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Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Oh baby, you know I may be a fool, I’m wastin’ my time by goin’ to school, The way you got me holdin’ your door, I can’t do my homework anymore…”

It’s almost February, and the days are long. And the hours from 3:00-7:00 are even longer. I’ve hit that time of year when I can’t get warm no matter what I wear and Wes is not happy about me setting the thermostat to 75. I’m tired of making soups and chili. Give me flip-flops or give me death.

There is something that I feel I need to confess. A friend was being very sweet and said this to me- “I don’t know how you keep up with three kids!”  We were talking about school projects and paperwork, and I laughed really hard and ruined her image of me.

I don’t.

I mean, I try. I have a system, y’all! Several systems. Multiple systems for when my systems don’t work. And a few back up systems. But I’m not going to lie and tell you that I didn’t find a paper this morning that I was supposed to have signed. In November.  But even keeping up with forms is not as hard as this other thorn in my side.  Homework.

It’s called homework because it makes your house feel like those old factories from the 1920s where you ate a crust of bread for lunch and lost fingers in machines and wore pinafores. I don’t really know what a pinafore is, but it sounds dreadful. It wasn’t supposed to be this way…

The mom in my head is one who greets her children at the door with a smile and hug. They have a snack waiting on the table for them, something with protein and carbs to bless their little bodies with energy and strength. Then all three sit at the table while she rotates, helping each one achieve academic greatness with their homework. When it’s done, she kisses them on their cherubic heads and papers are neatly filed into folders, placed back into backpacks and backpacks are gently placed into their own special cubby, ready to be used on the morrow. The children, their minds sharp from learning and their bodies nourished from the snack she lovingly prepared, go outside to ride their bikes and spread cheer to the neighbors.

But I have to, HAVE TO, be honest with you. I have my strengths as a mother and wife, but this is typically how after school goes…

Kids fly in through the door and I am in the kitchen, trying to get prep work done on dinner…

Malachi- “FJGKIHDSSDKLGHHDKHGSU;RIOHGSKKDJKDGKSHFGKSJLJFISHGIFNK!”

Selah- “KJDKLSGSKLRIUSHVURN;IEJIONCRNGJBRJKJEWIOJIEOHGIODNSOEMKJDF!!!!!”

Josiah- “-Some sentences about who did what wrong on the way home-”

Me- “Guys, hold- hold on. Guys. I can’t. Guys. Guys. GUYS.” (while dodging the flurry of papers that they are throwing at me)

Malachi- “Can I have a snack?”

Me- “yep. In a minute”

Selah- “Did you write me any letters today?”

Me- “Nope. Do you all have homework?”

Chorus of yes and various complaints of the overwhelming responsibility of being in school…

Me- “okay, well…Josiah, why don’t you go up to your room and Malachi, you sit here near me and Selah…Selah…SELAH. WHERE ARE YOU?”

Selah emerges from the playroom wearing a wedding dress and clown wig.

Me- “Selah. It’s not dress up time yet. You have to do homework first. You sit on that side of the table.”

Selah- “but that’s not my side.”

Malachi- “it doesn’t matter Selah. Don’t make a foolish argument”

Selah- “BUT THAT’S NOT MY SIDE.”

Josiah- “it doesn’t matter. You didn’t even buy this table. You don’t have a side.”

Selah- “oh I have a side and IT IS INCREDIBLY SPECIAL TO ME AND MY ACADEMIC CAREER IS SOLELY BASED ON THIS SIDE OF THE TABLE” (paraphrase)

Me- “guys. It doesn’t matter. Selah, just sit and get your homework out. Boys, you too.”

I hate homework. I hate it like a fat kid hates gluten-free cake. Hate it more than Uggs with shorts. I hate it more than Rainbow Doom Loom, which is saying a lot. I mean, I could just try to blame my kids and say that they are too rowdy, but the truth is, I am just terrible at helping them. I have no patience. I want it to be oooooooover. And Lord help us if the directions aren’t clear. It takes me approximately 4 seconds of staring at something I don’t understand to say “Uh…I think you are supposed to uh…write some numbers or stuff”

Sitting with the kids at the table while they get out their homework…

Child –  “I don’t know what to do”

Me- “it says write a sentence with the word “have” in it.”

Child- “What do you mean?”

Me(Oh Lord…what do you mean, what do I mean?? A sentence. With have.)– “A sentence. What is something you could talk about, using the word have?”

Child- “What does “have” mean?”

Me- (Oh. My. Word.  I HAVE a pencil that I will perhaps shove in my eye.)– “Have is…like…you are in possession…I mean…it belongs to you”

Child- “what belongs to me?”

