Love Languages Really Can Make the Difference

If you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I highly recommend it. My husband and I read this book together while we were dating. My father suggested reading a book together as a way to handle a long distance romance. (In fairness we were only an hour apart, but I think he wanted us to have something to talk about when we were together instead of making out).

The book changed our relationship and the way we related to so many others. The book classifies five main areas of giving and receiving love.

  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts

As he breaks down each of these areas to describe them further, Chapman does a great job of defining these areas and clearing up any common misconceptions (such as that all men have physical touch love language just because they like sex or that all women are gifts love language because they like to shop). The book had a significant impact on our relationship (I am quality time and my husband is physical touch), but even more so, how we interacted with others. I quickly realized that some people give and receive love in different languages. My mother in law, for instance, is happiest when she is serving others. To the point where it is hard to get her to sit down and spend time with us when we visit. Like the biblical Martha, she can become overwhelmed with making sure everyone has enough to eat and forget to great her guests. But I’ve discovered that she receives love best through words of affirmation. When we compliment her culinary efforts or remind her how important she is to us, she lights up.

While this book has become part of the standard regimen of many pre-martial counseling materials, I think its benefits stretch much further than that. The Five Love Languages improved our dating relationship, saving us from many communication difficulties and conflicts. But it has also helped us each to better understand our families and friends.

From Hand to Mouth

My daughter has brought back a behavior I was sure she had outgrown. Almost everything she touches goes into her mouth. I’ve had to take out her hair clips and elastics because she chews of them. I’ve found her with paper clips, knitting needles and decorative pumpkins in her mouth. I’ve tried punishing her, I’ve tried ignoring it but the behavior persists. I have a theory that it might be the result of the slow growth of her back molars, but it’s hard to be sure. (Ironically, she hates having her teeth brushed. Maybe if I used a paper clip.) At this point I settle for removing dangerous objects from her mouth when I catch her and letting the behavior go the rest of the time. Hopefully she will outgrow it. Of course the nail biting will be another matter. Yes, she’s starting biting her nails off before she is even age 3. Now it’s hard to know if this is nature or nurture causes behavior. I used to bite my nails until high school and my 32 year old husband still bites his. I have to admit, the habit totally disgusts me, even though I know I used to do it. I can’t believe I didn’t give it up sooner. I don’t usually catch my daughter at it, but I know she’s doing it because her nails on the left hand are always short and I almost never have to trim them anymore. While this does make my life easier, since she also dislikes having her nails trimmed, I’d rather she didn’t pick up such a gross habit at such a young age. But I can’t even begin to think of a way to prevent the behavior. I’m not even sure she knows she is doing it. Any ideas for how to keep her hands and toys out of her mouth? (Other than standing over her night and day).

Thankful in All Things: Even During Christmas

Focusing on gratitude has become cliché. So much so, that most of us get so busy cooking turkeys and planning our Black Friday shopping strategies that we actually forget to be thankful. While I believe that gratitude all year round has long term benefits to attitude and personal satisfaction, it is nice to take one day to especially focus on it. However, I wish it was something we could carry into the Christmas season. The unofficial start of the Christmas season is the day after Thanksgiving and the first day of Advent is the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year. I love the season of advent, it is truly one of my favorite times of year. But I realize how much the month of December because cluttered with activities, many of them focusing on the acquisition of new things. Suddenly the day of gratitude is overshadowed by the worship of stuff. One of the most fanatical shopping days of the year begins just hours after our Thanksgiving dinners have been digested. So this year I’m hoping to carry the feeling of gratitude that my family and I emphasize on Thanksgiving Day throughout the whole Christmas season. (I’m jokingly calling it an advent season of gratitude). After all, isn’t the coming of Christ one of the greatest things to be grateful for? I encourage you to find ways to focus on gratitude in every activity and situation you find yourself. Why confine such a crucial practice as giving thanks to merely one day a year?

