Saturday, April 30, 2016

Calming the Chaos

    Did you notice? This blog page now has an accompanying Facebook page. On that page, I'll be sharing links to latest blog posts, links to other blog pages that I've found to offer encouragement and practical tips, products (including books) we're enjoying, and more. One big purpose for creating a Facebook page for the blog is the ability to live stream. The live stream videos will mainly focus on sharing brief bits of encouragement or perhaps a practical tip for the day. You can watch them live, or whenever you have a spare moment. (I like to watch while washing dishes). I've thoroughly enjoyed writing and posting a new blog post each week, and look forward to extending the Our Homemaking Story blog in a new way. Regardless of how popular (or unpopular) either of these entities become, the heart will always be the same. It's still a journal of our journey of pursuing home and family through homemaking. My heart is that these pages will be a source of encouragement and maybe even a helpful resource to anyone who may be interested. 

1. Take time off
      A day "off" was an unexpected gift from my husband. After crying to him one night, he realized that I needed some time "off." My husband is the opposite personality from me, and as such is a wonderful blessing in knowing how to add some fun to life. We got everyone ready, and spent a Saturday at the local zoo. On our way there we picked up a fancy coffee drink for me, a tea for him, and smoothie for Tennyson. (The order cost as much as our tickets to the zoo, but I was decidedly going to relax and enjoy the special day!). Other parts of the day included opportunities to read encouraging and practical blog posts, write in my new notebook, and begin reading my new book. It was absolutely wonderful!
      An occasion to take a full day off and have fun are not frequent. (But rarity makes them all the more special!). More often, "time off" is simply an opportunity to go to a store by myself, get my hair done, blog or write on my book at a coffee shop (like I'm doing now!), etc. Usually, "time off" is not a full day, but an hour or so. Yet, even an hour or so in which I can leave the work behind and focus on myself a bit more is very refreshing
2. Get adequate rest
      Nearly every feeling of overwhelm, inadequacy and displeasure can be found rooted in inadequate sleep. Sleep is a big factor for me as I am naturally a very sleep dependent person. It's very difficult for me to maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, be productive in our home, and love and guide the children, and be loving to my husband as well without adequate rest. I know that I need about 8-9 hours of sleep each night. In order to wake up at an appropriate time in the mornings (ie before the family), I need to be in bed at an appropriate time. During some rest times, the temptation is strong to just lay in bed and browse online as a means of relaxing from the busy day. But, this delays and detracts from the amount of sleep I am able to get. It's a matter of responsibility and self-discipline. It's greater for me to get to bed as soon as possible and enjoy a less stimulating (from the bright screen) activity like reading a few pages in a book. Furthermore, since the baby still wakes frequently at night I need to allow myself a moment in the day to rest and recharge a bit. Naptime is a tempting time to get things done, but rest is much greater. With rest, we can be far more productive and joyful for the rest of the day. (And that's a pretty worthy accomplishment!)

3. Drink adequate water
     Did you know that the recommendation for fluids intake for women is 9 cups (2.2 L) per day? Many functions depend on adequate water. I've gotten into a habit of drinking more coffee than water! Adequate water would actually be more energizing than coffee. 

4. Exercise
     Exercise is not my "thing." It is not a happy, energizing activity for me. Therefore, it's highly unlikely I'm going to be consistent with any kind of exercising program or regime. I also don't have much time to devote to such as that. However, I have found that I enjoy yoga as a means of exercise. Yoga is calm and relaxing, which is precisely the kind of activity I need in this moment in life! I downloaded an 7 minute yoga app onto my phone. I was pretty consistent with it before we moved, and have fallen out of routine. Taking a moment (a mere 7 mintues, actually) is something I can do even with the children present. The stretch and relaxation is wonderfully renewing for mind and body!

5. Adhere to the daily schedule
       A daily schedule makes a tremendous difference in the day! We can go from chaotic days to calm days with the simple implementation of a daily schedule. A schedule allows for a time for everything and everyone. Without it, the house stays a mess, I don't have time to properly care for myself, and the children demonstrate negative behavior in effort to gain attention (not to mention conflict with each other). 
     I recently put our full daily schedule into use, and discovered that some aspects of it needed to be refined. For instance, we now have two children who are mobile. Complete free reign in their space and relationships can easily lead to chaos. It's far better to rotate locations, activities, and the presence of boundaries. In order to achieve this goal with two mobile little ones, we needed an additional tool. We decided to purchase a 6-8 sided playpen for our oldest (2 years old). Now, we have moments in the day in which the baby (10 months old) plays in the pack n' play and the toddler plays in the playpen in the living room. We also use a baby gate at the doorway of one of the bedrooms for one child to safely play while the other has one-on-one time with Mama. There are also moments in which we are all together. 
     Believe it or not, a schedule with adequate movement of locations, activities, and boundaries has made a noticeable difference in the frequency of toddler tantrums! (Tantrums are part of the age, but don't have to dominate the child, relationships, or homelife!)

