How to be Everything to Everyone

On any given day, I’m called upon to be a referee, a counselor, a gym coach, a math teacher, a nurse, a chauffeur, and a chef (although if we’re being honest, I’m pretty terrible at that last part!). Just like all moms, I have to perform many different roles — and that’s not only physically and logistically challenging, but it can also be emotionally exhausting.

It’s a bit overwhelming to realize I need to be “on” in so many different ways — quite often all at the same time. And while I’d like to be able to say that the easy answer is you don’t really have to be everything to everyone — there’s no way one person can reasonably do all of that — I would just be denying the truth that “doing it all” is pretty much the definition of being a mom. So how do we do the impossible?

1. Start your days off right

This is a tough one for me, but if you can begin the day by waking up before your children, it will give you just the head start you need to take on the day. I put this first on my list because it is truly a struggle for me — but I know it makes all the difference in our day when I have time to read a devotional, get breakfast started, have a nice conversation with my husband, and take a deep breath before the stampede of cranky kiddos heads my way (I’ve been blessed with only one child who is a morning person like his dad…the rest take after their mom!). I’ve embarked on a challenge this month and I encourage you to join me — wake up at 6am every day during September (that gives me about 30 minutes before the first sleepyhead awakens). I’ve done good for two days in a row — and I’ll let you know how it goes!

2. Realize we are creating some of the problem

My toddler is at the age when he wants to do everything by himself. When he drops the food that he is eating (by himself) on the floor, he wants to hop down and clean it up (by himself). Am I encouraging this? Am I handing him a towel and saying go for it? Well…I know it’s silly, but I find myself time and time again saying, “Just let mommy do it!” because if I do it, it will get done faster and actually done right and…Do you find yourself falling into this trap? To my credit, I am not completely hopeless…My eight year old will sometimes walk in the kitchen and sit down and look at me and ask me to make him a glass of water. And I will smile and walk to the cabinet and start getting out a cup and then I’ll stop — and hand him the cup and encourage him to make it himself. I think part of the overwhelm in being everything to everyone is that we TRY to be that for our children — instead of encouraging them to be independent and resourceful and capable! Today, I encourage you to find some age-appropriate tasks that your children can try and help you with or take ownership of — I know it won’t be done as quickly or as neatly as you would have done it, but give them some time — one day, they just might do it better than we ever did!

Here’s my little guy, choosing his hat and shoes and feeding himself!

3. Don’t always put yourself last

You’ve all heard the analogy about the emergency masks in an airplane — you have to take care of yourself first before assisting your child. But in reality, I’m guessing that many moms wouldn’t follow that advice — they would struggle with their child’s mask and get it on just so — even if they were passing out while doing it! And I think that underlying, overly-selfless behavior is at the heart of why we can get burnt out so quickly. We know we should take time for ourselves, but we never quite get a chance to do it. In order to be all that you need to be for your family, I want to encourage you to try and find fifteen minutes (or more!) and spend some time doing something that re-energizes or relaxes you! This could give you the boost you need to regroup and continue giving of yourself.

4. Two things for today

While it is definitely challenging to try to be all things to all people, why don’t we break down the process to make it a little more manageable? Take each person in your family and think of two things that you could do to bless them today. For my daughter, I want to carve out time to LISTEN to her when she gets home from school (because — and I’m thankful for this, I promise — she always has a lot to say and I want her to feel like I am really hearing her), and I want to set aside 10 or 15 minutes to do something creative with her (draw, write, create) — this speaks to her heart and lets her know how important she is to me! For one of my sons, I might take time to play a little one-on-one basketball (we have the best conversations during our games!) and for another son, I might set aside some quiet time to read (this is something that he is working really hard at and being able to do it together gives him added confidence). For my husband, I want to make sure I thank him every day. As much as I like to act like I do it all, it’s truly a partnership and he contributes so much that gets taken for granted. How nice is this: I don’t remember the last time I gassed up my car — somehow it magically goes from almost Empty to Full right in the nick of time!  Go through all the members of your family and try to think of a couple of small ways you can show them they matter. Sometimes this foundation of belonging and importance can give them a confidence that minimizes the small tensions and squabbles that could otherwise erupt into all out battles!

