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The Overwhelm Of Mothering

Sunday.

I’m 💯% overwhelmed most of the time.

Waking up to a toddler loudly whinging because it’s not dark anymore and her hot cocoa is too hot and she wants to get dressed but not that one while simultaneously needing to pee and pour my first cuppa and take the dog out. Overwhelm.

Trying to read your Bible with people climbing in or near you and teasing the dog and each other and even knowing that God is close to those with young it feels like failing. Overwhelm

Going through a huge gift of clothes with the boys to decide what we will keep and what we will bless to others while the little girls are simultaneously touching everything and fighting about the fact F wants the same kind of cereal as E. Overwhelm.

Keeping this person on track of loading the dishwasher while simultaneously administering directions to five other people who keep popping into the frame like whack-a-mole. Overwhelm.

Giving Father’s Day presents while simultaneously trying to keep someone from opening the other one and noticing the spilled coffee and the random bits scattered around. Overwhelm.

Cleaning up breakfast while simultaneously assigning this person to make sure that person is clean and that person has shoes and answering questions. Overwhelm.

Thrift shopping for summer dresses for the teen while keeping the toddler from unloading shelves and making a towering stack of chairs to climb up and touch the huge inflatable hanging from the ceiling and repeatedly saying no to the millions and millions of requests from the kindergartener. Overwhelm.

Trying to make potato packets for the grill while trying to remember to find or buy more aluminum foil and delegating sunscreen and help tying shoes and thousands more “needs”. Overwhelm.

Attempting to explain your sense of scarcity and inadequacy to your partner and he responds with more and louder negativity basically berating the kids for “never doing anything!” which isn’t at all what you’re saying and now you feel like you need to rise to their defense and you want to point out all the responsibilities and things you keep track of that he doesn’t help with at all but you don’t and it’s just pointless. Overwhelm.

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Wanting to have a Super Soaker fight with your kids and as you change into your swimsuit one kid is crying about something that is huge to him and two other kids follow you into your closet dripping wet and impatiently hurrying you along and the water fight isn’t fun at all because one kid keeps squirting people in the face and they cry and there are clothes and towels and toys all over the yard and it just is one more thing you’ll have to clean up or make them clean up. Overwhelm.

Feeling guilty because you had an overnight trip to Galena with your bestie and were gone all day three days ago and you had an overnight birthday party with your daughter and her three besties and your three besties and were gone all day yesterday, and even with these much needed respites, you still can’t manage this life you really want to love. Overwhelm.

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I don’t know how to make it easier-but there are a few things I try.

Bible.

Knowing God is for me and equipping me.

Exercise.

Positive affirmations.

Laughter every day.

Reading.

Outdoor time.

Lots of kisses and rough housing, especially when I don’t feel like it.

Vodka. (Sometimes.)

Hand-lettering.

Looking at breathtaking photos on Pinterest or Instagram.

Connecting with friends.

Hiding in my room.

Motivational YouTubers.

What helps you when you’re overwhelmed?

Knowing you’re not alone!

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Depressed mOM WITH DEPRESSION day in the life

A Day in the Life of a Mom with Depression

6:00 Eyes pop open and brain sizzles. Realize that the two-year-old is still asleep and you don’t have a headache, for the first time in two or three weeks. Try to go back to sleep but your brain is on now and you can’t. Try to get out of bed. Lay there. Your neck and shoulders hurt so much you can barely move your head.

7:00 Get up and find coffee. You are so achey you hobble down the stairs like an 85 year old. You know you’re not sick and that it isn’t from too much exercise. The boys are ready to get on the bus and just want their snuggles and love. You just want to be left alone, but you do give the hugs and kisses. Realize that you have some time completely alone and you take advantage of it and read your Bible. Sneak in a little creative verse drawing.

8:00 Decide to work out for the first time in several days. Can’t get the TV to turn on. Try to watch videos to entertain you on your phone. But it’s just not working and you keep getting distracted and get off the trampoline several times to clean this or pick that up and put that away. Grab another cup of coffee. The little girls are up now. Kevin comes in the house briefly and fixes the TV by unplugging it and plugging it back in. Your foggy brain couldn’t come up with that solution. You hug and kiss him in thanks but he’s in a rush and you feel brushed off.

9:00 You feel like you’re moving through a field of molasses in a swamp. Sometimes it feels like you are a swamp walker all the time.  Everything takes such a colossal effort.  The big girls are up and the boys are back home. You homeschool, and you keep thinking that you’ll do school  with the kids but you also want to see if you can get some more walking in and watch motivational videos which improve your mood.  You can’t get them motivated to do their work when you can’t get motivated yourself.  They get their own breakfasts and watch YouTube while you keep walking on the rebounder. Put on some educational videos at least.

