Life is always changing, rearranging. As I looked into the mirror this morning, I had to ask where the time went. It just seems like yesterday Seth and I were starting a new life together. It was not that long ago a little six year old boy stole my heart. I'll always remember holding him on my lap one night when he wrapped his tiny arms around my neck and asked "Will you be my mom?" At that time I didn't know if the man I was dating would become my mate, but I promised to always be in his life... no matter what. 

He went everywhere in that coat and hat! 
Our 4 boys ... the day we became a family! They couldn't wait to eat! Where's the grub???
A friend's bob cat :)
If I could save time in a bottle....
A lifetime ago... growing up in Montana
Days of 4 H and cowboys
Well... that's a passel of kids!
Always helping dad out on the farm!
.... and then our young boy became a man... all too soon!
A big family full of love a life! 
Headed off to Alaska
Last night I got the call... my son asked his high school sweetheart to marry him. We are so blessed to welcoming this lovely young woman into our family. It amazes me that each life change our "children" go through takes the cowboy and I down memory lane. I always prayed for the spouses of my future children... and she is an answer to this Mama's prayers. 
Stilettos In The Mud
Their senior prom
Being subscribed to many online parenting groups, gives an opportunity to witness many discussions on the topic of raising children. Today I will be addressing the topic of discipline. I do not claim to be an expert, by any means, and much of what I may address may be controversial. I only ask in your comments you are respectful to me and to others. I love discussion. Sharing my thoughts on raising children comes from my heart and many years of being a parent. 

Often times people of the Christian faith fall back on the concept of "spare the rod.. spoil the child." It always bothered me many adults used this as a mandate to spank or beat their child. When my children were small, I heard Dr. Kay Kuzma on a radio show. She shared the direct translation of this verse (Proverbs13:24 "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."). According to her and other scholars findings the "rod" which is spoken of is the word used for the staff or rod a shepherd uses for their sheep. They do not beat their sheep with a rod or staff but direct, steer, or guide to safety with it. This was a light bulb moment in my parenting! Spanking never set well with me, and though I used it as a tool on occasion, and desired to be a good parent so my children would grow in safety and love to adulthood, well adjusted, kind, and respectful of others, I knew there had to be a better way. Little did I know this one show would change the course of my parenting and spur me to many hours of study on alternatives. 

The concept of discipline is a tight rope walk of balance. The word discipline conjures up many positive and negative notions in individuals usually based on their history and beliefs. It has almost become a "dirty word" in parenting circles. For the sake of this discussion, I want to define what I mean. To discipline... to disciple.. to teach. It is that simple. I believe my faith mandates I teach my children... lovingly direct them, save them from danger, and raise them. Though many readers may not be of the same faith as I , I hope you will find some positive points which help you in your parenting journey! I have always said I "practice parenting" like a Dr. practices medicine. There are things I am super good at, such as nurturing, and others I am still perfecting. There are ways I parented when my children were small which make me cringe and there are things I am proud of. 

I will share, each of my children have experienced spankings as a method of discipline on occasion and I will definitively state I do not feel it is the best or most productive tool in the parenting tool box. As a matter of fact, it felt wrong to me every time and later I always set them down and told them I was sorry and asked them to forgive me. I explained that I was human, and while what they did was wrong, I could have handled the situation in a way that still taught them without hitting. We then came up with ways, when they were older, the situation could have been handled differently on both sides. In my home and in my life spanking was the lazy way out because I was tired, overwhelmed or fed up. I do not, however, believe spanking (swat on the behind) is abuse. I just believe it to be a very poor tool.  

There is a BIG shift in parenting circles which have taken it a step further from "no spanking" to "no punitive measures ever." "They" wish to raise their children in a fully accepting and loving environment. "They" believe that anything punitive teaches the child to distrust. I honestly believe this is a misjudgment. The world, school, and nature itself has punitive measures in place. While it should not be used for EVERY infraction, it is necessary as part of the parenting arsenal to teach them skills needed to interact in the world. Your goal should not be to humiliate or to degrade but to lift up a child so they rise to the expectations which help them navigate life. 

I always felt I could not discuss my ideas on parenting until some of them were grown and I could see how we did! Three of them have flown the coop... um I mean nest ;) I can see where we were very successful and where we did alright. I can see raising my children with too much input from extended family caused a lot of issues and places which now need repair (but this is a topic for another day and we have rectified this with the younger children). The cowboy and I can see that many of our methods gleaned the desired outcome of well adjusted, hard working, kind, creative, empathetic, and loving beings. Despite all our mistakes, trials, and misunderstandings we are proud of the people we have raised. We believed in Training Up our children and I hope we have succeeded

The primary keys to parenting, in my humble opinion, are consistency, loving discipline, patience, setting a good example, and having a healthy family village. Parenting should be a working, changeable relationship with your child. The most important rule for a parent is "pick your battles"! I ask my self on a daily basis, will this matter next moth, year, or in ten years? If the answer is no, then I try to ignore the behavior.  We should be willing to admit mistakes, and ask our child for forgiveness when we mess up. We shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes, hurting their feelings, or erroring on the side of not giving them loving boundaries.

When my daughter was a preteen she went through the "mouthy stage" challenging us sometimes loudly and even publicly. We knew this was an important "battle" to be won. After talking about it, explaining, cajoling, etc etc, we knew we had to nip this behavior. One night at a school function she hissed at the cowboy, and told him she didn't have to mind him and wasn't going to. He very calmly asked her to go to the car, because if she wasn't going to follow instructions she would miss the opportunity to be out with the family. She refused. He very calmly picked her up, fireman style, and carried her to the car. Moments later he returned after dropping her off at home. 

She learned her parents had boundaries but it also taught her that she has the right to have boundaries as well with friends and other relationships. She has the right not to be embarrassed by someone in public. Now, I know there are those who will gasp "You embarrassed that poor child... damaged her emotionally.. blah blah blah". I say cow pucky! She was warned ahead of time we would not tolerate the behavior and we followed through. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. No more is this more true than in parenting! She felt loved and safe because we were willing to do the hard thing and uphold our truth and boundaries with her. 

Before my children were born I had so many ideas about parenting. When they were small the foundation was laid to prepare us all for a new relationship. Parenting is not stagnant. As my children have gotten older, they have learned we mean what we say. We follow through. Let your teen spend the night some where? Be willing to follow through and check up on them (we have driven many a late night on icy roads to do so). I have heard the "but you don't trust me" and my reply was " My job is to be a parent, and sometimes that means making sure you are safe and making good decisions... you can trust me to do my job" A child gets caught drinking or using tobacco? We made them self report to their coach. Yes, the consequences were big, but they learned a valuable lesson of being true to their word as they had signed sports contracts.

