Finding Your Mothering Voice

In a sea of information overload, how do we find our own voices as mothers and human beings?  I was contemplating this article by Stephen Covey and the creation of voice.  He speaks about what “voice” is, and what this could mean in an organizational context. However, I was pondering this question  more in relation to parenting and mothering.

First of all,  there has to be a period of listening intuitively to oneself without a lot of input. In general, this seems to be non- existent for many people simply because it is so easy to just fire off a question in a chatroom or on Facebook and get quick and easy input from many people.  However, I think it is so important to be able to find one’s own center.   How do I *really* feel about this decision that has to be made, how this situation unfolded, about my reaction to this situation?   When we apply this over years of parenting, we often need periods of silence and “away” when our children are leaping through large developmental changes and we feel as if the sand is shifting under out feet.  Then we learn over time what our voice really has to say.  We learn to know ourselves.

The events leading up to single decisions often take at least a few nights to settle, to hear what one’s gut really says, and then perhaps to get input from your trusted partner or a trusted friend.   Time also applies over years though – it can take years of experiences to really form your  general mothering style and voice and priorities.  It takes time, error, sometimes mistakes and unpleasant experiences and is constantly being refined.  That is parenting in the real world.

It is so easy in the beginning of mothering or every time your child changes developmentally to want to do what everyone else is doing.  I mean,  after all, in the superficial world, it often looks as if it is working out grandly due to XYZ choice(s).  Look at all those beautiful blogs of beautiful lives and perfect children.  However, people only put what they want people to see on the Internet.  Remember that everyone has triumphs and struggles and some people are more private than others.  Only you know your partner, your child, your family dynamics.  Don’t be afraid to be different!

Make sure  your decisions are aligned with your values.  If you have a mission statement of any kind, that can be a great place to check out your decision against your values.

Finally, take the action with decisions that clearly align your life with your values. This is what shows your voice more clearly than any words ever could.  It shows what you believe.

Please share with me about finding your parenting voice.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

I wrote a post  a long time ago based upon my experience as a physical therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that consistently is one of the top posts ever on this blog.  It really was meant for those parents with premature infants or infants who were neurologically immature to be able to look for stress signs and help their infant with soothing and calming techniques.  However, that post ended up turning into something more than that….and I think this there is a reason.

What I have noticed in leading breastfeeding support meetings over the last 11 and a half years is that mothers today are almost like these infants –  they are not only new,  but super vulnerable, and feeling so stressed about trying to mother.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, and seem almost paralyzed by normal infant behaviors.

Mothers, have confidence in yourself.  YOU are the expert on your baby. Yes, it is probably harder than you thought it was going to be.  It might now be as intuitive as we thought, because many of us use more analysis and fact.   I think there are several reasons for this stressful, anxious ridden beginning that many parents today seem to be experiencing –

  1.  Many times we are afraid to ask for help, so we don’t and just try to tough it out.  If we do decide to ask for help, we turn to the Internet.  We don’t necessarily want to do things the way our parents or grandparents did so we don’t ask them, but when we turn to the Internet, we often get  100 different answers/choices/experiences on any given topic, which is confusing.
  2. This leads to decision-making fatigue.  How do we know which one of the answers/choices/experiences is the RIGHT answer?  We might be messing these poor babies up FOREVER.
  3. The stakes seem to be too high to make a mistake.
  4. We are exhausted.  No one told us it would be like this.  We don’t have a lot of support,  we have too many decisions to make,  and we can’t decide what the answers to these topics or infant behaviors are, and it seems too mystical.

It is so hard.  Parenting is often about trying things and learning to let go, making the wrong choice and having to make it right, or discovering that the things that worry us so were just not that big an issue after all.  And I fear sometimes that as a society we are wearing ourselves out on these small things, and we therefore have less energy for the really big things that  matter and happen as children grow and go through developmental stages.

