Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Was Boring

As a mother who still feels rather new to motherhood, even though I now have two under my belt, I always am looking for ways to improve upon my skills. My favorite sources often include large families that I feel function well, then I track down that busy momma, and ask her all sorts of questions about her secrets to success.

So before I took my sabbatical from blogging to do some other writing though, I was working on a series of tips for motherhood. I thought I would share a new tip that the Lord has recently re-taught me.

Don't fall into the trap of being boring.

What were my first clues that I was being boring. It started when I started to notice unrest in my home. There was fussing, whining, dramatic displays of moods and attitudes, and lots of poor napping going on in this house. Disobedience was on the rise too, as was mommy's temper gauge.
See what I mean, drama and exaggerated boredom.
This scene was
reenacted from actual events that took place.

My husband was the first to point out that there was a problem, and we had a talk about what we felt like wasn't working. I wanted answers to "fix" the problem fast, thinking we needed to ramp up our disciplines to deal with the increased disobedience issues. My husband, who is wise even when he doesn't realize just how wise, suggested we pray and ask Holy Spirit what to do about it first.

There is another tip that is invaluable: Ask Holy Spirit when you see a problem but don't know the root cause.

So I prayed, but I was already pretty sure I knew the answer. That is when the Lord started to show me things in my own heart. Somewhere in the last few months I had lost sight of my goals as a mother. My vision for motherhood had started to wane and so had my ability to change and adapt to new realities in my home (like my 4 year old growing out of most of my old tactics) because I just didn't care enough to try and be my best anymore. I was focused on other 'things'.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Those seasons where your mind gets preoccupied with other 'things' and so I had lost focus on what I wanted to accomplish else where. My house had started to fall apart in the meantime. Bathrooms were dirty, floors hadn't been mopped, and my kids were bored nearly to tears. Well, there were probably some actual tears.

All their favorites in the schedule like craft time, reading time, outside play, etc. had been denied them because I wanted to focus on my own things, like crochet, computer time, sewing, eating, sleeping, etc. Pathetic momma, I know, but it was only for a season and then I had my Holy Spirit wake up call.

Now I am trying to be fun again. I am letting them pull out creative crafty games in the morning, planning family devotions for a few mornings a week, letting them enjoy their favorites again. My initial reasons for not wanting to do some of these things was because I was afraid of the mess it would make. My cleaning schedule had also fallen to the wayside, so extra messes were unwelcome during this past season. Epic fail.
Kinsey and her birthday chain, counting down
the days to her birthday, 54 days in this
picture, but it was super fun to make.
She was able to work on her mad scissor skillz!

Now that I am out of my funk though, I can see that messes are worth it. My girls are loving all the craft time, and my mornings fly like a breeze because they are using up all their creative juices making crafts rather than inventing ways to misbehave. There is a whole lot less whining, crying, drama and tears, and you know what, at the end of it all I don't even mind cleaning up. With the total lack of drama, it is so much easier to clean and then move on to the next thing. They are sleeping better at nap time too, and I am spending less gas money taking them to friends houses for entertainment (don't get me wrong, we still have plenty of playdates, just not every other day like we were doing.), and I feel great about how happy they are. Success is a great and heady feeling and I only have the Holy Spirit to thank for this little insight. Who else could have told me, or would I have listened to, that I was being super boring as a mommy? Probably not too many, maybe none. I've still got some pride to kick, I'm sure of it, but Holy Spirit always knows how to say these things to me.

Thank the Lord I don't have to parent out of my own wisdom or only out of the wisdom of others!

So what is your current parenting challenge, or schedule challenge, or whatever conflict you are facing? Ask Holy Spirit about it (literally probably whisper it out loud a couple times in a day), then find some time during the next few days to sit and listen. Seriously, that is it. You don't need to rattle on a laundry list of prayers, you just need to sit and wait for that still small voice. When I first started sitting and listening for Holy Spirit, I did it in 20 minute increments, that was all I could handle.
Sitting quiet and being focus on the Lord is really hard, so if your mind keeps wandering the first few times you try, keep trying. If you keep thinking of all the things you should be doing with that time, write them down on a piece of paper and then refocus. Sitting quiet seems like a waste on the front end, but some of my most amazing revelations from the Lord have come through times of sitting quietly.
When Holy Spirit does speak, I usually don't recognize it right away, even when I am listen for it. In the coming days though, what was spoken to my mind in those quiet times (which I thought on the front end was my own imagination), is usually confirmed within the next few days in other ways. It is really that simple when you know Christ.
He can tell you all sorts of mysteries about your spouse or children or yourself. Sometimes when I think a problem is with my children or spouse, it is always humbling when the Lord shows me the issue is in my own heart. Whenever He shows me the problem though, He also suggests the solution. I love that about Him. He is so good!

So recap of tips:
Don't be Boring.
Ask Holy Spirit about Problems
Learn to Sit Quietly to Hear Holy Spirit

Outdoor play is a must for burning energy, thank you mowing
crew for blowing all the leaves into a pile and disappearing for
about twenty minutes so my girls could 'swim' in them!

