How to Cure a Dawdler Without Strangulation, My Five Tips

Passive aggressive children (coworkers, siblings, roommates) suck the energy right of you, don’t they? People don’t wake up one day and decide to be passive aggressive. No, they act that way because of years of practice, but it begins in childhood. It is most often seen in a child who is given a job–be it getting dressed, cleaning a room, or doing schoolwork, and who then dawdles through it. The child professes to be working at it so shouldn’t be chastised, but in reality is ignoring it, and it drives you to the point of pulling your hair out. That’s the key point in diagnosing passive aggression. If it doesn’t make you crazy, it isn’t passive or it isn’t aggression. But when you see it, before you reach the crazy stage, implement character training. It must be weeded out before it takes root and becomes a way of life.

We see this in the lives of people, not animals. First of all, no mama rhino would let her child be non-compliant. And secondly, dawdlers in the animal kingdom are eaten when the lions chase the pack. Therefore they cease to exist. The mama rhino knows that and trains it out of her offspring. Let us do likewise!

In us humans it’s different, and all too often we make allowances for it. Sometimes we think we can reason it away. Nope. The child (and counterpart adult) seldom voices the reason for passive aggression, and may not be cognizant of it. Thus scolding, talking, reminding and yelling are all ineffective. In our household this week, passive aggression came in the form of a young miss who just sat and did no math, while professing three hours later she was doing it but it was just so hard. (sob, sob) Sound familiar? (Let me just clarify here that when forced to do it, she completed her work in less than 15 minutes. Let’s not fall prey to tears, feeling sorry for the tyke. No, she was dawdling.)

Obviously a spouse, sibling or coworker acts outside the realm of your authority, so you cannot compel a change. Only influence can be brought to bear. But a child is your responsibility.  Your primary job is raising up a righteous generation, and refusing to deal with dawdling hurts not just the rhythm of the present day, but will impact your child in future years. No one enjoys being around a passive aggressive person, no employer likes to hire a passive aggressive person, and few spouses remain married to a passive aggressive person. Fail to deal with it, and your child will pay the price for a very, very long time.

Ready to fix the problem? These are my five tips for dealing with dawdlers:

  1. Move the child next to you. Children who see constant eyes upon them finally dig in and get the job done. K did her math in minutes once I had her within arm’s reach and kept my eyes on her. Of course it upsets your day and requires your attention, but putting in the required time pays off in the end. It’s your job. Just do it. Be the rhino. Everything else can wait when your child needs correction.
  2. Reward dawdling with consequences. K had math, math, math, math, math for all her subjects until I saw a change of attitude and performance. Only then was she allowed to work independently (away from my side) and then still on math, until she proved her good workmanship. In the words of an old song, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” For another situation it might mean cleaning the bathroom and the hall and the kitchen after the original chore was accomplished (with mom lounging in full view with iced tea in hand.) Life has consequences. Don’t thwart that natural order if you wish to raise a responsible child.
  3. Apply the Word. Scripture study and memorization of applicable verses reaches the soul. There’s the heart of the problem, right? Apply eternal light to a little speck of darkness. One of my favorites is 1 Samuel 15:23.
  4. Talk. Inspire. Praise. Passive aggressive children–after consequences have been applied–need a heavy dose of conversation. Why do you suppose you didn’t do your math? and Did it make you happy to be disobedient? and How do you feel now? Many of us act unconsciously when upset until we are able to sit down, ponder, and figure out what made us feel that way. If we have trouble pinpointing a problem as adults, surely we shouldn’t expect that same self awareness in a child. Focus on the situation at hand and let your child grow up a little before you try psychoanalysis, lol. But talk. A lot. Growing love inspires a child to be obedient.
  5. Do this as often as necessary. Your child needs to know that he/she will NEVER win the war of passive aggression. Clear the calendar as often as necessary and get ‘er done. Expect recurrences. Never let your child win in the game of dawdling.

be the rhinoParents, be the rhino! Of course if you home school, this is easier for you. You aren’t racing off with a non-compliant child to be on time somewhere. You can devote yourself to child training. Your reward? A few weeks of happy compliance before it starts all over again. But those few weeks? They’re worth all the hassle.