10:00 Check your planner and remember that your daughter’s orchestra concert is tonight. Cry, because doing something in the evening seems like it is way too overwhelming. The husband is telling you someone is going to come over and consult about  the floor you’re hoping to put in, and you know the piano teacher will be here soon so you get dressed and put on some make up. You play with your two-year-old and watch her laugh, but feel apathetic. You wish you could be so carefree.

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11:00 The kids’ piano teacher arrives and you walk the dog down to the barn to find your son. It’s a beautiful sunny day and you want to stay outside but the wind is too windy and the wind chimes are to chime-y and the sun is too shiny. You go back inside.  Time passes and you don’t even know what you did.

12:00 Now it is lunchtime and you realize you had meant to go down and get hamburger out of the freezer to thaw several times and never actually made it happen. Let the kids make their own sandwiches. Do some reading and Marco Polo with some friends. Want to support them and what they’re going through. It’s very hard because you don’t have any emotional strength for yourself.

1:00 It is time to take oldest to orchestra. You cry because Finnella cries and tries getting in the car. You go and get your nails done so they look pretty because feeling pretty makes you feel better. And they are pretty,  but it doesn’t really help. You’re reading a book about a recovering drug addict who is in jail and it’s hard even feel any empathy with her and you know your problems aren’t even that big but they seem insurmountable.

2:00 You get home and take a picture of your crabapple trees because three of the four of them aren’t blooming and it really bugs you, as in, you think about the not blooming trees on a regular basis. Bugs you like,  it comes up at random times in your mind, “Why aren’t they blooming?! Why do all the other trees look so good!?”  And you want to post to gardening experts about what you should do.

You try to think of solutions for the things that really bother you because you know it’s not normal thinking. But you can’t help it, and actually finding a gardening forum is overwhelming and several days later it’s still not done.day in the life with depression depressed mental health mom mother mental illnessYou see your puppy lying still in the yard. She doesn’t get up when the car drives into the lane. Suddenly you worry that she’s dead, she’s really dead. What would you do if she was dead?? You feel your heart racing and you start sweating, and you’re breathing rapidly and you can’t think of anything else but if she’s dead and so you start to walk over to her and she lifts her head  and runs excitedly over to you. You thank God she’s not dead and you know that it’s crazy to even have thought that she’s dead, and that logically it’s nearly an impossibility but you can’t help it. You snuggle her for a while.

3:00 The kids are all playing out back and you watch them through the deck doors for a while and marvel at their wonderful creativity even know they’re doing some things they’re really not supposed to be doing, like playing with the fire escape ladder. You don’t have the energy to make them take the ladder back upstairs and have a sneaking suspicion that it will be in that tree all summer, but you can’t even care. You are just glad they are leaving you alone.

You have gotten the new patches for the ceiling in the mail so you apply one.

You go out to the yard to try to get some vitamin D.

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When the kids discover that you’re home, you really can’t handle them climbing around on you so you go sit in the living room and they wander off to play outside some more. When the two-year-old comes to ask you to read to her you do, but you are so exhausted that you just fall asleep. You literally just fall asleep on the couch without meaning to.

5:00 The next thing you know your 13-year-old is telling you that it is time to leave for her orchestra concert and asking if you can please do her hair. You do a  pull through braid, very loose  and beautiful. But she doesn’t think it’s fancy enough and doesn’t think that there is enough time to fix it again and she make up. You feel defeated. No one can understand how hard it was to just make yourself braid that incredible child’s hair.

You actually did remember to have someone get the meat out of the freezer. But now there  is no time to make dinner. The kids have to fend for themselves again. Brielle has offered to stay home with Finnella (2) and Elivette (5) so you let her despite your misgivings because it would be a lot easier to not have to deal with the little girls during the concert.

You notice that the spackle on the ceiling is dry so you start to do that, even though it’s nearly time to leave.  You just think you would have enough time while Aviana finishes her make up. She’s annoyed by this idea, because it’s really a foolish move to try and spread spackle smoothly on the ceiling when you have a deadline of walking out the door in a couple of minutes. Your brain just doesn’t do logical sometimes a lot of the time.

