"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Matters of the Heart, or “The Worst One”

So I’ve been all riled up about parenting issues for several weeks now. I kept thinking I’d write about it, but then I didn’t know really what to say. I certainly don’t have anything figured out, and how depressing is an inconclusive parenting blog? I don’t mind spilling my heart out with no conclusions, but honestly, I didn’t really have words for what I was feeling.

Until today.

First of all, I want to express that the older Ryley gets, the more difficult parenting becomes. Of course it’s easier in some ways….like the fact that she can practically dress herself, and we can trust her to use a public restroom on her own. The physical work is less. But the mental and spiritual work….the work that really matters? Just gets harder.

I won’t bore you with too many details, but 3rd grade has been a tough year. Ryley is in trouble all. the. time. For talking, for reading when she’s not supposed to, for talking, for shouting out answers, for talking, for forgetting to bring items to class, etc. The teachers are constantly on her case for one thing or another. We have honestly always felt that she’s a little too high on their radar, but being teachers’ kids ourselves, both Ryan and I place a lot of value in classroom discipline, so we’ve had multiple meetings and e-mails to discuss the issues.

Finally, at our parent/teacher conference in March, Ryan asked the hard question.

“She gets a lot of strikes, and we’re wondering how she compares to the other kids. Do you give a lot of strikes to everybody? Or is her behavior worse than other kids’?”

“She’s pretty much worse than other kids.”

So there you have it. Our child is worse than other kids.

It took some time for that to sink in. Days, in fact. How could it be that our daughter has such a problem respecting authority? Why can she not control herself? We’ve met other kids in her class, and we’re not all that impressed. How are they managing to just slide through each day without getting in trouble? How can she be worse?

Then we went on vacation. You know how vacations are….You’re seeing people you haven’t seen in awhile (or ever), and you want your kid to “show well.” You want people to say, “Wow, your daughter is so well-behaved and pleasant!”

But each place we went, she picked fights. Her competitive nature came out, and she was confrontational with kids she had just met. These were things we hadn’t witnessed before! Suddenly, her many faults were glaring us in the face, on display for all our family and new friends to see. It suddenly hit me that because she is an only child, we haven’t seen a lot of her behavior around other kids. And she hasn’t played on a lot of “team” sports, so she doesn’t know how to “work together” or even “be a good sport” when she loses.


Suddenly we were seeing what the teachers see. And boy, was it depressing! We’ve raised a brat!

We got back from vacation, and Ryley ended up in the principal’s office the following Friday. There was no real big thing she did; it was the culmination of a lot of little things. None of them were serious at all. But when she got in the car that afternoon and announced she had gone to the principal’s office, my heart broke. I parked the car and marched back into the classroom to find out why. I wasn’t even sure whose side I was on. And I cried in front of the teacher. Yay!

Around this time, God impressed upon my heart that Ryley needed more of His Word in her life. She knows Bible stories, but we haven’t studied much about how God’s Word applies to our hearts.

So, because we’re always rushed in the mornings, we started keeping her Bible in the van and reading a chapter of Proverbs every day on the way to school. There is nothing like hearing her little voice stumble over “the wise man this” and “the foolish man that.” But she’s getting it. God’s Word never returns void.

“Mommy, I don’t like this,” she said the first morning. “It seems like everything they say the foolish man does is something that I do. It’s like it’s talking about me.”

But we kept going.

One scripture she read recently was “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Ever since then, she “commits” her day to the Lord during her prayer every morning. And you know what? It’s working. She’s had seven good school days in a row!!!

I also started praying for her teachers (I know, a novel idea!), that they would have wisdom and discernment in every situation in their classroom. Being a teacher is a tough job, and it’s not one that I would want!

At the same time, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we’ve been watching Ryley’s best friend “A” almost every Sunday since Christmas, because of her parents’ work schedules. It’s something we felt like God was telling us to do, so she goes to church with us and then spends the rest of the day with our family. It’s been interesting being this close to this little girl, because her faults have also become glaringly obvious. “A” is allowed to watch horror movies like “Poltergeist” and “The Ring”  at home. She watches TV until she falls asleep at night, with very little supervision as to what she’s watching. There’s a strong attraction to sexuality and vampires and skulls and darkness, and it comes out in her play. Ryley gets frustrated with some of it, especially when she wants to watch something like “Tangled” or “Space Camp,” and “A” gets bored because of the lack of gore and violence. Not to mention, there are serious, deep attitude issues when she doesn’t get her way. Of course, there was the Girl Scout cookie booth debacle that almost did me in. And we can’t eat at our favorite “kids eat free” BBQ place on Sundays because “A” will put her head down on the table and refuse to speak for the duration of the meal. Yeah. Pleasant.

So this last weekend, we were celebrating the fact that Ryley didn’t get any strikes on Friday, and “A” said, “It’s funny that you get strikes all the time. I haven’t gotten a strike since 1st grade.”

Two years. How is that possible?

And that’s when it hit me that the teachers aren’t looking for the right things. They’re not looking to deal with the serious heart issues. They’re looking to punish only the things that disrupt their class, which apparently, is the epitome of our daughter.

Does Ryley have issues to deal with? Absolutely. She definitely needs to work on self-control and working well with others and being a good sport. She’s not perfect in the least. But I believe that, overall, she has light in her heart.

