Lead Your Children In the Way They Should Go

I want to share something that has been on my heart for quite some time. I am speaking directly to divorced parents – or otherwise known as divorced if you have a child & were never married – as is the situation with me and my ex (Bobby).

Put your children first.

I cannot stress this enough. The lessons you will teach your children have no bounds. Bobby & I haven’t always agreed & it hasn’t always been easy; but, I can say we’ve always put Bryce first. So many times I have seen the rewards of that hard work. Like when I hear Bryce tell Ryan or April he loves them in front of me or Bobby. Like when he draws family pictures & includes all of us with a caption that reads “the two best families ever.” Like today, when Bobby & April sent home a birthday gift for Kade.

An original drawing by Bryce Wiley. <3

An original drawing by Bryce Wiley. ❤

God doesn’t share with us why He does the things He does. What He does tell us is to lead by example. Lead your children in the way they should go – and that is in the way of all that is right & good. In the way of love & respect.

I love that Bryce is comfortable telling the step parent he loves them in front of the parent. It shows he has no fear of hurting or angering the parent. It shows mutual love & respect. It reflects what a family should be. I love that Bobby & April (& Mrs. Rose) always try to include Kade as well, despite him not being “theirs.” I love that they not only put Bryce first, but Kade as well.

I am so thankful to have Ryan, who supports open communication between me & Bobby. Who is the best stepdad I could ever hope Bryce to have & an amazing father to Kade. I am thankful for all he has taught me about parenting & loving without boundaries.

THIS is what God calls us to do. Lead by example. Harsh words, anger & hatred do nothing for you or your children. Forgive, move forward & communicate. Teach love & respect. God will reward your children tenfold.

Special thank you to Bobby, April & Mrs. Rose from Kade (& us) for the birthday gifts.

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Bullying is a Learned Behavior & We Have the Ability to Stop It.

As an adult, I stand a whopping 4 feet 10 inches tall. Growing up, I was teased constantly about my height and can recall countless occasions when I would come home crying over the latest nickname I was given – shorty, shrimp, midget. Despite my mother’s attempts to calm my frustrations, it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school when I finally began to stand up for myself.

As I was digging through my locker prior to lunch one day, I realized my lunch money had been stolen. The guy who had a locker next to mine wasn’t my favorite person – and known for doing drugs. Upon questioning him if he stole my money, he said, “What did you say bitch?” Astonished, I looked at him and calmly asked again, “Did you steal my lunch money?” He replied, “I didn’t take your money bitch,” and then proceeded to shove me. Trying not to lose my temper & hoping if I sounded harsh enough he would leave me alone, I responded, “Don’t f*#ing touch me.” At this point, he shoved me again – and I lost it. As the adrenaline overcame me, I grabbed him by the throat & shoved him with all of my might into the lockers and said again as I held him in place, “I SAID don’t f*#ing touch me.”

I will never forget the look of surprise on his face that little me – at least a foot shorter than him & a girl, no less – was able to shove him into the lockers and hold him there while I gave him a piece of my mind.

Needless-to-say, I was paid a visit by the school’s Vice Principal that day. After relaying my story, I was free to go back to class without punishment. It turns out, standing up for yourself when you’re being bullied is 100% acceptable – within reason.

At the time, I didn’t realize what an impact that fateful day would have on me. To be honest, it wasn’t until a few days ago that it even crossed my mind again. From that moment on, I began standing up for myself; but, it wasn’t until my own son was dealing with bullies himself, that I realized it had been a turning point for me.

Fast forward a few years and my now 9 year old son, Bryce, is dealing with bullying. Within the past couple of years, he’s had at least 5 separate encounters with children bullying him. On one such occasion he was on the ground in the fetal position as a little girl kicked him in the ribs, simply because Bryce didn’t want to play with her. That same girl’s little sister pushed my youngest son, Kade, into the swing set – giving him a black eye – because he had a toy she wanted to play with. Two days ago, those same little girls and their youngest sister held Bryce down as they jumped all over him. Coincidence that both of my boys were bullied by a family of bullies – on three separate occasions? I think not.

