New Parenting Super Bundle Available Now!

Trying to balance homeschooling, parenting, housework, business, etc. can certainly be overwhelming. I would be lying if I said I had all my ducks in a row. I feel pretty lucky to believe mine are at least swimming in the same pond. With all the resources out there for parenting advice it can be rather difficult to decide where to invest your time and money. Enter the Parenting Super Bundle!

This amazing collaboration from parents just like you has a value of $1,283.96 if each resource is bought separately. You can get the full bundle for only $29.97 (PDF version)/$39.97 (eReader version). In addition you can upgrade to the ebook version FOR FREE if you buy before August 14th at 11:59pm EST.

 

 

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What’s Included in the Parenting Super Bundle?

There are 35 eBooks, 10 eCourses, 2 audios, 23 printables, 9 workbooks, and 1 membership site. Topics covered include

  • Activities & Crafts
  • Chore Charts & Planners
  • Discipline
  • Education
  • Faith
  • Food
  • Homeschooling
  • Outdoors & Travelling
  • General Parenthood
  • Special Needs
  • Special Occasions
  • Toddlers and Preschoolers

Check out the website for a full list of all items that are included in this bundle.

In addition there are 4 bonuses available as well.

  • FREE 1-month membership from Musik at Home ($30)
  • 10 free audio stories for kids from Around the World Stories ($30)
  • FREE 1-month subscription from Bookroo ($18)
  • FREE All Natural Bug Repellent & Lotion Bars project kit from Detox Project Box ($25)

Getting Started

Worried you won’t know where to start with all the resources in the bundle? Don’t be! Inside the bundle you’ll find a handy Getting Started Guide so you can find just the right tools for the things you’re dealing with today.

I can’t wait to dive into this bundle myself and I know that you will love it too. One more thing I almost forgot. After you complete you Parenting Super Bundle purchase, you will have a chance to purchase the Conquer Your Clutter Super Bundle for only $27 as well! I don’t know about you, but clutter is probably enemy #1 around my house. With 7 kiddos in 940 sq ft it’s a never ending battle!

Remember to buy the Parenting Super Bundle before it expires on Monday, August 14th, at 11:59 PM EST!

 

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5 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Your Muchness

***this post contains affiliate links. To learn more about our affiliate program click here***

My last post was about my feelings as I lost and then reclaimed my muchness. Today’s post is all about how I got my muchness back. Each person has a unique journey ahead of them, but here are a few simple steps anyone can take to help them create their own new path.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Your Muchness | Smithsquad.com | Alice in Wonderland quote | Mad Hatter | Finding your life's purpose

Recognize What You Have Lost

I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out that it was because I had changed. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Instead of saying if only I had more money, if only I had a better relationship with my spouse, if only I didn’t have an ex, if only… I started looking back on my childhood and asked myself what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad led me to then ask myself. What can I change?

Identify What You Need

As you look at the changes that you’ve made for the worse you can identify what you need to change about yourself to find more fulfillment in life. Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone. When you are suffering from a lost of muchness you often find that your gumption for making change has been completely eradicated. This is when it is crucial to surround yourself with those who can lift you up and keep you going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. Sure a good rant to a supportive friend is great and necessary, but you also need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

My first steps into discovering who I am were prodded along by Jeff Jochum. He is the king of the question why? Dig deeper, why do you want/feel/need that? He can be quite aggravating at times, but that’s exactly what I needed at that point. Someone who didn’t put up with any excuses and made me ask myself the hard questions. At that point I knew I needed to make changes, but I was still afraid. I continued to build up my support base with an AMAZING church leader, a few close supportive friends, and a weekly women’s support group at church. About a year after working with Jeff I had the opportunity to attend a class at the CreativeLive studio with Julia Kelleher called The Creative Newborn Studio. At the beginning of the class she gave each of us some clay and told us to just create something. It didn’t matter what it was just create. It was such a freeing experience. I was right back in childhood and having a blast. I was proud of my cute little creations. As her class continued the focus on being artistic really opened up a desire I had stuffed down for far too long. I wanted to create. I needed to create. I was then given an amazing opportunity work with Christine Tremoulet in her Blogging Brilliantly course. I thought I was in for a great course on using blogging to help build my business. What I got was so much more. She really focused on making your brand YOU and that meant that I had to find me. She has been an amazingly supportive mentor and cheerleader and still pushes me to keep digging deeper and doing better. She is also the one who helped me create a clearly defined purpose for my life.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. That is where the true joy is found, in having and working towards a good and deep purpose. I’m not talking about a specific goal like making 100,000 a year or creating 100 art pieces. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose and you are working it suddenly so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, photography, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

My manifesto| SmithSquad.com| I Believe in the nobility of motherhood
Creating a series of I Believe statements can help you to identify your purpose in life.

