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.

The Leaky Bucket-Managing Your Daily Energy Reserves

I had always imagined my energy reserves as a big metal bucket full of water. This bucket had holes all over the bottom constantly spitting out water as a small stream ran in. In my little mental cartoon I was manically trying to plug as many holes as I could to make sure my bucket didn’t drain faster than it could fill. As you can imagine that was a rather messy and quite impossible task.

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Then I watched “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” with Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans on CreativeLive. They had the students make a chart. On the chart they were supposed to list their top 10-15 tasks that they typically did every day. Then they were supposed to use a bar to represent whether that task was energy filling or energy draining. Make sure to really think about this part. Draining doesn’t always mean unpleasant. I LOVE our weekly homeschool coop meetings. Being surrounded by 20-30 noisy kids for ~3 hours is still VERY draining for an introvert mom, no matter how much fun we are having. What they said next surprised me. I thought they were going to talk about how to get rid of or reduce the energy draining activities, AKA plugging the holes in the bucket. Instead they started to brainstorm on how you could manage your overall energy reserves by either changing the draining activity to a filling one, or creating a fill-drain-fill sandwich.

Changing an Energy Drainer to a Filler

So how do we CHANGE that draining activity into a filling activity? One example they gave was the daily board meeting. Instead of having it in the boardroom why not meet at the coffee house around the corner before going in to work and have some drinks and snacks while you talk? For those of us who stay at home why not turn on your favorite dancing music and sing along while doing dishes? By pairing a draining activity with a filling one your total energy balance after the activity will be much higher than before.

The Energy Fill Sandwich

What do you do when you can’t change an activity to make it less draining and more filling? Bill and Dave suggested the fill-drain-fill sandwich. In a work setting maybe you go for a short walk before the awful board meeting then treat yourself to a yummy healthy lunch afterwards. At home you may have hot shower, do the house cleaning, then take a quiet moment to read a book. By sandwiching a draining activity in between two filling activities you make sure your bucket is overflowing before it starts draining and then replenished after it’s drained.

Balancing the Fill and Drain Rates

While getting rid of energy draining activities certainly helps self care isn’t all about getting rid of the things that drain you. Fact is there are certain draining things that just have to be done. Living life drains energy. It’s just impossible to plug every hole in the bucket. When I started to shift my focus from plugging holes to increasing the water flowing in my energy level has gotten and stayed higher throughout the day. Instead of a 2 hour laundry marathon I now write a blog post (energy filling), fold a basket or two (majorly energy draining), then take some time to do a little art. I’ve been able to enjoy my kids more, feel more satisfied with my life at the end of the day and I find that I am getting a LOT more accomplished. Washing dishes doesn’t seem like quite the same torture it was before when I know my calligraphy pen is waiting for me when I’m done. The best part is that when the unexpected drains occur (three year old temper tantrums come to mind) my energy reserves are higher allowing me to better handle stressful situations.

What are your biggest energy drains and fillers? What can you do to restructure your activities or schedule to better regulate the flow of incoming energy adn keep your bucket full? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community to continue the discussion!

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

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

balancing work and motherhood | being a work at home mom | WAHM | large family logistics | managing a big family | working from home with lots of kids | motherhood management

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!

self care is not selfish | self love | put on your own oxygen mask | take care of yourself | self care for mom | self love quotes | self care quotes

“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.

self care is not selfish | self love | put on your own oxygen mask | take care of yourself | self care for mom | self love quotes | self care quotes

 

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.

What is Muchness, and Where did it Go?

what is muchness | muchnessmama.com | you've lost your muchness| finding yourself | stay at home mom | working mom

A few years ago I watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and absolutely loved it. As I watched, however, it took a lot to fight back the tears. It was like watching a fantastical version of my own life. Precocious imaginative child grows up to become a mere shadow of her real self. She has completely forgotten who she was. While doing her best to please everyone around her and live up to societal expectations she loses her muchness and now believes “I don’t slay, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

I’m not sure when exactly everything changed for me. When I stopped being the real me and started being what I thought everyone wanted from me. The result was, however, that I was a pretty empty shell of a person. My mouth smiled, but it rarely spread to my eyes. I would answer the question “how are you ?” with “Great!”, then feel sick inside because I knew it was a lie. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was perpetually exhausted. I spent my days cooking, cleaning, booger wiping, diaper changing, and doing everything else to take care of my family. No matter how hard I worked I felt like a failure because I never got my to do list done. I often did nothing other than the necessities to keep my kids alive. Why bother busting your butt to achieve perfection when you are just going to fail anyway? I was a total mombie!

 

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I wasting my life away trying so hard to make everyone around myself happy. Now don’t get me wrong, there is great value in serving others and some of the greatest joy in life is found in service, but I wasn’t doing it the right way. I was so focused on what others wanted, not what they needed, and they all wanted different things. I would never be pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. My house would never be clean enough, or children as well-behaved as they should.  Pleasing everyone is just impossible and the more I tried the more of my muchness I lost. I completely lost sight of the importance of self-cer in my life.

Just like Alice I was lost in a world where everyone told me who I should be, and who I was. What I should be doing, and what I shouldn’t. This left me feeling empty, drained, and completely inadequate. One day, just like Alice, I finally woke up. “This is my dream…I make the path!”

I choose who I am. I choose what I value. I have a choice, and I can slay my Jabberwock. I can’t really tell you the story of the moment when everything turned around. It’s not just my story to tell. I can tell you it was with the help of one kind compassionate friend who told me “Whatever you decide I will support you 100%”.  I was set free. I was empowered to make a choice that was best for ME and follow it through knowing that if I fell it was ok. Someone was there to catch me and help me learn how to fly.

