I am trying to focus on the essentials. The REAL ones. In a practical language that my practical brain can understand.
As the day progresses, my main priority is attitude. Smiling, singing, patient, helpful, teaching, humble, prayerful attitude. Ok, that order is a little tall, so the simpler attitude would be peaceful and gracious.
The bulk of my day is spent responding to needs or hiding for breaks (haha):
Prepping meals, feeding kids, changing diapers, dressing children, refereeing conflicts, keeping the laundry going and kids out of trouble, keeping the budget up to date, paying bills, tending the garden (barely), picking up the house, helping Anna with math, etc.
(Ooh, right now, I’m scared of starting a full school load with the kids in the fall. I trust some time and rest and slow prep this summer will have me ready by September. Stressing about things in the future is pretty much not allowed. If I feel something stressing me much… I drop it. It will have to wait. Essentials first.)
One on one time with kids
Nap or Quiet time (NOT computer)
The first six are my original list. I have not been successful in dedicated one on one time with the kids, so that is a goal of mine. And it DOES feel stressful, so I may have to change it somehow. But, parenting is just about on the tippity top of my main, high-level list, so I think it deserves its spot. The other three things have been mostly not happening up until this month, I have begun exercising daily (early AM walks) and making sure quiet time happens, though keeping away from the computer remains challenging. For Bible time, I have been surviving by remembering God’s promises to me and reading a few verses that are posted around the house or that Brian sends me in a text. I would like to give more of my mental energy to the Lord’s Word.
I mentioned my main, high-level list. It looks like this, in order of priority:
Take care of myself
Take care of my husband
Take care of my kids
Support those in need
Maintain less involved relationships
I have had quite a lot of less involved relationships since we moved a couple years ago. A couple of those have developed into deeper friendships, but I have worked hard for a long time on those less successful relationships and I need to let them go. I also need to let go of feelings of responsibility for those in need… well, more or less. That is, I need to put appropriate amounts of energy into keeping myself from sliding further into a place of desperate need so that I have more to give. And I don’t mean money. I mean emotional and mental health and well being. I have experimented with blessing others in order to be less self-centered and to release self pity. It was a good exercise and I should keep doing it. But I need to let go of those situations I don’t have resources for.
Ok… I know this isn’t complete or concise. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Ok, so let’s imagine we write on an index card every thing that you do/want to do. The idea is, you’re going to look through the big stack of things that make up your life and try to remove some of them in order to simplify. You know you’re spread too thin, so this was your brilliant plan. (Thanks again, OneThankfulMom!)
Some things are easy to take out (things that aren’t even in there, for instance), like:
- Having kids in multiple sports at the same time
- Buying a membership or two and attending weekly its activities (Children’s Museum, OMSI, zoo, Children’s Theatre, Portland Symphony, etc.)
- Edging the lawn, removing unwanted bushes, and weeding beyond the main yard area
- And so forth and so on…
Some things I really want on my list… things I don’t want to discard:
- Attending most local free family activities (park days, festivals, face painting, ice cream socials, etc.)
- Weeding the immediate yard
- Keeping the blackberries down
- Weed control in the pasture
- Enrolling one child in one sport/activity at a time (ballet for Anna and gymnastics for Maggie)
- Not letting the laundry eat us alive (ie. Make sure we don’t run out of clean essentials)
- Keeping the floors clean inside (I don’t mean clutter… I mean dirt.)
- Washing the windows that Jordan has marked once a day
- Making bread and cheese now and then
- Daily wishes: quiet time, nap time, Bible time
- Responding to emails and phone calls… if not same day, at least sometime.
That’s just off the top of my head and those things… are not happening. And I haven’t been ok with that. BUT… I am going to learn to be ok with that! As my stress level decreases, regardless of the length of my list, I feel better and I do better at the things I do get to. I am learning to replace my feeling/thoughts of failure with new thoughts.
- I look at the grass and I think, “I don’t care if it’s a foot tall. That lawn mower part is coming in the mail and if the neighbors judge, too bad. I have more important things in my life than weeds and lawns.”
- I look at the laundry and think, “It’s ok that we’re out of napkins and towels. The towels are clean anyway; we can just pull them out of the basket. I’ll catch up again, I always do. Taking a moment of quiet time in my bedroom is just as important as folding the clothes piled in here.”
- I look at my big girls as they dance and sing around the house and think, “Going to class to learn dance and song and gymnastics is awesome and these girls would excel at them. But they are creative and learning and happy right here right now. Maybe they will go later, but even if they never do, they can still have good memories of their childhood.”
- I walk around downstairs and food, dirt and random stuff sticks to the soles of my feet… I think, “I will get Josie over here to vacuum. The floor is not my top priority….” Ok, so this one bugs me.
Honestly, they all still bug me, but I am intentionally (trying to) releasing them. I am trying to release all the non-essentials. I am trying to come up with the list of REAL essentials. And to enjoy the moments. And to rest. Rest in God’s love for me. Rest in my family’s love for me. Rest in God’s grace. Grace. That’s been a really important word to me lately. My husband, my family and God have been extending me grace. It’s a required ingredient.
Next post: Real essentials for this mom
A year ago, Jordan learned how to sign “eat!” We had been teaching him “eat” for 18 months. Since then, he has weeks and months where he signs perfectly, seeming to be communicating that he would like another bite. But every few days or months, he can’t sign eat but will only sign “drink” for days on end. Also, he spends a lot of time signing “eat” compulsively the whole time he’s eating his meal… less like he is trying to communicate. When you feed your son three times a day and he signs eat before each bite, this learning and unlearning is frustrating and makes you feel like a failure. And it’s hard to hold the bowl, the spoon and do hand over hand. Just saying.
Two years ago, Jordan was just learning to crawl and to stand. He was very withdrawn but could be taken most places without too many meltdowns. A year ago, Jordan was walking (slowly) and more engaged, causing it to be harder to go places without it being overwhelming. (Good and bad, right!?) This year, Jordan can run (more or less) is physically much bigger and has definite opinions about where he doesn’t want to go. I can’t just put him on my back so easily since he is so big… I am going to look into carriers for larger children, but I don’t know if they work for the child who is trying to escape. It is hard on a parent’s self confidence to look at the future and be wondering if you will be physically capable of keeping your child safe. It’s a blow to do a google search for safe restraining holds. And it can be crushing to see your son hurting and upset or terrified and have no power to comfort them. (Sometimes we can comfort him, sometimes we can distract him, sometimes… we can’t.)
Jordan didn’t use to communicate at all. Then he regained passive communication (crying when sad, smiling when happy, trying to get what he wants, etc.). Now, he is beginning to try to directly communicate. Unfortunately, the attempts are generally not received well by me: head butting, slapping faces, pulling hair, screaming, grabbing… I can usually remember that it is good he is trying and try to teach him the proper way to ask. It’s just… well, it took 18 months to teach him to sign eat, so I am a little discouraged.
When Jordan is experiencing illness or pain, we don’t know what’s wrong. We play a guessing game, wondering if the unusual crankiness or aggression is because of lack of sleep, an injury somewhere, a headache/toothache/sore throat/earache. Case in point: Jordan had strep throat three times in a row this spring. Not once was he diagnosed by us or the doctor until Maggie got it and she could communicate that her throat hurt. Now, it would have helped if he had gotten a proper fever like you’re supposed to when you have Scarlet Fever! Thankfully, he drinks medicine real well, so both he and Maggie are well again.
I hesitate to share this video of Jordan crying… but I think it will help you understand. I took the video, not knowing what else to do… wondering if I could show it to somebody and ask for help. Look at him looking right at me (yay! Great eye contact! Great looking to me for help!). Now imagine that he does not want to be held, touched, picked up, sung to or fed. All I could do was ask him to stay in a safe place and not throw himself around, hurting both him and me. He cried for about an hour. The next day Maggie had Strep Throat and we found out Jordan had it too. Poor boy.
The last several months with the strep throat keeping Jordan from being 100% tricked me into believing that he is never happy and that I’m a failure as a parent. Getting behind on housework and yardwork and feeling tired and muddled all the time is so discouraging. (Even with Carolyn sleeping better lately, I have trouble with memory and a foggy head most days starting about lunchtime.) I became snappy and crabby and impatient with the kids, with very little reserve left to absorb the daily challenges. Mealtimes with Jordan when he couldn’t sign… or when he misbehaved in the same way over and over (eating dirt, climbing into unsafe areas, knocking stuff off my desk, turning on the bathtub…) were frequent triggers that made me feel angry and then guilty and then hopeless on a regular basis.
I have three other little kids too and I know…. at least I believe I ought to be handling things better. I want to. I want to be patient, gentle, loving, generous and close to and with all my kids. And though Brian assures me that I’ve really been doing a good job, I doubt it. I see my failures in glaring clarity. I call out to God for supernatural aid and it’s like He is waiting for something before He answers. I don’t know what.
I did something… two somethings, unspeakably humbling this month. Maybe they shouldn’t be so humbling… but for me, it was. I called a counselor. I went and spent an hour talking with her. I would like to go back weekly… have to look at the budget first. Having a little direction from the counselor, I then scheduled an appointment with my primary care doctor to talk about medications for anxiety and depression. I filled that prescription, but our first choice had the side affect of keeping me awake. (bupropion) Next I will try Prosac. I don’t want people to know I take Prosac! I want to be successful all on my own. But I hate to be secretive. So here I am. Blogging. Blasting shame away from me by not hiding. (Thanks, OneThankfulMom… I appreciate you)
I don’t know if I can post this blog online. It’s all about my failure to love my son like he deserves and about the ways I don’t measure up. Here goes.
Next post: simplifying your life… process for the overwhelmed
Hello all! I have been in a season of foggy brain and feeling overwhelmed. The Lord is not through with me yet. Here are a few pictures of some highlights and I hope to be more on my feet and back to blogging again soon. When one is fighting depression, it is hard to blog. What would I say? Obviously, life is full and lively here and it’s not all doom and gloom. And there’s so much I could write. But it’s not coming easily, so I’m going to turn around and fold my laundry instead.
Here’s a beautiful song that encourages me to believe God loves me, I’m not a failure and to keep trying and keep hoping: