Troubles like Diarrhea

Woke up in the morning, put my feet on the floor, did the 50 yard dash to the bathroom door, sat down on the pot, and I gave it all I got, diarrhea, diarrhea.  My kids loved singing this ridiculous song.  And we all have some personal crazy story on this topic.  One may as well laugh about it.  It happens.  It’s usually not pretty.

Once while hunting my dad discovered that when falling out of a deer tree stand one cannot hold a strong enough gluteus maximus squeeze to prevent releasing the contents that desperately want to be freed.   His Buck knife came in handy for clothing removal that day.

TPIt can happen anywhere at any time.  I call it fatalistic diarrhea.  It is the kind that hits suddenly without warning. If you are lucky, you are close enough to the bathroom to arrive in time to hit the target.  If not, you are wearing it or worse, it has run down your legs and onto the floor.   The diarrhea is not truly fatal, but the accompanying embarrassment is close.

I recently had such an episode and I was not at home.  I was doing volunteer service.  Fortunately I had my cell phone on me and was able to call home and request a change of clothes be delivered immediately.  But I still had to clean up me and my gigantic mess.

Diarrhea is a really stinky mess, but it can be dealt with.  No one chooses it and often it is not even the result of choices or decisions made by the person experiencing it.

Many things in life are like that – messy, stinky, and unwanted.  We always have a choice as to how we respond. We can be angry and yell or accepting and laugh.  We do have a choice.  No one forces us to respond in any specific manner.  Help your children learn this important lesson.

Diarrhea has a starting time and an ending time.  So do almost all troubles or circumstances.   No one lives in the bathroom.

Two more lessons from diarrhea that apply to life.  1. Sometimes do we choose to eat something that we know will probably cause diarrhea.  When we cause the problems we have, we need to take responsibility and clean them up.  2. Always pay attention to the warning signs to avoid problems/diarrhea.  When you are feeling the pressure, abdominal rumblings plus excessive gas, run to the bathroom.  Life problems often have warning signs too, such as words of advice from wise friends and close family members. These often suggest a change of course or running away from something or someone.  Heed the warnings.

The troubles we experience also help us to be more compassionate with others. Remembering our own thoughts and feelings during a rough time, we can be empathetic.

When my daughter was six or seven years old she often struggled to tell a joke.  little debHere is the joke she eventually mastered. “Did you know that diarrhea is hereditary?  It runs in your genes.”


Open Door

Is your front door open?  It might cost you and it might be messy. An open door may let in pain but it may also let in some wonderful relationships.  We have experienced both.

Like many parents we tried to be the home where friends were always welcome and invited over for a meal or the night or just to hang out for a while.   It is good to get well acquainted with your children’s friends. We aren’t “open” only to children and teens.  We often have families, couples and singles come too.   It is our goal to be welcoming and help our guests feel comfortable.

broken chairOne day a friend stopped by unannounced.  She was our pastor’s wife.  She was thrilled to discover my house in a state of disarray.  It actually made her feel more comfortable than when the house was in perfect order.   Her response holds several big lessons:  1. People don’t come to inspect your housekeeping, they come to see you.  2. Don’t wait to have company until you have repainted, or redecorated, or have all matching dishes, or repair the broken arm on the dining room chair.  3. People are uncomfortable when you apologize for the condition of your home. Doing so makes them feel they have imposed on you.  4. Be clean enough that people are comfortable and know you want them there.  5. People love homemade meals, even simple meals.

Allowing many friends and guests in your home provides valuable opportunities for your children to learn how to be gracious hosts and how to be hospitable.  It can also teach them how to behave and how not to behave when they are someone’s guest.  If your children behave well when they are the guests, they will receive more invitations to come again.  dinner on screen porch

Sometimes having guests can lead to things getting broken or worse.  It is a risk.  We all felt abused and violated when one of our sons’ closest friend decided to steal money from their banks in their room. Another friend accidentally fell into the glass doors of a display cabinet while roller skating in the basement.  Indoor roller skating was an approved activity, just not the crashing part.  A couple of years ago a teenage girl ran directly through a sliding screen door which she had not noticed in the doorway.

