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

 

Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?

Love,

Carrie

 

Extreme Self-Care for the Homeschooling Mom: Join Me!

Have you ever felt resentful that you are always at the bottom of the list, trying to figure out when to exercise or go buy a bra or squeeze in a dentist appointment?   Me too!   Homeschooling is HARD work at times.  Especially as children get older and you are trying to meet academic needs that are more demanding, more social needs and extra activities.  You may end up feeling pulled from early in the morning until later in the evening after you get home from whatever activity was going on.  This happens, even in Waldorf families, especially when we are homeschooling teenagers.

I recently got to spend some days alone.   Our dog just came out of the ICU.  She was too sick to travel and needed rest and quiet at home to recover,  but we also had our once a year vacation plans that were paid for and we couldn’t get a refund.  So, my husband and I decided that he would take the children for the vacation and I stayed home with our sweet dog.  The wonderful thing was that she wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t run out for an hour or so and come back. (And thank goodness,  because there was nothing worse than seeing her so sick! So grateful she is feeling better even if she has a road ahead!)  So I went to the gym AND also walked on the SAME day!  I cleaned out closets and the pantry and the garage.  I did much of the paperwork kind of stuff that I almost never have time to call about and follow up on (or I have to miss time homeschooling in order to do that!)  I also went through things for homeschooling, including looking at things for high school next year,  that I probably would never had  time to do if I wasn’t alone!  I did all kinds of things that were so much easier in solitude.

And here is what I thought about this week:  we, as homeschooling mothers, often do put ourselves last. We really do very often.  We may go straight from one child to the next with homeschooling to meal preparation to activities for children to housework with no break at all until in the night after the children go to sleep.  And then we are tired! Teaching all day is tiring!  Many times this pace is a necessity in homeschooling. IAs people say, it really is just a season, but it can be a long season when you are in it.   So short of giving up homeschooling,which most of us are  not going to give up for varying reasons, what can we do for self care in the meantime?

Here is my list; maybe it will inspire you to make  your own list and share it here! Here is mine:

  • Make sure you have scheduled time every day to exercise.  Yes, that might be at 6:30 in the morning or 8 at night, but if that is what it is , then so be it!  I will be thinking of you at 6:30 AM.   It is NOT selfish to take care of your health and according to nearly every research study out there, exercise is a major key to good health!  Take charge of your health and exercise.  It is really important!
  • Make and keep your doctor and dentist appointments; make and keep appointments for things that nourish you and make you feel fabulous – whether that is finally getting some new clothes (even if they are thrift store clothes, they are still new to you!) or having a date with a friend..whatever that nourishing thing is outside your family, put it on your calendar, arrange someone to watch your children and go do that!
  • Be the meal prepper – but not just for the family, but for your too.  If you Meal Prep Monday, you can have meals for the whole week for you.  This is especially important if you need a diet that is different in some ways from your family’s diet.  I like Amanda’s  Instagram account   to follow for healthy meal prepping,  and I like divided containers or mason jars to put healthy food in when I prep food.  Planning out things like breakfast and lunch for the whole family has also helped me immensely. I generally always have a plan for dinner, but everyone was getting tired of the standard fare for breakfast and lunch, including me.  Take your time and think ahead for meals; can you cook in bulk or use a crockpot? 
  • Don’t let your passions die.  You are more than a mother and  a partner or spouse. You are the unique and wonderful you!  Is there any time, once a week, where the children could all GO and you could be alone?  This isn’t always possible with traveling partners and family far away or partners who work long hours, but then could you cultivate a mother’s helper, a babysitter,  a friend to trade with?  You are so worth this!  If your children are very small, under the age of seven, again,  this may be very difficult, so don’t  torture yourself over it, but do start making strides when children are five and six toward having some time to yourself for doing your passion – whether that is painting or hiking or reading or music.  I think it is important to make that effort.
  • Get organized – yes, use your calendar,  and set boundaries on your time.  You cannot do it all, and the more you run from morning until night, the more it will eventually lead to burn-out.   Steady pace counts for a lot in life.
  • Get your house in order.  Things are naturally going to be more chaotic with more people in the house and things will have to be “over-hauled” perhaps more often than you think..for example, I cleaned out all the dressers, drawers, storage areas over the summer and it needed to be done again.  Things pile up and especially with the change in seasons,  they need to be gone through again.  Or maybe you could use Flylady where you really clean out clutter each week!  Getting rid of the clutter makes it much simpler to clean!
  • If you feel nourished, calm, healthy …well, then you feel great!  You feel sexy! And that is such a great boost to those of us with partners or spouses in the house. Smile  

