Getting Started with Art Journaling

Recently, as part of my healing from betrayal trauma, I have started an art journal. Now I don’t work in it nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life as a mom of young children. It has definitely been a hugely therapeutic thing for me. I’ve shed tears more than once while creating. I also consider a lot of my digital art therapeutic journaling as well. Added bonus no messy supplies to get out and put away! There’s just something about working with actual medium on paper that is just so healing for me though. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less in control and there’s no undo button.

Getting Started with Art Journaling | The Muchness Mama | muchnessmama.com

What is Art Journaling

Art journaling is simply putting words and images together to express yourself. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There are no grades. There are no rules. Oh wait there is one rule: there are no mistakes, just happy accidents (yes, I love Bob Ross). Simply use whatever speaks to you to give a visual aspect to the thoughts and feelings inside. Put aside any thoughts of what is right in art. Forget about focal points, color harmonies, balance, unity, or any other “rule” you’ve been taught. Just get your feelings out on paper!

Art journaling has been around since the dawn of time. In fact many of the great artists in history kept these visual journals. The British Library has actually digitized one of DaVinci’s journals and made it available to the public. It is quite fascinating!

Therapists have also found the value in using art to unlock suppressed memories and feelings. It can also help to heal trauma as you process through those feelings in a creative way. By processing using your physical body and incorporating both words and images you use your entire brain. The more of your brain that is activated during therapy the more thoroughly traumatic experiences can be processed. You don’t need a therapist to guide you through art journaling. All you need is a willingness to dig deep and be honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a prompt and other times it’s best to jsut start makign a mess and see what happens.

Art Journaling Supplies

All you need to get started is a writing implement of some sort and a piece of paper. Don’t let a lack of art supplies hold you back! It is far better to do a simple pencil sketch than nothing at all. Of course art journaling is a lot more fun with some color, so here are a few of my favorite things to use.

For starters let’s talk about paper. You can use a basic notebook, but you’re going to be a bit restricted on what you can do with the flimsy paper without destroying it. If you just want to use dry media (pencils, crayons, chalk, pastels, etc) you’ll be fine with a simple sketchbook. If you want to use more paints, glues, and other embellishments you’re going to need a heavier duty paper. A mixed media book is a great choice. If you really love to work with watercolors then it’s even better to get a book with watercolor paper pages.

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Colored pencils are my go to for sketching. I really like that they are hard to erase. It forces me to accept imperfections and mistakes, and allows me to just think about creation rather than perfection. Your basic Crayola pencils that you can get at any grocery store will do just fine. I have also recently discovered and am loving Arteza. They’re a bit higher quality and still a very reasonable price. If you really want to splurge then Prismacolor is the way to go. Their pencils are super soft with vibrant colors that get great coverage and blend beautifully. 

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Watercolors are another fun medium to use. When you think watercolor you’re probably remembering those cheap pan sets from grade school that gave you pale washed out paintings on wrinkly paper. Watercolor is so much more amazing when you have good paints on good paper. For a decent starter set The Artist Loft pan sets are a bit better than the grade school stuff and still very budget friendly. If you want to step up your quality a bit then Sakura Koi, Arteza, Prima, or Kuretake are a great choice. Jane Davenport is another middle of the road brand price wise and I am totally in love with them!  The neutrals pallet is perfect if you want to paint a lot of skin and hair tones. If you really want to get the top of the line watercolors Holbein, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith are all highly recommended. If you want to start out with the higher quality, but still on a small budget you can get individual pans or tubes of the three primary colors along with white and black then mix your own colors. For painting on the go water brushes are awesome! If you really want a good brush at a great price I also really like my Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes.

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In addition to the traditional pan or liquid watercolors you can also play around with watercolor crayons, markers, brush pens, or pencils. There are so many fun and creative ways to use these that would be an entire blog post in itself! Some recommendations for pencils are Derwent, Arteza, or Faber-Castell. For crayons check out Neocolor, or Ranger ink. Sakura Koi and Tombow both make a great felt tip watercolor marker, and I LOVE my Arteza real brush pens.

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If you prefer more control and opacity then Acrylic paints are the way to go. For a simple art journal I haven’t seen a need for anything fancier than the bottled craft paints that you can get at any craft store or Walmart. If you want to do a finished piece to hang you may want to get something a bit nicer and more professional because of their light fastness.

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Washi tape is so much fun! It is easy to reposition and you can get so many fun prints. I may have a slight addiction to washi lol. I like to go to Michaels craft store and check out their bin of individual rolls that are around 3 for $1. Here are a few of my favorite patterns on Amazon as well.