Take Action

This is usually the hardest part of the entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change adn dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. This is, once again, where an amazing support system comes into play. I clearly remember the conference call with Christine where she suggested I back away form being a full time photographer and focus on my blog. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood. She could feel my frustration that the needs of my large family, which are very important to me, were hampering my ability to make my business a real success. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home, blogging adn art, and keeping photography and a fun hobby rather than a business it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action, however, even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Because I know and embrace my life’s purpose, however, I am able to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days when I suffer from some major imposter syndrome as I write. There are sometimes days on end where I look at my art supplies and just walk away because the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it becomes easier and easier.

 

You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something that we lose and never get back. It is somethign that we can strive to achieve and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a divine purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own ideals.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found.

Have you lost your muchness? Will you commit here and now to seek it out? Have you reclaimed your muchness? Have you found your purpose in life? What is it?

Talking About Pornography With Your Loved Ones

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Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography Let’s face it, the birds and bees sex talk is hard enough. Talking about pornography is even harder. The sad fact is, however, that it is something that is absolutely necessary. In our day and age pornographic images and movies are easily accessible online and children are being exposed to them at a ridiculously young age. A recent study showed that 10% of 12-year-old respondents SELF-REPORTED that they thought they were addicted to porn. 12-year-old addicts. We have to start young reaching out to our children and warning them of the dangers of pornography use.

Why do we Need to Talk About Pornography?

What are those dangers? Check out Fight the New Drug to read in-depth about the many dangers they have identified and studied:

  1. Changes the Brain
  2. Kills Love
  3. Warps Ideas About Sex
  4. Acts Like a Drug
  5. Ruins Sex Life
  6. Leads to Violence
  7. Addictive, Leaves You Lonely
  8. Porn is Based on a Thriving Sex Slave Industry
  9. Affects your Behavior
  10. Hurts Your Partner
  11. Destroys Marriages
  12. Addiction Escalates
  13. Porn is created From Lies

Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography

It is crucial that parents have open honest conversations with themselves and their kids about the damaging effects of pornography. Fact is that many of us don’t initially recognize the dangers of pornography and once we do we don’t know how to talk about it with those we love. Here are some resources that will help:

Resources for Educating Kids

The Guideline– a free e-book created by Fight the New Drug

How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography by Dina Alexander

Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A Jensen

Fight the New Drug blog, and Facebook Page

Resources for Those Struggling With Addiction

Fortify is a video based online recovery program

12 Step recovery groups; SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, and SRA

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark Lasser

Out of the Shadows by Patrick J. Carnes

Certified Sex Addiction Therapists

LDS addiction Recovery Program

Resources for Those With Addicted Loved Ones

12 Step Programs S-Anon, COSA, PoSARC

Mending a Shattered Heart by Stefanie Carnes

Shattered Vows by Debra Lasser

Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

LDS Spouse and Family Support Guide and Groups 

 

Have you been affected by pornography addiction in yourself or a loved one? Have you struggled to talk about the dangers of pornography with those you love? What resources have you found to help?

Using a Parent-Child Journal to Create Connections With Your Kids

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading ComprehensionSeveral months ago I read about using a parent-child journal to communicate with your kids. I thought it was an excellent idea, and immediately started one with my oldest child (the only one that was reading and writing at the time). It has been a BIG hit. She loves writing back and forth with me and dad. She usually responds within a day, if not a few hours, and is good at holding us accountable for responding promptly as well.

What is a Parent-Child Journal?

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

A parent-child journal is simply a notebook where we can write to each other. We bought a plain composition notebook, and started with writing our daughter a letter about how much we loved her that pointed out several of her strengths, and things that she did that we appreciated. I told her that she could write back anything she wanted. She could draw a picture, ask a question or tell a story. It didn’t matter, she could say anything she wanted. After one of us writes in the journal we place it on the pillow of the other person so that they can read it and respond. There are so many benefits! It is an opportunity to work on reading comprehension, spelling and grammar, handwriting, and increasing communication. We’ve even started learning/teaching cursive.

