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Archive for September, 2016

Organizing Month 8: Let the Kids Do It

Let the Kids Do itFor the month of September it only seems fair for us to close it out with a post about organizing for school. If you have been following along, I have been working my way through the book “One Year to an Organized Life,” by Regina Leeds. If you need to check up you can click on the links here. So far we have tackled the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, garage, paperwork, travel and memorabilia.

Wow! It is amazing when you see it listed out, how far how far we have come. It is hard to believe this series is actually winding down to the end of the year. The journey to get organized has been so much more then just sorting stuff. There is unexpected emotion buried in the clutter of each room. However, we only have so much room in our heart, our head and our cabinet for it all. It has been really an exercise in the art of letting go.

This month was no different. It starts off as a clearing of space but it becomes about an emotional clean up as well. September is “Back to School,” and this chapter starts off by addressing how we feel this time of year.

I know how I feel. Rushed, hurried, hectic and disorganized. With two kids in school, we didn’t exactly ease out of summer into Fall. It felt like the school year kind of slapped me in the face and has been beating me up ever since. That is until I found a routine.

I talked about this in an earlier post here and the author goes into detail about the need to establish routines. These routines are intended to help your family have a better more productive year. The truth is it works.

She mentions things like meal planning, getting up 15  minutes earlier, setting up things the night before and establishing a chore list for your kids. When you actually put these ideas into practice you can see a visible difference in the pace of the day.

One of the things I am coming to gripes with this school year is that my children are a lot more capable then I give them credit for. They can make their own breakfast, pack lunch’s and can handle doing a lot more…I just have to let them.

The auther hits the nail on the head with what a lot of mothers(including myself) suffer from. It is perfectionism. We try to do everything for everyone and try to make everything in our home perfect.

[ctt title=”‘Perfection in your home is not an achievable goal,’ from One Year to an Organized Life. ” tweet=”‘Perfection in your home is not an achievable goal,’ from One Year to an Organized Life. ” coverup=”JCa0a”]

By doing everything for our kids we are exhausting ourselves and not teaching our children valuable life skills. That could also be the reason mom’s feel such a stress with the start of school.  Moms see the school year as more work for us. However, we should be viewing it as a new start to establish new routines.

In an effort to get my children on a manageable routine my husband installed low hooks by the front door, so they can immediately hang up there bookbag upon entering our home. They are getting into a routine of emptying out their backpack of lunch boxes, water bottles nd homework folders. This had been a huge help for me.

This month the book address the space for our children. My house is small and becomes easily overwhelmed with kids toys, books and shoes spilling out of their rooms into the rest of the living areas.Organized Life

One of the smartest things in this chapter, and one I had not looked at, was designating areas of your house for different functions. For example what function  does your child’s bedroom serve? Is it a place to play, a place to do school work, a place of rest? What does the set-up and function of this room signal to your child?

My kids room signaled chaos, too much stuff that there was not enough bins, baskets and shelves to hold. It was time for a clean out. Also, this chapter got me thinking. Was this chaos filled, toy cluster space where I wanted my children to try and do school work?  A room filled with distractions, toys, and mess? So mentally I designated their bedrooms for playing, dressing  and sleeping.

Since at this time there was no designated reading area in their rooms I decided the living room couch (with the tv off) would be a good spot for reading. However, for homework there was no better spot then the kitchen table where me and my husband could cook dinner while being on hand to answer homework questions.

With the room functions determined the next thing to do was get to cleaning. I have been much better about cleaning out old toys and outgrown items in my daughters room. However, I have been a total slacker when it comes to my sons room. After his birthday last month I never got around to cleaning out his closet of old toys and clothes and stuff has accumulated everywhere.

Of course I included him in the clean out process and let him reorganizes some of the space to make it more useful to him. But I came to the realization his furniture, which was hand me down baby furniture) was just too big for his room.

We began the daylong task of getting rid of stuff and when we finished 5- 20 gallon bags of donations, junk and trash were removed from his small bedroom. He discovered toys he had not seem in months because they were under the bed or hidden behind other toys.