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There are so many other paints, pens, markers, etc. that this post would get WAY too long if I listed them all. Instead I’ll just put a few of my favorites in the product carousel below.

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In the future I’m planning to do more detailed posts on each medium that I use as well as some great art journaling prompts. What other products are you interested in learning about? What are your favorite products for art journaling? Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook and lets chat about it! I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for Art Journaling if you’d like to see more tips and inspiration.

The 5 Love Languages- Understanding How We Give and Receive Love

Have you ever struggled with feeling like you are loved and appreciated in your marriage, parenthood, friendship, or other relationship? On the flip side have you ever felt like you were showing an overwhelming amount of love only to have someone tell you that they don’t feel appreciated? You might be dealing with a love language barrier. Have you heard of the five love languages before? You can learn all about them in the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, but here’s a little summary for you.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

A Summary of the Five Love Languages

The love languages are the ways in which we both give and receive love. They are physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time. You both receive and give love through these languages. Pretty much everyone has 1-2 dominant languages. Some people speak the same language as they hear, while others speak and hear different languages. If you aren’t sure what your language is check out this quiz.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Couples Therapy

Are You Speaking Your Loved Ones’ Language?

While knowing your own love language can be very insightful, it is also important to know what the dominant language is for those you love. Whether it’s a spouse, friend, or child if you really want to show them the most love possible you have to speak their language. What is an amazing gesture for you may fall flat if you do the same for a spouse. By not speaking in their language, or worse by punishing in their language, you can really inhibit their ability to feel loved. For example if you have a child who has the dominant love language of words of affirmation a critical statement can cut them far deeper than it may a different child. If your spouse’s love language is acts of service and you are constantly asking them to serve you without returning the favor then their love bank will go into the negative pretty quickly.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Work Relationships

Can You Hear What Others Are Saying?

Even more important than learning to speak another language is learning to hear the language that they are speaking. As an acts of service person it is sometimes hard to feel love from my kids. I mean come on, how often do small children spontaneously clean the bathroom or fold the laundry? I need to learn to hear in the way that they do say I Love you to me. The hugs and kisses, the weeds (flowers) brought in from outside, the pictures they draw just for me. I have the choice to sit here and feel sorry for myself that no one appreciates me because if they did they’d help out with the housework more, or I can choose to feel loved by all the little things my kids do every day that say I love you to me. It’s easy to do with my kids. It’s harder to do with my husband. He’s a grown-up afterall. I should be able to tell him my love language and have him just give me what I want right? Nope. Just like learning Spanish Chinese, Russian or Arabic it takes work to learn to speak a new language, and some languages are harder for us than others. My husband is a words of affirmation adn physical touch kind of guy. I’ve had to learn to accept those things from him as signs of love as well as communicating to him when I really just need a service done for me.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Friendship

Focus on Giving, Not Getting

As a child I was primarily a physical touch speaker adn receiver. I was constantly wanting to be hugged and cuddled. I always wanted to give my friends hugs. I liked to roughhouse. Hubs and I should make a perfect match then, right? Being as we’re both physical touch people. Nope. While discussing love languages a few days ago I had the realization that physical touch is actually second lowest on my list right now. What changed? I realized that it had dropped lower and lower as I felt like physical touch was taken from me rather than freely given. The touches between my husband and I had become focused on him taking what he needed to feel loved, not giving me what I needed. For example he would try to grab me for a big hug and kiss and let’s just hold each other for a few minutes when I was in the middle of cooking dinner and worried that things were going to burn if I didn’t attend to them immediately. I began to resent his physical touch rather than treasuring it. As we have been researching a lot about bonding behaviors he has started using physical touch as a way to give, not just take. Now he does things like give me a massage when my shoulders hurt from carrying a grumpy baby all day, brush my hair, simply sit close enough to touch shoulders at church. By focusing his physical touch on giving not only is he helping me feel more loved and respected, but he’s finding that I am much more ready and willing to speak his love language and engage in nourishing physical touch with him rather than trying to push him away out of irritation. On the flip side I also find that the more I go out of my way to serve my husband (my primary love language, acts of service) he naturally returns the favor. As we’ve each focused more on giving we’ve allowed the other to do the same and we are both finding our love buckets are much fuller than they were when we were both just trying to get what we needed.