It was time for me to stop making excuses and start making changes. I was no longer willing to be a passive observer in my own life. As I started living my life with more intention and thoughtfulness things have begun to fall into place. I have been blessed to meet people and have experiences that I never imagined possible. I have learned so much about myself and who I am. I have a voice again. The precocious child who knows who she is and what she wants in life is back! I’m back. I have my muchness. I know who I am.

I am not ashamed or embarrassed by others negative thoughts on large families. I hold my head high when other women tell me that I am damaging their feminist movement by choosing to stay home. I ignore those who tell me that I am somehow hurting my kids by homeschooling them, or worse hurting the rest of the world by not having my kids in public school. I create the art that I love, without guilt for spending time on it or fear that others won’t like it. I am open and honest about my needs and desires with my spouse. I’ve put more appropriate limits on my children and taught them to be more independent. I bought new clothes for myself, at retail instead of from the thrift store, and they have the fun colors and patterns that I love. I get up, dress up, and show up for my life every day (well almost every day, every girl needs a day to veg out in their pajamas with netflix every now and again) I’m even planning to dye my hair crazy colors as I always dreamed, but was afraid was inappropriate.

And now I am ready to carry what I’ve found forward and use it to bless YOU!

If you are struggling to find your muchness don’t give up. You can do it. You are a wonderfully unique individual and the world needs your beauty! Just jump, because if you do you just may fly and if you don’t, well then pick up the pieces and move forward with your head high. Failure is nothing more than the quickest path to success.

It’s your life. YOU make the path.

If you’d like to talk to other women who are on this path of self-discovery come join our Facebook community!

It’s OK to Cry Over Spilled Milk

We live in a world where the adage “don’t cry over spilled milk” is well-known and religiously lived by. Put on your pretty smile, hold back those tears, and make sure the world knows that your life is perfect. Whether it be Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram we all put forth these beautiful perfect lives for everyone to ooohh and aaahh over while we hide the truth behind closed doors.

It's OK to Cry over Spilled Milk | SmithSquad.com | stuffing your feelings is not healthy

We stuff our feelings, and then feel guilty for ever feeling them in the first place. Well I’m here to give you permission to cry over spilled milk, especially when it is the third cup to be spilled during one meal. Sometimes life is hard and the little things are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sometimes a good cry, a listening ear, and an understanding shoulder are exactly what we need.

You see I used to be a chronic stuffer of feelings. I was always cheerful. I was fine. Other people mattered. I didn’t. If my husband wanted to take a family trip to Home Depot, but I was exhausted, I put on my smile and gritted my teeth and was miserable for the next two hours. He never knew. He thought I was enjoying it as much as he was. When he wanted to invite friends over at the last-minute instead of telling him “I’ve had a long hard day and don’t want to entertain” I would simply ask “What should I make for dinner?” When people asked me for favors I always said yes, ALWAYS, even if it was terribly inconvenient or completely ruined my plans. I was building up mountains of resentments every time my needs went unmet, and my poor husband had no idea. He was completely blindsided when I would explode once in a blue moon and just overflow with everything that I had been stuffing down for months, including things that weren’t even remotely his fault. Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments, and boy did I have a lot of them!

Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments | SmithSquad.com | Stuffing your feelings is not healthy

As my frustration and complete burnout from the daily duties of being a mom would overwhelm me I would turn inward. I would eat myself up with mom guilt because I shouldn’t feel this way. The world tells us that we chose this and should love every moment because they grow so fast. I love my kids dearly, and I will do anything for them, but I don’t love changing the 6th poopy diaper for the day, wiping up the tenth cup of spilled milk, dealing with the 1-year-old who once again bit his brother, or having to help referee the three thousandth fight. Instead of getting it out and letting it go I was letting it build up into a boiling pit of lava in my gut. Then a simple whine would set me off and I would be roaring at the children that they must hate me to treat me so horribly and shut myself in my room for a few hours.

Stuffing emotions isn’t healthy. It isn’t right. I don’t care what society says. Life is hard, spilled milk sucks, and it’s ok to cry about it! I have made a commitment to myself to be honest. Now this doesn’t mean I whine and complain all the time and turn into a negative Nelly. That isn’t healthy either. What it means is when my husband proposes a family trip to Home Depot I say “Hun I’m really just too tired and need a break right now.” When I’m having a bad day with the kids I talk to my mom or good friends about my frustrations. I attend a weekly women’s group where we focus on how to truly address and heal our feelings as well as just share with each other and get everything out in the open. I’ve attended Emotionally Focused Therapy sessions with my husband so that we could learn to connect intimately about our feelings without feeling threatened or defensive. I’ve started being honest with my kids and calmly telling them how much their actions hurt my feelings and asking them respectfully to do something different. When people at church or the grocery store ask me how I’m feeling instead of saying “Wonderful!” with a huge smile I give myself permission to say “tired, but doing ok.” When a friend asks me to babysit and it’s just not a good day I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, but I’ve got other plans.”

Lead me, guide me parenting | SmithSquad.com |

I’m not perfect, I still catch myself stuffing and then exploding. I’m a work in progress, but that’s ok. I can feel my emotional health getting better. I don’t have anywhere near as many resentments towards my husband or others because I don’t have as many unspoken expectations. I’m learning to let go of the mom guilt over not being perfectly cheerful all the time and accept my own full range of emotions. This gives me the power to be more accepting of the emotions of others, especially my own children. I’m learning to accept and even ask for help BEFORE I get burned out and want to explode.

It’s OK to cry over spilled milk. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to expect love and understanding when we are struggling. It’s ok to seek out help and support because life is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

What are you doing to create healthy emotional boundaries in your life? Have you been guilty of chronic emotional stuffing like me? What can we do as a society to make emotions more acceptable?

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

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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?

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.