I think finding people in real-life who can help you – whether that person is the grandma down the street in your neighborhood, a caring health care professional, a support group,  or friends you really trust – can  be helpful.  Staying off the Internet can also be helpful – it will give you a lot less decision fatigue.  See if you can figure out what is going on, what YOU think,  before you turn to the Internet and look it up.  Find some trusted resources.  I think when we had our first child, we wore the pages of Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” right out.  It was my reassurance because even though I worked with a lot of infants and very sick infants, this baby who was not on a monitor and did full-term baby things was challenging!  And that brings me to my last point: before you have children, it would great to spend some actual time with babies and toddlers.  If you didn’t grow up in a large family or babysitting frequently, you may not really know the normal things that babies and toddlers do.  Pregnant mothers are welcome at many support meetings and that can be a good place to start!

Let’s stop the epidemic of anxious stress that pervades our parenting beginnings.  Let’s take it back down to enjoying the beginning of the newest life in the family.

Much love,
Carrie

Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

There seems to be a persistent epidemic of bored teen this summer where I live. Our county is half suburban/half rural and the bored teens seem to be mainly girls who are aged 13 – 15.  I guess part of this is that most of them don’t have summer jobs yet, they cannot drive in an area that requires driving to get around, and most of them complain that their friends don’t necessarily live near them.  Not everyone has money for summer camps all summer and many families view summer camps as the antithesis to having a slow summer.

My husband and I had this conversation this morning about what we did over the summer when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Here is how it went:

My Husband:  We were bored too.  Don’t you remember that?

Me: Yes, we were bored and super hot and got eaten alive by giant mosquitos.  We all sat on the curb in a group because none of the mothers would let us back in the house.  They said we could drink from the hose.

My husband:  Yah, I have no idea what my parents did all day.  We would take our bikes, go to the pool, ride around and fish. No one knew exactly where we were.

Me: Yup.  I think I biked probably 10 miles a day around this huge lake that was far away.  No one knew exactly where we were, just that we were out in the neighborhood somewhere.  But here is the difference..there was a group of us… friends…these kids have no friends to be with… .

So, when there are no friends in your neighborhood , no pool with a lifeguard that you can just bike to and hang out at without your parents, things do get a little  complicated.  And what often happens then with nothing to do and lots of heat…screen time slips in for the 13 to 15 year old.  The modern solution to being bored.

So, here are a few things I have been pondering:

  • Give up the notion of “creating bigger and better magic” for your teens.  Pool, lake, maybe some camping…it doesn’t have to be this incredibly elaborate thing that you have to try to top every year!  Go for simple, slow, together.   Slow and simple can be magical, and I think we often have this mixed up and feel “bigger and better” equates to “more magic”.
  • Children under 13, especially those 10-13:  Care a lot less that they are “bored”.  They will find something to do.  I had two children under the age of 13  take naps yesterday.  I didn’t know if they were coming down with something, growing, daydreaming, completely bored and didn’t know what else to do…and I didn’t really care beyond the “might be getting sick” part.  They will find something to do, so long as you don’t give into screens and media.  If you do that, then they will NEVER find anything to do and they will follow you around asking for screens and media because they are “so bored”.
  • Make sure you have a small semblance of a rhythm. When our children are young, it is easy to continue circle time and a working rhythm right through the summer months.  With older children, this can get trickier I think.  The teens want/ think that they are on “vacation” and they would like something a little different than the usual school year rhythm. This may come up especially with homeschooling and wanting to differentiate seasons.  So, a small movement that includes daily tasks, a walk, maybe some handwork and reading aloud or discussing things together, the lake or pool – this small skeleton of a structure is all still really important!  Some parents of teens I know tell their teens they HAVE to be up at 9 or 9:30 (if their teen is the type to want to sleep until noon) because otherwise it gets really difficult with going to bed at midnight and getting up at 11 or noon, and the whole day is gone.  Some parents are fine with that, other parents become frustrated.  Figure out where you lie within those parameters.  Our teen still gets up early and goes to bed fairly early, but our whole family is like that, so maybe that is why.
  • If there really are no children around you, of course you can set up a rhythm of when to get together with friends.  I don’t think that should be the focus though, although it is important for teens and developmentally normal for teens to enjoy some close friends. However, I think the focus should be FAMILY.  What are activities you can do as a family?  What can siblings do together without your presence?  What if you have an only teen child – what is the balance there of being home and being out or having friends over all the time?
  • Could you have fun family nights (or whole days?) There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this!  Another idea that I like, which I think works great for teen girls with not a lot of interests is to go to the library and learn about a new topic. Say something about it at dinner.  Investigate!
  • Nature Time – this is, of course, the easiest way to satisfy everyone of varying ages and give mama some time to breathe with older children.  Swimming at the pool or lake, camping at a lake or other body of water. National Park programs.  Things to explore and do.  Delicious!
  • Sometimes mama has to get some work done too, though and can’t “go” all the time. I find it ironic that I have the most work to do homeschool planning these upper grades and high school (more time, more intensity, no resources that are laid out in any way!) but the older children and teens aren’t always content…So empower teens to make their own fun!  A teen can still enjoy a slip and slide, craft kits, handwork, science kits for teens, etc….and yes, work around this house too.  Yes, this may be something you will need to put in a yearly budget – buying some new things for summer for inquiry and investigation.  For work, cleaning out a garage or pantry, deep cleaning, organizing are all things a teen can do.  Cooking is another great skill to practice in summer and teens often don’t need much help other than the recipe or the encouragement to create their own recipe if they are adept in the kitchen.
  • See what jobs might be available for your teen that they could walk to or bike to   – being a mother’s helper, babysitting, pet sitting, mowing lawns, washing cars.  Any of those can be helpful to your neighbors and your teen!
  • Keep your STRONG limits on media, screens, texting.  Most teens are communicating by text, usually group text, in order to arrange getting together.  (Which can also be a little funny to me since these younger teens can’t drive so still it boils down to the parent!)  However, the phone can be docked in a public place most of the time.  The access to the phone can be limited with parental controls. Same thing with a computer.
  • Your self-care time is important!   Just because it is summer doesn’t mean your self-care should stop!  If you look at your week and all it is is driving your children places and arranging activities, balance is always good.  You and your partner count!

Keep your summer slow and family-oriented!

Tell me how you juggle things for your teens!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Playing For The Same Team

I grew up in a sports-loving family (even though I was not a great athlete myself!).  Despite my immersion in the world of sports and “sports lingo”, it took me quite awhile to see how to see how building a family does have similarities to building a team.  Sometimes in a family, especially with juggling careers, financial concerns, everything being new and each phase of childhood development being new and different with no road map, it could just seem like putting out one fire after another or just reacting to one thing after another rather than having the skill to really build a vision, build a family, build a peaceable team.

We often hear a lot about being a mindful parent or being a “conscious” parent.  To me that means attempting to be proactive, not reactive.  However, I think there is more to family life than that.  Family life is about relationships.  It is about building something more wonderful than you could have on your own.  And yes, in a way, it is about succession of the team as your children grow up and go out into the world and make choices completely independently.

Shared values lead to two things:  a shared vision and also boundaries that support your values.  What does a “X” family member embrace?  What are the values of the family?   For example, if the value is to stay home and be home more as a family, then the boundary might be a child can play one season of sports per school year (ie, just fall sports; not fall, winter, and spring!) Or that might mean summers are slow, and not full of camps because you value being a family together.  I have written before about the power of a family mission statement.  I urge you, and all the adults in your house (especially if that includes extended generations) to talk about what that means.  What are the values and the vision?  Some families are lucky enough to really have a clear sense of this without a lot of discernment or fuss, but other families  are starting at ground zero and really have to work at it as a process.  The process is so valuable!