We have always told our kids if they self report to us first... before someone tells us, or getting caught, the consequences will be much milder. Providing consequences will not deter them from making bad choices and neither will it encourage them not to talk to you. In fact, my children have come to us many many times letting us know they have done something which was against house rules... they want to feel better when their conscience nags at them. Many times we just talk about what happened, without "punishment" or consequences in order to encourage them to continue to seek us out. We engage them in how things could have been handled differently. Other times they haven't come to us until years down the road, or they have confided in someone else who comes to us. It still gives us, as parents, the opportunity to communicate. 

When they were younger, we had three hard and fast rules! Just three but everything fell under them!
1. Do not hurt others
2. Do not hurt things
3. Do not hurt yourself

When the children would break a house rule we would take them to the fridge where these were written. We would ask "Which one of these did you mess up on?" Sometimes it was one or all three. Usually they got away with a reminder and they would have to make it right with someone if they had hurt them. If they said a bad word, they had to scoop poop (either in the barn or yard...hey we lived on a farm) If they slammed the door, it was taken off the hinges for a few days. If they would not listen and were being extra rowdy, they had to run a lap down the driveway as I felt it meant they had excess energy they needed to dispense. 

We always chose 3 behaviors at a time to work on. Everything else we let "slide" with reminders. One of my biggest pet peeves was not being able to talk on the phone when my children were small. We had a family meeting about it. They expressed sometimes we would get mad because they felt they had a genuine need and weren't being heard and they could understand what it was like to be interrupted. So, we devised a plan. If Seth or I were on the phone (or talking to someone in public) and they had a need, they would gently place their hand on our arm to let us know. We would, in turn, place our hand over theirs to convey we were aware of their need. It was our cue to either take a break from the conversation, or finish it up so we could address our child. It worked really really well. 

Not to say everything in our house has run perfectly. Sometimes voices get raised... we are very animated as a family in fun and in dealing with issues. Sometimes everyone of us screws up, even us parents. It is about building safety and relationship. Families are messy business! 

I know well meaning, and not so well meaning family, community members or school officials have accused us, one way or another of not being "good parents." This used to bother me and hurt my feelings. We have been accused of being too strict and too permissive. As my children got older, and we got more confident in our parenting, abilities and family.  We came to realize that we just didn't give a darn what people thought anymore. It never ceases to amaze me people always know better how to do things from the outside looking in!  They weren't raising our family... and how they chose to raise their family was their business. I remember grounding one of my children from a sports activity. It was a super harsh consequence to a behavior we just could not condone nor seem to conquer. We had a someone in our lives who was just irate about it, sharing it community wide.

I remember thinking how hard enough it was to parent SEVEN kids without constant criticism and judgement. This person felt we should just "talk to the child" We had... they weren't there the many many afternoons of talking. They weren't there when we gave the child the opportunity to correct their actions on their own. They didn't see mine and Seth 's agony over the situation and all the milder consequences we tried when talking failed. We KNEW the behavior was important and could have serious consequences for the kid down the road. We KNEW we had to nip it in the bud, no matter what others may think. We also knew we walked a tight rope with our children. The New Testament mandates children to "obey your parents" however it mandates parents with "do not provoke your children to wrath." I know we came pretty close and sometimes did "provoke" them. It is two steps forward and one step back in this role of parenting. I hope through example we have taught them that even though mistakes are made, you have to make the effort to make it right. When we messed up as parents, we apologized and asked forgiveness. 

What I have learned from parenting can be summed up with  "It's all about balance" and "Know Your Child." Sometimes just talking to a child will work. There are other children who only respond to very strict boundaries. One of our sons was a tornado when he was small. We learned really quick not to put him in situations who could not handle. Sitting through a long movie or church service was more than he could handle. I am sure we could have spanked him into submission. We chose to pick our battles. Behave at the grocery store, stay lined up like ducks from youngest to oldest and everyone gets a treat. Don't and no one does. He learned really quick his brothers and sisters were watching and were going to remind him not to get out of line. I can only remember them losing the treat once. The rest of the day he had to deal with his brothers and sisters being unhappy with his behavior. Next outing.. he was a good as gold!

I remember crying to the pediatrician " I feel like a bad mom, he wont mind unless he gets a swat." She really really helped me. She said "some children are wired differently. If you don't like spanking, you will have to figure out other physical consequences to help him learn". We saw a therapist and had to use therapeutic holding time with him (this is done in a certain manner under the guidance of a trained therapist!) The idea behind it was when he was out of control, we held him. Eventually he wouldn't need to be held and only be reminded. Oh, he kicked and screamed. The rule was we had to use soft hands and soft voices, reminding him he could be released when he was ready. He just had to stop screaming and kicking and had to say "let me down please." We were warned to only do this if we could keep calm and hold him as long as necessary. The first time it took him 45 minutes to calm down. Yes, a good quick spanking would have been quicker but it wasn't helping in the long term with curbing his tantrums. The second time it took 15 minutes. The third time all I had to do was ask "Do you need a holding time." He learned there were boundaries and he could regulate his emotions. 

Some children responded well to physical activity. We knew if they had a lot of exercise, then there were less behavioral issues. If they were bouncing off the walls.. we told them to go run to a tree in the back pasture or do some jumping jacks. The idea is be creative with your parenting. Do not be afraid to try different things. Be a student of your child. Are they crying out for more attention with their behavior or just acting out because they need a release to their feelings. Are they being naughty. I have spoken with adults who can remember doing things to "tick their parents off" ... this would never have crossed my mind as a kid!

One of our children was quite dramatic and had people convinced I treated him differently than the others and even had others believing we were "abusive".Being that I became his parent when he was 4, I was so careful and concerned with my parenting of him. After many years of hearing this complaint, my response was finally "Yeah, you bet I treat him differently." I deal with each child how they need. His actions are his... his siblings are different... and how they respond to parenting is different. 

People really thought a child would not lie or make up stories. There were several difficult years with teachers. other parents,  or coaches giving us the stink eye, but we plugged ahead. (This is where a good family therapist is worth their weight in gold!) Seeing a neuro behaviorlist changed our lives! Bio feed back helped with brain processing issues he was having so he could better understand us, and we had the opportunity to understand why certain behaviors were occurring. Two years later it is almost as if we have a different kid, and life has settled down. During those years of chaos, it was hard to remind myself not to take it personally and not to give up. Unfortunately, I was the brunt of much of his frustration and anger, but we knew he was a stellar person and it was our responsibility to find a way to help him and not give up until we had succeeded. 