The Five Love Languages | muchnessmama.com | Quality Time | Words of Affirmation | Gifts | Physical Touch | Acts of Service | Relationship advice | marriage | Parenting

Learning More About the Five Love Languages

Gary Chapman has written several books about this topic. Start off with the basic book “The Five Love Languages” which will guide you through each language and teach you how you can both give and receive in each language. After that there are several books that are directed at specific audiences such as military, children, singles, men, and teenagers. Dr. Chapman has also written several other great relationship books which you can view here. Don’t forget to check out the official Five Love Languages website and Dr. Chapman’s Facebook page as well.

Do you know what your love language is? How has knowing yours and loved ones love languages helped you or how do you think it can help you in the future? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook Community to join in on the conversation.

Weak Things Become Strong

We all have weaknesses. Character flaws, not yet achieved ambitions, desires to do or be better. We also all have strengths. A big part of self-love and self-care is being able to accept our current state of being while still pushing forward to always be better. With that intent we often quite vigorously hunt for our weaknesses, catalog them, make goals for change, collect accountability partners, then proceed to beat ourselves up over our perceived imperfections and lack of acceptable progress. We all know that God can make weak become strong. He can change and refine us to be more than we ever could on our own.

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What if we changed our perspective a bit? Maybe the things we consider weaknesses can actually be our greatest strengths WITHOUT being changed. Maybe with some things exactly who we are is exactly who God wants us to be.

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the book “Parenting the Ephraims Child” by Jaime Theler and Deborah Talmagde. In this book they talk about traits that are often considered weaknesses in children and challenges parents to reframe them and strengths in need of refinement. For example stubbornness is VERY annoying when your 3-year-old won’t stay in their bed. That same trait, however, can lead them to say no when they’re a teen and their friends offer them drugs or alcohol. A child who is very sensitive and always having hurt feelings can become incredibly compassionate and charitable. 

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Take a moment a jot down a list of your perceived weaknesses. If you’re anything like me things like eating healthy, exercise, yelling at the kids, etc. might be on your list. Some things really are just weaknesses that need to be improved on. What things are on your list that maybe could be strengths if just refined a little? I’ll give you one of mine as an example. I am a very easily distracted person. I have a hard time sitting and completing a task all in one go. I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this blog post three times now! I’ve always thought my lack of singular focus was a weakness. Then I started to really think about why I was so distracted. It was because I was acutely aware of what was going on around me. This awareness leads me to notice things that need to be done, and often allows me to bless others. I am aware of the woman sitting on the edge of the room alone who looks like she may need a friend. I’m aware of the person in a wheelchair coming up behind me who may appreciate having a door opened. I am aware that a child is struggling with a task that they haven’t thought to ask for help with. This awareness allows me to bless others. This awareness also made me a really good intelligence analyst in the Marine Corps. My husband really appreciates it when we are watching movies with complicated story lines and I can point out the small details he missed that pull everything together.

God made each of us unique. We all have different talents and abilities. There is no one else on this earth who has the exact same mix of strengths and weaknesses as you. You aren’t a mistake or an accident. He created each of us quite intentionally. I would challenge you to take some time this week and identify those things that you have perceived as weaknesses that could become your greatest strengths. Celebrate who you are instead of comparing to others and wishing that you had their talents. Now take your newfound strengths out into the world for a test drive and let me know how it goes.

Paparazzi accessories $5 "I am Strong" necklace | muchnessmama.com | self-love | self-care

Come join our Muchness Mamas Facebook community and share what weaknesses turned strengths you’ve identified. We’d love to hear your stories of how you have used them to bless yourself and others.

Filling Your Bucket with Drops of Awesome

If you are anything like me then most days you go to bed with with a mountain of regrets and a long list of to-do’s that never got done. It’s a little bit too easy to get lost in the negative self-talk of “I’m a failure!” What if instead every night you focused on counting your drops of awesome?

What are drops of awesome? Well they are all the successes, big and small, that you have every day. Stop to think about it and I bet your list gets pretty long, even longer than the failures. Each positive action is a tiny drop of awesome that you get to put in your Super Mom bucket. I bet you’ll find that you need to upgrade to a bigger bucket once you give yourself permission to recognize and celebrate them. Check out the book by Kathryn Thompson on Amazon.

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Collect Your Drops of Awesome

Did your kids get fed today? Drop of awesome!

Did you snuggle a sad child? Drop of awesome!

Did you count to 5 and talk calm when you wanted to yell? Drop of awesome!

Helped a child with a school assignment? Drop of awesome!