Let me encourage you, parents, to do your duty. Take the raising of your children as your primary source of employment, and do the job thoroughly. It takes time and effort, but you’ll love that youngster all the more as an adult, an adult who isn’t passive aggressive.

How to Debunk the Flat Earth Theory

Let me begin by qualifying my blog with the acknowledgement that not very many people subscribe to my little epistles.  Thus the scribblings of an old woman don’t affect all that many of you.  You may find this blog helpful in dealing with loss, but even if you don’t, writing serves as a catharsis for me, and so I write.

I always wondered why the ancients believed in a flat earth.  As a young child I saw hills and valleys and knew the earth held form.  Why didn’t they?  What was wrong with them?  I finally figured it out.

Since Alma’s death, new truths assail me daily.  As an adult, I know that the current life expectancy is a 20th century phenomenon.  The ancients lived with death.  Without antibiotics they lost their children to disease.  With crude hunting tools they lost their mates to hunting accidents.  Their resulting emptiness and flat lives colored their perception of the world.  I totally get it now.  They lived grief stricken lives.

Yet even now death steals loved ones away, stealing our joy in the process.  This weekend another tsunami of grief overwhelmed me.  I suddenly realized birthdays and holidays loomed before me…7 momentous days in the next two months, seven momentous days without Alma.  I felt like someone pulled the plug on my reservoir of joy and I couldn’t stop crying.  I felt empty.  Flat.  Luckily (or unluckily) I was at church when this hit me.

The natural tendency is to pull back.  Isolate ourselves so we don’t cause embarrassment or judgment as yet another wave of grief overwhelms us.  And that is the exact opposite of the approach we should be taking.  I somehow got funneled to the very front row last Sunday, so I was pretty visible and as much as I tried to hide my tears, I’m sure I was a spectacle.  The ministry of my church family, their support and prayers, lifted me over that initial wave.  In the afternoon my oldest son helped us map out a way to get past Alma’s birthday.  You see, it’s people who help us get over losing people.

So my antidote to the flat earth is a simple prescription of love from those closest to you.  If you know someone struggling with grief, just give the poor soul a hug.  Save your words for prayer.  Be the form and substance that lifts a person from the flat earth they are experiencing.  Be a mountain of strength for another.

When a Sun Day Isn’t on a Sunday

We home school.  I know, we’re old people, but we home school two of our grandchildren, and the other six are homeschooled as well.  That means we see the world from a little different perspective.  (When we first started 38 years ago, I thought we might just have rocks in our heads.  It didn’t take me long to realize those were Mexican jumping beans doing somersaults of joy.)  It also means that we define words differently from our institutionalized counterparts.  For example, we don’t have snow days.  We enjoy SUN days.cousin love

We may have enjoyed out last SUN day this week.  After a treacherously hot summer and a long anticipated fall, we finally got a short burst of Indian summer this week.  Yes, we took full advantage of it.  All the grands enjoyed some time at a local park, and we sat reveling in what turned out to be the nicest day of the week.

Here’s the thing.  Life requires setting both boundaries and priorities.  Set boundaries to be sure the big, important stuff gets done.  Set priorities so living never gets shoved out of the program.  Balancing on that narrow beam can get tricky, but luckily our state helps us.  In Missouri we are required to log 1000 hours a year of core, non-core, and field trip studies.  We faithfully keep a record of these activities, so when a bonus like a super-gorgeous glorious day comes along…yup, we’re ON it!

We should have spent a few moments eulogizing our institutionalized counterparts and being thankful for our freedom, but nope, we just played and sat in the sun and had a wonderful day together.  Sundays are special in the Rhoads household.  We love going to worship and family dinners.  We love SUN days almost as much. (wink, wink.)

Is Your Church a Family or a Building?

