Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Be Honest, Parenting is Tough

Parenting.  This seems to be such a hot topic these days.  You can read countless books on different parenting styles, magazine articles making promises that doing "x" will change your life, and countless blog posts that make one think about and evaluate your parenting philosophy.  I love to read and have spent many hours soaking up information from all of these categories.  It wasn't until recently, however, that I switched from reading parenting books and advice written by "professionals" about research and theories to material written by the true professionals:  moms.  Real-life moms.  And better yet?  These books are written by moms with strong faith that have led me to an entirely new view of parenting.  

If you're like me, after reading a book by the "professionals," whether it be on sleep, discipline, or eating, you're left with the hope of changing things, but in the end feel a bit empty or guilty because it was not a success.  Perhaps you're left questioning yourself or even convinced that you're just not cut out for this.  In my experience, all of those books didn't quite work for our family, so throughout the years we've just rolled with it and come up with our own philosophy on all of these topics.  Our kids have been horrible sleepers, but we stick to early bedtimes and attempt a nap/rest time each day.  Our kids have their good and bad moments, so we use time-out, positive reinforcement, and praise to try to shape their behavior.  As for eating, between reflux, sensory problems, and just plain pickiness, we've done our best to provide them with nutritious food and offered a variety of choices.  Sounds pretty plain and simple, right?  Does it coincide with what the "professionals" suggest?  Probably not.  Do people try to impress what has worked for them upon us to "help?"  Yes.  Has it been a challenge?  For sure!  But, such is the life of parenting young children.

Recently there has been a shift in the way I think about and view my parenting.  When I finish reading a book, I feel encouraged.  Rejuvenated.  Hopeful.  I understand that I'm not alone and that parents of young children struggle.  There is no magic "fix."  It has made me think about my choices more, reflect on what I'd like to change, and pray for the strength and guidance to do so.  Tough questions have been asked and I've thoughtfully answered them.  Why?  Because our children are special gifts and it is our job to nurture them, encourage them, and guide them to the best of our ability.  I know I will make mistakes along the way, but I am trying each day to make small changes and embrace the wonderful and the challenging moments.  I'm trying to lower my voice, slow my temper, and focus on the positive.  It's definitely a work in progress and some days are better than others.  Ultimately, though, I'm confident that I'll be able to do this.  I'm ready for a change and to escape this cloud that has hung over me for more time than I'd like to admit.

Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson focus on the importance of connection and support for a mother (I believe it would be true for fathers, too).  One of the most important "ugly truths" about parenting, especially staying at home with the kids, is that it can feel so terribly isolating.  Sometimes I think we feel ashamed that we feel this way, but it's true.  I'm sure many can attest to it.  We crave connection and interaction with people taller than four feet.  It is an area in our lives, since moving, that we still struggle with with.  One of my priorities is to connect with other moms more.  It would be nice to do play dates, mom's night out, or a book study on a regular basis.  Gathering with other couples or a night out alone with my husband have also made the priority list.  Life can't just revolve around the adorable little children.  In addition, I feel strongly that our church should have a mother's of young children group so that the moms can connect, have a support system and the families can build a strong community.  Along with another friend, we hope to achieve that goal soon.  I love Clarkson's advice that in this day and age of busy, it is best not to wait for invitations from others, but take the initiative to make these connections and create these opportunities ourselves.  Speaking from experience, I could not agree more.

So, what sparked this post?  What have I read lately that has given me encouragement and hope?  Two books:  Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst and Desperate, Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.  If you feel like you could use some encouragement or need a little pick-me-up, I can't recommend them enough!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter Words: Organize and Prioritize

January is always a time where one feels rejuvenated, hopeful, full of ambition, and set on making and achieving goals.  At least this is how I tend to begin each new year.  Some days, weeks, months, or years are more successful than others.  A lot seems to depend on the ages of my kids, the amount of sleep I'm getting, and just my overall mood.  This year I have set goals that I feel are attainable and will improve life, both for myself and our family, but I just need to focus.  I need to organize and prioritize:  my time, my house, and my life in general.

Lately I've felt this sense of disorganization, both in my physical environment and in my physical self.  I look around my house and I just see a mess:  things don't have a place to go, toys are everywhere, my kitchen table is piled with school papers and mail, and no matter how often I clean up, it just happens again.  I fully understand that I have young kids and my house is not going to be pristine, but is it too much to ask to just have the basics put away?  I'm talking about the clutter.  I've come to realize that when my physical environment is messy and chaotic, so is my physical self.  This is why I am making it my goal to spend the next two months of winter organizing my home.  Closets will be cleaned out, things will have places to go, and children will be expected to clean up after themselves or what's left out will be held in "toy prison."  Sounds harsh, but there are lessons to be learned in responsibility that I just can't pass up.

As a self-proclaimed "Type A" person, I like to feel in control.  I like to be organized.  I like to have a plan.  Right now none of that is happening.  I am doing my best to give up on some of the control:  "imperfect progress," but the planning and organization are possible if I just take some time to prioritize my life.  My family will always come first.  I love my outside commitments, but I have to be able to balance them and our home life.  It's tough to do!

I have so many projects I want to complete around the house, so over the weekend my husband and I made a list and we will begin tackling these over the next few months.  I have some DIY projects that are half completed and also have some to begin.  Completing these will help in my goal to organize and hopefully restore a sense of order to our home.  If only time was unlimited!  There wouldn't be a problem then.  My goal is to start with the areas I see the most:  the family room, kitchen, and bedrooms.  Once those are complete, I'll work my way into those areas that aren't so visible.  Prioritize!

I am also planning to refocus on myself a bit.  It's time to get back into a fitness routine, "schedule" some mommy time, write, and read.  I know those four changes will make a huge impact in my overall self.  It's so hard to go, go, go, especially when it doesn't include taking care of yourself.  Sound selfish?  It's really not.  Serving others is a wonderful thing, but taking care of oneself is important.  Mothers unselfishly serve day in and day out.  It's okay to take a break and do something for ourselves!  Prioritize!

As for my outside commitments, this is the area that I really need to prioritize.  Starting a business is time-consuming and that is my focus right now.  All of these baby steps and planning will hopefully turn into a life-changing opportunity for us all.  I am so incredibly excited to be on this journey and can't wait until we are officially licensed by the state and ready to go.  I think it's going to be wonderful for our family and our community.  From Cover to Cover is also near and dear to my heart.  We are moving forward and planning to serve more children in a few months.  With these two big projects on my plate, I am adopting the motto of "no is the new yes."  I just can't take on much more at this time and take care of my family, too  While I feel like my strength is to lead and organize groups, this time I'm going to step back and say no to any more outside commitments that require a lot of my time.  It will be hard to do, but necessary!

I think I have a plan and it sounds like a productive two months will lie ahead.  I just pray I will be able to follow through this time.  What areas of your life do you need to organize and prioritize?  I'd love to hear your struggles and your plan!  



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Dinner Recipe: Goulash

Frequently when I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed I see photos of food shared by other friends.  Most times they are for desserts that look sinfully delicious, but occasionally I'll see one that looks promising for a new dinner idea.  This recipe for Goulash surfaced a few weeks ago, I pinned it, and decided to give it a try last night.  It was delicious (though I made a few adjustments) and will be added to our dinner rotation.  It was great for a cold, wintry night!

adapted from Paula Deen's Goulash

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1/2 t. garlic (from jar)
3 cups water
2 cans (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used petite)
2 cans (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 T. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. garlic powder
few shakes of salt
few shakes of pepper
2 c. elbow macaroni

Brown ground beef and drain.  Add to large pot, add garlic, and cook for a bit longer.  Add remaining ingredients except for macaroni noodles.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add macaroni and simmer 20 minutes longer (will thicken during this time).  Serve with warm breadsticks.

Cooking away

The finished product!