Tag Archives: moms

Why Five Minutes Makes Me a Better Parent

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

It’s overwhelming, this whole motherhood thing. I think back to the days of answering only to myself, and doing things only when I felt like it… I don’t necessarily miss those days, but I’d give a large sum of money for a day or two like that every once in a while.

When I get up in the morning, it’s usually to the sounds of (at least) one of the kids. Often, it’s the jabbering of my youngest, playing happily in his crib, knowing I’ll come and get him soon. Those days are so nice. I can go to the bathroom, wash my face, and drink a little water before I start the diaper change and breakfast hustle. But other days, I hear stomping on the stairs, drawers opening and closing, or even cries of, “He hit me!” or something similar. As you can imagine, that’s not quite as pleasant at start. Some days just begin in a more relaxing way than others.

I find myself, on difficult days, craving a moment to myself. That could be almost any sort of moment… for instance, I love the grocery store. I could take a mile-long grocery list to the store, alone, ideally with a cappuccino, and it would be the perfect hour: super productive, not a waste of time, but relaxing, and also delicious if I ended up with that fancy drink. Just to have that bit of time to myself to regroup is my biggest desire in a hectic day. I suppose that’s how the memes about moms eating chocolate while locked in the bathroom are born. Boy, can I relate.

But actually taking the minute to myself doesn’t happen as much as needing it does. If I end up – for whatever reason – pushing through my need for a break, I’ll just end up back feeling crazed again in another half an hour. If I don’t take the moment I need to center myself, zap my coffee and take a big swig, or sit down and zone out for a minute or five. I’m so driven by productivity and “getting things done so that I can relax later” that I rarely let myself take a few minutes for myself before the to-do list is finished.

I do know one thing, though. I can prevent the feelings of stress and anxiety from getting worse (and sometimes break that cycle entirely, if I’m lucky) by taking that time I need for myself sooner. Need a breather? Take one. Need to just sit down for a few minutes? Do it. Need three minutes to calm your brain and scroll through Instagram? That’s just fine. There are very few things on my “list” that won’t still be there in five minutes – including the kids. A mental break is just as important as a physical one, but sometimes I can’t pull my brain out of the frenzy unless I pull my body out of it, too. Sometimes, I even leave the house… I step out to the back porch, or walk to get the mail. Sunshine and fresh air are an immediate shock to my system when it’s bogged down by detailed-oriented tasks and grabby hands that need me. The way my home is set up, the kids are usually in the room that leads to the porch, and it’s full of windows, so I’m not exactly leaving them unattended. But I’m getting out of the situation enough to hear birds instead of the arguing, or to see sun and trees instead of the pile of laundry I was about to get to. Sometimes, even sitting down with the kids and watching Octonauts is a break. It interrupts their cycle of crazy when I redirect them to something else, and it interrupts my cycle of “can’t slow my roll” when I get in there for a snuggle.

So, if you’re like me, sometimes (often?) wound up tightly, pushing yourself through those moments of anxiety or frustration in the sake of thinking you can handle it – or worse, for the sake of productivity – then give yourself a break. Take that minute, or 5, or 10 that you need. Do whatever you need to do to find the time, sooner rather than later, to let yourself unwind. Drink your coffee while it’s still hot. Sit down to chat or snuggle with your child before you get started on the dishes. Sneak that candy bar in the bathroom! There’s no shame in the game of saving your own sanity. You do something for you, mama, and don’t feel bad about it.

My little people aren’t to blame. 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve written again and again about losing my patience. Again and again, people comment… “Me too,” they say. “I know what you mean.” and “It gets easier.” are other common responses. I get texts, private messages, and comments right on my blog or my Facebook page telling me what I already know is true: “Every parent loses their patience sometimes. Kids can be totally frustrating. You aren’t to blame.”

Well, my little people aren’t to blame, either.

What is our culture’s obsession with blame? We need someone to be in the wrong in every unfavorable situation. Our president or the government is to blame. My boss is to blame. Our spouses, our parents, our kids. Well, what about the recent hurricanes? Who is to blame for that? No one. We’d love to pin down who caused all the destruction, who could be held responsible for the damage done, the property lost, or the money that will be spent on rebuilding instead of vacations and Christmas presents.

