Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life: January 2013

Our Mindful Life

Our Mindful Life is about paying attention to what it is that we do on a day to day basis and how we impact each other and the planet. We will talk about all of the things that we do here at home to make ourselves and the world a better place.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Parenting 101: Carve Out Space for YOU

When I had one baby, it was easy to ignore my own needs.  I held a baby instead of eating.  I could go hours on end without peeing.  That was probably because I rarely drank anything.  We had just moved cross country, so I had very few friends.  I spent all of my free time focusing on my baby.  When she slept, I would sit down at the computer and socialize with other moms who were going through a similar set of circumstances, and research things that I had never thought to research before.  I didn't have hobbies anymore, although I've always been crafty.  The closest I came to doing something for myself was when Sofi was old enough to play by herself for a few moments and I would sew her a few dresses.

But at the time, that was enough.

When I had another baby, they rarely slept at the same time.  Their needs almost always seemed to overlap.  If Sofi needed me to play, Walter needed me to be quiet   If Sofi needed a nap, Walter needed a diaper.  If Sofi needed me to be cooking, Walter needed me to be nursing (and he would NOT hang out in the sling to do so).  Sofi went to bed at 9:00. Walter went to bed at 12:00.  Sofi woke up at 7:00.  Walter woke up at 10:00.  Finding time to do what I wanted to do seemed impossible.  I couldn't even sit down at the computer during nap time, or after I had put the kids to bed, because there was always still one kid awake; or else I was too exhausted by the time they both went to sleep at night.

And that was one of the hardest, darkest points in my adult life.

Learning that it was vital for me to carve out time for myself, teaching my kids to cooperate with that time, created my ability to parent well.  Until I learned that taking care of my own needs - and not just my basic needs - was an actual necessity, I was not as capable of a parent as I am now.  When I learned to carve out time in each day to do what I WANT, what makes me feel whole, what calms me, it changed the way I viewed my job as a parent, and my worth as a person.

But it can be REALLY overwhelming to figure out how to meet a mama's need for enjoyment, satisfaction, or creation when she has very young children about.  I actually still struggle with it sometimes.  In fact, two or three weeks ago I started down a path full of obstacles to some much needed down time in my day.  When I was almost in tears because the big kids had waken the baby much too early from a nap, and he wasn't going back down, I realized that I had been neglecting my own need for some calm in the day, and that I needed to figure out how to get it back - quickly!  Several friends suggested TV, videos, Netflix, and the like.  But we don't own a TV.  My kids are really not into TV like most kids are, because they don't remember ever having a TV at our house.  They will pretty much only watch a TV if they can't come up with ANYTHING else to do.  And, I kind of hate TV.  So, that one doesn't so much work for us.

But, I set to work strategizing, and came up with some good ideas that have worked out for us.

Taking an opportunity to knit for a few minutes while the kids are busy playing on Christmas Eve.

1. Get a hobby!  A nice, portable hobby that is easy to grab at a moment's notice is nice.  For me, that is knitting.  My knitting resides in the basket beside my chair or in the bag on the back of my chair.  Elliott can't get into it these places, and the bigger kids know not to.  I can grab it up and start stitching at a moment's notice, and I can set it down again 5 minutes later when the baby falls and bangs his head. Books, hand sewing, crocheting, a little bottle of lotion for a quick foot massage, a phone for a play or two of Words With Friends - these are all quick hobbies.  Whatever you can come up with, latch on and remember to grab it up as soon as you have a minute of time with no one demanding your attention!

2. Figure out how to prioritize things that are important to you.  For instance, my poor, neglected blog here.  I LOVE blogging!  I love sharing my experiences with the world.  But blogging, for me, requires concentration, uninterrupted time to work, and a computer with a keyboard.  After my PC died last spring, I had a hard time working out all of those things.  But the realization this month that my blog is something that I've sorely missed helped me to prioritize it back to the top of my list, instead of something that I would get to if all of the stars lined up correctly.

3. Don't check out before you take care of yourself.  Prioritizing brings me to this note.  When I got so run down from not taking care of myself, I began watching videos on my phone whenever I did have a minute.  And sometimes when I didn't.  I have always followed a few TV shows on the computer - Grey's Anatomy is the big one, and the only one I used to watch.  Then I got a smart phone and I could watch while I was putting the baby down for a nap.  So, I started following Once Upon a Time, Revenge, and Castle.  So, a lot of days, I would watch one show while I nursed.  Then, I got so tired from not taking care of myself, I began watching anything with a new episode on ABC.  And THEN Papa signed up for a free month of Netflix and it was ON!  I watched Bones - all 7 seasons - in about a week in December.  Now, partly, I sit by myself in the evenings, after all of the kids are in bed (because they do all sleep simultaneously these days), while Papa is doing school online, and I am LONELY.  So, it isn't unusual for me to plug in a show and have something to watch while I knit, by myself.  But, I had to realize that I wasn't just watching a show for something to think about while I was otherwise non-mobile, anymore.  I had begun plugging in my one earphone and sitting in front of a screen as a means of escape from a routine that had become too difficult for me.  Changing that involved summoning up the energy to get past just sitting with my earphone, and picking my knitting back up, or blogging - even if it is the end of the day and I am tired.  What we do to check out doesn't fulfill us.  But doing what we love re-energizes us - leaving us more ready to tackle the things that are actually wearing us out.

4. Be willing to take it in doses.  When Walter was a baby, I began working with the kids on entertaining themselves for short amounts of time so that I could do what I wanted for a few minutes.  I would lay Walter down in the baby gym at my feet, and say to Sofi, "Mama is going to knit now.  What are YOU going to do?"  It took a week or so, but she was able to start drifting over to the toys and finding something to play with by herself for 10 or 15 minutes.  That may not seem like that long, but that was about 100 times longer than I was getting to knit before that! We worked at it and it didn't take long before the kids were able to play for half an hour while I worked.  Then, dinner time became a smidge easier, because they could play for a few minutes (some days!).  And then suddenly, they were old enough that they were attached at the hip and too busy to need much!  And THEN, I had another baby.  :D  So now I'm teaching him to let me have my 10 or 15 minutes here and there.  But the catch is that you have to be willing to TAKE that 10 or 15 minutes without resentment!  If you are busy being angry that you ONLY got 10 minutes instead of 30, you can't appreciate the 10 minutes you DID get.  So, remember to just add up all of the minutes in your day to a respectable amount of time.

5. Set a timer.  When I really get to the point of wear that I NEED the kids to just let me have 30 minutes of calm, I will tell them how I'm feeling, and I will set a timer.  I will tell them, "Mama is just feeling really tired and overwhelmed right now, and I need a little bit of calm time to help me rest and feel better.  I'm going to set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes, and I am going to sit in my chair and knit until it goes off.  I would really love it if you guys could play calmly until the alarm goes off."  And my kids, since they are used to having their own needs met, can usually respect this.  If I were doing it every day, I think it would become a power struggle.  But since I only do it when I REALLY need it, they are willing to give it to me because they know they are genuinely helping us ALL out in that moment.

6. Enlist some help.  We all need help some days.  And there are many ways to get it, even if you can't think of any off the top of your head.  Is there a grandparent who would love to come play with your child, or take your child out for a few hours once a week or so?  How about an aunt or uncle?  Is there an older child in the neighborhood who just loves babies or young kids and would love to come hang out for a little while here and there and play with your kids?  What about a teenager or college student who might be looking to make a little extra money (if you can afford to pay a few dollars) by babysitting while you do something you enjoy?  What about Dad?  Can he take over bath or bedtime to give you some time to sit and be calm?  Or can he take over the child care for an evening once or twice a week so that you can join a group, go on a Mom's Night Out, go get a manicure, or do something else that you enjoy?  If none of these is possible, what about a child care or work trade with another mom who has similar age children?  You watch her kids and your own one afternoon a week and then drop your kids off with her a different afternoon.

7. Enjoy it!  It may sound trite, but you can choose to be annoyed that you aren't getting enough down time.  You can choose to feel neglected because your needs come last.  Or, you can choose to enjoy what you do get, realize that you DO get it, and that there are people who are happy to help you get that down time.  Focusing your energy on being grateful for what we DO have, and enjoying it, actually helps to re-energize us and to face a new day happily, instead of continuing to struggle.

How do you carve out down time for yourself?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Homeschool Number Fun

Sofi and I have been doing some really fun number activities for school lately, and I wanted to share.

Numbered squares have a lot of possibility for learning math

First, I used construction paper and cut out 1.5" by 1.5" squares.  I used a crayon and numbered the squares.  I used one color for 1 - 25, another for 26 - 50, etc.  Then, I started thinking of what we could do with these numbers!

The obvious was to put them in chronological order.  Mixing them up first let her practice number recognition while ordering them.  But there are many other creative ways we came up with to use them!

1. Line them up in 2s, 3s, 4s, or 5s and skip count - as pictured.

2. Order them backwards.

3. Figure out how many sets of X you can make with 25, 50, etc.

4. Put odd numbers in one row and evens in another.

5. Draw random numbers and play "which number comes next?"

6. Sort them into piles by their tens.

We started with 1-25, then did another 25, and so on.  We've been playing games with these squares for a few weeks now.  They've really helped Sofi to grasp the one to one quality of the numbers as well as to visually see how addition, skip counting and tens work.  This is setting up the basis off the math processes, which we will be starting in the morning!

What other games can you come up with for the number squares?

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Cooking from Scratch

I have not always been the cook I am now. If it came in a box, I was a whiz at cooking it. I knew all of the little tricks to make that prepackaged food really zing. For example, I knew that if you add the butter to the boiling water and then add the potato flakes, the butter flavor would permeate the entire bowl of potatoes. But, if you added the flakes and then the butter, as the box suggested, then the butter flavor would only be on a small portion of the “potatoes", no matter how well you stirred. Useful, right?