A fun (and relaxing) project I’ve started with my daughter…

5. Reset your expectations

I know we all strive to be Super Mom, but the thing we sometimes forget about super heroes is that, along with their super powers, they have weaknesses too. Although they are amazing and strong and fast, they still can’t do it all, all the time. As moms, we are pretty close to being super human, but we have to realize that we’re not. We get tired, we get overwhelmed, we get sick (though it is always for a much shorter time than our children or husband!) — we are not perfect, and we need to give each other grace and give ourselves grace. Today, remind yourself that you are doing a great job and that expecting perfection is not fair to yourself or your family, even if you are Super Mom!

6. All you need is love

At the end of the day, if you feel like you’ve “failed” at everything else (and I put that in quotes because if you survived the day, you didn’t fail at all!) — be sure to just let your family know that you love them. An unhurried hug, a kiss on the forehead, those three little words spoken while tucking your child in at night, bedtime prayers where you express your gratitude for the precious gift of your children…let your family know how much you care, because in the end, that is what will mean the most.

Look at the love in Daddy’s eyes…let them know how you feel!

Being everything to everyone doesn’t mean having to do everything for everyone — show your family how important they are to you in meaningful but manageable ways, encourage them in their capabilities, and remember to take some time for yourself. Use your most important super power (your motherly wisdom) to conquer the impossible!

The Weight of Your Words

To celebrate the release of my new book (The OVERall Guide to Mastering Motherhood), I am going to be posting excerpts from some of my favorite sections…

This one is extremely relevant for our family right now…it is the time of the year when we have a lot going on and not enough time to get everything done that we need to get done — especially get enough sleep!  So, as the crankiness and irritability rises in my household, I have become very aware of the words we are speaking during our disagreements…these are strong words — hurtful words — and I just felt like we needed a reminder of how incredibly powerful the words we choose can be…

I love this boy!!!

From The OVERall Guide to Mastering Motherhood

OVERheard

The moment we got to the gym, I thought about it. My youngest son, Lucas, was wearing a shirt that he received as a joke for his birthday. Lucas was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and every year, I’ve bought him a fun St. Patrick’s Day shirt. One time I got him a shirt that said: “St. Patrick was a saint; Lucas ain’t!” Another year, I found one that said “50% Irish, 100% Trouble.” This year, his shirt read: “You’re LUCKY I’m not your kid.”

We all laugh about the shirts; there is a certain degree of truth in them. Lucas has been “trouble” from the start. Even when I was pregnant with him, it was different. I was so incredibly sick and tired. I had no idea pregnancies could be so hard because the other two had been a walk in the park compared to Lucas’ nine months in my belly.

Then, a little before he turned one, he broke his leg. Right before he turned two, he had a severe sprain that required a temporary cast. And nearing his third birthday, he was in the ER for the third time for severe congestion and difficulty breathing. None of those things were in any way his fault, but I’ve never been to the hospital for my other two – and Lucas seems to like to take a trip each year!

Lucas is my boy that likes to try and eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast and marshmallows for lunch. He walks around the house spitting at random things to “give them spit power”. He will often run at full blast into me, hitting my belly head first. If we’re lying on the couch together, I often get one or two head butts.

After every incident, he says he is sorry. He makes weak, unbelievable promises to be good. But this boy is a mess!

So, on that day when we headed to the gym to cheer on my daughter at her volleyball game and he was wearing his “You’re LUCKY I’m Not Your Kid” shirt, I didn’t really think about it at first.

But, during the game, when I saw my little guy, under the bleachers, probably eating leftover food off the floor, I thought about how wrong I had it. Sure, Lucas is a handful. Sure, he brings me to tears most days of the week. But with everything in my heart, I believe that I am SO lucky that he is my kid.  Life wouldn’t be the same without Lucas – it definitely wouldn’t be as interesting – and I have faith that he is going to do great things with his life. But all of a sudden, it made me think.