Reading Comprehension

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

As adults we usually write far more to our eight year old daughter than she writes to us. It’s a great opportunity for me to use words that she may not know or tell a story about myself as a child. This gives her a chance to expand her vocabulary and practice her reading comprehension. I often will ask her a question at the end of what I write to gently test that comprehension. I’ve also let her know that she can always bring the journal to me to ask about anything she doesn’t understand or look up a word while reading.

Spelling and Grammar

The journal should be a fun activity with no pressure, so I NEVER correct her spelling and grammar. I do, however, pay attention to the mistakes she makes. This allows me to identify gaps in her knowledge of grammar or specific spelling rules she may be struggling with. I can then incorporate these things into our lessons at a later time. Every now and then I can ask her a question designed to get a specific answer to test whether that rule is still a problem.

Handwriting and Cursive Instruction

Using a Parent-Child journal to increase communication and more | SmithSquad.com | Handwriting and Cursive | Language, Spelling, and Grammar | Reading Comprehension

The journal is a great way to get in handwriting practice. It is a fun activity, rather than a chore, and she doesn’t even realize I’m making her work! If her handwriting gets too sloppy I simply bring her the journal and say “I’m sorry sweetie, but I can’t tell what you wrote here.” She tells me and I write it in next to the word “so I won’t forget”. That’s it. I don’t say anything that will put pressure on her to write better, as stated before this is supposed to be a fun, no pressure activity. She will inevitably try to write neater on the next exchange, because she doesn’t want me to have to ask her what her words say. When she expressed an interest in learning cursive I began writing to her in cursive. She is now getting practice at reading cursive. She has to ask me what certain words are occasionally, but her comprehension is quickly improving. We practice her own cursive writing outside of the journal and she can choose to use it in the journal when she is ready.

Creating Connection and Increasing Communication

At 8 years and younger communication isn’t much of a problem, yet. Our kids are pretty much an open book. As they age, however kids start to have problems, questions, and concerns that maybe they don’t know how to talk about with their parents. This journal gives them an opportunity to bring up those issues in a safe environment. As parents is gives us the chance to pray, discuss and plan how to respond to these problems and questions they will have. It is also a place where we can introduce topics of conversation to our child. For example at age 8 she is ready to start learning about menstruation and how puberty will affect her body. I can introduce the topic through the journal so that when we sit down to have the talk it isn’t uncomfortable or awkward, it’s just an extension of a topic that has already been discussed. As my children get older I hope they will use it to ask me questions about their religious beliefs, relationships with friends, sexual purity, and anything else that is on their mind. This is why it is so important to keep the journal a safe and fun activity when kids are young. As they age they need to know that it is not a place for judgment, it is a place for open communication.

Have you ever used a parent-child journal? In what other ways do you encourage open communication with your children?

Lead Me, Guide Me Parenting

One of my favorite songs that my children sing at church has the line “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.” It is a plea to their parents to guide them through this life in a way that will bring them back to their Heavenly Father. Each time I hear this song I ask myself “Am I practicing positive lead me, guide me parenting?” Lead me, guide me parenting | Smithsquad.com | PArenting without threats, bribes, nagging, and fighting

Do as I say, Not as I do

It is very easy to get into bad habits of authoritarian demands, bribes and punishments, and do as I say not as I do parenting. Our world seems to celebrate this type of parenting. Public shaming has become somethign to praise and taking away a 3 year old’s ice cream and dumping it in the trash is the proper response for them forgetting to say thank you. I see these stories posted on social media and all the comments praising them and I wonder when did we go so wrong? When did we decide that children needed to be perfect little compliant robots that behave better than most of the adults caring for them? When did we decide it was perfectly acceptable for us to throw an adult temper tantrum as we rant at our kids, but completely unacceptable for them to voice a single whine or complaint? We complain about how horrible our boss is when he treats us unkindly, yet turn around and treat our children the same way. What if instead of punishing, threatening, yelling, and shaming we set the example and really walked beside them to show them the way?