6. Plan and prepare activities for the day
      My oldest, at least, has never been a child who will happily play with a selection of toys. Instead, he enjoys a lot of interaction and exploration. He's much more interested in learning how something works than typical toys. Consequently, it's always a challenge to me to keep him productively occupied in the day (otherwise, he'll create his own amusement and I generally don't agree with his choice. haha). One solution we've found is subscribing to a monthly M is for Monster activities box. Our subscription includes three themes with twelve hands-on activities. These activities are awesome! The price of the boxes are a bit high, in my opinion, but well worth the investment considering we have a month of activities and I don't have to invest time to plan or prepare them. 
     In addition to the box activities, we have also begun doing lessons from Character First. We focus on one character quality each month. We listen/watch the song with motions each morning during breakfast. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we do an activity related to the lesson which are provided on the website. 
     Spending a moment in the day to do a hands-on activity one-on-one makes a significant difference in my curious and busy toddler! 

7. Work through material that is spiritually uplifting and meaningful
      Choose material thoroughly. Consume only that which nourishes your soul. There is a lot of material available that unnecessarily complicates or conflicts with us personally. Even if these materials are well-meaning, if they aren't moving you forward then don't waste your time or energy. I really enjoy reading blog posts, but have grown to be very selective in what I read. I choose only that which will be an encouragement or provide applicable tips. I also enjoy reading books that of this nature. (I'm currently reading a book by Sally Clarkson and one on parenting toddlers by Jo Frost). 

8. Pursue personal interests
    I've learned that it's important for Mama to maintain at least one interest or hobby that keeps her connected to herself personally. I determined at the first of the year that I would be committed to pursuing one personal interest this year. I choose weekly blog posts. (And recently decided to extend that endeavor to weekly Facebook live stream videos!). Without this effort, it's easy to lose your personal identity to your roles. Pick one, and stick with it. 

9. Unplug
     The online world can be thrilling and draining at the same time. It so easily pulls my attention and my heart from my home and family. How much do I want my children to see my eyes shift to a screen? What am I conveying to them of my priorities? Where do they fit in? Am I teaching them that there is a proper time and place for all things, including screen viewing? Again, a daily schedule is helpful in pre-determining the best opportunities for screen-time. If you're heart is not towards home, then I suggest unplugging for a time. Without knowing, our home and family can become an inconvenience to the excitement of the online world (blogs, social media, etc). 

10. Clean the house
      Clutter is chaos. As a strong type A personality, mess creates stress for me. Managing the home and two children two years old and under is much, much easier with a tidy space. Ideally, it would stay manageable based on the use of a daily schedule. However, some days aren't going to go perfectly as planned and the mess will pile up quickly. In those times, I ask for help from my wonderful husband. He often helps with dishes at night so that I can go ahead and go to bed (he's isn't near as sleep dependent as I am and therefore can stay up later). Or, we might both work on cleaning the house completely on the weekend so that I may start the week with a clean space. However it has to be done, a clean house will certainly calm the chaos!

     These are just a few strategies that I'm attempting to implement in order to regain control and create calm in the chaos. When the days or weeks are overwhelming and messy, a change in schedule or systems is likely needed. I believe the home and family can be wonderful, desirable entities! We simply need to continuously refine ourselves and our family systems! :)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Did You Notice?

Did you notice? This blog page now has an accompanying Facebook page. On that page, I'll be sharing links to latest blog posts, links to other blog pages that I've found to offer encouragement and practical tips, products (including books) we're enjoying, and more. One big purpose for creating a Facebook page for the blog is the ability to live stream. The live stream videos will mainly focus on sharing brief bits of encouragement or perhaps a practical tip for the day. You can watch them live, or whenever you have a spare moment. (I like to watch while washing dishes). I've thoroughly enjoyed writing and posting a new blog post each week, and look forward to extending the Our Homemaking Story blog in a new way. Regardless of how popular (or unpopular) either of these entities become, the heart will always be the same. It's still a journal of our journey of pursuing home and family through homemaking. My heart is that these pages will be a source of encouragement and maybe even a helpful resource to anyone who may be interested. :)

You can also visit the page by following this link: Our Homemaking Story Facebook Page

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Our Favorite Snacks Options


    Snacks are helpful to boost calories when needed and provide additional energy. This is especially helpful during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as for young and growing children.  Yet, snack time is one of my weaker areas of food provision in a day. I have such a hard time stopping to eat something. I've found that if I have options already prepared then I'm more likely to offer a snack time to myself and my children. 

     (Side note: I at times find my toddler's behavior to be particularly difficult, and then discover that he was hungry. A toddler may be hungry but not say it or behave in a manner indicative of such (ie going to the pantry and grabbing something nearby to eat). Poor behavior will certainly be the case, though. I've learned it best to be proactive in having a snack ready for him.)

      To make things really simple, I've created a list of snack options that I rotate through. (You may recall that I do something similar for our breakfasts). I try to keep the snack time option balanced by containing a protein, carbohydrate, and fruit/veggie. I limit the weekly options to just four different snack combinations that are be repeated during the week. This is helpful for reducing how much I needed to purchase and thereby save money, and also allowing me to prep. once and enjoy it multiple times.Occasionally, we do diverge from the plan. Afternoon snack time is a great time to enjoy a fresh baked goodie if we have one!

         Planning breakfasts and snacks has had many benefits for our family. I automatically know what needs to be purchased and how much of it we'll need, which decreases grocery spending and waste. I can ensure we have balanced and nutritious snack options, and thereby be less dependent on processed snack foods. Lastly, the biggest benefit has been the elimination of an area of decision making. I have far greater success in managing our home and family if I'm not overwhelmed with decisions and tasks. I prefer to simplify as much as possible! When snack time approaches each day, I'm prepared with minimal effort or thought (and my hungry toddler has minimal opportunity to become upset. ;) ). 

Snack Time Options:

  • "ants on a log" (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins)
  • apple slices with cheese slices
  • frozen fruit smoothie pop (make homemade or find all-natural fruit and veggie based popsicles in the freezer section)
  • yogurt with berries
  • carrots with hummus (I often add cucumber slices too)
  • whole wheat crackers with cheese slices
  • yogurt with banana and plain granola (banana popsicle would be good, too!)
  • whole wheat tortilla chips with bean dip (easy bean dip-> mix a can of refried beans, cheddar cheese, and salsa in crock pot)
  • yogurt with granola (the kind of granola with fruit in it)
  • cereal (usually Cheerios) with milk
  • cottage cheese with diced fruit (peaches, nectarine, pineapple, banana etc)
  • whole wheat graham crackers with peanut butter
  • (green) smoothie
  • whole grain crackers with peanut butter, fruit/veggie juice
  • tuna salad on whole grain crackers (or celery sticks)
  • whole wheat graham cracker sandwich (frozen yogurt + sliced banana filling)
  • baked potato with cheese and salsa
  • graham cracker with cream cheese, fruit/veggie juice
  • pretzels (pita chips, rice cakes etc) with cheese slices
  • veggies (cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, broccoli etc) with ranch dressing

Other options:
- trail mix 
- hardboiled eggs 
- popcorn
- chocolate "pudding" (avocado, banana, cinnamon, vanilla, sweetner)
- banana bread, zucchini bread etc. 
- banana with peanut butter (and occasionally a few mini chocolate chips!)

     Of course, some snack options are better for certain ages. So, be sure to use caution in providing any snack that could be a choking risk to a child. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Our Simplest Daily Schedule

      I love utilizing a schedule in our days! Having a plan helps me be able to take care of everything and everyone every day. It also provides reassurance to the children that they will each receive my attention individually and collectively. However, there are times in life in which a full schedule isn't feasible- teething, sickness, big changes in life, busy weekly plans etc. When need be, we drop our full daily schedule and use a much more simplified version. 

       I've noticed a couple of common characteristics when my children's behavior become difficult. During these times, my youngest will cling fiercely to me and will quickly become upset to be separated. My oldest will experience meltdowns and throw tantrums at even minor infractions. The common factors in both behaviors are 1) inconsistency and 2) attention. 