As I mentioned his infant set dresser and hand me down bed no longer worked for him. My heart kind of hurt in realizing my little boy was growing into a big boy that needed non-baby furniture.  Unfortunaly, I don’t have the money to purchase new furniture but I am hoping to repaint and repurpose what he has and make it a better space for him.

One of the final steps as mentioned in the book, was to re-establish a chore routine. Our children have been doing chores pretty regularly over the summer,  but with the start of school we kind of fell off the well cleaned wagon.

This month something else happened that made me realize I needed to let my kids do more. My back went out. I mean really went out. I was immobilized, could not bend and walked like a question mark. So that meant no laundry, no cooking, no picking up stray socks strewn  about the house. It just wasn’t going to happen. So they HAD to help me…more importantly I had to let them. This may not seem like a big deal but for someone who shrugs of help and tried to muscle on and do it all. It was a real eye-opener.

Maybe they felt pity for me but whatever the reason it worked. They started helping out more without being asked and (finally) put their  shoes and socks where they belong. No nagging, no negotiating, they are just doing it because I stopped enabling them.

The last section of this chapter is about volunteering. You know when you are already short on time, and don’t feel like you can squeeze another thing in. Then your PTA friend asks if you can help with the Fall fundraiser and you agree. Your church asked if you would help organize the bake sale and even thought you have no idea how you will fit it in you say ok. This is not something specific to the school year, but is something moms find we do all to often. We say “yes” when we really should be saying “no.” I absolutely love the practical 5-step way the author uses to evaluate if you can say “yes.” These steps remove the emotion from the situation and break it down. Could the art of saying “no” really be that simple. Apparently, it can.

 

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Rantings of an Overwhelmed Mom

Sometimes (ok pretty often) being a working mom can be overwhelming. We get to the point where we feel so full up with responsibilities and stuff to do that it feels like we are in a constant start of overflow. Always trying to catch-up… catch-up on housework, catch-up on “Work” work. Trying to be a god mom, be a good parent. We wear so many hats that our head hurts from switching among them so often.

Mom, mom, mom, mom

Me and my other friends who are working mothers have talked at great length about how tired we feel. I think this has generated from our biological wiring. Once our children are born our body changes and our brain becomes wired to detect the slightest sound of a baby in distress. This also comes along with and intense anxiety that begins in the battle to get enough sleep. Will I sleep enough to make it through the work day? Will I get enough sleep to care for my kids? If I fall asleep now I will only get 4 or 5 or 3 hours of sleep. Should I just try sleeping in my car on my lunch break?

I just want to go to sleep

As our children grow our new bat like ears pick up very sound inside our house. Pets walking across the floor, our spouse opening the fridge, a car driving loudly down the road. Every sound seems to steal restful sleep from us.

Being a working mother is almost like being between worlds. Mom’s have a desire, a want and even a need to be a homemaker and to create a loving, peaceful nurturing home for our family. ATo be home with our children, feeding them all the right nutritious foods (instead of mountains of Goldfish). We want to be the envy of our neighbors, with a well maintained home and tasteful furnishings (instead of a stained couch and messy floor.)

We want to still look like a 20-year old fashion model (in our mind) and have our kids properly (and cutely) dressed, (instead of wrinkled uniforms since you have no time to iron or put away the stuff in the dryer.) All too often life is too hectic and busy to present the home we envision in our brain. (Or get out of our sweat pants and mom jeans.)

We compare what we have to what others put forth but what we see is not always what is real. I know to make my house presentable for company me and my husband have to do a 6-hour marathon cleaning which is destroyed in less than an hour.cleaning

Yes, my house is a wreak most of the time. More often than not I feel overwhelmed. Like I am dropping the ball in so many places in my life. Then I think back to holding my baby in my arms and all the dirty laundry and work drama melts away. I savor the joy in sitting and reading with my son and none of the other stuff seems to matter. Being silly and laughing with my kids, capturing those small moments where I see them find joy in something.

