Monthly Archives: January 2016

The joy in moments

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I have been thinking often about cultivating joy in our lives. What a difference it makes for me when I am actively trying to find reasons to be joyful, even if those reasons originate from the small, or seemingly insignificant moments. Then I came across this post and it put into words what I only had in my head.

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed in life; so many responsibilities, the stressors of adult life, many people vying for your attention. When discussing life goals, I have heard “think about the big picture… long term goals” so many times. I am not saying that it is not important to do that; However, oftentimes, I find myself stuck in those long term thoughts. It then becomes all to easy say that I do not have time to stop and focus on this little moment of time. I have too much to do to get to my goal. It is much more difficult to stop and really give myself permission to be mindful of the present moment.

But when I do, sometimes amazing things can happen. Amazingly simple, little things, that bring joy to my heart. I notice the smile on my child’s face as they play. I see that light-bulb moment go off in their head as something truly clicks. I really stop and taste the coffee in my cup instead of quickly guzzling it for the much needed boost in energy it provides.

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A few weeks ago I took my kids to the library. My kids love going, but it is difficult to go as much as they’d like due to the toddler knocking books off shelves, and the constant worry that their voices may be too loud. After a few minutes of general exploring and random book grabbing, my 3-year-old settled in at a table to build Legos. The baby was wanting to nurse, so I sat down in the rocking chair to nurse him (note to self: I would really like a rocking chair at home), and my 5-year-old pulled up a chair next to me and began looking at pop-up books. As I nursed the baby, I looked at my other kids and they were both so immersed in their actives. They looked so grown in that moment. I looked at my tiny infant and just appreciated his smallness that I know will be gone ever so quickly. I rocked him, and I just soaked up that moment. Nothing extraordinary was happening, but I felt so connected to my kids, so much love in my heart. Even a few weeks later, every time I think about those few minutes it invokes a smile. Such a small moment has impacted my mood in a positive, lasting way.

This is a life lesson that I seem to need to learn and relearn again many times. So go ahead and stop. Give yourself permission to enjoy those moments. Draw on the good feelings when you are feeling down. The big picture is important, but for me, I am constantly being reminded that it is really the everyday stuff that matters the most.

Ramblings…

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I’m in the mood to ramble and type for no reason. There will be no profound insight in this journal like post. We have had a difficult week. Not a life is difficult type week; more so the kids are grumpy, Mommy is distracted, the baby fussy for some unknown reason difficult type week. We were able to end this rough week on a good note. Today we met some friends at Chick-fil-a and ate and played. It was a good time that was much needed.

The weekend is here, and I am looking forward to some family time. My oldest is looking forward to spending a night with her Grandma, which means more room for us in the big bed. I am looking forward to a few days with extra cups of coffee with my husband. The weekend is my favorite. I am trying to claim this weekend as a positive one. Sometimes, I get so many ideas in my head for the weekend; so much that I want to accomplish in those two short days, that I get anxious and end up not actually enjoying it. I am trying to become more aware of that and start out in a realistic expectations mindset.

I love how a day of play gave us all a much needed reset. It is amazing how sometimes that is all it takes to get back on track. Play is so good for kids (and adults!). It is so much more than what you see on the surface. Play is literally the language of childhood and so much learning is happening while children are playing. We are naturally pretty lax around here, maybe even too much at times, but time for free play is a priority.

Speaking of play, I have been noticing my 3 year-old’s play has been changing. He has started playing some more independently. I have also noticed that his play has been including more social fantasy. He has been pretending toys talk to each other and having them hold conversations. I remember doing that as a child. It makes me smile. I like when I can pick up on these subtle milestones because it is like an outward show of maturity.

I think that is all I had to get out. Have a great weekend!

On letting kids try things themselves

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I can climb these by myself.

When I first became a mother, I was so afraid that I was going to screw up. I am a perfectionist and I hate making mistakes. I knew logically that I would make mistakes in parenting, but I also knew that I may be able to avoid some if I tried to find tools and resources that could help me with parenting. I never had set out ahead of time to be an attachment parent, to homeschool let alone unschool, or to parent without punishment. Truthfully, I got in over my head with all the research I did, was overwhelmed with information, and much of it I had to read again later when it applied. I was reading Alfie Kohn when she was 6 months old, and that is when I first learned about parenting without punishment or rewards. I loved it. From there I read many more peacefully parenting books, and one led to another until I decided all these strategies I wanted try in my parenting. Many of them actually helped me, some created more stress and they were not worth it for us long term.

One thing I read about, and I do not even remember where I originally read about it, was letting children try to do things for themselves. Letting them do something, even if it was difficult, let them make mistakes, let them takes risks. Helping them explore things they were curious about even if it was unconventional. Sometimes they would ask for help, sometimes they would mess up, sometimes they would fall; but sometimes they would do something difficult all on their own, figure out a problem, or learn a new skill and feel great about it. This made so much sense to me. It was not always easy to avoid stepping in, but logically, I knew that so much learning came from the process more than the end result.

This could look like many different things at different stages of development. It might be, not stopping a wobbly tower from falling over as a baby builds it again and again until they are learning about balance. It could mean letting your small toddler climb up the steps at the playground, while you just stood behind as a spotter. It could mean letting them practice their balance walking across a wall. My daughter fell sometimes, but in the process she learned how to fall without getting hurt, and overall fell much less than others. Many people commented on how strange it looked to see such a small toddler climbing, jumping, and running through obstacles. She always amazed me with brave attitude, yet quick ability to calculate a situations risks and how to best avoid them. She learned when to ask for help. She also learned that if I stepped in and said that something was not safe then it really was not safe since I tried not to do that often. If she really wanted to try something that wasn’t okay on her own, than I found a way to do it with her when I could.

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She went through a stage as a toddler where she was obsessed with plugs and wall sockets. She quickly figured out how to remove the safety plugs. I tried redirecting, I tried blocking, I tried just saying no. But none of that helped. So I decided to try something else. Whenever she expressed interests in in, I sat next to her and we talked about the plug, what they do, how they work (in toddler terms). I helped her plug and unplug things in safely. She would spend anywhere from 5-20 minutes each time. At first this happened a few times a day. It was a little annoying if I am being honest, but I stuck with it. She stopped going after them by herself but would instead get my attention and point to the plug or say her word for plug. After a couple of times she realized that I would explore it with her, so if she asked and I could not do it right away I would say “Yes, as soon as I finish… rinsing these dishes, or making this snack…” and she would almost always wait for me. Then she started being less and less curious about the plugs until she forgot about them completely. Danger gone, much learned. It was not a hands off solution, it was not a solution that was quick. It required active time and effort on my part. But to me it was worth it. I handled many other things the same way, including when my son learned how to open the refrigerator.

This approach looks different over times as my kids age. Recently, my 5-year-old is starting to learn how to safely use a knife as she helps more in the kitchen. I love how kids are naturally curious, naturally want to explore and learn, and I want to foster that however possible. Yes, it takes time and energy. Yes, it means sometimes other things go undone while they are learning something new. No, it is not always easy and involves biting my own tongue and not giving the solutions sometimes. But the results I see make it worth it.

 

Kids and chores

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I see many posts on the internet that revolve around chores, usually questions or advice about how to get kids to do chores. This is not one of those posts. I don’t have a magic solution that will get kids to want to help clean the house. I wanted to share how things work in out house right now. Keep in mind that my kids are still very young at 5, 3, and 3 months old at the time of this writing. My assumption is that things will change as they grow and life changes.

I am one of those people that really hates things being messy. I feel chaotic when my house feels chaotic. I don’t need everything to be spotless or completely organized, but I feel more at peace when my kitchen is not filled with dishes, my trash is not overflowing, and the floors are not obviously in need of a thorough sweeping. Those are my basics, yours might be different. I have learned to let go many of the countless other chores that could be done to make my house look like it could be on the cover of a magazine. If I didn’t let go of the dusting, and cleaning of the windows and mirrors (this gets done very rarely), and the nooks and cranny’s, my life would feel a lot less peaceful. My fridge does not get cleaned often enough, my closets really need organized, I close my eyes half the time in the basement, and I have about given up on mopping my kitchen due to the inevitable spill that immediately happens afterward. If that sounds gross, sorry not sorry. I have better things to do than spend the majority of my day cleaning. Those things get done, just not often, and usually with help from my husband.