Me- (shoot me. Just write a sentence. ANY SENTENCE WILL DO.) “Nothing. Just use it in a sentence”

Child very sloooooooooowly writes the word H-A-V-E

Me-(I. can. not.)– “honey (gritting teeth), that’s not a sentence. Okay, let me give you a hint. I blank a favorite book.”

Child- “Why are you putting your book in a blanket?”

Me- (I am going to actually perish right now) “No, not blanket. I (hum) a favorite book. Fill in with the woooooooord?” (Come on. You can do this. Say have)

Child- “pizza”

Child 2- “Can you help? Jennifer has eight flowers and John gives her four flowers and she gives three flowers to Chris, how many flowers does Jennifer have?”

Me- (please. ask me anything but a word problem. Ask me how babies are made. Ask me about periods. Please don’t ask me about Jennifer and her ever-loving flowers) “Well, how many does she start off with?”

Child 2- “Are they boyfriend and girlfriend?”

Me- “that’s not important to the problem”

Child 2- “but why is he giving her flowers?”

Me- (deep breaths, Brandy. Be thankful for curiosity)– “I don’t know honey. Maybe it was her birthday”

Child 2- “Why is she giving away the flowers? That’s not nice.”

Me- (I don’t know. Jennifer sounds sketch)– “Sweetie, it’s not real. We just need to figure out the problem”

Child 2- “What kind of flowers are they?”

Me- (I hate Jennifer and her whole family and everything she stands for.)

And I am just going to be honest and tell you that the other child doesn’t like help with his homework and that does not make me sad. So there you go- this is my confession. I’m so sorry, teachers. I am that parent that you wonder if they ever look at the folder. I do look at the folder. Most of the time.

Maria Homework

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Let’s be Facebook friends! https://www.facebook.com/brandy.novakbutler

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Dear Adoptive/Foster parent…

In medicine, we face new situations every day.  No two patients and families are the same.

The 3 children I saw with ear infections this morning all had different symptoms: one was fussy, the other had fever and the last cough and runny nose.  Patients and families not only have different medical stories, they have different personal stories.  Just this week, I’ve seen babies with mom and dad, mom and mom, grand-ma, foster mom and adoptive mom.  One of these situations is particularly close to my heart: adoption.  I’m sure I have said some stupid stuff to families in the past but the important thing is that I’ve learned some things along the way and I will continue to learn going forward.

Just like any other “type” of family, I’ve dealt with adoptive families that are really easy and really difficult, fun and hard.  There are some characteristics of those that make my job easier.  Here are some things I’ve noticed that you can do to help me take care of your child better.

Be honest…

There’s no reason to keep something from me.  It’s my job to take whatever is going on, apply my filter as a doctor to the situation and come out the other side non-judgmental and as an advocate for you and your child.   Whether it’s something difficult about your child’s past or something particularly tricky that is going on in your house, I need to know about it so I can help you in the best way possible.  I’ve particularly seen foster families try to paint a rosy picture because they constantly feel threatened on all sides (bio-families and their agency).  All the while, their child is struggling with ADHD, learning or other behavioral issues that I could have helped them address had they only asked.

“But wait,” you say, “you don’t know my doctor.  I’m afraid they’ll turn me in for (x, y and z).”

There are 2 answers, you’re either doing something wrong that deserves to be reported or you need to find a new doctor.

Be direct…

If there’s something that you think your child needs ask directly for it.  This strategy is useful for any child but, I think particularly important for adoptive children.  I think this is best addressed with a particular example.  If an adoptive family comes in with a new child who is delayed in some way (especially speech), I commonly take the approach to wait a little bit and see what happens.  I’ve seen it happen so often that with a new environment, the child takes off and ends up catching right up.  This, however, is completely a matter of style and I don’t believe that there is a right and wrong answer about what to do.  So, if asked directly, I’ll certainly any request and either comply with the request or discuss and explain why I think a particular intervention (medication, therapy or otherwise) is unnecessary until you understand.

“But wait,” you say, “you don’t know my doctor.  They’ll get mad at me and think I’m demanding.”

There are 2 answers, you’re either asking for something ridiculous or you need to find a new doctor.

