Icky feelings

I'm in a funk today.  I can't even blame it on pms.  Nope, it's all mine to claim and muck through.

Discouraged- check
Overwhelmed - check
Annoyed- check
Afraid - check
Angry - check
Frustrated - double check
Inadequate - triple check
Sad - check

I think I'll stop there.

Sometimes being a mom feels overwhelming.  The huge responsibility.  The constant needs.  The million and one ways to screw it up.  I had one of those days where I woke up not really wanting to parent today.  I went through the motions, did my duty but it felt slightly forced.  I guess that's what love is, loving even when you're not really feeling overwhelmed by the feeling of it...or are down right irritated by it.  Sometimes I just want to be selfish and occasionally I resent the fact that people need me.  At the same time I love that people need me! The paradox of parenting.

  On another note.  Disgust and disappointment with  human nature overwhelms me.   Stupidity and ignorance astounds me.  I'm frustrated  with lies.  Frustrated with people whose whole lives are carefully woven webs of deceit.  Sad that I am helpless to remove the web.   Hurt for those wounded by the lies and those still blindly caught in the web.  Maybe I shouldn't care..or know...or notice...but I do.  I know and I care.  Deeply.

I'm sad for souls so wounded  by their pasts that they, in turn ,wound others.   I'm sad for children hurt by parents who are supposed to love, nurture and protect.  I'm sad for  children who grow up unwanted, abandoned,  and destroyed.   I'm sad for every child who ages out of the foster system completely alone in their devastation.  I'm sad for every child who is abused and thrown away.  It breaks my heart that it happens under blind eyes.  It's easier to close our eyes to it

I came across this blog today.  It is heartbreaking but informative.  As  foster parents ,and as a family who has loved on (and hopes to again in the future) hurting, abused and tossed away kids in Mexico, the perspective is very valuable.  The blog is written by a young woman (teen?) who was abused in every way, neglected to the point of starvation,  and then abandoned completely by age 7.  She spent years in the U.S foster system.  She talks very candidly , in very raw uncensored language, about her hurt,  feelings, longings, fearsdevastation and damage.  I wish I could give her hope and tell her she is precious, loved, wanted and does have a Father God who's heart breaks every time she cuts own skin trying to escape her pain, or cries herself to sleep.

 Although her posts are hard to read she is very well spoken and  gives tips and perspective to foster parents as to why hurting kids do the things they do...hoarding food, binge eating, lashing out, finding it difficult to trust and how to handle the issues.   It has really helped me as a foster parent, sister, daughter-in-law and friend to better understand kids or adults who have been hurt or abandoned by a parent.  For those of us who haven't been there personally it's difficult to understand how deep that wound cuts.  For foster parents or other people investing in a hurting kids life it's important to know how not to inadvertently make those wounds deeper.

Because my parents are in Haiti, I'm watching more  programs and reading more articles about that nation's utter desperation.  Talk about overwhelming!  I'm so thankful I am safe and comfortable in Canada but at the same time I long to be there among the chaos and devastation.  I think I'm crazy sometimes!

It all feels overwhelming.  The needs.  The task.  The broken world we all live in.
Sometimes I feel like, what's the point? What difference can we really make?

Only One is big enough for it all.

It's not like I'm depressed or clinically anxiety ridden....just bummed out with all the dysfunction and brokenness at this moment.  For now a plate of nachos might do just the trick. Actually, now that the kids have been in bed for 2 hours and I've had some quiet writing time I'm starting to feel better.   :)


If we can't live on a beach...

 We'll bring the beach to us.

                                        The boys room has a new coat of paint and a new look.   We changed it from the 'Farm' themed room (that I painted when Roman was a baby 7 years ago) to this Caribbean Adventure/ pirate themed room.   There isn't anything new in the room except for blue paint and the parrots which my parents brought home from Haiti last year.
Other than the base coat of paint it didn't require any money ...just some time and left over cans of paint.

The time it took is the reason the rest of my house looks sadly neglected.  
Mommy was hiding in the bedroom pretending she didn't have children for hours at a time. 

Due to technical difficulties...more pictures to come.   


Whats my idol?

Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not life up his soul to an idol..."  Psalm 24:3-4

 I would be the first to volunteer that God is the first in my life, my everything, but if I search deeper and reflect longer I find a whole lot of undealt with idols.  Things that define me, comfort me, and control me other than Christ.

This is the prayer of my heart lately.
Search me and know my heart O God.   Make me smaller and you bigger.  Overwhelm me until I am consumed completely.

"A careful reading of the old and New Testament shows that idolatry is nothing like the crude, simplistic picture that springs to mind of an idol sculpture in some distant country.  As the main category to describe unbelief, the idea is highly sophisticated, drawing together the complexities of motivation in individual psychology, the social environment, and also the unseen world.  Idols are not just on pagan alters, but in well educated human hearts and minds"  Richard Keyes

Am I willing to search and discover what my true idols are?
I need to, but I'm not totally sure that I want to give them up when I find them.

"Every self exists in relation to values perceived as making life worth living.  A value is anything good in the created order - any idea, religion, object or person in which one has an interest, from which on derives significance...These values compete...In time on is prone to choose a center of value by which other values are judged.  When a finite value has been elevated to centrality and imagined as a final source of meaning, then one has chosen a god."  Thomas C. Oden

I think we often picture  idols (other than little statues) as negative influences or things.  They can be ugly things like greed, addictions, and lusts.    Idols can also be relationships, ambition, career, religion, family, quality of life, comfort or approval.   Suddenly idolatry hits closer to home.   A little too close to home.

In our adult Sunday School class we are working through the study by Timothy Keller "Gospel in Life" and we were studying idolatry today...hence the thought process in my head being displayed here.

The question that was asked to help us identify our idols was "What is your greatest nightmare? What do you worry about most?"
What is something that we perceive makes life worth living and gives us our identity, security, purpose or comfort?  These things are not necessarily bad things....in fact they can be gifts, commands,  blessings, or institutions designed by God.  We are the ones that distort them into something we glorify above God.

"Why do we lie, fail to love, or break our promises, or live selfishly? Of course the general answer is because we are weak and sinful, but the specific answer is that there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our heart that God, something that is enslaving our heart through inordinate desires.  The key to change is therefore to identify the idols of the heart"  Timothy Keller

Could it be that all other commandments are broken because of this one broken commandment of idolatry?

 Christians lie, deceive and cover up sin  because they don't ultimately trust that Christ can be glorified in their brokenness.  We value our own image, respect, approval or status above Christ and his work in us and around us.   We would rather break God's commandments and destroy other people,  than set aside our own idol.

People  fail to love people like Christ does because we idolize our own piety, wisdom, power, sense of superiority,  or control.   We look in disdain at others we consider undesirable, disqualified, or unworthy and bow down  to our own pride.

I fail to trust in God's justice and sovereignty  because I am bowing to the idol of control and approval.
(that and I totally lack patience)

I feel that I need to be vindicated, approved of, understood, and generally liked  for my life to be complete .   Without it I get frustrated and hurt.
 I have been placing my own perceived needs , desires and expectations above my trust in God.
He knows the truth. He understands the situation and He will bring justice and mercy, just not in my timeline or in my way.  He has brought me to this place (which there may or may not be an earthly escape from) for a reason.   I should be able to rest in that knowledge.  I want to trust.  I need to trust.

"All those who do not at all times trust God and do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in His favor, grace and good-will, but seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep this Commandment, and practice real idolatry,"     Martin Luther

What do I perceive makes my life worth living?
My children
Being a good  mother
feeling useful
being a foster mom
being a wife
making a comfortable home for my family
being respected and loved

What if anyone of these things, or all of them, were taken?  If I found myself childless, husbandless, homeless, friendless, or lying in bed unable to move or speak what would I be?  If I became like Job...where would my identity be found?

I'm not suggesting for a second that we distance ourselves from these things, stop working, or that we can love our families too much.  We can however love them in the wrong way and with the wrong priorities.    We can put our security and pride in relationships, bank accounts, or careers instead of God.  Where is my self worth found?

Could I , like Abraham, lay my Isaac on the alter?  Isaac not only represented a long waited for, immensely loved, treasured child but a calling, a purpose, a future and a promise.   Can I place my own purpose, my future and my calling in God's hands trusting Him completely with it?