Pregnant or breastfeeding? Drop of awesome, or maybe ten!

Created something just for yourself? Drop of awesome!

Mopped the floor, that has been dirty for a week or two? Drop of awesome!

Put on real clothes AND brushed your hair? Drop of awesome!

It would be really easy to look at all these moments and say “Suzie homemaker NEVER feeds her kids cereal!” or “Why should I be proud that I procrastinated the dishes until I ran out and had to use paper plates for the third meal in a row?” or “I’m so selfish for ignoring my kids for 5 minutes!” That kind of negative thinking can not only destroy you, but it makes it even harder to succeed tomorrow. YOU ARE ENOUGH!! 

I am enough | muchnessmama.com | self care | self love | drops of awesome | supermom

Focus on the Positive

I have a challenge for you. Get yourself one of those little click counter things. Every day for the next week after you get it carry it around and give yourself a click each time you collect a drop of awesome. At the end of the day write down a few of them in your journal. At the end of one week I bet you will be amazed at how much focusing on your awesome seriously improved your mood and self worth.

YOU ARE AWESOME!!

Why not start here and now collecting your drops? Head on over to our Facebook Community and wave your brag flag by telling us all about today’s drops of awesome.

My 2018 Word of the Year- Enough

A new year is a time for resolutions. I’ll be honest, I haven’t made on in years because I know I won’t manage to do it perfectly and I really don’t need one more thing in my life to feel like a failure about. Yep, that’s right, I often feel like a failure. You may have noticed that I didn’t put a blog post out in months. I didn’t know what to write about. I was suffering from some really big imposter syndrome. Who am I to tell you all how to find your muchness? who am I to think I can help other women feel good about themselves? Who am I to give parenting, relationship, life, etc. advice? I’m not perfect. Nowhere near it. Why should any of you want to listen to me?

I am enough | muchnessmama.com | self care | self love | self acceptance | self help | becoming a better you | love yourself

This has been a problem for e my whole life. I had a paradigm that if I wasn’t the best then I was a failure. “2nd place is just first place loser!” Rather than making me super competitive, however, this mindset made me a quitter. Worse than that if I didn’t think I could excel at something right off the bat then I wouldn’t even try. I talked about this a little in my post “I Am an Artist“. Despite my love and desire to create beautiful things I avoided trying for YEARS because I was afraid of being bad at it. Fact is we are ALL going to be bad at things. You can’t become good if you aren’t willing to start out by being bad. I have been working on adjusting my mindset to appreciate where I am in the journey instead of focusing on my failure to reach the ideal destination I have created in my mind.

 

I am enough | muchnessmama.com | self care | self love | self acceptance | self help | becoming a better you | love yourself

In the CreativeLive class “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” one of the instructors said (sorry didn’t write down who it was and there are two teachers lol) “Life is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived.” That really struck a nerve with me. I’ve been so busy trying to solve the problems of my life that I have forgotten to enjoy the adventure of the journey. That is why this blog exists. It isn’t here so that I can put on my pretty perfect face and tell you all how to be perfect too. This blog exists because I NEED to share my hot mess with you and know that it’s ok. It’s so I can share my journey and maybe encourage you a little bit in yours. It’s here so that I can create a community of vulnerability where women can connect in our brokenness, embrace it, and make it beautiful.

My husband and I were talking the other night and the conversation got a bit rough. We were discussing how and why him asking me to do something different or make a small improvement would send me into a tailspin of self-doubt and feeling like a failure. We’re talking little things here ladies like “can we please make sure all the dishes get rinsed before they get put in the dirty sink so that they don’t attract flies?” Totally reasonable request right? Well my logical brain totally agrees with you. However my emotional brain hijacks the conversation and turns it into “You know you’re a really crappy homemaker right? I can’t believe you can’t figure out how to keep flies out of our kitchen. this house is so disgusting? What do you seriously do all day? Did anything get done?” Yeah. Not exactly what he was saying. In fact not even close. I still haven’t identified exactly why my brain goes there. I know part of it is traumas I have suffered in my adult life, but I also recognize that this has been a problem for me since I was young, for example me refusing to try to be an artist.

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This is why my word of the year is Enough. I am enough. Where I am in my journey is enough. What I have accomplished is enough. Despite my “failures” I am still enough. This year I want to focus on recognizing where I am in the journey and appreciating it. Looking back and recognizing my progression. Looking forward with excitement for what I can become instead of dread at what I haven’t achieved. Enough doesn’t mean I’ve settled or no longer try to progress. It simply means being ok with where I am while continuing to move forward in this grand adventure.