So now that you understand a bit more about me, I should say that I do not make my kids clean. They do not have assigned chores. Does this mean that they never clean or pick up after themselves? Not at all. My oldest is very good at throwing away trash after she is done, enjoys helping me put away dishes, or picking up the toys. My 3 year old helps me clean dishes everyday. Does he get them clean? No, but they have a positive association in his mind. He also loves to help me sweep the floors, change the laundry and put it away, and take out the trash.

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Right now, when they chose to help clean it is kind of fun for them. I have always tried to make cleaning up a game, or we sing, or put on music. My 5 year old now makes it a game on her own. She created a Pokémon clean up game in which she pretends to be a Pokémon to help clean. Some Pokémon are fast cleaners, and others are very slow. Some can only do a few things before they need to be called back. She goes through stages that she wants to play this game daily. Another game she created is one she calls “ninja tasks”. She is a ninja and asks for tasks to complete. Some of these are clean up tasks, others are little challenges or obstacles.

I have walked into the bathroom to find her wiping things down. I have gotten up from laying the baby down for a nap to find the living room looking more tidy. She tells me she does those things because she loves me and wanted to help. This doesn’t happen often, but is always a nice surprise.

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My only tactic for cleaning and chores is modeling. I try to model cleaning happily. I do that by not pressuring myself to do to much. I try not to talk about how much I hate doing laundry or mopping. I try not to get frustrated when an accidental mess is made, or a project is messy. And I am honest when I need to get something cleaned up before I can do the next thing. That is the way we do it, and it works for us.

Thoughts on the kids growing up

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12471394_10208764873138856_1211230004004488350_oToday I woke up and instantly my heart was extra full with love for my children. Not that I do not love my children every day of course, but today I was just very aware of how quickly it all goes. One of those days that you look at your kids and it feels like they grew overnight. Reminiscing over their baby and toddlerhood that was, and realizing that every single moment counts.

I am not sure what brought it on. Maybe it was the fact that both of my older children did in fact grow quite a bit in the past month. Or maybe it was my 3 year old realizing the correct way to pronounce cover is no “fugga” and Grandma is no longer “Margo”. Maybe it is moving the baby up to a new size of clothes and then seeing that they are almost snug already. But my babies are not always going to be babies and today it was so bittersweet.

I was pondering this on the drive to our family outing, when I had the uncontrollable urge to look back and smile at my daughter. I had all my love in that smile hoping that she felt it. She tends to be the kid that really needs reassured the most, plus she was the only one who could see me because the other two are rear facing. She must have got the message because about 5 minutes later she got my attention to tell me how much she loved me in return.

Today had its challenges, but I remained calm in almost all of them, which doesn’t always happen. Today the positive parenting phrases about staying calm in the storm, or about them having a hard time, not giving you a hard time, remained in the front of my mind as I listened to tears or helped settle a sibling disagreement. Tomorrow might be different, as some days how fast this all goes seems like a lie because the day drags on and difficult behaviors really weigh on my spirit. But today, I smiled. Today I enjoyed my babies.

Our “Homeschooling” 1/7/16

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Our homeschooling today started with watching a TV show. Something on it inspired Hailey to talk about apple trees. She asked to slice up an apple as a snack and take out the seeds to plant outside. So we got dressed and headed out with seeds and some water. I held back my thoughts on all the reasons planting those seeds were not likely to grow right now, and just let them have their fun. Then we decided to take a walk since it was a pretty mild winter day. We walked down to a field we sometimes play in. The big kids rolled down the hill, threw some ice into a puddle, and ran around. The baby was checking out grass.

Then back at home I made some lunch. The kids requested to try the starfruit they had picket out at the store, which went over well.  Now they are making playdoh creations and have asked for bingo to be the next activity.

What does unschooling look like for us?

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There are many different explanations out there to describe what unschooling is. I view it as living life, pursuing interests, having fun, and exploring new places. When doing this, learning naturally occurs. I am certianly no expert seeing as my oldest is not yet 6. However, for now, I feel this path is what makes the most sense for us. It feels right.

My kids have already learned so much, often from places that I did not expect. I am still surprised when my daughter tells me some fact she learned from a TV show. I see my 3 year old constantly learning and experimenting. I am also learning right next to them. Learning is viewed as fun and very normal in this house. it just happens. It is not complicated. I just learned that there are two mammals  that lay eggs (I had previously thought there was only 1). That was from a book my oldest asked me to read while waiting for an chiropractor appointment; certainly not a place one would be expecting to learn about animals. But life is filled with new things to learn, it is everywhere, unavoidable.

