The Overwhelming Year

Has anyone else been experiencing the Overwhelming Year?  It has been an interesting school year for us; it was hard for us to settle into a rhythm the first half of the year and then when we were finally settling in  my husband started to travel and I was solo.  It was the year when it became apparent that the activities my oldest child was involved in ramped up to levels that were beyond what I was capable of sustaining with the other small children. It was the year many of our friends’ family lives unraveled.  It was the year that things I wanted to get off my plate still remained.  It was the year I got asked back to work in physical therapy twice and I had to make the very difficult decision to not do that.  Twice.    It was the year things were not smooth; they were not always wonderful.

Yet, there were pockets of joy.  There have been times this year  I have acknowledged my weakest areas and met them head on.  There have been times of learning and growing and finding out about myself and delving more deeply into my values.    There have been times of connection and community that sustained me.  There have been people who have loved me just for being me.   I thank them.

In spite of times that are sometimes overwhelming, I  do not wish to  have a simple life.  I doubt my life will ever be simple; I am too enmeshed with raising small children and  helping mothers and  a myriad of other things for life to be simple.  Sometimes I  wish for balance, I always hope and look  for connection, but I do not  wish for things to be so simple that there is not striving.

If you are experiencing a complex year, an overwhelming year, I encourage you not to find the nearest exit and crawl out, but to work and strive to let these times mold you and shape you.  I encourage you to find humor, joy, truthfulness goodness and beauty.  I encourage you to find support in real-life people, not just the Internet.  I encourage you to become the expert on what YOU need and to become the expert regarding your own family and your own life.

Always striving, live big!

Carrie

In These Dark Days

January can be such a difficult month in parenting.  The days can be dark and long.  Much of the U.S. has been under sub-zero temperatures, and that can make days with small children rather long indeed.  This can be the kind of month where mothers are feeling tired, cranky, even depressed or overwhelmed.

This is a good month to focus on the importance of warmth: warm thoughts, warm deeds, warm and gentle hands, quiet voices, warm clothing, warm foods. 

This is a good month to make sure you, Mama, are at  your peak physical and mental health.  Get those Vitamin D and thyroid levels checked; get screened for depression if you think that may be a possibility; menu plan for nourishing food.

This is a good month to tweak your rhythm or change it entirely.  What will your older child do whilst your younger one is trying to go to sleep?  What will you do to get out physical energy if you are stuck in the house because it is literally that cold? 

This is a good month to revisit singing and music to warm the atmosphere of the home.  Some of you have emailed and asked about music resources.  Here are a few of my favorites (if a book, also includes CD’s because I know some of you may not be able to read music!):

This is a good month to do some story-telling.  Try Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website and sign up for her email newsletter:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/blog/

For inspiration in story-telling, how about this book by Nancy Mellon called “Body Eloquence”?  http://www.amazon.com/Body-Eloquence-Power-Awaken-Energies/dp/1604150289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296213082&sr=8-1

This is a good month to do some some art with your children.   Pink and Green Mama reads this blog and has 400 projects on her website here:  http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com

This is a good month to get ready for February festivals!  How about getting ready for Candlemas (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/29/the-magic-of-candlemas/),  Chinese New Year (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/) or Valentine’s Day? 

Many blessings,

Carrie

An Oldie But A Goodie: Five Things Every Parent Needs

This is an older post that I found and thought it was worthy enough to re-print for all my new readers.  So here is my oldie but goodie post of the week!

These are five things every parent needs to have right now; these are the keys to parenting!

Compassionate Connection :  Connection is the number one tool to parenting and to discipline, to that guiding of a child throughout these years at home.  You get it by choosing to connect with your child, by  choosing to view you and your child as being on the same team instead of being against each other.  You get it by choosing to love your child as you guide them over the bumps of life and development instead of being mad at them for being immature and making mistakes, which is what small children are and what small children do.

Kindness :  Kindness in the home is of utmost importance.  Your small child is watching everything you do and say and how you treat other people, including how you treat yourself.  Do you have boundaries for how other adults treat you?  Your children are watching this!  Boundaries is a part of being kind to yourself and to others.

