince you or make you believe but I can tell you that I have seen things that I thought never could happen because of Him. I’ve seen relationships restored from absolute chaos, I’ve seen families form where there was just pain and loneliness, I’ve seen people handle trials with complete peace. And it’s not just “them”, baby, it’s me. So I’ll continue, even if you roll your eyes, to tell you about how He’s changed and changing me. I’ll pray to love you in such a way that you can’t help but see the truth of who He is.

I love you to the moon and back, princess. I couldn’t be prouder of the girl He’s growing you up to be.

Love,

Mommy

Selah's First Pictures 012First Tball Practice 017IMG_0386IMG_3060IMG_0146photo (22)photo (24)photo (25)photo (23)

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