Those times when they give me an impromptu hug. When they say, “mommy, I love you” and my heart melts along with all the stresses of the day. This is what makes it all worth it. Being a working mother is hard. It is really hard. Some days I feel like I’m completely failing. But there are these moments, so golden, pure and natural that I feel like being a mom was what I was always missing and in this messy house with these wonderful little beings is exactly where I am meant to be.

 

A New Perspective For Moms from Elevation Church on Vimeo.

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Travel Lessons from a Frugal Grandma

travel lessons from a frugal grandmaTraveling is something I have always enjoyed ever since high school. Growing up my family did not travel anywhere but our yearly trip to Florida where we  visited the grandparents. And no unfortunately this trip did not include a theme park visit. However, I still have fond memories of my travels to visit the Grandparents. I think  that is how I got bitten by the traveling bug, one summer when visiting my grandmother Mildred.

My Grandma the World Traveler

Written on the back by my grandma "Peace Treaty Signed 1919 Verselle France"

Written on the back by my grandma “Peace Treaty Signed 1919 Verselle France”

During one of our visits, she showed my some amazing photos of her recent trips. It turns out that grandma was doing more then just playing pinochle and going to the clubhouse during her retirement, she had become a world traveler. Going all over Europe, and Asia.

My grandmother Mildred was a working mom before there were working mom’s. She was fairly serious and never very talkative or emotional but you could tell sharing these pictures was a joy to her. Being able to travel the way she had is something I had wanted to do ever since she described her photos to me.

During that time I asked her a ton of questions about her trips. I asked about how she had planned for traveling, what she would have done different and where she liked to travel best. She gave me some great advice.

Something else I learned was that my grandmother was not only adventurous but she was a frugal planner who was ahead of her time. Her careful handling of finances are what made these trips possible.

My grandmother has long since passed away but many off her lessons stay with me. I realize now, I am a lot like her in that I want to see and explore the world. Also like her handling of the family finances are what will make my dreams of traveling possible.

Written on the back "8/86 Le River Guliane China"

Written on the back “8/86 Le River Guliane China”

She approached life in a frugal way with the end goal being to retire and travel. Although I want to travel, I do not want to wait for retirement to do it. So what does that mean for a working mom with two kids? Planning.

Here are some of the nuggets of wisdom that helped her save enough to travel in retirement.

Plan out your trip cost long before your travel date

She advised me to get as clear an idea of where I wanted to go and estimate how much those visits will cost. Have a long timeline to save for these trips, and break them down into time increments to save for. Credit was should not be an option. It wasn’t for her.

If possible travel Europe when you are young and save the U.S for retirement age

She said it was much easier to travel in the U.S at an advanced age. There were more senior discounts for attractions and travel and it was easier to navigate then Europe. She added due to the age and make-up of most of Europe it is not as easy for older bodies to handle cobblestone streets an centuries old staircases.

Don’t be afraid to have experiences when travel

I will never forget a picture my grandmother showed me of her standing in front a plane. It was taken in Communist China and she admitted that she felt pretty scared when she was there but was grateful she got to see a part of China usually restricted to travelers.

Written on back "Aug 86 Beijing China, Great Wall"

Written on back “Aug 86 Beijing China, Great Wall”

Sacrifice now to reach your travel goals

My grandmother always functioned in a frugal manner with her end goal of travel in mind. Like with any type of goal setting, you want to having a clear picture of what to achieve and formulated plan on how to achieve it. This will probably mean making sacrifices and being creative with your finances in order to free up money for travel. It mean giving up some things now (like those expensive lattes and dinners out.) to save for travel later.

 

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3 Things Working Mom’s Need to Stop Doing

3 things moms need to stop doingIt usually starts with a bit of sniffles we promptly ignore. Then a scratchy throat. “Oh, it’s allergies,” we say. Then the cough comes on. “It’s ok, I will drink some tea with honey.” But then the fever and chills hit, we try our best to muscle through. Our family needs us after all. But are we really caring for our family when we don’t care for ourselves?

