Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keeping Score

We live in a world of competition.  We grew up in it, and many of us thrive on the system of requirements, approval, and promotion.  However, in motherhood, there are no quarterly reviews, no promotions, no pay raises, no awards, and very little recognition.

I remember as a new mom feeling lost because I had no way to "score" myself.  How would I know I was doing a good job without a grade?  Things that used to take doing for granted, suddenly became a challenge and a chore.  Let alone, somehow going above and beyond like I was so used to doing.  All the milestones seemed so far away.  And the problem with grading yourself by the milestones and how fast they are reached is three-fold.

First, as mother you can train, and encourage, and discipline, but you can't control.  That sweet little baby has a personality and a mind of its own, and will not always turn out just as you want, despite all your hard work.  That is a risk we all take as mothers.

The second risk is that "grading" yourself by milestones only encourages you to hurry your children down the path of growing up, and there is always a bittersweetness to those first steps into toddlerhood and out of being a baby.

The third risk is one I have faced personally, and why I had to change my mindset.  Sometimes our children come to us with a learning struggle or disability.  Both of my children have had to see a speech pathologist.  One for a mild processing issue, and the other for delayed language development.  I felt that because both of my children were behind and needed help meant that I had failed as a mother.  I must have been doing something wrong.  I must not have been talking to them or stimulating them enough.  It took a lot of pep talks from my sweet husband and mother to get past those feelings, and they still sometimes creep in as guilt.  Don't make my mistake!

There are numerous ways that we grade ourselves as mothers.  Most of them end up leaving us feeling more like failures than successes.  Clean house. HA!  Good behavior.  Tried that.  Looking perfect.  Always someone who looks better.  Nicer stuff.  Have fun with that debt load.

Do you notice the problem with all these ways of grading yourself? It all requires a comparison to someone else!  Milestones, behavior, cleanliness, it doesn't allow your family to be who they are, only how you think they should be based on someone else's performance (and even then, only what you see of it).

But we are still left with the problem of feeling like we are moving forward in a profession filled with very similar days and seemingly, at the time, slow development and growth.  How can you tackle your need to "make the grade"?

I can tell you, that has been one of my biggest challenges as a mother, to let go of that competitive drive as a mother, or even at need to have results in order to feel productive.  No matter how hard I work, there will always be more laundry, more cooking, more discipline, more tears, etc.  I have had to take joy in the more simple ways of measuring my efforts.

As a new mom, I took to writing down every single thing I did that day, no matter how small(showered, got dressed, did dishes, made dinner, tummy time,etc), just so I could see that I was really doing something.  Nowadays, I give myself a high-five for staying on my grocery budget, being able to count on one hand the number of processed foods in my cart, learning a new recipe, turning out a good loaf of bread, a decluttered space, a giggle, a hug, a game played, a song sung.

It isn't easy to change our way of looking at "results".  But these little "grades" are a much easier and positive way to look at things.  Perhaps one day I won't feel the need to give myself a score at all.

Have you had difficulty needing to grade or compare yourself?  How did you overcome it?  How do you keep a positive "score" for yourself?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Banning Books

With the release of "The Hunger Games" movie, there has been some talk about the appropriate age of the audience of the movie, as well as the books.  Some parents go so far as to say they will not allow their children to read "The Hunger Games", just as some parents have forbade "Harry Potter" and other books.

The thought of banning certain books in a household is somewhat foreign to me.  My mother encouraged such a love of reading, that oftentimes we were reading books that she had never read before.  We would sometimes have to stop reading a book, when we no longer felt it was appropriate, but those guidelines were never explicitly stated anywhere, they just came through our own consciences.

I don't believe in banning books.  I believe in talking with your children about what is and is not appropriate, and letting them decide from there.  Even if you do not agree with the content of a book, I think it is much better to let your child decide whether or not to read it, and then leave the lines of communication open.  Talk with your children about what they are reading.  Sometimes, a book that you disagree with can lead to some great discussions where you can lay out your opinion and discuss openly with your child.

A far better solution, in my opinion, is to put an age requirement on certain books.  Rob and I have decided that no one younger than 9 or 10 in our family should read "The Hunger Games" simply due to it's violent nature.  However, the gruesomeness in the book can lead to some very thought provoking discussions about government, rebellion, and so forth.  I would not want to give that up.

So far we have one other age limit in our house.  You must be in at least 8th grade before reading Tolkien.  This has nothing to do with the content, and everything to do with the difficulty of the book. It is a story Rob and I both love so much, that we don't want our children wading into it too early and souring on the complexity of it.

