Practical Mom Advice: Surviving the Motherhood Marathon

Practical Mom Advice: Surviving the Motherhood Marathon

  I cringed when he put on his pants backwards. Normally I wouldn’t have said anything, but it was Sunday. So I gently asked him, “Your pants are on backwards. Can we turn them around?” “Sure,” he responded cheerfully. I hesitated. Was this a trick? Was he going to start screaming the instant I tried to turn his pants around? “May I help you?” I asked tentatively. “Sure!” Enthusiasm. I breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps this morning would remain peaceful after all.Practical Mom Advice: Surviving the Motherhood Marathon I managed to get all three children into their church clothes and I even managed to do my makeup in the bathroom (as opposed to in the vehicle). We were ready to go 15 minutes early. This is such a rare occurrence that the children thought it was time to get their shoes on a buckle in. My husband came in from morning chores and, instead having to help me finish getting children dressed and rushing out the door, he heard me urging the children to slow down. It really felt like they understood what was required and decided there was no use in resisting.

There is a certain craziness in the motherhood marathon that is interspersed with peaceful moments. Read the rest of my guest post to find out what I learned this particular Sunday morning about Surviving the Motherhood Marathon at Thinking Outside the Sandbox.

10 Indoor Entertainment Ideas for kids

10 Indoor Entertainment Ideas for kids

When we downsized our already small house 2 years ago, most people thought we were crazy. We moved the last week of October 2012 but were so busy in the barns through the winter that the size of our house didn’t register. Then summer came and my kids lived outdoors. Last winter we had a new baby to occupy and distract us. This year I will have a toddler, preschooler and 6 year old running around our house. A house that basically consists of a living room, kitchen, and combined office/dining room (and a bathroom and bedrooms of course but we don’t typically play in those rooms). To keep the walls from closing in over the winter months, I have taken some time to prepare activities and ideas.

Head over to Thinking Outside the Sandbox to see 10 Indoor Entertainment Ideas for Kids.
10 Indoor Entertainment Ideas for Kids

I Don’t Want to be a Cranky Mommy

I Don’t Want to be a Cranky Mommy

Warning: This is a true story. And it’s not a pretty one!

I Don't Want to be a Cranky Mommy: Tips and Resources to Help - AImed at the Heart

I’m trying to fix dinner. Baby Bear is fussing in his baby seat. Then he starts screaming at me because I’ve left him too long. So I grab him and hope the pasta doesn’t boil over.

Then C comes in the house, asks what’s for supper, “Homemade macaroni and cheese with Grandma’s ham” I say. *whine* *whine* *whine* “Fine, then you can leave the house and we’ll eat supper without you.”

Biscuit comes in the house doing the potty dance. Refuses to go potty when I tell him he should. Most likely because I told him. I’m pretty sure that, if I would have kept my big mouth shut, he would have realized sooner what his body was trying to tell him. But he doesn’t, just to prove a point. Just to irk me. I tell him “Fine. If you pee in your pants then you can do your own laundry.”

I’m stressed by Baby Bear, mad at C, mad at Biscuit, and mad at myself.

Deep breaths. I don’t want to be a cranky mommy. I can’t control cranky kids but I can make different choices for my own attitude. What if someone walked into my house in the midst of these exchanges? Would they see how much I love my children? Probably not. I heard a mom yell at her kids in the parking lot one time and I swore I would never do that. I only had one child at that point and C was/is a pretty compliant and content kid. Now, I’ve totally snarked at my kids in the parking lot. I’m sure people have overheard. Humbling.

More deep breaths. I don’t want to be a cranky mommy. I start counting my blessings: Sturdy house with a working furnace. Healthy food. Husband who will come in from work soon and help finish up supper and put kids to bed. Three absolutely beautiful boys who I wouldn’t trade for anything (most days). Parents who live next door and my Dad who regularly takes time to come over and connect with his grandsons. Friends nearby. Loving church family.

As I count my blessings and thank God for them, amazing things start to happen.

My heartbeat starts slowing down and breaths become easier to take. C takes Baby Bear, who I have had to put back in his seat to deal with the boiling pasta, and gets him giggling within seconds. C has a true gift for making people feel good and Baby Bear has a ridiculosly contageous laugh. Biscuit heads outside, still wearing clean pants. He potty trained himself just after his second birthay. He hasn’t had an accident in ages.