I have seen the outcome of an unruly child turn into an adult who doesn't understand nor respect boundaries. In my opinion the cause of this is either over disciplining and micromanaging a child, or not disciplining at all. Balance your parenting, creating boundaries, letting them make a lot of choices for themselves, allowing them to have their own voice and feelings with the knowledge that sometimes they have to defer to you. We always told our kids if they didn't like a rule or consequence they were welcome to come to us 24 hours after the conflict and discuss it with us. We gave them an opportunity to "argue their case" respectfully and we would listen. It may not change the outcome, but at least they would be heard. 

Last year I asked my daughter, honestly, where we did alright, and where we could have done better. She is such a beautiful, kind, and wonderful young woman of 20 now. She stated we allowed too much room for discussion (lol!) She felt we should have laid down the law a little more, and not allowed them to make so many decisions on their own. However, she was thankful we were the parents we were. She thanked us for attending games and activities and allowing them so many opportunities. She thanked us for being a loving place to land. She thanked us for giving her wings to fly and being proud of who she was. 

Know your primary goal Ours has always been to build relationships with our children that helped them rise to adulthood in a manner in which their childhood was a springboard and not a stumbling block or something they needed to overcome. 

Parenting is no easy task. Each family unit has to decide for themselves what tools they are going to use, and how they wish to run their home. I implore you to read all you can, from all sides of the parenting debate from those who advocate spanking and corporal punishment, to those like me who believe in natural consequences , to those who believe in attachment parenting! Everything I have read has helped me become a better parent. 

We had a family bed, and allowed our babies to sleep with us. We spanked on occasion. We talked, grounded, had family meetings, and sometimes even (gasp) raised our voices. We asked for help when we needed it by attending parenting classes, counseling, or seeking help from other professionals. We discovered what worked and what didn't.  We learned, we grew, we parented and we have always said "One or more of us may need more therapy when this is all over."  

copyright 2012 Kimber Beech

Key Cats for Self Defense
A year ago I was facing my first challenge of kids racing from the coop, um excuse me... leaving the nest! As a parent, it was one of the hardest moments I have faced. I blogged about it, cried about, ate food about it, and in the end am pretty proud of the first two kiddos... I mean adult children. No matter how you prepare yourself or your children for life outside of home, there are going to come struggles and moments where everything you have shared with them, pounded into their heads, begged and pleaded about, come together with an unplanned circumstance and the only thing between them and danger is a mother's prayer. 

No mama wants to get a call in which their beautiful child (no matter how old they are that is how you think of them) is on the other end and her first words are "Mama, I'm ok, but you need to sit down...are you sitting down? Is daddy there with you?" At those words my heart sank completely in my chest and there was no earthly way my knees were going to hold me up, so yes I was sitting. Of course with my vivid imagination, I had already gone through several scenarios in my mind by the time she explained her predicament. I'm no stranger to the rain and have had a fair share of traumas and unexpected losses, so I may react a little more strongly, which might be the first clue when my daughter waited a couple of days to call me after she was attacked in an alley. 

Sending your little girl off to college is full of preparations. I am fairly well educated when it comes to statistics. I shared with her that 1 in 4 women are victims of assault in their life time! I shared with her the dangers of college, parties, roofies, date rape, a few self defense moves, you know... all the things one can talk about when you are sending your children off to war, I mean, college? Not once did it cross my mind to talk to her about walking in a place she knows well, when it was still light out, and keeping safety in mind. I was remiss in talking to her about cities and this small town she grew up in and I really beat my self up about because I do know better, having lived in cities most of my life. 

My little 5'4 girl was walking down a familiar alley to a residence she has been to many times before, when she was grabbed from behind. Her mouth was covered, and she was told to be silent. She says all she could remember was me telling her when she was little "If someone ever grabs you baby, freak out, scream, scratch, claw, vomit... what ever you have to do to get away."  She told us she became a screaming, crying, kicking five year old at that moment. My eyes fill up with tears when I think that when she was in danger, my voice and words came to her. The very large man dropped that fire cracker he had grabbed a hold of... still tried to incapacitate her by elbowing her across the face (poor baby girl had black eyes and bruises) but when it was evident she would continue to scream and fight... he ran off. She had pepper spray but she says it was in the bottom of her purse and it did not even cross her mind, and even if it had...who has time to dig around for it? My sweet girl hid out in her dorm room for a couple of days before calling us, trying to regain her feelings and sense of safety being so far from home. 

Recently our "local" papers and news have been full of stories and issues with rape on the closest college campus near us. My daughter's attack and one her friend had a bit later, really made me start thinking about how we prepare our young people for adult hood. I immediately called a friend of ours who sells Key Cats, which are a self defense tool! We bought a couple of them and headed to my girl to give her one and to make sure she was ok. Another local mom, is one of those amazing pro active women with daughters, and she worked with the school to bring someone in to teach self defense to the senior girls, at  which my Lili was able to share her experiences with the girls. 

She reminded us we are told alcohol and other situations may compromise one's safety when we go to college. She really said the mentality that a woman has to be "doing something wrong" (ie dressing provocatively, drinking, etc.) is what causes bad things like this to happen. Victim blaming gets us now where and gives girls a false sense of security when they are just walking down a street minding their own business. Being a victim of an assault can happen any time and any where, and it is important to be as prepared as one can be should one be faced with it. (I raised this articulate woman!!) She now carried her key cat placed correctly on her hand anytime she goes anywhere alone, or in a group of women. She knows the goal is to get away, and as her parents we want her to always be prepared. It is a sad part of life, but her hope is, other parents will read about her experience and take action to make sure their young people are prepared for all the challenges leaving home may bring.

If you wish to find out more about Key Cats, you can contact Derek VonHeeder @ Stump Grills or can reach him at (406-370-2570) . He will be more than happy to help you and ship them out. Find out if your local school or anyone in your community has self defense classes, and keep safe out there! I receive no compensation or incentive to recommend this product. It is a product I believe in! Plus... they come in pretty colors!

Navigating the path of raising children comes with lots of bumps in the road. When these beautiful bundles of joy come into our lives, we have such high hopes and dreams for their future. Most people want to teach good and honest values to their children. Maybe it is my rose colored glasses which have me looking at the world this way and maybe there are a number of people who come from a different more rebellious place in life, but I hold the belief most people want to teach their children moral values which will help them succeed in life and become well rounded responsible and honest adults. 

On this path called parenting we learn as we go. I have had the privilege of raising two children to adulthood and in a month the third will turn 18. I have made a lot of mistakes and blunder along the way but I really love the people they are and love watching the growth and change. I can see where we did really well and where our work as parents needed improvement. Makes me thankful to have so many kids so I can perfect this practice called parenting (hey docs practice medicine... I think that is what we parents do..practice). 

