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It’s a Balancing Act : Your Marriage and Children

before kids

Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood

When I first met my husband, he was in graduate school, and I had unique work schedule, which allowed us to have lazy mornings and mid-morning workouts. We enjoyed camping and hiking on the weekends, picnics at the beach, and day trips up the coast. We spent quite a bit of time traveling, just the two of us.

Then we had our son. Although we still travel, hike, and camp; those lazy mornings, uninterrupted conversations, and romantic weekends are a distant memory.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything, but I do find myself missing my husband in the way I used to when we were first dating. The difference is that most of the time, he’s right there, in front of me.

For the first couple of years, most parents are in survival mode; they are sleep-deprived, anxious, and yet so in love with this little being that nothing else in the world matters. As our children grow and become more independent, their needs change. Perhaps because they still seem to be the center of the universe, we forget that our needs…well, that we still have needs.

In recent years, my husband and I have found ourselves away from family and friends. Without that support system or extended family close by, it makes it more challenging to find time to get away. It’s not always easy, or affordable, to get a sitter, so we have had to find creative ways to spend time with one another.

One of our favorites, which, when you say it out-loud sounds a little ridiculous, is shopping. In many of the larger grocery stores in Korea you can find small play-spaces, much like the ones Ikea offers, where you can drop your children off while you shop. For a mere five dollars, I can leisurely walk around the grocery store with my husband for two hours of uninterrupted conversation. It’s worth every penny. We talk, reconnect, and catch up without the constant distractions and half finished sentences. I’ll admit that it’s not the most romantic date-night, but we’ll take it, because making my marriage better benefits the whole family. If we can fill up our emotional gas tanks, we can then tackle the daily challenges of work, school, schedules, routines, and chores with a little more patience and love.

I know it’s easier said than done, and I willingly admit (okay, shamelessly admit), that I’m not always very good at it. But it’s really important to find the energy at the end of the day to just connect, even if only for a few minutes; to talk, listen, and make time for each other. Sometimes, after the dishes have been washed, stories have been read, and we finally have the peace and quiet in our home, the last thing I feel like doing is talking. I find, in fact, that I more willingly connect on Facebook, via email, or by text messaging, than conversation. And yet, it’s during these “stages” that I find myself missing my husband the most, and longing for the life we had before children.

So, it’s time, especially in anticipation of Father’s Day, to put my marriage first. Not only is it a gift for my husband, but one for our son as well.

Here are five things you can do to make your husband happy:

  1. Leave a love note in your husband’s briefcase, tucked under his pillow or in his lunch.
  2. Listen actively, and pay attention. This shows him that you respect him and his views.
  3. When speaking with your husband, hold his gaze. This will assure him that your attention is completely focused on him.
  4. Relive the days of courtship by flirting with your husband. Quietly slip your hand into his, touch his leg under the table or steal a quick kiss.
  5. Go for a walk after dinner, or a hike on the weekends. The fresh air and casual intimacy will do you both good.

It doesn’t take much to connect with your husband; but making it a priority and ensuring it gets done makes all the difference in the world – your world.

Now take these five simple steps and do them! And please make sure you come back here and post about them in the comments below.

POSTED BY ON June 11, 2013         |           Comments { 10 }

The Motherhood Sorority

motherhood

Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood

“Because there is no one way to be a perfect parent, but there are a million ways to be a great one.”  Kelle Hampton

Whether you are a stay-at-home or working mom, being a mother can be one of the most difficult things that you have ever done. There will be days that make you wonder if you measure up, if you’re doing you’re best, if you were even meant to be a mother.  You will doubt yourself, judge yourself and feel inadequate.  You’ll compare yourself, blame yourself and maybe even wish you weren’t a mom.

It’s during these times, I reach out to other fellow moms because I know that there is someone else out there who is feeling exactly the way that I do, perhaps even at the exact time.

Moth•er•hood is defined as the state of being a mother.  To me, motherhood is a test of endurance.  Most days, I know I’m a good mom.  Some days, I don’t even care whether or not I am, because I can just look at my son and know that I’m doing it right.

Motherhood is like a sorority, a group of women who fully, and wholehearted understand exactly what you are going through.  There are no words needed, explanations to be given, or excuses to be made.  We’ve been there, done that.  We know exactly how you feel.  It sounds so cliché, doesn’t it?

For me, my biggest challenge is not about being a mother.  I love being a mom.  Sure, not every single moment, but on the most part, I enjoy, even long for moments I can spend with my son.   I find parenting fulfilling and valuable.  I derive pleasure from playing with hot wheels, finger painting, and molding play-dough.

My struggle is more about finding the time to connect with myself outside of my role as “mom.”  As moms, we give so much of ourselves to our children, and expect so little in return.   Lately, however, I’m realizing that it’s time for me to be more than a mom, to remember that the more of myself I keep, the happier I will be for my family.   If we don’t look after ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, then there is very little left to give.