It’s not always easy to stay calm and loving when it feels like things around are spinning out of control. My older two have seen me struggle with postpartum depression and, unfortunately, seen cranky/angry mommy more often than I would like to admit. But God is merciful and has forgiven me. (As have my boys.) He is also the Healer of my soul and He continually works in my heart and body to keep depression at bay. Much of my cranky behavior is due to bad habits I have picked up during some of the low points of my life.

Three tips to overcoming “cranky mommy”

Figure out your triggers:

Your triggers may be very different than mine, or anyone else’s, but I’d like to share mine. Perhaps you can relate or perhaps reading them will lead you to finding out some of your own.

Fatigue is my biggest trigger so I make sure to (usually) go to bed on time. I know that I’m much more likely to stay calm if I’m rested. I have a persistent alarm on my phone so I cannot forget. I am continually working on improving my diet and finding other natural methods to increase my energy level and alertness. All mothers know how easily we can slip into sacrificing so much of ourselves for everyone else. A mother must have a servant heart but even Jesus needed to take time to refresh Himself so He could be the ultimate servant for His children. Be like Jesus. Refresh yourself.

Another of my triggers is feeling unheard, which often gets aggravated by unrealistic expectations of my children’s capability for obedience. It gets frustrating to have to repeat a direction 10 times only to have it finally responded to and then your child only carries it out halfway. “Put your dirty socks in the laundry hamper,” is simple and direct. But it is often ignored and then the socks end up being dropped in the kitchen or on the couch or bookshelf (my kids aren’t the only ones who do this, are they?) because a little boy was too distracted to bring them the to the hamper. I feel that my request is more important that the current game my son is playing. I take it personally when they don’t listen and obey.

Identify your Habits:

Many of our reactions in a frustrating or stressful situation are based on habits. Whether these are picked up from our homes as we grew up or whether they developed based on our personality type, figuring out how we react to our triggers can help us find healthier ways to deal. Yelling, physically lashing out (needing to throw, slam, or punch something), belittling, sarcasm, accusations, etc. There are so many negative habits we have developed

Replace Negative with Positive Habits:

What are some positive ways you can react when you realize your limits have been reached? Find a process that works for you.

The first thing I do is pray. It can be a simple as whispering a quick “help me God!” or you could step back from the situation and pray more in depth asking God to help you handle your emotions and for help to deal with the current situation that triggered your negativity. No matter how badly you want to gain control of your emotions, you will be fighting and uphill battle unless you learn to make prayer your first response.

Take a few deep breaths and focus on relaxing and releasing the tension. This will help your body get out of “fight mode” and will open pathways in your brain to allow for clearer thought and reasoning abilities.

Lastly, I like to walk myself through a basic assessment to see whether the issue at hand is worth the intense emotions I’m feeling or if I’m totally overreacting (truth: 95% of the time I’m overreacting). I ask myself, will this matter in 5 years? What will happen if things don’t go the way I want/hope? How would I like to be treated if I was on the other side of this situation?

I Don't Want to be a Cranky Mommy: Tips and Resources to Help - AImed at the Heart

Resources:

 Confessions of a Yelling Mom (Now Reformed) – Lisa, from Club 31 Woman, shares a bit of her story of how she overcame her habit of yelling to develop a habit of peace.

5 Ways to Overcome the Yelling Mom – Jamerill, at The Better Mom, explains how motherhood can magnify the sinful flesh and shares her best tips to continue growing toward becoming a more gentle, peaceful, patient, and loving mother.

How to Control Your Emotions, So They Don’t Control You by Brooke McGlothlin – a practical, highly usable, biblical model for submitting your emotions to the authority of the Word of God. After you read it, you’ll be equipped with information you can put into place immediately to start seeing a difference in your heart.

She’s Gonna Blow! by Julie Ann Barnhill – For every mom seeking here-and-now hope and help to…find healthier ways of expressing anger; let go of “control” issues and be more positive; and draw closer to the God who created moms and mothering.

Linked up at: Babies & Beyond, Cornerstone Confessions, Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home Blog, Gospel Homemaking

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you follow the link and choose to make a purchase, I may receive a small referral commission, at no extra cost to you.*

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How to Get Snatches of Solitude as a Mom

How to Get Snatches of Solitude as a Mom

How to Get Snatches of Solitude as a Mom - Aimed at the HeartI’m an introvert. I crave quiet and solitude. Just over a year ago, I discovered that introversion is okay and I really started to embrace the introversion instead of attempting to be extroverted. In retrospect, it was silly to think that I had to be someone I’m not and act in a way that wasn’t true to myself. But I’ve figured it out now and it has hugely benefited my life and family. Guess what? My whole family is introverts! My husband and Biscuit are much less so than C and myself but they still need their quiet recharge time. Even Baby Bear is easily overwhelmed with too many people and is upset easily by disruptions to his peace. For having 3 young sons, my house is typically unusually quiet.