Having people in our home does put us in a vulnerable position.  We may be taken advantage of again.  But we may also have opportunity to be an example of a loving family or develop life-long reciprocal friendships.   It is a worthwhile risk.

Last Christmas two of our young grandsons brought me a mug that was knocked down and broken as a result of their playing.  I took it and threw it in the garbage. “Thanks for bringing it to me, “ I said.   At that point one boy said to the other, “See, I told you she wouldn’t get mad.”    Things happen.  Things get broken.   I choose to preserve relationships.

Paying our Children

Don’t you enjoy having some money of your own?  Children do not have as many opportunities to earn money as teens or adults. If your family budget can afford to pay them for their work, then I suggest you pay them for family care chores, but not personal care chores. Personal care chores include washing and bathing, teeth and hair brushing, getting dressed and undressed, bed making and cleaning own room.  Family care chores include laundry, meals, home, yard, animal, and auto maintenance.Yes, we would like for our children to be willing to contribute to the needs of their family without the incentive of money, but then so would your employer.

Remember our goal is to prepare them for the adult world where work is compensated.  As you pay them for their work, they can begin learning money management.    money How much should they be paid?  How much can you afford is the wrong question.  A better question is how much is the job worth.  Don’t pay more than you can afford but don’t pay all you can afford either.  Because they are children there are few places they could earn more than the minimum wage. For example to determine the worth of a clean bathroom I used the length of time it would take me to clean the bathroom times the minimum wage.  20 minutes times $9.00 per hour equals a $3.00 task.   I think this a generous formula. Never use how much time it takes a child because they are more distracted and less focused.

When my sister and I were children it sometimes took us 2 hours to complete the 20 minute job of clean up after dinner and doing the dishes.  Was the entire kitchen a disaster?  No.  Were our parents giving us more to do than we were capable of doing?  No.  We were fooling around.  We were leg wrestling in the living room or giving each other airplane rides.   We were watching TV or doing whatever we thought to do in the midst of a simple chore.  We distracted each other.

Because of our chores for money method, our children rarely came to us asking for money.  Rather, there was an understanding that if they needed money, they needed to do more work.  I provided them with a list of additional chores that could be completed for extra compensation. This included things like vacuuming out the car and disinfecting all the doorknobs and light switches in the house. sink & dishes

If the purposes of chores are earning money, developing skills, and contributing to family needs, then is there a time when that goal is reached? All three tenants are on-going and never ending; however family dynamics do change and children grow up.  Many older teens find employment outside the home which meets their financial needs.  As our children entered employment we lessened and eventually removed regular household chores from their daily schedules.  More and more of their time and energies at home were used on tasks that were only done weekly or as needed such as lawn mowing, snow shoveling or vehicle maintenance.  At the same time they were gaining more personal care chores such as purchasing and caring for their own clothing. Everyone appreciates a pat on the back for a job well done, but a little cash is mighty nice too.


Is it 3 p.m. yet?  My children loved 3 p.m.  Why was it a favorite time of day? For many children it would be because it signaled the end of the school day, but not for my homeschooled children.  3 p.m. was snack time.

My children loved snacks.  Hey, I do too.  Every day they would ask for snacks many times. It kind of drove me crazy. My solution was a designated time between lunch and supper. “Yes,” a snack would be served at 3 p.m.   It ended the constant flow of requests, not just from one child but from all four children.  The snack was far enough away from supper that they were still interested in that meal.snacking

The 3 p.m. snack time became so well established  even my children’s friends knew about it and were more than willing to participate if they could.  There was one particular friend whose mom brought him to our house for about ten months every Tuesday afternoon.  He would push and prod and nag his mom to leave his home at a certain time so he would arrive by 3 p.m.  He had plenty of food at home but he did not want to miss our appointed snack time.

 One summer we purchased a large cooler thermos with a faucet on it.  Sometimes it was on the counter next to the sink and sometimes on the back porch.  Large ice cubes made in recycled cool whip bowls kept water, lemonade or Kool-Aid cold all day long.  This dispenser allowed the children to serve themselves as they needed and wanted drinks. They liked this independence and so did I.

cooler & CupsThanks to Tupperware each child had a specific colored 6 ounce bell tumbler that was used throughout the day. Every day they used the same colored tumbler. It mostly stayed on the table at their assigned seat, but if it was carried and placed  elsewhere  everyone knew whose cup it was because of its color. All cups went in the dishwasher at bedtime.

