It’s Not Easy to Be a Great Parent But There is Help

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I have almost never felt confident as a parent. Ok maybe that’s not true. There have been moments when something new I was trying appeared to be working and suddenly I was able to see a potential future where every day wasn’t a struggle. But those moments have been rarer than the usual utter chaos and internal turmoil that characterize my days.

It’s easy to feel like you are drowning in a sea of potential help, but so much of it is conflicting. How do you know what is the right approach to parenting for your family or even for your specific child? (Doesn’t it seem unfair that each kid has different requirements? I’ve often thought how much easier it would be if what worked for one worked for all of them. After all, my kids all pretty much look alike, it would be nice if parenting strategies could be more consistent as well?).

The Parent Super Bundle from Ultimate Bundles is one of those potential sources of help. But today is the last day to purchase before this bundle goes away.

“What?” you say, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”

Two reasons.

1. I know as a parent I tend to hem and haw and ultimately wait until the last minute to make a decision anyway.

2. I don’t want you to over analyze this. This is a HUGE bundle with so many fantastic resources. But don’t get bogged down in that. Make it a simple math problem. Find a handful (seriously focus on five or fewer) of books, courses or bonus offers that you know will be helpful and useful.) Then run the numbers of what those resources usually cost.

Don’t think you will use all of these. I have never used every resource in one of these bundles. But I have always gotten my money’s worth and more.

Here are just a few products that I think make the bundle worth it.

The Stop Yelling Handbook
by Amanda Rueter

The Stop Yelling Handbook is packed full of tips and techniques to help every day moms deal with the frustration and anger that comes with raising kids. 
Value: $7.99

When I was perusing the list of resources in this bundle this book immediately jumped out at me. I have become a yelling mama. This is something I specifically did NOT want to be. I’m finally at a place in my life where I am ready to start dealing with the yelling problem and this looks like a great way to get started.

 

A Realistic Action Plan for the Weary Mom:
15 Days of Hope from the Intentional Mom

by Jennifer Roskamp

An extensive book that examines 15 common issues that moms struggle with. This is exactly the hope that will breathe new life into your days. 
Value: $7.99

Since weary has been my buzzword lately, I was immediately drawn to this title. Most days I feel like I’m making it up as I go along, even though I’m someone that likes routine and structure. This book sounds like a great one to help me get a handle on my days again.

 

Training Your Children in Home Economics
by Angie Kauffman

Training Your Children in Home Economics addresses why learning Home Ec skills are important for children, as well as sections on skills in Money Management, Hospitality, Simple Sewing Skills, Gardening, Meal Planning, Meal Preparation, Kitchen Safety, Food Safety, Microwave Safety, Table Manners & Laundry Skills 
Value: $2.50

My husband and I were just discussing the other night how much we value practical life skills and how important we feel it is to teach our children these things, perhaps even as important as their formal education. It is also something that I was lacking a bit in my upbringing so I had a lot to learn when we first got married. This is a great resource to help get the process started for my own kids.

 

Creative Freewriting Adventure: A Journey Into Freewriting
by Stacy Farrell

Bring joy and excitement into your student’s writing with these simple-to-execute (yet significant) writing exercises. No prep required. Just grab a pen and paper, set a timer, and have fun! 
Value: $18.95

As a parent of a reluctant writer, and a creative writing teacher, I was very excited to see such a great resource included in this bundle. Whether you homeschool or not, many parents feel overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching their children to write. Yet, it is an essential skill often overlooked and underappreciated in the traditional classroom. This has the potential to be an invaluable resource toward fostering your child’s creativity and imagination.

 

Bonus Offer

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10 free audio stories for kids

Around the World Stories offers fun, original audio stories that introduce kids ages 5-12 to how children in other cultures live, play, learn, eat and celebrate. Each 30-minute story focuses on the adventures of a child from another country and comes with discussion topics, recipes and activities.
Value: $30

I have been so eager to try this. As lovers of Adventures in Odyssey and Sparkle Stories, this seemed like a perfect fit for our family. Plus, as homeschoolers, it’s a great way to cover some social studies and geography.

 

That’s it! If you only used those 5 products you would have gotten more than your money’s worth on this bundle. Feel free to visit the main bundle page to see a full list of all the products that are included. But not let it overwhelm you. Focus on the things that you think will really help your specific family
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How Do I Inspire Them?