The perfectionist me wanted to make a beautiful hand drawn graphic for this post. I’m still a newbie to pointed pen calligraphy and definitely haven’t achieved that level of “perfection” that I tend to expect from myself. As I sat practicing all my letters trying to create the perfect image I realized the irony of what I was doing. Here I am talking about being happy with where I am, yet hating how my letters just weren’t forming the way I wanted. So here’s my first celebration of living my word. Instead of a beautiful graphic you get to see my practice pad. I am celebrating where I am, and looking forward to what I can achieve as I practice some more.

Do you have a word of the year? Please share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you’re focusing on. Then come join our community on Facebook to get in on the discussion of how we can support each other in fulfilling our intentions this year.

The Muchness Mama | Slay the jabberwock | Rediscover wonderland | self care | self love

Back to School: 5 Self-Care Tips for Mom

Getting the kids ready to head back to school can be a pretty big drain on time and finances. It’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of back to school haircuts, clothing, supplies, activities, etc. and quickly forget to take a little time for self-care. Whether your kids are homeschooled, private schooled, or public schooled this is a busy time of year. Here are a few tips to fit in some self-care for mom as well.

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Moms Need New Clothes Too!

When I was growing up my mom owned two pairs of pants. Just two. I remember asking her why she didn’t get a new pair when there were holes in the knees of one. “It’s just not in the budget, raising kids is expensive.” Yes, raising kids is expensive, but you deserve to be in the budget too! Around this time of year there are usually some great deals on mom clothes as well as kids clothes. Plan ahead and make sure to throw a few $$ in the budget to get yourself a new outfit as well. I’ve got tons of cute things in my LuLaRoe shop that are perfect for the mom on the go at excellent prices and a special back to school sale coming up soon. While you’re at it why not throw in a few $5 accessories as well? You can’t go wrong at a price point of $5 to add a little bling to your wardrobe. And don’t forget a new pair of shoes as well. I recently found a pair of my favorite brand Saucony running shoes at a local shoe store in the clearance aisle for only $7! Can’t beat that.

How About Those School Supplies?

Right now you’re probably stocking up on colored pencils, glue sticks, scissors, and composition books. All great things to get your kids through the next school year. Well why not get yourself a pretty new pen or notebook as well while everything is on sale and start a personal journal? Journaling has been proven to reduce stress, clarify thinking, solve problems and disagreements, and help you to know yourself better (Check out this article on the health benefits of journaling). Taking five minutes a day to jot down a few things in a bullet journal or maybe spend a bit more time creating a beautiful art journal to pass down to your kiddos can be a huge mood boosting activity. Plus who doesn’t like a pretty notebook or fun pen?

Time to Simplify

Heading back to school means it’s time to pick your classes/activities for the year. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real y’all, and not just for moms. We don’t want our kids to miss out on any opportunity that they have before them. When you have multiple kiddos this means the fees and the time in trekking from one activity to the next really starts to add up. Many kids are now taking an extra zero period before school just to fit in all the electives that they want to take. For my fellow homeschoolers it’s easy to get caught up in so many co-ops, playgroups, field trips, and other activities that we’re hardly ever at home. This isn’t good for the parents or the kids. It’s ok to say no. No you can’t do violin, ballet, advanced art class, 4H and scouts all at one time! You can be truly excellent at a very few things or you can be mediocre at everything. It’s far less stressful to pick a focus and really become excellent at something you truly love rather than thinking you can’t miss out on any opportunity that comes your way. In our family we have decided to limit ourselves to one weekly co-op, one weekly play date, and no more than one additional activity per child. This gives me time as a mom to slow down, spend less, and help my kids become a true master at their chosen activity. When I was growing up in public school my parents were smart enough to have the same rule with me, only one extracurricular activity, and only as many electives as can fit into my regular school schedule. I had to give up drama class after 9th grade because I decided to stick with band. I bet you that if I was trying to manage every school play along with all of my band concerts I never would have made it into the Marine Corps Band when I was graduated. Set the example and teach your kids life is better when you simplify!

Please go to Bed!