Lead Me, Guide Me Parenting

Lead me, guide me parenting | Smithsquad.com | PArenting without threats, bribes, nagging, and fighting | Family work instead of chores
Dad setting the example and working hard with the kids

Lead me, guide me parenting doesn’t mean that there are no expectations, limits or consequences. It simply means that we set the proper example and enforce boundaries with love, compassion and education instead of threats, shaming, and punishment. We show our children the way we want them to treat others by treating our children with respect and kindness. We teach them compassion by serving them and involving them when we serve others. We teach them gratitude when we thank them for the good things they do or the the help they provide. We teach them to work by working together as a family and letting them see our hard work. When misbehavior occurs we take the time to talk to them, understand their feelings, and help them work out a better way to handle the situation. When simple manners are forgotten we take the initiative to say thank you and then prompt our children to voice their gratitude as well if they don’t follow our lead.

What Does Lead, Me Guide Me Look Like?

Lead me, guide me parenting| SmithSquad.com | setting the example for my children |
Working on art with my daughter teaches her it’s ok to take time to follow your passions.

Situation: A child is required to read for 10 minutes per day

Do as I say solution: If you read for 10 minutes you will earn your piece of candy. If you do not read then you must stand in the corner until you are ready to do your reading.

Lead me, guide me solution: The parent sits down and reads with the child. They may read aloud, have the child read aloud, or simply each read their own book next to each other.

Situation: Two children are fighting over a toy, yelling and hitting each other

Do as I say solution: Take the toy away, spank both children and send them to time out

Lead me, guide me solution: Place the toy on your lap and sit in between the two children. Give them each a chance to talk and ask what is going on. After they each get a turn to tell their side of the story ask them for possible solutions, and suggest solutions if they need your help. Settle on a solution as a team.

Situation: A child is throwing a fit in public because they were told no

Do as I say solution: Loudly inform the child that they are naughty, embarrassing, and in trouble. Angrily remove them from the situation. Give a punishment for being “bad”.

Lead me, guide me solution: Take the child in your arms and say “I know it is disappointing when we don’t get what we want. Let’s take a deep breath together and calm down.” Offer to sing a song, snuggle, or connect to the child in a way that is calming to them. If the child can not or will not be calmed then remove them from the situation quietly and calmly.

Situation: A child forgets to say thank you after being given a treat

Do as I say solution: Take the treat away informing the child that they don’t deserve it

Lead me, guide me solution: Model gratefulness by thanking the person yourself. If the child does not follow suit then gently remind them “Did you forget to say something?” or “Did you remember to thank Sue for the treat?”

Situation: The house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up for visitors

Do as I say solution: Parents rant at the children for being so messy and not keeping up with their chores. Each child is assigned a chore and parents threaten, bribe, and talk talk talk at the kids to keep the moving and get the work complete.

Lead me, guide me solution: The entire family takes one section of the house at a time and works together to get it clean. Parents are pitching in as well and take the opportunity to play, sing, or simply talk with their children as they work.

None of Us is Perfect

Lead me, guide me parenting | SmithSquad.com | We are all just children doing our best to navigate this world
We are all just children doing the best we can to navigate this world.

Now in case you have any notion that I’m this saintly patient mom let me tell you I am nowhere near perfect at remembering to use these approaches. I raise my voice way more often than I should. I have punished when I should have taught. I have forgotten to say thank you or gone days without reading anything other than Facebook. It’s ok. Just as my children are a work in progress so am I. As I forgive myself and give myself permission to be imperfect it is much easier to do the same for my children. The key to all of this is to remember that just as I fall short in meeting the expectations of my Heavenly Father my children will also fall short in meeting my expectations. I need to give them the same grace, patience, and love that I want my Father to give to me.

Resources

***this section contains affiliate links. To learn more about our affiliate program click here***

Of course there is far more to this than what can be written in one blog post. Here are some resources that have really helped me over the last few years.

Love and Logic– A wonderful book that talks about how to use both love and logic to establish control in your home without threats, nagging, fighting, etc. They also post great stuff on their Facebook page. There are also versions of the book specifically for young children, teens, and classrooms.

The Dirty Little Secret About Children and Chores– A wonderful blog post about chores vs. family work by Donna Goff.

When Anger Hurts– A book about how controlling those around you with anger can damage both them and yourself.

Parenting Isn’t for Cowards– Focuses on logical steps you can take to bring more peace and joy into the parent/child relationship.

Parenting the Ephraim’s Child– Did you know that the tribe of Ephraim was the most rebellious and difficult of the 12 tribes of Israel? This book focuses on taking those traits which are considered weaknesses and seeing them as “a strength in need of refinement.”