Over the past few weeks I have been working with my daughter, Ms E, on an on going issue. I was cornered in the hall by a frustrated (rightfully so) library aide who could not get a book turned in by E. I spoke with E and she stated she could not find said item. Once it was found it was not in great shape. Apparently a brother had spilled coffee on said item and it was no longer fit for use. I then sent a note with E (first mistake sending it with the kid lol)  asking for the library to allow her to work off the fine. Years and years ago I made the decision NOT to pay for library or other fines of the children at school. I sent in a letter at the beginning of the school year and let them know of my policy and asking for an alternative. The school had a policy that kids could work off their fines instead. I had already tried paying the fines and having the kids work for me... and I tried making them find jobs to pay off the fine... it ended up being a giant headache for me and with seven children I am ALL about eliminating excess headaches! 

The former librarian and I saw eye to eye on the idea that kids have to learn to be responsible for items they borrow and the VERY best way is to make them be FULLY responsible. I also realize we have options larger schools would not be able to accommodate, which is why I have always chosen small schools for the kids.  So, after a few times of said kids dusting and helping out at the library I can tell you the missing items diminished greatly! Unfortunately, this is life and sometimes we like to repeat lessons, just to make sure we really have them down I guess. Yesterday I received two calls from E to bring the book in and turn it in for her. I refused. I thought, 'this is HER responsibility and she will have to take it with her tomorrow.' I drove E to school with the damaged book in hand. She was almost beside herself with fear. I could see it written so clearly on her face. It would have been so much easier just to take the book in myself, but what does it teach her? So, we talked about it and she explained why she was having so much anxiety about it. 

On a side note Ms. E suffers from mild PTSD which she was diagnosed with at an early age due to traumatic life events in her early years (ie dv in the household in our "previous" life) It RARELY shows itself (due to 12 wonderful years of healing and work)  but when it does it, we swiftly take actions to decrease the heightened emotional response to situations. Part of that is teaching her the necessary skills to recognize the response, practice relaxation techniques and to make a plan to deal with the situation which is causing the response. When children have PTSD and they feel threatened, cortisol FLOODS the brain and they have increased heart rate, anxiety and fear. Even if a situation appears mild, it can feel rather big. Returning a library book to a frustrated library aide who raises their voice with a stern look on their face can feel like one is going to battle! 

So, we made a plan. She would return the book to the aide with me waiting nearby to come in to help if the aide engaged verbally in a manner which would heighten E's anxiety and decrease her ability to handle it. She laid the book on the next and left the library... she was up the stairs when the aide raised her voice and told E to "Get back in here NOW" As she began to lecture E on the book it was my cue to step in. I politely told E to head to class. The aide retrieved the librarian (I haven't really worked with this new one before) and I explained our policy regarding books and how my wish was for E to be responsible and in years past I found I could not teach them responsibility if I was paying for the books. (Life is VERY different with 7 kids!)  It wasn't going to work for him to supervise her trading off working for the fines as he had other responsibilities. There was the threat, of course, of not allowing our transcripts to be sent to the new school if I didn't pay the fine, which got my ire up for a few seconds, but I reeled it back in KNOWING we really were on the same page of teaching E responsibility! It was suggested I find the principle. 

We have a wonderful principle, who has had the job of working with me for A LOT of years (seven kids remember...thank you Lord for seven well behaved, kind, and fairly responsible kids). I think we have the system worked out pretty well. I explained the situation to him, my desire to again teach responsibility to E, the need to make sure the book cost was covered,  my desire to have her final day at Plains School be of a good memory not a bad one, and he graciously and immediately found a time and a job for her to complete her task of rectifying the book situation. Yes, me paying $20 for the fine would have been way easier then dealing with this mess, but it teaches E nothing in the long run and responsibility is one of those lessons it is worth a little extra hassle for me. 

My point in blogging about this is not to disrespect the school librarian and aides because I know they work hard and deal with a lot of kids and the librarian has a real heart for these kids and our community. He is kind, considerate, and a great role model for our young people. I really respect the job he does.  :) Over the years I have learned a lot in working with the school to teach my children values we all wish them to have. One frustration as a parent in working with anyone at the school or in the community is how to remain on the same team and full fill common goals, such as in the case with us both wanting to teach responsibility, without getting into a power struggle or walking away feeling like it was a disagreement. Our common goals in our community of choice should be to find common ground in every area we can and really be good role models. I'm learning more and more every day about this job of parenting and I am very thankful for the people who have helped me learn and grow along the way. I am thankful for the easy moments and the trying ones. Bottom line is if we can all remember we really are on the same team, keep our cool, not make judgments about others and really take the time to listen... we can teach the young people in our world some wonderful skills which they will carry into adulthood. 

Teachers and anyone who works in a school have a very tough job. I admire the work and dedication it takes. My experiences have been positive with a few negative thrown in there but the bottom line is I have learned so much from it. When you become a parent your community broadens when your children are school aged, unless you home educate (which I have done on occasion). For parents and teachers or employees of schools reading this, if we can keep the focus that we are on the same team and are working toward the same goals which should be raising up well adjusted, honest, moral, and yes RESPONSIBLE children, then we can navigate challenges a lot more quickly and smoothly and the child WINS! I'm thankful I have had many such people to work with in our local school, and as we move I will take all the lessons I have learned along the way. I was thankful for the opportunity to practice the art of mothering today in the face of a very small obstacle. Successes through the struggles, no matter how small, teach me to become a better person, challenge me to become a better communicator, and give me opportunities to teach my kids important life lessons all the while praying      "I hope I'm not screwing this up... one of us may need therapy later if I do." 

Note: People have often asked why I'm so honest and open about our experiences with domestic violence. It is because when those of us who have succeeded in breaking the cycle and have moved from victim... to survivor... to over comer, we need to share the struggles, things we learned, and hope. There becomes this responsibility to reach out and share where I can, in a way which doesn't make this MY STORY, but educates others what occurs not only in homes where dv is present, but the seemingly insurmountable pressures and obstacles mothers, parents, children, and communities face even when the violence ends. 





With the political scene heating up this spring, it seems to me the debate regarding "women's issues" is at the forefront of what feels like a political storm headed our way. As I watch words fired back and forth, policies on birth control and abortion being debated, I find myself increasingly concerned for the children I have CHOSEN to bring into this world.

 Obviously I am personally pro-life...seven kids might have been the first clue!  I have volunteered for pregnancy centers, help start a non profit in Colorado to house pregnant teens, yet as I have gotten older realized the world isn't quite as black and white as I once believed it to be. I've developed compassion, understanding and adopted a stance which makes my die hard pro-life friends cringe and yank out their bibles. I believe in choice and I believe I made mine by having all the children I became pregnant with.