Finally, some potty training success

After months of casual potty training and very little success there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. My almost two and half year old daughter is finally successfully using the potty several times a day. I dress her in cloth trainers every day, except for nap times and night time. This means we do spend more time at home and indoors because the minute I put pants on her it seems to deter the process. But the weather has been gray and rainy anyway. The past week she has finally hit the point where she uses the potty while dry (and often at her own suggestion) rather than waiting until an accident happens and then head for the potty. I have to say while I don’t love emptying her little potty chair 10 times a day, I like it better than changing poppy diapers.  Now she tells me she “no want to go in my big girl pants” and off we go to the potty. We had a major break through over the weekend when she asked to use the public restroom at church. I should clarify, she asked and then actually used the potty.

We have resorted to offering M&M’s or Nestle chocolate chips as a reward for using the potty. Once she’s pretty well trained I’m hoping to wean her off of them. I had hoped that we wouldn’t need a reward system, but it seemed that self-motivation was not going to be easy for her.

I know we still have a long way to go, but for the first time I feel like I see light at the end of the tunnel.

Ikea Hack Inspired Play Kitchen

I really wanted my daughter to have a play kitchen for her second birthday. But the high price and low quality of the items available gave me pause. She already had some cloth play food from Ikea which she loved and she seemed to like being in the kitchen with me. My husband was inspired by all of the play kitchens we had seen on Ikea Hacker, but sadly, most of the hacked furniture is no longer available for purchase. So my husband found a pattern he liked and just bought the wood to built it at Lowes. We painted it with extra paint we had in the basement that matches our living room trim. (This is probably also the color we will paint our kitchen cabinets should we ever get around to it). The project did take the better part of two weekends, but in the end it turned out well. We love the pattern we used, but be forewarned, there is a mathematical error in the dimensions. My husband discovered it too late, so it resulted in an extra wood purchase.

Oven and Refrigerator handles came from Lowes.

My husband found the pattern to make his own faucet here.

The sink is one of my metal mixing bowls that I was willing to part with.

Burners are inexpensive coasters we also found at Ikea.

We purchased an inexpensive set of plastic cups, plates and bowls from Ikea along with storage canisters.

My mother purchased a pot and pan set, utensil set, baking set and breakfast food set from Ikea to go with it as birthday presents.

The whole thing, including plates, cups, bowls and decorative canisters cost about $50. It would have been less had my husband caught the mathematical error in the blue prints before cutting the wood.

My daughter is absolutely enchanted with it. She called it her “chicken” (because she couldn’t say kitchen yet). Even almost six months later, it is still a daily part of her play. Logistically it’s great to have her in the kitchen when I’m cooking or cleaning because I know where she is and I feel like we are connecting more. The downside is spending all day tripping over her dishes and play food, but I think the tradeoff is worth it.

Jealousy will get me nowhere, only gratitude can improve my life

“No one should be allowed to have that much money.” I’ve heard that phrase more times than I can count, especially lately. The irony is that each time it was applied to someone from a different income bracket. When I read this post on Get Rich Slowly, it brought to mind a topic that I’ve dealt with for sometime both in my own attitudes and those of others. The article wonders why Americans are so jealous of the wealthy and yet seek that wealth for themselves. To me the answer is simple: it isn’t just Americans, it’s all humans. We each have a different definition of wealth and different perspective on what is too much.

(Not to get political, but this is part of why I dislike the political movements based on “making the wealthy pay because they can afford it.” Most of us define wealthy as anyone who makes more money than we do. That’s hardly an objective definition. Not to mention that cost of living varies so much from one side of theUnited Statesto the other. Someone who is considered wealthy in Kentucky on the same income might qualify for welfare in California.) Human jealousy is as old as time itself. We all struggle with it from time to time and the question becomes, of what benefit is jealousy?