So here’s the big question: how do I fit in my own quiet recharge time when I have a husband, 6 year old, 3 year old and 5 month old around all the time? Not to mention several good friends that I love to catch up with and church and social media. And then there’s my mind. It never seems to stop talking to me!

I laid the baby in his little chair/bassinet and hid in the laundry room. No chocolate, no good book to read, no phone. Just me. Sitting on the floor. Eyes closed so I couldn’t see the laundry in front of me. Forcing my mind to be clear. The peace lasted about 2 minutes before Biscuit got worried because he couldn’t find me. Quick prayer for strength and for my little one’s worried heart.

I sit in my rocking chair while waiting for my baby to fall back to sleep at 5am (after enjoying his smiles and coos for a bit) and read my daily Bible passages on my phone. When he is asleep, I stop rocking, put down my phone, and just sit.

I buckle all the kids in to the vehicle, shut the doors, and wait a minute before I jump in the vehicle to head to town.

Small moments. That’s all that I can manage in this season of my life. Moments of more than simply silence. Moments when I don’t have little people touching me. Moments that I owe to no one except myself. A few minutes sprinkled throughout my week that give me enough to continue forward. One day those little people will not depend on me so heavily. In fact, they are less dependent on me every month. Baby Bear’s gummy smiles and sweet, milky breath are enough to make me delirious with joy. It won’t last. He will grow. They all will. Then I will get my hours of silence and solitude at a time and will know that I have earned it. I won’t need to miss the babies because I made sure to thoroughly enjoy them through all their stages.

Are you an introvert? Do you have someone in your life who is an introvert? Perhaps you can find some information and encouragement here:
How to be Friends with an Introvert

15 Resolutions for a Homeschool Introvert Mom (these ideas are great for anyone, not just homeschoolers)

Linked up at: Time Warp Wife, Growing Home Blog

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you follow the link and choose to make a purchase, I may receive a small referral commission, at no extra cost to you.*

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Does Unschooling Actually Work? Lessons from Top Gear

Does Unschooling Actually Work? Lessons from Top Gear

It’s a question unschoolers are asked regularly: does unschooling actually work? For our family, unschooling has worked in allowing our boys to learn at their own pace, how and when they decided they are ready. Time and time again my husband and I have been reminded how our kids will figure out what they need to know in their lives/interests and then pursue it. I’ve shared how a simple observation leads to questions in the unschooling process.

Does Unschooling Actually Work? Lessons from Top Gear - Aimed at the Heart

Top Gear UK. We have watched every episode on Netflix (also available through Amazon Prime’s Amazon Instant Video) at least once. Most of them multiple times. Especially the episodes with mustangs. If you haven’t watched the show here’s a low down: three men test drive cars and review them and do a bunch of crazy challenges. From an unschooling perspective, it is a mother of boys’ dream come true. The show involves geography and history (the places they visit), science/mechanics (engines, building experiments), language/vocabulary (the hosts are mostly clean and use fun words like “torque,” “centrifugal force,” and “gravity”), art (in the form of beautifully molded metal as well as the scenery and videography), politics (in various countries, not just England), critical thinking (how can they cross a salt land without sinking?) and even mathematical concepts (horsepower, speed, time).

My boys are young so they’re not quite ready to tear apart an engine to rebuild it but C asks a ton of questions and both boys listen and take in the answers. They have a ton of small cars that they act out the races with, including building ramps and jumps and ferrying them across rivers. They hadn’t really gone beyond that whole cars and racing theme until recently though.

A few weeks ago, they made a train with the kitchen chairs. Certainly not an unusual thing for children to do so I didn’t think much of it. I even packed them a little suitcase with their clothes (ulterior motive: they were still in their jammies so I hoped they would get dressed) and planned to pack them a picnic lunch. They had their tickets and even modified the train to fit a seat for Baby Bear and me. C was the engineer and Biscuit was the conductor.

Does Unschooling Actually Work? Lessons from Top Gear - Aimed at the Heart

Then it got even better: they planned a trip.

