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! :)

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