6:00 You’ve arrived on time at the concert and save seats for Aviana’s (and your) friends , and the husband and Cadrian (9)who are coming. Denton (7) plays a game on the Kindle and you try to read your book on your Kindle app on the phone. It’s super hard to concentrate because you worry you will miss the people you’re saving seats for. Your legs are aching like crazy and your whole body feels out of control and heavy and fuzzy. You can’t just sit still and enjoy reading.

7:00 The concert is four different orchestras and your daughter gets two recognition certificates. You’re really proud of her, and want to enjoy the remainder of concert, but you also really want to leave. It’s hard to keep in your seat, but it helps to have the boys asking questions and feeling restless too, because helping them behave appropriately and encouraging them, helps you.

9:00 You discover that Kevin has stopped at McDonald’s because he didn’t get supper. You didn’t get supper either. You could have stopped for food too, but chose to get home instead. After getting the boys in bed and talking with Brielle and Aviana, you have some time to talk with Kevin, for the first time in several weeks.

In spite of feeling grumpy towards him, you’re working at flirting with your husband and talking with him about vacation plans and ideas. And everything seems to be going really well when he says some snide things to you. Whether unintentional, or intentional,  you say “You don’t need to make fun of me like that,” when he tries to drive a point home several ways. Then he gets offended and suddenly you’re in a fight, and you’re comparing him to Donald Trump, and he stamps out of the room. Now you’re alone again.

10:00 You apologize for the Donald Trump comment and then sit on the couch scrolling and watching Intervention. You like Intervention because they’re worse off than you are, you know you don’t want to self medicate like they do, and  you do want to learn how to handle your emotions in a healthy way, and learn better coping skills,  and almost all of the episodes are a story of redemption.

1:00 a.m. You take your vitamins and medicine,  go to bed and watch it some more until your eyes are heavy enough and your brain is numb enough to finally sleep. You average between 5 and 6 hours of sleep when the depression is bad. And it’s been bad lately.

 

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How to Tell Whether Children Live Here

Pull up to my house and you’ll immediately know children live here.

The bikes, scooters, and roller skates littering the driveway might be your first clue. It also could be the 25 foot high tree house, complete with homemade rock climbing wall and fireman’s pole. Possibly it’s the hole in the yard under the tire swing in the maple which will inform you of the tiny inhabitants here. The glitter in the flowerbeds might tip you off. The hammock in the apple trees doesn’t necessarily scream “Children live here!”, but the humongous pile of cut off branches nee fort/climbing apparatus/hideout could.

Children make huge messes

A half buried pan, leaf covered glove, long abandoned boot hiding under the pussy willow near the door perhaps show that children live here. Cushions removed from the deck swing and piled under the fireman’s pole, jump ropes tied in the crab apple, muddy-ish, wet clothes hanging from the clothesline, sidewalk chalk art empty abandoned bubble bottles all make known those small and ever present humans we call our own. Doubtless the swing set and playhouse are dead giveaways, but the homemade wooden raft leaning on the windmill and the pile of mateless boots nearby may lead you in the right direction.

Come up to the front door, and…careful! Don’t trip on the many cottage cheese containers filled with sand and carefully lined up on the step and forgotten. Just step over the dolls and Cinderella slippers and Nerf guns lying abandoned on the stoop. Ring the bell, and listen for the chaos of “I’ll get it!” and thundering, laughing footsteps as the little people race to answer your call. Open the door and push aside the puppy toys, shoes, and jackets. Ignore the pile of gloves and scarves, and instead turn your glance upon the smiling shining small ones who as delighted to see you as they would be Santa.

Listen to their exuberant greetings, and  lean in for the snippets of what’s important to them. They’re all talking at once, so you have to pay close attention. This one telling you about her loose tooth, that one describing how the puppy scratched her finger, the other one wanting to show the puzzle he’s been working on, while another one takes your hand in his small one to acquaint you with the rotating car track he invented.

You’ll likely see crumbs on the floor, spiderwebs in the doorways, toys and stray socks strewn among the books and crayons cluttering the floor and table. That’s how it is here. Ignore the (possibly intentional) chemistry experiment decorating the counter.  Walk past the table littered with books, writing apparatus, likely a few attempts at paper airplanes and K’Nex motors, stickers and bits of torn up paper (always bits of torn up paper!)  Accept the cup of coffee from me, settle yourself down on the couch (feel free to move that sweater and that toothbrush) and allow my children nestle into you as you open the book they’ve brought you. Revel in their solid warmth, and pudgy bodies.