A church is more than a building.  A synonym for church should be family.  I am soooo incredibly thankful for my church family.  Last weekend we witnessed a piece of heaven descending and it appeared in unlikely looking packages.  Our church hosted a family in-town retreat.  Every family that came participated in meaningful ways, knitting our hearts with chains of fellowship. Palpable love. From hugging babies to squeezing together doing dishes, we felt harmonized by heavenly chords.

retreat1We kicked off the weekend with a pig roast potluck.  Yum!  We also had brisket and hot dogs, so every tummy got full and we packed away enough pulled pork for another family dinner.  The brownie bake-off produced an 8-foot table laden with enough chocolate to make Hershey himself proud.  Haley’s lemon brownies disappeared in a hurry though, so a few non-chocolaholics may reside among us.

Ray and the Wise Guys kept everyone laughing throughretreat3 Holywood Squares.  Their creativity amazed me.  I mean, John the Baptist came with his head on a charger, for heaven’s sake!  What does that tell you?  Vanna White couldn’t be there, so she recommended her cousin Hannah Green.  We live among a lot of ingenious people!

Saturday we enjoyed the spoken word, cake decorating, and classes with personal study guides.  An afternoon virtue walk brought personal ministry.  Recreation proved so enjoyable it was hard to drag folks away from the game boards for pictures.  Colin brought a drone for an aerial picture of us all…what will people think of next?

retreat2The retreat topped off with dinner at the Mountain Top Cafe, a message from BJ, a hayride and campfire.  The artistic talent, musical offerings, spoken ministry and teamwork of the entire branch just put the icing on the cupcake.  Literally.  We all enjoyed Cupcake Mountain.retreat 4

A branch is a family, a really large extended family.  Being in close quarters with everyone participating, made us feel more like a family than ever.  Sure, we have our characters, but what family doesn’t?  We also have enough love to spill over and wash us with joy, so yeah, I love my church family!  A church isn’t a building.  It’s a family.

When Bitter is more than Sweet

It’s a bittersweet day at the Rhoads house.  After 8 years of having Alma’s family closer than/better than neighbors, they move into town today.  Of course we support their decision and wish the best for them.  At the same time, I’ve been crying for days now.  It’s like losing Alma all over again.

How do we deal with these times of bitter change that don’t feel sweet at all?  I ask because boomers face more and more difficult changes as they age.  Knowing we traverse an expected transition does little to ease the angst, however.  Surely something moves the sweet into the bitter?  I mean, I’d love a sweetbitter experience over a bittersweet any day of the week.

So what helps?

  • Of course, counting blessings tops the list.  I am grateful we enjoyed so much time with these precious ones.  And hopefully out of sight doesn’t mean we’ll be out of their lives!
  • Crying helps.  Wait! What?  Yes, it’s okay to grieve loss.  I feel Alma very close these days.
  • Self-indulgence is permitted.  One day I have got to give up sugar again, but I still comfort myself with little treats.
  • Find new interests.  We’re working on that.  Easier said than done, because while we are a pair, we are still two very different people.  Writing helps me a lot.
  • Figure out how to survive without help.  Really?  Alma did 90% of the upkeep, and we see no viable solution here.

So, three out of five isn’t bad, is it?  The only problem is that we’ve been mired at this stage for months now.  How long do these transitions last?  Is there ever really a cure for a broken heart, broken dream, broken life?  We wear smiles.  We stay busy.  I write a lot.  But underneath the veneer little changes.  The bitter still outweighs the sweet, and this day more than most.

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Flame the Fire of Joy

After a full week of algebra and schoolwork with pedal to the metal, we enjoyed an afternoon of bowling yesterday. Yes, we left mowing undone. We left a small mountain of wood unsplit and unstacked.  My work area held a manuscript for book three needing to be imagined and a blog post to write. Yes, we were out an out slugs. Instead, we chose to follow Grand Poppy’s sage advice: “We keep the fun,” and loved seeing the joy explode out of the hearts of our two scholars.

Children grow up. I know, it’s hard to believe since it happens one baby step at a time. When parents turn around and suddenly realize the children have grown up without them, a ginormous opportunity remains forever lost. Enjoy time with them now to avoid the bitter ashes of feeling cheated later.

