Friday, 27 December 2013

New Year, New Attitude

Ladies, it's been a long time since I've blogged. I'd like to claim the reason is simply that I've been struggling with ill health with my pregnancy, and I have a toddler and it's Christmas. But the truth is, I've also been struggling with ill health of the soul.

So, I am committing myself to a New Year's Resolution. This is something I usually steer clear of, as I know that after a week my best plans fall by the wayside. I started writing a list of things I'd like to change/improve in my life, and before I knew it the list had hit 17 and I still had plenty ideas.

People, I'm having a baby in a month. This pregnancy is leaving me sick and very tired, my frog can't sit for more than 5 minutes and I have to finish my studies in a month. This is not the time for me to change my life.

Instead, it is time for me to change my attitude. If I focused on the positive more often, my day could look like this:

• How am I possibly going to cope when frog #2 arrives =
I can't wait to hold that baby in my arms

• Frog #1 is still awake, all I want to do is watch TV for a while = I'm glad for this last month to shower him with my attention before it's split

• I'm so tired and just want this baby to come = I am so blessed this baby is healthy and I don't have to deal with the heartache of a premature baby

• I wish my husband wasn't working late = I am glad for a husband who works so hard for our family

I'm not saying these changes in attitude are always easy - sometimes they're downright hard. But I think this is exactly what I need right now. Not a new cleaning rotation, not a new sleep routine, not even more 'me' time. What I need is a change of attitude.

So, follow me in January as I attempt to keep things upbeat and positive. To do this I'm going to attempt to do a daily thankfulness post, and would love if you did it with me. I'm going to do it via my Facebook page. I'm giving plenty of notice so you can think about your items and add it in the comments section. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Friday, 29 November 2013

I will get there



   
 
Recently I was at a family event with my sister (who has 4 kids 5 and under), and I realised that I'd forgotten something in the frog's nappy bag. I often do that - I'm constantly forgetting a bib, some snacks or a change of clothes. My sister on the other hand always has these things on hand (thankfully for me). My brother-in-law told me to wait until we had four. My sister said that I didn't have to wait that long - that after the next one comes I'll be better at remembering.

I've thought a lot about this encounter since then. See, my sister is one of those people who keeps everything together and running without the need for laminated routines and schedules. She doesn't have whiteboards and blackboards and a family binder. In other words, she organises her family in a different way than I do. Her approach is more laid-back and less obsessive than mine. But everything gets done, and here's the clincher - it gets done more in her house than in mine. In her house where there's a slightly over-emotional 5 year-old, a clingy 4 year-old and nursing, dependant, only-mommy-will-do 1 year-old twins. Her kids are always well turned out for school with packed lunches, she hoovers more in a week than I do in a month and she constantly reads parenting advice. (If it's not clear by now, she's my Supermom).

So, what am I getting at here? This isn't actually a post about sibling rivalry or Supermom comparisons. That situation I described initially made me realise something, and that is that I will get there. The idea of having two kids under 2 scares me, and I wonder if I'll cope. The thought of having 4 kids under 5, or twins, scares me even more! But what my sister teaches me every day is that parenting is something you develop at - you get better all the time. I'm constantly learning about patience. I'm learning how to be a better cook for a progressively-picky toddler. I'm learning when something is really wrong with him, and when he's trying his luck. I know with the next one I'll be a calmer, more laid-back mother. I will get there - I will develop into the mother I want to be.

My sister and I are very different people and run our households differently. But if she has taught me anything it's that with each passing year and each passing child, I will get there. Every time I whisper instead of shout, I am getting there. Everytime I put the TV off so I can play with the frog, I'm getting there. I won't do it the same as she does and I know my children will be different from hers (especially as our husbands are very different people). But I now have confidence that soon I will pack the nappy bag better. And just that thought gives me the courage to have this next baby.

In what way do you want to progress as a mother? How can you see yourself developing? How will you get there?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

"At least I'm not like her" Moms


 
We all have our Supermoms – those woman we look up to and admire, as well as envy and compare ourselves with. I think we can agree that the former are good things that may help us become better mothers, the latter break down our confidence and destroy our self esteem. But what about when we do the opposite? What happens when we compare ourselves with our "at least I’m not like her" moms?

I’m sure we’ve all done it – I know it’s something I’m especially guilty of. I watch a show, be it Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, One Born Every Minute or (gulp…) Honey Boo Boo. After watching I feel a small glow of smugness, because I KNOW I’m a better mother than they are. I won’t allow my (theoretical) girls to dress provocatively, I had my children at a good age with a husband, I’ll emphasise education and teach them good manners. I get a break from my mommy-guilt because I’ve seen the others side – the ‘bad’ mothers.

And don’t just think I wait for an extreme show to do it (and I understand those are). As much as I’m a lot more understanding since having children, I still judge the mother who’s smoking while pushing a pram, the grossly overweight one with a child heading the same way or the one that's yelling at her child for being a child. And while I’m judging them, I’m congratulating myself for being such a wonderful, health-driven, calm (insert adjective here) mother.

So, why am I making these confessions (and maybe changing your opinion of me?!). Because I reckon I’m not the only one. Having the moral high ground is something I think most people enjoy, but when it comes to mothering I wonder if it can do even more harm than our Supermom comparisons. Here’s why:

#1. It sets my standards too low
Some women are unfit to be parents – that is a harsh thing to say but something I believe. But those people – paedophiles and abusers – are those the people I want to compare myself to? Not abusing my child does not mean I’m a good mother, it means I haven’t had the background that has pushed me to that kind of desperation. I want to be a good mother by God’s standards, not by the worlds. And finding the lowest denominator of mother and comparing myself to her will not improve my mothering skills, it will lower them.

#2. I’ve probably been an "at least I’m not like her" mom
I am sure that at some time in my short life of mothering, another mom has looked at me and thought ‘I’m a better mother than her’. Maybe it was that time I lost it in ASDA and yelled at the frog, or when I hoisted him by his arm and marched him to the car. It could even be the day-by-day way I raise my frog – I’m sure some people worry that I’m brain-washing my child with all this ‘religion’, or that I’m not strict enough and he could do with a good wallop. If I’m judging other mothers, surely they’re doing the same to me?

#3. It stops me encouraging other mothers
If I’m too busy thinking that I’m better than another mother, I’m certainly not going to be encouraging her. I know how much it would mean to me when the frog’s throwing a tantrum if someone came up to me and told me I was doing a good job and to hang in there. Or if someone told me that they’ve been watching the way I do things and they’re impressed with my patience (oh how I’d love someone to think that!). Instead of judging these women, I should be encouraging them.

The truth is, I like being able to say I'm doing a better job than someone else. I liked getting better grades than my classmates (which made me popular, I can tell you), I liked being the 'good' one who avoided worldly influences (well, tried to...). But mothering shouldn't be another one of those things I try to 'win' at. There shouldn't be winner and losers in mothering - there should be a group of women, trying to do better and encouraging each other to do the same. Does it mean I'll stop judging other mothers (or stop watching those shows)? Maybe not entirely. But it does mean that I'm going to try to raise my standards and encourage other women, while always remembering that there are many things I could be judged on as a mother.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Toy rotation


I've found for a while now that the frog only plays with a few choice toys, often the ones that end up on top of his toy chest. We are so blessed with his selection of toys, but he was getting bored with the few he always played with. So taking a suggestion from Organising with Littles, I decided to start a toy rotation. To do this I got 5 boxes that would fit into our toy chest, and then separated out the frog's toys. Into each box I tried to put a vehicle of sorts, a soft toy, something electronic and then a 'main' toy. The toys too big to fit into boxes have gone into a large 'alternate toys' box, and I've left his blocks and books out at all times (I don't want to restrict his access to either). I also have a toy returns box, for those toys that didn't quite make it into the right box.

I've noticed such a difference in the few weeks we've been doing this. At the beginning of the day I get a box out and show him what's in there (I've found this to be really important to get him interested). He will then quite happily play with those toys he hasn't looked at in months. I try to keep the same box going for a few days, and then switch over. He's getting bored much slower now, and a happy consequence is my living room is considerably tidier!

What our toy chest looked liked before...



Sunday, 13 October 2013

My parenting technique

(it's not to lock him away, although I've been tempted!)
I've been thinking a lot recently about my parenting technique. I guess you could call it attachment grace-based parenting, plus spiritual training and gentle parenting mixed in. But here's the thing fellow Mamas - I don't want to label my parenting technique as anything other than 'what works best for my family'. Some of these techniques are great and I use a lot of suggestions from them, but I think what is most important is that I pick and choose the parts that are right for my family. For example, here are the bits we've chosen that work for the frog:
  • We don't spank and try not to yell
  • We do say no, but try to leave it for when he's about to do something dangerous/damaging. Instead we try to offer choices and explanations.
  • We believe that continuous training is more important than punishment
  • We don't ignore the frog as a punishment, nor do we isolate him
  • We believe that comforting and calming are what toddlers need when they're throwing a tantrum
    We want our children to express their emotions, but we expect them (as much as they're able) to do that in a respectful way
    We think that manners should be a priority lesson, even with the youngest children.
I've been on an attachment group before where someone asked a question and instead of giving loving advice, the other participants jumped on the mother's technique, saying it was not attachment parenting. They were so concerned with her following the 'rules', they didn't even hear her struggles.

Like I said, some of these techniques are great, some (quite simply) are not. Here's why I am cautious about following only one technique:
  1. It might not allow for a child's temperament /personality - the same strategy will not work for for every child.
  2. It might suggest that one punishment/correction fits every infarction your child makes - I worry about how can a child learn a sense a justice when they are punished the same way for throwing food and biting another child.
  3. Most importantly, it might make you feel like you can't follow your own intuition because what you think is right isn't listed as 'approved' by this particular technique.
Some of the techniques I've read promise to change your child - that you will have an angel by Friday. Well you know what? I don't want anyone to change my child. God made him, flaws and all, and I want him the way he is. Sure I'd love if he was a better sleeper, if he didn't have his health struggles or if could sit for longer than a minute. But he was gifted to my husband and I so we can train him in the way he should go, not the way someone who has never met him thinks he should be.

Parenting styles and techniques can offer advice and suggestions when you just don't know what to do. Some follow the most recent scientific findings about child development, and have come a long way from "beat it out of them" or " treat them like little adults". So, if they help you and you agree with what they say, I say go ahead and use them. But if something just doesn't feel right about how it's advising you to raise your child, it probably isn't.

Don't forget your God-given ability to raise YOUR child. That ability wasn't given to your mother or mother-in-law, your preacher and certainly not a stranger. It was gifted to you. As I've spoken about before, this doesn't for a minute mean we always know what do to! It just means that when we quiet all the voices around us (both helpful and unhelpful), that is when we'll hear the prompting of the Spirit guiding us as to how to raise our children.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A day in the life: A toddler and expecting (i.e. me!)



I'm wanting to do a 'day in the life' series, after seeing it on another blog and thinking it was a really good idea. Basically my plan is to get mothers from families different from mine to write about what they do in a day. It made sense to start with mine, so here it is (in all it's pretty dull detail!). The frog and I have started a new routine, so I'm attempting to get certain things into our day. See how I succeed (or don't!) on a normal monday.

0840 Mr K. late for work as he's slept in. Usually the frog acts as an alarm clock so we're all running behind today. I get the boy up and downstairs for some TV time while I wait for my sickness to pass.

0930 Get the frog some breakfast - oatmeal and frozen berries. It's shopping day so there's an embarrassing lack of anything in the house

1000 Brush teeth, make beds and upstairs pick up. Load of laundry.

1015 Playtime. I catch up on Masterchef while the frog plays, trying to get rid of residual nausea.

1045 Song time. We get half-way through 'happy and you know it' when the boy gets bored.

1046 Blanket time. I'll do a post about this soon, but it is going well.

1047 Learning time. We read some books, play with his cups while doing numbers, colours and Afrikaans. Animal sounds are thrown in there somewhere.

1100 (Has all that only taken up 15 minutes!) Another playtime while I, yet again, sit on the couch with the TV. Sickness is struggling to pass today.

1130 This is usually snack-time but again, no food in the house (stale Cheerios offer a tide-over. Talk about bad mama moment). Frog is showing definite signs of being tired so I take him upstairs, book, song, prayer and bed.

1230 Let me be clear - bed does not mean sleep. I go in every 5 minutes to check on the boy, who is desperately tired but can't give it up. Some of the time he is screaming murder, some of the time just singing to himself. In between rushes to his room I finish off an essay and do some blogging.

1300 Frog finally asleep. I have lunch and a cup of tea, which curbs the sickness. I then do my weekly schedule, which includes updating my diary and calendar, writing my meal and shopping list, character quality and completing my weekly family binder. Quick clean of the kitchen and another rest on the couch.

1500 The frog is up - it's been a long and very welcome nap. He has lunch (last piece of bread and cheese spread) and we read the character quality for this week. I speak to my mam on the phone and put that laundry in the tumble dryer. The frog and I have some cuddle time on the sofa with a bottle of milk - I love those moments.

1700 We play for a few hours, watch some TV and have some outside time (by that I mean he plays on the patio, his sleepsuit tucked into his little shoes while I sit on the step). Tantrum when I get him back inside. We both get dressed (did I mention I'm still in my loungers at this point too?) and wait for Mr K to come home.

1745 I make the mistake of telling the frog that Papa will be home soon - cue running to the window and then having a meltdown when he's not there. 15 minutes of crying and flaying arms when I try to comfort him (there's even a bite thrown in for good measure - sometimes 'papa's boy' is much less charming than it sounds).

1800 Mr K gets home and we all go grocery shopping. Usually I do this in the day but I'm struggling to push the trolley at the moment and it was going to be a bigger shop than normal.

1845 Shopping done - armed with a shopping list, a helpful husband and content toddler it went very smoothly. We put away the shopping and start dinner.

1945 We eat mac and cheese with tomato, pancetta and breadcrumbs - a new and pretty successful recipe - clean plates all around, hubby and I talk briefly about our days.

2010 The frog has his bath and goes to bed (it's a late night for him and we're hoping for a quick-to-sleep).

2040 Nope. And the back-and-forth to his room begins, complete with two full-blown breath holding incidents (he's mostly grown out of them but when he gets especially upset he holds his breath until he passes out. Unfortunately for us that passing out didn't lead to sleep!).

2250 Sleeping. Oh so finally, sleeping. It was an especially long bedtime tonight - usually it takes about half that time. Husband and I watch Star Wars in bed (something I should have mentioned: we're geeks. There's no two way about it).

2305 Asleep myself.

Was this an average day? I guess it was. 6 out of my 8 daily chores done, week set up nicely with the weekly schedule complete. I watched too much TV, but on these sick days I'm willing to let it slide. Plus I know we're out all day tomorrow, so it'll even out.

Good day? Actually it mostly was - difficult evening but I got plenty sleep the night before and was in a pretty positive mood, as was the frog. We played and got some housework done, and had a little family time in the evening, even if it was in Asda.

Exciting day? No. But if there's one thing I'm learning it's that not every day as a mother is going to be exciting. Laundry has to be done, toddlers fight sleep and the groceries have to be put away. None of that is particularly exciting, and some of it can be downright boring (and difficult). In fact the best advice I've heard recently is that not all of motherhood has to be enjoyable - that doesn't mean you're doing something wrong, or even that you've got a bad attitude. It just means that not all of it is pleasant, as we all well know.

So, I want to hear about your average day. Coming next in the series is a post I'm really excited about, written by my very own sister (the likely housewife) -  A Day in the Life: 5, 4 and twin 1 year-olds. If you'd like to be the following Day in the Life guest blogger, please get in touch. No day is too dull or too 'normal' - I want to hear about your normal.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Character Qualities


I got these character qualities from the Duggars. Yes: those weird, ultra-conservative, prairie-dress wearing, 19-kid, all names starting with a J family. No matter what you think of them, I think their ideas are great and love the focus they have on their kids. I enjoy their show, try to channel Michelle in my most stressed moments and I frequently refer to their books. Does that mean I plan on having that many children, homeschool or stop watching TV? It most certainly does not. But it does mean that I'll try to implement their patient spirit into my household, and their focus on faith. One way I'm doing that is by incorporating the character qualities they use.

Every week I aim to write our character quality on our board, mention it to the frog every lunch and bible time, and focus on it. Well recently that's just not been happening. Not just the character quality, but the bible time (and sometimes even talking to him while he's eating - that kitchen doesn't clean itself!).

When I constantly find myself not getting around to something, I like to ask myself if it's because that something needs changed. Maybe it's unnecessary, or it's just something that doesn't suit our family. Well this isn't one of those things. I love these character qualities - they give me such a good weekly focus, and often seem to be exactly what I need to hear that week. My especially tired week corresponds to the patience quality, or my selfish moments with the generous quality. So I'm re-committing to doing this every week - even if I miss a week I'm going to pick it up the next week.

I'm not going to do a post a week about that week's quality (as at one point I had planned on doing), but I will mention it as I go along, so I thought it might be good if you all knew what I was talking about!

Do you have something you try to focus on each week/month? How do you make it a priority in your household?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Family Binder

This (along with the command centre) has taken up a lot of my time recently. Yes, probably a bit too much time that could have been spent on course or house-work (procrastination, anyone?). I got the idea from a few of the blogs I read, and it seemed like such a good idea to have all the lists and information I might need together in one place.

I've included a picture of my header and index pages. For confidentiality I've blocked out any names, but you get the general idea. I've found it really helpful, for instance, to have everything I need for meal planning in one place. Is it a little OTT? Yes, probably. But I find that I am much calmer when I have a list to fill in or a place to refer to, so it works for me.
 
A couple are just for me - the sweet lists are nice/sweet things my husband and frog do which I'd like to remember. The toddler activities is a reference for those days when I can't think of a thing to do with the frog (any addition suggestions most appreciated!). I think everything else is pretty self-explanatory.
 
If anyone would like a pdf of the template for any of these, please get in touch. They took me a while to format (not my favourite things to do!) but I think I've got them looking pretty good. Would be great if someone else could benefit from any the way I have!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Command centre


My next project was setting up my home 'command centre'. I've seen these quite a lot on Pinterest and thought they looked like a good idea. For mine I got a foam board (Hobbycraft £5), a wall file (Ikea £15) a wall hanger (Fintorp range Ikea, £24) and our family calendar. When I put it all together like that it sounds like quite a lot of money actually! I've already gotten a lot of use out of it so I think it'll be worth it.

In the wall file is my family binder, diary, address book and maternity notes. I'm also going to put the frog's colouring books here - in the pots are some art supplies for him (i.e. pens and crayons, we haven't advanced any further than that!). I'm hoping to 'prettify' at some point, but that's definitely my weakest area! I've found it really helpful having everything I need in one place - it sits above my kitchen table so I can take the stuff out and work on it while the frog is eating or drawing.

Do you have a central area in your house to keep everything together - what do you find most useful?

Monday, 30 September 2013

Surviving morning sicknes



Of all the subjects I've written about since starting this blog - cleaning, cooking, organising - this is one I feel I am qualified to give suggestions on. During my pregnancy with the frog I had hyperemesis, which is extreme morning sickness. I was sick on average every hour, for almost the entire 10 months I was pregnant, leading to my being hospitalised twice. From getting pregnant to giving birth I lost 2 stone in weight (as opposed to the 2 stone you're meant to be putting on). Following the frog's birth I lost a following 3 stone (thanks to breastfeeding and not having an 8lb baby inside me anymore!). This pregnancy has been a lot better and I'm very grateful, but I'm still sick most days. So all that to say, I know what I'm talking about. Here are my top tips:

#1. Don't assume it'll end
For 9 months I had everyone - friends, family, midwives and doctors (even people on the street!) telling me not to worry, that it'll go away at 12 week, 16 week, 20 week... no luck. I was sick until an hour after I had given birth (that came as a shock I can tell you). I spent the whole pregnancy wondering why I wasn't feeling better, thinking maybe I was just being a wimp and wanting to throttle everyone who said "it'll go away soon". I started feeling more able to handle it when I assumed that it was going to last my whole pregnancy. That's what I've done this time around as well, so when I stopped being quite as sick around 16 weeks it came as a lovely surprise.

#2. Work it into your routine
I was always sick after a car journey, so I knew to park at the shops nearest the toilet. My family knew to let me get to a toilet as soon as I got anywhere. It was just something that became part of every day life - I knew I would be sick so made plans. In this pregnancy I don't make plans that involve me going out the house for at least the first few hours if I can help it.

#3. Make it as pleasant as possible for yourself
A strange thing to say, I'll grant you, but there are ways of making the experience slightly less horrific.  For me it was having a clean toilet. My amazing husband who had never cleaned a toilet before in his life started doing it a few times a week so that at least the environment was as nice as possible. Take your phone so when you're sitting there deciding if you need to be sick you can be playing a game/listening to music. Take a blanket (I often get the shivers after a lot of throwing up). When you're out, know where the nearest decent toilet is. It might not make it better but it will make it more survivable. I also didn't want people coming in and asking me if I was okay - no I was not okay and did not want to talk to anyone. I make this clear to everyone - my poor husband had to suffer lots of glares when he'd just let me get on with it, but it's what I needed.

#4. Try suggestions
I was so sick with the frog that I got to the point I wouldn't try anything, because I just thought "what's the point?". People's suggestions really annoyed me, especially when they told me to eat little and often. But sickness changes across your pregnancy, and I think some of those things might have helped later on. Ginger biscuits, watermelon, sickness bands - they're all worth a try. Eating little and often is the only thing that stops the sickness in this pregnancy. Also, don't feel too guilty about what you're eating. Of course babies need nutrients but they are amazingly adaptable. The only thing that didn't make me sick with the frog was feta cheese and pesto, so that's basically all I ate. In this pregnancy early on it was peanut butter and bananas. Just do what you can, and be sure to eat more when you feel able.

#5. My silver lining
I had a lot of anxiety during my pregnancy - I constantly worried that something was wrong with the baby. It would keep me up at night and scare me to death. It is true that sickness is a sign of a healthy pregnancy, so every time I was sick I remembered that meant the baby was okay. I can't tell you how much that helped (to the point that when I would go half a day without being sick I would panic that something was wrong). I've been considerably less anxious in this pregnancy, and I've been considerably less sick. I don't think the two are related, all I know is that I don't need that constant reassurance in this pregnancy, and I'm (thankfully) not getting it.

Morning sickness is debilitating. Often seen as a bit of a humorous side-effect, when it goes on for an extended period it's extremely difficult to live with. But live with it you will. Survive it you will. And after the baby comes, no matter how little sleep you're living on or how teary you are, hold on to the fact that at least you've stopped throwing up. It made all the difference for me in those first, difficult weeks.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Blog Link-up 2

http://smarttereachday.com/
Jessica has some great recipes, but I've most enjoyed her writings on reducing the time spent on the internet.

http://www.keeperofthehome.org/blog
This whole website is great - they have really good ideas and are not afraid to stand by their ideals, even when challenges come their way. At the moment they're doing a great 'day in the life of' series, which I'm planning on doing here. Keep a look out!

http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.co.uk/
Anyone who has typed 'organising' into pinterest will know about this site. Jen has some incredible ideas and links up with many more blogs. From organising a family binder to a morning routine, Jen has the answers.

Monday, 23 September 2013

When you just don't know



Last night was one of those terrible ones that seem to last for days and days. It was the first night of a wee break away for the three of us, and the frog had been awake since 2am, refusing to go back to sleep. I had taken over after an hour from my tired (and dare I say slightly grumpy?!) husband, and I was soon going the same way.

The thing is, I just didn't know what to do. What should I do? Attachment parenting, gentle parenting, spiritual training? What would my sister, mother or mother-in-law do (all of who's parenting techniques are very different but I respect)? What would Dr Sears or Michelle Duggar do (both of who's books I refer to frequently)?

I then started thinking, maybe I should ask myself: what would Jesus do? And you know what? I had nothing. Not a single helpful thought came into my head from asking that question. I racked my brain for a biblical verse about how to make a stubborn toddler go to sleep.

My fellow mamas - there is no such verse (to my limited knowledge). It does not go Matthew-Mark-Luke-Parenting-John. Oh how I wish there was such a such a book in the bible! How I wish there was some clear guidance that is God-breathed (and therefore, in my mind, undeniable) about all parenting-related matters. Dummies, swaddling, co-sleeping - how wonderful would it be if there was a clear answer for every such matter. I'm afraid there just isn't.

This is not me asking for advice, although I would gladly and humbly take any right now. Nor is it me giving advice - quite the opposite. It is me stating quite clearly that sometimes I just don't know what to do. And when I have 10 different parenting techniques battling inside my head, along with all the voices of well-meaning advice-givers, I don't feel prepared: I feel completely overwhelmed.

All of that advice is great if it works for you. But sometimes, it just won't. The reason for this (I firmly believe), is that no one has ever raised your child before. He is as unique as you are, and that means he'll require a unique parenting technique. God gave me my husband, we conceived the frog out of love. I bore him, gave birth to him and nursed him.* That means that I'm his expert. I know him better than anyone but God, and that to me is a truly comforting thought. So surely with God's help, I can figure him out? Maybe not tonight or in a year, but I will spend my lifetime as a mother trying.

And what will I do tonight if the same happens? I'll probably have a cry, a moan at God that He's not giving me what I want and maybe a complete meltdown about having another when the one I have doesn't sleep. Middle-of-the-night meltdowns are my speciality - please don't think you're the only one who has them (or maybe I am...?!).

What do you do when you just don't know what to do?

*Let me be clear, I know wonderful parents who have adopted, as well as Daddies who are not biologically fathers, who are the very best thing for that child. However your child came to you - whatever pathway God chose for that journey - this all very much still applies.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of those things that it seems only super organised people do. You know the ones I mean - who have breakfast, lunch and dinner (all homemade and healthy of course), prepared 3 months in advance. I'm not that person. My schedule changes week on week, and I like to decide what we'll eat based on tastes, effort the meal takes and health issues (e.g. lots of hearty stews when colds are hitting). To do this I have a wonderful resource, the Organised Mum Fridge List. Honestly they should pay me for endorsements because not only do I frequently buy it for friends and family, I tell everyone I know about it! There's a meal planner on one side and a shopping list on the other, and it stays permanently on my fridge. Anytime we're running low I just pop it on the list, knowing it won't be forgotten.
 
So on Mondays I write our weekly meal plan - to do this I have a list of the recipes I know how to cook (my Mam always said the hardest part of feeding a family is thinking of meals and she's right). I can then check our pantry and freezer to see what we need and then write my shopping list accordingly. I also have a small magnetic whiteboard on my fridge with a list of my freezer inventory - I don't know about you but I have no desire to rake through my much-needed-be-be-defrosted freezer every week. If anything on the plan needs defrosting I'll asterisk it and try to take it out the night before.
 
Anyway, that's my secret behind meal planning.  It saves so much money at the shops (we rarely throw stuff away) and time at night. It also saves us ordering takeout as much, which I really enjoy and like to keep for special occasions.
 
How does your family organise meals?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The joy of my life

Looking back on my recent posts, I've done a lot of complaining. Sickness, tiredness and being overwhelmed have all contributed, but let me tell you something - I lead a truly blessed life. So in light of that, I wanted to do a post and share with you just how wonderful the frog is, and how much joy he brings to my everyday:

• He still sleeps with his legs tucked under him, just like he did in the womb and as a newborn (thus the nickname!).
• I told him today we couldn't get the washing out the machine as the basket was upstairs. So off he toddles to his nappy basket, empties them all and brings it to me, a huge smile on his face.
• He'll always give cuddles and kisses, even without being asked.
• He's a master of escape and could climb out of his cot age 6 months.
• If anyone mentions they don't feel well, he'll bring them his blanket.
• After a small fall down the stairs yesterday (me and baby fine), he gave me a pat on the back (literally) and started picking up the laundry I'd dropped.
• If I'm not paying attention to him he'll hold my face with both hands, plant a huge kiss and then try to tell me what he wants
• He has wonderfully ticklish thighs and giggles uncontrollably.

What do your kids do that melt your heart on a daily basis?



Monday, 16 September 2013

My wonderful whiteboard


That's right, I'm about to do a whole post about the wonders of my whiteboard. I have a good-quality one (by that I mean £40, not £100!), magnetic with colourful whiteboard markers. It's in my kitchen (the centre of most houses), and on it goes my cleaning list, reminder list and frog list.

Cleaning List: I got printable magnet paper, which was a brilliant buy. I then put on my 7 chores of each day (see My daily 8 details), so I can tick off as I go along. This is mostly because I love lists and this works for me - I know some people would hate having a list like this around all the time. It just means that I can always see what needs done, especially if I only have 10 minutes. Yes sometimes I get down about all the crosses on the board, and some weeks I don't full it in at all. But mostly, I find it works really well.

Reminder List: In the middle of the board are all of my weekly reminders. They tend to be longer-term things that need doing, and often are the same ones I put up months ago. But I do find it helpful to have them somewhere I see them every day.

Frog List: This isn't an actual list, it's pictures of different activities, like singing, reading, playing etc. I don't know about you but sometimes I just don't know what to do with my frog, or (bad mama moment) I realise he's been playing by himself for the majority of the day. This would leave me feeling guilty and like a bad mother. So I have these pictures (also printed on magnet paper), and when we've done these activities we move them over. I don't aim to get all of them done in a day, they're just suggestions and a visual way to remind myself that I did do fun things with him (for my especially guilt-ridden days). I wanted to use pictures because when Noah's old enough I want to do something similar for chores, so I want him to be used to it. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Blog link-up

As well as writing this blog, I'm an avid reader of other blogs. So I've decided to sometimes post links to the blogs I've been reading and enjoyed. I haven't read all the posts of all these blogs, so I can't say I agree with everything said. I usually just enjoy their writing, respect their views and find their suggestions helpful. I've had permission from the authors to share their blogs. Just for interest, I use the blog reader Feedly on my iPhone.

http://redandhoney.com/
 - Beth is the wife of an airline pilot and mother of 3. She survives on God's grace and coffee. I enjoy her realistic approach to handling her hoard.

http://organizinglifewithlittles.wordpress.com/
 - Kelsey is a super-organised mother of two little boys. She has some great ideas about realistically organising your house when you have little ones, as well as maintaining a very strict family budget. She is also very sweet and encouraging!



Saturday, 14 September 2013

My daily 8



Each day, I attempt to get these 7 chores done, plus one alternate weekly chore. I have them noted on my wonderful whiteboard, and tick them off as I go. Now 8 chores might seem overwhelming with small children, and let me assure you it's very rare that I have all 8 ticked off in a single day. But having it on the board in this way makes it much easier to see what I haven't done in a few days. I'm also trying to adapt them so that helpful toddlers can help with each.

#1. Make the Beds
Everything seems so much more pleasant with nicely made beds. Don't get me wrong - I don't have 15 pillows and a throw for each bed - it's what we slept with and an additional blanket. But a great way to start the day.
Frog tip: we have a song we sing while making the beds. I also get him to 'make' his bed, by putting his blanket at one end and his cuddly toy at the other.

#2. Sweep and Hoover
My least done (and most disliked) chore. I just aim to hoover the living room and sweep the kitchen, but I only seem to do it every few days. This is one of those chores I should absolutely do every day, as the frog plays on the floor and a lot of food ends up there. It's pretty gross, there's not doubt. So I'm trying to at least sweep under his highchair after each meal (this was implemented after a fly incident in my house, which involved a lot of obsessive bleach-filled cleaning on my part - so much for natural).
Frog tip: their own little broom!

#3 Pick-ups
I've previously done a post on pick-ups - they really have revolutionised how clean my house stays.
Frog tip: I ask him to pick up tissues, put clothes in the laundry etc; all things that get more and more helpful as my tummy expands!

#4. Laundry
A full load of laundry, or putting clothes away from the day before and putting a new load on. But a few days can go by and wet laundry remains in the washing machine, or dry in the tumble dryer. My tumble dryer has an iron cycle and as long as you take them out as soon as it's finished, even shirts often don't need ironing. Does that make me do it straight away? Nope. A note on the ironing - I don't do it. It fills me with guilt to watch my husband leave for work in a crinkled shirt, but I still don't do it. Any tips for ironing those woeful shirts I'll receive especially gratefully!
Frog tip: little hands are great for hauling clothes in/out the washing machine/tumble dryer. They especially love pushing the buttons - the challenge comes to get them to stop!

#5. Dishwasher
This is the one chore I'm quite good at, mostly because having dirty dishes everywhere is a source of huge discouragement to me. And I do understand this people - I have a DISHWASHER; there should not be any complaints in my house about dirty dishes. Especially as I put everything in there, even those things that I shouldn't (so basically I haven't filled my sink in a month). Along with the dishwasher should come wiping down the sides, but that's not always a daily occurrence. My best tip is to unload it first thing in the morning so you can put all the dishes of the day in as you go along, and then put it on at night.
Frog tip: this one is a challenge.,what with all the dangerous/breakable things that end up in the dishwasher. I try to let the frog help, but with a lot of supervision.

#6. Dinner
I only get a tick if it's something I've made, not something I've bunged in the oven (so pizza doesn't count).
Frog tip: I must say, this is the one area I don't let the frog help at all. If Mr. K doesn't work late he gets in and takes over so I can cook in peace. It's a time for myself I enjoy and would like to continue (although I do appreciate the importance of teaching kids to cook).

#7 Schedule
I try to do this just before bedtime to help me the following day. I look at my diary to remind myself of anything I'm doing and prepare accordingly. That usually means packing the frog's nappy bag and preparing his snacks (by that I mean putting store-bought breadsticks in a tupperware container, not baking them myself - what do you think I am?!). I also check the meal schedule so I know if I need to take anything out of the freezer - this one is a real life-saver.

#8. Weekly Chore
Some days I get 3 or 4 of these done, some days none (some weeks none!).
a) Weekly Schedule: I write the meal planner and shopping list, do the shopping and put it away, coordinate my schedule with my diary, calendar and whiteboard. Unless there's something important on, this is always done on the Monday to set my week up right.
b) Dusting: usually reserved for when we have visitors, I'm not going to lie.
c) Hoover on/upstairs: a job mostly reserved for Mr. K.
d) Clean hob/sink
e) Correspondents: just taking some time to catch up on emails, especially to family abroad
f) Act of Kindness: this is something I try to encourage to frog to help me with, be it making the neighbour cookies (okay, I've done that once and burnt them. Thought that counts?), sending a thoughtful card or offering my time (babysitting etc.). I want it to be a big focus of our week, and is something I need to work harder at achieving.

What chores do you find you have to do daily? Any you avoid like the plague?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Why do I blog?

I've been thinking a lot recently about why I do this blog. Let's start right off by saying this - it's not because I think I have all the answers, it's because I'd like to find some! I have commonly-held dreams of writing that book one day, and want to keep up writing practice. I want to connect with other Christian mamas, share ideas and challenges. And yes, I have a lot to say and like this outlet!

I've been surprised since starting the blog the people who tell me they read it. When I started I didn't think anyone but my constantly-supportive sister would strive to be interested. I've since heard that a dear friend who is travelling the world took time, with shoddy Internet connection, to read my blog whilst between China and Singapore. My ever-helpful house-less housewife, despite not holding any religious affiliations, frequently encourages me about my recent posts. And my sweet cousins from New Zealand, not yet old enough to run their own households, always have lovely comments to make.

What I'm saying is that you never know who is watching. I don't know who reads this blog (but I would love to - please comment!), but it warms my heart to know the people I love, no matter their stage in life, take the time to read about mine.

So, to those I know, thank you for taking the time to read my blog - I would love to hear from you. And if there's anyone out there who is reading who I don't know, I would like to get to know you. If you have a blog of your own I want to read it - please post a link. God offers us so many opportunities to connect to others, and I'm excited that this is becoming one such method!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Why I try not to nag



Do I need a better reason that that? If it's better for my husband to live on our roof than with me when I'm nagging, there's no doubt in my mind nagging is bad. We live in Scotland people - it's cold. I took this on as a personal conviction early in our marriage, and really make an effort to follow it. My husband is a busy man - he works very hard at his job, has plenty responsibilities at church and of course has a pregnant wife and toddler to look after. So understandably, things fall through the cracks. Below are my tips for encouraging your husband when these things happen.

#1. Does he need to do it?
If I was reading this blog, this is the tip I would resent most of all. Fellow mamas, we work hard. We go from sun-up to sun-down and beyond - we clean, we cook, we nurture, we train. Here's something I often forget though - so does my husband. And even more than that, he gets home from work and gets handed a tantrum-throwing toddler because I just need 30 minutes to myself. When does he get his 30 minutes?
Now there are some jobs in my house that are without a doubt my Mr K's (number one job would be taking out the rubbish). I need him to do those things, but what about the other little things? What about one-off things that really, I can do myself? These are especially true when they're things I'm better at. I'd like him to arrange a date and all that goes along with it, but I know I'm better at coordinating schedules, communicating with babysitters and arranging the details, so I should do it. What goes along with this is letting little things go. I've asked him to put dirty laundry in the right basket, and he does almost every time. So why would it help that one-off time for me to nag him about it? It wouldn't, and it would belittle the efforts he had been making up until that point. Let it go and do it for him.

#2. Find HIS way to remind him
When things are forgotten about in house, I know it's exactly that - they're simply forgotten about. It's not a ploy to get out of things and have a lazy night, it's too much to remember. Now I remember things by writing them down - my wonderful whiteboard runs my schedule, along with my diary. I've tried to use these methods to encourage my husband to remember, but that's just not his way. However I've learned that if I send him an email at work, he'll put it right into his work diary and will be reminded of it later. It's not my place to tell him how he should remember things, but to help him in the way that actually aids him the most.

#3. Gentle encouragement
I try to always ask Mr K to do things in a nice way. How much nicer is it to hear "Honey would you mind taking the bins out tonight?" than "as I've already told you, take the bins out". If I need to ask him a second time to do something, I'll always start with "just a gentle reminder...". And it should be noted that when I forget to do things (a frequent occurrence), he reminds me gently as well - in fact it's from him that I learned this.

#4. Tell him what you need
I have a habit of getting more and more upset about something (that Mr K inevitably doesn't even know I'm upset about), until I boil over and yell. Although I feel better that I've gotten my frustration out, when I've calmed down I feel worse and I know he does too. It really is true that husbands are not mind-readers. They don't notice things in the same obsessive way we do (or at least I know I do). So, come up with a plan WITH him. Sit down, tell him the areas you're struggling with. A recent example was the desperate need for sleep when I became pregnant with frog #2. Instead of nagging at him about how tired I was and (quietly) resenting how much sleep he was getting, I told him I needed more help (which he gave without complaint). It saved us a lot of potential issues.


Our husbands are not our children, and we are not in charge of them. Yes they should do the things they say they'll do, but we are not their parents whose job it is to punish and reward. We are their wives, whose job it is to encourage. We are called to "do him good, and not harm, all the days of (our) life" (Proverbs 31). We are called to submit to and respect our husbands (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:33). I want my husband to have full confidence in me, I want him to call me blessed; and praise me (Proverbs 31). And one way I have chosen to do those things is by not nagging him.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Positive parenting





The last few weeks I've found it difficult to do anything positively. My frog has been especially trying; not listening the way he usually does and throwing some impressive tantrums. My husband's work has been challenging and keeping him away from home more often (and taking his attention when he's home). To top it all I'm still feeling the sickness and tiredness that comes along with pregnancy, as well as the crippling insecurity that visits me during my pregnancies.

So, after hearing me moan you may wonder if I'll get onto this 'positive parenting'. I think it's times like this that we need positive parenting the most! Now I know that 'positive parenting' is an actual named 'method', upon which multiple books have been written and forums created (see here for why I'm not on them!). This is my version of positive parenting - I'm not following anything other than trying to approach being a mama positively. The suggestions I'm going to give come directly from the mistakes I've made in the last few weeks.

#1. Outward signs of inward frustration
You know the ones I'm talking about - the sigh when frustration is building, the door closed a little to hard after a disagreement with your husband, the cleaning done unnecessarily vigorously after a spill. These are all things other people pick up on, but I'm more concerned about what it's doing to my attitude - which is maintaining a bad one.

I notice this most at nights - my son isn't sleeping well and when it's my turn every time I hear that cry from next door I heave a deep sigh and trundle to the frog's room. This encourages me to think that he's doing it on purpose; not that he needs me but that he's trying to bother me. My husband on the other hand (who gets up more than me) goes in without a sigh, and seems to maintain a good attitude a lot longer than I do. Clearly this is an area I need to learn from him.

#2. Assigning adult feelings to our children
At night my son is not trying to keep me awake, he simply does not want to sleep. When he throws food he's not doing it to give me more cleaning, it's just his sign that he's finished. And when he cries to get what he wants it's not manipulation - it's communication. When we start speaking about establishing dominance in the house I get worried: we're raised people here, not dogs.

Should I let my son get his way and be in charge? No of course I shouldn't. I should be training my child in the way he should go. And how I should do this, I still don't know. But what I do know is that my son is not capable of coercion, manipulation or cruelty. I do not believe that children are born with these impulses. I know they are self-centred, but that is not the same as selfish. I feel that when we assign these names to our children we are creating a barrier between their innocent selves and an unconditional parental relationship. In short, we view them negatively.

#3. Accidents as opportunities
I've mentioned before how much my toddler like to help around the house. Because of that I'm trying to create opportunities out of accidental spills (as well as the more intentional ones).  These aren't punishments; they're showing him that actions have consequences. But what I've noticed recently is that unless I sound really upbeat and make it sound like it's going to be fun, he doesn't want to help. Why? Well why would he volunteer to do something I clearly don't want to do? The most important thing I've realised though is that when I stay upbeat, my anger at him dissipates quicker.

#4. Forgiveness
I just mentioned my anger towards my son, and let me tell you it's been a common feeling these last few weeks. There are a few things he does that really push my buttons, like ripping books. When he does these things, even after the appropriate consequences have been implemented and he's forgotten about it, I can't. I've found myself saying stuff afterwards like 'well if you hadn't ripped that page we could read that book'. My son is 15 months - he doesn't understand passive aggressiveness. And ironically enough, it's one thing that really frustrated me as a child. It's made me realise that when these things happen I have to move on and do it very quickly.

The common theme you'll notice with these tips is that they're not parenting techniques or suggestions - they're about MY attitude towards my son. I don't know how to parent positively when I don't feel positive toward my child. So that's my challenge for myself (and maybe the biggest one so far) - maintaining a constantly positive attitude towards my frog. That includes during the tantrums, in the middle of the night and yes, even when he hits me with the phone he wasn't meant to have. Unconditional love comes easily to most parents - unconditional LIKE is the real challenge.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Steamed eggs

Gordon Ramsey takes all the credit for this one. I really enjoy fried eggs, but not the taste of all that oil. So here's how to steam eggs - I think it gives a better result that is a lot healthier. I think it'll only work on a non-stick pan, and does make for a dirtier pan at the end however.



Step 1: Crack egg into a bowl and then pour into a NON-heated pan, then turn hob on


Step 2: Add a shot-glass worth of water (app. 25ml)
 


Step 3: Cover frying pan, checking frequently

 
Step 4: Remove when white is cooked through (and yolk is as you like it)



Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Humility in Pregnancy


That's right... we're expecting frog #2 (don't worry, the new baby will have a nickname of their very own)! This is right where we'd hoped the second one would make an appearance, so we're very blessed that our plan and God's plan lined up. I'm due in February.

So, I think that my posts are going to go from keeping the house and recipes to survival mode again. During the pregnancy I've had plenty of days that I'm in survival mode with the frog - I lie on the couch while he plays, trying not to move or else I'll be sick. I've fallen far behind with the house, and Mr. K has had to take on the challenge of the frog at night so I can get some much-needed sleep. And mostly, what do I feel (apart from sick and tired)? Guilty of course. As mothers and wives, our resting state seems to be one of guilt. They say a woman's work is never done, and despite the cliche it couldn't be more true. There's always something else I could have cleaned, I could have cooked a better meal, I could have played with the frog more. Never mind comparing ourselves with other mothers, we are our own very worst critics. Add pregnancy insecurity and you've got full-blown meltdown time.

So how do we deal with this guilt? The truth is, I don't know. No matter how much my husband tells me it's okay, I still feel guilty about how much he has to do after a long day at work. Even if the frog seems happy, I still think he must resent that I don't play with him as much anymore. But - no matter how much our mothers managed on their own - we still need the help. I know I do. So I think it's time I asked for a little more patience and a lot more humility. I'm a firm believer that God is preparing me for what's to come. And I know that with 2 kids under two, I won't always be in control. I'll need to let some things go, be able to laugh at myself, say yes instead of always no. Most importantly, I'll need to trust that my husband can do the things I do, even if he doesn't do them exactly MY way. And I think that's the lesson God is teaching me with this pregnancy. I just hope I have the sense to listen.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Why I'm not on parenting forums

The Internet is a wonderful thing - I'm a huge fan. I spend a good portion of my day online; I wouldn't have completed university without Wikipedia and I maintain many relationships purely on Facebook and through email. However there is one thing online that I've decided not to be a part of: parenting forums. These can come in several different forms - online support groups, facebook groups, common interest groups. I'm sure we've all done it - find a group whose mission statement you completely agree with. You start to get excited - 'finally, I've found a group of like-minded women that I can get advice from and talk to!'. You read some posts and some comments and everything seems positive.

So, you start posting and commenting. Maybe you make friends and develop a support network. Maybe discussions all stay civil and you find a wonderful outlet for your needs. If this is the case (and I know in some cases it can be), that's great and I'm happy for you. We all know of situations where this doesn't happen though - things turn nasty, people's feelings are hurt and you end up feeling all together abandoned. I've seen both these things happen. Here are the reasons I've made the decision not to use forums:

I don't know these people
People can be or say anything online. I would hope I can tell who is genuine, just from the way they speak on certain topics. However, I don't know these people - they have their own lives, stories and - sometimes - agendas. I'm very easily manipulated by a sob-story and know I get drawn into other people's lives. I struggle with this enough in everyday life, never mind opening myself up to a whole world of people.

So-called 'expert' advice
Like I said, I don't know these people. And therefore I can't trust their sources, especially if it's about a medical issue. They might have read it off another blog, who did the same, who read a unpublished paper that's 10 years out of date. I worry that we're starting to trust these strangers more than our friends, family, health professionals, and most importantly ourselves. Other people's experiences are helpful and shouldn't be belittled; if they're giving the support and advice you need that's fine, as long as you're being careful with it. Read up for yourself, ask a friend, ask a doctor. There's no substitute for actual expertise.

Neglecting those around you
I get so drawn into forum that when my husband gets home I will relay a whole days worth of posts and comments. Or worse, I'll barely say two words to him so I can finish reading this post that's heating up. Now my husband does his very best to listen to me when I speak, but sometimes he has a hard enough time listening to me talk about my friends I met for coffee that day, never mind complete strangers whose real name I don't know. I also neglect my son during the day so I can read and respond. Strangers should never come before your family, and I've previously made this mistake.

When things turn nasty
There is no topic more controversial than parenting. I can understand why - these are our children we're talking about, and people want to raise them in exactly the right way. But there are plenty of people out there who believe only their way is the right way. These people get defensive and very angry when people disagree with them. And yes - I've been one of them. I've argued with people online about topics like breast-feeding, co-sleeping and going back to work. I get drawn into these debates and think 'well I'll add my tuppence-worth'. Why do I feel the need to do this? Maybe it's in an effort to defend my lifestyle, maybe I just want to be right. No matter what my reasoning, it's not a healthy one. I get addicted to the arguments that are going on (even when they have nothing to do with me) and I watch it like a soap opera. And that is no way to spend my day.

I know that the type of person I am - whose weaknesses include gossip, getting defensive and judging too quickly - doesn't make for a healthy relationship with online forums. So I've made the decision to stay away from them.

What are your experiences with forums (parenting and other)?

Monday, 12 August 2013

Helpful toddlers



An odd thing has been happening in my house over the past few weeks... I've been enjoying doing chores. This change of heart has come about because of the wonderful helpful stage my wee frog is going through at the moment. He loves nothing more than putting the laundry in the washing machine or putting his nappies in the bin. I even had a mean-mama moment earlier today when he got into trouble for going into a cupboard he shouldn't, only to find later that he was trying to put something away that I left out. I'm fully expecting this to be a stage, but I plan on taking full advantage of it while it's happening. So here are my tips for having a toddler help you around the house:

#1. Stop complaining about chores!
I grew up in a house where housework was a frequent cause of conflict and a constant source of complaining. It certainly gave me a bad attitude about doing chores, and it's not an attitude I wish to pass on to my children. Yes, I know some chores are horrible (ironing and bin-emptying come to mind), but for me they're not as horrible as the sinking, muddled mind I have when my house is in complete disarray. So try not to complain about the housework, at least around the kids - of course they won't want to help when they hear from you how bad it is.

#2. Patience
Yes, it takes at least twice as long to do any chore with a toddler. I don't make the frog help, but I enthusiastically suggest he does, and do a lot of cheer-leading when he gets it right. (Let's take a moment here, fellow mamas. Being constantly upbeat and praising, all day, is exhausting. More so than I'd ever have imagined. So when I say cheer-leading, please know I realise the energy it takes, and applaud those of you who don't get tired of it - I know I do). My tip is if it's something you really need to get done, thank them for their help and direct their attention elsewhere so you can finish. Otherwise your helpful toddler will quickly become a hindrance in your mind.

#3. Make it their choice
If my toddler is getting distracted or doesn't want to help, I don't make him. I know there's a thin line here of encouraging helping and insisting upon it, but I know right now he's too young to understand. I want him to WANT to help, not to feel like he has to when all he wants to do is play cars. I can't think of a quicker way to begin the dread of chores.

#4. Make it a game
I have songs for most of the chores, and if we beat the song, we've won. My son loves it when he knows the end of the song is coming and rushes to finish.

#5. Ability appropriate, not age appropriate
I know there are lists of chores by age, but when they're so young and have such different abilities, I don't think this is appropriate. My son is 14 months and quite a confident walker, and here's the chores he actively helps me with:
  • Putting the laundry in/out of the washing machine/tumble dryer
  • Wiping down his highchair tray after eating
  • Making his bed (putting his soft toy in the corner)
  • Picking up rubbish from the floor
  • Putting the shopping away (saves my back!)
  • Tidy up of toys. This is the only one I insist upon (of course with my help).
I hope something in that list helps. What chores do your kids help with?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Organising your House Series - Linen Cupboard

Ahh... boxes. I know it says something about me when I was more excited about the boxes my husband brought home for me than the chocolates, but I do love a good box. Doesn't it just make life so much neater?

Case in point, my linen closest. Here's the before:



And here's after:


 
Linen in boxes, toilet and kitchen roll nicely stacked in cut cardboard boxes. I do like to label my boxes, but I know some people hate the idea of labels all over their home. It's just about whatever works for you (and course of whoever else lives with you!). It may sound like an over-exaggeration, but I really do feel like my mind is clearer when I've completed things like this. If I can keep it functioning efficiently, it'll save me so much time day-to-day. And it only took my 45 minutes!
 
For more Organising your House Series, see:
Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip #1. Be Brutal!
Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip # 2. Categorise to Organise
Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip # 3. Pantry Time

 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Aromatherapy


 
Alternative treatments are something I’ve always approached with some scepticism. I believe in medicine and doctors, tending to trust both perhaps a little too much. However my view has started to change as I've studied about childbirth* and since the birth of my son. I’ve looked into natural cleaning methods, and have decided to have a look at some more natural healing methods. Let’s be clear here – if there’s something wrong with myself or especially my wee frog, I go straight to the doctors. However for something like a cold, I really would like to know of alternative methods for aiding healing.

To this end, I’ve enrolled in a short aromatherapy correspondence course. I plan on learning about each oil in turn, and then trying them out where suggested (in cleaning, cooking or for healing). Then I'll blog about it, letting you know my findings. Am I still sceptical? Yup, I most certainly am. But I’m approaching it with an open mind, and ask you to do the same.

 *I think it’s appropriate to mention here that my profession lies within the childbirth ‘industry’. For this reason, I have no intention of speaking on matters such as pregnancy, childbirth or the postnatal period in a professional capacity. If I do mention such things, they will be from a personal point of view, with clear understanding that I do not have the medical training to give out advice or suggestion of a medical nature.*

Sunday, 4 August 2013

5 Ways to Introduce God to your Baby


I want God to be a natural part of my son's day. What I mean by that is that I don't want to introduce the idea of God only on Sundays, and I don't want my son to associate God solely with the church. That he should follow his commandments at all times - yes of course that's a big part of it. But much more than that, I want him to know that God is always there for him, wherever he is. That way no matter what is happening in church that week, or if we don't make church, he can always know that God is close by.

I've thought a lot about the ways I can incorporate God into my frog's life, and these are some of the things I've been doing so far. Of course I don't do all of these every day, and some take more effort than others. But I hope that by the time my son is talking and interacting with other children, his speech will reflect what I hope his beliefs will be.

#1. Not lucky: blessed
Our day-to-day use of language is the easiest way we can show our baby God. So instead of saying that my son is lucky, I'll tell him he's blessed. When I show him a flower, I'll tell him that God made that flower. I try to speak about God in the same way I speak about the frog's friends and relatives, to help him understand that God is approachable and available to him at all times. I want him surrounded in positive language - frustrated rather than annoyed, dislike instead of hate. I want him to know that it's okay to speak of God out-loud and with conviction - our association with God doesn't need to be whispered.

#2. Pray
Before meal times is a good time, and at bedtime. This is a good time to name all the special people in your child's life, and say thank you for all the blessings you received that day. I hope to expand this when he's older, asking him about his favourite part of the day and ways in which God has blessed him. I feel it ends the day on a really positive note.

#3. Music
Sometimes in the car I'll find myself singing along to songs on the radio that are not appropriate for the frog. Now rest assured; I'm not about to tell you to quit the radio, because I won't tell you to do something that I'm not willing to do. Instead I'll suggest this - listen to the words of songs, and if you don't feel it's appropriate change the channel. Have a CD of Christian music in the car and put that on for the length of a song. At home, try to sing Sunday School songs instead of nursery rhymes. Nothing wrong with most nursery rhymes! This is just a way to have the words of Christ constantly surrounding your baby.

#4. Changing my Attitude
How many times have you been cut off by someone when driving, and called that driver an unpleasant name? For me it's sarcastic comments I'm most guilty of, and directing those comments at the frog ("well I guess he just couldn't wait, could he baby?"). I'm trying my best to change my perception of people who do rude or inconsiderate things. So I'll tell the frog that maybe that person is running really late for something important, or they have just had bad news. I don't want him to think people who do horrible things are horrible people (or we would all fall under that label from time to time).

#5. Gentle Parenting
I believe in gentle parenting. I'm certainly not going to get into a debate over spanking and time-outs - that's another post for another day. But my feeling is that I want to help my son feel right about himself. I don't want to humiliate him or belittle his feelings. I feel we have a wonderful example in Jesus, who above all things was gentle. Did he know when to reprimand? He certainly did, and did so forcefully. But he spoke quietly to people - he let the little children come to him and took time for people. I want my son to know at all times that I have time for him, and that I will try to handle a situation gently.
               This is the one I find most difficult. I'm not naturally gentle or subtle - I like to yell and often react out of frustration instead of love. But I'm working on it. One way I'm doing that is to apologise to the frog when I react badly. I feel as parents we need to show our children that there's nothing shaming about apologising - that it's an act of courage. And to do that we need to show them that courage, swallow our pride, and say "I'm sorry for yelling earlier - Mama shouldn't have gotten so upset". And here's the hardest part: stop there. Don't go on and say "but you shouldn't have been doing that". We immediately put the blame back on them when we do that. The frog may not be old enough to understand that yet, but he soon will be.

I'm sure this list will change as my son gets older. I just want him to be surrounded by Christ-like language and attitude. I can't lock him in a bubble, and I'm not willing to forgo TV and radio. Even if I was, I want him to be able to deal with inappropriate situations with the courage of his convictions, so feel he needs some exposure to them. Above all these things, I want to be a daily example to him of how much more pleasant and rewarding life can be with God at it's centre.

What are ways you show your babies/toddlers God?


Monday, 13 May 2013

Tote bag

So I tried my hand at my first solo sewing job. I think it's fair to say, this is going to take more patience and practice than I'd first anticipated!

I'm afraid I tend to err on the side of laziness for this type of project. I started it committed to measuring it all out and carefully cutting the fabric. Then I couldn't find a ruler. Or a pencil to mark along the fabric.

Note to self: "that looks about right" will NEVER be straight.







Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cleaning Tip: 5 Minute Pick-ups

As I've written about in previous blogs, I cannot seem to keep my house tidy. I really try - I do big cleans and the house looks wonderful and then life happens for a few days and it turns into a disaster zone. But for the last few weeks I've been doing 5 minute pick-ups, and it has made a huge difference.

In every room of your house (even the ones not used), aim to spend between 2-5 minutes every day  tidying it up (time depends on how frequently the room is used). Take dishes to the kitchen, throw all rubbish away, take all things that don't belong in that room and put in the right room. When you have young kids sometimes all you have is 2 minutes, but it really is amazing how much you can get done in that short time. Even set a timer if needed.

I've been doing this every weekday, and have found I don't have to do big cleans and everything around the house just seems so much more pleasant. I've also been doing an extra one in the middle of the day before the frog's nap in the living room, tidying his toys away. He is learning to help me and it keeps everything in much better order.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Housewife Skills: Sewing

So, I cannot sew. Not a single stitch - putting a button on defeats me. It's never really something I've tried (or wanted to). But since having the frog I've realised how nice it would be to make Halloween costumes etc, so got Morvern, a mommy friend of mine, to start teaching me the basics. Here are the results of my first project.

P.S Morvern runs a home-business, please take look at her website:

http://www.babydoodahs.co.uk/





Wednesday, 27 March 2013

5 ways to get through a LONG night


Having babies is hard work, but always worth it, right? These mothers in shops who yell at their kids are just bad parents - after all, they're just children. Any mother who feels tempted to hurt her baby is quite simply a bad person.

That's what I thought before I had my wee frog. I was wrong. Here's my reality check - I've gotten so frustrated with my baby I've yelled, I've cried, I've kicked his cot. There have been times when I've come to the end of my rope and have had terrible thoughts. And most of the mothers I've spoken to are the same.

So, how do we deal with that frustration? I've put together a list of the pathway I go through. Some might not work for you, some you might not need. This is a list about how you can deal with frustration, not how to get your baby to sleep/stop crying (I'm afraid after 10 months I still don't have that list). I would love to know how you get through these nights that seem never-ending.


#1 Breathe
Okay, an easy one to start with, I'll grant you. But how many times have you been holding your crying baby and realised you're also holding your breath? Try this:
Gently move your neck from side to side, and drop your shoulders. Release your jaw (because you're probably clenching it) and relax your face. Now breathe in, counting to 5 as you do so, and breath out through a soft, open mouth for 6.
(Just to be clear, the numbers don't matter. Maybe repeating a phrase such as 'relax' or 'in/out' would help you more). I know this seems simple (and maybe a bit hippy-ish?), but trust me, don't miss this step. You might not even need the others.

#2 Gently
Any mother who hasn't held her baby a little too tightly or spoken to them a little too harshly, well done. I most certainly have. And I've found that when I feel most frustrated, I do pat him too hard or bounce him too vigorously. So when I realise I'm doing it, I try to do the opposite. Release your arms so you're holding your baby just tightly enough to stop them falling. Stop rocking or patting them, or do it extra gently. Speak soft, gentle words, sing a quiet song. I don't know about you but when I get mad and am sarcastic or yell at my frog, all that happens is he cries harder and I feel even worse.
My husband once mentioned to me that I was patting my frog harder and harder the more he cried. I responded angrily, but he was right to point it out. We now try to mention to each other when we think they're getting too harsh. Often ends up in harsh words towards each other, but that's a risk worth taking.

#3 Distract yourself
I couldn't have gotten through the first few months of my frogs life without The West Wing. At night I'd have it on pause, ready to start the next time he woke up (then it was every hour or more). Did it distract him? Yes, of course it did. I minimised this by muting it and having subtitles (usually couldn't hear it anyway) but the light still bothered him. But I would always prefer an hour of manageable time spent feeding/trying to get to sleep than 45 minutes of hell. Yes I know this goes against all the parenting books and doesn't create a 'dark, quiet environment'. Sometimes it's about getting through to the next morning, plain and simple. When you start dreading every night (I would cry just at the thought), you have to find a way of coping. This was mine.

#4 Change what you're doing
Yes, babies need to sleep and eat. But do they have to do that right now? If you've held a crying baby for 3 hours trying to get them to sleep, you're punishing yourself and your baby. If you're wanting to establish some sort of routine, fine if it works for you. But is it working right now? Take your baby downstairs, play with them. Most importantly, try to make your baby smile/laugh. This is not to let them get their own way/spoil them! This is because you will feel better and remember how much you love your child (sometimes easy to forget). And try again later.

#5 Take 5
My husband and I have an agreement that as soon as one gets annoyed with the frog, the other has to take over. It took us a long time to come to this arrangement, and I wish we'd done it sooner.
If your partner isn't there, then leave your baby somewhere completely safe, and go away for 5 minutes. They will cry and probably be more upset by the time you get back, but you'll be more able to handle it. Give yourself a task to do so you're not just sitting listening to them, such as:
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Get a snack
  • Put a load of washing on
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Check your emails/Facebook
  • Read a few pages of a book
This is not about letting your baby cry it out (something I'm not willing to do), it's about having a break and coming back a slightly calmer mummy.

These things work for me - just last night I went through stages 1-5 twice (it was a long night). Maybe come up with your own coping 'pathway'. Things you'll try and if they don't work, other things to move on to. These things won't help your baby sleep better, but they will help you feel better about being a mother. Try not to feel guilty about doing them - pick your battles and get through the day. If your baby constantly cries and you don't know why, a trip to the doctor might be in order.

A last note about terrible nights, when your baby is cry/moaning/just plain not sleeping. Do not think long term anything. This is not the time to worry about what you'll do when you have more kids/your husband goes to work/your in-laws come to stay. Similarly, this isn't the time to devise a plan about a routine/schedule for your baby. You're tired, you're probably in a bad mood, and nothing looks good at 3am. Fight these long-term thoughts away, and focus on the mundane and superficial (if Josh and Donna/C.J. and Danny will get together is a good example, and one that got me through many-a-night!). If I've discovered anything, it's that things really do look better in the morning.