For the rest of this story, check out my guest post over at Natural Parents Network!

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Foodie Friday - Sausage Potato Soup

This soup is SO good!  We keep having it and keep enjoying it.  It is very hearty and filling as well, which makes it great for cold nights.

Approximately 1-2 Lbs ground sausage (Our local store has an in house sausage that we use).  A little more or a little less will not affect this recipe greatly.
1 Small onion, diced
6 cups chicken broth and/or water (I usually use 2 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water, but you could use more or less broth if you needed to, so long as you use at least 6 cups liquid.)
4-6 Medium potatoes, cubed
1 Cup peas (fresh, frozen or canned)
Oregano, sage, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

1. In a nice deep stock pot, brown the sausage.  Drain the grease if there is too much.

2. Add the onion and saute along with the garlic until it is browned.

3. Add broth and water, potatoes and seasonings.  A note about the seasonings here.  The sausage I use is already pretty highly seasoned, and has a bit of a red pepper bite to it.  Also, my chicken broth is homemade and is well seasoned.  Because of this, I don't season the soup much.  If you are using less flavorful broth, or a more plain sausage, you may want to add more seasonings than this.  If so, try red pepper, celery salt or seed, and a little heavier on the seasonings already listed.

4. Simmer until potatoes are soft enough to eat, but not falling apart.  This is going to vary greatly depending on how big your potato chunks are.  It could be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.  Just keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally, until they are done.  If there isn't enough broth for your liking, just add some water and let it simmer along.  My boys both like to pick out the sausage and potatoes, and Sofi likes the "stuff, not the soup".  Daddy prefers to eat his soup with a fork as well, so I tend to add more sausage than broth.  But, if you like it more balanced, you can adjust accordingly just by adding more water.

5. Enjoy!

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Foodie Friday - Printable Allergen Substitution Chart

I had a fun idea a while back, when flipping through a craft book.  One of the crafts was a cute measurement conversion chart to hang in the kitchen.  I found it darling, but have no use for one, really.  I can convert all of the measurements I use regularly in my head.  BUT, I thought it would be SO cute to have a conversion chart that showed substitutions for allergenic items that recipes were likely to call for!  How much easier would it be to have that handy, and what a great gift for others who like to cook for a family with allergies!  So, I finally got around to making one and I wanted to share it with my loyal readers.

You can view and print up the full size version for free here.

I hope you enjoy!  What else would you add?

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Parenting 101 - How to Survive the Pukies

I recently realized that I am 19 months in to my third child's life, and I'm not struggling.  This might sound silly, but I STRUGGLED with Sofi.  I struggled again with Walter.  But I'm not struggling so much with Elliott.  And I realized that it is because I have learned so much about the basics of being a parent - learned tricks for coping with different situations, learned what to expect, learned what is truly an emergency and what is just par for the course.  And I thought, there are many parents out there who haven't learned all of these basics, and might be struggling through their first or second child!  So, I decided to create a Parenting 101 series, to help out with these little tips and tricks.

Our family has struggled with the pukies a few times this past fall, and that seemed like a good place to start! I'm not going to talk about remedies, because there are many sites devoted to just that.  I am going to talk about strategies for coping with the gore of having a stomach bug in the house.

Layered towels, and a pot close at hand are two ways to make the night time easier when someone has a tummy bug.
1. Always have something at hand for a child to emit into.  Coach them to get to the toilet if they can, but expect misses.  Especially at night.  Good options are cooking pots, mixing bowls, diaper pails, or even just a towel (it is better than your bare hands!).

2. Keep towels and washcloths handy.  Lots of them.  Cloth diapers are good too.  There will be misses, even if the child is holding a pot in his or her lap.  And there is nothing so fun as sitting on the couch, holding the child, with ruminated lunch on your hands, calling for someone to bring you some type of wipe.  Just keep stacks of them near anywhere you might be - the couch, beds, comfy chairs, anywhere you can think of that you might land for a full minute.

3.  Keep towels UNDER the child - especially at night.  Layer them up.  This way, if the child vomits all over the bed, you just peel off the top layer of towels, toss them in the bath tub, and go back to sleep.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  We try for 3-4 layers of towels as a minimum.  So much easier than changing sheets in the middle of the night.

4.  A wool or fleece blanket underneath all of the towels will also keep liquid from soaking down onto the sheets or mattress.  We all have wool blankets under our sheets as mattress pads at all times.

5.  No tomato based sauces for a full 48 hours after the vomiting has stopped.  Seriously.  No fish, either.  These two things are some of the WORST to clean up, and there will almost always be a recurrence of nausea if the child eats them.

Also, go easy on yourself and your schedule.  Not much besides laundry and baths will get done if there is a pukey kid in the house.  And that is OK.  Just try to relax and let it pass.  Most stomach bugs last a few days at best and you can be right back to normal.

What other tips do you have for surviving the pukies?

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