Chapter One: The Facts of My Life
I received an e-mail from the editor of a magazine for which I had recently been interviewed. The note read, "Lisa, I'm reviewing the article and looking at everything you do, and I wonder at one quote. You say, 'Moms must be careful not to attempt to do it all; you have to be willing to let a few things slide.' May I ask, what on earth do you let slide?"
I e-mailed the following response:
There are lots of things that slide. I'm embarrassed at the things that get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Let me just name a few:
- Healthy meals-tonight the kids had cereal for dinner.
- The last time I did any "spring cleaning" was the winter of aught 5.
- I desperately need to exercise, but I figure I log in at least 20 minutes a day on the "Stairmaster," hauling laundry up and down to the bedrooms.
- I promised my daughter a year ago that I would teach her to sew.
- I've made the same New Year's resolution three years in a row to have each of our neighbors over for dinner.
- My latest obsession is scrapbooking, but I'm still cropping pictures of my kids from when they were in diapers.
- I come from a long line of readers and yet even my magazines stack up by the bed, untouched (although they make an attractive nightstand).
- Thankfully, I'm not much of a shopper so I don't lose time there, but then again, my wardrobe also reflects that.
- Wouldn't it be nice if I answered all those wonderful letters people send me?
- My husband would be in heaven if I had my nails done every week, but at this point he's going to have to wait until Jesus comes.
- When I suggest, "Let's make some homemade cookies," we don't head for the mixer, we reach for the sharpest "slice and bake" knife that's not in the dishwasher.
- I really mean to write to my senators.
- At the onset of Y2K, I embarked on a "Read through the Bible in a decade" program. My goal is to reach the book of Habakkuk before my last child enters high school.
After the Facts
Sound like anyone at your house? A lot has changed since my days playing "Blair" on The Facts of Life
. Shortly after the birth of my third baby, an actress friend remarked to me, "After having worked for so many years, it must be nice to be able to relax and not work for a while." I had three children in diapers at the time, and I was tempted to slap her with a wet wipe. Yeah, I'm leading a real "Pampered" lifestyle these days.
Of course, I wouldn't trade it for all the money in Hollywood. I love my life! I will always be grateful for the fun I had while I was on television, but it can't compare with the joy I'm experiencing now.
I don't remember ever making a conscious decision to quit show business and become a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I'd always assumed I would continue working even after I had children. But for some reason, I never got another job I auditioned for. Go figure! It might have had something to do with the fact that I was married during the last season of the show; then, for the first five years of my marriage, I was either pregnant, nursing, or trying to lose baby fat. By the time I was back in fighting shape, I had three adorable preschoolers below the belt. And that's where it would've hit me to have to leave them every day.
I am very fortunate to be married to a wonderful man, Steve. He agreed to let me stay home while he continued his job as an associate pastor and director of Information Technologies at our church. Poor guy. He thought he was marrying a rich, young starlet. We were barely home from the honeymoon when he began saying good-bye each morning to an unemployed mommy with a baby in her arms, an extra 10 pounds on her hips, spit-up on her shoulders, and two tiny toddlers. (Oh, and by the way, honey, did I mention that I'm not a natural blond?)
I don't think I will ever take for granted the privilege of being my children's mother and the opportunity to stay home with them. I consider it a luxury because I understand it is an option many families aren't able to afford. I've also walked with the Lord long enough to have learned that what is right for one family may not be what's best for another. Therefore, you won't find me making any judgments against working mothers. Who knows-I may be called back to work someday, too.
It sure would be hard to obey the Lord if He asked that of me, though. I love to watch my kids each day become little people! I've often been told, "Enjoy them while they're young, because they grow up before you know it." I personally have not found that to be the case. It feels like they've been small forever! But I've enjoyed every minute of their childhood.
Have You Met My Children?
Let me introduce you to my little darlings. Steve has come up with a great way to describe our children-in color groups. Tucker, who is nine years old at the time of this writing, is our firstborn. He is your basic eight-pack of primary colors. Tucker is bold and original. You need fire? He's brimming with red. Could use a little sunshine? He exudes joyful yellow. You want green? He's full of life. I'm sorry, but he's rarely blue. Can I offer you some orange? Tucker is all the colors you really need in one place. No need for any big, fancy box with the sharpener built in.
Haven, our eight-year-old daughter, is the middle child. She represents the jewel tones: the beautiful, rich, intricate shades. She is as gorgeous as a scarlet rose, as deep as the forest green, and as complicated as the midnight blue sky. But what a gem she is.
Clancy, our seven-year-old daughter, is the baby. We first considered pastels to describe her because she's been so calm from the moment she was born. Our only hesitation was that lavender and sea foam green don't do justice to her sparkling personality. Then Steve thought of fluorescents. Perfect! Crayola introduced the colors "neon carrot," "magic mint," and "razzle dazzle rose" just in time to describe delightful Clancy.
