Negative Nancy vs. Positive Polly // Social Media's Influence

Social media is pretty intwined with our culture, wouldn't you say? It is unavoidable to participate in some way to these artificial forms of community, even if you aren't signed up for Twitter, Linked In or Tublr.  It jumps into normal conversation all the time and I know I'm guilty of it. "Did you see that thing of Facebook?"

I've been on Facebook from the beginning, but it has really lost it's luster. It use to be a great way to connect with the college girls I was mentoring and share photos with across-the-country relatives. Now it is the latest hype on BuzzFeed or an invitation to play a virtual game or a video of a cat doing something cat-like. Facebook has become everyone's platform to be an expert. While I love my friends, sometime I don't really care to hear their opinion on certain topics and our friendship is better off not hear how passionate they are about XYZ without a face-to-face conversation about it. And I'm all for real-live talking about things we might disagree about, to any friends who want to. I came to this silly little corner of the internet to get a fun look into what everyone was doing, how their day is going and what fun new adventure they might be enjoying. But now, Facebook has become a whole lot of yuck.

Debbie Downers, Condemning Carls, Lazy Lennys, and Negative Nancys. 
We are for gay marriage. We are against.
We are for the ethical treatment of bunnies. We eat bunnies.
We support ALS. We think the ice bucket challenge is stupid.
What you are doing is wrong, but I'm not doing anything to help.

I leave Facebook thinking, "Can't we all just get along?" Anyone else?

For all the ads, messed up algorithms and strange permissions Facebook require for use, I have found another form of social media that I adore. INSTAGRAM.

Beautiful pictures, concise commentary, and no one is really offended if you don't "friend" them with a follow. It is a beautiful thing! On Instagram, most of the people I interact with are like-minded strangers. They encourage and uplift me to tackle this crazy thing called life and make me laugh along the way. Sure, I follow friends but since it is not as all-consuming as Facebook to the social media world, I can be a little more selective with whose pictures I see. If you aren't on, I would suggest you join and look through the people I follow. There are some truly inspirational Instagramers (is that a word?) I get to glean a little wisdom, laughter and positivity from every day and that makes me a better wife, mother and person. Win, win, right?

More important than social media it to develop genuine relationships in the community around you. Sure, I can be encouraged by an image and a sentiment on Instagram, but how much more life-giving to find camaraderie and friendship at the park yesterday while all of our kids played together? Social media has it's place and believe me, after 9 straight days of potty training social media was my saving grace, but it shouldn't replace real, honest to goodness face-to-face sharing of life.

Whose life are you sharing in?

Join a gym.
Plan an adventure night.
Meet a friend for coffee.
Frequent the farmers market.

Go out there and really truly connect. It's the only way to really see who the Positive Polly's are in your life. Find them and build a community you can believe in.

P.S. Get a pen pal or make a friend run a marathon

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Potty Training / / Turning normal parents into lunatics everywhere

Potty Training: Turning normal Parents into lunatics everywhere via The Acting Mom

The time had finally come. We needed to start potty training the Littles. They are technically artificial twins of a sort, since their birth days are only weeks apart, but in our home we've never treated them that way. Until potty training.

Andrew and Simon are turning 3 in just a couple of months and we were tired of spending over $100 every month on diapers, so we decided now was the time. This is year 6 of having kids in diapers for us. We are pretty done with this part of of the parenting process. After changing diapers for 2,194 days IN A ROW, it is safe to say that we are over it. Just typing that makes me want to spit. Who said parenting was a good idea? Wouldn't that be considered torture in another culture? Dealing with someone else's bodily functions for 2,194 days straight? I mean, where was my day off?!?!

With all of this motivation, we dived into potty training the Saturday before Craig went back to work. Not our brightest moment considering I would rather do ANYTHING ELSE than potty train and Craig is really the one who potty trained our first two kiddos. But we did it the Karissa-way and jumped in with both feet.

And this is where I have been for the last 9 days straight. Sitting in the living room. Asking about bodily functions, putting stickers on potty charts and wiping rear ends. All in the living room to make sure accidents don't happen on the carpet. This part of parenting is probably similar to house breaking a dog. I feel like the only things I think about are,

"When was the last time they had a drink?"
"Is it ok for them to play in their room on the carpet?"
"Do I feel brave enough to take the boys in public in underwear?"

Hence, this blog post and the insanity that is my current brain space.

Potty training one child is hard enough, but potty training 2 kids AT THE SAME TIME is pure craziness. What normal person, in their right mind would follow around another human being ready to wipe/catch/dispense of their waste? The terrifying thought of being in Target and having one Little poop in their underwear while the other leaves a trail of pee through the shoe department keeps me awake at night. The tension is building into stress headaches and the desire to start drinking martinis mid-morning to add glamor to my day.