Sleep. We all need it, and none of us get enough of it. There is a reason the word Mombie exists! Seriously though it is such a huge part of self-care! I’m sure we all work hard to get our kiddos into bed on time, because we know how much they need adequate sleep in order to be successful learners. Why is it that we struggle to make sleep as much of a priority for ourselves. Now there are definitely times when it’s just out of our control. 2am newborn feedings and teething toddlers can make it rather difficult to get a full 8 hour sleep night. Let’s not even get started on the “Mom, my science fair project is due tomorrow and I need an experiment!” I challenge you to do everything in your power to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night for 1 week and see how your productivity increases. If you could get more done, in less time, and feel better while doing it then why wouldn’t you?

There’s Nothing Wrong With Saying No

Remember that science fair project that’s due tomorrow? Well sometimes it’s ok to tell your kiddo “too bad, guess you should have told me about it earlier!” It is NOT your responsibility as a mom to save your kids from their bad choices. It is NOT your responsibility to make sure that they get A’s at all costs. It is certainly NOT your responsibility to do their homework for them. Not only does this rob you of your well deserved peace and time, but it robs them of the opportunity to learn and grow. I know, it’s hard to watch your kid fail or making bad choices. Ultimately, however, there will come a day when mom isn’t there to clean up their messes. Best to let them learn how to be responsible for themselves now (within age appropriate guidelines of course) by facing the consequences when the stakes are much smaller than losing your job or your house! and speaking of saying no it’s also ok to say no I’m not going to spend that much and a new backpack, shoes you don’t need, the funky colored pencils that cost three times as much as the regular yellow ones, and every single item of clothing your kid thinks is cute. You’re the mom, you get to set the budget. I promise your kid will happily survive the school year without a certain name brand on their butt or a brand new backpack. Plus that leaves more for your mom needs new clothes too budget. 😉

I would love to hear your self-care tips for managing the back to school crazies as a mom. What do you do to maintain your sanity?

The Dreaded Baby Bump and Why it Just Won’t Disappear

 

 

“I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump. From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”

-Jennifer Garner

Like Jennifer I too have a lovely baby bump. Having had nine babies there are those that will tell me it’s just part of motherhood and I should embrace it, but I don’t accept that!

Most share this message to say love your body. Of course I agree with that, but today I have a different message. It’s fine to be sad about your bump. It’s ok to wish it away. It’s normal to have your feelings hurt when people ask if you are pregnant. It’s understandable to hate the fact that none of your clothes fit right. It’s perfectly acceptable to cry about it. It’s common to wear shape wear. Ladies it is ok to do whatever you want to do so that you can walk out that door feeling confident and beautiful. You are amazing and you deserve to feel like your outside reflects what’s on the inside!

It’s especially ok to say “I’m not going to let this baby bump hang around!” Yes, we need to have realistic expectations. We need to give ourselves time, but a baby bump does not have to be permanent. A long-lasting baby bump is often the result of a condition called diastasis recti, and I’ve got good news for you, YOU CAN HEAL IT!!!

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti occurs when the left and right halves of the abdominal muscle (Rectus Abdominis) separate. You then only have a thin band of tissue connecting these two halves of the muscle which is not enough support for all of your internal organs. Your belly then bulges out because there isn’t anything strong enough to hold it in.  Diastasis Recti can also lead to other problems such as a weak pelvic floor and lower back pain.

After my 6th child I had a gap that my entire hand could fit inside. Through careful work I was able to narrow that gap down to two fingers and keep it there throughout pregnancies 7 and 8. Three months after baby #9 and I don’t have a noticeable gap at all.

Preventing Diastasis Recti

The focus of both prevention and healing is to focus on exercises that pull your core muscles in and up while avoiding exercises that cause them to push forward. For example sit-ups are absolutely horrible for diastasis recti, yet most people are regularly doing them! Pelvic tilts, on the other hand are excellent. When getting out of bed I’d be willing to bet that you sit straight up and then swing your legs over the edge of the bed; am I right? If you struggle with a baby bump try this instead, roll onto your side and then push up with your arms to avoid putting pressure on those stomach muscles.

Prenatal yoga is one of my favorite ways to strengthen my body in a safe and gentle way. It is important to maintain focus on pulling the navel in and up throughout the session. Yoga moves can easily transition from helpful to damaging if you allow your form to engage incorrectly. Be especially careful during twisting moves, as these can tend to push muscles outwards as we try to twist more than our body is ready to do correctly.

When doing other exercise programs simply be careful to focus on keeping that abdominal wall pulled in and up throughout the program. If joining an exercise class keep in mind that most instructors are not educated about the cause and risks of diastasis recti. It is best to research specific modifications on your own before attending class, so that you will know what to do.

