How To Protect Your Kids Even When You Aren’t There (Plus God and Wonder Woman)

 

The Stairs Are Scary When You Baby Has No Sense of Depth

I had a “how to protect your kids” epiphany this week as I was watching my one-year-old slide down our ultra steep stairs on his butt. In order to explain my realization, however, I need to give some background information.

Our stairs have a door at the top of them. When our little man became mobile we endeavored to keep the door closed at all times. But sometimes, despite our best efforts, it was open. More than once I chased him over only to realize that he was inches or feet away from a fall. A fall he probably would have instigated without knowing any better.

It was at this point, I realized, that even if I tried, I couldn’t always keep him safe. I was not the only person living in the house, my son would eventually be able to reach the doorknob, and sometimes the door didn’t latch … I knew the day was going to come when he would be faced with those stairs and I wouldn’t be there.

So, I Decided That The Best Way To Protect Him Was To Prepare Him.

We started at the bottom of the stairs. I piled pillows on the carpet near the last stair and we practiced climbing them. I helped him at first, showed him where to put his hands and how to move his legs one at a time. Then I followed him and caught him if he faltered. Then I watched from a distance ready to help if he needed it. Once he had mastered going up, we practiced going down.

L and I would stand at the top of the stairs and hold hands. He would run forward and try to leap but my hand kept him at the top. Time after time we practiced sitting down, scooting forward, and sliding down carefully one stair at a time.

This prep work wasn’t fast or easy. It took months to master and we are just barely at the point where he can go up or down without me. But long before he mastered it, he started being careful.

At one point he would carry a pillow to the bottom of the stairs before he tried going up. Later when he happened upon the open door at the top, he would sit down and yell for me. When I got there he would hold my hand and start scooting down.

Because I had taken the time to practice with him and prepare him for something, he had an idea of what to do when he was faced with the situation and I wasn’t there. Because he was prepared, he was safe.

Now, I am not saying that he won’t fall or hurt himself on the stairs at some point. Accidents happen. In fact, I tripped down several stairs not terribly long ago. I am just saying that he is far safer having learned how to deal with the stairs then he would have been if I had continued to try to keep the door shut and failed.

Take A Look at Wonder Woman (Spoilers)

Wonder Woman grows up in a happy, peaceful environment. However, her express purpose is to help those less fortunate, to fight warmongers, and help bring peace to others.

Her mother, wanting her to be safe and happy, attempts to shield her from this reality. She doesn’t want her to learn to fight or to understand her destiny. Her aunt, on the other hand, knows that the best way to protect her is to prepare her for whatever may happen. So, she trains her.

It is because of her training and extensive preparation that she is able to survive and fulfill her destiny.

War is not a safe place to be but it would have been even more dangerous for her if she had remained untrained and “blissfully” ignorant like her mother wanted.

Knowledge = Preparation = Protection = Power (Maybe not over your circumstances but over your actions.)

Back to Our Own Children

If preparation is the ultimate long term protection that we can give our kids, then teaching it should be at the top of our priority lists. Doors and baby gates can only go so far…

I took a minute to think about what worries me most during this phase of my child’s life (toddlerish years) and it turns out I am worried about a whole lot.

  • Getting Lost
  • Getting Hit by a Car
  • Chemicals
  • Falling
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual Predators
  • Pornography Exposure
  • Making Friends
  • Animal Encounters
  • And the list could go on and on…

Having had my epiphany, I realize that the best thing I can do is prepare my son (as much as possible for whatever age he happens to be at) for these frightening possibilities and/or eventualities.

He needs to know what to do when strangers approach him, or when he gets his hands on the Windex. He needs to spend time with other kids and learn how to share and be kind. He needs to understand his own body and what is and is not okay. He has to learn that the road is full of cars and isn’t safe (and then how to cross it safely at some point in the future).

If I want to protect him even when I am not present, I need to prepare him to the point where he knows what to do when/if he must face it alone.