Even when I’m joking and we’re being silly, I don’t ever, ever want my kid to think I am not happy to have him. I don’t ever want any of my children to have the slightest doubt in their mind that they are precious and loved and we are grateful to have them as part of our family.

This really made me aware of the messages that we send our children. Since he was little, we have literally called Lucas our little “trouble” – and he has lived up to that name!  Now whether or not his actions were a result of that moniker or if that was just the personality he was blessed with is unclear to me, but his label definitely fits.

Today, I want to encourage you to join with me as I work to consider my words carefully — as much as possible, I want to try to incorporate love and encouragement. Sure, we all speak words in anger sometimes; we all make mistakes and say the wrong thing. But overwhelmingly, your kids should never doubt your love for them, your belief in them, or your support of them.  They need to know that you’re on their team, always and forever!

Setting the Right Goals

She was crying — tears were literally streaming down her cheeks and I couldn’t make them stop!  My 7 year old was beyond upset, and do you want to know why? It’s because she missed her first question of the quarter on her reading tests. I knew this moment was coming because she had been working SO hard to keep a perfect score. She would read and re-read (and then re-read again!) each book before she took each test. For a long time, it took her quite a bit of encouragement to actually take a test.

As I tried to dry her tears and calm her down, I asked her: “What is your goal?” She replied that 100% was her goal. Now, I knew for a fact that they only needed to make an 85% for this particular set of tests. So I continued to question: “Who told you that was your goal? Did your teacher tell you that? Did Mommy tell you that?”

She shook her head. “No, but that’s my goal. That’s what I want to do.”

In that moment, I realized that so often we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Perfection is not the goal. Learning and trying and getting back up after you’ve failed…those are impressive achievements — but perfection is not because it is impossible. Instead, perfection paralyzes and depresses and separates us from our true mission.

Today, I want to encourage you (and me!) to leave perfection behind…embrace the experience — including the good parts and the struggles as well!

Question for you: What part of your life is perfection trying to spoil?

Children Appreciation Day

This morning when I woke up, I wasn’t feeling too appreciative. My three year old had coughed literally the entire night, and as exhausted as I felt, I knew he felt worse — so there was no way I could take him to preschool — which meant all of my plans for the day would have to be set aside.

So, it was very ironic when I checked out the topic for today’s blog post and saw what today was meant to be…National Children Appreciation Day!

It is so easy to get lost in the mundane moments of life…in the homework and the book reports and the spelling tests and the laundry and the dishes and the fighting and the arguing and the general grumbling that can come along with a typical day. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like anyone really appreciates me or all of the little things I do — like having to remember that next Friday is both “green day” at one school and “Storybook Character day” at another!

Do you feel the same?

Today, I want to encourage you to find joy in the little moments…in the “thank you, Mom” and the “I love you with all my heart, Mom” and the unexpected day that you get to spend with a coughing child! Today, I want to encourage myself to appreciate all the little pieces that make up motherhood — the good, the bad, and the really ugly…because underneath it all is a joy that is indescribable and incomparable — and sometimes it takes a little change in the routine to remind us how lucky we really are!

How will you appreciate your children today (and everyday)?

The Advice of Strangers

The other day, a very nice gentlemen who was helping me out on a repair to our home, got to witness the whirlwind of energy and fierceness that is my three year old, Lucas. The man chuckled while I chased Lucas around, trying to get him to sit still and behave, if only for a few minutes.  Needless to say, it was not a lovely sight to behold, and I was sufficiently embarrassed at several points during that day!  Later, the man commented to me: “With a boy like Lucas, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to make him into something he’s not. That’s really rough on everyone and may not turn out well long-term.”

Let’s just say I was blown away — by his assessment of my child after a very brief encounter, and by his words — encouraging me to LET my Lucas be the feisty firecracker that he is! After thinking about this advice for a while, I started to think about other advice that I have received, whether from complete strangers or from family members and friends.