I went to traditional school. I loved the academic part. I hated most everything else. What do I remember from it? The stuff that I enjoyed. I forgot almost everything else. All those facts crammed into my head were instantly forgotten after the test. I don’t want that experience for my children.

We do not use a structured curriculum. I do not believe there is anything wrong with using one if that is what works for you and your family. My choice is not a judgement of anyone else. The only workbooks we have are the ones my daughter has asked to have because she actually enjoys doing them sometimes. I do not encourage them over the other activities in our home. They have free access to the TV, board games, playdoh, crayons, books, toys, and many other tools of learning. They naturally tend to spend most of their time with their own interests. My daughter likes to create through many different mediums. My son likes to play cook, build things, play in the water, and lately his trains.

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If I looked at our week in schoolish terms, I can easily see reading, math, science, art, and history covered. Often times, they are learning things naturally that are above the level they would be learning at school.
I love this path. To me if feels like a natural extension of our attachment parenting. It just flows nicely. If something changes, we will change and adapt right along with it. That is the beauty of unschooling.

New Years Goals

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I haven’t really made resolutions for the past few years. I think more in terms of goals. In what way do I want my life to look different at the end of 2016 than it is now? Truthfully, I haven’t thought of it to much. We have our big lofty dream goals of course like being financially stable, but I haven’t set down to think about what steps I want to take for this year. Mostly, because anytime I sit down, there is at least one child on top of me, and often at least two wanting my attention.

As I sit here with a few rare moments of silence, watching my new baby sleep blissfully on my lap, I am trying to think about the future. It is possible that we will move in 2016, but I really don’t think that will happen. I would love for my husband to go back to school to finish his degree, or get a job with more room for promotion, but those must be his goals if they are to happen.

We just went to a new church. I would really love to stick to that and see if this place is as loving and open as they say. I want to always grow that area of my life, and as someone with very little alone time to be quiet and reflect, it has not come easy to me.
I want to work on being mindful of the present moment. While reading a book to my son, I noticed how different the experience was when I was fully present and animated, watching his reactions and soaking up his laughter or answering his questions; versus when I let my mind wander while my mouth went on autopilot parroting words that I had read many times before. I want to focus on now right this minute, on what is right in front of me. This applies to worry about the future and all the things that could go wrong, or dwelling on past mistakes.

I want to try to make the most of our meager income. I have always been good at budgeting, but I know I could do better so that I can maximize the amount I can spend on adventures with the family.

I want to grow my friendships. I have prayed and wished for true friends for a very long time. I have been hurt often while trying to find them. It is not easy for me to deepen these relationships into something truly meaningful. I am socially anxious and sometimes awkward. Despite this, I have finally found a few women who truly get me, who are in the same stages of life I am in, with common interests, and no desire to judge my life. This past year has been about finding each other and being intentional about spending time together. I want this next year to be about continuing that and more.

And lastly, but still very important, I want to laugh more. I want to not take everything so seriously. I want to truly realize how much of the things that I allow to stress me out are just small things. I chose my reaction, and I want to choose to laugh when possible. To make time for silliness and fun because it is important.

I think that is about it. For now, at least, since goals and changes do not only have to be thought about during New Years. This list was about me, about writing down my thoughts and intentions. I hope to read this next year and see that I have moved forward.

 

Our “Homechool” Today 1/3/16

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Today’s homeschooling has actually been building upon the things we have done the past few days. Hailey has started to enjoy me reading her longer books, so while Papa is putting the toddler to sleep, I have been reading her longer books. Her favorite so far has been the Frog and Toad series.

In one story, Toad decides to make a to-do list and rigidly adheres to the list. This started an interesting conversation about what to-do lists are for and how we try to stick to them, or if we can just add things as we think of them, or when it is okay to decided something on your list isn’t worth doing, etc. Hailey decided to make her own to do list, so she had me tell her how to spell what she wanted to write.

To Do:

Listen to a chapter

Do a show

Watch

Go to sleep

It was getting late and I was tired so we agreed we would do that list the following day. So we read another chapter, and then she pretended to put on a newscast from inside a big cardboard box with the front cut out used as her TV. She is currently watch Netflix, and I hope sleep is to follow.