Eyes Wide Open Parenting

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I would like to introduce you to Emi and Neumann.  Neumann is the first mother-raised infant Japanese Macaque at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines Iowa in over 20 years.

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My family first encountered these two on family vacation in early July.  You couldn’t help but notice that Emi was extremely protective of Neumann, she basically controlled his every move.

monkey4

We watched them for a good thirty minutes and we did not see her let go of him once. Hard to tell, but he doesn’t look very happy to me, what do you think?

Then I overheard a high school – aged girl say, “I bet she is exhausted at the end of the day, and I thought “yes, yes I am.”  You see, I have three kiddos myself and have realized that it is extremely easy to fall into the overprotective or even the dreaded overbearing parent just like Emi.

As we watched them in their habitat, we could see other monkeys that wanted to interact with Neumann but couldn’t because of Emi’s protectiveness.  It is so eye-opening when you start to think of this from the human perspective.  How many times am I hesitant to let my kids go to someone else’s house because I don’t know everything about their parents?  How many times do I not let my son do certain things because I don’t think that it is “safe” for him?  Am I holding them by the arm, not letting them experience life?  Where is the line between keeping our children safe and letting them problem solve on their own?

The term “helicopter parent” is thrown around a lot now. This parenting style is basically hovering over your children so that they have a hard time making their own decisions or making it in the world outside of your house.  When I was thinking about this blog, I came across this article from the Huffington Post that talks about what this parenting style does to your children. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e260

Sometimes I know I do things for my children because it is easier and faster for me just to do it myself.  My sister-in-law has a saying, “I will not do anything for my child that they can do themselves.”  This means picking out their clothes for church, filling their glass of water at the dinner table, tying their shoes for the hundredth time, even though you are already five minutes late.  These are just small things, right? Plus, I am only going to do this while they are still young.  This is what I tell myself. How about you? What are you telling yourself?  Soon, the little things become BIG things that they really should be deciding for themselves.   As parents we need to have our eyes wide open and notice the longer term impact of our choices and how we parent.

So, this is what I have started to do.  First of all, I am trying to be more aware of the things I do for them that they could be doing on their own.  They can sort, fold, and put away their own laundry. They clean up after supper, and load the dishwasher. I know that in the past I do these things on my own because I don’t want to hear them complain or fight another battle before bed.  But the time to start the battle is now, not when they are 17 and soon getting ready to leave the house.  Second, I let them make their own choice and walk away.  Yes, you read that right, walk away.  When your son wants to take the training wheels off his sister’s bike to teach her how to ride without them, smile, give encouragement and walk away. Lots of life lessons are going to be learned.  Be there for them to patch up the skinned knee, wipe away the tears, and give hugs. You are still their parent after all. Lastly, children can understand reasoning pretty early in life.  When my daughter asks me a question such as “what happens when…”  I will answer her back, “what do you think will happen?”  I am trying to start the problem- solving process now, because I want my children to be successful, productive adults that can play happily with the other Neumann’s in this world.

 

Mindy Hadley, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.

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The Greatest Present

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One of the great things about working at Quakerdale is the investment that our leadership puts into staff at all levels.  One of the ways that occurs is through reading books and having discussions with co-workers about how we can make improvements in the areas that are outlined in the book.  The Present is a book that we recently went though – it was a very quick read, but had some significant points that were made through the story’s fable. Spoiler Alert – I am going to tell you what the Present is, so keep reading at your own discretion.

The Present has a fable that is the main part of the book, but is bookended by how others introduce the fable to others and use it in their lives.  In the fable, there is an old man who gives out wisdom, much like Yoda, a little bit at a time to a neighbor boy as he is growing up and through adulthood.  He lets the young man know that there is a Present that everyone can have that will make them happy and more successful, however they define success.  The young boy doesn’t understand what the present is and for a long time believes that it is something that someone would give to him.  Once he becomes a young man in the business world, he is passed over for a promotion that he expected, even though he did not put in the necessary work.  He also has a girlfriend who breaks up with them during that same time.

Through introspection alone in nature, he discovers that the Present is actually the present moment.  If he is continually focused on the future – what he will do later after he gets off work, when he get the promotion, after he is in a committed relationship, etc, rather than what he is doing right now, he is distracted and not in the Present.  By focusing on what is happening right then, he is able to enjoy doing what he needs to – including doing tasks he put off because he believed them to take too long or be too difficult.  He was more attentive to those around him and was able to enjoy relationships more.

After a while, focusing on the Present only got him so far and other conflicts arose.  He was working with another person who wasn’t pulling her weight, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get it done by himself on time.  He returned to the old man and learned about the impact that the Past can make.  The old man suggested to him that he learn from the Past, apply it to the Present, and then move on.  The young man went back and addressed his concern with his co-worker, who made improvements to her performance and they were able to work better as a team.

The young man was doing well with learning from the Past and focusing on the Present and he received promotions and increased responsibilities.  With the increased responsibilities, he had difficulty prioritizing and he sought out his mentor.  The old man talked about planning for the Future – by planning for the Future, the young man did not need to be anxious or overly-focused on the Future.  He needed to come up with short term and long term goals to keep him on the right track and engaged in the Present.