I will forever think every baby is a blessing and all obstacles can be overcome when faced with becoming a parent but my belief system... my morals... my values about it may not resonate with another and I cannot in good conscience say I have that right to make the decision for every other person out there (particularly with all the issues such as rape, incest, health of the mother, etc.).

We could debate this all day and each of us would walk away feeling right in our own stance. I don't believe this is an issue which will go away for a very long time. I find it concerning when public figures, politicians and lawmakers have turned from a place of compassion to a place of name calling and "slut bashing." When the right I have not to have anymore children and to enjoy relations with my cowboy which are not for the purpose of procreation is called into question, my ire gets up! I want to shout "stay out of my bedroom thank you very much!)  When people state "women in their day used to place an aspirin between their knees" I want to knock someone silly! Seriously? Your advice to young women is to put an aspirin between their knees? First....ya think that's gonna work?? ....and second where does that leave the male responsibility in this?? All of this talk about women's issues isn't just for women...it is for ALL of us. It effects both males and females. 

I have always felt it was a parents job and responsibility to teach their children about sex. While I have always given my children the right to decide whether or not to attend sex ed classes at school , we have made discussion about this a topic of conversation to be openly talked about. Yeah, I have normal kids who roll their eyes and say "Mom!" I have taught my kids sex is an adult responsibility and privilege but I am also really really aware teens are always jumping ship too early and we have a policy of open communication about it. No teen is ever ready nor should have to be ready to be a parent. Prevention is very very important.

My sweet cowboy man made some poor choices when he was a young man. He was one of those statistics of teen pregnancy as he got his high school girlfriend in the family way. She was moved to a home for pregnant mothers, 4 hours from him. He missed the birth of his son, but made trips, as a high school student, over on a regular basis. Without going into to much detail, by the time his son was 14 months old he had full custody and was a full time parent. He was up nights with a baby, took him to a sitter, and managed to finish high school with honors. When I ask him what he wants our children to know..his first statement is "keep it zipped"...typical. His second is always he wished there had been adults who had been open with him about birth control, sex, responsibility etc etc. 

I had a lovely mom who was very open about talking with me about all of these issues. My dad's take on it was "have sex and Ill kill you" and I believed him ;) It is a different world we are dealing with today and like it or not... our kids are in this world and influenced by it. We have to be wise as parents to really understand the choices they are faced with and arm these kids with as much information as possible. I may be naive enough to want and believe they should wait until adulthood but I'm not going into this without placing some safety nets! I can sanction safety and abstinence AND I can give options and safe alternatives without giving hearty approval for sexual activity. This Mama and this Papa... in this house... want to make sure they make it to adulthood with the best possible outcome and pregnancy/std's is not on that list. 

As my young people move into adulthood, with I'm sure many of them someday getting married and raising families, I wonder how these debates, particularly surrounding birth control will effect them. I can remember being a young, poor, married student and wanting to prevent more children. I made my way down to Planned Parenthood and was so thankful they were there to help, particularly when I was a previously married to a man who wasn't on the same page as I when it came to family planning. 

So, we debate should tax dollars fund organizations like PP?  Should health care laws require insurance companies to provide birth control for their employees even if it is a religious organization? Should Abortion be legal? All I can think of is my young people. Will my daughters have the option to put off family planning until they complete college? Will my sons have to support a family while trying to make their way in the world? Will they face tough decisions such as abortion? My children are lucky enough to have parents who will help them out financially. What about for those who do not have the options my kids have?  Who should be responsible for paying for such things in society for those who cannot afford them? I've come down to I'm all for federal funding of birth control because I feel it can be just as much a basic necessity  as food, electricity, water, clean air.  

I find saying birth control shouldn't be funded, provided or approved of because it increases the likely hood of sex erroneous. Ya'll.. people have sex... it is the outcome of those actions people would like to have some control over.  We pour billions of dollars into bailing out banks... and supporting wars half a world away... but we find it concerning to pay a small amount to prevent unwanted pregnancies? 

You may not agree and I respect your beliefs. Being a part of a democracy means we each have a voice and opinion. As the debates on the issue continue, my one hope is that those commentating on it will remember there are people effected by the issues they are discussing and making policy about. Real live ... breathing... walking talking.. human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity not called "sluts" or other derogatory terms because their way of life and belief system is different. You can get your points and beliefs across with a lot more respect than I am seeing in this current climate. 

When my beautiful daughter went off to college I wondered how mothers of the past coped with the separation from their child before we had all the lovely technology available to us today. Facebook, texting, mail, and cell phones mean almost certain access to those we love (within reason). She could send me a picture of her dorm room instantly, and I could interact from 6 hours away! I spoke to my former MIL about how thankful I was for the ability to be this involved and connected with my girl. She related to me how when she went away to college there was one phone in the hall and she was only able to call home for a few minutes a week. How did those mother's back then make it??? Were they created of sterner stuff than I? 

While there are many advantages to parenting  in the age of technology there are an equal amount of pitfalls. Just look at the dad who shot his daughter's laptop! I applaud the man (he needed to make a point and he paid for it) ...even though others were equally appalled and up in arms. I felt for him... It is pretty easy for your children to announce your every pitfall and parenting faux pas to the world. They have access to the world and their friends 24/7 and it can be a challenge to bring the focus back to "right here...right now." I love the fact I can set a GPS to their phone and tell if they are indeed where they have professed to be ( a little trick I just discovered and will be using!)

Parenting is hard and it is messy. There is no rule book and I'm pretty sure if there was one it would be wrong and I'd use the thing for fire starter! As I parent kids rapidly turning into adults, we traverse familiar ground of the senior year. I wonder if the goal is "how much can I get away with before she follows good on the threat of eating her own young"?  Last week, I found myself adopting the shrill loud voice and could feel the same expression creep over my face which was on my mom's face when I was a teen (love you Mama). You know...the "scary"...my heads going to spin around one. 

My dear son decided to skip school...then refuse to come home. (Hence my new love of GPS tracking for parents) Guess he thought he could beg for forgiveness later. After being up all night worried sick and planning his consequences and talking myself out of his swift demise... messages started coming in of FB pics (Hey Kimber have you seen the pics of your son?!!!??). What did us mother's do before Facebook I ask you??  What idiocy crosses the minds of our teens to post pictures of their rule breaking...flaunting them for all the world to see?

 I remember being a teen and seeing my brothers aggravate my mom to the point of frustration while she was brushing her teeth one day. The more animated she became, the more hysterical the scene...the more they purposefully they riled her...because she didnt realize the tooth paste had begun to froth until she was literally "foaming at the mouth." When she turned around and looked in the mirror she good nature-dly began laughing with us! 