So when I get upset, annoyed, frustrated, or just plain angry, my little people aren’t to blame. I might need reminding of this fact, but they simply aren’t to blame for their tendencies toward mess-making, misunderstandings, or sleep-deprived moodiness. My little ones aren’t to blame for the fact that scrambled eggs aren’t their favorite breakfast, or that they have to wear pants today, or even the fact that they can’t survive off of fruit snacks.

But you know what, I do agree that I’m not to blame either.

You see, the kids and I, we are human. We are broken. We are prone to mistakes and sins. The only thing that can redeem us of those things is the grace of God. It’s by the grace of God we love each other through and in spite of messes (literal and figurative) and it is by His grace we can sometimes rise above the little things that often get under our skin. It’s by the grace of God that I even have these perfect little people in my life, and I wouldn’t dare say that my frustration outweighs the daily joy they bring to my life.

‘Twas the First Day of Kindergarten

‘Twas the First Day of Kindergarten: An Ode to Parents’ Feelings

‘Twas the first day of kindergarten,
And all through the town
The fathers and mothers were
Not at all sitting down.
They were packing the lunches
And setting out clothes,
Filling the water bottles
And wiping their nose.
For, you see, they were trying
To keep themselves busy
So it’d be easier to hide
All the crying and wishing
For just one more day
With their sweet little dears.
So they washed some more dishes
To hide the falling tears.

But then they remembered
The tantrums and tears
Over small things and large things
Like scratches or fears.
They’d make mountains of molehills
And things inconsequential.
They kept saying, “MOM!”
Till there was potential
For a nervous breakdown!
Or at least an explosion
Of some stressful shouting
That would cause a commotion.
They remembered those times
That they’d almost forgotten,
Of cleaning up messes
And wiping all the bottoms.

But between feelings of love,
And feelings of relief,
The parents would still know
That the school day is brief.
Their children would return,
Tired but happy.
They’d want to chat, have a snuggle,
And maybe take a nappy.
Then it’s dinner, and a bath,
And send them off to their beds,
The moms and dads needing
To rest their own heads.

It takes energy to love
All those little ones well,
And to worry and fret
Over healthy food or weird smells.
We’re entrusted these kids
For the shortest of seasons.
How can we not also
Give hundreds of reasons
To be protective and kind,
Giving all the hugs and kisses?
One day they’ll be grown,
And we’ll be the ones who miss them.

Looking for My Patience

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a parent; of course I lose my patience sometimes. It’s just what we do when things go awry, or when the day’s been too long, or when we’re pushed and stretched to the point of breaking. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, or that it is built into our systems as humans, but I don’t know a parent who has never lost their patience.

But I find that I have stretches of time where I lose my patience more than I keep it. I could blame it on hormones. I could blame it on low sleep. I could find a hundred other excuses for not keeping my cool, but what it all comes down to for me is relying on the Lord for my strength and patience, instead of relying only on myself. What do I mean?

I mean that  I can’t do it on my own. My striving, my best efforts, my standards for myself… none of those things can hold up without some divine intervention. I know that I need to ask my heavenly Father for patience before I need it, not during or after. I have to make the prayer for patience my mantra, and I have to keep reminding myself that my own patience isn’t sufficient unless it’s supplemented with His patience. I know I can’t be the best mom without His help.

While I don’t always find time for those long, elaborate, journaled prayers each day that I loved to write before my life was full of parenting, I need prayer even more than I did then. I find that I’m more conversational in my prayer times, coming and going through prayer throughout the whole day, praying for and with my kids, praying for help in a moment of weakness, for healing booboos, for bedtime to come quickly, and for more patience.

Who knows best how to parent more than God does? He is the perfect Father, the One whom our parent-child relationships should be modeled after. We can be frustrating children, I am sure. Reading the Bible can show us example after example of children who disobeyed, and made terrible choices. But God is full of patience, full of grace, and full of love for us at our most insolent of times. So when I am an imperfect parent, I try (even if it seems too late) to draw support from the perfect Parent, a Father who loves me – and my children – with all the patience we can imagine.

5 Reasons I’m No Longer Organized 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles

By nature, I am an organized person. I love order, labels, color-coding, and fancy pens. Y’all know that last one falls under the same category, right? I love it when the toys in our house have all their own pieces in their own receptacles and are under the correct labels. Talk about a happy place! But how often does my home actually show that I’m organized? Very rarely. Let me tell you the reasons why.