Wearing a maternity support belt during pregnancy is another useful prevention tool. By relieving  giving extra support to your abdominal muscles you can help prevent the ligament stretching that causes a stubborn gap.

Healing Diastasis Recti

So how do you know if you have a problem? Follow the steps in this video to find out if you have diastasis recti and how big your gap is.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when talking about diastasis recti. While many women are able to heal their gaps through a focused exercise regimen combined with belly binding there are those who need to consider surgery to repair the stretched out fascia muscles. Unfortunately this seems to have a lot more to do with luck or genetics than it does how hard you work postpartum to close the gap.

There are arguments both for and against belly wrapping as a healing tool for a large gap. Many say that it allows the ligament to retract and regain it’s tight elasticity. Others say it can squeeze your internal organs out-of-place leading to a uterine prolapse or bladder incontinence. Here’s what I think after doing a lot of research: binding is helpful, when done properly and in conjunction with an appropriate exercise regimen. Binding should be snug, but not tight. You should still be able to move and breathe easily. Binding should not be worn all day every day, your muscles need a chance to work on their own if you want them to get stronger. I use a Squeem for every-day wear under clothes. Supportive shapewear is also a good option for support without excessive squeeze. I also have an EzyFit for a little extra support without too much squeeze while working out. I do not wear my binder to bed and only wear it for a few hours each day. I would not recommend a tight corset, waist trainer, or anything that restricts your breathing or movement.

 

Binding on its own will do more harm than good. You also need a good exercise regimen. An exercise program needs to focus on strengthening the abdominals in conjunction with the pelvic floor and back. As a former Certified PErsonal Trainer I am comfortable just working out on my own at home or at the gym. You aren’t likely to find a DR friendly class at your local gym. Armed with the knowledge shared here, however, you should eb able to modify any program to work for you. If you don’t mind working out at home there are several great options.  Lindsay Brin has an excellent post natal slim down DVD if you are looking for a simple work-out. If you want a more intense program check out the MuTu system or The Dia Method. These are a bit more expensive, but are also more focused specifically on healing your diastasis recti.

Love Yourself, but Strive for Your Best Self

Now I have to add that it’s important to love your body the way it is. You have accomplished something amazing by growing and birthing a new life. Honor those tiger stripes mama; you earned them! Then go ahead and tell yourself this isn’t the best you can be and you want, no you DESERVE more!  You are of infinite worth and should be able to look in the mirror and be happy with what you see. Sometimes that just means altering our mindset, but often it means working on altering our physical appearance in a healthy manner. Most often it requires both working together. Give yourself grace to be where you are while still striving to be the best self that you know you can be.

Do you have diastasis recti? What methods have you used to heal it? Please feel free to share any additional tips or resources in the comments.

Ducks in a Row- 4 Tips for Balancing Motherhood and Business

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What is life like in a 940 sq ft house containing 8 little ducklings ages 9 and under?

A bit crazy.

Add in a dash of homeschooling, a pinch of Dad being gone 90% of the time trucking and a heaping tablespoon of Mom trying to run a business and you have a recipe for utter chaos!

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Run it all out little ones, then maybe we can get a nap!

Getting my ducks in a row…or not.

So how do I manage? How do I get my ducks all in the same pond, even if ducks in a row is completely out of the question?

Well first of all I just have to learn to embrace a bit of the craziness. Let’s face it. Life in this home will NEVER be calm even if the house doubles in size and the kiddos are all five years older. I sighed and rolled my eyes as I picked up the recycling mess today, but who can resist smiling at that proud little one year old who found the prized soda can that she was after?

Second I’ve had to learn to be flexible while still maintaining good routines. Kids need to know what to expect, but with this many people and the joys of running a business, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a set schedule. We have a morning routine of getting dressed, feeding the animals, feeding ourselves, then having outside playtime. In the evening we feed animals, have dinner, get ready for bed, then have our family scripture time. I also try to give my kids as much warning as I can when it’s time for an activity change, so that they aren’t being yanked around feeling like they have no control over their lives.

Third I’ve had to practice some major time management with my businesses. I’m still working on this one. Sometimes I get lost in the tiny details of a digital painting or spend way too much time putting together LuLaRoe outfits. Every now and then I look at the clock and say to myself “Oh crap, I have children to feed. Guess I’d better make lunch now that it’s 1:30.” One thing I have discovered that really does help me out is using Cinchshare and Hootsuite to schedule my posts. This is especially useful when I’m doing an online party. I can schedule out all my posts in advance when I have time (usually after kiddos are in bed), and then all I have to do is focus on interacting and having fun with my guests.