I guess most of all, what I have been thinking is to set your priorities and boundaries! We all only have 24 hours in a day, but if nearly all of those hours are devoted to our children’s schooling and activities and we can’t even get a twice a year dentist appointment in, for example, something is wrong.  We want to invest our time in our children and families, but we also really need to invest in our own health and well-being. This is about being a great model for our children when it comes to health and sanity.  Also, when we feel physically good and emotionally nurtured, everyone in the family benefits!

Please share your best ideas for self-care in the comment box.

Blessings,
Carrie

Life Skills For Seventh and Eighth Graders

I think both as parents and homeschoolers, we are always working on “life skills”.  After all, it is the goal of most parents that their children are able to live independently and know how to maintain a house, take care of their own finances, and be able to care for a home or a family!

I made a list of life skills for seventh grade through high school, and I keep adding things to it , as I go along so this is not an all-inclusive list.  Please feel free to use it as a base for your own list and modify and add it to it so it reflects the things that are important in your family. 

AUTO SKILLS:  (more high school)

  • Auto care (change the oil, jump the battery, replace fluids, change oil and filter, change a flat)
  • How to drive a car; defensive driving and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • How to buy a good used car
  • How to look for and deal with auto insurance, what to do in case of an accident

PRACTICAL SKILLS:  (seventh grade and up)

  • Carpentry and woodworking
  • Knife skills (whittling and carving),
  • Mending holes/hemming pants/sewing buttons,
  • Replace a bike tire and do basic bike maintenance and repair
  • How to vote
  • How to take good notes from a lecture or sermon
  • Packing a suitcase for a trip independently
  • How to tie a neck tie and bow tie
  • Manners/fine dining – how to introduce people and start a conversation
  • How to organize and host a party without help
  • Phone etiquette (ordering, returning, asking for info, answering)
  • Self defense
  • How to knit, crochet, cross stitch, hand sew and machine sew; how to make patterns
  • First aid and CPR, basic herbal and natural remedies for common ailments; how to put together a “natural” medicine toolbox, the role of allopathic health care and how to access it; how to deal with medical bills and insurance
  • How to dance  – whether that is square dancing or line dancing or formal ballroom dancing is up to you!
  • Homesteading skills, care of livestock, hunting or fishing skills might also come here if you do that in your family life
  • Buying a house, homeowner’s insurance, buying versus renting
  • Pet Care – care of puppies or kittens, how to dialogue with a vet, healthy feeding and exercise, housebreaking, positive clicker training,  typical health and behavioral  problems and how to help, lifespan of a pet, making end of life decisions for your pet

Home Skills: (all ages)

  • How to “deep clean” a house from top to bottom
  • How to maintain a home during the week
  • Air conditioning/heating and plumbing basic trouble shooting
  • How to paint rooms
  • How to unclog a sink or tub drain
  • How to can/freeze/dry/ferment food
  • How to write a list and follow it at the grocery store; menu planning
  • How to do laundry from start to finish, ironing
  • How to organize a house
  • How to prepare a variety of healthy meals from scratch
  • Basic fix-it skills and troubleshooting for the home

JOB SKILLS:

  • How to write a resume
  • Typing and computer skills
  • Job interview skills
  • How to build and work with a team
  • How to work with difficult people
  • How to resolve conflict
  • Effective communication skills; difference between communication and conversation
  • Picking a career that is right for you – Myers Briggs testing or other personality trait testing, how aptitudes and strengths can play into a good career choice

FINANCIAL SKILLS:

  • How to apply for a mortgage, steps of buying a house
  • How to write a check and balance a check book, how to manage on line banking
  • Budgeting/money management
  • How to invest and save for retirement
  • How to understand parts of a paystub

CHILD CARE:

  • Basic infant development, basic principles of baby care – pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, sleep rhythms, baby wearing, gentle discipline, how to bathe, how and when to start solids, value of rhythm and outside time, warmth, normal attachment and what contributes to family-infant attachment, microflora in the gut and how to cultivate that in the most healthy manner 
  • Normal stages of development  ages 0-5, how to identify challenges
  • How to talk to your infant’s health care team

RELATIONSHIPS

  • Essentials of self-respect and self-love, which is a foundational skill to bring to relationships
  • Differences between assertive, passive and aggressive behavior and communication
  • Discussions on dating violence; affects of verbal abuse
  • Effective communication skills
  • Take your own Myers Briggs test and how to use this information in relationships
  • How to resolve conflict
  • What to look for in choosing a person to share your life with, what factors help make a successful partnership, how to nurture a partnership or marriage

Skills for Personal Health:

  • Finding types of exercise that can be done throughout a lifetime
  • Addiction issues; addiction myths
  • Healthy sexuality
  • Use of alternative methods for health (herbal, homeopathic, healing foods)
  • Sleeping  – its importance, health sleep habits
  • Positivity; dealing with baby blues, depression, anxiety
  • How to deal with stress in a healthy way
  • Physical health issues specific to gender

I am certain there are many other things you can put on this list or that you can create your own categories.  I have a category for Christian Life as well if any of my Christian readers are interested.

I will list some specific resources we used in seventh grade and that we are using this year in the next post.

  Blessings,

Carrie

Adjusting to Middle School

In the United States, many eleven and twelve year olds are off to grades sixth through eighth at a separate school from elementary school.  This is called middle school, and children in grade six and their parents have told me over and over that this is such a big adjustment for them. 

I  had dinner with four little sixth grade girls the other night who attend three separate schools in different counties.   I asked them what made middle school so different.  They responded, “Well, having a locker!” Switching classes from teacher to teacher is also quite different than being with one teacher as is the case in most elementary schools.

Forgetfulness and lack of organization is the main thing parents seem to complain about.  That, and the amount of homework their middle schooler has!  The first year (sixth grade) seems to be the absolute hardest adjustment for most families.

Some helpful suggestions include helping your child have ONE place to write down all assignment and due dates – a master list or a master calendar.  The parent also keeps a calendar at home as well with important dates and when things are due to help along.  Having a consistent time and place to do homework is very important as well – rhythm and routine is everything.  The hours that a middle schooler has to spend at home may be quite short, considering that in many areas of the United States the middle schoolers go to school later but also come home later, like 4:45 or 5 P.M., and they are likely to be tired, so efficiency with homework is key.

The other thing that parents have shared with me is that they really had to look at the amount of time they were investing in outside activities because homework really needed to come first.  The homework only increases throughout the high school years, so this evaluation is a good  yearly practice to get into.    I know high schoolers in my neighborhood who are routinely spending almost all of their day on Sunday doing homework in  order to get ready for the school week, plus doing homework every night during the week, especially if they are in AP classes or in “gifted” classes.   Forming good habits in the middle school years is important for the future!

I would love to hear from you if your child has transitioned into middle school.  What advice would you have for other parents beginning the sixth grade year to make it a smoother year?

Many blessings,
Carrie

Still Waters Run Deep: The Fourteen Year Old

Yesterday  was my daughter’s fourteenth birthday party.  She had a fun day celebrating on the beach with her friends and their families.  So, in honor of the  now fourteen-year-old in our house, today’s post is all about the  fourteen year old.

The Gesell Institute describes the fourteen-year-old as “a time of verve, vigor, energy and excitement…Boundless energy combines with optimistic enthusiasm and goodwill to encourage boy or girl to attempt almost anything.”

The plans may outnumber the number of hours in a day, but a fourteen-year-old wants life on the full side.  At least, this is how the Gesell Institute describes it. However, I often find this stage can be different than the Gesell Institute describes– many mothers have described this period to me often as a waiting, a patience and a trusting in seeing their child almost in a cocoon where the surface looks more still than what the Gesell Institute describes –> this post describes this in boys, but I have seen this in girls as well.  So I think there can be a lot of energy for the things the fourteen-year-old is interested in, it can be a time of blossoming, but I think it can also be a time where the waters look so still and mirroring but underneath the surface things are running deeply.   Deeply felt.