Every year in our family Christmas letter, I include a quote from each of our children. It is usually a snippet of something they've said during the year that reflects their personalities at their current ages. It helps our friends and family stay in touch as the kids grow. Maybe it will create a quick snapshot for you, too.
In our last holiday letter I shared this story about our son: The kids and I had just finished our morning prayer when Tucker asked, "So, what catalog does God order out of?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
With a smile sneaking out one side of his mouth, he quipped, "Well, you just asked God to order Grandmother's day. So I was wondering, will He simply call up to the angels and say, 'I want a Tuesday and a Thursday, and send them over to Genny Coleman right away'?"
As you can tell, Tucker is a real jokester.
Last year was an exciting one for Haven. She finally lost her first tooth! She had been wiggling it for about a year. Actually, she started by fiddling with her two top teeth until I informed her that her bottom teeth would come out first. (Of course, Tucker heard me from across the room and, in typical big brother style, yelled, "Ooooh, yuck! Haven has teeth on her bottom?")
Haven put her "bottom" tooth under her pillow with a note to the tooth fairy. I left the money and kept the tooth and letter to put in her memory box. Then I hid them in my brush drawer under Steve's tray. The next morning, Haven borrowed my brush and found the note and tooth. She raced down the stairs and, with a look of betrayal, said, "So you're the one who left the money!"
I felt awful. Her first tooth and she had already discovered the secret. She'd never have the thrill of believing in the tooth fairy again. "Yes, honey," I answered softly. "Are you disappointed?"
With folded arms, she replied, "Yes, I am. Now, I'm going to leave it under my pillow again, and this time let the tooth fairy get it!"
I already have Clancy's quote for this year's Christmas letter. Last summer, we took a family vacation and drove up the West Coast, because the girls were going to be in a friend's wedding. On the drive back, we spent two days in San Francisco, where we were given the opportunity to stay in a lovely hotel. The chandeliers hanging in the lobby were bigger than our entire living room at home. The kids received backpacks, compliments of the hotel, filled with maps and literature about San Francisco.
As we were packing up to leave, Clancy came running to me in a panic. "Where are all the coupons that were in my backpack?" she cried.
I assured her, "I took them out to give them to Grandmother in case she wants to bring Uncle Casey back here later this summer."
"But I need them!" she said.
My eyebrows rose. "Why?"
She crooked her little finger and motioned me down to her face. Then she whispered in my ear, "Because I'm thinking about coming back here on my honeymoon." I hope these stories help you to formulate a composite of my little ones. You'll have plenty of opportunities to fill in more of the details as you read along. After all, my children are the reason I've written this book in the first place.
Is He ADHD or Am I CRAZY?
From the moment of conception, I started reading parenting books. Well, okay, maybe not right at that particular moment, but soon thereafter. I determined that if there was a right way to raise children, I was going to find it. Steve and I attended our first parenting classes before we even took our Lamaze classes. We certainly didn't want to ruin our child for life by neglecting a crucial ingredient in the first few months of infancy. We found out later that we had already blown it by not reading aloud Plato and playing classical music in utero.
After Tucker was born, I continued to read books on every subject from colic to college. We also attended classes on high chair manners and hosted water-baby swimming lessons. By the time Haven and Clancy showed up, Steve and I were parenting experts.
Life was rolling merrily along until the arrival of El Nino. (For those of you who don't remember, El Nino was a warm front that brought massive rain and extreme humidity to the West Coast. Suddenly, Tucker became irritable, hyperactive, and often uncontrollable. He had been somewhat moody in the past, but we had chalked-up his erratic behavior to fatigue and crankiness. With the onset of El Nino, however, Tucker started to wake up that way.
We assumed we were not being strict enough so we buckled down more tightly. But our discipline would only send him screaming to his room, kicking toys along the way and slamming the door behind him Even more confusing, the very next day he would wake up and be the enjoyable, incredible, loving boy we had grown to know and love. It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We explored every possible explanation, visiting over a half-dozen specialists. Tucker went through 15 bottles of vitamins, nine months of allergy shots, six homeopathic remedies, five elders who prayed for healing, three weeks of elimination diets, two Hepa filters for air purification, one light box for seasonal affective disorder. The majority of the doctors diagnosed him with ADHD and recommended medication.
But there was one glaring inconsistency. He was an absolute angel during the summer months. This had nothing to do with school, either. Noticing this pattern earlier, we had already begun home-schooling him throughout the summer and taking a break during the winter when Tucker's ability to focus was next to nil. This approach had been relatively successful.
It wasn't until the next year, after El Nino had come and gone-leaving our family as if it had been hit by a tornado as opposed to a deluge of showers-that we realized the common thread: weather changes. Apparently, when the wind, rain, heat, or cold sets in, Tucker's allergies go haywire. Unfortunately, they have yet to make a rainy-day pill.