The funny thing is I  can cling, try to control , strive, and make my life burdened ...but ultimately it can all be lost in a second.    I can't even will my own heart to beat, never mind change anyone else's.

This has already gotten really long.   Congratulations to those of you who have made it this far into my rambling mind.
This is a checklist taken from the book "Gospel in Life" that helped me to recognize  areas of my life that have become idols.  Very thought provoking...obviously by the length of my rant.

Now for those of you who are brave enough, read the following list carefully and contemplatively.  Precede the following statements with "My life only has meaning or I only have worth if...".

" Life only has meaning/ I only have worth if......

-I have power and influence over others   (power idolatry)

-I am loved and respected by ________  ( approval idolatry)

-I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of __________  ( control idolatry)

-Someone is there to protect me and keep me safe   (dependence idolatry)

-I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone   (independence idolatry)

-I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work  (achievement idolatry)

-I am highly productive and getting a lot done  (work idolatry)

-I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, quality of life, and very nice possessions  (materialism idolatry)  

-I am adhering to my religion's moral codes and accomplished in its activities (religion idolatry) 

this one person is in my life and happy to be there, and or happy with me (individual person idolatry)

-I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by self made morality (irreligion idolatry)

-my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior (racial idolatry)

-a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in (inner ring idolatry)

-my children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me  (family idolatry)

-Mr or Ms. "right" is in love with me  (relationship idolatry)

-I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt  (suffering idolatry)

-my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence and power  (ideology idolatry)

-I have a particular kind of look or body image (image idolatry)

  • What are you worshiping?
  • What is sitting on the throne of your heart today?
  • What if Jesus said to you “sell it all and follow me”?  Would you do it?


What learning looks like

 This is a glimpse of what learning looks like in our house.  After growing up in a conventional classroom setting and 4 years of having my own kids in public school it's been a big of a challenge to wrap my mind around what learning at home looks like.   I have to regularly remind myself that we are not recreating school at home, we are learning together.  One comment we have heard quite frequently is that primary education is not so much about learning but about learning how to function in a classroom setting.  That confuses me a bit.  I always assumed that education was about about learning new things, learning how to learn, and learning to love to learn.  Whether that happens to be in a classroom, at a kitchen table or in the top of a tree.

After 4 months we are just starting to really find our groove.  We have done a lot of experimenting with routine,  structure and even curriculum. It's taken a lot of trial and error but I think we are finally feeling like this is a natural part of our family life.  I no longer feel like we're playing hooky or like I have to scrutinize the scope and sequence of the public school curriculum to make sure we cover everything they do (or feel like I've got something to prove).  Freedom is the best part about home education and I think I'm learning to let go and enjoy it (and to just push through on the days where enjoying it isn't so easy).
 Silas who just turned 4 wouldn't be eligible to start kindergarten for another two years but he is enjoying "doing school" with us on occasion.  He joins us when he wants to.  We do some basic preschool but for the most part he is happy to just play while we work.    He actually likes to color, cut, glue, write and do book work!  I may start him doing kindergarten work next fall.

On Friday's I am trying to incorporate something a little more "fun" or creative into our day.  Today we did geometry lesson making 3-d shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks.   They loved it!  I'm not the kind of home school mom who gets a kick out of lesson planning, and coming up with creative hands on games. I like the lessons that are all planned out in a book, do a certain number of pages and be done,  curriculum.  I think that's ok too but since my kids are each so different I am trying to stretch myself with this small goal.  Friday fun day.

This little one won't be outdone by her siblings.  She is working hard and learning fast.  The baby gates are up, a handful of "baby signs" are spoken, and  the bathtub plug has been mastered. 

This  started out as a few cubes and pyramids but got a little carried away.  
Are you wondering about the strange outfit? 
I guess that's just one more perk.  No dress code...or even clothes necessary.  They can look like freaks and no one cares. 
My budding Thespians spent their "break" playing....?warrior people?