We all protect each other.  We calm each other with love, we encourage each other, we play for the same team so it is never parent against child or child pitting parent against parent.  We are kind, we protect each other in that our home is a haven, we use kind and gentle words and most of all, when mistakes happen, we forgive each other AND we make restitution.  We are all learning and not one of us is perfect.

We trust each other.  In small children, this idea of trust begins with the fundamentals of attachment – emotional attachment, physical attachment.   You can see organizations such as La Leche League League or Attachment Parenting  International for more information about how to do this with infants and beyond.  Boundaries, limits with love,  are also a form of attachment because they provide respect for a child’s developmental age and they give security and confidence to a child.  People often wonder about attachment in teenagers.  For teenagers, attachment means being available and present, and trusting and knowing when to push and not push, and how to embrace differences in a livable way .  It also means still setting appropriate boundaries and making sure you know the differences between why a 14 year old is different than a 17 year old. It also means letting older children and teens make mistakes and not rescuing, not hovering.

Finally, embracing our differences as people makes a family successful. In my family, there are introverts and extroverts. There are huge age differences as well.  There are common points we all share, and sometimes there are viewpoints we don’t share.  Family meetings can be a great place to bring some of that out.

Share with me how you build your family as a team.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Calm You With My Love

I always thought that was one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.  It takes so much practice to do this in the moment when emotions are running high or the situation is upsetting.  But it is so worthy of practice.

Raging toddler, I will calm you with my love.

Melty preschooler, I will calm you with my love.

Upset  school aged child, I will calm you with my love.

Anxious and sad teenager, I will calm you with my love.

Part of our practice as parents can be to step back, to step outside of ourselves,  and to think how do we calm with our love.

What words would that be?

What gestures would we use to show this?

Who calms us with their love so we can carry on?

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

The Wrap-Up of Homeschooling Eighth, Fifth and Kindy

Today was our last day of school!  It went longer into the summer than I originally anticipated because we lost days in the fall and spring due to extenuating circumstances. So, today was our last day!  For those of you coming up on fifth and eighth grade, I wanted to share a few things about what we did, and what we liked and didn’t like.  This was my second time teaching fifth grade, and my first time teaching eighth, and my third time being in a  kindy, celebrate the seasons kind of year.

Kindergarten:  If this little kindergartener is your baby amongst a multiple of children, please do make sure they get their time with you.  Older siblings can also jump in and do cooking, baking, and festival projects with your little one, but the littlest really wants their share of the “school” attention too.  If this is your first little kindergartener, please don’t overplan – you are living life and parenting.  First grade is the beginning of academics, and kindergarteners who are six will learn all kinds of things throughout the year, including “academic” things.  It will all be fine as they develop their bodies and develop a great foundation with crossing midline and visual skills for first grade.

Fifth Grade:  The blocks we did this year included Botany (in which I used a different framework to tie to the human being than the traditionally used infant-toddler-school aged child kind of reference); Fractions and Decimals through Ancient Americas/Chocolate; Geometry; The Metric System through Canada; Ancient Mythologies and Cultures – Africa, India, Persia, Mesopotamia, China, and Greece; North American Geography – all states, Mexico and the Caribbean.   Here are a few notes:

  • Think carefully about botany.  The simplest plants are mosses. Fungi, algae and lichens are not plants but I guess could be considered part of “general vegetation”.  Think about how you want to present this and tie it to the human being.
  • Think about bringing mathematics and tying that in to either countries you want to introduce or cultures. Geometry ties in nicely with Ancient Cultures.  It could also tie in with botany.
  • If you are going to require a report on a state, I recommend dividing North America into two blocks and doing the state report in the first block.  We did most of our North American geography at the end of the year and we were all tired.  It was not a good time to do a state report.  In fact, as another recommendation, don’t put that block last!

Eighth Grade:  We did the following blocks:  Platonic Solids and Loci; American History (Thomas Jefferson through the War on Terror, the Age of Digitality and the Challenges of This Century, strong emphasis on Native Americans in early America): World History; Peacemakers block; The Geography of Asia; Chemistry; Physics – mainly focused on aviation principles; Oceanography and Meteorology.  We didn’t get to Physiology. Great literature was required reading during all of these blocks and many biographies were covered.  Year long courses included High School Spanish ! through Oak Meadow and I ran World Geography as a separate year long course for a high school credit.  Here are a few notes:

  • History may be the hardest piece to figure out and much of it will depend what you got through in Seventh Grade.  Look for the big themes and contrasts, and bring the child into the present age if you can.  To me, that is what the eighth grade year is about – coming to the present, finding the light in things, identifying the helpers of humanity, providing hope and encouragement that the young teen can go on and do great things for humanity.
  • Science typically includes Oceanography and Meteorology (some include in Ninth Grade; parts of this may also be included in a high school level World Geography course); Physics; Chemistry; Physiology.  Only you can decide how much science your year needs and how it will all fit in.
  • It is so tempting to overschedule – we must cover it all, right?  You cannot cover it all.  Schedule less weeks than you normally might so there is space and time to work on Main Lesson book drawings and projects.  Many of these things due to arranging page layout, fonts, synthesizing of information and writing drafts,  take much longer than the earlier grades.
  • Every block should contain great literature, great biographies, opportunities for great writing, hands-on projects. Tie things into exhibits and things in your area to see and do.  This makes all of this come alive and brings the eighth grader solidly into the world for high school.
  • Think about what you are going to do with computers.  There is a great free resource available through the Waldorf Library On Line that shows what many Waldorf Schools are doing regarding computers.  It is important to think about!

 

I would love to hear how your homeschooling year went and what worked and what didn’t work for your family.

Blessings,

Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: June

I am so happy to see June arriving!  June, the month of beautiful blue skies, time at the lake, popsicle-making, and fun.

Here are the festivals and  feast days we are celebrating this month:

June 9 Feast Day of Saint Columba of Iona

June 10 Feast Day of Saint Ephrem of Syria

June 11 Feast Day of Saint Barnabas the Apostle

June 19 Father’s Day

June 22 Saint Alban

June 24 Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (St. John’s Tide)

Some of you may also be celebrating:

June 14 Flag Day

June 20 Summer Solstice

 

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

Circle and Activities for St. John’s Tide

Telling a summer story

Creating a summer nature table

Creating delicious memories for summer

Crafting a new seasonal rhythm

Here are a few of my favorite things for grades-aged children and teens:

The Slow Summer

Creating a Magical Summer

For some photo inspiration, you can see pictures of our children doing our favorite summer activity here

Also, try the inspiration over at my Summer Pinterest board – I also have boards specifically for June, July and August.

Summer doesn’t have to be expensive or crazy for older children – try backyard camping, catching fireflies, hiking, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding for older children and teens, bowling, mini golf, and free community opportunities!

Here are a few ways I prepare for summer:

5 Ways to Have A Calm Family Life

And because it seems to naturally occur in summer, I always try to think ahead about summertime bickering

I like to think about ways to increase the serenity in my family as I wrote about in this four-part series starting here

For myself:

Summer feels like such a great time to me to go through the closets and drawers in the whole house.  I love to get organized over the summer.  However, this summer I am also focusing on my own clothes and shoes that I might need, as I usually tend to focus on everyone else.

Exercise and drinking water also are at the top of my list

Homeschool Planning:

Yup, that is there too…For sixth grade, I think I can finish in June.  For ninth grade, since there will be three “track” classes (Spanish, Algebra I and Living Biology – but I am only teaching one of these myself), I talked with some other mothers and have decided to cut our blocks down to five blocks this year with the option to add on more at the end if we get those done.  These are blocks that can combine with other blocks to make credit hours over the next year (or this current school year) and will hopefully give me time to work with our sixth and first grader.  First grade and ninth grade planning are coming next, as soon as I am done with sixth grade.

How is summer going for you all?  Would also love to hear from my Down Under folks – how is it heading into winter?

Lots of love,

Carrie