Eventually, the old man died, and the young man went to the visitation.  He was surprised to see how many others the old man had impacted – there were people of all ages there.  After some reflection, the young man realized that the old man had lived his life with Purpose – he was trying to “help others become happy and successful” (pg. 74).  The young man then began passing along what he learned to others around him.

Here is a great video that also paints a picture of the book:

 

The Present has several good ideas on ways to focus on the Present, learn from the Past, and plan for the Future and is worth the time to read.  While the book does not delve into spiritual matters, I believe there are ways to incorporate what God tells us.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

When we are anxious about the Future, we can remember the following passage: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34 NIV

How we define success is an individual decision, although God, through the Bible, gives direction.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:36-39 NIV.  By focusing and being Present for our lives, we can better do what we’ve been instructed to do in the Bible.  How many times have we missed a chance to focus on God in the Present, being thankful for all He has given us?  When have we missed an opportunity to serve others because we were so wrapped up in the Past or the Future, we missed what was right in front of us?

357bc0742fe714f139cc99eb3df2daabSarah Zollar, on behalf of the Quakerdale Team.

Johnson, S. (2003). The Present. New York, NY: Doubleday.

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What I Did To Reduce The Craziness

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My husband gave me this towel as a present the other day.

 

stress-cartoon

It is amazing how this one little saying can mean so much to a person, but it summarized one of the main struggles that I recently went through as a new mom of two. I have a 2 year old boy and a 4 month old little girl, I have a full-time job, and my husband and I run our family farm.  Let me tell you, making the adjustment from one kid to two kids can be pretty overwhelming (especially when your kids are only a year and a half apart).  One of the main struggles that I dealt with was that I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. Between helping run our family farm, my own full-time career, caring for an infant, keeping a toddler entertained, cooking for my family, cleaning our two-story farmhouse, laundry, bathing and bedtimes I felt like I could never keep up.   Having that feeling of never really accomplishing much was very frustrating for me, and I felt like this quote:

 

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So one day a couple of months ago, I sat down, said a prayer and made a list of the things that could use some improvement in my life.

Here is the list of problems that I came up with:

  1. Morning Madness
  2. Messy House
  3. Piled-Up Laundry
  4. Suppertime Craziness
  5. The Toy Tornado

After looking at this list, I was pretty discouraged.  I realized that most aspects of my life were a mess.  I was wasting time being unorganized and scattered and worst of all… I was missing out on quality time with my husband and my kids.

I then realized that in order for me to be the best mom that I could be, I needed to get my act together.  So I did some research and I found that there are so many books and websites that are completely focused on helping new parents become more organized, and I felt a little better about myself knowing that there are tons of other people that felt the same way as me!

Fixes to the Morning Madness

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people show up late.  If I am less than 10 minutes early to work or an appointment, I feel like I am late.  All of that changed, however, when I had kids.  I felt like it did not matter what time I got up in the morning, something would happen right before we would all walk out of the door that would cause me to be 5 or 10 minutes behind.  I have to get myself up and ready, feed the infant, cook breakfast for the toddler, get both kids dressed, get a bag packed for the babysitter, get a lunch packed for my toddler, and also pack my own lunch.  And all of this needs to be done before 7:30 in the morning.  Mornings at my house got (and can still get) a little hectic, and I constantly felt like I was racing around while never really getting anywhere.  So I went to the internet.  I found an article from Parents Magazine on their website called No More Manic Mornings.

One of the tips from this article really helped my family with our morning madness: Start the Night Before.  That was their tip.  Now I know that this sounds pretty obvious, but I had never really considered how much I could get organized and put together at night.  I now pick out all of our clothes the night before.  I find the outfit that I am going to wear to work, and I also lay out what the kids are going to wear.  I also restock and pack the bag that the kids take to the babysitter’s house.  I make sure that the diapers and wipes are full and that each of my kids has at least one extra outfit, because you never know what they will get into or get on them during the day.  I even go as far as to pack the lunch bag that I send with the kids every morning.  I put everything in the lunch bag and keep it in the refrigerator overnight.  That way in the morning, all I have to do is grab a freezer pack and throw it in the lunch bag.  I do the same thing with my own lunch.  With all of these things prepared the night before, our mornings run so much smoother.  I am calmer, I get to spend more quality time with my kids as they eat their breakfast and we almost always get out of the door on time.  I would rather spend an hour on these things at night after my kids have gone to bed, than race around for an hour in the morning trying to get all of this done.  It starts all of us out on a good note, and makes our days more productive.

Fixes to Suppertime Craziness

One main issue that constantly posed challenges at my house was suppertime. As soon as I picked my kids up from the babysitters in the evening, my son wanted to eat supper.  I don’t know if any of you have had to experience the wrath of a toddler that is hungry… but let me tell you that it is not a pleasant experience.  My normal routine included getting home from work and try to figure out an idea of what to make for supper.  Then once I would get an idea of what to make, I would then have to figure out if I even had the correct ingredients.  I don’t know how many times I ended up pulling a frozen pizza out of the freezer to cook because I couldn’t find all of the ingredients to make a healthier meal.  By the time I was finally able to start supper, 20-30 minutes had already passed.  And remember, this whole process is going on while a toddler is screaming, “Hungry Mama… Hungry”.  I would then cook supper, and it would be after 7:00 when we finally all sat down to eat.  With us eating that late at night, the kids didn’t get baths until late, and they don’t make it to bed for their 8:00 bedtime.

