Sunday, May 26, 2013

Life is a Journey, not a Hassle

A few years ago my husband was full of Halloween ideas. He wanted to carve pumpkins and even get dry ice and a cauldron.  My kids were 1 and 3 at the time.  Really? I asked him.  Is that really necessary?  The kids were too little to use a knife for carving so they'd have to watch quietly while Daddy carved and they didn't understand what Halloween even was.  Plus, I knew I'd be left the one cleaning up the giant mess they made.  That was the real problem.  I was just so tired.  Tired of cleaning, tired of the whining, tired of everything.  I just wanted to make life easier.  What I didn't understand at the time is that I was making life really, really boring for my husband and everyone around me.

Life went on like this for a long time.  I would usually give in and just grudgingly clean up the mess until my legs ached at the end of the night and I would think how much easier life would be if we would just trying to do all this special stuff.  Of course, I did do lots of fun things with the kids.  I took them to the zoo, to the park, to the library, but that was the thing.  I could handle the daily stuff.  I just couldn't handle anything extra, like Holidays or Vacations.  

Until my trip to Charleston a few years ago.  My parents and I planned to visit my brother and I was taking only Munchkin Girl.  As usual, I agreed to go, but my heart wasn't in it.  I just wanted to stay home and do our daily life, which was manageable to me.  I didn't want to get us packed, deal with airport travel, and get everything ready for the babysitter while I was gone.  I wasn't looking forward to sleeping the same room as my daughter, I knew it would upset our daily routine and I was afraid she would get spoiled by having me in her room.

And then the most amazing thing happened.  I had a great time.  I truly enjoyed every minute with my little daughter   I loved waking up and seeing her sweet smile first thing in the morning.  I loved snuggling up with her and watching Sleeping Beauty on our little twin bed.  And then it hit me.  It's okay if she gets spoiled every once in awhile.  These are the memories of her childhood.  These are the moments she will remember as she gets older.  And on top of that, it made me feel wonderful to give her these memories and I realized how much I was missing by being afraid.  I was afraid of so much.  Afraid of having to clean up a mess, afraid of spoiling someone, afraid of cavities, afraid of a hassle.  That's the bottom line.  I was living my life in a perpetual state of trying to avoid a hassle.  

When I got home from that trip, I slowly began to change.  It wasn't overnight that I became a totally fun Mom, always searching for memories.  But slowly and surely, I changed my attitude.  In fact, it was such a gradual change that it took me a long time to write about it and even put into words what happened.  I started living, not just surviving.  People say life is too short to sweat the small stuff.  I don't think that's quite right.  I think it's too long.  Life is way too long to just survive.  Life is a journey and if you look at it like that, it stops being a hassle.  Now I can't wait for our trip to Colorado this summer.  I'm not even dreading the 12 hour car ride or the hassle of getting beds set up in a strange place.  Now I drink more water and take my vitamins so I can have the energy I need to be thrilled about life, and about our journey.  
Not all of the time.  Sometimes I still yell and feel tired and my house is a mess.  But then I wake up the next day and drink a big glass of water and life goes on so that we can minimize life's hassles and celebrate the sunsets.

For more ideas on how to live more and stop just surviving, please check out my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn!

Monday, May 13, 2013

5 Reasons I Try Not to Yell (Very Often)

I don't know about you, but I love to feel inspired.  I love it when someone can give me solid reasons to improve myself.  So that gave me an idea.  Lately I have noticed that yell less and I think it's mainly because as a blogger, I have done a lot of research on parenting styles, so I began to compile a list of the 5 Reasons that I try not to lose it with the kids.  I don't always succeed, I'm not perfect.  Sometimes I scream at the top of my lungs and they cower in fear and promise to stop pestering each other.  But lately I've been doing better and here is why:

5 Reasons I Try (But Don't Always Succeed) Not to Yell 
  1. There is scientific evidence that says that Moms who are more nurturing and have more patience have smarter kids in the long run.    I am very much of a goal-oriented person, so it helps me feel that I am doing something scientifically positive when I take a deep breath and force myself to follow through with a reasonable punishment instead of yelling.
  2. There is more scientific evidence that yelling can be almost as bad as hitting, in terms of emotional scarring down the road.
  3. Yelling is mean.  I haven't had someone scream at me in years.  I would NEVER scream at my husband so why would I scream at my kids, who are a lot more vulnerable?  Bottom line is that I always feel guilty after I yell and I feel crummy for hours if not days.  Why not try to avoid that if I can?
  4. Yelling is far more effective if done rarely.  Yes, I truly think sometimes kids need to know that what they have done will not be tolerated.  I remember the rare times my parents yelled at me it was very effective.  But just like anything else, if overused, yelling loses all benefits.
  5. When I think about the kind of parent I want to be, and the kind of relationship I want to have with my kids, it never involves my yelling and them being scared and resentful of me.  I want them to be respectful and not bratty of course, and that means effective discipline, but I want them to also think I am reasonable and they can talk to me about things in the future, when life gets more complicated.  After all, I think there is a lot of truth to the saying, "Little Kids, Little Problems.  Big Kids, Big Problems."  Maybe, just maybe, if I have a good partnership with my kids by the time they're teen-agers, I can prevent bigger problems.  With teen drug use on the rise, it's worth the effort.

I hope this has inspired you the way it inspired me.  If not, don't feel guilty and don't yell at me.  Every person and every child is different.

For other ideas on how to avoid yelling at your little ones and try to find positive ways to encourage and spend time with them, I hope you'll check out my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cleaning Chart for Tired Zombie-Cleaning Mommies

Sometimes I feel like a cleaning zombie.  I just walk around all day in a haze, cleaning up everything in my path.  By the time I get the kitchen cleaned up, I turn around and realize the kids have pulled all the toys out of the cabinet.  By the time we get all those cleaned up, my daughter has decided it's time to change her outfit and pulled out all the clothes.  Generally I ask them to help, but even when they agree to help it's sort of like using a small cocktail napkin to clean up a gallon of milk.  It's just not going to cut it.

So, imagine my surprise when I came home the other day and my sitter told me that my daughter had helped her clean up the house.  And she gave me that look that said, "Truly, she really did help this time."  It turns out that my sitter made a chart for her that worked wonders!  She took the time to explain everything to her and drew the pictures and then allowed her to check things off when she completed them.  That was the trick I daughter really enjoyed being able to check off that she completed the task.   

I really loved this idea because it helped improved her self-esteem by helping her realize how helpful she could truly be, and then I got to kick my feet up and return from zombie-land for a short time. 

I hope you'll consider checking out my book, co-authored by best-selling author Susan Case!  It is called 
The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn.  If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kid clings to your leg and cries, this is the book for you!

Kids behave better when they are given challenging projects to work on, which will in turn give you more free time to do the things you really need to do, like washing dishes, paying bills, and relaxing so that you can be a better Mom!  You can hear us talk about this theory in this interview about the book: