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Posts Tagged ‘Donna Venning’


Kicking Out the Crazy Lady

Posted in Family, parenting

There’s a woman who used to come and stay at our house from time to time and I really didn’t care for her.  She tended to come when life was hectic or stressful and her timing left much to be desired…she excelled at showing up when I wanted to be doing something else or when I feel like I haven’t had any “me” time. She wasn’t a good influence on me at all…she fueled the lies that I did everything around here, whispered in my ear that I’d gotten the rotten end of some deal and that I was owed more respectful and obedient children, a more thankful spouse, and so on.

The worst thing she did was yell at my children.  Yes, my children. The ones I love more than anything in the entire world.  The ones that I would walk to the ends of the earth for.  The very children that give me my greatest joy in life.

She yelled at them for no good reason.  She’d yell that the kids had “already asked her that question ten times.”  She’d snap at them for asking her to cut their meat, to get them a drink of water, or to help log them in to their Webkinz account.

She lost her temper when they didn’t seem to be obeying over some small, insignificant thing.  She even yelled at them for things that were not at all their fault.

I really didn’t like her at all and this past summer, she really wore out her welcome. It felt like she was here more often than I would have liked. So I took control and told her to not to come back.  I kicked her out.

I’d like to say that it was my husband being unemployed, my poor dietary habits (too many carbs), lack of sleep due to a teething toddler or some other “outside reason” that made her come to visit.  I’d be happy to pass the blame on to any of those (somewhat) justifiable excuses.

I am certain by now you realize I’m talking about myself.  I admit that for a long time, I struggled with yelling at my kids.  There were times when I felt possessed by this crazy woman and as she stood there yelling at my kids, it’s like I was on the outside looking in.  My brain would be telling me “Stop!  Shut up!  Don’t go any further.”  And I thought it was uncontrollable.

Some people would tell me “Oh, it’s just the pressure of being a parent…it’s okay.”  But I don’t want it to be “okay” to yell at my children.  I don’t want yelling, and the feelings going on behind the yelling, to become “normal” in any way, shape or form.  I don’t want to give myself the excuse that “I’m tired” or it’s just “stress” because I see nothing fruitful that comes from yelling at them. So I really had to examine my heart to see where this crazy woman was coming from. What I discovered was that I believed the lie that I couldn’t control my temper/yelling.

Like me, some of you might be saying “But I can’t control it” and I want you to know… I think you can.  Let me ask you this…have you ever been yelling at your children (or spouse) and the phone rings?  What do you do?  I’ll tell you what you do…you pick up the receiver and in a pleasant tone say “Hello?”

Case in point…you just controlled your yelling.

Don’t our children deserve the same courtesy that we show to the person on the other end of the phone?  If we can stop our tirade long enough to answer the telephone in a pleasant manner (it may not be a sing-song voice but I’m guessing you don’t yell “HELLO?!?!?”, so we’ll call it pleasant), then I think we can stop yelling at our children long enough to tell that crazy woman who seems to have taken possession of our bodies to GET OUT.

I am challenging you today, as I challenge myself every day, to un-invite this crazy lady from being around your family.  Kick her out of your home.  Tell her (yell it at her if need be) to take a hike and not to come back. Next time you find yourself yelling at your little jewels, remember the phone secret–that you can control yourself.  Take control back and kick that crazy lady out.

For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

- posted by Donna Venning, who wants to make it clear that this article isn’t referring to the occasional lost temper that’s bound to happen, but habitual yelling that sometimes creeps in to our houses.

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Simple Ways to be More Productive

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Family, parenting, Things to do

1. Have a dinner plan.

By far, the number one thing I do to make my days successful is have a dinner plan.   Even a day that seems to be running smoothly can take a drastic turn toward the chaotic when 4 p.m. hits and I’m not sure what my dinner plan is.  I am working on a series of blogs about meal planning for those who need help getting started or are looking for ways to fine tune their own meal planning.  Look for it in the next two weeks.

2. Involve your children in your housecleaning.

Young kids just want to be around Mommy, who often feels stressed about not getting the toilets cleaned because she couldn’t find the time to clean them while keeping up with a two-year-old.  I’ve got a secret….two-year-olds LOVE to clean toilets (or sinks, or floors…). Don’t send your kids away to watch TV or play computer games while you clean…involve them in it.  True, you can do a better job by yourself, but by including them, you can do it when it’s good for your schedule (instead of when their favorite tv show is on) and you are teaching them responsibility.

3. Wear your shoes.

I swear by this habit:  putting on my shoes.  When my shoes are on, I’m much more mobile.  The other day I had an afternoon to myself and wanted to rearrange the shelves between two rooms.  I dawdled a little, sort of took stuff from one room to the other, looked at the task ahead of me, dawdled some more….then I put my shoes on.  Next thing I knew, I was zooming between the rooms, not only exchanging the two shelves, but putting things back in places that had long been out of place (misc toys to the garage, a shovel out to the shed, voting ballots out to the mailbox, and more.)  Having my shoes on just made me feel ready and I was on a roll.  Try it!

4. Limit Computer Time.

How many times have you sat down to write a “quick email” and the next time you look at the clock, it’s 45 minutes later?  The computer is a big time sucker, so if you struggle with not getting to the things you need to because your time gets sucked into the computer, buy an inexpensive timer and set it next to the computer…and obey it when it goes off!

5. Don’t answer the phone.

When the phone rings, you don’t have to answer it…you don’t even have to acknowledge it.  If this is difficult for you, turn the ringer off or take your phone (if it’s a cell) into the other room.  Then, get your task completed and turn your phone back on.  A simple way to do this is to choose a regular time each day (example, from 10:00-11:00 a.m.) that you don’t answer the phone.

6. Touch and Toss the Mail:

Develop the habit of only touching a piece of mail once (magazines excluded). When you bring in the mail, sort it over the garbage can.  Items you’ll never read go straight in the trash; bills get put into your inbox (or even better, pay them right then); magazines and catalogs get put in a reserved spot only if you’ll truly read them.  I used to save every catalog that came in the mail box, thinking one day I’d get around to reading them.  Unfortunately, when that day came, all of the catalogs were outdated by a month or more.  So I try to be realistic and save only what I’ll truly look at again.  My favorite magazines get put in the bathroom, but not for the obvious reason. See my next tip…

7. Utilize Bath Time!

My kids all love being in the bathtub.  So consequently,  they bathe almost daily and bathtime is one of my most productive times of the day.  I grab whatever it is I haven’t gotten to (sorting socks, reading sales fliers, making a phone call), head to the bathroom with my tots in tow, and enjoy 30 minutes of the best multi-tasking time around. One of my favorite things to do is read magazines or advertising fliers.   I am fanatical about tub safety, (it only takes a second for a child to stand in the tub, slip and crack their head) so I always gather my materials ahead of time and take them into the bathroom with me and don’t take things that could possibly divert my attention too long (if I’m engrossed in a deep book, I might not notice my toddler reach for the hot water).  Never leave a child alone in the bathroom, even for a split second to answer the phone or grab an activity. Get it before you fill the tub.

8. Spend 30 minutes on the floor with your child.

I know, when you read the title of this blog about productivity, you didn’t expect one of the tips to be “play with your child.” But this tip is probably the single most important thing you can do.  The dishes may not get washed, the toilet may not get scrubbed or you might not get to chat with your friend about last night’s episode of DWTS. But what you will get done is a different kind of productive…you will be forming a bond with your child and that is what truly counts in the long run.

-posted by Donna Venning, who, if truth be told, would say her biggest productivity tip is the by far the ability to not sweat the small things.

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All You Can Eat Buffet

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Family, parenting

From time to time I take my kids to a local all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant coz it’s inexpensive (50cents per year/how old they are) and everyone gets what they want…a taco bar, soup, chicken, salad, mashed potatoes…you name it, they serve it!  Last time I was there I observed how many people overstuff their plate…food piled upon food on the plate.  People walk away from the buffet happy with all the good things on their plates.

What I find interesting about this plate piling is that it’s an all-you-can-eat place and you aren’t limited to one trip.  You can return again and again to the buffet.  Even so, almost everyone overfilled their plate on their first trip.  It was actually “normal” to over pile.  Hmmm.

This plate piling is a good visual for how some moms run their lives and their schedules.  We pack as much as we can onto our plate, some activities overlapping others, and then try to balance the plate without dropping anything.

First-time and “new” moms are especially prone to this…we don’t want our baby to miss out on any thing, so we pack our days with playdates, museum trips, and outings; attend every class conceivable and fill every moment of the day with these desirable activities, not realizing that we have time…we can make the “second trip” to the activity bar when our child is older.

Many of my friends had children before me, so I watched first-hand as many of these moms overloaded their plates and spiraled into a state of fatigue.  I watched their enthusiasm for mothering become a list of “to dos” rather than joyous moments with their children.  I decided that I didn’t want to be one of these moms but that my “natural” personality made me susceptible to it.  So since becoming a mom, I view my time differently. I zealously guard the hours in my day because these are hours with my children that I won’t get back.

Most of the world tells me to pile everything on to my plate…gymnastics, piano, karate, church, sports, tutoring, art lessons, and more.  It’s just what any “good” mother does.  She packs her family’s plate with good things. But this kind of busy-ness did not line up with my priorities and desires.  Thankfully, I was blessed to have several mentor women in my life that helped me determine what I wanted life to look like, that is, what my parenting priorities were, and they encouraged me to stick to these principles; to be the kind of mom I wanted to be, and one free for the lure of the “all-you-can-do” buffet.

I am not telling you not to be involved in activities with your children, nor am I saying I was a hermit crab who never went anywhere (I think I know the location of every McD’s Play Place in the Puget Sound region). What I want to encourage you to do is to consider your priorities and your children’s needs. In our insane “go, go, go” world, you’ll hear that your child needs things beyond what your home can provide and I want to encourage you not to fall victim to that lie. Don’t let busy-ness rob you from the precious time you have with your young children.

If minimizing busy-ness sounds good to you, be prepared to say “no.”  We had to make the decision not to participate in soccer this year for one child because the practices fell twice a week right during dinner time (plus games on Saturdays).  But I was able to let go the guilt that “he’ll never be a professional soccer player” in favor of family dinners, which is a higher priority to our family.  As far as his professional soccer playing…he’s only 8 right now.  If he’s destined for greatness, I don’t believe I’m wrecking his chances by not playing soccer just yet.

What too many moms miss is the fact that we can always return to the buffet; we don’t have to get it all on the first visit!  Start by putting just a few things – your favorite thing, ie your top priorities- on your plate, then return when you and your family are ready for more.  See, we all already know how to over-schedule our days…what we need encouragement to do is to schedule according to our priorities.

-posted by Donna Venning, whose children are turning out well-adjusted and perfectly normal, despite that fact that they are each allowed only one activity per week (i.e., ballet or football).

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Matching Clothes and the WHAT NOT TO WORRY ABOUT List for Mothers

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Family, parenting

Recently my daughter’s weeknight church program had a “Fashion Disaster/Wild and Wacky” clothing night.

Adrienne was lamenting the situation when she learned about it.  “But I don’t have any weird clothes that don’t match.”

A truer statement had never been made.  Because in Adrienne’s world, everything matches.  Instead of trying to describe my daughter’s fashion sense to you, allow me to present Exhibit A: The Photo Gallery.

Each and every creation you see before you was specially selected by Adrienne herself.  And you could not convince her that her clothes didn’t match.  In her mind, she looked good.

Some parents would have made their children change their clothes before leaving  home. I am not one of them.  As long as she was decent and appropriately dressed for the weather, she was free to select her clothes.  Which, by the way, she started doing when she was about 18 months old.  No, I am not lying.  She started dressing herself very early.  And she had a VERY strong opinion about what she wanted to wear.

Why fight it?  Seriously.  With all the things that I, as a mother, could/should/would be concerned about, the fact that my daughter’s tights didn’t match her top wasn’t high on my list of “Things to Worry About.”  Besides, I reasoned…have you seen some of the creations that get strutted down the runway at New York’s fashion week?  My daughter would fit right in.

Mind you, it wasn’t just my daughter.  At 3-1/2 years, Kevin wore his Buzz Lightyear costume all around San Diego while we were on vacation.  Wings and all. I took a ton of pictures that I plan to use as blackmail someday (although he plans the same thing…to use the pictures in the event that he ever needs to declare me an unfit mother.  “She how she let us dress?” he’ll say to the judge).

I’ll tell you one thing, mismatched clothing is easier and cheaper to shop for.  I used to try and buy complete “outfits” when I shopped for my kids’ clothes.  Once I realized that not-once-ever did Adrienne wear an “outfit” that actually went together, I relieved myself of the pressure to buy matching clothes.  Made it a lot easier to shop the clearance racks, where I’ll often find a shirt without a matching skirt or things like that.

Now, a dear friend of mine insists that her kids’ clothes match. Inside the home and outside.  And I think that’s wonderful.  I would never put her down for that.  It’s an important issue to her and she’s willing to take the time to teach and train her kids to match.  Wonderful. If that’s how you’re bent, go for it.  But if you’re developing ulcers about parenting, it may be time to evaluate what you need to worry about and what you don’t.

Personally, I’ll take the option of a child dressing herself while I tend to other things.

So, back to the Fashion Disaster dressing.  When Adrienne got ready for her class tonight, she was laughing because she chose a teal shirt with a brown tie-dyed skirt.  “Wow, they’ll really think I’m dressed silly!” she said to me, giggling.

I hope so, sweetie…but what I’m really thinking about is what they’re going to say to you next week when you show up  in some of your normal outfits and they say “Oh, Adrienne…fashion disaster week was last week.”

-posted by Donna Venning, who guesses her daughter will never need to read the poem “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple….”

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Stop saying “I love you”.

Posted in Bits and Pieces, Family, Things to do

I did a little experiment with my marriage last week.  I stopped saying “I love you” to my husband.  I realized that our “I love you’s” had become little more than a peck on the cheek type of greeting…standard, routine…dare I say…meaningless?

Not that “I love you” is ever meaningless when it’s said with sincerity of heart.  But our “I love yous” had the same ring to them as a casual “bye honey” or “see you later” or even “welcome home.”  So I decided to stop saying “I love you” for one week.

Let me backup.  One day, many years ago, near the start of our marriage, I told Ed “I love you.”  He caught me off guard by responding “Why?”

“Why?” I asked back.

“Yes, why do you love me?” he asked.

Well, having read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman,  I understood that Ed’s “love tank” needed refilling.  “I love you” didn’t go far enough…he needed some words of affirmation.  Throughout our marriage it’s been important to me to realize and act upon the knowledge that Ed needs specific words of encouragement, not just general comments for him to truly feel appreciated and respected.

Well, that’s sort of the premise to my little recent experiment. I stopped saying” I love you” and replaced it with specifics.

Here are a few things to say instead of saying “I love you.”

  • I respect you.
  • I appreciate that you….
  • I enjoy you. You make me laugh!
  • I admire you (I admire how you….)
  • I want you…I desire you” (This one is a precursor to one of the other common “love languages,” physical touch.)
  • It really meant a lot to me that you….
  • Thank you for doing the dishes every night.  It’s a real blessing to me.
  • Good night, honey. I enjoyed watching you insert something specific  he did.

Something I’ve discovered about Ed, and he’s not much different from other men (except for the fact that he likes to clean, which does make him very different), so I assume your husband would appreciate it, too….is he loves it when I give him respect or thanks for the little everyday things.  “Thanks for always mowing the lawn each week…thanks for taking car of the oil in the car….thanks for working to provide for our family….thanks for reading to the kids at night…thanks for instigating our family devotion time…”

So remember, don’t just acknowledge your spouse when they’ve done something out of the ordinary (although do acknowledge that too), but also remember to verbally affirm them for the little things that often go unnoticed.

Finally, don’t just thank your husband for the things he does; after all, he’s not a hired hand that just needs a little praise for the tasks he performs.  You want to praise him for who he is.  Make sure you acknowledge to him the things about him—his physique, his temperament, his personality…and tell him why you love that about him.  Try it for a week.  It’s fun to think of all the wonderful ways he has blessed you.  This is a great thing to do not only to build him up, but to help remind you of all the wonderful reasons you select him as your spouse.

For more info on “love languages” check out the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.  It’s an excellent resource that helps us understand that what says “I love you” to one person may not be in the “language” that they hear the best.  In brief, the five love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, acts of service and gifts.  There’s a child-specific version of the book, too, but begin with the basic one, as it covers the material thoroughly.

-posted by Donna Venning, who keeps a spiral notebook in which she jots down nice things about her husband or special things he does, then pulls it out when she finds herself being overly critical or unloving.

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