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Photo Credit: seabright hoffman Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I’ve always loved to read. To me, reading was like magic. It opened the world to me. When we decided we were going to home school our children, I was ecstatic about sharing my love of reading with them. But it hasn’t always worked out that way.

There is a saying in certain home school circles, “Inspire not require.” As a natural born student and a life long learner, this made perfect sense to me. But no one explained to me how to do it. When my daughter would rather draw or play outside than do math, I feel torn. Because my brain says “She can’t just go through life only doing what she wants.” and my heart dies a little at ever telling a child they can’t create or explore.

I keep hoping that we’ll find the right book and suddenly the light will come on and she will love the written word. So far she loves audio books and graphic novels. So I read articles about which books are the best for reluctant readers. I find every decent graphic novel adaptation of classic books.

How do you inspire someone? The people who have inspired me most were mostly just being themselves and doing what they love most. So I will read to her, talk to her about reading and let her see me reading. Hopefully she’ll get the message.

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It’s Only The First Day

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Photo Credit: brodieguy Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Today was our first official day of school. As year round homeschoolers there is always learning going on around here. But we took the first part of the summer off from formal school like stuff to help us reset while the kids did VBS, swim lessons and we look a trip to see friends and family. But I knew we needed to get back into a routine and get started.

 

I had all kinds of grand plans about being full prepared and a lovely day spent covering all the subjects. Fortunately I talked myself out of the extravaganza I had originally wanted and decided to phase in our subjects over the next three months. These last two weeks of July will be spent on the basics and then we’ll start phasing in new subjects (like formal spelling, American history and science) and special subjects (like art and music) over the next few months. Our co-op doesn’t start back up until September so I thought this would be a good time to get our bearings.

 

Except my planning day on Saturday turned into a clean out the garage day because we realized there was standing water due to all the recent rain. (Did I mention that our garage is still full of boxes left from our move 6 months ago?) I spent most of Sunday night desperately trying to clean up the living room so that it wouldn’t be a mess tomorrow when we started school and all the while feeling overwhelmed by all there was to do.

 

We started the day with French toast for breakfast, which the kids loved. Then we started with a family devotional I’ve been wanting to try. (The kids were less than fans, unfortunately). We read two new poems from this children’s season poetry treasury that I love. Then we continued on with reading lessons, language lessons, and our book of the week from Five in a Row. I began reading aloud Mary Poppins during snack time and then we moved on to math and copy work.

 

That may all sound really impressive. Except it also involved:

 

A stop for a diaper change of the toddler and trying to keep him from writing all over the house with the pencils.

 

Dealing with whining from my 8 year old who refused to do her reading lesson and proceeded to do a rushed and poor quality job with copy work.

 

I was hoping to do an audiobook during lunch but my children were so disappointed that I didn’t have Mary Poppins as an audiobook (apparently they don’t like the way I read it) that they refused to listen to anything at all.

 

The kids fought, the toddler disrupted

Some how laundry was also done, though I’m not exactly sure how and before I knew it, it was time to start dinner. I still had to cram in a workout before dinner was actually ready and I had to run to a meeting at church.

 

Not an auspicious first day. But I had to keep reminding myself it was just the first day. There are many days ahead. Some will be better, often they will be about the same as this. Yet there is room for growth and improvement. First days tend to built up as some kind of symbol of how the year will be. But really it’s just a day.

 

There are so many other times I let one day define me. The day my workout goes terribly. The day my children won’t behave at the store. (Ok, that’s most days, but still). When my husband and I fight. When unexpected bills arrive and it feels like we’ll never get ahead financially. But it’s not about that one day, it’s the decision to get up each and every day, and continue with the mantra “I need thee every hour.”

 

Tomorrow I will get up, start a load of laundry, and remind the kids to brush their teeth and empty the dishwasher. Make a less impressive breakfast than today and we will begin again, all the while praying for the strength and provision I need for the day and the hour, believing that the strength will arise as I need it.

How Can I Learn to Enjoy Just Being with Them?

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Photo Credit: Ken Mattison Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I am a structured person by nature. I like check lists, due dates and schedules. Even when my time is supposedly unstructured, I find myself trying to create some kind of structure. When my daughter was a baby and I was staying at home for the first time, I wasn’t into baby schedules. (This was partly because she didn’t really sleep so it was difficult to plan for that). However, I still had some anchors to my week. Sunday was church and then dinner with the family. The second and fourth Tuesday morning of the month was my MOPS group. Then I started adding in other things. Most Monday nights I led our church dance ministry. Every other Thursday we met with our writer’s group. Weekends were taken up with grocery shopping and other errands but usually afforded us some unstructured time to spent together as a little family.

 

Now that the kids are older, the schedule has become more complicated. A midweek kids program at church during the school year. Multiple different VBS programs during the summer, swim lessons, maybe a weekend trip or too, a formal vacation if we are very lucky. But I’m finding it difficult to find unstructured, unallocated time to spend with my kids.

 

We also homeschool, which you would think would lead to tons of extra time together, in fact that was one of the reasons we chose this path for our family. But it isn’t working out that way. The day is taken up with school work, making meals (of which there are many at our house as our kids seem to always be hungry) and some version of cleaning up. (Full disclosure, my house is rarely clean for more than 30 seconds. But since we host a writer’s group every two weeks, we try to make sure the house at least looks picked up and the rest is basically avoiding pest infestations). I do an average of 12-15 loads of laundry a week. All of that takes time. In between I’m trying to manage our finances (which can get downright complicated at times, especially where our needs outstrip our funds; yes, medical bills, I’m looking at you.) keep up with my blog, find ways to earn extra money or dream about when I used to get a paycheck.

 

The point is not to list all the things I do on a daily basis. But my days are very full. Having my kids with me all day seemed like it should have given me more time with them, but often it means I have more work to do. I’m always working it seems and sometimes I can’t figure out how to stop.

 

I don’t enjoy them, at least not the way I want to. I have gotten better at this with my toddler. I can wrap him in an extra long hug and then put him down and watch him meander away to play. I can read him one short story until he is bored and then he goes away happy. My big kids are more difficult. I can’t figure out what to build with Lego’s, especially when my kids want to tell me how I’m doing it wrong. If I sit down to color, an argument breaks out or someone begins eating the paper and I never end up getting to focus. My daughter tells me no less than four VERY long, winding stories each day. I try so hard to care. Because I want her to talk to me. I want to light saber battle with my son without worrying about the messy kitchen and the unpaid bills.

 

I don’t want them to remember their entire childhood as “Mommy was busy.” My husband and I talk about how we want to spend more one on one time with our kids. But the reality is that by the time dinner is over and the dishes are washed, we’re exhausted. Weekends are errands, catch up on household projects and the dreaded lawn mowing. Whole family outings often end badly and feel like a waste of time and money. No matter what we try to do, it doesn’t feel good enough or special enough. So we settle for almost nothing.

 

I wanted this to be one of those posts where I lay out my problem, describe the process we went through to find a solution and then share how we make it work. But I’m not there yet. Right now I’m still grappling with the problem. Maybe you are too.

Motherhood is much harder than I ever would have thought.

Because I’m The Mama, and I Have to Choose What’s Best

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photos courtesy of Rachel and Twinkle Photo

 

Being in charge and the primary decision maker is one of the aspects of motherhood that exhausts me the most. Don’t misunderstand, my husband is a wonderful, involved and supportive father. But when it comes to the nitty gritty of the kids’ days, as a stay at home and homeschooling mom, I am generally the first line of defense. So all of that kin keeping, mental load kind of stuff tends to fall to me. The ongoing issues we have with our five year old have weighed heavy on us both for some time. But because I’m with him almost 24 hours a day, I take the brunt of it.

 

Our second born is a wonderful, sweet and bright child with an equally dramatic darker side. He can be laser focused for an hour with a puzzle that fascinates him and an hour later completely lose his mind over being asked to empty the dishwasher. (A chore we do daily at our house). He can be complimentary in one breath and insulting in the next. He learned to read before he was four by listening to me teach his sister (when I thought he wasn’t listening) and seems to have a knack for seeing patterns, whether it be in letters, numbers or shapes. But his stubborn nature and sometimes daily meltdowns over basic requests and inability to control impulses (such as smearing toothpaste all over the bathroom, just because) were wearing on me.

 

Last year we finally took him to see a child psychologist who was a former professor of my husband’s. My husband always liked this professor because he never assumed that every person has a diagnosis. After spending an hour with our son (during which time the child was the best behaved I have ever seem and momentarily wondered if he was still the same kid) declared him unlikely to have ADHD and a wonderful and likely gifted child. We had so many people assume he has ADHD, and mostly I thought he was just an active, energetic, boy. I didn’t want my son to think that there is something wrong with him just because his high energy doesn’t fit into the mold of what is considered ideal or acceptable in the current education system.