Bend down and breathe in the scent of their sweet, likely sticky, faces, and notice how they smell like sunshine and snow. Touch their dandelion puff hair. Cup their petal soft cheeks in your hand as you listen. Join them in their smallness, and at the same time, in their larger than life vitality. Look into their trusting eyes and listen, while they talk and talk and talk.

Marvel at their innocence, their guilelessness. Wonder at the depth of their acceptance and love for you. Admire their cleverness and take part in their view of the world. Be inquisitive about everything they want to share with you. Be fascinated by their perspectives. Have no agenda.

Ignore the childish detritus which is so abundantly apparent when you approach my home. Pay attention to the children.

Look. Listen. Children live here.

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Gentle Parenting in a Big Family

I first became committed to Gentle Parenting–parenting without threats, spanks, yelling, anger–three years ago. We always have been Attachment Parents–breastfeeding, baby wearing, cosleeping are a few of the tenets–, but  I didn’t understand Gentle Parenting or Peaceful Parenting, or how it could possibly “work”. I even joined a Gentle Parenting board and tried to learn more, almost a decade ago, but it was not a good fit at the time.

Gentle Parenting as described eloquently by L.R. Knost “is guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating.” It is a concious shift away from the way I was brought up, away from what everything in my body is demanding, away from the gut center of my brain.

Gentle Parenting is, I think, a bigger challenge for me than traditional parenting because it requires more from the parent. More thought, more emotion, more connection, just more. No matter how you parent, or how many kids you have, it’s hard, don’t get me wrong. When I had two little daughters and I was spanking, it was hard. Now though, I have to think more about why I’m being reactive and what is going on in my child and what is the behavior trying to tell me and teach them how to problem solve at the same time I’m trying to change a diaper and spell a word and give directives and help a child and there are six of them!

I follow several Gentle Parenting pages on Facebook and it seems like they all have one or two children. It feels frustrating because they offer their good solutions, and say things like “if you…then they will…” and it just doesn’t happen right away. The dynamics in a home with one or two children are very different than a home with several. I am dealing with teenagerish hormones at the same time I’m nursing a baby with four loud and active and strong children in between!

I don’t think I thought this “big family thing” through very well.

It is hard to coach a small child through their big emotions. It is hard when some kid is lying stiff as a board and mad faced in the middle of the floor when everyone else is following directions and  you know if you stop and help this kid through it, everyone else’s well oiled machine-ing will grind to a halt. It would be so much easier to say, “Fine. If you’re not going to clean up then no TV tonight.” Or “Fine. If you’re going to act that way, you don’t get to be with the family” and physically drag that child to the corner. I know this, because even though I’m committed to Peaceful Parenting, I’m not perfect at it. 
There is still yelling and still anger, and still fights and frustrations and upsets. The differences are dynamic though. Instead of angrily telling my child “You’re acting like a brat!” (yes. I said that.) I can now angrily say, “I am so angry right now! I feel so frustrated when you hit your sister! I need to calm down! (I take some deep breaths, and ask, more calmly)What can we do differently next time?” I am teaching my children important skills when I do this.
I see a huge difference in Aviana at 3 and Elivette at 3. Elivette knows she is respected as a human being and an integral part of our family. I thought I was showing the same sorts of things to Aviana, but because I punished her when she threw tantrums, didn’t allow her grace when she was angry or “disobeyed”, because I honestly thought I was doing what would teach her how to be a compassionate, loving grown up. 
Elivette and Aviana handle their emotions completely differently. Aviana, almost 12, has been ‘gentle parented’ for three years, but Elivette has known it this way her entire life. Aviana will sneak pinch or hit her sister when frustrated; Elivette will cry “I’m so mad!” and we’ll work through it together and let her feel those emotions and let them dissipate. Aviana is used to stuffing them down because they weren’t accepted for so much of her life. Elivette doesn’t really have tantrums, because she feels heard most of the time, and knows she’s accepted. Aviana threw tantrums of epic proportions. 
I know a lot of it has to do with personality and I know each child is different. I don’t want you to read this and think “I gentle parent and my kid still has fits. I must suck.” That is NOT what I’m saying! I just know this to be true in my own family–that I am seeing the fruit of this hard work of gentle parenting these lovely chiddlers, as they grow into compassionate, loving adults.
(As an aside, I was spanked, screamed at, belittled, criticized, hurt, and more, and I still grew up to be a lovely human being. This post is not meant to give guilt trips. At. All. I’m just trying to relate how positive of a change this has been in my family, and how I am seeing delightful things happening here. )
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Farm Fresh Family Update

Brielle and Finnella looking for books on CD

I haven’t blogged for six months! I have lots of good reasons/excuses, depending on how you look at it. But I miss it and I enjoy it and I am doing it for me, so I’m back! It’s hard to let go of expectations–like how blogging has kind of turned into article writing, and I don’t always (ever) have the brain space for an actual article, so I felt like I couldn’t compete. But with whom am I competing? And why!?

