Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shhh... Mommy's in "The Zone!!"

I recently shared a list on Facebook.  It's great - in fact, so great I need to share it with you today:

Isn't it great?  I think this can apply to anyone, not just those of us crazy enough to write.  An artist would probably tell you something very similar, with "artsy" stuff instead of the writing references.  So, how does this list work when you're a mom?  #5 is probably the hardest for me to balance as a parent.  Kids notoriously don't care (or notice) if Mommy's in the Zone - they still need to eat, tell you everything going on in their day, and homework doesn't monitor itself.  How do I take the time I need to get my work done when I can (the Zone is no respecter of schedules or timelines) and still parent these treasures the Lord has given me?

As I sit here typing this awesome blog article I have been interrupted out of the Zone 3 times by various things: Can Morgan get dressed (yes, they're still in pajamas at noon), Crash!  the pencil drawers went flying in the kitchen, and Emily needs to walk her friend home from sleepover.  This is my life - enter chaos, noise and destruction!  Sometimes I wonder how I get anything coherent down on paper or screen while the children are home and awake. 
Today I want to try to share some tips for moms and kids in respecting the Zone.  What's resonable for us to expect and what's not?  How do we take advantage of that creative spark and take care of our children at the same time?  Am I still a good mom?

- Establish Boundaries - I think the most important thing for creative moms is to establish boundaries for themselves and the children.  If your children still nap, use naptime to be creative.  When the girls were younger I wasn't writing, but if I had been I would have used that time to get some work done.  Now that they're in school I do the bulk of my work while they're at school.  Unfortunately the Zone rarely wears off by 4 pm, so on those days I have to disengage from the computer so I can engage the kids.  Otherwise I get frustrated and annoyed when they interrupt.  As the kids get older you can set boundaries with them.  For instance, today the girls are home and I am spending some time writing.  They are set up playing Barbies downstairs and know to keep the interruptions to a minimum.  This way I get a chance to do some work while they have some fun time.  I will limit myself to a couple hours so that I get time with them today to do something fun. 

- Establish Priorities - What needs to be done each day at home?  Sometimes when we're firmly ensconced in the Zone it's easy to forget that dishes need to be done, clothes need to be washed, and our families would like to eat dinner.  Isn't it a pain sometimes?  I would love to retreat to my little bubble and not come out until I have wrung myself dry!  But, that doesn't work when you're a busy mom and wife.  Our families have to come first - even when we're solving all the world's ills in print or crafting the next great masterpiece.  They matter more than all of that, and they need to know that they're more important to you than your work.  It would break my heart if my girls or Charles thought my writing was more important to me than they are.  As in everything I am first a daughter of God, then a wife and mother - everything else stacks up after that.  There are some days I have to accept I won't be a writer at all.  I'll be a wife and mom all day, or spend the day with a friend who needs me.  And that's OK.  I know my priorities and need to learn to accept where everything belongs.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Having "The Talk"

I think parents will all agree that one of the scariest parts of being a parent is having "The Talk" with your kids.  It's nerve wracking, embarrassing, and just plain uncomfortable.  You have a couple choice with it, however.  You can choose to let school or friends tell your kids what they need to know or you can bite the bullet and sit down with them and discuss it.  Emily is getting ready to start the "Family Life" unit at school in May and I want to get ahead of it and prepare her beforehand so she knows what our family believes.  Charles and I decided years ago when we made the choice to send the kids to public school that we would be proactive with information.  We have taken the time to teach the girls about creation - God's way - and we spend a lot of time sharing our views of political topics so they'll understand that it's OK to hold a different belief than what's being presented in class. 

So, how do we broach this topic of puberty with our kids?  They won't get into a lot of "sex talk" in 5th grade, but I want to make our expectations clear early.  Here's my ideas on helping your kids stay pure and God-focused through puberty. 

- You have to talk to them about the hard stuff.  You have to talk to them about the changes in their bodies and the hormonal impulses that are starting to emerge.  It's hard and I can honestly say I have no idea what I'm going to say!  It's not something that can be scripted out anyway - your situation will not be the same as mine and vice versa.  However, I do think we have to be honest and open when we talk to them about it. 

- Have clear expectations.  I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching your kids about purity and God's plan for sex.  It's hard in today's world to be "uncool" like that, but it's a wonderful gift you can give your children and their future spouse.  My suggestion to you is know what your expectations are for your kids.  Sit down with your spouse and figure it out together.  You have to be on the same page with this or your kids are going to get mixed signals.  I would also recommend going to the Bible and learning what God's ideas of sex and marriage are.  Some great passages to look at are: Genesis 2:24 and Hebrews 13:4.

- Pray, pray, pray about it!  I am trying to lift this up to God in prayer and encourage you to do the same.  Through Him we can do anything - even get our kids through puberty!

Friday, April 12, 2013

To Chore or Not to Chore?

Chores for kids seems to be a topic that garners many opinions on both sides of the argument. Are they character building or are they detrimental? Do they encourage responsibility or burn kids out? I'm writing this as I look at my girls' chore charts on the wall.  These are the second version since they have outgrown the chores we started with initially.  We have had success with the charts... when I make sure they follow through with them.  Each week each girl is expected to do certain things as a member of the family: pick up their toys, put their laundry away, get their dirty clothes to the hamper. Each girl also has items that she does each week that earn her a small allowance. Emily, being the oldest, has the opportunity to do some extra chores to earn extra money. Most weeks she earns that extra money while her sisters have to be pushed and prodded and often don't earn their allowance. That may seem harsh, but it's a learning experience for them. When Emily earns her allowance and has money to spend when we go shopping it gives the others pause - not enough to get their chores done, but I'm hoping it will eventually sink in. 
The girls' chore charts, laminated with Expo pen available for marking off chores

I did not think I would be a chore parent - I thought it was my "duty" to follow them around picking up messes and cleaning up their stuff. There's nothing like a couple back surgeries and continued problems to change a situation! I am not able to clean up after them like I used to, and Charles has pointed out that I shouldn't be doing it anyway. Who will follow them around when they're grown? Unless they figure out the formula for instant wealth, they are going to have to learn how to keep their spaces tidy. I also noticed that they didn't respect me for doing all this for them - instead it made them take me for granted. I wish I could tell you that this has all changed since they have started cleaning up their own messes, but unfortunately it's a slow process. We had many years of training one way, and now we have to spend the time training the other way until they "get" it. They are starting to learn, especially when they have something they want to do or somewhere they want to go - when the picking up is done they get to go play, and if they choose not to pick up they don't play. It's amazing how fast things get done when play is involved! 

A nurse in the hospital also helped me change my mind about chores. I was there for my second surgery and was chatting with my intake nurse. I mentioned to her that I felt bad that I would be down for so long recovering and would need the girls to help out more. She told me not to think that way. She shared a story about two young ladies she knew in her neighborhood. One had grown up with no chores and no responsibilities. She never had to work for anything. The other was in a serious car accident with her parents at 15. Both parents were injured badly and required care from her afterwards. So, at 15 she had to take on more responsibility at home and learn to do things on her own. There came a time that an older woman in the neighborhood needed some help and Girl #1 just couldn't be bothered while Girl #2 made time to help in whatever way she could. As adults, the trend continued, with Girl #2 growing into the kind of person who helped others and really took care of all around her and Girl #2 remaining someone who enjoyed being served. This story really hit home for me. I don't know about you, but I want to raise children who serve others happily and do good to those around them. If that means that I give them chores and let them take responsibility, that is what I will do!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God Bless Spring Break!

As I sit here writing I have five young girls having tons of fun in my house.  It's a little bit crazy and a whole lot of fun!  Do you remember when you were on Spring Break as a child?  There is something magical about a whole week - during nice weather - that you get to break routine.  I think I look forward to it as much as the girls.  It's a week for me with no repeated directions, frustration, and clock watching.  It's downright heavenly!  I have tried to schedule very few things for us to do this week so the girls can just enjoy.  If they want to wear PJ's all day they can, or they can make the rounds of all the different toys and art projects available.  Tomorrow we'll head to Six Flags and put our Season Passes to work, and we'll probably go again Saturday when Charles can come too.  

While I enjoy all this "free" time I find myself wondering how to keep the Spring Break calm going after the school rush starts up again.  What are some things I can do to make our lives a little easier during the morning rush?  We've tried a few things this year that have had some success, but I never have found that magical medley that ends in a peaceful, harmonious morning.  I will share with you my successes and failures so that maybe you can add the good stuff to your routine and learn from my mistakes on the rest!

- Get the kids up a little earlier in the morning.  We have found that just allowing an extra 15 minutes in the morning makes a huge difference, especially when you have children that don't get up easily.  By getting them up just a little earlier they can take their time waking up and I don't lose my mind! 
- Let them help pack their lunches.  Anytime you can give your kids control over something they eat it up.  As long as you set some ground rules - you have to pick a fruit or veggie, not just snacks - they can choose each day what they feel like eating.  This has really helped us with waste.  If the girls are choosing their lunch items, I know it's something they want to eat and lunch boxes come home with far fewer leftovers than before.  If you find that this takes too much time in the morning you can incorporate it into your evening routine. 
- Don't send more than one kid up to brush teeth, hair, etc. at a time.  It took a wise woman to help me figure this one out (Thanks Aimee!).  Every day after breakfast I would send the girls up to brush their teeth and hair and every day it was nothing but a problem.  They would go up and do everything but brush teeth and comb hair.  It made for a crazy Mommy every morning and needless rushing.  Now I send one girl up at a time to do her stuff and it's amazing how quickly they get it done!  Isn't it funny how, when there's no one there to goof off with, they can each go up and get their stuff done?  Mind boggling, isn't it?
- Sign folders, agendas, etc. the night before if possible.  I am having mixed success with this one.  Each day when the girls get home they're supposed to bring me their folders so we can look at homework and I can sign them.  Most days we do this pretty well, but we're still having some mornings with unsigned folders running around at the last minute.  One of my goals for this next week is to get a better handle on this.

These are just a few things I have found to be successful and helpful.  I know I'm missing a bunch more and look forward to figuring those things out as I go!  I hope you have great success with your morning routine and a wonderful blessed Spring Break!