 

I didn’t want a label for him, but I did want tools to help us overcome our daily struggles. A year later we find ourselves in the process of getting him evaluated for sensory processing delays. It’s scary because it’s expensive and I haven’t yet wrapped my brain around what all of this means. These are relatively new terms and I’m hoping that at the end of all of this we’ll come up with something that will work.

 

It was a hard call to make, deciding to walk down this road but my husband and I ultimately decided we had to do what was best, not just for our son, but for our family. We don’t know what’s ahead, but we’re determined to make our way by holding fast to each other in love and hope, believing there are better days ahead.

 

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A Place to Launch and Land: Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: obsequies Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When you first get pregnant some people refer to the pregnant woman and family as “expecting.” There are so many dreams, assumptions and expectations wrapped up in parenthood, especially with the first child.

I could never have anticipated a baby that didn’t sleep, at all really for almost a year. After successfully nursing my first, I never thought I’d have two boys who each had their own kind of feeding issues that resulted in obsessive weight tracking, and nursing and pumping around the clock. I didn’t imagine I’d be a homeschool mom with an elementary aged reluctant reader and a preschool early reader, at the same time.  That after four years of telling myself my son is just an active boy that I’d be finally getting him evaluated for cognitive processing and other sensory issues; both hopeful and fearful of what I will be told.

As a natural overachiever, I’ve had to learn to lower my expectations as a mom. Because childhood isn’t a race and parenthood isn’t a contest. It shouldn’t matter how my kids and my life match up against others. (Though I’d by lying if I said I don’t still play the comparison game at times).

I read a book recently that had a tag line I’ve tried to embrace.

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I’m still figuring out what this looks like now, with small children. At times it means being honest with my kids when I’m struggling. Remind them I love them, even if their behavior is hurtful to me. Attempting to help them navigate the balance between needed time alone and the realities of living with others.  I expect that we will continue to have difficult seasons in our house. But I also believe I will be granted the strength and grace that I need. I know where I am weak, and it is in those areas where I most expect to see God show up; that when I succeed it may be credited to his might rather than mine.

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Motherhood; Costly But Strategic: Five Minute Friday

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photo courtesy of Twinkle Photo

I was recently able to share with my MOPS group some of my thoughts on motherhood and my inspiration came from a strange source; the story Biblical story of Abraham burying his wife. Surely, not an obvious connection.

But the part that spoke to me most was when Abraham insisted on paying full price for his wife Sarah’s tomb, before knew what that price was. This, to me, is a picture of motherhood. Some of us dreamed and planned for years before becoming mothers. For others it was a surprise and perhaps not an entirely welcome one. Yet none of us could be prepared for what becoming mothers would cost us. Motherhood is expensive not just financially but in terms of time, energy and often dignity

For me, it meant difficult pregnancies and deliveries. When I choose to stay at home that meant, culturally speaking, I lost my individual identity. Without a product to provide or a quantifiable service, or drawing a paycheck; I suddenly became ill defined. I was “just” a mom. Forever more I will be recognized, at least in part if not in whole, as a parent rather than a person with goals, dreams and aspirations of my own.

I had no idea all that being a mom would cost me and yet I agreed to it gladly and I would do it again (at least most days). But I am also working through the process of recognizing how my motherhood is a tool for my growth rather than a barrier to my development.

Another detail I love from Abraham’s story is that he buried his wife facing the land of the promise, the land where his descendants would thrive and become a great nation. He made a strategic choice, looking to the future. I believe parenthood is a strategic thing as well. Some of it is our own strategy, to carry on our values, culture and genetic material. But I believe that much of it is an act of God.

 

The Bible says God places us into families and I firmly believe that our children are part of God’s strategy. No matter how our families are formed, whether through birth, adoption, blending with remarriage or otherwise; it is part of God’s deliberate plan. Our children are not ours by accident. But rather with great intention, both for us and for them.

On those days when I feel most ill equipped, I try to remember that as hopeless as I feel at this job, I was intended to be their mother. That as the Lord Almighty was numbering my days, he saw fit to give me these children. Which means he will also provide me the strength I need to bring them up and help them to become who they are supposed to be.  They are also part of my own redemptive process as I am molded and shaped into the person I am supposed to be. Because I am never “just a mom” but being a mother can be a crucial asset for growth in all the other parts of me and reaffirm to me who I am.

(Full disclosure: I was on a roll today and wrote for longer than five minutes. I hope you enjoyed it anyway).

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