The Five Love Languages for Children– Everyone gives and receives love in different ways. Understanding whether your child needs words of affirmation, physical touch or another love language will help you fill their needs as well as identify how they are constantly showing their love for you.

What resources have you used and loved to help improve your relationships with your children? In what way do you already practice lead me, guide me parenting and in what ways would you like to improve?

Sunday Morning Chaos

Whoever wrote the song “Easy Like Sunday Morning” clearly did NOT have small children who needed to get ready for church. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but when you have six small children who don’t usually get up until the sun does around 7:30 and service at 9:00 it is anything but! Here are a few things I’ve done to help calm the Sunday morning chaos.

7 Tips to Calm the Sunday Morning Chaos | Smithsquad.com | Parenting a large Family | Keeping Sunday morning peaceful |preparing for church

1- Send kids to bed in their church clothes

I know, sounds a bit crazy, but it is genius! I can thank my amazing husband for this one. I rolled my eyes at him and ignored the suggestion, he told the kids to go get dressed for church before bed. Holy cow it made such a big difference in the morning! No hunting for a clean shirt or underpants. No more playing around in their pajamas when they are supposed to be getting dressed. I don’t put the two youngest to bed in their Sunday clothes, they will inevitably spill breakfast on them, but I do lay their clothes out on the couch ready to go. I also plan my own outfit and make sure everything I need is clean and ready to go.

2- Put socks in shoes ready to be put on

Obviously kids aren’t going to sleep in their shoes. Once we got the dressing on Sunday morning under control it seemed like we were always hunting down socks or shoes! Now I have the kids put their socks or tights in their shoes and place them next to their bed. Not only have we already found them, but this reminds them to put them on as they get out of bed in the morning.

3- Prepare an easy breakfast

I must admit I’m much happier with a nice big hot breakfast in my belly. I decided, however, that getting up early enough to scramble eggs, fry bacon, and toast bread wasn’t good for my morning sanity. Breakfast on Sunday is usually some sort of fruit with either cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. Easy peasy and the biggest kids can get it all out themselves. I decide on breakfast the night before. We did consider setting the table at night, but decided that with a one-year-old who loves to climb on it that it may not be the best plan.

4- Clean on Saturday

Make sure the table is clean, floors swept, counters wiped etc. Do I actually need a clean house to leave for church, not really. Having a clean house, however, helps my mind to be in a more peaceful state. Not to mention that stepping on a Lego can seriously ruin a good mood on any morning!

5- Get up early

I know it’s the weekend and you want to sleep as long as possible. Welcome to stressland! Even if it’s just five or ten minutes get up early enough to give yourself plenty of time for unexpected delays. Fact is they happen, especially with small kids. Someone will spill something, the dog will jump with muddy paws, you’ll discover a rip or hole. Give yourself enough time to calmly deal with the situation and still get out the door on time.

6- Work as a team

Make sure each family member knows the expectations and what their role is. For example with the baby’s clothes laid out ready to go my oldest daughter will often take the initiative to start dressing him after breakfast. I don’t even have to ask because she knows what needs to be done and wants to be helpful. The kids know to put their socks and shoes on first thing, so I rarely have to remind them. Dad knows where the kids clothes are and what’s for breakfast so he can jump in and get things going. When I thought I had to do everything myself and wasn’t communicating and asking for help Sunday mornings were ALWAYS high stress and usually ended with me yelling, crying or both!

7- Don’t stress about being late

This is easier for some than others. We could walk in ten minutes late every single week and my husband wouldn’t bat an eye. If I am walking in and am not fully seated yet when the service starts I am a mess of anxiety. I have had to learn to give myself permission to just roll with the punches. My six kids are fed, happy and at church. It is far better to arrive at church late without any yelling, arguing, fighting, or tears than to be on time in a huff with everyone hating life.

Do you have any tips for calming the Sunday morning chaos? I’d love to hear them!

 

It’s Your Choice

On Sunday a friend of mine introduced me to a video by expert play therapist Dr. Gary Landreth. In this video he was talking about giving children choices and allowing them to own their consequences. He discussed the importance of phrasing things to your children in a way that the feel they have choices, rather than mom or dad is the punitive enforcer and I have no freedom.

It’s Your Choice

Three very powerful words. I’ve been trying them out the last two days, and the difference is amazing!

When it started to get rowdy during breakfast instead of “Eat politely or you will be excused” I said “If you choose to eat politely you choose to stay at the table. If you choose to be loud or rude then you choose to leave the table. It’s your choice.”

When siblings were arguing “If you choose to speak unkindly then you are choosing to be alone in your room”

While grocery shopping “If you choose to walk and keep your hands to yourself then you are choosing to have a treat at the checkout” then “Looks like Maddy is choosing to get a treat, good choice! Leah it looks like you might be choosing not to get one, is that the choice you want to make?”

While picking up cat food at Petsmart “If you choose to stay with me then we can choose to go look at the animals”

When the almost 3-year-old wanted to play instead of cleaning up instead of simply taking his toys and sending him to his room I said “If you choose to play instead of clean then you are choosing to put your toy in the trash” He looked up at me grinned his impish grin and said “I will throw it away.” He then marched to the trash can, threw his toy away then marched back with a huge smile and started helping clean. Not quite sure he understood his choices there, but he owned them happily and I hated that toy anyway!

It's your choice|smithsquad.com|parenting|giving children choices|children and control|discipline tips
“You can choose to clear off your plate then have play time or you can choose to go to bed and mommy will clear off your plate”

Giving Kids Control Brings Peace

It may seem a bit counterintuitive. If we let our kids have more control won’t they run wild? Won’t we be facing the possibility of outright anarchy? Well I can tell you after doing this for only two days I’ve seen huge differences. I am calmer and kinder in the way I speak. Because I am presenting them with a choice without any negative emotions they are able to more rationally think through the scenario. Because they feel in control of their choice they are much more willing to own the consequence of that choice without fighting, crying, or pouting. Overall our home has dramatically increased in peace and kindness over the last two days and I can’t wait to see the long-term effects of my new power words.

It’s your choice.

Fear of Failure Blocks our Clearest Path to Success

There are already a million reasons why I have chosen to home-school my kids. Last night, after a bit of pillow talk with my husband, I added another to the list.

I believe that our current educational system trains children to have a fear of failure, and without failure no one can succeed.

With all of the focus we put on test scores and grades our children are conditioned to think that if they can’t live up to the standard of perfection that we have set for them then there is something wrong with them. They are not adequate. They are unintelligent, unsuccessful, a failure. And that’s the end of it. You have failed. Big fat F. Now we have to move on, because the rest of the class is ready, and you will always and forever remain the failure.

WE have taught our kids to fear failure|smithsquad.com|Jessica Lahey|education|homeschool|unschool

If you get “bad” grades or bad test scores you won’t get into college. If you bring home a “bad” report card you may get punished, at the very least you will be met with disapproval and disappointment. You don’t get free meals at the local family diner for being average. You don’t get honor roll status if you try a harder class and don’t get that A. You definitely don’t get into a “good” college with a transcript full of C’s.

All of this pressure to be perfect is creating a generation who will almost always choose to take the easy road and get the “A” rather than try something hard and risk being labeled a failure.

Did you know that Edison “failed” over 1,000 times while trying to invent the lightbulb?

When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” – They Did Not Give Up

Where would our world be if Edison had been brainwashed into believing that an “A” was more important than never giving up? I, for one, am extremely grateful that when his teachers said he was “mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams” as they expelled him from school that he chose to keep moving forward, and ignore their negative criticism. Every great inventor, creator, artist, CEO etc. has failed countless times. The reason they made it to the top is because they treated failure as an opportunity to learn, not a reason to quit.

So why aren’t we teaching this level of dedication and persistence in our schools? I’m sure there are some amazingly motivating teachers that are pushing their students to new heights, but as a whole our system is failing to give the children the crucial fortitude it takes to be successful in this world. this is in no way the fault of the teachers, many of which are every bit as frustrated with the system as I am. This problem is the result of a flawed system that puts too much focus on grades and test scores and does not celebrate individuality and creativity.

We are creating a generation that is content to work for someone else’s dreams because they are too afraid of failure to pursue their own. I personally chose to take the basic level Physics class instead of the honors or AP class recommended by my counselor because I cared far more about my GPA than I did my education. Many of peers made similar choices, and with the increase in focus in standardized testing I can only imagine that this attitude is becoming more and more prevalent.

Failure is an opportunity to learn|smithsquad.com|unschool|homeschool|no fear
Ben failed at least 20 times before he finally built something that would actually dam the water.