Our Travels Along the Parenting Highway
Up until that stormy year, we had been zipping on down the parenting highway. It was our plan to head straight across the interstate all the way until we ran into the "weather conditions" that prevented us from continuing along the same direction. We had to pull off the road and map out an alternate route. We still knew where we wanted to end up, happy, healthy kids who love God's ways; we just had to find another way to get there.
Maybe you have run into roadblocks, like Steve and I did with our son. We had to come up with quite a few creative ways to get around the hurdles in order to keep moving forward, such as home-schooling Tucker through the summer to work around his allergy problems. Have you found yourself at a point with your child where you feel as if you've tried everything and you're still facing the same obstacles? If so, take heart; this is a book is full of ideas when you have no idea what to do!
Perhaps you find yourself at a crossroad, and you don't know which way to turn. You know what you want for your child, but you aren't sure how to accomplish those goals. Your desire is for someone to stop telling you where you're supposed to be and start telling you how to get there. It is my prayer that you find some practical direction within this book.
In fact, whether you're facing a fork in the road, dead end, or are completely lost, don't give up. It might simply be time to forge a new road ahead, or to pick up the map and discover where you veered off course. If you feel overwhelmed, let me come alongside you and remind you of what you already know to be true but in the confusion of a "super highway" lifestyle, got lost along the way.
Tools to Create a Work of Art
I have attempted to organize this book with busy parents like you and me in mind so that no matter where you find yourself on this parenting journey, there is help within easy reach! Each chapter is divided into two parts: The first section contains stories about me and my family, illustrating common issues that we, as parents, most often face. I have found that I learn the most about child rearing by talking with a fellow mom over a cup of tea as we share our struggles, victories, and ideas. It is from this viewpoint that I offer my insights on such subjects as sibling conflict, respect, spanking, failure, reaching the heart, and discipline.
The second section of each chapter, the "Toolbox," is my favorite part! Over the years, I have gathered a variety of ideas from moms all across the country, which you'll see presented throughout the book. I have also come up with many tips of my own in an effort to make my role as a parent both effective and fun. Raising three unique children, including one that is ADHD nine months out of the year, has required a mixture of approaches.
As you well know, the parenting adventure is different with each child-and it's vital to recognize and adapt to your children's various temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses. Think of yourself as a sculptor as you shape and mold the lives of your young ones. With each child, you may be working with a different medium. You could be endeavoring to form one youngster who appears to be as tough as stone. As an artist, you might use a combination of chisels, hammers, even water while sculpting a masterpiece out of marble.
You may have another child who is more pliable, like clay. Even then, as a potter, you might use fire, a knife and your own bare hands. It doesn't matter what substance you're working with, be it wood, ice, bronze, wax, sand, steel, or foam. Each raw material requires a distinct combination of tools to strike the balance between respecting its uniqueness and steadfastly pursuing the potential for beauty within.
In the "Toolbox" at the end of each chapter, I will present different tools and creative ways to use them as we allow the Lord to work through us, shaping our children into His image. (See 1 Corinthians 8.) Let's take a sneak peek into my "supply closet." I have found storytelling to be an enjoyable and effectual way to reach the hearts of children, while rewards keep hope alive. Memorizing scripture instills a respect for authority, and teaching children an eternal perspective will help keep them on track. Finally, prayer is the master tool of the trade, for both parents and kids. As you'll see, there's no reason discipline has to be boring!
How to Use This Book
Hopefully, once you've finished reading Creative Correction, you'll have gleaned a few nuggets of wisdom. To keep those ideas accessible, put a book mark in the "Topical Index." That way, whenever you find yourself in a tough parenting situation, you can easily find a solution.
For instance, perhaps you've caught your little one in a lie. Go to the back of the book, find "Lying" in the index, and choose which tool you think would be most effective in this circumstance. It may be a story written in the second half of chapter three that illustrates the importance of honesty. The index may also lead you to related scriptures listed at the end of chapter two. If you're searching for creative methods of discipline-a punishment to fit the "crime"-you might turn to chapter five. Or you could flip to chapter four after determining that your child's lying is slowly becoming a habit and should be broken by setting up an incentive program. Finally, if one of my children has had a problem with lying, a page number will be listed if you want to see how I chose to handle the situation.
Experiment. If one idea doesn't work, try something else and come at it from another direction. But don't dismiss a failed method altogether; it may work on another child or at another stage of childhood. Believe me, your departure from the ordinary ways of correction will keep your kids on their toes, wondering what you'll pull out of your bag of tricks next. The road is long, but it doesn't have to be dull.
I sincerely wish parenting were easy, but it's not. It is my hope, however, that this book will, in some way, make your journey a little easier. And if I can't help in that area, then I'll shoot for "more enjoyable" at least.
That reminds me of the time I reprimanded Tucker for fooling around during a kindergarten lesson. Exasperated, I told him, "Tucker, the more you goof around, the longer this is going to take."
"And the funner it's going to be!" he responded with a grin.
When it comes to parenting, I agree. Goof around a little. It will make the journey "funner!"