Fourth I just pray for serenity and hide for a bit in my room when I just need a break! Seriously though, self-care is a HUGE part of maintaining my sanity. It is so easy to get caught up in the needs and wants of everyone around me that I often forget to take care of me. No one can get water from an empty well, so I have to make sure I have time to fill myself if I’m going to be able to adequately care for my family and business. I try to make sure I have a little me time at the end of every day to decompress and relax before bed. I’ll watch a show, read a book, edit some personal photos, do some art, or take a bath while sipping my Mother’s Milk tea mixed with sleepy time tea.

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I love taking photographs and turning them into paintings. Such a relaxing activity for me.

I’d be lying if I told you that this life is perfect. It’s hard. We have our struggles. I have my days where I just want to give up on it all. Overall though I do love my crazy chaotic life. The sticky kisses, too tight hugs, and numerous “I Love You’s” make it all worth it! Organized little ducks in a row will never happen here, but we are happily splashing away in our little pond quite content to be there.

If you’d like to chat with me and other women who are trying to figure out this whole work/life balancing act come join the Muchness Mamas community on Facebook!

Self-Care is NOT Selfish!

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“You have to put your own oxygen mask on first” How often have you heard that phrase? I know I’ve heard it every time I fly. I’ve also heard it thrown around a lot in reference to motherhood and wifehood. What does it really mean?

Often as women we find ourselves putting everyone else first. We serve, serve, serve, until we are totally burned out. Now don’t get me wrong, selfless service is a VERY good thing, but even the best things in unhealthy amounts can be damaging. So how do you determine when you need to back off, say no, and practice some self care?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously though here’s the difference in my mind. Self-care is putting your NEEDS above other people’s WANTS. Selfish is putting your WANTS above other people’s NEEDS.

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Usually determining this is pretty easy. I NEED to eat breakfast. My kid WANTS me to play with them. The hard part comes in when you and another person have conflicting needs. I NEED sleep. My baby NEEDS to be fed in the middle of the night. Now I have to figure out how we can both get what we need. Sometimes determining if something is a need or a want can be difficult too. We all want time off to just relax and rejuvenate. At a certain point this becomes a need. Once the need has been met it once again becomes a want. It is especially difficult in marriage to balance this seesaw between things that can at any time be a want or a need for either spouse.

5 Simple Steps to Becoming Muchier

If you read my first post you’ll already know all about muchness, if you haven’t check it out here. Are you ready to transform yourself into a “much more muchier” version of yourself? Of course the journey looks different for every person, but here are a few tips to get you started on creating your own path.

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Recognize What You Have Lost

For a long time I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out why. 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. Fact is I’ve been through some pretty hard stuff, and life is still hard. Wallowing in self pity is EXTREMELY tempting at times. How could I regain my happiness DESPITE my trials, instead of getting lost in the thinking that life had to be perfect first? I started looking back on my childhood and asked 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 was the first step in becoming muchier.

Identify What You Need

Ask yourself the hard question “what can I change now to be more true to myself and find peace, and even joy, in the midst of the chaos that is life?” Not what can you change about your circumstances or what do you wish others would change about themselves. Be brutally honest, what do you need/want to change about YOU? 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, but when you are suffering from a lost of muchness you may find that your ability to change yourself has been completely eradicated. It is crucial to surround yourself with people who can support you and push you to keep going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. You need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed, and not let you make excuses for yourself. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. True joy is found in having and working towards a goal that really means something to you personally. I’m not talking about a goal that has a finish point, like making 15 sales or taking 10 photographs a day. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose you may find that so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much as they used to. 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, fashion, 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.

Take Action

This is by far the hardest part of this entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change and 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. I clearly remember a phone call with Christine where she suggested I stop trying to be a full time photographer and focus on my blogging instead. WHAT?!?! You are telling me to give up on my dream? I wanted to fight back, I wanted to resist, but deep down I knew she was right. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood and my large family. Caring for them was stopping me from making my business a real success. Trying to get such a time intensive a business up and running was stopping me from being the mother I wanted to be. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action 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. Knowing and embracing my life purpose allowed me 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 where I look at my art supplies and the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it is getting easier and easier.

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You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something disappears never to be seen again. It is something that we can work at and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a 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 measuring posts.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found, no matter what may be going on around you.

If you’ like to chat with me and other amazing women who are taking this journey of self-discovery come join our community on Facebook!