Be gracious…

All people say and do dumb things sometimes.  Medical professionals are people too.  There are certain things that might be unforgivable.  There are certain statements and situations that are so hurtful you can’t go back to see someone again.  I’m pretty sensitive to parents and children but I know I make off-handed statements that are unintentionally hurtful.  My goal is that I’ve provided great care to you before and/or I’ve shown you enough of my heart that you realize I didn’t mean to be hurtful and I do love your child.  Extending some grace when you are able provides a great opportunity to teach people some of the insight you have about how an adoptive family thinks to someone who has never considered it.  Maybe they won’t say the same thing again to someone else.  Maybe they’ll explore a hidden prejudice that they didn’t know they had.  Maybe they’ll just blow you off but you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried.

“But wait,” you say, “you don’t know my doctor.  They’ll get mad at me and think I’m complaining and oversensitive.”

There are 2 answers, you’re either complaining or oversensitive or you need to find a new doctor.

You can find information about Dr. Smith’s practice here- (he is accepting new patient appointments to begin in March)   http://www.cookchildrens.org/Lewisville/hebronparkway/Pages/default.aspx

Follow Dr. Smith on Twitter! @TheDocSmitty

Follow his page on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/TheDocSmitty

Dear Medical/Mental Health Provider…

“So…I guess we should just pretend you are the real mom…”

I sat there with my 18 month old and my brand new baby girl as those words washed over me. For a minute, my sleep deprived ears thought I must have misheard her.

“Pretend…real mom…”

This was my pediatrician, the woman who was there when Josiah was born and walked through the adoption process with Selah. The context of this conversation was that we were filling out forms for the insurance company and it was asking for health background of the parents.  I understood the confusion. Did they want to know health information about her birth mother or me? But her words…they cut like a scalpel.

Fast forward almost nine years and a third child, if that happened to me today I wouldn’t slink away and cry in my car. And it has happened- more times that I’d like to count. It’s always been amazing to me that medical professionals, even mental health professionals, have said some of the most insensitive things regarding adoption (not that medical professionals can’t be human and make mistakes, but when you are responsible for someone’s well being, I expect a level of education and sensitivity). So let’s grab some blog coffee and talk…

Tips for Medical Professionals when working with Adoptive families

Don’t assume a domestic adoption=no issues

We have been dismissed multiple times because we didn’t adopt our children out of foster care or from another country (except for our youngest). Of course, this doesn’t mean that all children who were adopted will struggle with developmental or learning issues, but it also doesn’t mean that adopting a child at birth will magically protect them from it either. Being educated on attachment theory will not only help you spot problems earlier with children, but will help you become a good resource for attachment problems with parents and thus become part of the solution to preventing disrupted adoptions. After we left our first pediatrician, we found a new one and I can’t express how grateful I am that she has taken our concerns seriously. We know that we were able to get help much earlier than many parents and most of that is because she listened to us, even when many doctors said “Selah will grow out of this”- because of this, I also listen when she tells me that I DON’T need to worry, because she has already proven that I can trust her.

Educate your staff

As a parent, my first impression of a new doctor or therapist is the office staff. If a parent is consistently having to field insensitive statements or questions, it can discourage them from coming back, even if they love the doctor. A bad encounter with office staff can also create unneeded anxiety for a child that gets projected onto the doctor. We visited a doctor once and the nurse got irritated with Selah for squirming while taking her blood pressure. I tried to explain that she was extremely sensitive to tight clothing (her Sensory Processing Disorder dx was in her chart), but she ignored me and continued to scold Selah (she was four years old). By the time the doctor came into the room, I was completely frazzled and Selah was  shaking and hiding under the table. Please also make sure your staff is aware of the legalities of adoption. When Josiah was a year old, he had to have ear tubes put in. The night before the surgery, a nurse called and asked about medical history. When I told her that he was adopted, she told me that she wasn’t sure I was allowed to authorize surgery and she would need to talk to whoever had custody of him. Needless to say, this was not comforting to a nervous mama!

Realize that for many adoptive parents, parenting choices are built upon attachment theory

When you are thinking about typical parenting issues, it is easy to begin with an assumption that a child and parent are firmly and lovingly attached to each other. However, for adoptive families, we don’t get to have that assumption (even when adopting a newborn!) when making parenting choices. Please don’t assume a parent is “weak” or “spoiling” their child if they feed them a separate Ethiopian meal for six months instead of making them eat what the rest of the family is eating. Please don’t criticize that mom for letting her newly adopted two year old use a bottle and pacifier. Please remember that above all else parents are trying to build trust with their child, and that may require allowing that child to do things that *appear* permissive or even coddling.