Talking in class and generally being over-exuberant to share her ideas is not going to land her in prison someday. Maybe it disrupts the class, but what about the kids who are sitting silently, letting their minds replay the horror movies they watched last night? What about the darkness lurking in the corners of the classroom? What about the attitude that is passed off as a girl who has a hard life so just let her sulk for a little bit? Why is the darkness being ignored, just because it’s more intangible?

Isn’t that just like the devil? Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

They can slap Ryley with strikes, and we’ll keep working with her on those issues at home. After all, she is a sinner, in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy and correction.

But she has Light in her heart, and I refuse to believe that she’s the worst one of the bunch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Snip-its of Life (and Ryley Reading)

It’s been a busy month for us, aside from our lovely trip to the Southeast. Of course, there’s Easter:


Before church….



Making resurrection rolls:


See? The tomb is empty!


We also tried making rice krispie eggs…. There are M&Ms inside each one.


But they weren’t as picture-perfect as Pinterest’s, and they sat on the kitchen counter getting stale all week long. :-) But it was still fun to try!



Our friends the Marchbanks, from Iowa, joined us for dinner on Good Friday. But our grill literally melted itself (the latest in a series of household items to go awry…including our broken recliner and bathroom plumbing), so Jeremy (a culinary student) grilled steaks on our little Foreman grill for us, and they were still amazing!!!!

Here, Ryley and the Marchbank kids bounce on the trampoline.


And Jeremy tuned Ryley’s guitar for her! It’s probably the first pink guitar he’s ever held in his life. :-)



A picnic on a windy day:



A quick visit from my mom:



Broncos spirit:


And the Odyssey of the Mind tournament:



Their team lost, but more about that in my future post about “the joys of parenting.” :-)


I took another writing project with Good Catch Publishing in March, and even though the subject matter wasn’t as thrilling as the first time, I found, again, that I really, really enjoy writing. :-) And since each project is on a tight timeframe, I am learning to not waste time staring at a blank computer screen for hours, but to instead trust my instincts and just start writing. More often than not, when re-reading later, my instincts work. I’m definitely being stretched and challenged! And I’m praying and looking for more opportunities like that!


And now I give you, “Ryley Reading.”




Good night!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Atlanta Trip! Part Two

I’m back! Two consecutive nights of blogging! Woohoo!

If you missed the first post  about our recent vacation, you may want to scroll down and start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.


So after our mini road trip to South Carolina, we arrived back at Ryan’s sister’s Rhonda’s house in Cumming, Georgia. She (a teacher) was finally officially on spring break, and we were all ready to party! Or, I mean, hang out and talk and eat good food and play games. :-)

Uncle Ryan loves his niece Olivia!

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Cousins! Ryley eating dinner with Olivia and Sammy!



The next day, we headed into downtown Atlanta to see the World of Coca-Cola Museum.

Sweet cousins…





I have to say that the tour and museum are pretty impressive! We really enjoyed it!

Here we are in front of the vault where Coca-Cola’s secret recipe is kept.



Everyone’s favorite part was the tasting area, where we sampled Coke products from around the world:


We don’t usually allow Ryley to have too much soda, so she went a little nuts in there:



After we were done there, we went to have lunch at The Varsity, which is apparently an “Atlanta” thing to do!


The view from the parking lot:



It was pretty delicious!

I love this picture of Ryan and his sisters!


After lunch, we rushed back to Rhonda’s side of town to greet their dad Ron and his wife Linda, who had just arrived from driving up from Florida! Ryley hadn’t seen her grandpa and grandma in three years, so it was a very special reunion indeed!


Ryley was talking his ear off within minutes:


Very sweet!


The next day we hung out by the pool and chatted. It was nice and relaxing!!!


Father and son:





On Sunday we headed to Cleveland, Georgia, to make a pilgrimage similar to the one I made as an eight-year-old: The Cabbage Patch Babyland General Hospital.

Here are Justin and me, summer 1986.


The funny thing was that parts of it seemed familiar, and other parts of it didn’t at all, and I was so confused. Later I found out online that it’s not even the same place as it was 26 years ago; it moved to a larger facility three miles down the road! No wonder!


Ryley had brought Baby Helena along, specifically so she could see her “birthplace”:




We watched three babies be born in the cabbage patch.



Again, rockers.


Ryley used her own money to buy a baby from the Hospital store.


Baby Deanne. :-)



Olivia got a Baby Snow White!




Besides seeing family, this was Ryley’s favorite activity of the entire trip!

The drive back was gorgeous…I did the best I could to take pics out the window of the car without dropping my phone!


We stopped at a little stand on the side of the road, where we bought salsa and honey. Yum!!!



That night we had more wonderful family time…

At Cracker Barrel

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Then at a hot air balloon launch:






It never gets old! :-)


On the last day, we girls went to the American Girl Cafe for tea time. Our Denver store doesn’t have a cafe, so this was a real treat!







Very fun!!!!!



Isn’t she gorgeous???







I love this picture….Grandpa  is telling her how beautiful she is on the inside and out. :-)


What a lovely trip it was!!!! Thank you, Rhonda and David, for being such gracious hosts! Thank you, Ron and Linda, for making the drive up to meet us! Thanks, Gwen, for flying down!!!! It really was an amazing week, and we are so grateful. :-)