Listen | StoryCorps | Page 2

Listen | StoryCorps | Page 2.

 

I highly recommend this story of true, unconditional love. Beautiful. If you go to StoryCorps website, there are some amazing stories…check ’em out!

 

Advertisements

Mindful Mothering

As I sit here writing, momentarily free of my children, I find myself reflecting on all that our family has recently experienced. My husband lost his job about five months ago, and because of this we have had our fair share of financial difficulties, which has stressed marriage. In the midst of chaos, I find myself grateful and happier emotionally and spiritually. Since losing his job, my husband is home more. We find ourselves working together as true partners, truly communicating and becoming the parents we always wanted to be. We are becoming more and more mindful in our roles as first teachers to our children.

Through my first two weeks of training in the LifeWays program and my full-time practice as a mother, I have discovered that the key to life, parenting, marriage, happiness is living in the moment. When I start to reflect on all my lesser moments as a mother, I feel terrible guilt. When I look to the future and wonder how my parenting will affect my children, I worry. But when I am right here, right now, fully present with my kids, I find myself thinking, “Yes!” For as long as I can remember, I wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother. It was the main focus of my imaginary play as a child and I have vivid memories of playing house and school. Now in my real life as wife and mother, I sometimes think, “Hmm…this is much more difficult than I imagined!” There are moments as I rinse off the fifth poopy diaper of the day or help my toddlers through another quarrel or try to create something healthy and yet appealing to my picky eater for dinner, I wonder if motherhood is as wonderful as I had imagined as a young girl playing house. It is in these moments that I push myself to snap out of it, get out of my head for a minute and realize how good this life is.

Motherhood is trying, exhausting, and challenging, but it is also amazingly rewarding! To be mindful to me means being fully present with my babies, it means thinking before I react when one of my toddlers cries or hits, and it means giving love whenever I can while setting firm and caring boundaries for their growth and development. When I came home from the second week of LifeWays and attempted to get back into the rhythm of our house and my role as mama, I struggled yet again. It can be a tough transition for the time away with the lovely teachers and friends I’ve met is so refreshing. I came home to a teething baby and clingy toddlers and became a bit overwhelmed. But I got my groove back quickly as I stopped and silenced myself for a minute. Then I heard my toddlers singing the many songs I taught them from the training, and watched them play outside happily in the wooden fort we created together. These moments are so precious and fleeting that you must be mindful or you will miss out on true happiness. Try it, get out of your thoughts and just be there with your kids and you will discover how amazing life can be.

Struggle

As I write this, I’m not sure how directly this applies to our path toward simplicity but I have a hunch that it will wind itself around and back toward it somehow, someway. Today has been a very intense and rough day for me as a mother and as my own person. The past three days in fact have been pretty hormonal, emotional, and overall “rough”! After the births of my firstborn daughter and my last (3 months ago), I have experienced anxiety and depression in connection with their arrivals and the hormones that come along with birth and breastfeeding. With my son, I didn’t seem to experience this as much and since he was my second, I assumed I wouldn’t have it with my third child. Boy have I been proven wrong. I am sure it is a culmination of the hormones, sleep deprivation, having three children currently under three to care for, and my insane need to be perfect that have gotten me to this point. I thought the hormones had lifted, and that the anxiety and depression had gone away, but I’m guessing I’m not quite over the hump yet. And though there have been some pretty bad moments in the past couple of days, what I’m realizing is that it is okay to have these moments. Actually, for me, it is a necessary part of my growth and probably in turn, a necessary part of my journey toward simplicity. See, I told you I’d come back around to it!

In the past four days counting today, I have had many crying episodes, have lost my temper, and have even broken down completely and apologized to my children for being a bad mother when they asked me what I was doing (crying). Now the rational side of me knows deep down that I am NOT a bad mother…but in the heat of that moment, with all the pressures I felt internally from my need to be perfect and my need to have just a little quiet time to myself and not getting it, I felt like a terrible mother. I felt guilty for not being completely in love with myself as a stay-at-home mom, for not frankly being completely in love with my children at the present moment, and for feeling like I was not doing all the things I praised and told others about. I felt like a failure. Now, after a little cuddle time with my toddlers, a short nap, and a shower, I can look back upon my day and know that I am only human. As a sleep-deprived mother to three crazy, beautiful, needy kids, I am prone to lose my temper and that’s okay! As a previous full-time student working toward her PhD who chose to give all that up and stay home, I realize it’s okay to not completely be  “in love” with being a stay-at-home-mother. And being a Leo who wants everyone to see and think of her as perfect and never wants to make a fool of herself to others, I realize that it is okay for others to see me fail, to see me as something other than a perfect mother who always compassionately dotes on her children and husband. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do right by myself, my husband, my children, and by god (with or without the capital “G”).  Some moments I succeed, others I fail, but the fact that I keep getting back up and trying to do it better is what really matters. I am constantly trying to do what I think is right for my children as I think most parents are. What I need to take the time to do, is find more time for myself, to process my thoughts, to work on me, and to give myself some much needed, and much deserved, free time. Just by jotting this down, I feel much better and freer. As a pride-filled Leo, it’s challenging to write this all down and let others see my wounds, but I think it’s the only way I can improve myself. By letting it go, letting go of the control and trusting in the powers that be, I will be the mom I want to be. And I will continue to work hard at doing what I think is right and living the simple life.

Screen Time

One of our bolder and more recent moves on our path toward simplicity has been to remove television from our home. My husband had been pushing to be “tv free” for months but frankly, I wasn’t ready. At the time, I had two small children born only 1 year and 3 weeks apart and television had become my saving grace when I needed to get dinner made or take a much needed shower. But a half hour of television evolved into several hours of television a day, leaving me feeling guilty due to my awareness of the negative effects of television on young developing minds. I was also beginning to see that turning off the television was becoming a battle and resulted in an angry mom and whiny, clingy, and even more dependent children. I was seeing that my children started needing to “watch” something rather than feeling free to roam and explore the many wonders that abounded them in their homes.

During this time, I also happened to be introduced to “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. A wonderful, natural mama friend of mine lent me the book, which we have yet to return to her. I started reading snippets and soon after, my husband started reading snippets of this wonderful enlightening book to me. Not too long after this introduction, I found myself begrudgingly reading the part in the book relating to television in the home.  In the book, Kim John Payne is an advocate for removing or, at the very least, heavily limiting “screen time” in your home. He writes, “When you simplify screens, you install valves to stop the all-day, every-day rush of information and stimulation pouring into your home” (p. 168). He continues to discuss how a human being’s brain is the least developed organ at birth and that the majority of its development occurs in the first two years of life.  What a powerful statement and indicator of how important a parent’s job is! Knowing this information made me feel great about being a stay-at-home mom but also very guilty about the amount of tv time my kids were currently having, even if it were allowing me to get all my “stay-at-home mom chores” done. As I kept reading Kim John Payne’s book, he states that neurologists have identified three types of stimuli or interaction that babies need for optimal brain growth: interaction with parents and other humans,; they need to manipulate their environment (e.g. touch things, move around, feel different objects); and they need to do problem-solving (e.g. a game of peekaboo teaches children that things go away and return). Simply put, television offers nothing in terms of the interaction babies need for their brains to grow. So, I quietly and cautiously approached my husband and said, “Uhm, I was reading this book and I think, well, maybe we should (ahem – clear throat) get rid of the television.” My husband then proceeded to exclaim, “Hell yeah!” and you know the rest of the story.

I was terrified at what would happen in our new tv-free household. I assumed my children would be inconsolable when they asked me to watch something and I had to tell them “no”. This may sound weak and petty, but it’s true! I also thought I would never be able to complete housework or make dinner again. This didn’t happen. I’d like to say that my children became perfect little angels who entertained themselves quietly and busily for long periods of time, but this didn’t happen either.  What really happened as a result of ditching the tv is creativity. We involve our children in our activities, such as cooking and cleaning, a lot more. We get outside more often. We encourage our children to play independently and sometimes it actually works. We read a lot of books, over and over and over again. And to be honest, we still watch a few snippets of some favorite shows on the computer (e.g. Wonderpets or Super Why on Youtube.com), but try to limit this to 20 minutes a few times a week. It seems that “watching something” helps our children during tough transitions (e.g. mama and daddy leave the house for a date and the kids need help transitioning to the babysitter). We are not perfect, but we do a much better job of limiting screen time and are happy with the results.

This brings me to my next point, my most recent revelation in my family’s path toward simplicity: the need to sit still and stay home a bit more. Since getting rid of our television, we’ve added another beautiful member to our family. We are now the proud and exhausted parents to 3 children currently under the age of 3! Our youngest is about 7 weeks old and before she came along, the toddlers and I had a pretty busy social calendar. After Adella’s birth, we obviously were forced to sit still a bit more and this was challenging for me. After a few weeks, we started venturing out. This was tough at first but soon we developed a rhythm. Today, after going to a playgroup we visit often and leaving it feeling frustrated and tired, I decided it was time we try to sit still a bit more. I’m the type of person who doesn’t sit still for long. I like to get out and do something: go shopping, take the kids to a park or playgroup, or simply get outside. While this isn’t bad, it does go along with the “all-day, every-day rush” that Kim John Payne mentions in his book. And lately, I’ve been feeling just that: rushed…and stressed and tired. When we do stay home lately, it seems that the kids are less bored staying in than they used to be. They are starting to play more on their own, without constantly needing me. But of course there are days when the kids need me more, when they seem to be at each other constantly, and those are the days I really feel the need to flee.

So what am I getting at, you might be asking by now? I think simplicity for us right now means staying home a few days a week, though not every day. I have been reading various blogs and one I stumbled across the other day suggests staying in and incorporating your children in your daily activities. Allow your children to work with their hands and busy themselves with their own tasks. Think of how good you feel when you accomplish something, when you get to check something off your to do list. What makes us parents think that our children wouldn’t like this too? That they don’t desire to do something with their hands? Allow them to help cook breakfast, to mix the eggs, to grate the cheese, to measure the flour. Have them help load the dishwasher and push the buttons to turn it on. Not only will you all accomplish something together, you’ll also minimize opportunities for screen time.

Tomorrow, we are staying home. I have already decided we are going to make homemade granola bars, which the whole family loves. I am also thinking of having the children help me do laundry, dishes, and sweep. It may seem boring to us parents, but to children it is fun. Not only do they get to do something functional and rewarding with their hands, they get to spend more time with you…which they crave. Piles of laundry turn into mountains kids can climb and or soft beds they can throw themselves on. Doing dishes is a chance to splash and feel the water and bubbles with their cute, chubby hands. Sweeping up the kitchen can be a chance to find out that if you raise up the broom high enough, you can switch on the light switch as my son did the other day. You never know what your children might learn by doing something you find mundane. Yes, the reality is that it takes more time, patience and effort and even redoing on your part…but who among us doesn’t need a dose of patience? I know I do, and that’s why tomorrow, we are taking yet another journey on our path toward simplicity.

 

Here is our granola bar recipe that we adapted from a Waldorf playgroup we once belonged to:

Cinnamon Granola Bars

¼ cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 TBSP ground flaxseed

2 TBSP Honey

2 cups Oats

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

Additional Ingredient Ideas: Raisins, Craisins, Dates (if you used pureed dates, reduce sugar by ½).

– Beat butter and sugar til crumbly. Add egg and beat well; stir in flax and honey. Combine dry ingredients in separate bow and stir into creamed mixture. Add additional ingredients. Press into an 11×7 baking dish coated with oil. Bake at 350 for 14-18 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Our path toward simplicity: the beginning

As my newborn snoozes happily snuggled in her bassinet and my crazy toddlers run around the house, chasing each other and laughing the morning away, I realize we really are on our way toward simplicity. What is a simpler pleasure than the delighted squeals of siblings playing together as they chase each other? I have wanted to start a blog for some time now and it dawned on me the other day that I should write about our journey toward simplicity. I say “toward” for a reason: we may never actually achieve it, but we are definitely on our way toward it! We may not yet have it all figured out, but if we did, what would we have to strive for?

What do I mean by simplicity? Well, let me attempt to explain what I mean by living a simple life. For me, simplicity means having fewer things but gaining more joy and peace. It is less feuding among siblings and more sharing. It means eating locally and seasonally, this one is a work in progress for me. Simplicity is getting out into nature daily to see what God has given us and to allow our souls and hearts to be constantly rejuvenated by his (or her) splendor. It is relying less on modern medicine to cure our ailments and instead being proactive by nourishing our bodies with good foods, holistic remedies, and starting our babies on a good path by having natural home births.  In a nutshell, simplicity for my family means having less “stuff”, but enjoying life more. It means returning to our roots, living life for its pleasure, and focusing on the love we have surrounding us rather than the material objects we are lacking.

Reflecting on our journey, I can see that we started on our path toward simplicity shortly before our first child, our daughter Ellia Wren, was born. We began by researching our birthing options. This led us to the Well-Rounded Maternity Center, one of only 2 birthing centers in Wisconsin, which then led us to our lovely midwife and now friend, Christy. We believe that there is no better beginning for a baby than to be born at home, surrounded only by people who truly love them and the birthing process, naturally and gently. To me, this is the beginning of simplicity. From there, our journey took many turns and will continue to do so. This blog is about just that, our journey, our ups and downs, our trials and errors. I hope you enjoy it.