1. I’m a busy person. I know – we are all busy in our own ways. To be honest, busyness often enhances my productivity. I have five spare minutes, and I cram as many things into those five minutes as I can. But where I start to slip is when I let go of the organizational systems I have in place. My clothes are put away according to what type of garment they are. Pajamas here, workout clothes there, casual shirts here, blouses there. But then I have a pile of gently worn clothing that doesn’t fall into the “dirty laundry” category, but hasn’t been refolded or hung back up? Talk to me, huge stack of clothes I tried to lay out nicely but instead are all now wrinkly so I either have to iron them or throw them away. (Ahem. I will never iron. So you see the problem.) It’ll take more than those five spare minutes to put you all away, so destined you are to stay there on the ottoman at the foot of my bed.

2. I don’t live by myself. I know, you’re so surprised that since I’m an organized person, my family can’t just fall in line with me! I, too, frequently fail to see why if there is a labeled bin for toy cars, why are there toys cars not only in every crevice of my home, but also in the bins labeled “Dress Up Clothes” and “Kitchen Items”? Or how about when I have special places for canned goods in my pantry, but there are often canned goods, sitting lonely on the shelf that IS NOT FOR CANNED GOODS. It must be that the leprechaun that haunts kindergarten classrooms in March also haunts my kitchen. All the time. I digress.

3. I love organization so much that I am always finding new and better ways to organize my home. Pinterest is a win AND  a fail for me. I find a good way of doing things, use it for a while, and then I see a new idea. Well, let’s try it! Oh, Hubby and the kids can’t follow my train of very organized thought, packed away into separate see-through containers, stacked on the bottom two shelves of that bookcase in the guest room? Okay, fine. I guess it was a little confusing. Let’s go back to the other way!

4. We have a lot of clutter. I used to think that clutter was knick-knacks from flea markets and bric-a-brac from trips I’d been on in the past. I have very few of those, but I still have a lot of clutter. Nowadays I think my “clutter” is the coupons I don’t want to throw away in case we want to replace our windows this month, and the book my mother-in-law lent me that I honestly do want to read but should probably give back since I’ve been borrowing it for a year and haven’t cracked it open. I’ve heard about the Konmari book, and I think I’d be all about it: if it doesn’t give you joy, toss it. Okay, great, toss that spinach and the annoying bedtime book my kid won’t stop asking me to read.

5. I’m too tired. I know that being organized is energizing for me, and will absolutely save me valuable time with many tasks around my house. The systems we have in place that work are wonderful ones, and I’m always raving about how I’d love everything to be that orderly. But the truth of the matter is that if I have an extra few hours somewhere, I’d rather be taking my kids to the park, sneaking in a date night with my husband, or having a glass of wine with a friend. I don’t have the energy to organize the laundry room’s cabinets or to choose which cloth napkins give me the most joy. You can find me snuggling my babies, watching Moana for the thirtieth time.

If you can get organized, I highly recommend it. It saves time, effort, and often some of your sanity. But if you’re like me, and you just haven’t kept it all together, that’s okay. Empty nesters have a lot of time, I hear.

How I Find Time for ME (As a Mom of Young Children)

This post originally appeared on the Grit and Grace Project

Self-care is becoming a buzzword in our society. As we are able to work from home (read: anywhere), connect with hundreds of people are the touch of a button, and multitask like true professionals, we’re only getting busier. The call to slow down and take care of yourself is simultaneously getting louder and more difficult to heed.

As a SAHM mother of three children under five, who also works part-time, finding time for myself is often not at the top of my to-do list. But I’ve also realized that I’m a better wife and mother if I have a little time to myself. It looks different each day, and I spend it differently each time, but here are a few things I do to ensure a little time for me.

1. Plan it with my hubby. He’s my support and my biggest cheerleader, and he’s always willing to help me have time to get my nails done or even to just take a nap. He encourages me to write, to practice my music, to go out and have coffee without the kids. I plan with him for when he can keep the kids and I can sneak out for an hour or two to refresh, to relax, and do whatever it is I need to regroup.

