Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bad Mom Days- I have them often enough to write this post

Every mom has bad days. Sometimes we have bad weeks (please tell me I'm not the only one, right?). Dealing with those times is crucial to raising our kids. Because giving up is not an option- we have little people to care for. Here are some of my strategies for when I'm overwhelmed (aka: losing it!).

  1. Pray: I always turn to the Lord and ask him for patience, love, gentleness, and self-control (and while I'm at it I ask for the rest of the fruit of the Spirit to save time). Without the Lord, I cannot be a good mother. It is not possible. So I go to him first!
  2. Remove Myself From the Situation: There are really bad moments when my kids push me over the edge. At those times I know the best thing for me to do is walk away. If I'm in danger of reacting (instead of rationally and lovingly handling the situation) then I go to the bathroom, shut the door (the kids are going to follow me anyway, right- so I know they are safe) and calm down. As long as my children are not in immediate danger this is what I do. Even if there is a puddle of water, or sugar, or all the contents of a drawer on the floor- it will keep for ten minutes- while I regain some sanity and control.
  3. Major on the Majors, Minor on the Minors: On those really frustrating days where it seems like it's one thing right after another, I let go of a lot of standards- temporarily. Examples of things I might let slide for a day: the mess from the playroom spilling out into other areas of the house, giving my kids food that is less healthy but I know they will eat, not regulating petty squabbles between the kids (those that are not causing harm or endangering each other), using the TV or bathtub to get us through the really rough spots, etc. This way I am focusing on the major things like keeping everyone safe and fed, instead of having to correct every. single. behavior. I can begin afresh tomorrow training my kids in manners, kindness, sharing, and so on.
  4. Take a Drive: My kids do great in the car, so if I'm really desperate during the winter months, I'll pack them up and go somewhere- anywhere. Sometimes I end up at the mall- they have a free play area. Other times we surprise Daddy at the office. Just this week, my amazing Hubby took us out to lunch. We all got out of the house, and I got some adult talking time that refreshed me after my horrible morning.
  5. Use Baby Gates: I realize there are varying opinions about this one, but I know that this works for me, in my house set up, with my kids at age 2 1/2 years and 14 months. I gate my kids in the playroom, and then I can read down the hall (where I can see and hear into the play room) or do my workout, or do some chores without them under foot. And can I just say, that most times my kids play better when they are gated in there! Weird, but cool.
  6. Call a Friend: I always feel refreshed after talking to another adult. I'm able to talk about myself, and converse with a girl friend, and that often changes my attitude and helps me "take a break". One key thing that I have found is not turning our conversation into a gripe session. If I spend the time complaining about my kids and the stress and the messes, then I often increase my bad mood and that does not glorify God or bring either of us joy. (That said, there are appropriate moments to call a very close mentor or friend and seek their wisdom and encouragement during frustrating times; which of course means talking about the stressful things going on. In general, though, complaining leads to discontentment. Balance is key.)
  7. Play With Them: I'm almost ashamed to admit that our biggest issue is when my kids have not gotten enough of my attention. Usually I am trying to work on something and the kids keep distracting me. They feel neglected and I keep losing my train of thought, which leads to terse replies and tears! Really the best fix to frustration is dropping everything (dinner can wait, chores are less important than my kids, even canceling any outings with friends, etc) and getting on the floor and playing with my kids. Nearly all behavior issues cease after I have spent quality time with my children- after all, they usually act out or melt down because they need attention from me. I don't know why it still surprises me (I guess because I am human, selfish, and flawed. Can I get an amen?).
  8. I don't take it personally: Lastly, I don't take my kids' bad behavior personally. Of course it is my responsibility to teach and train them. But, they must make their own decisions to obey. We live in a sinful, fallen world, and my kids are sinful beings (as am I). I actually expect my children to embarrass me- especially in public or when we're with people. This way I am not surprised by their bad behavior and I can focus on the appropriate response/discipline. 
I hope there was an idea or two that you can use for your own life? And I always welcome suggestions! I have neither arrived at Perfect Parenting, nor expect to in my lifetime. There are days when none of the above work for me and I fail until bedtime, when I eagerly put my kids down and wearily fall into bed myself. I think we have all been there, and all do this. So let us feel encouraged that we are not alone, and rally because we do not have to be defeated!

I'd love to hear your tricks for bad days! If you have solutions for older kids, I'd especially like to hear (because someday too soon my kids will be "older kids")? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Becoming a Morning Person Does Not Require "Liking" Mornings

I am a former sleep-addict turned morning person. How did this happen? What do I do to force myself out of bed- regularly- in order to have my Bible Study before my kids awake? First and foremost, I pray. I commit myself to the Lord, ask His blessing and strength. And then I take real steps to overcoming my weaknesses and "just do it". Here is a list of ideas- some are my own, others I gleaned from some of the books and blogs that I mentioned in my last post. Not all of these apply directly to me right now, but are for future reference. A lot of these are variations of a main idea; I'm exhaustive when it comes to lists (weakness? or strength?). Lately my motto has been: "How can I turn any excuse into a challenge?" Which I think I covered with my tips below. I've put in bold the ideas that I am using currently, just so you know. I hope some of these help you too! If any of my Women's Bible Study ladies read my blog this list may seem familiar (wink, wink).

General Strategies*

  1. Study first thing in the morning, work at getting up to do so.
  2. Know when your kids get up and plan to be up 20 minutes before that- or know how much time you need to be out the door for work and get up 20 minutes before then. (Once this is a habit, consider increasing the time? So far I'm at 60 minutes.)
  3. Do this every day of the week, not taking off Saturday or Sunday. This will help cement the schedule for your body- it’s always harder to get up the next day if you slept in the day before.
  4. Have your Bible, study tools, pencils, and notebook already placed where you will study. 
  5. Set your alarm, turn off the snooze option, and place your alarm far enough away from your bed that you must stand up to turn it off. 
  6. Have a robe or sweatshirt ready by your alarm so you can snuggle in that for warmth instead of crawling back into the warm bed. 
  7. Immediately head towards the coffee pot (or tea kettle, or your favorite water glass).
  8. Turn on at least one light!  
  9. Sit down and begin to study- pray first that God will teach you. 
  10. If your mind wanders, grab your attention and place it back on your study (if you’re like me, repeat as necessary!).  Spend time studying your Bible and leave a few minutes to pray. Write down a thought or two, and the memory verse to carry with you throughout the day. Now, you can greet your day with God’s strength and joy in your heart!

Begin the night before*
  1. Prepare your Bible study materials and set them out. 
  2. Lay out your clothes; and your kids’ clothes if necessary 
  3. Gather all those morning things (your kids’ backpacks, their lunches, your work report, etc) so that you are not distracted the next morning thinking of things you need to have before you walk out the door.
  4. Place a really comfy blanket near your study place. 
  5. Set the coffee pot on a timer so it will be ready for you when you get up. 
  6. Have the table set for breakfast and any non-perishables already out. Write down a verse or two by your kids’ plates so if you randomly have an early riser they can serve themselves and read the verse quietly without interrupting you. 
  7. Set your alarm! 
  8. Go to bed 20 minutes earlier (or more) than you usually do to make up for the time in the morning. 
  9. Just before going to sleep, pray and ask God to give you the strength to rise in the morning and get out of bed. 
  10. Speak to your kids the night before and let them know that if they get up early to help themselves quietly to cereal and read their verse or Bible, but that they shouldn't disturb you. 
  11. If a child is suddenly & consistently rising earlier, do one of two things: 1) choose to get up a little earlier yourself so you are still up before your kids or 2) prepare a Bible study for them to do quietly near you (this needs to be something they can do on their own because if they keep seeking your help then you are not focusing on your own study. There is a delicate balance here, but God will help guide you to find it). 3) Treat the scenario the same with a husband, too, by respectfully requesting that he not disturb your Bible study if he is up. Note: My kids started waking up 20 minutes earlier than usual- while I was still studying my Bible. Because my two kids are 2 and younger (unable to even get out of their own beds, much less feed themselves, etc.), I had to get up 20 minutes earlier to compensate. This is really hard for me because it's hard enough to get up as it is, and now I have to wake up even sooner! But the pay-off is worth it!

Solutions to Common Obstacles*
  1. If you have a really hard time getting your brain in gear, don’t give up! Remember you are training yourself to be alert at a time when you are normally sleeping. 
  2. Most of us need to use the bathroom first thing in the morning so try splashing cool water on your face while you’re in there.
  3. Do a few jumping jacks or run in place (seriously). 
  4. Drink a glass of ice water before sitting down to study. 
  5. If you like to exercise, consider doing it first- get up even earlier and do your workout. 
  6. Take a quick shower. But, keep in mind that the goal is to study before the house is awake or your concentration will be diverted. So you may have to get up 30 minutes earlier to take a 10 minute shower first (10 min shower + 20 min Bible Study = 30 min earlier). Just experiment a little to adjust the time.  And shower only! Don’t do other things like style your hair, and so on.
  7. Take a load of things to the car, to wake yourself up. If your purse is ready the night before, walk it to the car to stimulate your brain (don’t accidentally lock yourself out!). 
  8. Read and say your memory verse aloud a few times to wake up your brain. 
  9. Read your Bible aloud to keep your focus and wake up your brain. 
  10. Soon, you should notice that you are alert more quickly each morning. Keep it up!
  11. What do you do if you are a night owl? Realize that getting up and giving God the first fruits of your day is following Christ’s example. He was often up late and always rose early the next morning before his disciples were up to spend time alone with God. 
  12. Also imagine the benefit of getting up, waking up, and having your mind focused on God, all before your family is awake. How much better to greet your family with the love of Christ when you have just sat at His feet and studied His words. 
  13. Remember that you are only changing things a little bit. If you’re usually up till midnight or later you don’t have to suddenly go to bed at 9. Only go to bed 20 minutes earlier to match getting up 20 minutes earlier.
  14. If you truly have a hard time falling asleep pray about it. Ask God to give you wisdom to know what is keeping you awake? 
  15. If it is physical, seek ways to help that. I have been falling asleep quicker and sleeping better since I began to daily exercise (see post here). Maybe you need some physical exertion added to your day? 
  16. Perhaps its pain- pray, seek your husband’s blessing and ask God to direct you to the right Dr. and the right medication for a solution. 
  17. Or maybe you need to invest in a different bed, or pillow? 
  18. Seek natural remedies to help you sleep (warm tea, natural sleep aids, a warm bath, etc). 
  19. Does your mind take a while to relax?  Practice getting in bed with paper and a calendar. Think through your day tomorrow and write down any notes/to do’s and mark up your calendar. Capture every thought and write it down so that your brain can release those thoughts. Pray briefly over that list and ask God to direct your day tomorrow.

    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” Phil. 4:6.
  20. Read a Psalm or several Psalms just before turning in to settle your mind.
  21. If you lie down and suddenly have a thought (to-do, reminder, note-to-self) then write it down.  
  22. Avoid intense/deep reading, playing computer (Facebook), or watching television right before bed. These things activate the mind. 
  23. Keep the room as dark as possible, light stimulates your brain even if your eyes are closed. 
  24. If your husband keeps different hours than you, then pray about speaking to him about it. After praying, approach your husband humbly and tell him your heart about getting up and spending time in the Word. Let him know that he wakes you up when he goes to bed after you do (or whatever the disturbance may be) and ask him to consider solutions with you. Always speak respectfully and seek his answers. Work out a solution together, and pray for extra strength & diligence through the transition. 
  25. If your children (excluding nursing babies, of course) keep you up at night, then pray with your husband about how to parent them in this situation. Decide on acceptable and unacceptable behavior (getting up constantly for drinks, or bathroom, etc) and choose appropriate consequences for disobedience. In a way, you are training your household to help you keep your Bible study time.

Transitioning from Bible Study to your day*

  1. We do not want to develop the habit of getting up early to study and pray only to spend the rest of the morning stressed, frazzled, and shouting to get everyone out the door on time. 
  2. Know what it takes to get out the door with your family. Write down everything, in order, in detail, with approximate times next to each one: Wake up kids: 5 min, Fix breakfast: 5 min, Eat breakfast: 15 min, Clean up breakfast: 10 min, Supervise kids’ chores: 10 min, etc. Now you know how to plan.
  3. Add up the minutes and you know how much time you need before you leave, and you know when you must begin (after Bible study, of course).
  4. Look for areas to tweak (see some examples in #5, #6, and #7)
  5. Do your kids fight over time in the bathroom? Perhaps one child should wake up and immediately do their bathroom-getting-ready-things and then eat breakfast, while another child does the opposite. Staggering what the kids do might ease your mornings. 
  6. Does one child wake up with difficulty and with a lot of stress on both them and you? Pray with your husband and come up with solutions. Perhaps this child needs an earlier bedtime? Or maybe he/she just needs to learn the life skill of waking up right away despite wanting to stay in bed. Decide if a consequence needs to be added, or maybe they just need you to take a moment to come in, turn on the light, sit next to them in bed, and rub their back (or something). 
  7. Do you struggle with getting kids dressed? Whether you choose, the child chooses, or you both select, pick out everyone’s clothes the night before. Set them out and have them ready- this can eliminate a lot of wasted time in the morning! 
  8. Gather all items needed and have them packed and ready the night before (bags, sports equipment, school forms, etc). Turn this into a required chore and make it a nightly habit. Your morning self will thank you.  
  9. Prepare for “little things” like: who gets to sit up front? Erase that fight by making a schedule, or picking the person the day before. 
  10. Pray and think about your morning and identify all struggles and stresses, talk with your husband about solutions, and decide consequences for unacceptable behavior. Be prepared. 
  11. Then gather your family and spend time discussing these new systems so that they understand what they are and are not supposed to do. Even ask them for suggestions for making mornings easier. You can make lists for your reading children that detail the new system to help them remember everything and take responsibility for themselves. And you can make pictures of the steps for your non-readers (picture of a toothbrush to remind them to brush, picture of their bed to remind them to make it, etc). 
  12. If you show enthusiasm, it will eventually rub off on them. Oh, and don’t forget to praise your kids when they do what they are supposed to, when they are supposed to, all with a good attitude! 
  13. Also, consider implementing one thing at a time. Add one new element and let it sink in for a few days/a week before adding the next one.
*In no particular order

I am so thankful that I have been giving God my first-fruits. There has been a lot of spiritual growth in my life because of it. In no way am I perfect, or better than anyone because of this. I simply find a lot of joy and satisfaction in my days. Also, my ability to obey God in the daily-life-things is stronger (i.e. more patience, less annoyance, etc.). 

What tips/ideas make your study time better? I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lifestyle Changes Part 2: Bible Study

Yesterday I wrote about Lifestyle Changes Part 1: Exercise. Today I want to share my other life change, the one that is infinitely more valuable and important. Bible study. As a Christian, I know I have no better way to spend my time than by reading the Bible and praying. I have studied my Bible since I was a teen- inconsistently. Thanks to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, examples of godly women, and many books and blogs I became convinced that I must make a consistent time to study the Word. 

2 Timothy 2:15
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

I have found that doing Bible Study in the morning is the best way for me to study. Before I was certain of this, I often planned to study during the kids’ naps or just before bed, when I was (supposedly) more alert. No one would ever mistake me for a morning person! But let me tell you, giving God the first and best time of my day means studying in the morning. And since many of us work, are wives, or are mothers (or a combination of any of the three) this often requires us to study before our household wakes up, or risk not spending time with God at all!
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

Instead of getting up to our families we should get up for our families**. This means waking before the house stirs and spending quality time with God through studying His word. I cannot describe how delightful my days are now that I get up before my kids and spend time in study and prayer. My previous routine was to sleep until I heard my kids wake, and then groggily stumble to get them. I was still half-asleep and often my temper would flare at the smallest and silliest of things. I would try to quickly throw together some sort of breakfast (usually less than healthy) just to get them quiet, and then I would sit and get on Facebook to “wake up”.  Instead of kindly parenting and loving my kids, I would handle situations badly for a few hours until I was more alert (and my coffee had kicked in). But this was my old life. 

Now, by the grace of God, I get up before my kids do. I prayed, and then chose to obey the desire, to get up before them; and I am now alert after a few minutes, even though I am getting up early (remember- I am “not a morning person”). Now, when I've finished my Bible study, I can take the time to make my kids a hearty breakfast; when I hear them stirring, I eagerly go to them with a genuine smile on my face. I know that my glad smile and warm greeting set the tone for our day. My joy is focused in the Lord, and my day often unfolds more peacefully. I can now attest to my desire to get up and study the word; when my alarm goes off I am even eager to get downstairs, make my coffee, and study my Bible!

As I mentioned, many books and blogs encouraged me towards a consistent time to study my Bible. I want to mention just a couple right now (and maybe in a later post I can talk about more influences). I am not being paid to mention any of these books or websites. I simply wish to pass on the things that helped me in hopes that they may inspire you as well.
Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family  -     
        By: Kim Brenneman

Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman. Don't be fooled by the "Large Family" part of the title, my own little family is only a Daddy, Mommy, 2 1/2 years old boy, and 14 months old girl. There are several chapters that mention the importance of having a daily Bible study time and include tips on how to manage it with a busy household/life. 

A Woman After God's Own Heart, Updated and Expanded Edition  -     
        By: Elizabeth George

A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. Do not read this book if you do not want to change your life. If you are content with so-so Christianity and little personal growth, this book is not for you, haha! Chapter Two is especially helpful with personal Bible study, but the entire book continues to relate back to that time in the Word.

Inspired to Action and Hello Mornings blog by Kat. I could not do justice explaining Hello Mornings so I will just recommend that you click the link right now and check out this great group of women. In fact my double starred ** sentence in paragraph three came directly from Hello Mornings. I am not officially a part of Hello Mornings, but I have used so many tips, thoughts, and inspiration from this blog to for my own time in the morning.

I could not close this post without mentioning how I study the Bible. I use the method that Kay Arthur made popular, you can check out all of her stuff here. The reason this method is so effective is because I am studying the Bible for myself, instead of relying on the thoughts of others (i.e. commentaries, etc.) for the meat and potatoes of my time in the Bible. My prayer time is portioned out to the various things we all pray for: our nation, our families, needs of friends and the church, etc. But I try to spend at least half of the time praising God for who He is, and praying about my own spiritual growth. I ask you, what is the point of reading and studying the Bible if I am not striving for personal change?

This is a topic that I could go on and on about! I force myself to stop here as I've described the basics of my second life change. As with the doing exercise, I pray this is a life-long commitment. I have no plans to stop scheduling time for studying the Bible. 

What are some tips & tricks you have used to make time for personal Bible study? I would love to hear about what you are studying in the Bible right now? Comment below, or jump over to my Facebook page: A Wife And Mother (link in the sidebar) or follow me on Twitter @awifenmother.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lifestyle Changes Part 1: Exercise

December and January have come and gone. I had planned to take a homeschool break during all of December to help keep the busyness and stress levels down for myself and my family. What I did not plan on was taking January off too. Part of the reason for the break was illness during the first 10 days (kids with colds, crabbiness  worn out momma, etc.) But I could have picked back up with lessons* when we were well, were it not for two new personal lifestyle changes I have been trying to turn into habits (that was a bit of a mouthful). Today I will describe the first:

1. Exercise
This has always been a detestable subject for me; I hate movement of any kind. My idea of a good day involves the same spot on the couch (I am sitting in it now) and not moving from that spot unless I absolutely have to. But I know (we all know) the benefits of regular exercise and I was convicted to add this to my life. I am not aiming for a goal weight, looking for six-pack abs, or trying to fit into a specific pants size (although these secondary benefits are appealing!), my reasons are: health and longevity. I want more energy to play with my kids, more muscle strength for daily life, to make healthy food and portion size choices, to stabilize hormones, and to improve overall health.

So how did a former lazy-bones change her lifestyle? I just did it. I know it sounds like a non-answer, but this is the truth. I realized that I could make excuses, or I could see "excuses" as challenges to overcome. Instead of saying "I'm too busy" I said, "Where can I fit exercise into my busy schedule?" Rather than seeing my children as a reason I could not exercise, I asked myself "How can I entertain/distract my kids while I work out?" I did this little activity with every excuse I could come up with, including "I hate exercising" which became "I may hate it for 20 minutes, but I will love it the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of my day". Seeing each excuse as a challenge has been key to adding daily exercise to my life!

Another key element to making sure I exercised was finding something I "liked" (I know, I use the word loosely when talking about exercise). I began with my Zumba game, only doing the 20 minute class. I was aiming for consistency, not quality. Another tool I took advantage of was YouTube. They have some amazing videos which you can play even from your smart phone (meaning: I have no more excuses for vacations/traveling/etc). I'd be happy to direct you to some of my favorite videos is you are interested, just drop me a line. My current exercise is 30 Day Shred. This has been a favorite so far because I feel like I am really working hard in only 20 minutes. As a popular phrase goes "Ain't nobody got time for..." a 45 minute workout.

One last key element that I am striving for is consistency! This is why I continue to set aside homeschooling for now. When applying a new habit, sometimes focusing on that habit is crucial to cementing it into your lifestyle. I did not want to be bogged down by starting two new daily habits (for habit #2 tune in to my next post) and restarting homeschooling after a month long break. I want exercise to be a consistent part of my life; I have no plans to stop working out when I reach a certain weight or allow myself to become so busy that exercise gets pushed to the side. Consistency, consistency, consistency! 

One last note of encouragement... This picture below used to be my life (I seriously crack up each time I read this!)

My attitude now is, "yesterday I failed to exercise, today I will not". I start each day fresh, and I make the time to workout a priority no matter what I did the day before.

So what are your favorite work outs? What are some tips or tricks that you apply to overcome excuses? How do you work out with kids at home? I'd love to hear your routines! I could always use some new ideas.

*Just a little note: In case you are new to my blog, my oldest child is 2 1/2 years old. I am not neglecting the education of my child by taking an extended break. Homeschooling is a loosely applied term for us right now; mostly I want to add intentional activities to our day.