This question came to light for me this week as I sit here typing this with a heating pad and a pillow at my back. Last week the busyness of life walloped me hard. I never made time for my usual workout, didn’t even stretch. Just kept putting it off and putting it off while making excuses and telling myself I was too tired and too busy.

The truth is I did not make my own self care a priority and it has had pretty disastrous results. (Missing work since I can’t bend and even sitting is painful. Not the way I would choose to spend my time away from work.)

So since I am immobile with time on my hands and the inability to move much, I was pondering how I got here. Here are 3 things us working mom’s need to stop doing in order to live a happier, and (hopefully) healthier life.

Feeling like a Maryter

As mothers we would give up everything for our family. We easily put their needs before our own, like pushing through a cold when we really need a rest. Or going through a sleepless night with the baby and letting out hubby snore away, knowing full well we have to get to work tomorrow.

Part of me will admit there is something in me, and I think in most mom’s, that make us feel proud of the sacrifices. It makes us feel stronger and more important to our family. Almost like we bring it on ourselves so that later we can say “but look…look at all I did for you.”

I’m not saying we don’t do these things out of love. However, on some occasions, we also do it out of a feeling of martyrdom. Priding ourselves in making these sacrifices, when an easier solution might have worked just as well.

Feeling Guilty

There is that “G” word again. It seems to walk along side us as a working mom. So much of a mom’s life is driven by guilt. We feel guilty when we take the time to care for ourselves because we are trading off the care of another.

If I go to the gym, then I don’t get the laundry done. Go out with the girls means sacrifice time with the hubby. Buying  something I need then I take money away from something my family might need.

Yes, moms we are going to feel guilt but sometimes we need to recognize we can not go around with no pants because we never took the time to buy ourselves anything! guilt

Ok, I know that is a bit extreme but it’s true. (I’m speaking from experience.) We need to care for ourselves or we are not useful to our family.

In addition, what kind of message does this send to our children? Does it make our son’s anymore knowledgeable in how to treat there future wives when they see us trudging on through sickness and injury? They will come to think this behavior is ok. What about our daughters? Are they to believe  this is how motherhood is suppose to be? That it is all self sacfrice and no self care. Are you modeling the women you want your daughter to become?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

We are tough, we are strong, we are mom’s right? Well, sometimes we are also stupid. ( I am speaking from experience again.) For most of us we are not in this alone, we have husbands, significant others, sisters, friends, neighbors who have asked us dozens of times if we need anything. We shun the help because we’ve got this mom thing down right? This is our perfectionist side run amock. We don’t want to burden anyone what we feel is our reasonability. We can’t appear as if we don’t have it all together. The truth is we can’t and shouldn’t go it alone.

Not only are we harming ourselves but we are robbing our spouses others from the chance to be a Dad. Robbing out children from the experience of different personalities, disciplining styles and teachings of others. We are steal their  opportunities to build relationships outside of us. Why?

Let’s get real. Because we want to be the most important, most treasured person to our little people. When you ask for help, you have to let someone else have this moment in the sun so you can take a rest, and take care of you.  Asking for help is also a letting go of control over the direction a situation might take. Buy asking for help you are giving temporary control over to someone else. This might be hard for some of us to wrap our heads around.

If you do these things like I do. Don’t beat yourself up. It is ok. I know this motherhood thing is a “learn as you go” process. It’s funny how sometimes nature has a way (like coming down with the flu or having your back go out) of force you to reflect on how you can do things different in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to school and back to the basics!

success in parentingChildren are back in school!

How much preparation do you give your children? My kids have been back in school for several weeks and the prep work made the process so much easier.

What am I talking about?

 If we want our children/students/grandkids to be prepared, we need to teach them routines. In the weeks prior to the start of school I began my preparation. This included adjusting morning and nighttime routine such as getting up and going to sleep.

 We love the summer as much as the next family, but we needed to gradually adjust our sleep schedules, slowly, to come more in tune with what they would look like when school started. This was a gradual process. If you would like more information, I have a series of videos in my Facebook group, bit.ly/SuccessinParenting, where I spoke about the specifics of changing these schedules as well as other routines.