I’m learning a lot about myself and being a better self.
The Farmer: He’s busy with the farm as always. He’s got more cows than ever, and more feed lot cattle too. He’s putting up a lot of forage (hay, rye) for the winter and to hopefully sell. He’s working on spraying now. He does his best to take children with him whenever he can and to be home for dinner, or at least bedtime. As any working parent knows, it’s a challenge to be pulled in a lot of different directions, and with farming, you can’t leave your woes behind at the office, it’s always there. Staring you in the face. Glaring at you.
The Farm Fresh Mama: I’ve got my hands in a lot of different pots. I’ve gotten back into serving my community as a doula and love holding space for mamas so they can see their own power. It’s a beautiful, celestial calling.

I have more than doubled the garden this year. I’m doing Square Food Gardening and trying something new, Straw Bale Gardening. I don’t think my peas are going to make it, and will have to start over with them, but everything else looks good. I’ve gotten a new hobby of “planning”, which is writing my to do list and decorating it, and writing down what we did in quick bullet points in a composition notebook. It’s a fun segue between scrapbooking and keeping track of what I need to do on the backs of kids’ drawings. Writing “water garden” in my planner helps it actually get done. Funny how that works.

Finnella on Memorial Day

I’m doing something new with the boys for school, called Easy Peasy Homeschool. The woman who put it together did a curriculum for ALL THE GRADES, of activities to do with links added. It’s amazing she did this and I am so thankful. It eliminates the problem of never being able to find the book I need. It doesn’t matter how organized I am, there is always a missing book! They like being able to play games and be on the computer. 

I love homeschooling and seeing their successes and the delight for learning gleam.
Aviana: This child is almost as tall as I am and it blows my mind. She weighed as much as a bag of sugar when I brought her home from the hospital and now she’s looking me in my eye. IN MY EYE! She earned Memory Master again this year. I am proud of how she puts her mind to something and attains it. She’s going to be a seventh grader. She plays piano and earned a spot in a special recital for students who have been given a Superior rating three years in a row at festival. She took up violin this year too and we are putting her in orchestra at the junior high. I’m feeling nervous about that, almost like sending a child off to kindergarten!
Brielle: She’s as precocious and adorable as ever. She achieved Memory Master in Classical Conversations this year, as a nine year old. That is a big deal! She plans to do it the next two years and try for National Memory Master, which would put us on a cruise (and makes her my favorite)! I love how much she can do when she puts her mind to it! 
Cadrian; My sweet boy has grown so much this year! He is reading better than ever, helps me garden, and is our chief breakfast maker. He specializes in Toad in a Hole and oatmeal. He is amazingly thoughtful and kind to me (which is why he’s my favorite), and absolutely likes to stir the pot when it involves his siblings. 
Denton: He is learning right along side Cadrian and often feels shuffled in the middle. He’s sensitive and tough at the same time, the tough being a cover up for the sensitive. I wish people could see the sweet and sensitive easier, because it’s so easy to start off going toe to toe with him. I’m so thankful I discovered what Gentle Parenting really means before he ever got spanked (because he’s my favorite). It’s hard enough to figure out how to help him reach his full potential with the respectful parenting tools I DO have in my arsenal. He’s as bright as a brass button and full of his own ideas. 
Elivette: She is talkative and adorable and loves to say “Pwetty Pwincess Pwease”. She sports dresses all the time and often a tiara. She is smart as a whip and as thoughtful as you please. She has an amazing memory and astounds me with what she comes up with. Her three year old year has been so completely different than the older girls’ (probably because she’s my favorite). I can’t help but wonder how much my parenting shift has had to do with it. She 
Finnella (my favorite) has turned one! She has been taking some steps here and there. She loves being outside and in point of fact is sitting right next to me on the couch literally screaming at me because I am not taking her outside. I stood up with her just now and she stopped screaming. I took her outside and put her in the swing and she smiled. She knows what she wants and doggedly goes after it.She likes her swing in the tree the best, but will happily crawl around where ever we are. She doesn’t like the feel of the sidewalk or grass so crawls on one knee and one foot. She waves, babbles like crazy, and lets you know her needs, but doesn’t sign anything yet. 
One more thing that I wanted to mention is how vital my mama tribe has become. I have always had friends, but in the past couple of years, I have been given the gift of people who understand my heart and my very soul in a way I haven’t experienced. It has helped me become more like the person I’ve always wanted to be.