Usually I decided what would be served for snack time.  Sometimes it was fruit or homemade cookies or brownies other times it was store bought cookies or snack cakes or ice cream. Ice cream and ice cream novelty treats purchased in packages are far less expensive than any item bought at an ice cream shop or the musical truck visiting your neighborhood. Children, just like adults, like to have options and choices, so I tried to provide options when possible. As the children aged they would often make the snacks themselves.  Brownies with butterscotch chips in them was a favorite.

Recently I discovered 3 p.m. snack time is observed at our eldest son’s home. Apparently daughter-in-law number 1 has also found it to be a helpful tool with their four children.  Whenever I have multiple grandchildren at our home the 3 p.m. snack time is reinstated here. Is it 3 p.m. yet?

P.S. Another thing that drove me crazy was the dozen times a day I would be asked what was being served for dinner.  It was wonderful when the children were able to read for themselves the daily menu posted on the refrigerator.

Siblings Fighting

Why are siblings always fighting? And why do they get so much pleasure from seeing how quickly they can aggravate each other?  Is it really so very hard to just get along? Psychologists probably have reasonable answers to these questions.   My best answer is that children are so very childish and generally selfish.  But they do grow up.

Since we only had one daughter, she had the littlest bedroom.  This room also had two doors.  One went into the kitchen and the other was access to the hallway.  It drove her crazy when her brothers would use her room as a hallway shortening their trip from the kitchen to their room or the bathroom.  They fully understood that it aggravated her but they did it  Debraanyway. Maybe they did it because it aggravated her.  Sometimes they would enter from the kitchen, pause and talk to her as though conversation was the motive for their being in her room and then exit through the other door; hence using her room as hallway again.  Yes, this was premeditated aggravation.  I failed at resolving this problem.  Thankfully they did mature and stop this behavior.  She moved out of that room when she was ten because it was needed again as a nursery.

We did have a few successes at ending the fighting along the way.  If the children were poking or hitting each other while in the van I required them to sit on their offending hands.  Both parties had to do this for it to be effective.  This punishment was also effective at home or in a public setting.

If one sibling decided to mimic another I would tell the one being mimicked not to get upset but to realize the power and control that was just given them over the mimicker.  When the mimicker realized they were no longer inflicting the aggravation they desired to inflict the mimicking usually ended.

It seemed like the siblings closest in age fought the most.  The eldest rarely argued with the youngest. But both of them would argue and fight with the siblings closest in age to them.  The source of much sibling fighting is the struggle with selfish desires and securing what is fair for me.  We minimized some of the sibling rivalry with our host child system, which I wrote about in a post called Host Child.

For most of their childhood sons number 2 and 3 shared the same bedroom.  When number two decided to occupy an unfinished area of the basement, I though the separation and extra space between them would be positive.  It was not.  There was lots of arguing and I frequently heard loud yelling of “Get out of my room”.  The space was not good.  They were brought back together.  It was much better that way.  Children don’t always need their own space.  Sharing is good.boxing gloves

Like a married couple children can also learn to fight fair.  Here are my fair fighting rules.  1. No name calling ever.  2. Make  “I” statements rather than “You” statements.    3.  If you are too angry to be calm then take a time out but agree to discuss the issue later.  4. Figure out a compromise that all parties can accept.  Being a peacemaker is more noble and godly than insisting on my “rights”. 5. Stick to the topic at hand and do not bring up old or unrelated stuff.  By helping your children learn fair fighting you are equipping them to handle adult conflicts as well.

Here are my final tips which I am now practicing with the grandchildren.    Oldest or youngest should not always be the first at something.  Use creativity and mix it up.   Help the other siblings be happy for each other when something special occurs for only one of them.  Set a timer  (to keep it fair) when siblings or cousins are taking turns playing games on Oma’s Kindle.