I have always heard that you should trust your own instincts — follow your gut, because you know best. And I do believe that to be true, to some extent. What I learned the other day can be added on to that advice…sometimes, there is a gem of truth in the advice you receive from others. Now, it’s up to you to dig deep and find that truth that applies to you — but it is there!  Often, it’s just the added benefit of a new perspective — it allows you to view your situation in a different light, which may bring up solutions you never before considered. Like when my husband makes comments on my writing or photography and (if I’m being honest) my first reaction is — what do you really know about those things? But when I really think about the ideas that he’s offering, I do find some insight in there!

What I want to encourage you today is to consider the advice you receive…don’t be like me and bristle with the implication that I’m not doing everything perfect!  Realize that there’s always room to grow, and sometimes, it helps to get a few tips along the way!

Question for you: What is the best advice you have ever received?

 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

— Proverbs 19:20

Toast Talks

So I’m not sure if I’ll actually refer to them as “Toast Talks” with my kiddos, but I love alliteration, so that’s how I’ll think of them in my head!

Every afternoon, when I pick the kids up from school, they are STARVING — they just want to eat and eat and eat. They also just want to run off and do their own thing — without giving me a good rundown of the day.  So, I’ve thought of a solution:  I will use their desire for food to get the details that I desire from their day!

A couple of weeks ago, I quickly made a batch of cinnamon toast, just the way my mom did…a little butter on the bread with a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon. Warm it in the oven for about four or five minutes, and then perfection!

I also have been known to quickly pop some bread in the toaster and cover it with grape jelly — a fast and easy snack!

After a couple of days of these toasty treats, I started looking up all kinds of different toasts I could make — cheese toast, peanut butter and banana toast — french toast!!!  The recipes ranged from super easy (my favorite!) to a little challenging (best saved for the weekend!). But I’ve made a list of the various toast discoveries, and here’s my plan:

When we get home from school each day, before the kids escape to their rooms or the den, I will woo them into the kitchen with sweet promises of a toast of their choosing!  All I will ask for in exchange is a few minutes to talk about how their day went, what they learned, and how they’re feeling about it all.

I’m excited to give it a try!  I’m all about trial and error, so we will see!  I’m curious, what do you think?

Kid “Job” Charts

Yesterday, I was talking with a sweet mom friend and shared this idea with her…she had read about something sort of similar, so I am excited that I might be on the right track!  We are beginning this plan on Wednesday (when school starts), so I have no “progress” to report yet, but here’s how it will work!

My two big kids (ages 7 and 5) will each have a weekly chart — their “job” chart. I am going to explain to them that just like mom and dad have jobs, their job is to be a kid!  Now, being a kid is an important thing — and it takes a little bit of thought and effort to do the job right 🙂

Here’s what their charts look like:

Each night, during our bedtime routine, we’ll go down the chart and put stickers in the squares that they completed. If they complete all seven squares, they get a certain dollar amount (I’m thinking $1 right now, but that might be too high/low — we’ll see!). At the end of the week, however much they have earned will be added to their account — which they have in the Bank of Mom. I will keep track of their account — so when we go to Target on Monday, Wednesday, and most likely Friday, and they beg me for a toy in the Dollar Section or a real toy that costs more — we will go to their account to see if they have enough and to see if it’s really worth it to them.

Honestly, I’m still working out all the details, but we’re going to kick it off on Wednesday to see how it works!  I am really excited about making them responsible and thoughtful about their actions AND making them aware of the value of $1.

Two other things:

1 – If they are really, really bad that day, they can lose a dollar. I’m pretty pumped about having that to hold over them! (Am I awful or what?)

2 – You may have already been laughing at me when you noticed that “relax” is one of their job duties.  Well, I do believe that taking time to rest each day is important — sometimes, I think we forget about that as adults!  And — this way, they will always have at least one sticker on their chart 🙂

What are your thoughts on this wild plan?

Thanks for reading!

–Alana

How to vacation with your kids!

A few years ago, my husband jokingly shared a comment with me that he had overheard — essentially the person stated that “it’s not a vacation if you have to take the kids“…I remember, in my naive way, being so shocked and a bit horrified by that statement. To me, vacations and family always go together. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the cross country road trips that we took, and it never even occurred to me that taking the kids along on a trip could be so challenging.