After the FB messages started pouring in, I texted my ex-husband to let him know, only to discover the kid had decided to show up there in the middle of the night and NO ONE bothered to let me know. Needless to say I was livid and everyone had to hear about it. We had to practice our co-parenting skills which for him just proved to be "ride the storm out and let her rant." Once again we made it through another bump in the road. 

I used to be mortified when my kids broke house rules... as if it were a reflection of my mothering. With as many teenagers as I have in the house I have decided unless I'm willing to break the law and handcuff them to the bed post, then I cannot control everything. There are somethings I can control and others I just have to release to prayer and the hands of God. I can be thankful for technology and it's help in this crazy roller coaster ride called parenting, though sometimes I wish I didn't have access to all the idiotic things my kids try or say, balancing this with not allowing it to tempt me to micro manage their lives. 

I have found myself in the place in the last few years of my little boys progressively changing and growing into young men. Our oldest boy turned 18 last year; this year another does and next year two at a time become "men." It's a strange and uncomfortable time for me as a mom. Let me just put it right out there. I don't understand them at all! It was easy when they were little and I was the most beautiful and sweet woman in their little world and I could do no wrong. Now, just being "mom" seems to send them all sorts of sideways in their thinking and they run like hell-o (or want to ) if they even get a hint I might say something "motherly like." Such as "Wash your hands"..."Do your homework""..."Who is the girl"... "That's Dangerous"

I've not seen a single book, or article which points the way clear on how to do this. Every mother I know who have raised these strange creatures has given me this look that seems to say "I survived it and so shall you." I wanna know HOW (make sure you put a real thick southern accent on that sentence because that's how I heard it in my head). Several mom friends have gone on to encourage me by letting me know all young men "lose their minds" at around age 16 or 17 and hopefully regain it around 25 ...or maybe even 30. This is not encouraging...I have 4...F O U R young men! 

Oh I get that they must grow up...learn a few mistakes on their own. I get that I must let go and cut the strings (I definitely don't want to curse their future wives with young men who are still attached to my apron strings!) How do we transition from mommies of little boys to mothers of men without feeling like our hearts are being ripped out of our chests? I raised independent young people...I'm thankful I did...I just didn't realize how hard that can be sometimes as we learn to let them go. 

We have had to have a few of those "hard talks" with a few of our young men lately. They seem to think once the magical age of 17-18 has been reached they are men who know everything and we as parents know nothing. It has been quite the eye opener, I am sure, that we do butt in on occasion and give our two cents worth, reminding them we care and will always be concerned with the course their lives are taking. My job as a mom is to be willing to say the hard things tempered with love. It is a tight rope walk and this new stage seems a strange new land. 

I'm the emotional one...the one who thinks ahead and is always worrying (even though I try no to) and Seth is pretty laid back. We look at each other and just shake our heads at this transition we are in. It is lovely to know I am not the only one in this boat and I have him to lean on and it is nice to know his heart is breaking too and he feels really thankful to have me. I guess that is why it is so important for spouses to have a good solid relationship when the kids start jumping ship! A friend of mine reminded me the other day she thinks this is all a part of God's plan...for kids to drive us crazy at this age ...otherwise you would never want them to leave and that would not be a healthy thing! I have been assured things will someday feel normal again. Im looking forward to a new sense of normal. 

Have kids moving out...already have an empty nest? How did you do it without looking like a blubbering idiot? lol!

Hearts by :Paula Jeans Garden: Click on Picture for the Link

What I've learned about Life through Co-parenting 
 I used to look at being a divorced woman as one of the greatest failures of my adult life. As time has gone by and healing has solidified itself within my own life and spirit, I have changed my self talk to a more positive stance. I am able to honor the person I met and fell and love with and the changes and circumstances which occurred which led to the ultimate decision to end our married relationship. Like so many other marriages, ours ended with a lot of hurt, confusion, and lack of support.

Divorce and breakups are traumatic to the heart and psyche and can lead to feelings of victimization on all sides.  When we feel victimized we can rationalize our behavior and can engage in acts which surprise ourselves and even those we love. Breakups can bring out the very worse in everyone. Culturally we do not have a frame for divorce or endings which does not leave us with a burden of a broken legacy for ourselves and/or the children involved.  

 I navigated divorce as a parent. I don't feel like the divorce ended when the papers were signed filed. Instead it took us many years to navigate from a very destructive place which took years of processing to a place of moving toward healing. As a parent we can decide that our story is the most important; our victimization is more important to hold on to rather than being an act of forgiveness and healing in the world which works as an example to our children.

I have in no means conquered all there is to in the arena of co-parenting. I have a long way to go and a lifetime to learn it. There are fundamentals I feel comfortable enough sharing at this stage of our development which I hope will get you to thinking. Even if you are not married or divorced or co-parenting I can guess you know someone who is and you just might be a support person who can help them in their journey. I've learned a lot about life, forgiveness, empathy, healing, and love through this journey of co-parenting. 

Create a Co-parenting Framework (it's a life long process)
When I divorced I had ideals about co-parenting but not the necessary acceptable framework. There were lots of books on co-parenting with the other person who was in a lot of ways healthy. There was very little which focused on the safety and fear issues which result from a marriage which ends due to domestic violence. Not only did I need an acceptable framework, but he did as well. We didn't have a healthy marriage, how were we to develop a healthy un-married relationship?  It isn't as if we could just write each out of the picture indefinitely, though we might at times have wished to. 

My particular situation required counseling,  support, understanding and education about the dynamics in a marriage which DV has occurred, not only for myself and my children but their other parent as well. I had steps I needed to take no matter where my former spouse was in his healing process, which made family and friends very uncomfortable and at times very angry. There were also mistakes I made a long the way which sometimes made things harder. No matter the reason for divorce, counseling and co-parenting classes should be considered. 

We have learned a lot through this process. In the beginning I had no desire to create a safe place to discuss issues with my former spouse. Understandably being in the same room would create panic attacks,  as I still carried a lot of fear from being abused. As much as I wanted to create a clean slate for co-parenting it was almost impossible to navigate. The children and I had the wonderful aide of a counselor who believed the abuse occurred and helped me navigate my own healing so we could move toward healing between the children and their father. At some point if both parents are working on their own healing and issues, there comes a space where you have to recognize the need for a safe place for the divorce to occur and move away from what was - to what is- to what can be. This is true in any co-parenting relationship. 