Maybe coming up next time in this series will be: Making a Mommy Vision and Making a Schedule to Fit

Monday, October 10, 2011

Brief Explanation

For those of you who actually read this thing half way regularly, I wanted to explain my recent absence from writing on here, and give you a time frame for when I might be back.
Currently I am focusing all my writing energies on something else I'm working on, another writing project so to speak. Not ready to talk about it yet, but it requires most of my spare writing time on the computer (with two babies I am somewhat limited in computer time).
So, hopefully soon I will finish my post about making a dress for my daughter. Having a hang up with a lack of bias tape, trying to make my own, but a bit baffled at the moment with the whole concept of how to make it. After that you may or may not anticipate a post on me making some roman shades for a friend out of some super cute Ikea fabric.
Other than that, it could be quiet on here until sometime after Christmas.
Does that mean I will be finished with said "other writing project" after Christmas? Probably not.
If history repeats itself, which it usually does, then my writing project energies will disappear some months from now when I start to feel utterly overwhelmed by the project. At that point I will put it on the shelf of unfinished projects and writing on it will not recommence until at least 6-8 months later.
Yes, I've been working on and off on this writing project for over two years now, and there is a definite pattern established in the way I work on this thing. Right now, however, I'm feeling quite invigorate to write and work on it, so see you on the other side of this writing spurt!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mommy Tips

Over the course of the last four years, I have acquired a lot of little tips and tricks that help me to keep my sanity as a momma. I have decided to start compiling a few of my favorites in a place where other mommies can benefit. Most of these are not original to me, so you may have heard a few of them before, but they are all worth repeating if they help a new mommy become a better and more confident mommy.

Tip #1 Scheduling
    This one is highly debated, and widely talked about, but for me and my lifestyle it has been a lifesaver. My children thrive when their days are halfway predictable. Wake up time is almost always the same, breakfast is almost always at the same time, next is playtime/errands, then lunch, then book reading, then the nap. Naptime is my time, so I protect this time and make sure my kids are home and in bed on time almost every single day for the past four years. Any changes of when nap time starts, and my whole day is thrown off. It has to be a really important gig for me to change nap time. :-)
After nap is more playtime/outings, then I cook dinner/short movie (movies only on bad days which occur less often these days), then we eat dinner, we play some more, then we bathe, read books and do our bedtime routine. They are almost always in bed by 7:30pm, unless we are out to dinner at someone's house, which is pretty rare. Again, I really protect bedtime, because after they are in bed, it is my time to do what I want, like quilt, crochet, or watch BBC Victorian era romances.
So there you have it, a glimpse into our scheduled life, and with it we have a whole lot fewer fights because they know what to expect. They sleep well because they have so many cues that bedtime is on its way; another huge plus. I am totally a huge believer in routine, and it has helped me to have a lot more sanity.
Side note: I'm a only child, so I feel like I require a lot more personal alone time than probably most people, I recharge my battery (so to speak) by being alone or doing things on my own.

Tip #2 Eating Out
    Eating out can be a chore sometimes with children, especially when you are trying to talk and socialize with other adults while your children run wild. Or while trying to get your kids to behave/eat their food in a reasonable way. So I go into every dinner meal away from home like it is going to be a battle, and I pack my diaper bag with a whole arsenal of tricks and toys. I also feed my children before we go, always. Then, if they decided they don't want to eat, or are too distracted to eat, I can say, "okay, get down and go play while mommy talks," and I never have to worry that they will go to bed without proper nutrition. When they come to me fussy, I make sure I have sippy cups and snacks within my reach, and/or toys to appease them.
Because seriously, what is the point of going out with friends if all I do is put out fires with my children all night.
However, even with all my planning, we have still had our share of nights where we have to throw in the towel and go home early because the girls won't behave or are too tired to go on. On those nights, I just say, "okay, sorry, please excuse us, we'll see you all again soon," and I tell myself on the way home not to feel embarrassed, because anyone else with kids knows what we are experiencing and probably have a lot of sympathy for us.
Those without children, well I tell myself that someday they probably will, and therefore the understanding will dawn on them. Then I go home, put the kids to bed and find some chocolate treat to devour in the silence.

Tip #3  Quiet time
   My oldest has given up napping, and so we had to come up with a solution that still gives me some time during the day to get things done. Quiet time is the answer. She does really well with it though, because we've been doing quiet time for a long time. Even before she gave up napping.
Whenever mommy is having a bad day, quiet time is an option. It is as much for me as it is for my children. Like those nights where I'm trying to cook dinner, and my girls are just 'at' me because they are bored, or didn't nap well. When I feel my blood beginning to boil and my patience wears thin and my husband isn't due to be home for a couple more hours, we have quiet time. Mommy puts them in their beds with books and a few toys and they have to stay in their beds until Mommy's cool has returned.
It is not a punishment, so they never look at it like a time out (because toys are not involved in time outs) and so they sit and talk to each other and read and whatever, but they are out of the kitchen and happy and that makes me a whole lot happier.
This even works with one child. I used quiet time a lot when I was pregnant with my second, so I could rest quietly for a twenty minute break during the day. Like after a particularly long morning of errands or something and my feet were hurting and swollen (late pregnancy) and so I put my 1+ year old child in her bed with toys and took a 20 min break. Still within earshot, but out of sight.
The point of this tip is: protecting mommy's sanity so that she can be a better mommy when her children are in the room. I remove them from my immediate presence while I rediscover my patience, love, joy, peace, whatever I'm lacking. When I've recovered and snuck some chocolate from my hidden stash, I am ready to go back into the battle and keep a cool head. Yet I was able to avert a total melt down before it hit, and for that, I think this is a worthy option.

So those are the three I've been thinking about recently. As with any parenting advice, children are individuals and so are parents for that matter. Take what you like, throw out the rest, modify it, and make it your own. What worked with my first child only partially works with my second, so flexibility and being in regular communication with Holy Spirit is still a big part of my training as a parent.
Still, I gleaned these gems from other seasoned moms, and I felt they were worth passing along. Hope you enjoyed them, and feel free to comment and share some of your own favorite tips. I love to learn new ideas, especially as my children grow up, because what works when they are babies eventually becomes obsolete.
Bring on the advice!