So, what do I enjoy doing outside of my work and taking care of my son?

As if that’s not enough to figure out, what also gets pushed by the wayside is time with my husband, or the time and space to be a wife.  In today’s fast-paced world, husband and wives gets squeezed between morning rituals, sports, activities, meals, laundry, bath time, bedtime, and everything in between.  Our high-tech immediate world all so often means that texting and emails supplant conversations, either via the phone or face-to-face.  It’s a challenge finding the energy at the end of the day to just connect, even if only for a few minutes.

For today, though, I will not dwell on not being good enough, nor worry that I’m not measuring up.  Instead, I will celebrate Motherhood and take care of me.  Happy Mother’s Day!  How did you celebrate Mother’s Day this year?

-  Photo was taken by the very talented, Katie Witt of www.KatiePhotog.com

POSTED BY ON May 13, 2013         |           Comments { 5 }

Gardening with Kids

wine corks

Written by Britney Manuel from BtanJerine and A Simply Raw Life

When it comes to gardening I have the proverbial “black thumb of death”, a gardening mass murderer if you will. I think that plants come to my house specifically to live out their last days! That being said, I knew that I bit off more than I could chew when I decided to start a full fledged garden with my daughter.  But this is a success story, and if I can do it, you surely can!

I thought that this project of growing our own fruits and veggies would be a great way to get my little one  more interested in eating all the good things. I thought it would be a great experience for her to care for something, and see how something she planted could grow into something she would eventually eat. So I chose to make this an all edible garden.

 

3 Things You Need to Start Gardening with kids

We planted things with only 3 requirements: it needs to be hard to kill, edible, and grows fast. Included in our garden are sunflowers, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuces, peppers, and a host of herbs. Most of which I was able to pick up at our local farmers market. Another great resource for organic seeds is Seeds of Change. I involved Z in picking out the plants, she helped to plant them, and it is one of her responsibilities to water the plants.

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I used my Pinterest board for some design inspiration, and came up with these wonderful wine cork garden markers found here.  It was simple and just required  skewers + wine corks + and a sharpie.  I suggest an adult writing on the corks and putting the skewers  in the cork.  The kids can have the honor of placing the markers in the garden.

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For some of the plants that we raised from seeds, we transplanted them into the peel of an orange (I know brilliant idea huh?), another wonderful idea I found on Pinterest here.

We just juiced the orange and used the peel for a new home for the seedling. Poked a whole in the bottom of the peel, and voila, a perfect home for the seedling that can then just be put into the ground (I would suggest planting seeds in a green house type container and then transfer the sprout to the orange peel since the peel will break down far before you are able to get a sprout if you do it from a seed).

The seedling gets the nutrients from the peel, and then disintegrates into the ground.  A circle of life moment, and such a great way to recycle, and teach that when we use the earths resources, it usually can have more than one purpose.

orange seedlings

So it has been about two months since we have started our garden and guess what?  We have only had 1 casualty (and I don’t even think it was my fault to tell you the truth, it was the basil and I think the weather dipped too low a couple of days and that did it in).  This project has been a total score!  Z tells me how much she loves gardening, and she is excited to eat the fruits of our labor.   I can’t wait to add to our garden, cucumbers from a recent seedling swap, beans, and blackberries are on our list to plant in the coming weeks.  Yea I’m getting braver, I likened gardening to children.  I try to be attentive to their needs,  give them water and sun, and apparently that’s all they need!photo 5

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Join the conversation!

If you start a garden, let me know how it’s going, and if you have any gardening tips I would love to hear them!

POSTED BY ON May 3, 2013         |           Comments { 6 }

Homemade dishwasher detergent

homemade dishwasher detergent

Written by contributor Melissa Allen of Green Owl Art

A little over a year ago when I was living in Los Angles I considered myself to be one of the more eco-friendly, earth loving, attachment parenting kind of momma’s. Then I moved to Portland, OR. These moms here are in an entire league of their own when it comes to “green” sustainable living. They are amazing and I am a sponge soaking up all the glory they have to offer. From chickens in the city to yogurt in your crock-pot, I am ready to take it all on.

A fellow mom from Emma’s school, Christina (AKA Earthy DIY Goddess), gave me this great recipe to make your own dishwasher detergent pods! Brilliant! Right? I knew I had to try this.

homemade dishwasher detergent

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Baking or Washing Soda
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 3/4 cup Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Kosher or Sea Salt
  • 6 drops Lavender Oil

homemade dishwasher detergent

Instructions

1. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix.

detergent3

2. Squeeze some of the mixture in your hand. You want it to easily clump together. If it is too dry add a little more vinegar.

homemade dishwasher detergent

3. Spoon some out onto an ice cube tray or any kind of small molds you have. We used this heart silicone one. The hearts were the perfect size to fit in our dishwasher soap spot. If you use a standard ice cube tray be sure not to fill them all the way or they may not fit.

homemade dishwasher detergent

4. Next, Emma got to work pressing the soap into the heart forms. You need to pack them in very tight. Once they are filled this will dry for 24 hours. The next day you can pop them out and store them in a jar or any other container you have. They work just like store bought pods, just pop them in and hit start!

Result: My dishes came out spotless and my dishwasher smelled like a lavender bouquet! I love this. Oh and best of all, my kids helped and learned just another way to be resourceful and earth friendly all while having fun together as a family. Hey, it’s not your typical family evening, but it was pretty great to us. Oh and did I mention, I calculated and this cost around $1 to make about 50 pods!

For more creative inspiration from Melissa, head on over to Green Owl Art.

POSTED BY ON April 15, 2013         |           Comments { 21 }

My Father Died – Now What?

Papi

“To live and love wholly again, you must mourn. You will not heal unless you allow yourself to openly express your grief…

Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. And never forget that the death of a parent changes your life forever.”

~ Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Written by contributor Arianna Carlson of For the Love of Motherhood

The morning of April 16, 2003, the phone ran, I glanced at the caller ID: “parents.”  In the last few weeks, I had grown skittish at the sound of my phone ringing, holding my breath, and releasing a sigh when it was anyone but my “parents.”  It wasn’t that I didn’t love my mother and father, wasn’t close or wanted to hear from them— it was fear.

Fear that every time my phone rang, it would be the moment that would change my life forever.

I took a deep breath and answered, momentarily thinking I should let it go to voicemail, I knew the moment I had been fearing was becoming a reality.

“Hi Arianna, your father is in the hospital and the doctors say he doesn’t have much time left.  They will do what they can to keep him alive until you can all get here, but they recommend you come as quickly as you can to say good-bye…”  The conversation went on for a few more minutes, I’m not really sure what I said or how I left it, but the next several hours felt like a slow-moving nightmare.

A few hours later, I found myself landing at JFK, being picked up by my brother, Fabio, and immediately rushed to NYU Medical Center.  Family and friends filled the waiting room, but there was no sound.  Silence filled the room. Through tears in my eyes, I looked at my mother, and had no words.

I went in to see my father.  (Sigh)  I made it!  I had gotten there in time.  Although he was unconscious and probably unaware of my presence, I was able to see him for the last time, to hold his hand, hug his warm body and say good-bye.

But how do you say good-bye to your own father?   How do you let go of the one man that has been your greatest supporter, most influential role model, and your deepest love?  You just stand there and hold him until… I didn’t want the story to end this way.

Whether it’s a sudden loss, you’ve had months to prepare, or it’s a natural progression of life, it doesn’t even matter whether your relationship was close or distant, nothing prepares you for the death of a parent.

After a death, you go through a range of emotions from one moment to the next, eventually one day turns to another, and before you know it, it’s been ten years.

So much has happened in the last ten years, moments that I couldn’t share with my dad.  Moments that I wished, more than ever, with the greatest pain in my heart, that he could have been there for:  to meet my husband, my wedding day, the purchase of a new home, the birth of my son, and every non-monumental moment in between.

The first year was the toughest, I called it the year of the firsts; first Father’s Day, his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and finally, the anniversary of his death.  The years that followed seemed to get easier, but there are still those occasions, when I least expect it and am unprepared, that leave me breathless and longing for him.

So often I have reached for the phone to call and ask my dad a question, to toss an idea around, to get his advice, or to share some happy news.  There have been times where I have felt his presence, smelled his cologne, or heard the sound of his voice.  When this happens, I stop, take a deep breath, close my eyes and relish the feeling that he is still with me.

And if I could, this is what I’d say to him today.

Dear Papi, You taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to, to never give up, to be independent and perhaps against your intentions, a little too strong willed.  You wanted me to be loving, compassionate, patient, and giving. You supported my decisions and allowed me to make mistakes. You were my go-to, my advisor, counselor, problem solver, and biggest cheerleader. You were, before I met my husband, the smartest man I knew. You were a role model, hardworking, determined, dedicated, selfless, devoted, respected, and, perhaps against your intentions, a little too strong willed.  I will forever be a part of you, and you, an even bigger part of me.  I love and miss you deeply.  Love, Arianna.

Sketch of my father is by the talented Diana Fogarty Daino, my sister-in-law.

POSTED BY ON April 8, 2013         |           Comments { 19 }

How Whimsy Can Turn Your Day Around

Indoor water gun fight.

Written by Josh Solar of The Happy Family Movement

You know those days when you pick up the kids from school and EVERYONE is grumpy GRUMPY (they’re REALLY grumpy) and you feel like you’re going to lose your mind? Yesterday was one of those days for us. The ride home from school was not pleasant. Yelling, fighting, kicking each others seats, kicking the dog, throwing things. Oi!

When faced with situations like this, one has a few different options. You can succumb to the stressful situations and lose your cool, adding to the noise and making everything worse, or you can find a clever way to surprise them and turn their day around. I sent my wife a text saying the kiddos are GRUMPY! and we needed to figure out how to cheer ‘em up.

My wife, the genius that she is, quickly ran to our stockpile of dollar store water guns, filled up 5, left 3 (one for each kid) on the top of the steps (we live in a split level house). She patiently waited for them to walk in the door and blasted ‘em! Max and Ava ran up stairs to escape, saw the guns on the top of the steps ready to go, grabbed ‘em and joined in on the fun. Lia, our little spitfire, decided she wanted to be mad for a few extra minutes, but then she decided to have a blast as well. We proceeded to blast each other with water guns for the next 10-15 minutes, laughing, running, and turning what could’ve been a terrible night into the start of a wonderful evening together.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, I would NEVER have a water gun fight inside the house! And, that’s ok, indoor water gun fights are most definitely not for everyone. The point of this post is to think about fun ways you can turn a day around. Silly string? Have an art project ready to go? Talk to each other only with walkie-talkies? Dance party? Jenny and I could’ve made the decision to be grumpy with them, accept that the evening was lost and go from there, or we could send them into a state of wonder, joy and whimsy by surprising them with an indoor water gun fight.

What are some ways you have or can bring a sense of whimsy to your kiddos when they’re having a rough day?

Mom and daughter having an indoor water gun fight.

POSTED BY ON April 4, 2013         |           Comments { 11 }

Fun Fridays in an Airstream Trailer

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When I stumbled across the Peterson Family blog, I instantly felt inspired and connected. Heck— they purposefully chose to live in a trailer with a kid!  Since then, I have been stalking their blog to see how they live and what they have learned through the experience  Along with detaching themselves from material possessions, they also found more quality time as a family and have grown closer through it all.     —Jen Hansard

Written by Michaela Peterson of Livin’ Lightly 

Over the course of two years, we decided to sell 95% of all we owned.  I quit my teaching job and we’re currently in the middle of fixing up a ’66 Airstream Trailer to live in and travel with.  Our priorities didn’t line up with our lives and we decided to do something drastic about it.

Our lifestyle is certainly not for everyone, but one of our biggest priorities was time with family, and that’s something we feel like everyone can do.  It can take some preparation and planning to make intentional family time, but it’s worth it!  We want to share with you what we do for intentional family time and maybe you’ll find some ideas to incorporate into your own.

familyfunfriday

Family Fun Friday!

Every Friday we take the whole day to spend intentional time focused on our family (you may only be able to do an afternoon or evening and that’s OK!).  We try to do almost everything during the day together, we make meals as a family, clean the house (yes together), and get out to do a fun activity.

Here are some ideas for your own Family Fun Day:

1. Make your meals together.  We like to jazz it up a bit and make our Family Fun Night dinner one that we don’t normally make during any other day.  We often choose to make breakfast for dinner.  Let your kids in on the fun by letting them mix the pancake batter, pour in ingredients etc.

2.  Get out of the house.  In the winter it may be hard to get outside if the weather is too bad or if it’s raining (but it would be a fun adventure to gear up and do it anyway–think snow men, forts, snowball fights).  When the weather cooperates, we love to simply head to the park and swing together,  play frisbee or explore on a walk.  It’s also fun to walk around at a local farmer’s market, explore a downtown area by foot, go on a bike ride, or have a fun picnic lunch at a favorite outdoor location. Some of our favorite indoor activities, that still get us out of the house, are thrift store shopping, going to local children’s museums or visiting nature centers.

3.  Do something a little bit crazy or different.  This can be anything from dancing around your living room to some fun kids music, playing dress-up with your kids (even the older ones may enjoy this, especially if you add made up skits you need to act out to go with costumes), building forts out of blankets and chairs, or making a make-shift puppet stage, decorating paper bag puppets and putting on a show.

I know when I taught primary grades, they loved it when we would do a backwards day where we would start at the end of the day’s schedule and end at the beginning of the day.  This is where you could do breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast and switch some of the day’s routines around.

4.  Have some worship time or downtime together.  This is a great time to make sure that the TV is off, computers are unplugged and all focus is with your family.  You may even want to make it a little special and light some candles.  I enjoy playing guitar, so we like to sit together and sing songs during this time and read aloud from a favorite book.  If you have older kids they may even enjoy taking turns reading out loud while the rest of the family listens, then engages in meaningful conversation about the material.

Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you do it together and that it’s on purpose!

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas or what you already do for family days or family nights.

POSTED BY ON March 29, 2013         |           Comments { 6 }