Whether or not a marriage ends due to DV or other irreconcilable differences, it is more than just the couple which is effected. Extended family, children, community, friends are all effected. We need to make room for the idea each person has the right and place to grieve the loss. Also to recognize we are not responsible for another's grieving process or to limit the time they need to grieve. We also do not each need to hear the others process. At first I thought I had to carry everyone's feelings about our breakup. In the process relationships were damaged which took years to mend. It is important to be able to voice " I cannot listen to your feelings about this. I value them, but I'm not in a place I can carry those right now. I will be happy to let you know if and when I arrive in that place." The person then can find an acceptable outlet for their feelings such as a counselor. 

For children it is particularly important to allow them to grieve. There are five stages of grief, even in divorce and if we allow a place for healing then the children who are experiencing the divorce along with their parents can avoid many of the pitfalls and self esteem issues. 

It is important for a child to continue to have their parent be a part of their story, within a network of safety, no matter what. This looks different for each family. In relationships where violence, drugs, and or safety issues are present the safety net has to be well guarded. It could be as simple as talking to the children in a positive manner about an absent parent who is unable to be there or presents a safety issue. Another option is supervised visits with over seers who believe in what occurred and is willing and able to protect the children in cases of abuse or neglect. I'd like to add many people feel a partner who abuses their spouse can be a safe and healthy parent to the kids. I'm on the fence about this, as the abused spouse is often re-victimized through their former spouses relationship with the children and am under the firm belief that spousal abuse is child abuse as it damages the child.  

 Bottom line, it is going to look different for every set of circumstances and a trusted counselor is very important. There will be lots of people in the dynamic who do not always understand why certain things are in place so dialog is very important but so is holding firm to what values your children are being taught through this life circumstance. 

 In cases where both parents have had loving and safe relationships with the child/children it is important they get as much times as feasible with both parents. I'm a big fan of 50/50 splits in divided homes where both parents are loving and healthy and abuse has not occurred. My husband Seth and I decided a long time ago if we were to ever split the children would remain in the family home and we would rotate in and out so as to provide them with a stable environment. 

The primary goal should ALWAYS be to provide a loving and safe environment for the children. I've seen co-parenting situations work successfully and others become a disaster not only for the grownups and children but the support systems such as school, church, extended family and friendships. Each couple who has decided to split has to deal with their own unique circumstances. Often times one or both are unable to heal and be mature with the situation. Remember just because the other is not, doesn't give you license to throw all caution to the wind and cause damage too. Be the bigger person and a loving example to the children. 

It took my former spouse and I a lot of years to get to a place where his time with the children felt safe or comfortable for me and them. Our compromise would not work for many people, nor would it be safe or recommended. He spends many Holidays and dinners with our entire family. I wouldn't say we have arrived in any sense of the word, but we continually move toward a better place. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. As the children get older more and more dialog occurs about how they want their relationship with him to look and progress. They honor my feelings and need for safety and I honor their desire to have a relationship with him. 

On a side note: My husband, Seth, has an enormous heart. He has always honored that he can have his own relationship with the children and not be in "competition" with my former spouse. Both men have had to set aside their egos and place the children first. We have all had to recognize these children are very blessed to have two father figures, both bringing different aspects and attributes to the table. When either parent remarries it is important to honor their new relationships and place in the children's lives. It can create a lot of conflict for children when egos rule the roost instead of love. 

Have Empathy
It took a lot of years to get to a place where I had an understanding of my former spouses hurt. My hurt was so great and the betrayals I felt ran so deep I did not care if he had experienced pain because I was so sure what the children and I had experienced was so much greater, no amount of his suffering would ever make up for it. Pretty harsh, huh? I had to realize though I felt justified in leaving, he was wounded by losing his family. His own actions which led to the events wounded him and created hurt. No matter if his wounds were inflicted by his own hand or my actions, he had hurt. If I want to be a good parent, I needed to develop empathy for my former spouse and hope good things for him, because as he heals, it helps our children. 

 Kind regard toward the other person does not mean one has to compromise safety. Safety was really a primary goal for me. My trust issues with my former spouse did effect the children and their contact with him. My former spouse has had to learn to set aside his own desires often and recognize the act of seeing him drive down the driveway with my children created abject terror for me. He had to learn their memories of their early childhood needed to be healed and they each held their own fear.  Parents have to come to a place in their own healing to listen to their children voice those feelings, be a safe place where fears are expressed, and honor them not with excuses but understanding. In any relationship it is important to own our actions and have empathy for what others experience at our hands. 

Take Responsibility
In order to heal it is important for everyone to take personal responsibility. You can do this as a gift to yourself whether or not the other person ever does. You are only in charge of your own healing and actions. It is not dependent upon the other. I had to decided if I wanted to remain in the role of victim and continue my story in that role or did I want to change it? 

 It wasn't until I could acknowledge my responsibility and "failures" that I was able to grow past a place of fear and victimization. Now, I am not saying it was my fault I was a vicitm of domestic violence. I am aware that many women stay for many reason, and I had mine. I passively ignored and/or excused behavior for many years which effected my children. I actively engaged, as did he, in many attempts to fix the issues while we were married. Bottom line is within my own heart I had to own my decision to stay and allow my children to spend their early years in an unhealthy and unsafe family. Every person, in every relationship which ends up in breakup or divorce feels victimized by the other.  I was at no time in my life or marriage a perfect person and had my own actions which wounded my former spouse.   

At some point I had to move past what happened to me and create a new reality. Some days my old feelings resurface, and I have steps for dealing with and recognizing them. I have a choice at those times.  Does this story our family shares become empowering or is it evidence only to our damaged past?  Does it get retold in a healing manner or is it a tool for further destruction? My hope is in by talking about our path, we can heal ourselves and be an example to others. 

Honor What Was Good!
In every marriage there are lessons of value and good times. It took many years of healing to be able to honor the good things we shared. I always had the idea it was important for my children not to carry the burden of trauma but also to have a legacy of positive. When you tear down your former spouse to your children you do more damage to your relationship and to your children's self esteem than you punish the other person. 

 Keep it clean. It is so easy to justify demonizing the other parent. In any relationship there is ample room to be justified in tearing the other person down. There is balance to be had in these situations so the children understand there are needs  which have to addressed , such as safety,  while not completely alienating them from their other parent. It requires a lot of commitment and healing from both partners in any relationship. My former spouse has had to give up a lot of his desires in order to create a safe space for the children and myself. In order to develop ourselves morally we have both had to let go of what is often best for us in order to do what is best for the children. 

 Make Amends
When we make mistakes, we need to make amends and commit to change so as not to continue patterns of wounding. As we awaken to new ideas and way of doing things, there should be dialog. I know my former spouse and I have many heated moments. He has had to deal with the pendulum swing from a former spouse who would no longer communicate to one who communicated very well and often times in a not so nice manner, as I learned to get my point across effectively and in a healthy manner. I am still learning how to tell him when I am unable to hear his point of view, or to listen without adding my own judgement, either trumping it with my own complaints or justifying not hearing him based on past grievences.  He is learning to listen to mine without excusing his own behavior and allowing me to have my feelings without sending us into old patterns.