The biggest struggles in my family at this time: meal planning/times and extra-curricular activity schedules. Why are these times a struggle? Meal times are my nightmare because I do NOT cook (it is not from a lack of trying). The other difficulty is scheduling of soccer practices/games. I am sure I am not the only one with these types of struggles, right?!

Let’s begin with how schedules interfere with meals. My 8-year-old and 16-year-old are both on traveling soccer leagues for different cities. Gavin, my baby, has practice on Monday & Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7 pm. McKenzie, my middle child and my girl, has practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7-8:30 pm. Do you see any meal planning difficulties?

It gets better… Not really…Beginning next weekend, they will both have games on the weekends. So what is a mom to do? I picked up my essentials: a highlighter, calendar, and cell phone. Once both schedules were released I got down to business.

Comparing the kids’ schedules and our schedules took some work. We reached out to our extended family members and friends to help when we didn’t have enough adults to cover both activities. It takes a village! Pre-planning our schedule has been a life-saver in my house! Develop and utilize strategies and tools that work best for your family to fit in multiple extra-curricular events.

I have found it is better for my family to have a plan for everything from after school until bedtime, but it looks different for each of my children. A lot of the time, our schedules have to be on a sliding scale from strict to flexible. If you have a child that learns best with visuals, provide a picture schedule. Place the schedule in an order you think will work best. Then watch your child for signs of fatigue and frustration.

If you see these, change the arrangement of the pictures to work for your child. For a child that learns best through the auditory modality, record their schedule on an audio device so that they can stop and replay instructions as needed.

Here is a new strategy that someone recently shared with me. It can be modified in several ways and your child can try their hand in helping to color it and/or set the tasks. Click the link below to learn more about the After School Routine Clock.

 

http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/91715/school-routine-clock

Now on to the food.

I love to eat and I would love to say I am a fantastic cook! But because I have the inability to cook, it wouldn’t be the truth. Meal planning is how we survive. My hubby plans and preps meals for the week, typically. He preps each meal the night before so that all I need to do is heat it. He’s awesome!

Does this always work as planned? Heck no! I still burn meals, arrive home later than scheduled, have errands to run, etc… But I have backup plans! Eat a gluten-free (gf) diet can throw a wrench in plans sometimes, but it  can make easier too. I always have gf pasta, veggies, and other staples readily available to prepare on the fly.

There are a few items I can almost always successfully make like: garlic bread and grilled cheese. But those are not meals nor are they nutritious. My suggestion is to stock your pantry with nutritious items that are easy to keep on hand and simple to prepare.

What types of time management strategies do you currently have in place? How do you manage the time for homework, snacks, chores, etc….?

 

 

 

 

What are your words really saying to little ears?

Little ears

Well, kids are always listening. Especially when you don’t want to them to. However, if you ask them to put on their shoes or put their toys away their attention apparently evaporates into thin air. This weekend I had made the discovery that my internal dialog was not matching the impression I was giving my children.

Are your words conveying something you don’t feel?

I have been conveying a message in words and actions, which made my daughter feel that taking her to sports, activities and doing the things a mom does, where a bother to me. This was never my intention and something that once I realized I was doing, broke my heart.

It was a super busy weekend with back to back sports games for both of my children. In addition, we were scheduled to bring snacks for both teams. For days I had been trying to coordinate schedules with my husband, who was working.

I guess, without thinking about it, my manner and how I discussed the upcoming events sounded rushed, worried and annoyed. Once everything was planned out, it all went great and we really a lot of fun. However, my daughter kept apologizing to me for the busyness and hectic pace of the day.

The first time she said it I thought it was odd.

“Mommy, “she said, “I am so sorry you have to do all this.” That seemed like a silly statement to make. Didn’t she know I don’t have to do this? I want to do this.