    When our time together has lacked consistency for whatever reason, they may respond negatively. Consistency in the day provides a great deal of security for a child! The predictability allows them to anticipate what activity is to come next and then transition smoothly. They can also be assured of when they will receive proper attention. Even the youngest of children know that attention is attention, regardless of it being positive or negative. And so, there are occasions in which I see my toddler acting out and consider if he's received adequate attention to not be needing to gain my attention through negative means. Similarly, if my baby is clingy tightly to me and easily upset if separated, then I need to consider if she's received enough attention from me to feel secure to be a part from me. 

       For occasions in which I know there is a greater occurrence of inconsistency and/or attention, I try to simplify our daily schedule to focus on those things. For instance, we've spent this past month making a move from PA to TX. To say that life has been inconsistent is an understatement. As a result, both children have exhibited difficult behavior. (I don't blame them because a move like that is difficult on adults even!). Instead of jumping back into our full daily schedule now that we've moved into the rent house, we're spending quite a bit of time reestablishing consistency and attention. They need to be reassured that the security of predictability is still present and they will each receive adequate attention.

Our Simplified Daily Schedule:

*Tennyson-Mama Time, Annelise Play Alone Time*
*Annelise-Mama Time, Tennyson Play Alone Time*
*Mama Alone Time, Tennyson-Annelise Playtime*
*Tidy Home Time (all participate)*
*Together Time*

     I set a timer so that each activity block is approximately ten minutes. I  also end each with a book so that there is a clear indicator of an activity time ending. We begin the day with us all together for breakfast (more than 10 minutes, of course). Then I make sure Tennyson receives the first block of my attention. If not, then he is likely to ask for it in negative ways while I am getting Annelise down for a morning nap. However, when I fill his attention tank up first he's able to play independently in an appropriate manner. After Tennyson-Mama time, we have Annelise-Mama time and this is when I put her down for a morning nap. When she's awake, we all play together again. Then, I reset the timer for the children to play together and for me to get ten minutes to myself. This is the time I might be on my phone, complete a To Do list task, complete a cleaning task etc. (It helps to keep my phone time limited to those occasions so that I'm not tempted to look at the phone excessively in the day! This is a temptation for me.) Afterwards, I spend a few minutes tidying the house. Typically, this is a tidy before lunch occasion. Then, we're together again and it's typically lunchtime. After lunch and nap, we simply repeat the schedule. (If you haven't noticed, then you will see that even though each activity block is designed to be only ten minutes long it might take us much, much longer. For our intentions right now, that's perfectly fine.)

       This simplified schedule allows for a lot of flexibility depending on the circumstance. For instance, when we first moved and life was so chaotic, I had a together time between every activity block. (The sample posted shows us having progressed to a together time between every two). Later, we'll do a together time between every three blocks. So, for example, we'll be together, Tennyson-Mama time, Annelise-Mama time, Mama-time and then together again. 

    The goal is to work through the present difficulty and then resume our full daily schedule. I want to meet their need and help them return to a place of greater security and contentment without my direct intervention all the time. There ought to be a balance between togetherness and independence. I've found that when independence is not happening and behavior is difficult, then there may be a need that can be met through greater attention/togetherness. Afterwards, they can successfully resume moments of independence. 
     I believe this would also be a helpful approach to teaching siblings to independence and collaborative play. In other words, if you have multiple children but they each want Mama's undivided attention as though they were only-children. By alternating attention, they see that everyone and everything is due attention and will receive it. 

     A very simple daily schedule would also be a great starting place for anyone who beginning to schedule the day. If the children (or you!) are accustomed to being in free play at all times in the day, then a more detailed schedule may be met with resistence. (Do you have trouble following a schedule? Perhaps you need to ease your way into more structure). Start with a simplified schedule and then work up to a more detailed one. A schedule will make an impact on the productivity in a day, maintenance of positive attitudes, and overall pleasantness of the home and family. :)(for

Saturday, April 9, 2016

March 2016 In Our Home

Moving month! This sums up March in our home!
     This month has been all about our move from Pennsylvania to Texas. (And, consequently, so will this post).  We only had about three weeks from the day we found out we were moving to the day we arrived. Three weeks is not a lot of time to make a 1473mi. move! Even though we're familiar with moving, this move was far more difficult than we had anticipated. It's been an adventure, indeed.