When someone feels wronged, Listen. Really listen to their concern. How did something you said or did impact them? Don't place value only on your intentions.  If you were in the wrong are you able to be grieved by your own behavior and horrified about it? If so, tell them and ask for forgiveness.  Take the other's feelings into account. When we are wounded we can justify retaliation, defensiveness and the throwing of darts or the firing off of cannons to annihilate the enemy. Take the steps toward healing. 

Live With Hearts Wide Open
My husband, Seth, and I really felt like our family should open up and include those people the children loved. People I loved from my former family and people in his extended family. This took many years of healing before it could be done successfully and is not always possible in every situation.

 My sons Seth brought to our marriage, as well as our daughter,  call my former spouses mother "Grandma". She is loving woman with a huge heart and has gracefully accepted this. They can't wait to get annual Christmas and birthday presents from her. She has become a vital part to all of our children's story. Allow people room for growth and change as time goes by. We felt the more people our children have to love them, the more we can be an act of love and forgiveness in the world, the greater their ability to heal and carry a positive legacy and be well adjusted people. 

Early on we had to set really firm boundaries. There were those in Seth's family who did not wish to accept me or the children I brought into the marriage. At one point we had to say "it's all or nothing..your choice"  to many relatives. Most of them came around and have honored our whole family with acceptance and love. There are still a few challenging relationships, but even those teach us to live with our hearts wide open. 

Always wrestling with each other!
I'm so over and past the stage of potty training, tantrums, nightmares, snakes and snail and puppy dog tails. As I peruse blogs, articles, and magazines on parenting all I can find information for the parenting of the wee ones. If I do happen upon information regarding parenting teens and grown children ( I am of the camp you never stop parenting) it is generally information on the wayward child and offers of military school.  

Why is it seemingly so difficult to find joy in the parenting of teens and share it?  I have 6 teens (plus one tween) right now, and I can tell you some days it is no cake walk, however it is filled with wonderful moments and days of profound joy as I watch them rapidly racing toward adult hood! It is exhilarating and terrifying! I want to watch their lives with an open eyed expectation while holding my breath knowing there are pitfalls along the way. Skinned knees give way to broken hearts. Bicycles give way to (gasp) cars. Their choices can lead them down paths of no return, and yet there is so much to look forward to. 

I love that my house is full of loud, often off color humor which I have to obviously curtail. I love that my referring has decreased as they have matured but that every now and again I have to "blow the whistle." I love I am often the go to girl for problems and when I am not, my husband Seth is...and when things are especially not parent topic comfortable they have learned to talk with each other!  

It is a balancing act raising teens. When to hang on...when to let go...when to talk...when to listen...when to draw in the boundaries...when to let go...when to trust...when to investigate and show up at midnight to make sure they are where they said they were going to be. When my children were young I was physically exhausted, now I am just emotionally exhausted. 

I have learned how to watch the roll-o-coaster and not ride it as the emotions are all over the place in a house full of kids! I have learned that eye rolling means "this aggravates me but thanks for caring." A slamming door means they really want more attention, and that sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing. The main thing I am learning from my teens is what my parents must have gone through when we were getting ready to leave the nest, and a remembrance of where I was as a  young adult with no concept of the wisdom age, responsibility, and time brings. 

Most mornings are mass chaos in this household for the span of an hour and a half before everyone catches the bus to school. There is some order to the chaos though. Alarms are set in varying time frames so there is some semblance to shower order. They came up with this on their own, which I feel means we must have done something right. Every fifteen minutes a new alarm goes off with the final teen waking up to his siblings telling him once and for all to get up so he doesn't miss the bus!

 Then there is the music of the morning. Our lives seem to revolve around music. The other morning it was the "Eye of the Tiger" full of leaping air guitars, lip syncing, and dancing as they headed out the door. Previous to that my son serenaded me to "Aint No Mountain High Enough" which threw all of us into a good mood and fits of giggles. There are no dull moments.  

Gone are the school yard days, kissing boo-boos, potty training, and everything else small children entail. It has been replaced with it's own kind of new mayhem, but with it has come the sweet sweet recognition of the people they are becoming. There are some days I shake my head and wonder where we went wrong but many more days I marvel at what we did right to be blessed with a house full of loud, fun, amazing young people!

I am not one of those people who are anti vaccinations. My children have had most of the recommended vaccines.Despite everything I have read regarding them, it was the decision we felt most comfortable with. It wasn't made lightly, and with our physicians help we immunized on a far more conservative schedule than recommended.  
I'll go on record as saying  am not in agreement with the chicken pox vaccine for our children and yes all of mine had chicken pox ( six at once!)  and are no worse for it (can't say the same for me).I am on the fence as to whether it is healthier for the immune system to be inundated multiple weakened strains as in most shots, or fighting many of them off on the chance your child contract a childhood disease.  I'm not a doctor, just a mom trying to make the healthiest and best decisions I can for myself and my children. 

Every year around this time we are inundated with flu vaccine recommendations and information. I am not recommending flu vaccines or recomending not having them. I have been reading through blogs, and informational articles regarding the pros and cons. People are pretty passionate on either side of the fence as with many issues. 

It's something as a mom and an asthmatic I have struggled with, and while I have read all of the compelling stories and information, to date I have only been vaccinated once, and was deathly ill all winter. I cannot in any way blame it on the flu shot as I most likely would have been just as sick without it. We have just really weighed the pros and cons, read all of the studies and chosen not to vaccinate for flu. 

I have seen and been a part of many spirited debates in regards to vaccinations. While I believe debate is healthy as long as people are civil and respectful with differing views, I am am disheartened at all the mud slinging I often see on websites regarding the opposite points of view. I'm also increasingly alarmed at the stand government agencies are taking in regards to this decision. I do believe it should be a parents right to make this decision. 
Making these decisions regarding our own health and that of our children has become more and more difficult (and easier)  in many ways, with all of the information via the world wide web. All I can say is please educate yourself, talk with a trusted health care provider and make the best decision you can. I have included two links on different sides of the flu shot debate. 

(Not intended as recommendations medical or otherwise. Please speak with your own trusted health care provider)

 I'd love feedback in the comment area. 

The first I found on Dr. Christiane Northrup's Facebook status update. 
Flu Vaccine Worsens Flu-Fighting & Cancer-Fighting Immunity in Children
The second I found on a Blogher site. 
Why Every Last Mother & Child Needs a Flu Shot