This is why we don’t have grades or testing in our home-school. I can tell when a child has mastered a subject and when they do we move forward. When they struggle we try over and over again until they master it. Mastery and self-confidence are far more important to me than an A or a good test score. This doesn’t just apply to academics. It applies to the playground,  art,  music, building, and anything else that they want to pursue. I wont’ do it for them or help them just so they can succeed. I will allow them to fall flat on their face as many times as it takes so that they can truly learn mastery over their desires and know that they are capable of success, no matter how many times they fail.

I will do everything in my power to insure that my children do no grow up with a fear of failure that prevents them from achieving their ultimate level of success.

How do you encourage your children to dare to try new things and build their self-esteem?

 

Birth Story #7|Cross Country Move at 37 Weeks

In July of 2014 I was VERY pregnant and planning a home birth with CPM Tiffanie Gonzales. I was super excited, comfortable, and ready to go. Then life went a little crazy.

My husband, Cameron, was once again out of work. He had to opportunity to make a trip to Georgia to check out the house we had been renting that the tenants had moved out of and do some handyman work for a friend. While there the pieces started falling into place and the idea was hatched that we should move back. Work was available, a rental home was found, and it just felt right. Only one problem, I was due August 17th!

I told my husband either we’re leaving within the week or we’re not going until a month after bubs arrives. Given he fact that he had no imminent job prospects there in Las Vegas we made the decision to leave ASAP. We packed our stuff into two trailers to be towed by our two vans and hit the road for a 2000 mile trip cross-country. We arrived in GA on July 28th and I don’t think I got off the couch for the next 5 days! Who knew sitting in a car all day could be so incredibly exhausting.

Cross country move at 37 weeks pregnant|emilyjphoto.com|iphone photography|birth photographer
Driving through the middle of somewhere USA

Now I had a problem. No home birth midwife would take me on at 37 weeks pregnant, neither would any doctor for that matter. My only options were unassisted home birth or Emergency room and doctor on call. After the beautiful experience of my home birth with #6 I was not anxious to head to the hospital. At the same time without a midwife on call I was VERY hesitant to give birth at home. I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t make a decision. However I felt when labor started and as it progressed was what I would do.

40 weeks came and went with not even the slightest sign of labor being imminent. 41 weeks cam end went and I was getting a bit impatient. At 41 weeks and 2 days after a day at church and relaxing with the family contractions finally begun late in the evening. We put the kids to bed and once again discussed the possibility of going to the hospital. We prayed together to be guided in our birth decisions. I told Cameron that I felt very peaceful and just wanted to labor at home for now. I told him that I was just in the early stages so he should get some sleep. He went downstairs to the couch so that I could roam freely through the bedroom and master bath as I felt the need. I dozed for a while until the contractions got too intense and then hopped in the bathtub around 3am. I called Cameron shortly after that to let him know it was time to come upstairs.

I honestly don’t remember much of the details at that point. I just remember an overwhelming sense of peace and calm that told me everything was ok. Around 5 am baby boy was delivered by his dad with only a few pushes. We weighed and measured him ourselves and daddy tied off the cord.

Birth Photography Atlanta|Winder|Georgia
Look at all that birthday frosting!

I had set the settings on my camera and placed it on the bathroom counter determined to prevent a repeat of my last birth, no pictures within the first 24 hours. My husband did not disappoint and snapped some pictures for me right before and in the few moments after delivery. These are the most treasured images I have of me as a mother. It was while I was looking at these images that the little spark in my mind grew to a full flame of desire. I HAD to be a birth photographer! Every mother needs to own these images so that they can own their birth stories. Having run the gamut from cell phone photos to no photos I knew just how priceless these images of me and my baby were. I can guarantee you I will never make the mistake of not having them ever again!

Birth Photography|emilyjphoto.com|Newborn baby photographer|Winder, Georgia|Atlanta Lifestyle and documentary Photographer

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 8

My First Home Birth|Birth Story Baby #6

When we moved to Las Vegas I met an amazing group of ladies at a place called Pink Peas.  It was a wonderful non-profit organization for moms. I am so sad they had to shut down last year due to lack of funds. Pink Peas was the home of 2 midwives who did home births. I decided to finally have the home birth I really wanted when pregnant with #6 in 2012/13.

Unfortunately a little over halfway through the pregnancy my husband lost his job and we no longer had the funds to pay for the midwifery services. Our insurance covered nearly 100% of the cost of a hospital birth, and I was very depressed thinking that I wasn’t going to have the home birth that I wanted. I was commiserating with my best friend at church, and tossing around the idea of an unassisted home birth, when she informed me that another woman at our church was a midwife.