One thing I am loving about our new together-all-day lifestyle is the constant noise, chatter and mess  is that these kids have once again become best friends. They look out for each other. They take care of each other.  They play together and disappear for hours into their imaginations.  They were like this while we were in Mexico but it all disappeared once we returned and they started bringing home the playground politics and taking out the social pecking order on each other.  It's been an unexpected perk of family schooling.  There is a tight bond between all four kids.
Roman has had an amazing two weeks of schooling.  No tears or begging him to come down off the wall.   I really don't know what changed other than me being more aware of how he learns and doesn't learn.   Out went the  math speed drills and repetitive practice questions.  Once he gets something, he's got it.  We are now flying through his math books and he's loving it.  I had no idea that he was struggling, slowly plodding along through his math questions because they were too easy and infuriatingly boring.  It made no sense because he would act like it was all too hard (writhing crying on the floor saying "I can't do it!" too hard).  He is a boy that can only focus if he is stimulated by it...and will only learn by seeing the big picture.  Knowing how he's wired and how his  brain works has been life altering.  That may sound a bit dramatic but sometimes it's the small things that keep us moms from losing our minds completely.
With only a few modifications (like doing a lot of his work orally because his fine motor skill issues drain the brain power out of him) , a renewed attitude from me, and a cup of coffee for him every morning, we are now surviving and sometimes even enjoying our school work.  Fingers crossed that this lasts more than two weeks.

We were lent some "Handwriting without tears" supplies from the OT he met with last week.  The kids have had fun with them.  I WISH I had these last year when Roman was  still struggling to learn the alphabet!  He'd still rather build the letters than write them.  I may have to invest in a few more "hands on" learning tools.

Silas thought this magnet set was pretty great.

He was pretty proud of himself. 

I found this puzzle at the second hand store for $1.  Silas makes all kinds of different designs and pyramids with it while the big kids do their book work. 

My 4th and 2nd graders do math (Christian Light) curriculum and Language Arts curriculum ( Lifepac for Aili and Explode the Code for Roman).  We learn most everything else through books, creativity, hands on experiences, videos, games, and family life in general.

I ordered this book for Aili as a Christmas gift.  It's been a fun way to learn all about civics, Social studies topics, and politics. 
Little dictator in training?  She has always wanted to rule the world. 

We visit the library once in a while and I've built  up our own library quite a bit this year. 
We've also discovered a few good educational websites to add to our learning package. 
Romans favorite reading and phonics website is game goo.   
Aili has been enjoying learning to type from this one.

That about sums up what learning/ schooling looks like in our home.  


10 months

My little sunshine girl is now ten months old.   She is a smiley, joyful  little butter-ball that has us all wrapped around her chubby little fingers.  She is generous with her giggles which is a good thing because we all love to make her laugh.  Shamelessly.  Big sister and brothers dote on her, fight over who she loves most, and help to entertain and watch her.  The extra sets of eyes and arms are especially useful now that she is an efficient mover.  She is thrilled to have discovered how to crawl.  It makes chasing the other kids, or finding her favorite guy that much easier.  
I am so thankful for this little blessing.  I smooch her squishy cheeks and wonder what I did to deserve such a precious gift.  She rests her head on my shoulder and sings along as I rock her and I whisper a prayer of gratitude that I have this time to spend with her.
As the one year mark approaches I feel more like we've come so far.  When the possibility of adoption was laid on the table last summer we weren't hesitant but we were doubtful.  There were so many hurdles that would need to be jumped and mountains that would need to be moved.  There were SO many things that could go wrong along the way.  This is the foster system we are dealing with.   We have seen God's hand in this processes time and time again.
We are still mucking through, and waiting on an unknown timeline, but I am hopeful and confidant.
In the mean time we are soaking her up.


My baby is 4!! How did that happen?

Today we celebrated 4 years of Silas!
Spongebob square pants style. 

My first time trying homemade marshmallow fondant.  It was surprisingly easy. 
My party planner extraordinaire Aili and I decorated our dining room in ocean colors of aqua , green and Spongebob yellow.  