26 months old & 9 months old!
      During the weeks leading up to the move, I worked each day to declutter and organize our home. I cleaned out. I typically hang on to things for "one day." You know, "one day I'll resell it" or "one day I'll finish the project" etc. Well, I made up my mind to not take a To Do list from one place to another. Yet, it was really tough to just get rid of so many things! I hated to deny the value remaining in those things. But, I determined there was greater value in less clutter and less things lingering to be done. It would have been nice to have had a yard sale, but we didn't have the time. So, I offered anyone who was interested to come by and take anything they wanted, and some did. Afterwards, a friend came over with her husband's truck and helped me carry the rest to the thrift store to be donated. Honestly, as much as I hated to see so much potential be discarded, I love the freedom doing so brought me! It's incredibly freeing to not have any clutter piles or projects waiting to be completed. This is one benefit to moving as frequently as we do- each time is an opportunity to declutter!

      Moving week itself was tough. Movers came on a Tuesday and boxed everything up (children missed all naps). On Wednesdays, they came back and loaded the truck (children missed all naps again). The car hauler came that evening and loaded up both of our vehicles. On Thursday, we were flying to Texas (children missed all naps yet again). Because we didn't know how long it would be until the moving truck would be delivered, I had to pack enough clothes, toys, books, snacks etc. to last all of us for about two weeks. That was no easy feat! I'm sure we looked hilarious in the airport with all our stuff. We each wore a child (Annelise with me in the K'Tan & Tennyson with David in the Ergo), we each carried a carseat, we each had a bookbag (snack & activities in one bag, diapers and change of clothes in another). Then, we also had two large suitcases we checked. Phew! (We did get one or two comments. haha).

We made it to Texas!
It was Tennyson's first flight, and I was nervous about how he would handle it. I asked David  how Tennyson was doing during the first take off, and he replied, "He's good. Terrified, but good." Haha, poor buddy. 
     Because the move is so quick, we didn't have an opportunity to visit or look for housing prior to arriving. Yep, we made the move without having a home. We stayed in a nice extended stay hotel for about two weeks while we looked for a place to rent. During this time the children and I all became sick. Tennyson had an ear infection and strep, Annelise had a double ear infection, and I had a sinus infection. We all had a runny nose before we left, and that minor ailment escalated quite a bit when combined with no rest, stress, and traveling.  

       Although, we intend to purchase a home as soon as possible, we couldn't stay in a hotel until that time. We knew we needed to find something to bridge that time gap. To our surprise, the real estate market was not at all what we expected. We learned that because there is a military base and three colleges in town, the large number of transient people causes the rental market to be in high demand (conversely, the market for purchasing homes is fantastic). We were shocked (and panicked) to discovered poor quality houses for extraordinary prices. There were lots of tears and tensions over finding a decent place to live for a reasonable price. We ended up finding a house that was acceptable. It is a true and true rent house with plenty of flaws. It's a good reminder to find a place of our own quickly! 

       The move has been hard on everyone. Not only the logistics of finding a place to live, but also in coping with so much change. The children and I were happy in PA, and enjoyed our life there. Although, I wanted to be supportive of my husband's career and desire to be closer to his family I've really struggled with surrendering our former life in PA. I miss it quite a bit. I know we'll adjust though. 

     Tennyson has also had a hard time adjusting. His whole world has been turned upside down. A lot of changes have been thrown at him all at once. Annelise is fortunately young enough to not know anything different. David is really enjoying his new position as well as being back in the South. His parents are closer and already planning a visit this summer. Hopefully by then the children and I will have adjusted better and perhaps even finished unpacking boxes!

      I feel like this is one of those life circumstances in which you can be faithful or fretful. Honestly, I've been mighty fretful! (Still am at times!). I discussed this with a wonderful Christian friend and she encouraged me to seek forgiveness from the Lord, from myself, and then begin to praise God for the good things that are occurring. I'll start with the blessing of this beautiful friend who has been such a strong encouragement in the walk towards Christlikeness (I left her in PA, too! haha). I am grateful that the Lord provided David with a job and location in which he can finally be happy. I'm glad he will get to be closer to his family. I'm grateful God has led us to a rental house and realtor that has agreed to write the lease for only three months so that we can quickly move on to purchasing a house instead of being locked into a rental for a year. I'm grateful that we are beginning to reestablish a new norm and life here. 

    I suspect April will be more unpacking and settling in. Hopefully we'll find some fun in the meantime. :)

Although this post is a bit late, it is still within the week. That means I'm still holding to my New Years Resolution of one post each week! YIPPEE!!!

Also, I'm considering doing a (daily? weekly?) Periscope livestream. It will be a place to interact and discuss various topics (marriage, parenting, Christian living, homemaking etc.). The intention is to be a place of interaction and encouragement. If you follow me here, would you like to also join me there? You can find me under the name "RevivingHomemaking" (Whitney R.) :)
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