I spoke to Tiffani about my thoughts on unassisted home birth the next Sunday and asked for her input. She was so incredibly supportive. She talked to me about the risks as well as about my previous births and told me she thought I was the perfect candidate for an unassisted home birth. She also told me, however, that if I needed her for any reason to please call as she only lived a 5 minute walk around the corner from me.

Jack final belly

A few days before baby arrived my other kids all went to my moms house in St. George, UT. It was so peaceful with just me, my husband, and my youngest daughter at home.

On April 3rd at about 9pm I felt a little pop and had a small gush of water. It was just a trickle, so I was a little confused, but still pretty positive it was my water breaking. I went to bed just knowing that I would be holding a baby in a few hours. But baby and my body had other plans.

For the next two days my labor would start and stop several times. I would be having contractions every 3 minutes then they would suddenly just stop. I walked, I slept, I sat on my birth ball, I read, I did stairs. I was emotionally completely drained. I called Tiffani at about 4:30 pm on April 4th and expressed my frustration. My previous labors were all fast and furious. This was a completely new experience and I didn’t know what to do! She verified that I didn’t have a fever, I was feeling healthy, and baby was moving as normal. She reassured me that baby and I were both perfectly fine at home with just a small leak. She explained to me about the two layers in the amniotic sac and about how you can have a leak from the outer bag rupturing while the inner bag is in tact. She told me that she was at her daughters softball game and that she would swing by on the way home to check on me. In the mean time she advised me to try out some different positions, including hands and knees, to try to get baby in a better position for birth.

After I got off the phone I jumped on the Spinning Babies website and did some reading about labors that start and stop. One thing it suggested was that baby may have gotten engaged in the pelvis with a less than optimal head position. One thing they suggested was to be on your knees with your chest to the floor through a few contractions to get baby to disengage, then sit on the birth ball and rotate hips to get them to re-engage in a better position.

Well it worked. After a few contractions on my knees I once again sat on my birth ball and felt as his head dropped into my hips. Contractions immediately started increasing again and I chose to move to the bathtub. I told my husband he could stay in the living room with our daughter watching Wreck it Ralph and I would cal for him if/when I needed anything. He told me I wouldn’t need to call. He could always tell when I needed him because I would say “OWIE OWIE OWIE!” like a three-year old every time I was about ready to push. I had never noticed that about myself before!

I had the lights off and just a few candles. As I sat there alone in the dim room in a tub of warm water I was so incredibly at peace. It was beautiful. I was able tot make time to truly breathe through each contraction and connect with my body and my baby. As my husband had predicted about an hour later, around 7pm, I hollered out “OWIE!” and he came in. He helped me move into a squatting position in the tub and delivered our perfect baby boy in 2 good pushes. Rachel, still watching Wreck it Ralph, was a prefect little angel and barely even noticed what was going on. When she came in the room a few minutes later she looked genuinely confused as to where on earth this yelling little creature had come from.

bright eyes low

As I sat back in the tub I was amazed by what we had just accomplished. The feeling of peace and intimacy between me and my husband was beautiful. Together we had brought this life that we had created into this world on our terms, in our home. It was truly the most empowering and amazing experience of my life at that point. After a few minutes of snuggling I told Cameron “Well better text Tiffani and let her know he’s here!” She said that if it was ok she still wanted to stop by and check us out. She did the weighing and measuring for us and checked me out for tearing. Everything was perfect and she left us alone to enjoy our time together.

Daddy and Jack low

I can not even begin to describe the emotions I felt. 46 hours of labor. Frustration, sadness, anxiety, were all so completely washed away when I gazed into that little face and into the eyes of my husband. This is what it means to be a woman. There is absolutely no other way for a new life to enter this world except through the sacrifice of a mother. Being a part of this process is something truly miraculous. I was amazed to discover a whole new level and depth of my womanhood as I went through this labor in a peaceful, natural setting rather than a sterile hospital. I felt so intimately connected to the generations of mothers who had done this before me. The connection to my baby without all the nurses and doctors poking and prodding the two of us was beautiful. I can’t say I will never have another hospital birth, I believe in making that decision with each individual pregnancy base don my needs and wants at the time, but I know there are certain things that I will do differently if I am ever giving birth in their world again.

Jackie Boy low

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 7

Baby 8