2. Let some things go. Sometimes, when my kids are napping or go to bed early, I get the urge to clean all the things, fold all the laundry, and prep all the meals. Other times, I let it all slide (even though those chores are still waiting on me) to take a long shower, read a book with un-re-heated coffee, or watch a movie with a glass of wine. Believe me- the dishes aren’t going anywhere.

3. Hang out with a girlfriend (or a few). My girlfriends are a mix of fellow moms and also gal pals who don’t have kids. Sometimes it takes a lot of planning (and babysitters) to get together with them, but other times, I can just have a friend over for morning coffee after preschool drop off, or a post-bedtime chat over wine. Being with a girlfriend can refill the relational and feminine parts of me. And never underestimate the reinvigorating qualities of a girls’ night!

4. Take a power nap. Napping isn’t for everyone, and it wasn’t for me until I had kids. But now that I often choose many things over sleep (including things I love doing, not just chores), a power nap can work wonders. A 20-minute snooze during their nap time can be just as good as napping the whole time they’re asleep! If I know I have things to do after their bedtime, the power nap can keep me going a little longer.

5. Get dressed. I always feel more productive and happier with myself when I make the effort to get out of my pajamas (even if I’m not leaving the house), wash my face, and brush on a coat of mascara. It sounds silly, but it gives me a boost, and makes me feel more like myself, even if I don’t need to do it.

What things do you do to make sure you’re your best self?

The Best Ever Pancake Recipe for Moms Who Aren’t Chefs

 I make hot breakfast for my kids almost every single morning. There are very few exceptions – mostly because I set a particular precedent and now they won’t eat cold cereal. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Anyway, because of this fact, I’ve gotten really creative with the breakfasts I make, specifically in the pancake department. I found that I could hide almost anything in a pancake, in a good way. I make a new-fangled pancake batter with some crazy ingredients, I scramble a couple of eggs to go with them, and serve a side of fruit. BOOM! Healthy breakfast, please and thank you.

If you want to know my pancake secrets, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Start with Bisquick (or whatever type pancake mix you prefer). I like Bisquick because it doesn’t have a ton of sugar in it to begin with, but it’s a good base so you don’t have to add things like baking powder or salt. I typically include the ingredients it suggests for pancake-making (a couple of eggs and some milk), then I flavor it with whatever mood I’m in that day.
  2. Add in vanilla extract. I ALWAYS dribble in some vanilla extract to the batter. No excuses not to. I make my own (well, my mom makes it, but I help!) so it’s extra special, but if you’re not a creative guru like my mama, regular vanilla will do.
  3. Get some fruit. Usually, I opt for whatever is overripe/soft/abounding/neglected in our kitchen. Banana works well, but we also like blueberry and strawberry, or a combination of those. Mash it or puree it, and stir it in. Do it before the milk, because it often means you need less milk, because it’s juicy.
  4. Grab some flaxseed. Or chia seed. Or almond flour. Or whatever power powder you have around. Even ginger or turmeric could hide if you have a careful hand. You can likely sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of the powders (or a teaspoon or two of the spices) without it getting noticed by kids or husbands.
  5. If you’re feeling generous, dump in some chocolate chips. Or if you’re like my family, Craisins. Sprinkles could also be fun if you’re celebrating something! Finely-chopped nuts are good, too, if your family is okay with nuts and likes a little crunch (Banana walnut pancakes, I’m looking at you.)
  6. Mix in some peanut butter or cocoa powder for a new spin on flavored pancakes. Peanut butter adds protein, of course, and makes them wonderfully thick and fluffy. Cocoa powder gives them a chocolatey tone without a ton of sugar… although I find that you need to add a little sugar (if you’re using Bisquick especially), honey, or other sweetener to combat the slight bitterness. I typically go for coconut sugar.
  7. Shape them like Mickey Mouse, snowmen, or caterpillars if you’re feeling fancy, and top them with some pure maple syrup. More flavor than “pancake syrup” (sorry, Aunt Jemima) and no artificial ingredients!

Pancakes please kids almost every time you make them, so I hide all sorts of goodies in there and call them healthy. I’ve stopped measuring things entirely and just go by looks. If the batter’s consistency looks like it’ll cook up on a pan, your breakfast won’t fall flat. BA-DUM, TSSS! (My husband told me that would be funny. If you didn’t laugh, it’s his fault.)

In case you’re wondering, this is just another post about my love affair with breakfast food.