Look around your office

Does everyone look just like you? If you work in an office of all white doctors, nurses, and staff, it’s a problem. It’s also a problem if they are all male. As a mother of a black child, I tend to want to make sure that he sees people that look like him, especially in places that are designed to help him. I am much more likely to ask a black doctor or nurse for advice on the best lotion for his skin. At some point, my daughter became a little less comfortable with the male partners in her pediatrician’s office. When you work in an all white, all male environment, you miss a world of perspective and cultural difference and those differences not only make you a better provider, but they also expand the scope of your practice. To be blunt, I don’t trust practices that aren’t diverse. As a parent, it makes me wonder if I’m going to get cookie cutter advice.

Be a part of the team, not just the expert

Let me tell you the thing I am most grateful for with our pediatrician (and there are many things!). Over the last ten years with all my children, I have approached her with many different ideas and theories. Some of them have been medication oriented and some of them have been straight up voodoo. She has always patiently listened to my ideas, given me the science behind my questions, and encouraged me to try whatever my husband and I felt was best. She has told me when an idea didn’t have good research behind it, she has warned me about those who take advantage of hurting parents, but in the end, she has been willing to look into different options to help our kids. I don’t ever walk away from her feeling belittled or spoken down to. I feel like she is a part of our team. And in truth, that relationship (it works both ways, I am sure she has to trust us as well!) goes much further than her degree does in convincing us to go one way or another. Look, parents are bulldogs. Mamas especially. We will fight and research and try and ask around for solutions. We will hound other parents for ideas. We will spend hours reading the internet. And there are a thousand charlatans out there, just waiting for a hurting mom to pounce on to sell her some product or theory to fix her child’s problem. And the reason we fall for it is because love and worry trump reason. When we don’t feel like we are being listened to or that our child’s provider doesn’t really care about our child, we feel forced to find our own solutions.

Come back on Monday to hear my friend, Dr. Justin Smith, speak about what doctors need from adoptive parents.  Dr. Smith is a pediatrician in Lewisville, TX and a father through adoption as well.

Email me @brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

Let’s be Facebook friends!  https://www.facebook.com/brandy.novakbutler

I pin stuff.  http://www.pinterest.com/brandybutler/

If you give a mom a chia hemp acaiberry muffin…

If you send a non crunchy granola mom to Sprouts late at night because her daughter is having flu symptoms, she’ll probably search Facebook for her crunchy granola mom friends to see what they buy at Sprouts. Then she’ll notice everyone is talking about “essential oils” and she will wonder if that means it’s essential that you have them. She will probably roll her eyes then because she will think the only oil that essential in HER life is vegetable oil because you need that to make brownies and brownies are delicious. While she’s walking into the store, she will message her friends and ask for recommendations for things to buy. She’ll probably also make a mental note to check if they sell brownies. Then she will begin down the first aisle of homeopathic remedies, searching for something called “Osscocaliumnus” or “Osssocolostrum” or “Ossomesauce” or something like that. She will muse that it sounds very much like a Harry Potter spell and it probably makes your nose stop running. Then she will look for elderberry syrup, which incidentally sounds like something you’d use for a potion. She will wonder if the makers of homeopathic medicines are fans of Harry Potter or if that is just a coincidence. But then she will turn the corner and there it will be- the promised land. She will look in awe at the rows and rows of tiny bottles, filled with different oils, all claiming to treat any kind of ailment.

She will see a bottle that says it treats stiff joints. Then she will remember that she woke up that very morning and her wrists were hurting. She will sniff the liquid and she will put it right back right away because dear Lord. A few bottles down, she will see one that treats attention problems. She will scoff and think “I don’t need that”. She will probably be wrong. At the end of the aisle, she will see a potion oil that treats allergies. Then she will remember that she’s been miserable for a week because of mountain cedar. She will muse that she doesn’t even live in the mountains so this could be a scam, brought on by a giant lobbyist group for all non-mountain trees. She will see that you can try it as a sample but she will wonder- do I drink it? Put it on my hands? Is it a nose spray?? She will decide that based on how gross it would be to have a nose spray sample, it’s probably not that. She will read that you should put it under your tongue so she will spray it on her finger and taste it. Then she will wonder why these companies hate people.

Then she will probably remember that it’s getting late and she will grab her Elderwand syrup and Ossyosbourne and a few other bottles that look good. She will skip over to the bakery section, but she’ll probably just find organic vegan brownies. Then she’ll shake her head in sadness, because who in the hizzle wants to eat brownies made out of vegans?!  Then she will just drive home where she will spend the next half hour trying to convince her daughter to actually take these concoctions by promising that if she does, she will get to drink a sprite made with the chemicaliest chemicals that ever chemicaled.

The End.