 One of my goals this year is to do a better job with my kids Birthday parties/ cakes.  I have made a couple memorable cakes over the years but usually it's last minute,  unprepared and nothing very fun.  I'm not a big fan of huge birthday bashes.  Call me a party pooper but entertaining a house full of kids jacked up on sugar is not my idea of a good time.  Mostly we do low key, invite the grandma and grandpa, maybe 1 or 2 friends kind of parties.  Today we had some close friends over who's son happens to be Silas best bud.  It worked out great.  Aili was thrilled to entertain the boys with party games while we visited.  Thats my kind of party.
I put a little more planning and effort into making this birthday a special one.  He has been obsessing about it since the day of his last birthday.  Literally.  He has asked almost daily if we could have a birthday party for him.  Sometimes several times a day.
It's all about the cake!

This goofy grin boy LOVES cake.

I really can't believe that my baby is 4.
This is the longest I have gone in a decade without being pregnant or nursing a baby.  Seems strange.  Not that I haven't had my share of babies since then....but he is the last one to originate from my body.   I have mixed feelings about that.   I see God's hand on our life and on our dreams. Our house is full and so are our arms.   I love our new little girl just as much as the children who were born from my womb, but there is something about carrying and nursing a baby that I will miss.  
He is looking and acting more and more like a big kid every day.  I  stare at him and wonder where my baby boy went.
Age four has been a turning point for each of my kids as they leave the last of the barbaric toddler years behind and start to morph into a more logical civilized child.   They just seem to get easier at 4.

I am looking forward to seeing this boy continue to  transform , although I'm digging in my heals at the idea of him growing up this fast.    

Happy 4th birthday to my sweet, smart, silly boy.


I'm hibernating

Winter makes me a hermit.  That and the fact that I'm somewhat anti-social.  Other than my natural hermit tendencies I am hibernating  because I hate the cold.  When you live in the boonies going anywhere involves a lot of driving, which involves digging, and plugging in a block heater, and cold hands and cold carseats...

I prefer to remain indoors where my handy boy scout husband knows how to start a fire with a blow torch. 

Even though I am an inside girl, this son of mine is an outside boy.  He is adjusting to wearing clothing again.

It has been so COLD (-20 to -30 celcius) that going outside is not very appealing for any of us.
For the sake of maintaining sanity (both mine and his) and burning some energy (his) outside of my house he now has regular outside chores.  He does a LOT of shoveling...the driveway, the steps, the trampoline....and all his snow forts.  He is a digging machine.  Maybe I should start renting him out.

Roman likes to feel like a man doing manly jobs..not that us Canadian women don't shovel snow or lug fire wood.  This is probably Roman's favorite chore.  It involves many trips carrying arm loads of wood through waste deep snow drifts and then lugging it all down the stairs.   Having him do the heavy work outside is the only thing that keeps us all sane  and my house from being systematically destroyed by his superfluous energy

I must admit I am already dreaming of  summer when the kids spend 10 hours a day outside.  Cabin fever seems to be setting in. 


reminiscing and missing

This was my family 2 years ago at Silas' 2nd birthday party.   I'm still missing the sweet little boy on the right.
How, after 2 years , can my heart still break and tears still occasionally come to my eyes?  I've had kids longer, I've fallen in love with and said goodbye to babies...but this boy won't let me go.  Shouldn't I be "over him" by now?
It's not like I'm overcome by grief  or thoughts of this boy are constant...but like any kind of loss it comes like little unexpected waves, and memories.
He  crosses my mind almost daily lately.  Maybe because my little miss Cece is growing into toddlerhood and reminding me of him. They have similar racial heritage which might explain some similarities.   Maybe it's because the winter we had him (winter before last) was the last winter we spent  in Canada.  Cold weather, ice skating and playing in the snow are all bring back memories.  I pray for him each time he comes to mind...sometimes thats the middle of the night.  I think God brings him to my heart for a reason.  I know he needs prayer and if thats the only way I can love him then I'm ok with the hauntings.
Fostering is a strangely wonderful yet heartbreaking experience.  First you are handed a perfect little stranger.  You are reminded that he does not belong to you but to the powers that be.  Then you are told to love this child as if he is your own.  As your loving actions precede any sort of loving feelings you start to realize that you are slowly but surely falling for this little stranger.   At some point you are shocked to realize that your heart is completely overtaken and you have fallen into crazy mommy love.  That run in front of a moving bus, fight a bear kind of love.  Next you are forced to pack a suit case, say a quick goodbye and never hear from, or see that child again.  In my case not even know where that child is going.  You will not be allowed to know what became of them.
It's messed up.
It's so broken,
but I guess so is this world we live in.  At the end of the day, I'd do it again...and again if thats what God has for us.  I know that I can be taken to the end of myself and survive.  Each time my heart breaks with loss, each time I love someone who seems unlovable ,I better understand the heart of God and  I become broken in a good way.

 This little guy would be 31/2 now.  I bet he's a big boy.   At a year old he was wearing size 3.
These two boys were both buddies and adversaries vying for mommy's affections.  Kade boy was so affectionate, snuggly and wanted to be where ever I was, doing whatever I was doing.  I spent hours rocking, snuggling and smooching on that boy.  Maybe thats why he was so easy to fall in love with.  He was a boy that needed a mama.
I just hope and pray that he got one.  One that loves him even more than I do.


"Pick your battles"

That is a very common phrase quoted by mothers everywhere.  Including ,on occasion, myself.  I have heard those words or some combination of them a lot in recent years.  Maybe because most people I know are also parents who are are overwhelmed, busy and too tired to do battle with their kids.  I know I feel like that most days.
I was thinking about this "I'm picking my battles" line today.

What issues and behaviors in our children should we "battle" and which ones should we avoid bringing to a head to head war?
Every decision, every choice, every minute of the day cannot be a constant battle of wills.  That will NOT work.  Strong willed children will see it as a challenge and compliant ones will get even eventually in more passive aggressive ways or outright rebellion in later years.

That being said...
As parents we must expect and hold our children accountable to a certain standard of behavior.   If we expect nothing from them they will give us exactly that.
Peace at any cost will cost us our children in the end.   Appeasing tantrums, whining, selfishness and disrespect with rewards (even the reward of gum or juice) will  prove unpleasant in the long run...even disastrous.  I know this from experience as an imperfect, sometimes lazy mom who  would rather pretend I don't see or hear it than actually DEAL with it.

I am writing down a few of the battles that I feel are important for parents to fight and eventually win.  Things that are the foundation of good character, social function and integrity.  There are probably more but these are the ones that come to mind and seem to be tragically lacking in this generation of children.
By "battle" I don't mean screaming matches, combat, verbal, phsyical or emotional abuse of any sort.    I mean consistent expectations and consequences,  patient teaching and training.

Battle #1
RESPECT: Respect for us as parents, for authority, for teachers for anyone put in a position of leadership over them (actually for anyone...even the dog).  A standard of respect and honor should be evident in how they speak to us, answer us, and relate to us in general.   This does not for a second mean that they should fear us, feel they need to hide things from us, or never respectfully question us.
 We should also model a standard of respect in how we relate to our children.  Belittling, putting down, name calling...not respect.
So, when your child screams in your face, disregards you, ignores you, smacks you, rolls their eyes or makes some other gesture of disrespect PLEASE parents expect better.  You deserve better.  Teach them how to treat you!   If you don't teach them respect...they won't learn to treat anyone else in their life with honor, respect or esteem.  Hold up a standard.  If they don't meet it correct them, make life uncomfortable for them until they learn it.  Be consistent.  Expect it and correct it every time.  If they are being rude to other authority, teachers,  family members or peers this should never be overlooked for the sake of "picking my battles" or even worse defended.  It should be dealt with.  Respect for others also includes the property of others.

Battle #2
Lying, cheating, being sneaky.    This is not one of those areas we as parents can shrug off, laugh off or ignore.  There is a learning curve and for a young pre-schooler the difference between fantasy and reality is fairly blurred.   I never scold my child for making up wild imaginative tales  or "stories" that are  a natural part of child hood....they love to talk about their pet dinosaurs, Superheros and space aliens.
When it is a problem  is blatant denial of wrong doing.  You know when they are lying.  Call them on it.  If you don't know if they are lying..outsmart them and persist until you get the truth from them or figure it out for yourself.   Never let them succeed in deceit.  Praise them when they are honest.   Have consistent consequences for lying no matter how big or small.   The habit of lying starts small and grows until it's a life style.   (Never teach your child to lie to cover your own butt!...wrong on so many levels).   This leads into battle number 3.

Battle #3
We need to teach our children responsibility for their actions or lack of actions.  When they screw up, make a mistake or blatantly do something they know they shouldn't do they need to OWN IT.   Admit , confess, and ask for forgiveness.  Expect an  "I'm sorry".  Not a be-grudging , I don't want a consequence , sorry but a genuine remorse and willingness to do what it takes to make it right again.   Lying, making excuses, blaming someone else are all signs of a child that is not taking responsibility for their own actions.   This is hard for most adults to do, including myself, but it is a standard we can instill at a young age.   We should always be sensitive and seek to understand the motives behind the action and who actually is at fault.   If we jump to harsh conclusions too quickly we will be doing more harm than good.
There are more aspects of responsibility that we should teach and expect at an age appropriate level.

Battle #4
This could also fall under respect.   This speaks not only to a following of societal rules for ettiquite and poise but more to the attitude of the heart.   Being expected to ask for something in a respectful way "May I have some water please"..(or something of the sort) teaches a child that you are not his servant and the world does NOT owe him anything.   When a child whines, demands, shrieks, grunts or mumbles commands, not only is it a sign of disrespect, but also of them viewing themselves as the center of the universe.   I am more worried about the condition of my childrens hearts than about putting on a show but consistent expectations of   courtesy trains their little hearts to ask for what they need graciously  and to receive gratefully.   When we choose to not pick this battle we are not doing ourselves, our children or society in general any favors.  As humans we are naturally self preserving and self focused.  We need to teach our children to be aware of the needs others and to show kindness.  This may be something simple like  holding a door open for someone  or offering the last cookie to someone else.

Battle #5
This does not refer to a control freak parent on a power trip "jump when I say jump..just to prove that I can control you"  scenario.   I hate to break it to you but you cannot ultimately control your children.  You can teach their little hearts , provide an example, hold up a standard and enforce it with consequences but at the end of the day it comes down to them.
Obedience involves trust.  I obey God because I trust him even when I don't always understand.
 Our children need to learn to trust our knowledge,  our decisions, and that we have their best interest at heart.  If we don't have their best interest at heart but rather our own selfishness when we tell them to do something....thats something we as parents need to evaluate.  Sometimes loving them best means being the "bad guy".

You may get the impression that I have picture perfect children and I am some sort of parenting guru by the content of this post.  Neither is true by a long stretch.
I will roll up my sleeves, get my feet dirty and otherwise immerse myself in the battle to teach and train my children into adults of strong character and values....but they will still disappoint me sometimes,  they will most definitely embarrass me, and they will make a mess of things quite often.   They are sinners in need of grace just as much as I am.   That is where grace plays into our parenting.  It will take persistence, patience and a lot of prayer.    Ultimately we have to trust God with our feeble efforts and allow him to make up for the areas we lack.
One of the best ways to instill these virtues in our children is to genuinely model them ourselves.  Our kids can smell a hypocrite a mile away!

Kids are all so different.  Some are naturally honest.  Some have a natural inclination to lie.   Some kids are naturally empathetic while others need a lot of help to learn it.   Some are easily persuaded.  Some have very strong opinions.   Keep at it!
This parenting stuff is hard work!   It isn't always cut and dry or black and white.   It is complex and it changes constantly.   It takes sensitivity, understanding, intuition, tough love, compassion, boundaries, and grace all rolled up together.

Words I frequently say to my children are "I love you too much to allow you to......(act disrespectfully, lie etc)".  That and "I'm sorry...will you please forgive me".  Even us moms need to "own it" once in a while.

Some other battles that are worth fighting are  related to physical safety and health.   Bike helmets, reasonable bed times, seat belts, eating nutritious food (that the rest of the family is eating) ...these are not options.  If we don't give our kids an option when it comes to sitting in a carseat why do we give them the option of lying?  Both are potentially destructive to them.

It is a myth that a child will outgrow selfish, rude, defiant behavior.  It will only get worse.  Of course as they morph from a raging two year old into a non-barbaric older child there will be higher expectations.

Freedom within  basic but very firm boundaries could describe my style (or at least goal)  of parenting.

What are some of the "battles" that are important to you as a parent?  What words or sentence could describe your parenting style?