How do you promote kindness in your home?  How do you model forgiveness for yourself for being human?  Try this one for ideas:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/

Gentleness:  Your child always deserves to have gentle hands.  If you cannot be gentle with them, you must take a parent time-out.  You can set a boundary, stick to a boundary, and still be gentle and loving.  It is possible!  You can parent peacefully!   See here for one of the many posts about this on this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/05/an-emergency-how-to-how-to-parent-peacefully-with-children-under-age-9/

and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/17/raising-peaceful-children/

Patience:  Many parents will ruefully sigh and say, “I am not patient enough with my child.”  I agree it is important to have patience regarding the day to day and minute to minute interactions with your child; I have many posts about that,  but the kind of patience I am really talking about right now  is being patient with the process of DEVELOPMENT. This means not rushing a child out of childhood, and being willing to set boundaries to preserve that child’s innocence in early childhood and in the grades of school as well.     Understanding developmental stages and having realistic expectations for each age is vital.  There are many posts on this blog about this, all the developmental stages are currently covered from the age of twelve months through age nine.  There are also many posts regarding  babies under the “Baby and Toddler” header.  Here is one post regarding patience for your reading pleasure:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/15/the-power-of-patience-day-number-18-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-parent/

Maturity:  Having a baby and a small child in the home SHOULD cause a change in your lifestyle.  Please do not use the fact you are breastfeeding and can carry your child in a  sling as an excuse to drag your child to all kinds of adult places with no rhythm in sight.  Why should your toddler  behave while you have coffee with a friend?  Why should your small baby sleep through the night when biologically they are not there yet?  Why should your toddler or younger preschooler willingly separate from you when they consider themselves to be a part of you?    Have the maturity to know that this is a season, this too shall pass, and that these early years of childhood are remarkably short.

A Positive Attitude! I have written about this repeatedly.  Here are a few back posts for your reading pleasure: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/19/day-number-three-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/17/the-power-of-being-a-positive-mother/

Simple parenting entails just these five steps to start.  A great beginning!!

Many blessings,

Carrie

Rhythm For the Irregular

Stuck on trying to get a rhythm going?

I think this happens quite a bit, so here are my quickie top ten tips for developing your own rhythm:

1.  You must get yourself to bed and shoot for the same time to go to sleep every night.  Use an alarm clock and get up even if you are tired.  Sorry, I know folks will really disagree with me here, but I think if you cannot start the foundation of waking up and going to bed, then the rest of the day is off-kilter.  Just my opinion, feel free to disagree.  Smile  My thought is you can always catch up at quiet time/ nap time, but to start to get in the habit of sleeping and waking times.

2.  Plan to do this for forty days.  Yes, forty. We have all heard it takes twenty-one days to establish a new habit, but in many religious traditions forty days is a number referred to again and again.  Try it for forty days.  If you miss a day, just jump back in….

3.  Which brings me to this point:  you are developing your own will.  Your own will is and can be stronger than your irregularity as a person if only you let it.  Try this back post:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/

4.   Regular meal times is the next step.

5.  Work in baby steps, go slow, get in-person encouragement.  Do not go to the  family and friends who will say, “You have tried this before and it never has worked for you!”  Go to the  family and friends who love you and who will say, “I know you can do this!  This is the first step toward wonderful things!”

6.  Write out your day on paper even if it is just the baby steps.  If you need to, you can cross off the flow like a list whilst you are putting these habits into place and your body is getting used to the changes.  But, keep it very, very simple at first.

It may be as simple as:

Tuesday –

  • Up, dressed, breakfast
  • Clean up dishes
  • Inside play
  • Snack
  • Tell story
  • Lunch at 12
  • Clean up dishes
  • Quiet time/ nap
  • Outside play
  • Everyone helps with dinner preparations
  • Dinner
  • Clean up dishes
  • Bed

7.  Believe in yourself. It can be so challenging when there is an area one has worked consistently to improve and yet it is still a challenge.  Know that you can do this!

Here are a few back posts on rhythm:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/04/back-to-basics-rhythm/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/03/13/baby-steps-to-waldorf-rhythm/

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/11/17/changing-your-rhythm-with-the-seasons/

Many blessings,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Staying At Home and Loving It!

Many mothers struggle with certain areas of cultivating a peaceful family life.  Typically these areas are housecleaning and home maintenance, gentle discipline, and creating a rhythm for their family.  Many mothers tell me that they start off well, and then they stop, and then they start and then they stop.

I have a solution for you in these areas, although it is not a very popular one these days:  stay home!  You need an unhurried pace in which to parent small children, and you also need time to work on yourself and your own development as a part.

Staying at home gives you the time to focus on the things that matter:  connecting with your spouse and children without rushing around stressed; giving your children the healthy foundation of rhythm; and providing you enough time to be home to actually cook nourishing meals and clean your home and take care of your garden.

I wrote a post in May of 2010 that in part read:

I invite you to breathe and ask yourself this question:  How often am I going out of my home?

  • Is it every day and you have children under the age of seven?
  • Is your home and your homeschooling and your parenting where you would like it to be?
  • Could your time of lessons or classes or activities for your small  children be better spent elsewhere at this point?

I understand if you are suffering from depression and really need that social connection and support of other mothers.  I really do understand if you are extremely outgoing like me and just get filled up by being with other mothers and other people…I really do understand!    I wrote a post about Social Isolation for Stay-At-Home mothers here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/24/social-isolation-for-stay-at-home-mothers/

But there has to be a balance, and if you are going out every day and if your under-seven child is involved in a plethora of activities, I just gently am nudging you to explore this.  Boundaries are important, and showing and modeling for your child how to set boundaries and maintain them is REALLY important as they grow up into a world that will most likely have even more blurred lines between personal and professional lives due to increased technology.

I invite you to try to discern what really are  the most essential things in your life, and how the time you spend reflects what is most meaningful to you.  I am working on this right now, and it really is challenging me!

Particularly for the parents of very small under-aged five children, it is easy to get caught up in lessons, classes, and other things.  The ages under five (and under seven and yes, even under age nine!), to me, is an excellent place to experience an  unhurried concept of  time.   They will never have these days again!   There will be so many other years for classes, for lessons and for other activities and for rushing about on a schedule (which is different than the flowing rhythm of being at home).”

Some mothers tell me it is so difficult to stay at home for them.  One post I wrote on this subject that was insanely popular was this one, take a look and refresh your memory:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/09/how-can-i-love-staying-at-home-with-my-children/  and this one:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/but-when-i-stay-homeeverything-falls-apart/

Are you worried about your child and their level of socialization?  In general, for children under the age of 7, I feel less is more.  I wrote about that here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/07/social-experiences-for-a-four-year-old/

Look into your heart and see what is right for your family at this time, in this day.  Your rhythm will change as your children grow, but being home is so important.  You can develop your own will to do this (see here for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/)

Many blessings,

Carrie

An Example Housekeeping Rhythm

Several readers of this blog really wanted to know what Lovey’s household cleaning rhythms were, and Lovey was gracious enough to reply so I thought I would post it here.  (It is also listed in the comment that Lovey sent in!)

Without further ado, Lovey writes:

Since I no longer maintain a blog, I will post our cleaning schedule here.

Mom:
Monday – kitchen/dining
Tuesday – vehicles (don’t forget this is an extension of your home)
Wednesday – living room
Thursday – basement
Friday – bedroom/bathroom
Sunday – yard

Within this framework I keep a schedule throughout the month so everything gets done. For instance in the kitchen, week one I will polish silver, week two is pantry and shelves, week three is floor and walls, and week for is appliances and cupboards. I have a rotation like this for each room so that in any given month every single area will be cleaned. I also clear out rooms every season gathering donations and changing out decor (and tidying the clutter that inevitably collects).

Dad:
Daily – laundry, dog care
Weekly – yard, maintenance

Child 1:
Monday – trash/recycling, kitchen
Tuesday – trash/recycling, bathroom
Wednesday – trash/recycling, kitchen
Thursday – trash/recycling, sweep & mop
Friday – trash/recycling, sweep & mop
Sunday – wash & iron own clothes, bedroom

Child 2:
Monday – vacuum, sweep & mop
Tuesday – vacuum, sweep & mop
Wednesday – vacuum, kitchen
Thursday – vacuum, bathroom,
Friday – vacuum, kitchen
Sunday – clothes, bedroom

The children have had a chore since about age 4. They progressively got harder as they grew older until by age 10, they were expected to contribute at their current level.

Daily I do a clean sweep picking up stray items throughout the house, gardening, cooking and dishes, and paper sorting.

We also have seasonal chores such as cleaning the siding, shampooing the carpets, washing the screens,etc.

Annual chores include clearing out and organizing the garage and attic, painting, etc.

Since moving to a cleaning schedule years ago, our home has been tidy and organized

Lovey

Thank you Lovey for sharing this as I am sure it will be an inspiration to many readers out there to come up with their own rhythm for housekeeping.

Many blessings and thanks,

Carrie

Back To Basics: Bringing Out The Beauty In Your Home

I wanted to write a post about rhythm tonight, but felt I needed to write about the physical environment of the home first.  After all, it can be hard to attain a peaceful rhythm if laundry is piled everywhere, the sink is full of dishes and every surface is dirty.

Mothers ask all the time about establishing a rhythm for their families and I always recommend starting with bedtimes/consistent awake times, and then look at meal times.  However, what many mothers do not realize is that “clean-up” time is built into these bursts of activity.  Whilst your children are in the bathtub, have the children scrub it whilst you tackle the floor and sing!  After a meal time, everyone brings their plates up and washes and dries the dishes.  Together.  This is the beginning of the children using their will forces, their hands, their bodies and developing habits.  The things that you teach them to do with their hands will be the things they can do once they leave your house to live on their own!

So, the first place to start is with in regards to your home is, of course, yourself.   You set the tone for how things are done in your home, and you are worthy of having an nice home!  A home is really about the intangible feelings you get when you walk in the door.  Is it comfortable, is it warm, is it a place of love?  I wrote about that some here:  http://dendtler.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=881&action=edit&message=1

In this post entitled, “Is Your Home A Sanctuary?”  (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/12/is-your-home-a-sanctuary/)  I wrote a few things down about starting from the bare bones of envisioning a home and building outward:

One of the first things one can do to improve the physical beauty of the home is to seriously look at the amount of stuff and clutter in the home and pare it all down.  Pare down your toys, the amount of clothes your kids have and how many things you have.  Your small home will seem spacious!

The second thing may be to consider unusual uses of space.  I currently have a lovely school room in my dining room area and my dining room in a sunroom area.  The dining room is more contained for homeschooling (ie, can’t see it from the front door when you walk in) and the sunroom area is larger and visible directly from the front door.  Our breakfast nook area off the kitchen is a also now a playroom to keep the children close whilst I cook or clean.

Paint is something to consider as well.  The right shade of paint can really warm a room and make it inviting.  Evaluate your furniture as well – if you painted this piece of furniture or changed the drawer pulls, would it look totally different?  Many times this is just as good as getting new furniture!  Can you reupholster anything?

Rugs, curtains and pillows are last.  If you can sew, that is so helpful but even if you cannot, perhaps you can find wonderful thrift store bargains.  Can you take down the blinds and clean them all before you put up new curtains?

Then look at the outside of your house.  Does it need painting?  Pressure washing? Mulch?  Is the front entry inviting? If you enter through the garage can you walk through the garage?  Does the garage need painting?

This is a lot about the physical environment because I think when we are home all day the physical clutter, cleanliness and appearance of our homes can really affect how we feel!

Here are some cleaning lists for what chores to do when:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/11/housecleaning-and-homeschooling/  If you can tailor this to your own needs and work it into your daily and weekly rhythm, then you will have a foundation of a home that is generally well-put together. 

One website that has helped me in the past has been Flylady:  www.flylady.net.  Baby steps really assisted me when I did not have routines for homemaking in place.  Perhaps this will be a place to help you.

There are many blogs with beautiful pictures of gorgeous handmade homey spaces with clean, smiling children.  Do not let these photographs stress you out!  Use them and look at them only if they inspire you!  You are worthy of having your own tranquil physical space and you can get there!

Remember, people before things, baby steps toward routines!

Many blessings in homemaking,

Carrie