But what about if you get a teenage daughter who only wants to read trashy romance novels?  Or a son who can't veer out of the comic books?  I think these kind of books, mind candy, as I call them, are ok in small amounts, but too much can make one feel dissatisfied with life or have false illusions of love.

Try to encourage books with more substance to them.  Read a chapter book aloud in your family.  Perhaps put a stipulation of your child reading a book you choose before another book they choose.  Then try to choose an appropriate book for their reading comprehension that still fits some of the same story lines that they love.  "Little Women", "Anne of Green Gables", "Witch of Blackbird Pond" are all wonderful stories with some romance to them.  In the action-adventure set, try "Percy Jackson", "Harry Potter", "Peter Pan", etc.

What are the reading rules like in your house?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Easter in eggs

This is a fun way to tach your children the Easter story. You will need 12 plastic eggs and an empty egg carton.

Fill each egg with the materials (bolded) for each part of the story, and then number the eggs in the order they are to be opened. I have included the parts of the story for each egg as well as italicized the specific thing each piece is to represent. You can also use the scripture references if you like. As you read, you will see that some parts of the story are not included in the eggs, you can fill in the spaces as you like in between eggs.

Pictures also help with telling the story. I remember doing this as a kid. Let each child take turns opening the eggs. Have fun, this can become a fun tradition for your family.

Sacrament cup
Explain how Christ in the Garden of Gesthemane asked for this cup to pass from him. Then "Not my will, but Thy will be done" and how he bled from every pore.

Luke 22:41-42

3 dimes
Explain that Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver
Matt 26:14-15

The soldiers bound Jesus with rope and led him to Pontius Pilate
Matt 27:2

Pontius Pilate asked the crowd what he should do with Jesus who had done nothing wrong. The crowd called for him to crucified, so Pilate said he washed his hands of the whole thing.
Matt 27:22-24

Red material, thorn
The soldiers put a red robe on Christ and a crown of thorns on his head and then hit his head with the thorns still on it. Lightly prick each child with the thorn if they want to feel.
Matt 27:27-31

Cross (made from toothpicks), nail
Christ was then crucified on a cross. They hung him there by putting nails through his hands and feet (you can lightly prick the braver of your children on the hands)
Luke 23:33

Explain that the soldiers cast lots, or played a game, to decide who got to keep Jesus' clothes.
Luke 23:35

Dirt (wrapped in a plastic baggy)
After Jesus died the temple veil was rent and the rocks were crushed (the dirt is supposed to be the crushed rock)
Matt 27:51
White cloth
Some of Jesus' followers took his body and wrapped it in linen cloth and then laid him in a tomb.
Matt 27:57-59
A big stone was rolled in front of the door of the tomb
Matt 27:60

Explain that Mary Magdalene and two others went to put spices on Jesus body so that he wouldn't stink. Have each child smell the spices (I like to use cloves and a bay leaf)
Luke 24:1-2

Make a big to-do about this egg. Say that the stone was rolled away and there were two angels sitting on it. What was inside the tomb? Have a child open the egg. It is empty, just like the tomb!
Luke 24:3-6

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

An "Anne of Green Gables" Daughter

I am reading "Anne of Green Gables" and just love it.  I have always loved the movies, and the book is obviously wonderful too.  Who can help but love the heroine, Anne, and her imagination?

What I love about Anne, and the other girls in the book, is that they stay young for so long.  They are 14 years old and still playing.  They aren't hung up on boys, or dating.  They can't even "wear their hair up" until they are 17.  People were in the business of keeping little girls LITTLE back then.

Nowadays, our poor daughters are thrown to the sexual wolves at an earlier and earlier age.  Have you seen the Halloween costumes for 8-year old girls?  Girls are stopping their make-believe play and chasing boys earlier and earlier.  Puberty is also coming earlier to many girls.  These changes are not without consequences.  They have resulted in higher teen-pregnancy rates, STD's, etc.

I only have one daughter and at the moment, she is three and just growing into that big, beautiful imagination of hers.  I want her to stay young, and playful as long as possible.  She has the rest of her life to be grown up!  But how do I do it?  I can't pretend to have all the answers.  I have some ideas, but I want yours as well.