They were going to drive down Chile to the bottom of South America and see if they would be able to beat (imaginary) Daddy, who was driving a Mustang in the race. This gave us the opportunity to examine our wall map to see what kind of obstacles they would come across (bodies of water, mountains, etc.). We talked about how maps work and calculating distances and how many days the race might take them. It was a really great geography lesson (and probably covered a whole host of other schoolish subjects too) and a really great imaginative game as well.

That is unschooling. It requires very little effort on anyone’s part to follow those questions but it requires a lot of trust that our children are designed to learn. And, if granted the freedom to do so, learn they shall. Even if they spend days at a time watching a tv show with three bickering middle aged men with funny accents.

What has caught the interest of your child recently? What are you willing to do to run with their curiosity?

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you follow the link and choose to make a purchase, I may receive a small referral commission, at no extra cost to you.*

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Commitment to a Newborn is Worth It

Commitment to a Newborn is Worth It

I have been dealing with at least one child having a nasty cold/cough keeping him (and myself) awake all night, resulting in a large amount of whining the next day (from them and, being honest here, from me too). The hardest has been BabyBear. He just doesn’t understand why he feels so miserable and, therefore, has spent an uncharacteristic amount of time crying. I came across this blog post that I wrote several years ago when C was about 18 months old. It is a good reminder that commitment to a newborn is worth it. And so temporary. This high need phase will end. Just like the coughing is subsiding and sleep is becoming more possible for all. Just like my oldest boy is turning 6 this month. Time flies!

Encouragement for moms in the high need phase of a newborn. Commitment to a newborn is worth it! - Aimed at the Heart

(Originally published in October 2009)

C is currently out in the tractor with his papa and I started thinking about when he was just born and we thought this day would never come. The day when he is able to sit in the tractor all by himself while my hubby gets work done has finally arrived. He sits in the little passenger seat and Papa Bear buckles him in. It looks totally cute and he wants nothing to do with me. He waves goodbye to me and tries to close the door! (I’m going to get a picture of it but I forgot my camera.)

Encouragement for moms in the high need phase of a newborn. Commitment to a newborn is worth it! - Aimed at the Heart

A picture of C’s second solo tractor ride

Times have changed so much. He used to need to nurse every 1-2 hours. He used to need to be in my arms at all times. He used to need a clean diaper every hour. I’m so glad that I filled his needs. Mothering is a hugely front-end loaded job. C was not a high need baby by any means, but he still took a lot of time and energy. One of the biggest things to adjust to as a new mom was how much he completely and utterly relied on me to survive.

I was his source or nourishment, comfort, stability, warmth, and comfort. That’s a huge responsibility, to truly be the world to someone. It’s no wonder that so many moms suffer from post partum depression, and lack of sleep and the baby blues and mostly (I think) just a feeling of being overwhelmed and lost. Up until you become a mom things in the world make sense. You can have plans, and schedules, and goals. You can pretty much do whatever you want, whenever you want. With a baby a lot of that goes out the window.

I’m not saying that to discourage anyone. It’s quite an amazing change of lifestyle actually. Your baby is completely dependent on you but it’s not a bad thing. I made the choice to have my son’s needs as number one on my list. That meant a lot of my life had to get put on the back burner for a while. I think that’s the part of being a mother that scares people. You have to learn to be selfless. We live in such a selfish and instant gratification society. It’s pathetic how little of ourselves we are willing to give to someone else. Commitment phobias run rampant, whether it be to a career (the average person changes careers 10 times in their life), a relationship (50% of marriages end in divorce), school, a vehicle or house (we buy new ones every 5-7 years) and pretty much anything else.

My parenting “philosophy” consists of meeting C’s needs. That includes his needs for a clean diaper, for play time, for food but it also includes his need to nurse, to be comforted to sleep, and even something as simple as his need to be with his mama. I believe that if I meet these needs when he’s young, they won’t hinder him when he’s older. I know that by showing C a full commitment now he will learn what commitment means. He will be confident in his career and relationships, and everything else that he does in the future. Will he be a perfect adult? Absolutely not. But he will defiantly know what a real commitment looks like.

Do I miss some aspects of my life before C? I don’t usually notice it actually. I enjoy being with C so I don’t often need a “break” from him. I usually just take him with me. Now that he’s getting older, I leave him with his Papa or his Oma (my mom), both people that he knows and trusts. I can’t even think of any other sacrifices I’ve made in my life for him. Sure, I pee with the door open (and often a toddler on my lap), and cooking dinner takes a little more time than it used to, but, in the big picture, those amount to very little. The big picture is that my son is happy and healthy and our family has a lot of fun just being together!

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