It is easy to look at someone who has more than me, especially someone with A LOT more and vilify him or her. It’s easy to dislike someone who has it all and seems to have life so easy. In the case of stranger envy, I really don’t know how they got their money or what they do with it. I’m only looking on the outside at their fancy car and big house and wishing I could afford those. They could be in debt, they could have worked for years for that money, or they could have inherited it and never worked a day. But in my experience, all that speculation does is make me less satisfied with the life I have. Yes, I can recognize on an intellectual level when I see someone I know personally making poor financial decisions. But being angry or resentful about how he or she chooses to spend money won’t benefit either of us.

I agree that there are bad people who have a lot of money and thus accomplish bad things with their money or those who take advantage of others to achieve their success. But there are also those who accomplish many positives things with their wealth, choosing to live on less and give generously with the rest. I’m going to say something very controversial right now. It isn’t my job or my business how much someone else has. I can only control my own behaviors and attitudes. I have absolutely no say in the wealth of someone else, NOR SHOULD I.

So how to combat jealously when I see a celebrity or politician living large? First, I remind myself that wishing them poorer won’t make me any richer (or them any poorer, if that is the goal).  I need to strive in all things to be content. By contentment I don’t mean complacency. To me, contentment is recognition of the good things I have in my life, coupled with gratitude. The secret to contentment is gratitude. When I focus on being grateful for what I do have, I am taking the focus off of others and their behavior and putting it on myself. It isn’t always an easy thing to do. It is always easier and more pleasant to criticize someone else than to analyze my own heart and motives. Jealousy focuses on what someone else has that I don’t. Gratitude focuses on what I do have and, sometimes, what I have that others don’t. Recognizing how much I am blessed with motivates gratitude, which in turn should motivate generosity. Jealousy only creates dissatisfaction, resentment and bitterness, none of which produce a positive outcome.

When I am looking at myself instead of others, I am in a much better position to evaluate my life and goals, and decide on any changes I wish to make to pursue a different and/or better life. My financial choices should be based only on my own plans in life, not necessarily my desire to achieve what someone else has. But it’s hard to affectively evaluate my own decisions when I’m focused on the life and behaviors of others instead of myself.

So next time your next door neighbor buys a new car or you pass by a McMansion across town and get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach; go home and hug your spouse and children. Eat dinner together. Call a friend who has made a difference in your life. Send a thank you card to a mentor. Or make a good old fashioned list of all the good things in your life for which you can be thankful. It may not make your bank account larger, but it will make what you do have more enjoyable, and it could encourage positive steps towards pursuing the positive goals in your own life.

Quest for a Peaceful Christmas

I’m often laughed at by my less structured family and friends because of my planning nature. I like to plan ahead. I enjoy the feeling of being able to relax, knowing that things are taken care of. So this year my goal is to finish my Christmas shopping before December 1. Now in fairness, some of those items are picked out but won’t actually be ordered that early. I usually make Shutterfly photo books for the grandparents and great-grandparents. I plan to have these completed, but probably won’t order them until mid-December. There are also a couple of homemade gifts that I will be working on for the next month or so, they may not be finished before December, although ideally they will be. However, I hope to have already purchased everything else.

  1. If I shop earlier, I can shop more deliberately. That way I don’t find myself paying an outrageous price for an item I’m not really sure about because I have to give something.
  2. I abhor the Christmas shopping crowds. With the exception of shopping in the adorable downtown district of our small city, which specializes in Christmas, I find the experience stressful and tiring.
  3. If I finish my shopping earlier I can have more quality time with my family celebrating the true reasons for Christmas. My daughter will be two and half this year at Christmas. I’d rather spend time decorating the Christmas tree, listening to Christmas carols and letting her “help” make Christmas cookies, than dragging her through yet another store. My husband and I often have trouble finding time to spend together at the holidays. This year, I want to set aside days and times where there are no activities planned and we can just listen to our favorite Christmas CD’s and have quality conversation.

I know that perhaps my goals are too idealistic, so I won’t be really upset with myself if I fall short. But I’d rather shoot for an inspiring goal and fall short than just give in to the chaos and insanity, accepting in advance that Christmas will be a stressful and unpleasant time.

Any tips on how you keep the Christmas season fun but relaxing in your family?