D, F, E, B, A and C and me on a hike at Starved Rock State Park
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Things I’m Afraid I’ll Never Again Have

I’ve been a mama now for 10 1/2 years…expecting our sixth little Farm Fresh Blessing. I should be used it by now…and yet sometimes I’m afraid.

I’m afraid I’ll never have a house clean for longer than twenty minutes.

I’m afraid things will always move around seemingly of their own accord. I’ll forever be finding hairbrushes on the floor and never knowing what happened to my orange handled scissors and my flour sifters will always be taken out to the sandbox.

I’m afraid…

I’ll always wake up to the sound of people fighting.

I’ll never go a day without someone crying.

Mopping will only happen because someone spilled something.

Someone will always be touching/pushing on/grabbing at/pulling on/poking at/sitting on/kicking (from the inside) me.

I’ll forever have to listen to petty squabbles–because how else should one handle it when someone is reading the book someone else checked out from the library?

I’ll never again have an uninterrupted thought.

I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life. I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life. ISAID, I will be repeating myself ad nauseum for the rest of my life.

I will constantly have to think about what we need when we leave the house; will this outing coincide with a hunger time, do I need snacks, do I have extra bundies/diapers/outfits/wipes, does everyone have shoes, does everyone have a coat, do we need waters? Et cetera, et cetera.

Someone will always be peeking in on me in the shower.

Someone will always be bluntly commenting about my body.

I will forever feel crowded.

I’ll have to listen to other people screaming for the rest of my life.

I will always be stepping over small socks strewn in a swath of other disembodied and discarded clothing, toys and sundry other household items.

I will never be able to do just ONE load of laundry.

People will be making their birthday wish lists nine months in advance and talking about them in great detail every single day… forever.

No one will ever again say to me “I wuv you so mutz, Mama.”

I will never ever be woken up at the crack of dawn by someone asking permission to open my curtains, “betuz I just wanted to share the sunrise wif you, Mama.”

No one will ever again fold their long limbs into my lap saying, “I just need a snuggle.”

I won’t have anyone to rock and breathe.

No one will ever again come banging into the house leaving the door ajar smelling of fresh air and little boy.

There will be no one to enthusiastically make me a cup of coffee.
I won’t have any adorable tiny

bodies to clothe in handmade
creations.

I won’t need to teach or correct or corral or remind or reprimand.
I’m afraid because these days are so long and so arduous and so
tedious and so challenging and then one day, these days will be gone.

My job will be completed.
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Gentle Win

When my kids go to bed, I am done. I clock out. I don’t do dishes, I don’t clean, I don’t pick up. I am done. I consciously set this rule when Aviana was young, and started having a regular bedtime. It was delicious to have her in bed at seven and have three or four hours all to me.

As I added more kids and the kids grew older, that time has grown to be more and more precious…and precarious. The girls are old enough now that by the time they are really settled and quiet, it can be nine or nine thirty. I try to be in bed by 11.

My kids all stop napping somewhere around two and a half, and then the training of quiet time begins. It isn’t realistic for a three year old to play by himself for the entire two hours the baby naps, so I truly don’ t get any time by myself most days.

Tonight, I was planning on painting the new play space. I’m doing a mural which I hope will be awesome.

At nine-ish, Aviana came down in tears. Brielle was being mean to her and she was feeling frustrated. I desperately wanted to send her back to bed. (JUST GO TO BED! HOW HARD CAN IT BE?)

But I didn’t. I held my great big gangling nine year old on my lap. We looked at pictures of when she was younger. I listened to her complaints and frustrations of being the oldest of five. I stroked her cheeks. I silently marveled at her sweet growing self. I petted her hair. I heard her (lengthy) descriptions of what she  goes through. I didn’t offer advice. I just heard her. I was here.

I truly didn’t want to be. I was trying to not look at the clock.

I just was here. I just held her.

It was after ten, and much too late to start painting. She was still teary. But she said “It makes me feel better to talk about it.”

And she went to bed.