Where this most deeply comes out is in relationship to the family.  Fourteen-year-olds can be quite critical of their parents, their family.  It is very personal, and not just against “the rules” (although it can be that too!) but against the personality traits or appearance of family members.  The character flaws of the adults in the house are pointed out, as if the parent and the fourteen-year-old are still so tied together that anything a parent does that is deemed “embarrassing” counts against the teenager.  It is common for parents to feel as if they are doing everything for a demanding teen, and receiving no gratitude at all.  The Gesell Institute mentions that a teenager of this age is at his or her best with friends.   And, most fourteen-year-olds really want to “fit in” with their peers.  They also tend to be friendly and outgoing with adults outside of the family, but busy and in a rush to get to the next thing.  Fourteen-year-olds, in general, have more humor, more give and take and are more open than thirteen-year-olds. 

Fourteen thrives best on a varied program and most especially enjoys extracurricular activities and clubs – athletic, scientific, dramatic, musical.”  I think this is especially important for homeschooling families to consider – many homeschoolers talk about activities for small children or “preteens” but honestly, it is the teenagers who really need connections and activity more than ever to keep homeschooling successful. 

Most girls are done growing by the end of this year height-wise and maturity features now approximate more of young adulthood.   Very few girls have not menstruated by their fourteenth year.  They may be interested in the more complex areas involving reproduction – contraception, and what happens when things don’t work out in carrying a pregnancy to full-term. and even more complex topics.    Many boys have an extremely rapid increase in height at fourteen.  Boys’ bodies become more heavily muscled, deepening of the voice is more noticeable. Fourteen is an age when many girls are good at taking care of their own personal hygiene, but boys often do not do a good job and need to be reminded to wash with soap and use shampoo.  Most fourteen-year-olds have an increased sense of responsibility toward taking care of their clothes and rooms.

Fourteen is not as “edgy” as thirteen.  Thirteen may be full of withdrawal and touchiness, but fourteen is full of life and fun.  That being said, there is still moodiness, irritability, tiny issues that become huge, and they can go completely out of bounds in trying to overschedule themselves and their social lives.  There can be violent anger or very distressed emotions, but these outbursts are generally far apart.  They cannot view these outbursts from an adult point of view so they may know they are critical or sarcastic or other things, but really can’t do much about it or see it much past that.   Happy moods outnumber the sad moods, but annoyance or moodiness is there. Outbursts against siblings can be rather explosive. There really is no hiding of emotions for most fourteen-year-olds and this most often seems to run to irritability, anger, annoyance.   Fourteen year olds are not as vulnerable as a thirteen year old;  they can “strike back” over something they perceive as unfair or be nonchalant, or take things as a joke and laugh them off.  Fourteen-year-olds can take this new maturity and enjoy competition.  They like to compete at this age. 

Ames, Ilg and Baker write in their book, “Your Ten-To Fourteen-Year-Old” that, “By now, the most intensely inwardizing work of Thirteen has pretty much been accomplished.  The reflective process, the living with oneself, the thinking about oneself which characterizes Thirteen are all a bit like an active hibernation process.  Then comes the time when the inner biological clock is turning, and the time for emergence into the sun arrives.  And that time in many is fourteen.”  They are ready to do something outside of themselves and be absorbed in that.  They start to learn how to adapt to the limits of the outside world, and how to make choices.  Fourteen is an age where many adolescents feel good about themselves. 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Talking About Alcohol and Drug Addiction

Those of you who have followed this blog for some time and have read my back posts on healthy sexuality, know that I am one for just layering in conversations about things over time.  For example, I feel fortunate that over the years I have been involved in breastfeeding counseling and have always worked with families and new babies.  Because of this, we have had many conversations around this very practical life experience, seen up close and personal and discussed what new babies and new parents need.  Now that our oldest daughter is a teenager, it has been easy to layer in candid conversations about healthy sexuality as we go. And, I think in order to talk about healthy sexuality, we need to talk about ourselves, how we perceive ourselves, and about addiction and the use of alcohol and drugs. 

The conversations doesn’t mean nothing will ever happen.  There are  absolutely no guarantees in raising children into adulthood; all you can do is be open and warm and provide information and share experiences.  People often act as if homeschooling is protective; I don’t view homeschooling that way.  Homeschoolers are open to the same sorts of things that go on everywhere. Homeschoolers live life just like everyone else. 

If you have experienced alcohol or drug addiction, or grew up with that, of course you will want to think ahead regarding how much you want to share and at what age you want your children to be to share it…But it is great to start thinking about that when your children are small (and on the flip side, it is never too late to have the conversation).  You may save your child’s life and your child’s family.  Addictions break families.

Addiction issues run in my family and I have been very upfront in layering in conversations over the years about the results of addiction to alcohol and drugs.   You can read a little about the role of genetics in addiction  here.   I want my older children to know the real risks of alcohol and drug addiction  just as they should know about the other medical  and mental health issues that people in our family have experienced.  I view alcohol and drug addiction as a medical problem, not something to be hid and not talked about. 

Something that  has also really prompted my conversation with my older children  as well is the information to be found in the book, “A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” by Jensen, MD.    One thing the author points out is that “teenagers get addicted to every substance faster than adults, and once addicted have much greater difficulty ridding themselves of the habit – and not just in their teen years but throughout the rest of their lives.” (page 117).  In other words, because teenaged brains are neuroanatomically primed for learning and are more “plastic”, they are also more prone to addictions than a mature adult.

I am sure I have mentioned this book  before on my blog because I love it, so please do look it up.   Here are a few interesting comments from that book regarding tobacco and alcohol:

Tobacco

  • Sleep deprivation in teens can lead to increased cigarette use. 
  • Cigarette smoking can “cause a variety of cognitive and behavioral problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and memory loss, and it has been associated with lower IQ in smoking teenagers.” (page 115). 
  • A single cigarette has more than four thousand chemicals and substances in it. 
  • Ninety percent of smokers begin before the age of eighteen. 
  • The more teens smoke, the more the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is affected, and poor decision-making occurs.  Some studies show that after just a few cigarettes, the adolescent brain begins to create new nicotine receptors – essentially remodeling itself so it is harder to stop smoking.

Alcohol

  • When teens drink alcohol, they tend to drink four or five drinks in one session.  The definition of binge drinking  is considered when one consumes more than four or five drinks in a two hour period.  Studies show that binge drinking typically begins around the age of thirteen and then peaks between ages eighteen to twenty-two. 
  • The teenaged brain has less GABA receptors than the adult brain and handles some of the sedative aspects of drinking better than adults – which unfortunately means greater physiological tolerance of drinking which can result in an incentive to drink more.  Because drinking is social, and because studies have shown that teens frequently underestimate the amount of alcohol those around them are drinking, the combination can be deadly.
  • There are also terrible long-term consequences to alcohol in the teenaged brain, including attention deficit,  depression, memory problems, and reduction in goal-oriented behavior.  The damage is actually worse for girls’ brains than boys’.  Alcohol abuse shrinks the size of the hippocampus and also blocks the glutamate receptors the brain needs to build new synapses.     The hippocampus is where short-term memories are turned into long-term memories.  Many teens and young adults experience blackouts when they drink; young women may be at greater risk for memory impairment from alcohol.  Researchers are not totally sure why this may be yet.  
  • Children and adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to  develop alcohol dependence later in life than those who begin drinking at the legal drinking age of twenty –one (United States).

I don’t really have the room here to go into the neuroanatomic changes caused by marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and other drugs on the adolescent brain, but I just leave this post with a reminder of the  general signs of drug abuse:  withdrawal, dramatic changes in appetite or sleeping habits, excess irritability, lack of personal hygiene, speech that is too rapid or too slow, bloodshot eyes, consistent cough, irregularities in the eye pupils or eye movements, change in group of friends. 

Keep watchful, and please talk to your children. Conversations about these topics should be natural, normal,warm, open,  and layered in over time with your children.  Always keep in mind that the biology of the brain of a teenager makes addiction much more difficult than even in adults.   These conversations – sexuality, addiction, dealing with stress, challenges such as depression and anxiety or other difficult behaviors that many times actually begin in adolescence –  deserve loving, kind parental conversations, action, boundaries, connections in the community, assistance.  These topics are really just part of being human and adolescents deserve our time and attention to be there for these challenges.  There are many things we can shy away from as parents, or  areas where we don’t feel we excel, but these topics deserve our attempt.

Blessings,
Carrie