Before anyone becomes too concerned for my sanity, remember sarcasm is a coping mechanism and I feel the need to use it liberally under times of duress. And truly and honestly, they are doing pretty great! Even though at church yesterday Craig and I looked like a circus act passing kids back and forth as they took turns using the bathroom during the singing, scripture reading, sermon and communion. One family has never made so many trips to the loo during an hour and half service. Despite a few accidents, I think we are on the road to being a diaper free family forever and ever, AMEN!

I promise sanity will return at some point to this fragile state of existence, but it's not today.

I'm too busy sanitizing my hands...

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A good boy is a tired boy

A good boy is a tired boy: Parenting Strategies for Well-Behaved Kids via The Acting Mom

These simple words came from my college president. Dr. Rutland often spoke at our weekly chapel services and one time he said these words about how he was raised. A boy who has a lot of energy has enough resources to get into a lot of trouble. But, if a boy spends his day busy working and being productive, then he will go to bed tired with no energy left for mischief. Craig and I were just friends at the time we heard this, but we have carried these truths into our parenting many years later.

Having four kids, three of whom are preschoolers and three that are boys, we have applied this motto to our daily lives. People have often asked how we manage, why we spend so much time outdoors and how our kids can be so well behaved in public. The answer is: A good boy is a tired boy. We don't have it all figured out but I'll share a couple strategies that have made having four kids really close together more manageable.

1. Spend as much time outdoors as humanly possible. My kids spend hours outside every day for the majority of the year. The summer here is brutal, driving us inside and into a little madness, but weather permitting we are in the backyard, riding bikes, at a local park or hiking. Fresh air and the natural obstacles found outdoors allow the kids to use more of their muscles and energy than indoor play. They are jumping, running, climbing, shouting and I'm ok with it because it is outside and not in my 1,200 square foot home. Outside has no limit to how big or bold they can play, giving them the perfect stage to burn their God-given enthusiasm for life. This is a BIG key to our family's overall well-being and happiness.

2. Consequences are physical activities. When our kids make a bad choice, they receive a verbal chastisement then a physical activity. It takes on many forms in our home, such as running the perimeter of our backyard, squat thrusts, time-ins or jumping jacks. After they complete their laps or squat thrusts, they must apologize and make it right. Our philosophy is if they have enough energy to hit/snatch toys/sass talk, then they have enough energy to do jumping jacks. Kids at this age only understand logic and parental lectures to a point before their minds wander. We find it more effective to have a tangible consequence for wrong choices and bonus, it helps to burn energy.

3. Know your kids limits and don't push them past it. We know our kids don't do well in overly crowded places more than one day at a time (example: no 3 day trip to Disney for our family). We also know that they need an early bedtime or the next day the whining will be insurmountable. Because we know our kids, we know what they can handle and what they can't. I don't talk on the phone for more than 5 minutes unless Craig is home because I know a certain child will get into more trouble than I thought was humanly possible. Even though we could do a lot more things if we stretched what our kids were able to handle a little bit, we choose to honor them and where they are in this phase of life by respecting their limitations as 6, 4, and 2 year olds.

4. Consistent routines lead to secure kids. Routine is truly critical for kids. There are plenty of articles and books written on this subject so I won't delve in too deeply. The general idea is that consistency gives kids the feeling of safety so they can do the normal developing that they are suppose to do. For us, we kind of do the same thing every day around here. That leaves me, the creative-artistic one a little batty which is why I do theatre for sanity restoration, but the kids enjoy it because they know what to expect. They wake up, eat, play, homeschool, lunch, naps, outside time, Daddy's home, bike time, dinner, pool time, baths, sleep. We don't do this exact schedule every day, but pretty close. The predictability of their day allows them to explore, learn and develop new skills.

There you have! Barber Parenting 101 in a nutshell.

These parenting philosophies won't work for every family. I am not stating these as hard and fast rules to produce well-mannered children, but what is working for us. Craig and I find these help us to keep our cool and make sure we are doing our part to give the kids the tools they need to become the people they are suppose to become.

What are you parenting tips and strategies? I'd love to hear! 

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The Acting Mom jumps back into acting!

I've been acting since last October and I didn't even blog about it!

Yep. That thing that has contributed part of the blog title. Me, acting. How could I not have blogged about it? We all know the answer to that, so I won't go there. ANYWAY! The last thing I did was 2 years ago, so you probably forgot that I did anything besides adopt and travel to Africa, huh?