A few minutes later, while we were retrieving snacks for game 2, she said it again. This time I realized. Something I did or said gave her the impression this is a bother. That being with her, watching her play and doing things for her was nothing but an annoyance to me.  All at once it hit me I made my daughter feel this way. How had I given her this impression?  Something I said, my off handed complaints, I didn’t even think about how this must have sounded to her. Total. Mom. Fail.

After the 3rd apology, my heart broke.  I pulled her aside and talked to her about it. Told her how much I love doing these things. How much I love her. I live for spending moments like this with her and how I just love being her mom. Even though it was a busy day, I love every minute of it and would do it all again. My favorite part of life is spending moments like this with her.

I hope these words erased whatever damage my unthinking actions and rushed complaints might have started in her. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, school, and extra-curricular activities, we forget to look at our actions from the outside.

We are so caught up in the moment of getting things done we don’t realize the message our busyness, our body language and our tone can convey to our children.

I did not. Not until my daughter started to apologize to me for needing me to do the things a mom does. Somehow, I made my daughter feel guilty for needing me. She was saying she is sorry for making me into the thing I enjoy and value more than anything in the world, being her mom.

This was an eye-opening experience for me and I hope one I can correct with time. Like most mom’s I know, my children mean the world to me. If that message is not coming across then well… I am failing them as a mom and need to make some adjustments quick.

Are your words coming out in a way you don’t intend?  Did your body language convey something to your children that you we’re not aware of? If you have had an experience like this, how have you corrected your behavior? What was your circumstance? Please share your story in the comments.


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Is Balance a Myth?

Is balance a mythRecently, I have seen a few articles about whether finding balance is a myth. Since one of the main purposes of this blog is to help working mothers find a balance between their work and home life, I thought I should weigh in on this topic.

Is finding balance a myth? If we look at what balance really means it is defined as a noun and a verb.

  1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
  2. stability of one’s mind or feelings.
  3. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
  4. harmony of design and proportion.
  5. an apparatus for weighing, especially one with a central pivot, beam, and a pair of scales.
  6. a counteracting weight or force.
  7. the regulating device in a mechanical clock or watch.
  8. a predominating weight or amount; the majority.
  9. a figure representing the difference between credits and debits in an account; the amount of money held in an account.
  10. the difference between an amount due and an amount paid.

So in order to figure out if balance is a myth we need to define what type of balance we are talking about. For the purposes of this blog we are primarily refering to the first three from this list. The topic being weighed are work and family life.

Ultimately, we are striving for an equal proportion of these in order to achieve the 2nd defination. Likewise if we can achieve this equal districbution then we can also acheve defination 1 and “remain upright and steady.”

Now that we have defined what balance means the next question would logically be is it achieveable? This is a bit more difficult to pin down so here is my opinion.

Yes and no. I think balance is achievable for moments or periods of time but is not sustainable. Frankly, life would be pretty boring if it was.

As I said one of the main focuses of this blog is to “find” balance. So the aim here is the pursuit of balance. To me the achievement of balance is great,(at least in theory) but if we are already in balance what is there to write about?

When you have reached success you can teach about how you got there, but not one can really understand what it feels like to be there without achieving it for themselves.

So that is the key, in my view. Achieving balance is possible but we as living breathing changing creature based in nature. Nature is in a constant struggle to find equilibrium but stimuli enter the picture to throw that equilibrium out of wack and thus starts the process again.

Each stage in life is like this containing a new set of challenges, thrills, adventures and triumphs. [ctt title=”Life is best lived not in the attainment of a state of balance. It is in the journey to get there. ” tweet=”Life is best lived not in the attainment of a state of balance. It is in the journey to get there. ” coverup=”709ko”]It is in the real life struggles, the moments of peace and well as the search for grace.

The best moments remembered are from these back and forth’s, the dips and valley where we learn about ourselves and adjust to out environment. Here is where we discover our true selves and help others walk where we have been.

Maintaining balance may be a myth but I don’t think that is really the point. Balance is not so much in the achieving it is in the finding. The journey to manage these two forces is what makes like worth living. It is in the journey to balance that matters not so much the destination.

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