One overwhelming response that I got from my research was the idea of Meal Planning.  This is something that takes a little extra time in the planning stages, but let me tell you it helps so much during the week, especially when I am standing in front of the fridge trying to figure out what to cook for supper at night.  Here is my process:

  1. Plan a meal for each night of the week, find the recipes and print them off.
  2. Go through the ingredient lists for your recipes and write down the ingredients that you are missing.
  3. Grocery shop on the weekend to prepare for the next week.

Every weekend, I sit down and figure out the meals that I am going to cook for the rest of the week.  I use Google and Pinterest and all I do is search for quick and health recipes that are kid friendly, and print off the ones that I want to use.  It is amazing how many people post recipes that are simple and that actually taste pretty good!  Here is an example of a recipe that I found on Pinterest for Family Style Roasted Chicken Bake and it came directly from Kraft Food’s website.

Once I have a menu planned out for the week and all of my recipes are printed out, I then go through the ingredient list.  I figure out the ingredients that I currently have (either in my pantry or in my fridge) and I figure out the ingredients that I need to purchase.  This makes making a grocery list SO MUCH EASIER!  I know the exact things that I need at the store to make the recipes for my weekly meal plan, and I spend less money because I am not buying random grocery items that are not needed.  I also plan my grocery shopping for the weekend, that way I do not have to make last minute trips during the week.  With all of that done on the weekend, when I get home from work I look at my meal plan menu and choose the recipe that I want to make.  This has simplified my life, and my toddler has been so much happier.  We now normally eat around 6:00 each night, which leaves me with plenty of time to spend with my family before we have to start bathing and putting kids to bed.

My next few blog posts will show the tips that I found and the plans that I have incorporated into my life that has really made a huge difference for my family.  We still have our crazy moments and life is still hectic at times, but a few changes have really helped to organize my time so that I can spend more with the ones that I love.jess-family

Jessica Winter, on behalf of the Quakerdale team.

Rest Easy

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One of the big issues that impacted our recent restructuring at Quakerdale had to do with a lack of employees willing to do the jobs we needed done. I was reading about a survey done with workers hired to do the types of helping jobs Quakerdale hires and the results were interesting.

Tom Woll, a consultant to non profits like Quakerdale, recently interviewed three hundred workers in our field what it would take to stay at their position for two years. (Just two years!)  Tom stated that the answers revolved around five issues associated with the work: Stress, discouragement, belonging, purpose and fulfillment.

These were Millennial workers exclusively and all of them had concerns about the work that were very practical. They felt like the work they were doing was beyond their skills and that their training didn’t prepare them for the task. This led them to feeling discouraged and stressed out. These feelings of discouragement followed them home and had a negative impact on their personal lives. Many stated that if they do not feel calm in their work they will leave.

I know we all like to feel encouraged, stress free. We like to feel that we are fully prepared for the task and that those around us show appreciation and give us the feelings of purpose and fulfilment.

Where do feelings of stress, discouragement or belonging, purpose and fulfilment come from?

The last time I checked lasting feelings of contentment and well being  don’t come from others. The process of growing and “becomming” demands stress, anxiety, challenge and general discomfort.  Then we move to the next level and become the person we can ultimately become.  Then we better know our purpose, where we belong and what fulfils us.  Have you ever went and listened to a survivor story?  Someone who overcame something really terrible?  These people know who they are and it is because of the difficulty they experienced.

We as parents, friends or co-workers can model how to overcome hardship and take on challenges because we all have them.  We can find contentment in the midst of the trials and challenges of life even if our challenges are not bad enough to put us on the 6 pm news!   When we are modeling how to handle these challenges we must allow our kids  to experience increasing levels of hardship or challenge when they are young.  Kids who face difficulty or challenges experience stress and discouragement. Kids can learn that belonging, purpose and fulfilment come from going through difficult things instead of quitting.

So where are you helping yourself or your children avoid something difficult? Are you actually helping your child grow if you allow them to avoid the problem or fixing it for them?

Today try to take a look at life through the lense of growth and remember good things always require extra effort and they don’t come easy! Then we are better prepared for the next hard thing that always comes!

James chapter one is the place I go when things are hard in my life and I realize I am in a growth opportunity. You see as the old hymn says: “My hope rests in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” You see when our happiness is dependent on others or even the circumstances of this world we are surely going to be disappointed. Teaching our children, co-workers or our friends how to find happiness isn’t quitting or avoiding. It has to do with where we put our trust and happiness and how we go about our lives.

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I want to share a great song with you with an introduction in a concert. Not only are we expected to extend ourselves as in James chapter one, but then we can also rest easy knowing God will carry our burdens!

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