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Gentle Miss (part 3) (In which I tell you how I ranted)

Once we got to church, Denton wouldn’t come into the church. Denton stood out by a tree, in the rain, for a very long time. Cadrian wouldn’t go into his classroom. Cadrian stood in the hallway for a very long time. Denton sat down on the stairs and held onto the banisters. Denton ate my sweet roll. Denton had to sit with me in church. Denton still wouldn’t go down to his classroom. The preaching started and then Denton wanted to go down to his classroom. I had to get up in the middle to take him downstairs. Then Denton wouldn’t go into his classroom. Then Denton hid under a table.

After church, I let the kids have a sweet roll each (even Denton) because I wanted to stop at a store to buy Cadrian some “fancy pants” to wear to church so he wouldn’t have to fret about wearing jeans to church again. I thought the trip would go better if they weren’t hungry.

I asked the kids to sit a table while I went to the restroom. They didn’t. Cadrian and Denton wanted to talk with our pastor, interrupting him from a conversation. On the way to the van, Denton climbed up the scrolled metal porch pole outside the church doors and wouldn’t come down until he was good and ready. Denton and Cadrian climbed up on the cement parts of the parking lot light poles, significantly delaying our leave taking process. Then they ran all the way down the hill towards the creek. And didn’t come back for a long time. Then Denton wouldn’t hold still so I could buckle him in.

Through all of this (and parts I left out), I’m feeling embarrassed. I’m feeling like my children are uncivilized little hooligans and we are never going to be able to be out in public. I’m feeling like I’m doing a horrible job of parenting. But through all of this, I am feeling pretty calm. I’m speaking pretty calmly. I’m not yanking on anyone’s arm. I’m gentle.

The store I wanted to buy the pants at didn’t open until noon, and we weren’t going to sit in the parking lot for an hour. Wal-mart was right down the street. I debated about whether or not we should go, but decided that I really wanted to get Cadrian some long enough black pants. Part of it was guilt, I’m sure, for not having the right size pants at home, and making him wear a “not fancy enough” outfit.

When we got to Wal-mart, Denton kept trying to bop out into the parking lot while I was putting Elivette in the wrap. I finally set him on the seat in front of me, but it was STILL like a mini-battle of him pushing me and trying to circumvent me so he could go get himself run over. I put him in a grocery cart and he stood up. I told him gently to sit down.

NO.

I put my hands on his shoulders. “Sit down”.

“Ughn! NO! I HATE YOU!”

That. Was. It.

I had put up with so much $**# from these little so-n-sos in the past couple of days and now they are telling me they hate me?!!

I tossed them back into the van. We are not even going to Wal-mart. If you don’t ever get your pants, you can blame Denton.  I am DONE with “I hate you”. No one is EVER saying that again. You think it’s ok to hide behind a tree and not come into church? You think it’s ok to scream in Best Buy because you don’t want to be in a stroller?! You think it’s ok to scream in the parking lot of Best Buy because you don’t want to get out of the stroller?! You think it’s to scream all the way to church because you don’t get to wear what you want?! I don’t want people yelling at me all the time, but do I get what I want?! I don’t want people to tell me they hate me, but do I get what I want?!

 I laid it on thick. I laid it on loudly. I laid it on with gritted teeth. I ranted. I raved. ALL. THE. WAY home.

At one point, I slammed on the brakes on our gravel road and skidded to a stop. “Do you think I’m not a person? Do you think I don’t have feelings? Do you think you can all just yell at me and yell at me and yell at me and it doesn’t affect me?” I pointed out instances where they had all in the past twenty-four hours been unkind to me and mean to me and undeservedly rude to me. I asked them if they liked how I was talking to them just then. I told them I don’t like it either, when they talk to me like that. I told them that I generally am gentle, I asked them if they thought so too (yes, they agreed), but this is what I get in return?! “Granted,” I said, “I don’t do it perfectly. But You Do. Not. Get. to be so unkind to me!”

Ugh.

I cringe reading that, knowing how I sounded. I can’t imagine what was going through their little brains hearing that.

The message was fine. The delivery needed a lot work.

I need to find a satisfactory way to tell them what I am experiencing in a way they can understand me, before I reach this point. I tell them “When you do X, I feel Y” already, but sometimes it doesn’t seem to do anything to change behaviors.

I need to find a way to do better self care. Journaling helps. Blogging helps.

I need something to change. Somehow. I’m already doing all I know to do, and feel capable of doing.

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Gentle Miss (part 2) (in which I am honest about my failings)

Sunday morning. It can be a little hectic. Kevin has to do chores, so I am getting the kids ready to go by myself and out the door by 8:30. I do this on non-church days with usually little to no stress, but I’m realizing that Sundays are harder.