Since October I have been involved in two AMAZING productions with my favorite community theatre, and just started on a new one last week! I've regained a little of what makes me me, instead of just a living-on-the-edge-crazy mom. I never want to loose myself to my job, even if it is a truly wonderful and enriching job like parenting. There is just something about becoming a different person for a show that helps me remember who I am with such clarity. If acting isn't your thing, then that probably sounded crazy. I'm OK with that. We artistic types have a language all to ourselves.

Photo Credit/Thom Altman

The first production was "The Miracle Worker" by William Gibson. What a powerful and well crafted piece of theatre! If you have the chance to see any production of it, GO! I am still gnawing on that show after 2 months of rehearsal and 15 performances in December. The best part was building a true family with our very intimate cast. With no music or set changes or huge dance numbers, we relied on one another to portray the vivid life of Helen Keller, Annie Sullivan and the entire Keller family.

Having adopted two boys that came from rough pasts, I had a very genuine knowledge base to bring to the role of Kate Keller, Helen Keller's mother. Through the rehearsal process I was even able to work through some of the emotional trauma that adopting has brought to my own life and views of parenting. It was a truly healing process and an amazing show as my first foray into acting after adding two more children. (And do you see that lovely young lady playing Helen? She is going to be my daughter again in Mary Poppins!)

Photo Credit/Thom Altman

Even while "The Miracle Worker" was going on, auditions were being held for "Les Miserable." If you have read my blog, or at least this post, you know that playing Fantine is a dream of mine. With Craig encouraging me to go, I auditioned and was cast as Fantine. I was pinching myself as I read the cast list. Talk about a stellar group! And I was one of them.

Photo Credit/Thom Altman

Almost every show we performed was sold out and that is a testimony to Norm Small and the reputation of Theatre Winter Haven. All together I died 22 times for an audience in a white hospital gown and hacked blonde wig in France. And I loved it! Being apart of such an iconic musical to the theatre canon was a once in a life time experience, honestly and truly. Everyone in the cast, crew and production staff rose to the challenge of telling the moving story of this group of people to all who came to see. We all felt as if we were apart of something much bigger than ourselves or Theatre Winter Haven.

Photo Credit/Thom Altman

What happens after I died in the first 40 minutes of the three hour show, you ask? I become weapons master along with Eponine! No, seriously. I put on tech blacks and handed out rifles, muskets, swords, and blank ammunition to the men you fought at the barricade. Being a little afraid of guns, I was excited for the opportunity to conquer this fear by learning about proper gun handling. After six weeks working with guns, I can't say I am more comfortable but I am less afraid. Baby steps. So who wants to take me to a gun range?

And now, I'm on to a magical production of a childhood favorite, "Mary Poppins." Monday night was our first read/sing thru and you won't want to miss it! I am especially excited about this show because it will be the first one my kids ever attend. They've seen me act and sing around the house, but never on the stage. Asher and Alethea adore the film with Julie Andrews and the book by P.L. Travers and I know they will fall in love with the stage production. Every time I begin a new production, it feels like I'm putting on an old glove. It just fits. Theatre and me were made for each other.

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Wife of a school teacher

Wife of a school teacher via The Acting Mom

Being married to a school teacher has it's perks.

Summer breaks. 
Weekends and postal holidays off. 
Freshly sharpened pencils.

But at the same time, being married to a school teacher means I feel like I haven't grown up!

As fall approaches, I feel the anxiety of starting a new semester.

Did I pick the right coarse load?
Is there time for a bathroom break before 3rd period?
Will any friends share my lunch period?

And then I remember: I graduated from high school 14 years ago! 

Seriously though, it is pretty cool to get to see my husband the entire summer, all Thanksgiving week and the two weeks surrounding Christmas. You won't hear me complaining about spring break or Craig never working on the weekend. Since he is my best friend, it is amazing to have him around all the time. And what a blast for our kids to get to have their dad in their lives on a consistent and frequent basis. We know this can't happen for every family situation, so we cherish what we have.

Twelve years of public education and four years at university, I became accustomed to fresh beginnings in the fall and the lazy days of June, July and August. Marrying a school teacher means I get to enjoy these same things year after year without the stress to achieve and perform academically. Winning!

Today marks the new school year for my husband, and me by default. January isn't our time for New Year Resolutions, it's now, the beginning on the new school year. As I reflect on last year and look forward to the one that lies ahead, I am optimistic and excited about what is in store.

Last year held trying to win a trip to Rwanda, the 1 year anniversary of our adoption, picking up an old man on the side of the road and a complete lack of blogging. Next year, I hope to get back in shape, blog more, downsize our possessions by half, focus on personal Bible study, and give more talks on healthy eating on a budget. Who knows if this is possible or what will actually take place this next year, but I'm anxious to see where it takes me and my family.

And I'm thankful there won't be any exams at the end of it!

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