Living in the moment doesn’t mean we work less. We work faster, with more focus.  We love intentionally. We create pockets of time from which we extract these memories to cache away as joy for another day. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t always happen at a bowling alley. Amazing, right? Share popcorn over a movie, snuggled in an afghan. Play a rousing game of Mexican trains and for goodness sake, let the silly train whistle drive you crazy. Bake some cookies. I’m full of these little ideas. I could go on all day long, but I think you got my drift already.

We country folk who heat with wood like to say it’s the only form of energy that heats you twice: once when you cut it and again when you burn it.  These romps from routine hold the same promise: warm the heart in play, and remember the warmth for years to come when the eagles have flown the nest. Best of all, the flames of joy burn clean with no ashes to sweep from the hearth. Boy, howdy! That’s a win/win for ya’! What price joy? I have no answer for that.

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Togetherness. Extreme Togetherness.

It’s been an extremely big day for me.  When Bill retired, he became my chauffeur and wanted to ferry me places. We started spending a LOT of time together, so much so that I hardly drive and rarely spend a day without him. Togetherness. Extreme togetherness.

But a glorious new day has arrived! When he departed for a weekend retreat without me, suddenly I am driving myself. Yay! I remember how! I get the bed to myself. I had no idea what that felt like. And I get to have a girlie night. Woo hoo!!

Having these two munchkins for a night brought extreme joy. We played with play dough. We watched a movie. We made dinner and dessert together. We made jewelry. Crimp beads were a challenge, but they caught on quickly. Pawing through my stash was more than than raiding a cookie jar. And my, how they giggled.

Something tells me Bill has a ministry here, and I should explore other opportunities for him.  As a mother of three sons, I waited my whole life for this night, and it did not disappoint.  So so thankful for these two little girls!

This easy recipe is great for girls.  Spray a muffin tin.  Lay crescent roll into the tins.  Add 1 tsp crushed pineapple and 1 Tbsp cherry pie filling.  Pinch the tops together.  Bake at 375 until  browned and done.

Anatevka

Forty-one years is a long time to live in one place.  These days people change jobs and homes and marriages with less stress than this one life-changing decision is causing us.  We are planters, not hunters, by nature; yet we feel anachronistic when we look at the picture-studded walls depicting the epic saga of a life lived all in one place.

As we bravely look 70 years of age in the face, we wonder: Is it time to move?  A practical mind urges us to move.  Alma took care of the ten acres, and with him gone, it’s a burden for Bill.  Finances suggest the wisdom in staying put.  Zero debt is pretty compelling.  Town living is expensive.  Chronology pushes us to move.  How many more years do we have without a major illness forcing us out?  The heart begs us to stay.  All our memories of Alma lie buried within these four walls.  Our home is perfect for family dinners when all the clan comes home to be together.  In the end it will probably be decided for us, because it’s not all about us.  We have Alma’s widow to consider.

I feel like a roulette wheel, spinning round and and round and where will I land?  Nobody knows.  At least nobody living and breathing on this earth.  Pragmatic by nature, I lean toward moving while it’s our idea and we can do the choosing.  The question is simple:  Is there life beyond these walls?  Would anyplace else ever be so sweet?”  Yes, I’ve been humming Fiddler on the Roof.  My biggest fear is ending our days in a place that feels like a motel where we’ve overstayed our welcome, with no home to go to.

We’re setting apart a time for prayer and fasting before we decide, because we simply cannot see far enough down the pike to make a wise decision.  This much I do know: I don’t want to feel like I’m loading a few earthly possessions into a cart and trudging into the unknown.  If I must leave my home, I want to be excited and passionate and already imagining a new life.  But I’m a planter.  Something tells me this isn’t going to go well for me.

Tales that Tell

The Common Princess is online! I’m still pinching myself!!  The book took shape several years ago, when I couldn’t find Christian literature for girls that took them into the Word.logo jpeg

It got put on the back burner after a few kind by firm rejection letters.  It wasn’t until Alma’s death sapped my usually boundless energy, with my soul somewhere between a desperate dawn and a lonely sunrise, that Aaron prompted me to dig it out and finish it.