I would say most importantly, turn off the TV and go outside.
 Encourage imaginative play.
 Look at the toys your daughter plays with.  Do they encourage sexualization? (I personally hated the Bratz dolls for this very reason)
 Encourage your daughter to just focus on having good girl friends.
 Don't even tease about "boyfriends".  Don't turn every friend of the opposite sex she has, into a potential relationship in her mind.
Let her be little.  Don't dress her like a mini-adult.
 Read "Anne of Green Gables" aloud when she is old enough.
Focus on other ways to be "grown-up" other than having a boyfriend or doing teenager things, such as cooking meals, learning to sew, helping plan the family vacation, etc.

That's all I got...what about you?  How do you try to keep your daughters little?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Not everything is worth worrying it?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything you are supposed to worry about as a mother?

 Kids are obese
Society tells girls they are too fat
Society tells boys they are stupid
Protect your kids from predators, but make sure you encourage independence!
Too much TV
Bad things in your food
Go organic!
Go green!
No spanking!
No time outs!
Your kids are behaving badly, where is your discipline?
School shootings
Are your kids reading enough?
Do they do enough art/creativity projects?
Encourage imagination
Video games
Clean the house
Don't use harsh chemicals
Lead Poisoning
Sports and activities


 Ugh, I'm sure I could think of more, but that seems plenty don't you think? How do you boil down your mothering strategy to address as many of these areas as possible? Or better yet, how do you decide what to worry about and what to toss?

I think ultimately, we just need to stop looking at everything as all or nothing.  Implement small changes if you think it is important, and continue if you like it.  I think we also need to trust ourselves a little more.  You will know what to do and say if you try to be in tune with your kids and leave the doors of communication open.  To me, this means, slow down, try to find, and spend, unstructured time together as a family.

 I put the simplify worry last, because as women, we even get to worrying about simplifying and if we are doing it right, or enough.  But this is just silly.  Simplifying your life will make a difference in your stress level. Take a look at your family's schedule and how it lines up with your priorities.  Are there things you can cut out?  How about a new approach to dinner or housecleaning to alleviate certain stressors?  There will always be things to worry about, but lets see how many birds/worries we can kill with one stone.  Think of it as simplifying your stress.

Here's my example, in the parentheses I put the birds killed by my mentioned stone.

 I focus on turning off the TV, going outside and letting my children freely choose their play without getting in their way, as much as possible(this tackles obesity, play, imagination, and I also believe some of societies messages to our children).
I have tried to cut out processed food as much as possible without going overboard(obesity, going green, etc).
We do one scheduled activity(it takes place 2Xweekly) It is swimming lessons, so it is fun but also a needed safety precaution. I considered dance, or gymnastics, but right now swimming is more important in my eyes for it's safety aspects(safety, obesity, activities).

 I was also given the tools to tackle a lot of my mommy insecurity(Am I playing with the kids enough? Oh no, my house is a mess!) by implementing certain aspects of Waldorf mothering into my day.

As one example,I always invite the children to join me in my housework or baking by providing extra cloths, spray bottles, pots, pans, and spoons. Sometimes they join in, sometimes they keep playing, but they always have the option for more mom time if they want it. Plus, I no longer look at my cooking and cleaning as things to get out of the way, but as an important opportunity to model for my children things they can use in their imaginative play and ultimately learn later in life(imagination, independence, cleaners/chemicals, simplifying).  Just this change in attitude has done wonders for my worry.
( For more information on ideas for moms from Waldorf concepts check out

 So once again, how do you pick and choose, and ultimately let go of your mommy worries?  What are your strategies for simplifying your stress?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

When things don't turn out the way you planned

My life has recently been changing...a lot. The job we moved across the country for, hasn't exactly panned out the way we hoped. All the reasons we moved out here for haven't come to fruition, and in addition to that, we bought a house here. Thankfully, as we look to make a change, everything has seemed to fall into place. It can be easy to look back on our last year as a mistake. We aren't really any closer to our career and financial goals now than we were at graduation last year. Sometimes, when I try to come up for an explanation of why we truly felt like we should take this job and move out here, I think that maybe it was just a good job to take while we waited for a better job. However, I don't think time in your life should ever be just a waiting game or holding period. Otherwise we would always just be waiting for the next thing instead of enjoying the moment. But how else can you look at some of these disappointing times? For me, personally, this last year has brought many important lessons in spite of, or sometimes because of, our supposed "mistake". In the last year I have learned - how to be a mother very much on my own with very little social interaction - I have really grown into my role as a mother - I have learned how to cook more with real food and encourage outdoor and imaginative play in my children. - I have seen a beautiful part of the country My husband has learned numerous things about the business he wants to run that he wouldn't have otherwise. He also was able to rethink his strategy toward his career goals and take this new job, that we wouldn't have taken without the experience we had here to help us realize its value. As a family, we have learned - how to work hard to serve in our church - how to live so far from family - how to be each other's best friends - how to get our children the help they need for their speech/processing delays It is a lot easier to look at our last year in this light, instead of as simply a holding period, or worse, a mistake. I know we aren't the only people who haven't had things turn out as planned. Thankfully it has led to something better. How do you view your less-than-desirable situations to make them better?