Let’s fast forward a bit…I now have three kiddos and the mere thought of driving with them on anything longer than a three hour trip makes me break out into a cold sweat. So when we decided to embark on our first big road trip this summer, I was pretty nervous. The logistics alone of coordinating a multi-night vacation are exhausting — the actual act of enduring the trip itself can leave you sapped of all your energy. I could now completely relate to the statement my husband’s friend made — I knew I would really need a vacation after my vacation!

However, family trips are a part of life. I’m sure my parents put a lot of work into planning our vacations (in fact, one memory of my dad’s 12 page detailed itinerary confirms it!) and yet, all I remember was the wonderful time that we had. Time has a way of blurring out the bad and focusing in on the good. I knew that even if we had a few issues along the way, it was worth a shot!

And so we did it!  We drove all the way to Florida and back with lots of adventures in between! It wasn’t all smooth sailing, but we had a blast! Here are a few things I learned from our trip:

Set your expectations – Just accept it: the kids are still going to fight and argue, even when they’re in a different state. They’re still going to be cranky if you keep them up past their bedtime. There are always going to be issues and hiccups and mistakes along the way — but that’s just life. Accept it — dare I say, embrace it!

Make it as easy as possible – Be strategic about planning for your trip!  I read in a blog about a lady who packed all outfits in plastic bags, one for each day of the trip. Awesome idea!!!  I took it one step further — after baths each night, we dressed the kids in loose cotton shirts and shorts. Those outfits were able to do double duty for pajamas and clothes the next day!  Saves on packing and cuts down on stress the next day!

Give the kids responsibilities – A busy kid is a happy kid!  Let them have duties, like keeping a travel scrapbook of the trip (collecting pictures, ticket stubs, and documenting fun stories). Let them have their own map and help give directions along the way.  Make them responsible for their own bag of activities for the trip.

Do something for yourself – Somehow, someway, find some time for yourself on the trip. If it’s just you and your husband and you don’t have available sitters, take turns — allow your husband to go for a walk if he lets you read a chapter in your book.

Allow for downtime – Don’t plan every second!  Our favorite day on the trip was the one we spent on the beach — just hanging out, building castles, jumping in the waves…no agenda, no place to be — just enjoying the time together!

Always have a back up – Try to think ahead as much as possible..where could you possibly need a Plan B? Extra clothes? Extra snacks? Extra activities if it rains? Having a back up plan can reduce your stress. But also be content in the fact that it’s okay not to have a plan sometimes (your back up could be “downtime” — see above!)

Identify potential stressors and try to minimize them – If you know that your child must have a nap every day at 11:30am, don’t make the vacation the time when you try to vary from that schedule.  Keep them in their routine.  If it makes you nervous not to have plenty of wet wipes and hand cleaner around, make sure you pack an extra bottle in your purse. (Sorry, that may just be me!) Think about what causes stress to your kids and for you and try to minimize those things as much as possible.

The number one lesson: HAVE FUN!

This is your vacation — enjoy your family and the trip and try to soak up the memories!

Note to self…

This is just a little reminder for myself that I felt like I needed today:

– Hug them close

– Really listen to them

– Smile (and laugh) as much as possible

– Say “I love you” often

– Appreciate your blessings

– Pray for others who are in need…

I am thankful for so much today…

…and my heart goes out to those whose world was shattered early this morning.

Let’s all embrace our families and loved ones today!

 

Summer Camp Buddies!

Another thing that worked this year was finding a camp that two of my kids could do together.  One of the scary things about going to summer camp (for both you and your child!) is that they won’t know anyone who’s attending. That can be really intimidating!

This year, I kicked off our summer camp season with a morning art camp that both my son and my daughter could attend. Having each other nearby made them feel so much more confident the first day. The cool thing was, when I picked them up in the afternoon, they were both hanging out with their own set of friends. So, having each other gave them just the right starting point — and then they were able to branch out from there!

Another great tip is to make sure your child has a friend attending the same camp — just one buddy can help make things feel a little less scary!