 For one, I have this old ingrained expectation that Sunday is “a day of rest”, so I tend to want to lounge more, to take my time, instead of getting up and at ’em like I do on the rest of the days when we have to leave the house by 8:30. I also think (and I currently am adjusting this expectation) that Kevin should be helping me more because we’re going to church together as a family.

 For another, I have an expectation that we need to look “put together”. I don’t care what the kids wear when we go to our homeschool co-op and I have to leave at 8:30. I don’t care fret about whether I’ve combed their hair or what kind of shoes they have on when we leave the house to go to an early dentist or chiro appointment. Why do I feel I have to impress “church people” more? I honestly don’t think my church people are any less loving or any more judgmental than my homeschool friends, so why do I stress?

For a third, Sundays growing up were a HUGE point of stress. I can’t remember a lot of specifics, but I do know it is very ingrained in my being that going to church was a huge yelling fest; Dad was always angry, and you could never never be late and we were always running late.

This particular Sunday, Kevin wasn’t even going to go with us.

Cadrian had picked out his outfit and I buttoned him up where he couldn’t. Next kid.

Suddenly I look up and Cadrian is trying to UNbutton himself to change clothes. I internally freak out. I don’t know if I was scared we would be late. I don’t know if I just didn’t want to have to deal with whatever he wanted to change into. Maybe I was scared he would change into five different outfits and we’d have clothes up to our knees in the family closet. Whatever it was that this innocent action triggered, I felt I had to lay down the law.

Calmly and gently, I explained that he had chosen the outfit he had on. The outfit was fine. The outfit was fancy. He was wearing it. Period.

Fit commenced. I wouldn’t budge. He wouldn’t stop screaming and threatening. He screamed for the remaining half hour it took to get Elivette and Denton ready. He screamed almost all the way to church.

In hindsight, what would it have harmed to let him change clothes? We really did have plenty of time. Even if we were late, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. If clothes were all over the floor, it would certainly not have been the first time. As it was, I had to go back in the house for some deep breathing and prayer, to calm myself down. He could have changed clothes twice over in that amount of time. And I wouldn’t have been stressed. And HE wouldn’t have been stressed.

When we talked about it calmly afterwords, I told him I was wrong. I apologized. We hugged and loved and all was well. (for the moment).

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Gentle Miss (Part 1) (In which I am honest about screwing up)

Gentle parenting is a skill I’m still learning. A mentality I’m still growing into. I used to equate “discipline” with spanking, along with other kinds of punishment and rewards. I also used to be a lot angrier of a parent. I’ve been on a gentle journey for almost a year.

I missed an opportunity the other day. An opportunity for kindness and empathy. Brielle and Aviana were going to ride their bikes. Brielle suddenly realizes the chain has come off her bike. She screams at me to fix it. I immediately feel defensive, as if she is accusing me of breaking it or something. I calmly tell her she should try to fix it herself. She screams back at me, with all the anger and power her small seven year old self can muster. It is quite fierce (and I’m not be facetious). I start to get up telling her we can work on it together, when she rushes off, saying “Never mind, I can ride Aviana’s old bike” even though it’s too big fors  her.

Not long after, she comes walking the bike up the lane, accusing me of making her fall and hurt her knee because she tried to turn around on too big of a bike and fell and skinned her knee. This is clearly all my fault. (sarcasm)

She really feels like it is my fault and wants me to apologize and fix her knee. I’m feeling angry and hurt that is being so harsh to me. She has a very accusatory, awful tone. I tell her I don’t feel much like fixing up her knee when she has been so mean to me plus I am trying to round up the boys for Saturday night baths.

She doesn’t want to wait for me to take some deep breaths so fixes up her knee herself.

As I’m giving the boys baths and trying to prevent bathroom flooding, Aviana hands me this note:

Dear Mama, I think you are being unreasonable. Dr. Sears says you have to empathize. Put yourself in Brielle’s place. This is what she probably thought: OK you get your bike, the chain’s off. Mama make no attempt to help you. So you ride a bike that’s too big. You decide you don’t want to go. You turn around and hit a bump. Your sandals are all tangled in the bracks. Your knee is bleeding. Your hands are scratched. When your hurt, your often mad. You blame people. You blame Mama. No one thinks like you but you. Mama may be mad because you blame her but your bleeding! Mama won’t even let you wash your cut. Then she makes you do laundry. The End. .

Think about it. When your hurt, you want empathy. Unconditional Parenting says to love Unconditionaly.
                                              Love, Aviana

Brielle and I made up, of course. Hugs and love all around. The End.

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