Bullying is a learned behavior and we have the ability to stop it.

Just as children learn manners from their parents, they can also learn to scream, tease and bully from their parents as well as those around them. This isn’t to say all kids who bully have parents who are bullies themselves. However, it is our responsibility to be mindful of our own actions and how they affect our children. Are we unintentionally teaching our children to bully when we tease them for things? Are we unintentionally making them a victim by telling them to not let what kids say bother them?

Bryce & Kade

As one of nine kids, I had my fair share of teasing from my siblings. And to some degree, it was completely warranted. I’m not the type of parent that raises my children to be the constant tattle tale or have no backbone. I firmly believe that kids must learn to ignore harsh words. But that’s where I draw the line – at words. When my child is being hit, kicked, pushed or having things thrown at them, that’s when I have a serious problem.

I realize that parents, teachers and all those in authoritative positions, have an issue with kids tattling. I realize it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the truth as well as the severity of the situation; however, I also believe that it is our responsibility to put a stop to bullying, whether it be with our own children or someone else’s.

As parents, what type of example are we setting if we aren’t willing to stand up and say something on behalf of our children? As teachers, what are they teaching our children by telling them to stop tattling? At what point does that “tattling” get recognized as reporting a problem?

By not demanding better of adults, how can we demand better of children?

It breaks my heart to see Bryce feel so defeated, despite how much I tell him what an amazing child he is. More so, I am outraged that my children are being hurt – emotionally and physically – because of bullying.

I don’t condone or encourage fighting; however, sometimes you have to learn to stand up for yourself. I’m proof of that. Rest assured if Bryce gets in trouble for fighting due to someone bullying him, I’m going to take him for ice cream.

In the meantime, maybe we can all start making a difference by opening our eyes and paying attention. There’s a line between kids teasing one another and bullying. We are meant to parent and protect our children. It’s our responsibility to teach them how to treat others and how to handle difficult situations. We can put a stop to bullying and it starts at home.

We Need to Be Careful with Our Words

We need to be careful with our words.

This is something my heart has been contemplating for quite some time now. Sometimes my kids get to me. (Surprise!) They really are the epitome of my children. Loud, argumentative and stubborn to their very souls. And oh how I love them for it, adorable little creatures that they are. Sometimes.

But some days, I am overwhelmed and simply don’t want to answer another question. I don’t want to explain why something is the way it is. And I find myself using that famous mom end-all-be-all statement, “Because I said so, that’s why.” Or better yet, “I don’t care if you don’t want to [insert desired action here], just do it NOW!

It’s always after the words have escaped my mouth when my brain registers what I’ve just said. I just told my child, “I don’t care.” I don’t care about your feelings. I don’t care about what you want or what you don’t want. I don’t care that you aren’t sleepy and don’t want to go to bed. I don’t care that you are now hungry at 9:30 at night because you were “too full” to eat all of your dinner. I. Don’t. Care.

They're so peaceful while sleeping.

But I do care.

I do care how these wonderful, amazing, loving little boys feel. I do care that they go to bed knowing they are loved and their needs met. I do care that they know I love them “the most times infinity” (that’s winning in their eyes).

What I don’t care for is my choice of words.

While I am absolutely not saying I should give into my children’s every whim (that would be ludicrous), I am saying that I should learn to be more careful with my words. I can be firm without jeopardizing my children’s feelings. I can still be every bit the authoritative mom I pride myself on being while also teaching my children a lesson in a positive way.

While actions still speak louder than words, words are and always will be extremely powerful. They can be methods of encouragement and empowerment or tools of despair and downfall. We should all learn to be a little more careful with them. With our children, our spouses and everyone around us.

Always a Parent, Forever a Child

As children, most of us couldn’t wait to grow up. It seemed as if we were always counting down to that next big birthday – 13, 18, 21. You know the drill.

Through it all, we just wanted to be treated as adults – or at least “a big kid.” We wanted our parents to stop babying us and see that we could do things on our own. We wanted them to stop embarrassing us (especially in public). And above all else, we wanted them to give us some freedom.

Now that I’m adult, I find myself still looking to my parents for guidance. There are a several things I’ve yet to figure out. What’s the best way to invest my money? How do I talk to my kids about that? Why is being an adult so hard? Do the kids ever shut up? (I can see my parents laughing at that last one.)

My oldest son, Bryce, collecting tickets an the annual Lions Club seniors luncheon.

Bryce collecting tickets an the annual Lions Club seniors luncheon.

Sometimes, the kids are receiving a lesson without either of our knowledge.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to raise our children to be good human beings. What do we want them to learn from us? If we’re screamers, chances are our kids will be too. If we’re not careful about when and where we have our adult conversations, rest assured those little ears are listening. We all need to be cognizant of this.

Do our words and deeds reflect those of Christians who strive to see the best in humanity? To serve others? Do we display love and forgiveness? These are the values we should be teaching our children. And not just on Sundays at church.

Bryce & Kade embracing their inner "nerd".

Bryce & Kade embracing their inner nerd.

As adults, we probably listen to our parents far more than we ever did as children.

Just because we’ve raised our children to know gossip is bad & bullying is wrong, doesn’t mean they won’t still need us to be a good example when they become adults themselves. After all, aren’t we as adults still learning everyday? Learning to be good citizens that go to work and pay our bills. Learning to balance work and kids and our relationships. Don’t we still struggle to do what’s right sometimes? And even fail occasionally?

We still need good role models.

As a parent, our job is never over. We never stop wondering if our children are okay. If they are happy, loved and satisfied with their lives – whether they are 3 or 30. We are still responsible for making sure our children always know their way home. Our home. God’s home.

We are always a parent, forever a child.

The Secret to Happily Ever After is Not What You Think

My husband, Ryan, and I have been married for almost 6 years. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it’s always been sunshine & rainbows. I’ve wanted to kill him. Several times. That being said, I have no doubt God knew exactly what He was doing when He put the two of us together. I’ve never met a more devoted, selfless, caring, funny person. He makes me laugh and keeps my serious side in check, while always striving to be a better provider for our family. Needless-to-say, I’m proud to call him my husband.

But, what do I love about him most? He pushes me to be better. In everything.

No matter how well two people may be meant for one another, the fact of the matter is relationships are hard. You’re not always going to agree and you can bet you’re going to have some serious come to Jesus meetings.

Enter counseling.

Ryan & I at the Tough Mudder finish line.

Ryan & I at the Tough Mudder finish line.

Being Catholic, naturally I wanted to be married in the Catholic church. To do so, we were required to attend a minimum of 6 months of marriage preparation (a.k.a. marriage counseling) where we talked about all kinds of issues married couples fight about – money, kids, sex, death, etc. It was an eye opening experience, to say the least. Surprisingly though, we both enjoyed it.

The biggest takeaway for us was communication.

If you want to make it marriage – or any relationship – you better learn to communicate, & do so effectively. Sometimes, it’s knowing how to say something – be it using the right words or tone. And sometimes, it means learning when to shut up and when to apologize. (I might still be working on those.)

Bottom line: learn how to talk to those you love.

I’ve often joked that if Ryan and I were able to survive our first year of marriage, we have this whole marriage thing in the bag. (Except I’m really not joking.) Our first year of marriage wasn’t the typical honeymoon phase. I made it no secret that I wanted to divorce him everyday. (It was rough.) We managed to fit most of the hard things married couples fight about into our first year – like buying a house and having a baby. Throw getting used to “wedded bliss” and shared bank accounts out the window. Let’s do all the hard stuff. Now. And let’s not forget about the fact that I already had a 3 year old.

The good news is, we survived!

Ryan & I jumping the fire at Warrior Dash with our toys in tow. We carried these the entire race.

Ryan & I jumping the fire at Warrior Dash with our toys in tow. We carried these the entire race.

Fast forward a few years. We began communicating again, but on an entirely different level. We started running and doing obstacle races together – local 5Ks, Spartan Races, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash – you name it. And that’s when the magic happened. There is something humbling – yet magical – about needing someone. Really, truly needing them. This was a foreign concept to me as I had always proudly proclaimed myself to be the confident, self-reliant woman my parents raised me to be – man optional. You see, I saw need as a weakness. And I’m not weak.

Except then I realized I did need my husband. I do need him. In more ways than I realize.

During many trying times along the race courses, we learned to rely on one another. To tell each other what we needed. To communicate openly. When I was struggling, he encouraged me. When he was doing well, I cheered him on. Isn’t that how all relationships should be? At the very core of a person you’ll find the need for acceptance. For love. For trust. These are a fraction of the qualities you hope to find in a spouse, a marriage, or a best friend. And I found them in a mud pit of all places. When I was looking my worst.

Ryan and I have long since started referring to obstacle course racing as our personal brand of torturous marriage counseling. And oh how we love it. Though we still have our fights & we occasionally want to strangle each other (hey, we’re both human), I find myself amazed at how much we continue to learn about one another and how much better we have become at communicating. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better everyday.

Ryan & I right after finishing a Spartan Super in May. We ran back-to-back races that weekend!

Ryan & I right after finishing a Spartan Super in May. We ran back-to-back races that weekend!

Mostly, I’ve learned that it’s okay to need someone. And, I’m so thankful to have someone like Ryan who really is everything I need. He has always been my cheerleader (only don’t tell him I called him that), supporting me in everything I do and pushing me to be better at each role I play – be it wife, mom, daughter, sister or friend. And, I like to think I do the same for him.

Running and obstacle course racing may not be your thing, but I encourage all couples – married or not – to find something you can enjoy together. Use that to learn more about one another, to find patience, offer encouragement, communicate better. And maybe you’ll find the secret to happily ever after is not what you think & “counseling” isn’t so bad after all.

My Spartan Journey: I Lived

My Spartan journey began in March of 2012 at The Gusher 5K. (You guys may remember Iram Leon who won The Gusher Marathon earlier this year & is also a recent Spartan finisher.) Having never run more than a mile in my life – if that – I signed up to run my first 5K at The Gusher since our office had a participating team. As it tends to do, life got in the way & I never prepared for the run. And, as luck would have it, a team member from our office ended up having to back out at the last minute leaving an open spot on the team. Genuinely thinking of backing out myself, I convinced my husband to join our team as a walker. Having had back surgery 3 months prior, I knew I was asking a lot of him, but I also knew it would be my “easy way out.” He would start the race running – that’s the stubborn man he is – but, I was convinced there was no way he would run the entire 5K. Which, of course, meant I’d “have” to walk the rest of it with him to show my support. *cough, cough*

Race day came and I was petrified. As we took off among the horde of people and my legs began to hurt almost instantly, it became clear there was no way I was finishing that race running. With only a ½ mile down, I looked over at my husband who was calmly running along and looked for some sign of him slowing down. Zero chance. (Must have been all those years in the Army paying off.) So, I continued to plod along trying to decide if I could somehow fake an injury. As we approached the 1 mile marker, I began to tell myself I just had to make it to the mile marker and then I could walk. (After all, that in itself was an accomplishment for me.) The mile marker came and went. My husband continued to run. Oh how I hated (and adored) that man. So we ran. And ran. And ran. As I crossed the finish line for my very first 5K, I felt like I had just run a marathon – mentally and physically. I was ecstatic! It was in that moment that a thought crossed my mind, “What if.” I hadn’t prepared and yet, I had finished my task. What if I had actually trained? What if I could really do this?

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

My husband, Ryan, & I after our first Spartan in Burnet, TX.

Fast forward 2 months and I found myself standing at the starting line of my first Spartan – the Sprint in Burnet, TX. Once again, I felt like I had made a very bad decision agreeing to endure such torture. The race started and I trudged along the course. My husband was with me every step of the way helping me over the walls, talking me through the running. I managed to only have to do burpees twice – the rope climb and the spear throw. Covered in mud from head to toe and completely exhausted, we crossed the finish line. As they placed a Spartan medal around my neck, I decided I could most definitely do this.

My husband and I agreed we wanted to go after the coveted Trifecta medal. We began to train and prepare by participating in as many races, bike rides and runs as we could. We even completed our first Tough Mudder and joined a local CrossFit box (shout-out to CrossFit Bridge City). We often joked that these races and training were our marriage counseling. (How true that turned out to be!)

We completed our 2nd Spartan – the Beast – in Glen Rose, TX that December. The day after returning home, I began to experience severe chest pain. Within a week, I found myself hospitalized and diagnosed with two pulmonary embolisms, commonly known as PEs – or blood clots in the lungs. The remedy? Blood thinners for a minimum of 6 months with the possibility of being on them permanently if they determined I had a blood clotting disorder.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

Ryan & I jumping the fire to finish the Spartan Beast in Glen Rose, TX together.

As I lay in my hospital bed, the doctor tried to reiterate how much of a “big deal” my situation was. (Not being familiar with PEs, I didn’t grasp why they were acting like I was dying.) All the doctors and nurses seemed to say was, “It’s a really big deal.” Finally, the doctor decided to shoot straight with me. With a sincere look of concern on his face, he said, “You had two chronic PEs. One in the right that was completely blocking the artery and the left almost completely blocking the artery. We’re lucky we caught it. That’s usually fatal.” Later that afternoon, they sent in the hospital chaplain to discuss my will. (Let me just say from experience that nothing quite brings your life into perspective like the words fatal and will.)

These people are crazy! I am SO not dying today – I found myself screaming inside. What about my children? My husband? What about everything I haven’t gotten to do yet? “Can I still do obstacle racing?” I asked. With a look of surprise on his face, the doctor replied, “Well, I wouldn’t go climbing through barbed wire or anything.” Uncontrollably, the tears flowed. The idea of waiting my entire life to finally discover I loved something only to have it ripped away was devastating. Maybe I was dying. My husband stayed by my side, reassuring me that we would get through this together. And, get through it we did.

With only a month off from CrossFit and adjusting to life on my trusty blood thinners, I returned to the local box and began to push harder than before. In the beginning, every time I struggled to breathe, I experienced anxiety. In time, I began to distinguish the difference between the PEs causing me problems and me just getting my butt kicked by the WOD. But, with overwhelming support from my fellow CrossFitters and my husband and with my children as inspiration, I began to set personal records. Every day I grew stronger and more fit. Every day I got one day closer to that 6 month mark of required blood thinners.

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

My inspiration, Bryce (8) & Kade (4).

Some days, reality liked to slap me a little harder than others. Like the morning I received a text from my co-worker telling me her sister’s husband died from a PE and that I’m “the only person she knows who’s survived it.” Or when we got the call that my husband’s great uncle had passed away from a PE. No one knows why God does things the way He does, or what His plan is for us. All I know, is that it wasn’t my time to die. For the time being, I still get to wake up next my husband and kiss my children goodnight. And for that, I am very grateful.

What feels like a million vials of blood later, we still don’t have an answer. The doctors have a few leads, but nothing solid. For now, I’m free of Coumadin and clear to conquer what I set out to do over a year ago – get the Spartan Trifecta medal. My husband and I are signed up for the Spartan Sprint in Kiln, MS. I have no doubt that when I find myself standing at the starting line, I’ll experience fear and anxiety. But I also know one thing for certain. I will finish the race. I will add another Spartan medal to my collection. And one day very soon, that will be the Trifecta medal.

Until then…..AROO!