Our weekends are usually devoted to family activities, but this past weekend was so busy we all found ourselves with our own commitments or activities. Saturday morning started bright and early at a Color Run to benefit Riley's Children's Hospital. I manned a vendor booth while my husband and oldest ran the race. (Proud Mama right here!) My little had his own adventure day with Meem.
After the race, I had other commitments out in the countryside, and I began my solo trek. I'm usually never alone. You know the drill - toddlers and young children follow you everyone. So when I am alone, I almost don't know what to do. Just kidding, I do know what to do - blast my favorite music and sing along, which is exactly what I did.
But the further I drove along, I turned off the music and just listened to the hum of the car, the wind against the windows. It was almost hypnotic, meditative.
Where am I going?
I was lost in a train of thought so beautiful and complex I marveled at how I seamlessly jumped from topic to topic, year to year in my head. A random (or is it random?) thought about something from years ago connected beautifully to something that happened just days ago. I was absolutely lost in my own thoughts. Then I quickly jolted out of my reverie and wondered where am I? But I was right on track, following old roads I had traveled since I was a newborn going to my grandmother's farm. Muscle memory kicked in and knew when to make turns and when to go straight, but still even this puzzled me. Even thought I was there and I was driving, I was being pulled along the familiar roads passively. Is that like the rest of life? Am I just going with the flow or am I actively choosing to turn left, turn right, go straight?
Where are you going?
Where are you going? Those words take me back to high school. ?Quo Vadis? was a movie we watched in my Latin class (and yes I love Latin if you couldn't tell from the name of my blog). In the movie, a pagan Roman military leaders begins to fall in love with a Christian prisoner and he too begins to question where his life is headed. But, pagan emperor struggles aside, the same questions apply to your life.
You can't necessarily answer these questions in a day or even a week, but you should be asking them. Regularly. Think about sailing across the ocean. ( I may have Moana on the brain.) It's easier to get back on course in the beginning of the journey; the longer you stray off course, the longer it takes to reach your destination.
So I ask again, where are you going?
If you are following along in real time, then you probably read the blog post about self care in which I explored how self care can recharge a person which then allows them to be fully present in each and every relationship in their life.
In this TED talk, Megan McCormick continues the discussion on self-care. She argues that self-care is an act of revolution, that taking time to invest in self-care can lead to a better quality of life.
Megan also lays out the three main practices of self-care:
Listen to TED talk and join the revolution.
How do you make self care a priority? Comment below!
5 Ways to Make Families Happier
Create and maintain family traditions
Family traditions are more than just routines. Family traditions are the special memories that make families different and special in their own way. Having family traditions also helps children feel included and part of the family.
Get involved with a charity
For many people, charity is a direct reflection of their own inner values. Where we choose to donate (time, talent, or money) says a lot about ourselves. Teach your children the value of giving and you will experience the truth behind the quote "Happiness is found in serving others."
The great outdoors offers so much to us, so it's no surprise that heading outdoors can help strengthen can help create stronger family bonds. Benefits include: natural mood boost, vitamin D dose, and reduction of ADHD symptoms.
To learn more about how nature can boost your mood, read this blog post.
Quality and Quantity Time
We've all heard about the importance of quality time. That is, time spent one-on-one without multitasking, checking Facebook, or with our face buried in a phone. But the REALLY happy families? They don't believe in quality over quantity. It takes quality AND quantity time to forge those rock solid bonds.
For more on quality vs quantity, tune in to this podcast episode.
Make family meals a priority
Studies continually show the importance of family meals on children's self-esteem levels, emotional intelligence, and attachment to the family.
Do you have a picky eater? Don't worry, family meals can still be peaceful. Try these tips.
What things make your family happier? Comment below!
This is second part of the Damage Control Series. For part one, go here.
Prevention is key
Yesterday's blog post addresses how to repair a relationship after a fight has occurred, which is very useful information, but there's more to damage control that just clean up. This post, Damage Control Part 2, address how to prevent the little things that can lead to simmering and boiling emotions...especially in children. In this sense, this post could be called Preventing Damage.
When children (or even adults) demonstrate unwanted behaviors, it's easy to reduce the entire person to just a label.
Don't dismiss feelings
Whether you toddler is crying about a blue cup (instead of the red cup) or a broken toe, his feelings on each subject are equally real. Even if you think it is silly to cry over a red cup, don't dismiss your child's feelings... because feelings are real whether you agree with them or not.
Resolve underlying issues
How often do you find yourself in a fight about something totally random? It's not that uncommon.
As little things build up (dishes undone, dirty laundry on the floor, a missed meeting), we start to simmer. But then there is also one tipping point and we explode. The final straw. And suddenly we are in a fight because our significant other asked us where we want to eat lunch. The fight wasn't really about lunch but rather all of the unspoken issues that added up.
But avoiding that can be easy if you resolve each issue as you come across it, and this method works well for any relationship.
Sometimes, the answer is simple. Maybe your child is hungry or sleepy - two of the most powerful influencers of mood. Other times, maybe there is a problem with a friend at school. A lot of conflict at home can be avoided (or easily resolved) by digging deep to find the root of the problem. Often, the actual conflicts are just surface level, masking another problem. (Think: hangry toddler upset that the sun is setting. The problem is not the sun, it is the hunger.)
What are some ways you prevent fights or struggles in your home? Comment below!
To err is human. To forgive is divine. (Alexander Pope)
Humans are not perfect.
As much as humans strive to live happily, sometimes we fight, we lose our patience, we have a "tone." Sometimes we respond to innocent questions with too much sarcasm. After all, it's easy to yell at the person who made you mad if that person is only 3 feet tall. (That doesn't make it okay though).
Usually, though, after a fight/squabble/spit spat, our emotions settle down, the angry fog in our head clears, and the surge of fight or flight hormones dissipates; it is then that we see the damage we have caused.
Sharp words can cause little hearts to break. The beautiful relationships we work so hard to build have been dinged and cracked. But one bad squabble doesn't doom an entire relationship.
What you do next sets the tone for the relationship. Follow these steps next time you need to damage control.
Often, in a family dispute, it takes two to tango. Regardless of who was the "worse" offender, don't wait for the other person to apologize. Apologize for your part.
Follow the 1:5 Rule
Psychologists tend to agree that for every negative experience, a person needs 5 positive experiences to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.
Forgive (and let it go)
Resist the urge to bring up the incident over and over again. If you truly forgive someone, let it go. Learn from the past but always bringing it up won't help heal the hurt.
What are things you have done to help heal the hurts in your family relationships? Comment below!
"Mama, can you hand me my water please!"
My oldest was buried in blankets and his water cup was close to the couch, but far enough away that it required a de-blanketing.
I was super comfy and cozy, all snuggled in a blanket across the room from him. I looked over at my husband, and he was just as cozy in the recliner. Yet, he stood up and handed the cup to my oldest. As my husband walked back to his spot on the recliner, he asked "How much is too much?" I knew what he meant. How much do you attend to your kids before you are "spoiling" them?
Sure, we could have handled that simple request in a myriad of different ways.
Disclaimer: I hate the word "spoiled." Kids can't be spoiled. They can, however, be lacking in manners due to missed teaching opportunities. Kids don't automatically know not to take things for granted. Kids must be taught to say the words THANK YOU so we must also teach them to have an appreciate, generous heart.
Back to the story, the more I pondered on my husband's question, I realized that this is where I differ with mainstream society. Much of society forces the idea of a totally independent child. But here's the thing: we are not meant to be completely independent of another human. We are social beings who rely on each other. Even now in my adulthood, I rely on my husband for so much - and vice verse.
I do not want my children to become aloof adults incapable of doing anything for themselves. No. However, I do want them to know how to LOVE others by SERVING them.
In the 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman reveals that one love language is indeed acts of service. You show love by serving others. Think about it. Just this weekend my husband showed his love by finishing a time-consuming project on his honey-do list.
Serving children teaches them how to serve others. Serving others leads to loving others. Loving others leads to a more fulfilled life. More fulfilled lives leads to happiness. Service leads to happiness.
As my husband and I chatted about how serving is in fact a teaching tool, we decided to make some tea. If I hadn't already been convinced about my dedication to serving my children, my tea bag made the point for me.
How do you teach your children to serve others? How do you serve your children? Comment below!
This post may contain affiliate links. These do not cost you any additional money, but it does support this blog and podcast.
If you’re having a hard day, give yourself permission to relax!
Guest post by Samantha McDonald
Samantha is a Life and Family Coach who mentors women through life-struggles such as depression and anxiety, helping them thrive so they can experience overwhelming peace and real joy. She is also happily married to her husband of almost 20 years. Together they have 3 children - 2 daughters and 1 son. Her two youngest have ADHD and anxiety, and her son is also on the Autism Spectrum. She loves all things Pinterest, having date nights with her husband, and family movie nights with the whole family. Life would not be complete without her furry children - 2 cats, Daisy and Oreo, and 1 crazy black lab, Ruger.
It was 2:00 am. I had just nursed my daughter for what seemed like the 10th time that night, and she would not go back to sleep. So naturally, I reacted with anger. I left her in the bedroom with my husband while I went downstairs to have a temper tantrum. Slamming cupboard doors, yanking dishes out of the sink, and throwing pillows across the living room.
This was my life for the first 8 months of my newborn daughter’s first year. I had waited 5 years to have my first child. We were ready and we were both excited. So when we brought her home I was expecting sweet baby cuddles, joy-filled moments, and a heart that was overwhelmed with love for my child.
Needless to say that did not happen.
The first year of her life was a cycle of anger, guilt, and self-condemnation. This continued for days, weeks and then months, until my husband finally suggested I go see the doctor. Once I did, changed everything. She totally understood what I was going through and placed me on a plan towards healing.
During this time, I realized I had been experiencing depression all my life. It was especially difficult after the birth of my first and third child. Through medication, counseling, and help from my family, I’ve been able to win the daily battle with depression and anxiety.
Now that others know more about our story, my husband and I have been asked often, “How do you support someone who is going through this life experience?”
My family has had A LOT of experience helping me through these times. There are many ways my family and friends have helped me, but there are 3 key strategies that my family has implemented that help me every single day.
When someone is experiencing depression and anxiety, it can be very difficult for them to explain how they’re feeling. As a friend or family member who has no idea what this feels like, you may find yourself believing they’re simply not trying hard enough or tell them they need to “get over it”. Saying things like this does not help them. They need to feel free to express their feelings and be completely honest with you.
This exercise is not for the faint of heart. It is a process you will need to practice every day. As my husband as told others, “I had to learn to listen with my ears open rather than my mouth."
Know Your Enemy
It may appear at times that your loved one is the enemy, especially if he or she is having a very difficult time controlling their emotions. As someone with a depression diagnosis myself, I was often very angry, feeling like I was constantly yelling at my family. During these times, my family had to remind themselves that I was not the enemy. I was being hijacked by an ugly, controlling disease that would not let go easily.
As you are helping your loved one, keeping this perspective in mind helps you not take his or her words or actions personally. Remember, they often don’t realize what they are doing, until the damage is already done.
Create a Strategy
Our family had to come up with a plan for when I had a depressive episode. This strategy reflected our unique family make-up so it may look different for everyone. There are 3 ways I helped my family understand how I was feeling and how they could help me through it.
These are just a few of the strategies we’ve implemented in our own family. There may be many more that work for you and your household. If you’re looking for other strategies to help you and your family, I created a free guide, “How to Talk to Each Other About Depression”.
Like the article? Let Samantha know!
It was nearly 70 degrees today, and if you live in the Midwest, 70 degrees in February is just as strange as hearing about snow in Florida in June. Yet, the weather didn't care that it was acting against expectation. It did what it wanted, and so we basked in the uncharacteristically warm WINTER weather.
I let the boys nap in our new hammock while I read. With their little arms around me, I soaked up their cuddles. As I listened to the birds chirp, I thought about how many naps in the history of naps have been taken outside, how much more peaceful it is, and how much longer the boys slept. What was it about nature that made it so peaceful? Obviously, other people agree because a lot of "spa" music is really just nature sounds; even sound machines have brook or wind settings.
Nature makes you happy
What is it about the outside that makes you happy? The answer is in the history books. Or, Aristotle's book to be precise. Aristotle said:
“The happy life is thought to be virtuous; a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.”
What does that have to with being outside? Many people fall into the trap of looking for happiness in pleasure (amusement). When we are amused or pleased, it is a passive action. Something is pleasing to us. We don't do the pleasing or amusing; we are merely recipients of the pleasure. That's not to say that life isn't made sweeter by such pleasures but a cupcake isn't going to give you lasting joy.
Yet, when we do (rather than being a passive recipient) we have the opportunity to find happiness. We do by serving others, consciously practicing gratefulness, showing kindness to others. If Aristotle was right, then being outdoors and walking/hiking/swimming/kayaking is an exertion too. It is something we must do; it cannot be done to us. Nature helps us find joy because it forces to do. To live. To be present and active in our own life.
Of course, there are many other benefits to being outside.
What do you like to do outside? How do you feel after a long day spent in nature?
"The only thing you are supposed to do is to live a wholehearted life. Whatever you do: do it wholeheartedly. Whatever you want to be: be it wholeheartedly."
You Are Enough
Guest post by Melissa Robbins // My name is Melissa. I'm a human, wife, mother, personal trainer and life coach. I'm just trying to make the world a little better, happier and healthier.
I told my crying, overtired baby that I wasn't a great mom today but tomorrow I'll be better.
It was a "shot day" for my 15 month old son, so off to the doctor we went. Afterwards we dropped him off at his grandparents like we do every Tuesday. When I picked him up that afternoon I was thinking that I really needed to give him some one-on-one attention ... then I got an email for a last minute webinar so I watched it while he played. I put him in his high chair, fed him dinner and took a call from a friend I wanted to catch up with. Before I knew it he was having to visibly show me it was time for him to go to bed. Most days I'm patient and attentive but on this day I told my crying, overtired baby that I wasn't a great mom today but I'd be better tomorrow. And you know what, I'm still a great mom. I'm still enough.
I don't doubt myself. Do I think I do everything perfectly? No, not even close. But that's not what I think makes a great mom, or a great anything for that matter.
I don't know the true definition of perfection but I do know what it is not. Perfectionism is NOT the same thing as striving to do your best and it is NOT self-improvement. Perfectionism is really just the quickest path to anxiety, depression and life paralysis. I struggle a bit (or a lot) with bouts of depression in the winter. And typically by February I'm really having to work hard to keep myself peaceful and healthy, so this winter I've found my cure... I'm still running and walking outside even though I don't like the cold. And here is the best part, it was doctor prescribed!
To equip the stroller for these winter excursions I've got all the goods: a wool seat cover to keep him nice and toasty, all the winter clothing he can fit, and even a weather shield to encompass the entire stroller. Someone actually scolded me for taking my child out in the cold for my own selfish reasons. For the record, not one part of his body was bothered by the cold. In fact, when I took him out of the stroller his back was sweaty. This exchange did not for one second make me question my parenting. It did, however, make me question our society.
We live in a society that has a really, really long list of unwritten rules. Bylaws that we live by because we are "supposed" to. The way you are supposed to live, work, look, be and the things you are supposed to have. What are the consequences of breaking those rules... nothing.
We are paralyzed by the fear that everyone else may not approve. We're missing the mark. In my opinion (and I think it's a good one) the only thing you are supposed to do is to live a wholehearted life. Whatever you do: do it wholeheartedly. Whatever you want to be: be it wholeheartedly. In the spirit of this holiday season I urge you to take a vow with me. Vow to give up the ever illusive perfect life and start living wholeheartedly. I promise you that I will always support you in that. There will be days that you did it all really, really well and then there will be days that you put your crying, overtired baby to bed and tell him you weren't a great parent today but tomorrow you'll do better. And you'll still be great.
You'll still be enough.
Sweat & Smiles,
Like the article? Let Melissa know!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
The age old question, plaguing everyone from decades. It's a big deal to try and think about your future self when you're only 5. Yet, children do not hesitate. They share their lofty goals with great enthusiasm. When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher asked us this question. While my best friend wrote veterinarian (she's now a nurse practitioner), I wrote down "Mommy." Even in college, I had a hard time deciding on a major because what I really wanted to was to be at home raising a brood of babies. But life went on. and I graduated with an English degree.
In 2012, I finally earned my title of Mama - a job that I cherish with my whole heart and soul. Yet.... yet... as much as I have thrown my all into motherhood, I know the importance of "Me Time" and how burnout is a real threat. It's a lot of work to be needed 24/7, and as the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Recharging yourself makes you better able to parent with patience, compassion, love, and empathy. When I'm short on me time, I'm crankier and way less patient. Even if I steal a quick 10 minutes, I'm already in a mentally better place. Self-care is critical to a healthy mind, body, and soul.
5 ways to recharge
Eat breakfast first
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it can also be the most neglected. When I'm busy getting breakfasts ready for my boys, it's easy for me to put my own breakfast last. By the time, I've fed and cleaned up the boys, I find myself already running low. I've started to prioritize my breakfast and eat first, which helps me to me more calm during the breakfast rush. Even a quick mug of coffee and a cup of yogurt takes me a long way and helps me feel ready to tackle the day.
Reading is a great way to recharge. Before I had kids, I could devour a novel in a weekend, but my personal reading time has decreased dramatically. I know I feel mentally stimulated after reading, so I try my best to fit it into my schedule. I have the Kindle app on my phone as well as a Kindle Fire. I like reading on the Kindle Fire because it has an orange light which does not interfere with sleep, so I can read in bed at night. Exercising your brain is a great form of self-care.
Finding time to cultivate your hobby is one of the hardest ways to recharge because there is frequently a larger time commitment involved. One way my husband and I keep our hobbies is to schedule it in. Some days, he'll take the kids and I can have my time to read, paint, or my favorite, take a bubble bath. Other days, I'll take the kiddos and he has the whole house to blast music and create art. Whatever your hobby is, finding ways to keep it will help you feel "like you" which of course, will recharge you.
Wash your face
This might seem like a no-brainer but a quick face wash can rejuvenate you. As I transition from an afternoon of chasing and wrangling the boys, I often change my clothes and wash my face before beginning the evening routine. It's a quick thing but really helps to recharge me a little. For parents working outside of the home, this is a great time to shift from "work mode" to "home mode." Changing into comfy clothes automatically relaxes you.
Music is mood food! When I need a boost, I frequently turn to music to help. If I'm feeling stressed, I am quick to turn on the Celtic Spa Radio. If I'm feeling a bit down, I turn on the upbeat music. If I'm feeling artistic, I let the Indie folk music flow through the house. This is the easiest way to recharge because I just have to turn on the radio and let the music do the work.
What is your favorite way to recharge? Comment below!
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.