Guest Post…Eczema and the weight of debt

I asked my sweet friend Courtney to share a little about her son’s eczema and how they have been dealing with it. If you are interested in guesting posting on a subject you are passionate about, please email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com
Getting out of debt- no not that kind of debt…
                                                                                                                                                                                        Hi! My name is Courtney Vorel. I married my college sweetheart in May of 2000. Since then God has given us three precious children- two biological and one adopted. Our youngest has struggled since birth with severe eczema. Brandy asked me to write a guest post on the journey we have taken to find healing for him. If the funniest person you know asked you to do a guest post would you feel intimidated? Would you feel like if she knew that you’ve never read a single Harry Potter book that she might retract her invitation? But could you redeem the invitation by admitting you have solo dance parties in your living room when all the kids are at school? These thoughts and others went through my mind. In the end I felt like if I could even help a few families have hope in their struggle with eczema it would be worth the effort.
                                                                                                                                                                                           Oddly enough I feel like the theme of the story God is writing through our struggle with severe eczema centers on debt. When Jason and I were first married we set aside the first 6 months of marriage to just invest in each other. We married the week after Jason walked the stage at TCU, so we were coming out of a 4 year chapter in our lives of balancing ministry (we were both Young Life leaders and we both took a term as serving as chaplain for our fraternity and sorority), commitments, schoolwork, jobs, family, and friends. After six months of rest we decided to enroll in an equipping class at Watermark. Jason suggested we take the Crown Ministries class. I thought that sounded awfully dull. But I submitted. Thankfully because of my husband’s wisdom to get us into a class on Biblical stewardship we have enjoyed the sweet blessing of considering God the true owner of everything. In a world where stress over money and belongings can be sky high, we have enjoyed the peace of living by God’s plan.
                                                                                                                                                                                                The debt that God has been revealing to me lately has nothing to do with the traditional financial debt that first comes to mind. One type of debt that I am fighting to get free of is the debt of being overweight. When I am stressed (and the stressful days are frequent with a kid with severe eczema) I tend to overeat. To put that in terms of debt- I am overspending the amount of calories my body has to spend in a day. Instead of bank loans my deficit actually looks like stored fat cells. Fortunately God is layer by layer freeing me of this struggle as I learn to believe that He is enough to satisfy the deepest longings and needs of my soul.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another type of debt is having a time and energy deficit. The week before school started in August I took my son to National Jewish Hospital in Denver to participate in their pediatric day clinic for kids with severe eczema. Because I didn’t want my 2nd grader and kindergartener to miss their first week of school and because of the strain it would put on my husband to miss two weeks of work, I traveled with just my youngest son. Being in a hospital setting in a distant city without my normal support network and playing the role of a single mom was more physically and emotionally exhausting than I had ever imagined. This trip to the hospital in Denver came at the end of a 3 year battle that included sleepless nights and frustration and heartache. The by-product of being “in the red” when it comes to physical and emotional strength is that you just get behind. For me I got behind on housework. I got behind on Bible study. I got behind onshopping for groceries. The hole that I needed to climb out of was intimidating. In finances the rule of thumb is to live well enough within your means so that when the water heater busts or the car breaks down you have built up enough cushion to absorb the blow. When you are working your way out of physical and emotional debt you are already below the line and just when you think you are about to get into “the black” it does not take much to push you back into deficit. The thing I am most thankful for as we fight to build up a cushion again is my community. Not just my official on paper community as wonderful as they are but my community at large as well. The outpouring of love, kindness, and compassion from friends and family has been a wonderfully effective salve to help soothe the heartache of being in a hard season.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   What I am excited to share with you today is that my sweet young boy is at the healthiest place he as been in terms of his eczema, allergies, and itchiness. The doctors in Denver say that in several more months we should reach the magical place called “maintenance.” As of now regarding his skin we are still working our way out of the deficit of damaged skin that he has incurred since birth. But the good news is that we are on the right path and we are no longer where we were. We are steadily progressing and improving. Before Denver we had seen 2 dermatologists, 2 allergists, two pediatricians, used almost every skin product under the sun- over the counter, prescriptions, homemade concoctions of olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable glycerin. We even tried Accupressure this summer. Our poor little guy was always itchy despite our best efforts to help him. He would wake up several times a night with what we called “cricket legs”. He would rub his little legs together to try and soothe the itchiness. We started putting ponytail holders around the ends of jacket sleeves to prevent him from scratching at night or in the car. He had to wear tights under onesies to prevent him from scratching his legs raw. We were truly in a dismal place.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   In Denver the main source of help came from their version of hydration therapy. They believe that a kid with eczema has trouble retaining moisture in their skin cells. So rather than just adding a layer of a thick, greasy moisturizer on top of the skin, they seek to drive moisture in the form of water deeper beneath the surface of the skin. The way they achieve this is through baths and wet wraps. Ironically the plan they executed looked fairly similar to the plan that our current allergist had prescribed. The difference was in small details and especially having nurses give me hands on coaching and guidance to execute the plan effectively. We started with three baths a day followed by wet wraps after two of the baths. The wet wraps consisted of my husband’s old tube socks for arms and legs and a layer of cotton pajamas over that. We soak the socks and pajamas in warm water, wring them out, and put them on over a fresh layer of either thick moisturizer (we use Vanicream) or prescription steroid cream (we use triamcynalone). We also use Protopic following baths that don’t get a wet wrap. We then put him in a dry fleece footie pajama and sometimes wrap him up in a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer. By the time we left Denver we were down to 2 baths a day and just one wet wrap a day. We will stay at 2 baths a day for the next few months. We have dropped our wet wraps to just once or twice a week. Someday we hope to get on maintenace which is just one bath a day followed by lotion.  It was truly amazing to me how quickly his skin improved in just a few days time when undergoing that rigorous schedule of baths and wraps. We were already doing 2 baths a day at home, but we were only doing wet wraps every so often. To bump up to three baths of 20 minutes a piece in luke warm water followed by 2 wet wrap sessions where he stayed in his wraps for at least 2 hours made such a huge difference.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you have a child who struggles with severe eczema I would encourage you to clear off your schedule for a few days and just focus on baths and wraps. I think you will be encouraged by the progress a kid can make. Of course if you have never been tested for allergies that is also a great place to start. If there is an allergen that is triggering the eczema you will want to avoid that allergen- whether that is a pet or a certain food. The other thing that I have learned on this journey is that what helps one kids is not always what helps another kid. Wherever you are in your journey I hope you will take heart and press on. I hope and pray God reveals to you the steps you need to take to get out of the debt you are in- whatever form that is.
You can follow Courtney on twitter @mightypetunias
You can follow me @brandyb77
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“All my instincts, they return and the grand facade, so soon will burn without a noise, without my pride I reach out from the inside…”

If you are a man who has spent much time in churches or reading christian books about marriage, you’ve probably heard the following advice-

Take your wife out on dates.

Give her a break from the kids.

Study her love language and speak it. 

Make yourself accountable to other men so that you can learn to love your wife like Christ loves the church. 

This is not bad advice. But if you are anything like me, sometimes when you hear the same words over and over again, it is easy to nod and smile- date, break from kids, serve her, don’t be a jerk. Got it. I want to talk about the not as obvious ways you can love your wife this year. The secret ways. The things we women talk about on our group trips to the bathroom and on commercial breaks from Downton Abby. The things John Cusack would think of.

So here you go…

10 ways to love your wife in 2014

1. Give your wife a day off. I know, this has been said before, but I mean a REAL day off. Think of it this way- if you took a day off of your job, and your assistant called you every hour to ask a question, and then your boss called you to ask if you’d be home later to do some work, and then when you went in the next day, your co workers made you feel guilty that you missed a day…would you really feel like you’d had time away to relax? I’ve been around girlfriends who answer their phones every few minutes with mediating arguments from the kids, answering shoe finding questions from husbands, and I see their face fall at each ring. Please understand, husbands, when we are away from our kids, we are already feeling some level of guilt. Our society tells moms that they don’t really need a break and if they do, it’s probably because they are selfish or not managing their time well. So commit to giving your wife real time off- don’t call her to ask if she left dinner for you, or if she knows where clean socks are. When she gets home, don’t tell her how terrible the kids were without her or complain about how exhausted you are. Realize that your wife might be struggling with some guilt and make a commitment to not make that little voice in her head sound like you. Give her small and big chunks of time. Give her time alone in your house- sometimes the only thing we want to do is sit in silence in our pajamas and read a book.

2. Pay attention to her Pinterest page. Open an account (you don’t have to use it, but opening an account and following your wife will let you see what she is pinning). Paying attention to what your wife pins is an easy way to get a glimpse into her mind and heart on any given day. Is she pinning a bunch of vacation sites? Maybe she’s feeling a need to escape and relax and you have an opportunity to help meet that need. Is she pinning fitness tips and diets? Sometimes this is healthy, and sometimes this happens when we are having one of those days when you feel less than beautiful. Pay attention. Are you one of those guys who struggle with gift giving? Pinterest needs to be your new best friend! *ps-you might think Pinterest is dumb. That’s okay. I think fantasy football is dumb. And a little bit of real football. But don’t spend time mocking it to her- trust me, women hear plenty of messages that things we like are frivolous and stupid. Be different. 

3. Intentionally cultivate and deepen friendships. I hear something consistently with my girlfriends, and that is that we tend to wish our husbands had a best friend. I want to be clear- I am not really talking about being accountable to other men, although that is incredibly important. I’m talking about having best friends- guys that you go on camping trips with (away from the kids), go to movies with, hang out and watch games with, the ones you laugh with. Why does that bless your wife? Well, laughter and fun is healthy so the more you are able to do that, the healthier you are, emotionally and physically. It’s also a blessing because if you are a woman who has close deep friendships with other women, you know how fulfilling that is, and you want that for your husband as well. So go, make a man-date with a friend.

4. Commit to learning to do something she does. This doesn’t have to be huge- not saying you need to learn to make Beef Wellington or learn how to crochet. (but if you DO learn to crochet and you make her a blanket, that is SO John Cusack.). I mean, learn your kid’s shoe sizes and take them shopping the next time they need shoes. Make sure you know who your child’s doctor’s are and take them to an appointment. Handle a parent teacher conference by yourself. Fix your daughter’s hair. Go grocery shopping- and stick to the list. Take the kids to the pool and get sunscreen on everyone. Handle the science project. Chaperone the field trip.

5. Learn to recognize the sad pants. Most girls have them- pants we wear when we are feeling a certain way. It may be hormones or a bad day with work or kids, or no reason at all. If you come home and the sad pants are on, you have a chance to give your wife a little bit of love. Put the kids to bed a little early, and ask her what would make her evening more relaxing. Make an effort to tell her something you love about her, something unique to her. Remind her that she is loved and created by Him.

6. Stop calling her your smoking hot wife. Forgive me, woman who loves that. If you love this, tell your husband to feel free to ignore this one. But seriously, stop it. One, it’s now a cliche that means nothing. Two, there are seasons when being outwardly beautiful is the very last thing on my to do list and I need to know that my husband is okay with that. Three, if you want to compliment beauty, don’t be lazy- choose something that is unique to her. Fourth, this phrase can feel like a real slap in the face when you are feeling the opposite of “smoking hot”. We are not dumb. We know that yogurt covered sad pants and two day old unwashed hair is not smoking hot. We know that it’s an attempt to compliment…but if you want to compliment, hug her and say “the way you serve our family even when it gets difficult is incredibly beautiful to me”. Then watch the kids so she can shower.

7. Have a conversation about sex, and then don’t have it. Ask your wife to talk about you about how she feels about your sexual relationship, and then when you are done, go take the trash out or something. Here’s the thing- talking about sex can be intimidating and nerve-wracking. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage and choosing to trust the other person. So knowing that there’s an unspoken expectation that sex is going to happen after a conversation about it just adds to the pressure. This is especially true if there is a lot of tension in your marriage already. Some women will avoid talking about sex, not because they don’t want to have that conversation, but because they don’t know how to handle the expectation of having sex afterwards. So tell your wife, “I just want to talk about this with you and hear how you are feeling about this part of our marriage”  If trust has been an issue with you in the past, just listening to her and not expecting her to act will help her to trust you. And I think it goes without saying- listen and pay attention.

8. Make it your goal to make her laugh at least once a day, and screen laughter doesn’t count. Sharing funny videos, tweets, or status updates is great. Watching Jimmy Fallon together is awesome. But just decide that if it comes from a screen, it doesn’t count. You might be surprised to realize how much we have relied on social media and television to make up the content of our conversations. Don’t fall for it. YOU be the funniest person in her world.

9. Realize your privilege. If you are a white straight male, congratulations- you have the most power and privilege in our society. People probably don’t ask you if you have a real job. When you are in public, people probably don’t talk to your wife and ignore you until she introduces you. You are probably not leered at or spoken to in a sexually suggestive way when you are out in public. While walking to your car, you probably don’t have a moment of concern for your safety. If you get pulled over for speeding, it’s likely you don’t assume your car might be searched. People probably don’t express surprise when they see you in your job because they were expecting to see a woman. When you get upset, you probably aren’t accused of being hormonal. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t have a difficult time finding hair or skin care products. Look, there are many things that are amazing about being a woman, but there are also things that our world makes difficult. As a husband, you aren’t going to be able to control or change many of those things, but you can try to not contribute to them as well. Take an honest look at the messages you receive for any unhealthy attitudes against women. Pray and ask Him to reveal any ways that you might be contributing that the idea that woman are less than men. Ask your wife- and be humble and open to hearing her answer- if there are ways she feels less than in your marriage.

10. At the beginning of each month, ask your wife to name one thing you could do by the end of the month that would make her feel loved. Put it in your phone, ask for accountability to do it- then blow it up. If she asks you to remember to take the trash out, gather all the trash, sweep the kitchen floor and then take it out. If she wants you to bring her flowers, buy her a rose bush. Be creative and be extravagant. Don’t ask her if she’s noticed. Don’t point it out for credit. Just do it, and watch her face light up.

And a little boombox holding over the head wouldn’t hurt either…

john-cusack-in-say-anything

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

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“Don’t need a trip to the beauty shop, ’cause I love what I got on top. It’s curly and it’s brown and it’s right up there! You know what I love? That’s right, my hair…”

Dear Malachi,

You turned six this week. By now, I think you know the drill- you wake up, we celebrate, mommy cries a little. There are certain birthdays that will draw more tears, and this was one.

You are two hands now.

There are changes that come with being two hands old. When you were five and someone asked you how old you were, you just held up your little hand, not letting go of mine. But now you have to let go to show that extra finger. And now I wonder, will your hand come back into mine or will you dart off to play with your friends, barely looking back and calling me “Mom” instead of Mommy. (That’s against the rules, by the way. Knock it off). I’ve been through this twice now, I know the drill- six comes with a change that can take your breath away with the beauty and pain. You’ve only been six for about a week and you’ve already called me Mom twice (seriously. Stop that nonsense). You got in trouble for saying your first bad word. (I don’t care what Macklemore says. We don’t say freaking). You reasoned with and won your first argument against your brother. And you did it, I see it coming like a train I can’t stop…you want to cut your hair.

Hair is a big deal to many moms, we document that first haircut like the strands will somehow propel us towards world peace. We fuss and spit style it and bemoan the messiness. The day our child requests a cool haircut is a day we don’t forget. But for me, it means something different. When I saw you for the first time over that ocean and held you as you slept, I ran my hand over your curls and I. was. gone. I used to twirl those tiny curls around my finger and breathe in deep the smell of your toddler head, and you were mine. You came home, and your hair got bigger. I loved it. A few times, your daddy would take you for a trim and I would say “just don’t touch the curls”. I actually got mad, like legit wife mad, when he allowed them to cut it too short one time.

But something ugly happened. A woman approached me in the store one time and looked at you with disdain, then turned to me and said “that baby don’t look black. He look african.”

It wasn’t meant as kind advice. She was angry and trying to be hurtful, and it was. I cried and left the store. Later, I was studying you at the park, and I realized that in some ways, she was right- you didn’t match the other brown boys. You have to understand that as a white mother of a brown boy, I am constantly trying to find a balance between fitting in and standing out, managing my fears with acknowledging real issues. I am more and more aware of my own white privilege. And the bottom line of all of that is that I want to be a good mother to you, and to point you to the One who defines your identity. But here we were, faced with acceptance and integration and emotion, all tied up in your curls. So…we cut your hair.

I immediately hated it. I told your daddy that you looked too old with your short hair. I’d hold you and my hand would drift to your head, searching for those tiny rings and find nothing. You didn’t mind, you liked that you looked more like your bald daddy. I felt a secret sense of pride when that first curl grew out, like someone had returned my baby to me. Over time, you’ve had several hairstyles, but the curls are always my favorite.

But you are two hands old now, and the boys in your class don’t have long hair. It’s not the only difference you’ve noticed. You asked me the other day “my birthfamily was brown too, right?”, like you were trying hard to find a match in our sea of white faces. My heart broke. “Yes baby, they were brown, and just as beautiful as you are.” was my answer. So when I see you staring at the other brown boys, and you reach up to touch your hair, I know it’s coming. Not just the haircut, but it’s one more step, one more finger away from me. It is one more layer to the question of how do I, a white woman, raise this brown boy to understand who he is?

Right about now I imagine readers thinking “geez, it’s not that big of a deal. Love is love. We should all just be colorblind!”  I used to think that too. It’s so easy to think that when you are the one with the privilege.

So I acknowledge that this might be the last year that I get to choose for you. Next year you might ask to wear bow ties every day(instead of asking to wear one on the first day so you’d look “handsome”). Next year you might ask for certain shoes or refuse to kiss me in public. If you do, I’ll think about that curly-haired baby and thank Him for that time, and open my hands to release you. I know that you are not really mine to hold. I know you are His.

Turning two hands is a big deal, baby. I pray that your hand slips from mine right into His.

Love,

Mommy

 

baby mally curly mally mally curls

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