There exists tell tale signs about all of us.  How are we known? Writing became a natural-flowing form of expression for me at a young age.  By junior high I’d found a love for paper and pencils and words.  Not being a Pearl Buck, I let it remain an avocation and thus enjoyed a daily journal all my life.  It took darkness and the light of my son’s confidence to draw me back to the flame.  I want my tell tale sign to be a teller of tales that stirs the imagination.kingdom

This allegorical tale is, I hope, compelling enough to draw girls into the story line, and rich enough in scripture to immerse their hearts in the soul of the King.  I offer a free 46-page set of journal prompts and worksheets available for download via email upon purchase of the book.  All girls are princesses when their Father is the King of the universe.  Entitling them to that destiny is my calling and desire.  I hope you’ll like it and recommend it.

How To Preserve Your Legacy

Keeping a journal serves as a catharsis for me, a way to contemplate life’s events and make sense of life’s experiences, deal with angst.  But that’s not why I write.  Within each of us exists a legacy of memories, recipes, tips and stories crying out for expression.  A sad generation glued to cell phones and Google tidbits for news will one day wish they’d plumbed the well of life experience you carry…and if you write it down, they’ll be able to do just that!  To encourage you, let me share one of my children’s memories.

Fall brings to a close one of my favorite things, so I’ll share a memory fitting the season:

Blue Blood and True Blue

dedicated to Levi

Only Levi shares my passion for royalty.  Far from our humble home and beneath a clear sky, the pageantry begins:  emblazoned symbols, a regal crown and a banner unfurled in the breeze herald the festivities.  The music starts and we involuntarily rise.  Yes, I’d say we’re impressed by royalty.

The lives of the royal family fascinate us.  We cheer their successes and anguish over their defeats, loyal to the end.  We scour the paper for news, and if the press maligns them, we scream, “Foul play!”  Royal names and titles slide easily into our daily conversations.

“Chico’s got a hot bat today, doesn’t he?”

“The Hammer hit another two run homer!  His fourteenth!”

“Monty’s arm sure looks better, and his speed’s up, too!”

Yes, we love those Royals, win or lose, strike or no strike.  It just comes naturally.  My mom never missed a game.  Crippled, she rallied behind the Royals (and the Athletics before them) by radio and television.  Many of my fondest memories include these vicarious friends.  Our favorite Sunday afternoons found us ruminating on the Sunday puzzle, sharing a ball game, a quiet peace between us.  As she lay dying in the ICU, my brother and I stood by her bed, willing her to survive.

“You’ll get better, I”ll get you a Frank White baseball,” my brother promised her.

She laughed.  “What are you going to do? Walk up to his front door and ask him to sign it?”

“If that’s what it takes,” he shot right back.

Well, we started laughing.  We laughed so hard the monitor went berserk and nurses poured into the room to examine her, staring reprovingly at us for administering the best curative of all, love and laughter.  That Frank White baseball lived with my brother until his death, a reminder of the that love we shared.  Fast forward seven years.  Lounging in her favorite rocker, my youngest son now shares the legacy, laughing with each hit or stunning double play.

Home schooling is so much more than books and lesson plans.  Tucked away in the heart of home education is the matrix of shared fun.  The sterile schoolroom, inhabited through business hours Monday through Friday, feels poor and bereft when its lifeblood leaves for home each day, just as learning feels strained in its strange environment.  At home, where we live our learning and our joy, lessons come much more freely, built on a foundation of baseball, firelit nights and the many other pleasures we share together.  Those golden moments set the stage for the lesson plans and written assignments our public counterparts formalize as education.  Without them, learning loses its sparkle.  So, bring on the good times!

Here, we savor the sweeps and hope for at least a wild card slot in the pennant race, and study baseball whenever possible.  I’ll always miss my mom, but I’m so thankful Levi and I slug away our days like royalty, watching the Royals.

Yes, baseball is drawing to a close for yet another season, but the joy of sharing the Royals is being passed onto another Rhoads generation, and I love it!  Most of all I love saving memories of my children, which their children now enjoy.  Perpetuate the cycle of life by taking pen in hand and writing it down.  Capture your memories and pin them to a page.  Your family will be glad you did.