Friday, March 9, 2012

My First Waldorf-style Doll

I love Waldorf-style toys.  However, they get pretty pricey.  So I have decided to try and make them on my own.  I mean, that is kind of the whole point of Waldorf toys, that they are handmade and your children can watch if not help, making them more special.  A Waldorf doll can run anywhere from $55-$150.

 I made one using this tutorial for less than $10.  It did take a few hours, and would have taken longer if I hadn't taken a few shortcuts, made necessary by the fabric I had on hand.

I will not run you through the tutorial, I will just tell you the changes I made.  I did not have an old flesh-colored shirt or any flesh colored fabric.  I didn't want to go out and buy any for a first try either.  So I used panty-hose for the head, hands, and feet, and a receiving blanket for the body.  I just layered a few kneehighs on the head to give it the right color and non-sheerness.  Using the hosiery actually cut down on time and cost, but it will probably have an effect on how long this doll lasts.

Using a receiving blanket for the body means that this doll is permanently in her "jammies".  I have not made any clothes yet, but they will either have to coordinate or cover, but I don't think Jane will mind.

The neck is a little floppy.  I am thinking that will probaby be fixed by using actual cotton fabric with the next one.

For the jand and feet I just sewed a small "bag" of hosiery, stuffed it with fiber-fil, and then sewed it to the end of the arms or legs with a straight line to create a sort of joint.

I can only improve, and this beautiful doll deserves a sequel.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Alternatives to Invisible Children

So we've all seen the heartbreaking video for KONY2012.  We are sad.  We want to do something.  However, there is some speculation on the charity "Invisible Children" for having a low charity rating and only 36% of donations going to the cause.  I think part of this is because of the nature of this charity's mission.  However, if you are feeling leary of IC but still in your heart wish you could help, I present here some alternative organizations and ideas from 4-star and BBB approved charities.

World Vision has an excellent page about child soldiers.  You will be even more upset to learn that Joseph Kony is not an isolated incident.  You can donate to World Vision specifically for this cause or implement their ideas for writing to President Obama and asking him to please enforce the bill passed in 2009 that cuts off US aid to countries whose governments use child soldiers.

After all, the KONY2012 video showed that enough people speak up, our government WILL listen.

UNICEF is also on the front lines of this issue.  They are trying to pass protocol to be followed by all members of the UN that is similar to what World Vision wants Obama to support.  UNICEF also tries to protect children to avoid abduction altogether as well as provides empowerment, jobs, and stability to former child soldiers.  Donations to UNICEF can't really be directed towards a certain cause and right now your donation is more likely to go to the famine in the Horn of Africa.

International Rescue Committee is another 4 star charity that focuses on rescuing and restoring child soldiers.  In addition to donating they have a link for advocating as well.  I don't know if you can specifically give to one cause with this charity.

If you have bought the bracelet or still want to.  Go ahead.  Helping is always ok.  I think the KONY2012 video is a great way to introduce your kids to political activism.  So if you still want to go "Blanket the Night" and wear the bracelet, I say go for it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So You Want To Try Going Natural...

I am going to start off by saying that I loved my natural birth.  But, I started preparing for it very early in my pregnancy by reading all sorts of books about it and investigating different methods.  However, I couldn't afford an official childbirth class.  When it came time for labor, my approach wasn't straight out of any one method.  It was a mixture and just doing what felt right. 

 After talking with a friend this morning, I think what helps most in a natural birth is just knowing your options and not being afraid to do what you need to do!  However, especially with our first, many of us don't realize that there are things we can, and should, do to make birth easier.  Here are some things that if you know and utilize, will make a natural birth possible, even with very little time for preparation.

1 - Whatever you do, DON'T just stay in bed.  Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy and aren't supposed to be standing, get up and move.  Laying down is one of the worst possible positions for pain relief during labor.  You may be hooked up to a bunch of IV's and monitors if you are being induced.  Don't let it stop you.  Just drag the cord and the IV cart around with you.  Your monitors may need readjusted and you nurse might get annoyed, but you know what.  Who cares?  You are having a baby, and trying to relieve pain.  Tell the nurse that she is just going to have to continue to readjust your monitors when they slip.  Or better yet, if you are not being induced ask for intermittent monitoring and bring in the evidence showing that in an uninduced birth, constant monitoring has no better results that intermittent monitoring.

2 - Try to not be hooked to an IV if you don't have to.  You really don't need the fluids that some hospitals make standard (mine didn't, but I know some do).  Offer to drink water instead.  If you have to get antibiotics, asked to be unhooked once they have run their course.

3 - Get rid of the pain-scale.  Either take down or cover up the pain scale poster.  Ask your nurse not to aske your pain scale.  The last thing you want to do is analyze how much pain you are truly in on a scale from 1-10

4 - Tell your nurse not to offer you an epidural.  When you want one, you will ask.  Until then, don't bring it up.

5 - Find out if you hospital provides a birthing ball, if not think about buying one.  These really do help.

6 - Read at least one, birthing method book.  I love the Lamaze book, and I picked and chose what I liked from the hypnobirthing book.  Practice the techniques they recommend.

7 - Do a google search of positions for pain relief during labor.  There are a lot out there.  Just get some in your mind.  But when labor comes, you will find yourself naturally going to a position and rhythm that feels good to you.  Just don't be afraid to do what feels right.  For me it was sitting on a birthing ball up against the bed and stretching my arms over the bed farther and farther with the deepening of the contraction.  For a friend it was a slow dance position, putting all her weight on her husband, bending her knees into a crouch and swaying.  

Then search birth positions.  There are a ton out there to choose from.  It is hard to plan on one, because you don't know what will feel right until you are there, but just know what is possible and follow your instincts.

8 - Practice long, deep breathing where you breathe from the bottom of your stomach up.

9 - Practice different relaxation techniques.  Everything from guided readings, to meditation, to relaxing one body part on a time.  The hypnobirthing book has tons to practice, and they really help.

10 - Make your husband your advocate.  Let him know what you want and expect.  Once you are in the middle of labor, you don't want to have to answer any questions or advocate for yourself.  Let him do it.  He will enjoy being able to help.

11 - Massage your vaginal walls with olive oil.  I know this sounds super weird, but have your husband do it as foreplay if you really want.  Do it for at least 5 minutes focusing on the lower vaginal wall towards your rectum.  Try to do it every day.  This is a great way to try and avoid an episiotomy or tearing.

12 - Find the hypnobirthing "birthing affirmations" and either read or listen to them every day.

13 - Find good background music to relax to.  The best relaxing music doesn't have lyrics or really any melody.  I personally recommend "Natural Music for Sleep" by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. Choose one track to put on repeat. Practice relaxing to this music. 

14 - When you get to your birth room, dim the lights, shut the door, turn on your chosen relaxing music, asked for hushed tones and then trust yourself. 

15 - Go with the flow of your body.  Don't be afraid to moan, sway, change positiongs.  Believe.  Enjoy.  Try to make your birth as peaceful and relaxing as possible. 

16 - Above all, remember this.  Your body was made to have a baby.  You can do this!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Use It Up or Throw it Out!

If you are like me, you have several craft projects started but not finished.  This leads to a lot of clutter and ultimately wasted material.  Today, I want to encourage you to start going through those crafts of yours and either finish or repurpose one of them TODAY!  It doesn't have to be hard.  Not going to finish that quilt you started 4 years ago?  Sew a few of the squares into a table runner, or better yet, what about a skirt?

I found some already-made quilt squared from what was supposed to be a "friendship quilt".  I never made the quilt.  So yesterday I took those squared and made a skirt!  Easy.  Just sew the squares together in a line.  Hem up one edge.  Sew ends together to form a circle.  Fold upper edge over to create an elastic casing.  Put in elastic, and you're done.  Of course you can make several layers for a longer skirt.  But not only did I get rid of excess materials, I got Miss J a new spring skirt out of it!  Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
**Please excuse the unmatching shirt and my exposed feet!

What about all that yarn that you were going to make a baby blanket out of?  If you aren't going to finish the blanket, consider making some children's toys out of the yarn.  The projects are smaller and thus faster!  Plus you might actually get some use out of it!
Here are some pattern links to get you started

What about all that excess fabric?  Try one of these cute (and free) toy sewing patterns.  There are plenty more if you just google "free fabric toy patterns".  These toys are only made cuter by using unique colors and fabric patterns.

So have at it!  W