Back to the Stairs

Catching your child every time they fall is impractical and impossible. Teach them how to prevent falling in the first place. Teach them how to catch themselves if they do fall. Then teach them what to do if they totally biff it anyway. Knowledge is power.

The Final Part of My Epiphany: God

In the last several months I have heard of several unexpected and heartbreaking deaths. I was not particularly close to any of the people who passed on, but I do know several of the people who they left behind.

I don’t really blog about it much, but I am a very religious person, so I shouldn’t have been caught off guard when someone I knew specifically asked me why God was taking away someone she loved so much.

But I was caught off guard. That is a big, heavy, hard question. I spouted off several things, all of which I believe with all of my heart but none of which were very satisfying answers to this individual. So I started doing research.

Why would a father in heaven let us face such hard things? Why wouldn’t he save everyone from early, untimely deaths? Then it hit me. He is our parent.

Like human parents, he cannot protect his children from everything (for our own good not because he can’t). We must be free to make mistakes in order to learn and grow. We need the opportunity to face our own staircases (which we may or may not make it up and down without incident). But, he doesn’t send us to the stairs blindly. He has prepared us for hard things and continues to offer aid if we will listen and accept it. (See this lesson for more information.)

My Point

So, the best way to protect our own kids, whether we are there or not, is to empower them with preparation and knowledge. This is exactly what Wonder Woman needed to face everything she was called upon to deal with and it is the same thing that our own Heavenly Father has done for us (even if we don’t always remember it.).

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Seven Tips Guaranteed to Make Your House Clean

If you are anything like me, then you find it hard to function when your home feels dirty. I have a hard time doing anything fun or even sleeping when there is clutter. This unfortunate quirk has forced me into several habits that help me keep my house clean all of the time (or at least the majority of the time) so that I can focus on something less boring.

Decide Which Areas in Your House Bother You the Most

The number one area in my house that bugs me, is the kitchen. If my table is covered in stuff (which happens incredibly quickly) or my floor has gone a day too long without sweeping, I have a hard time thinking. The kitchen is followed closely by my bedroom, the front room, and the family room. I have found that when these areas are clean, my whole house feels clean.  So, I pick a handful of rooms that I can control and put my primary focus and effort there.

On the flip side, I have given up trying to bring order to my husbands work areas and surfaces. I shut the door to the office, laundry room, and garage and pretend they aren’t there. He has a different way of working/organizing. To me, it looks like a mess, but it works for him. So yeah, I trick myself into believing I have a clean house.

This tip is hard because it asks you to accept the fact that you don’t have control over the whole house. The more people you live with, the less clean your house is going to be (simply because everyone’s definition of clean is different).  Accept that, and you are halfway to a clean house, more freedom, and less restricted happiness.

Don’t Collect Junk

This tip seems easy but it definitely takes conscious effort. When L was little, I found myself at the store a lot just to be somewhere that wasn’t home. While I was at the store, I would buy stuff. Stuff I did not need and sometimes even want.

It is one hundred percent easier to keep a  clean house when you are not filling it with purposeless stuff. So, buy deliberately, with a clear purpose in mind. Ask yourself why you are buying something, what and how often you are going to use it, and where that thing is going to live when it is not in use. If you can’t come up with convincing answers to these questions, don’t buy it.

On the same note, getting rid of the junk you already have makes your house cleaner and less cluttered.

Have A Place for Everything

If your item passes the, “is it junk?” test, from above, then make sure it has a home or definitive place within your house where it belongs. We live in a small house and I organize a lot. So, the “homes” of my objects change from time to time but everything always has a place where it goes. The idea that everything has its own spot, should make it easy to put away.

Put Things Away Instead of Just Down

Like I said earlier, my kitchen table collects everyone’s stuff like that’s its job. By the end of a busy day, it can have everything from half eaten food to shoes on it. Yeah … shoes. Unfortunately, the table is the junk drawer of the house. This, to me, is unacceptable because you know we eat there and… I need the kitchen clean to think properly.

This tip, when implemented by everyone in the house literally keeps the house clean. Put dishes in the dishwasher when you are done, put clothing in the laundry basket after you take it off, put the toys away when you move onto a new activity. . . If everyone puts their stuff away in its predesignated place when they finish using it or enter the house, then the table or floor or counter does not become a dumping spot and clutter disappears.

Admittedly, there are only three people in my house right now and of the two of us who understand this concept, only one of us implements it. However, I still think it is a habit to strive for. Even though I am the only one who does it, it still keeps my house drastically cleaner than it would be if I didn’t do it.

Have a Quick Morning Task List

Each morning, I spend 10-15 minutes on my quick cleans. These are things that keep my house tidy and running with minimal effort (because mornings are hard).  I should also note that if I manage to do these items before my baby wakes up they take hardly any time. If I wait until he is awake to “help me” they take a good hour.

The first thing I do is make my bed (2 minutes). This makes it far less likely that I will have a nap during the day and it immediately makes my bedroom feel clean. The second thing I do is collect the laundry from the day before and sort it in my laundry room. If I have a full load ready, I start it and set my phone timer to remind me it is going (2-5 minutes). The third thing I do is make sure the dishwasher is empty and the dishes from the night before are put away so that my counters are clear (2-5 minutes).

Doing those three tasks each morning makes it so that my house feels clean, I have a place to put dishes other than the counter for the rest of the day, and guarantees we will have clean clothes.

Do a Nightly Walk Through/Task List

On the flip side of the day, I spend another 15-30 minutes making sure my house is ready for the morning (nights are not as hard as mornings). After I put my baby to bed, I fold and put away any laundry I did during the day (5-10 minutes). Then I check the dishes situation: load or unload the dishwasher, wash big pans and bottles, and clean off kitchen surfaces (5-10 minutes). Finally, I walk through my key rooms and pick loose items up. We don’t have a whole lot of extra stuff so this is pretty easy and usually consists of putting away things my one-year-old moved or played with throughout the day.

Set Aside a Specific Time or Day Each Week to do General Cleaning

This is the only task on the list that takes a large chunk of time. All of the other tasks make my house feel clean throughout the week with minimal time and effort. This task helps me to keep a legitimately clean house.

I set aside each Monday (because weekends are messy) to put my house back together and do a slightly deeper cleaning. Monday is the day for bathroom cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, and mopping. It is also the day I encourage my baby to help and show him how to clean. I know he is little but I want him to grow up knowing how to clean, that a clean house is attainable, and that it’s normal for boys to clean.

I have a cleaning rotation for Mondays that works well for us. If you would like more details, subscribe to my newsletter below.

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I want to know what suggestions you have for making your home feel clean. Please share your comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, read Two Step Time Managment for Getting Stuff Done.

Easy Two-Step Time Management: Get Stuff Done!

Time management is tricky. As a new parent or just an average busy person, do you ever find that you get to the end the day and don’t know what you have accomplished? I have had many days like that, especially since my son was born. Life with a kid is exhausting and crazy and busy. I used to go to bed at night drained but not sure what I had to show for it. It’s an interesting sensation to be busy all day but not feel like you get anything done.

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After a few months of running myself ragged and still feeling like a failure when I reflected on my day, I decided I needed to change the ways I defined success and planned my time.

So, success. . .

This was so hard. For over half of my marriage, I had been the primary breadwinner. I had been working full-time as a teacher to put my husband through school. I didn’t realize until forced to think about it, that success in my mind was tied to making money and checking things off lists.

 

Step 1: Redefine Success

Now,  being a stay-at-home mom is no get rich quick scheme. In our case, it was a financial sacrifice. Confronting that was my first step. My deep conversation with myself went something like this.

“Okay self, you chose to do this. You agreed that this would be the best thing for your family. You want to be home for your son. Success does not equal money. Don’t fall for that lie.”

After having that chat every day for months, I started to believe it. My “success” no longer equaled money but I still wasn’t sure what it did equal.  As I started to try to define my “new success” and came up with this list.

  • Is my son alive?
  • Does he feel loved?
  • Is he happy?
  • Is he safe?
  • Has he eaten?
  • Has he been hugged?
  • Have I told him I love him?
  • Has he been read to?
  • Is the house still standing?
  • Is everyone dressed?
  • Is there food in the fridge?
  • Have I eaten?
  • Have we been outside?
  • Have we seen people?

 

These were things that were happening every day (except maybe getting dressed) but that I hadn’t been counting towards my personal success because they were obvious. Obvious does not mean irrelevant.

So, the first step, if you feel like you can’t get anything done, is to identify your priorities and define what success is for you.

Step 2: Have A Plan

After my “new success” was defined and I got over the useless feeling that not making any money left me with, I was able to focus on the second part of my feeling accomplished gap. Lists.

I don’t know what it is about crossing something off of a to-do list that is so satisfying but I missed it. Unfortunately, I could no longer keep track of things as well as I used to be able to. At the end of a teaching day, I could sit down and conquer that list. As a mom, I couldn’t even find it.

So, I came up with a simple system that I can keep track of and that helps me get stuff done.

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Part 1: Establish Big Goals

Big Goals are all about scheduling. In my last post, I talked about how when I first had my baby I wrote out hour-by-hour plans in great detail (like I did when I was a teacher). Those kinds of plans often don’t work for a teacher. For a new Mom, they were absolutely crazy.

So, I traded in my detailed, insane plan for one Big Goal a day (if you are better at life than I am, go for two or three Big Goals a day). Most of my own Big Goals each week revolve around leaving the house or seeing other people (my priorities) but they could be focused on whatever is most important to you.

Example Big Goals:
  • Monday: clean house
  • Tuesday: go to play group
  • Wednesday: visit library
  • Thursday: hike
  • Friday: buy groceries
  • Saturday: do something fun with Daddy
  • Sunday: make it to church

Repeat

Picking Big Goals based on my priorities gives each day a focus and makes my weeks a little bit more predictable.

Part 2: Create a Daily To-Do List

This first to do list is the one that helps me realize that I am getting stuff done even if it doesn’t feel like it. I have a checklist in google keep (on my phone, tablet, and computer) that I reset each day. It is very basic but I often spend the majority of my day working on it. Some of the things don’t need to be done every single day and I can check them off first thing in the morning. Bam. Stuff is done.

I reset the list each night and add specific things for the next day if I need to. Getting all of the to-dos out of my brain before bed really helps me sleep.

Example Daily To-Do List:

  • exercise
  • read scriptures
  • get ready for the day (shower and get dressed)
  • empty dishwasher/wash dishes
  • load of laundry
  • make bed
  • breakfast for everyone
  • baby hygiene (bath, nails, teeth)
  • read stories
  • lunch for everyone
  • make dinner
  • run errands

(Yeah I know a lot of my day revolves around food. . .)

Part 3: Create an “It Would be Great. . .” To-Do List

This is just what it sounds like. If I happen to have some down time between my Big Goals and daily tasks I look at my second list, which is organized based on importance. This is the list where I write down the things that I would like to do but that are not urgent. Weird errands, hobbies, my own projects. . . .heaven forbid. If they become pressing I move items from this list to my daily list. (Sometimes even hobbies are pressing.)

Example “It Would Be Great” List
  • complete a blog post
  • look up Canada vacation questions
  • return shirt to the store
  • buy present for birthday on Friday
  • finish art for the bathroom
  • research graphic design

This list takes a long time to accomplish but it gives me something to do besides twiddle my thumbs when everything necessary is completed.

I’m not joking about thumb twiddling. Every once in a while I still find myself watching my husband take care of our son because what am I supposed to do? He is doing what I do with my whole life. . . That is craziness. I deserve to have my own time and interests. At these moments I pull out my lists and use my time to get stuff done.

So, if you feel like you never get anything done . . . Redefine your own success, create a plan (schedule and lists), and remember to give yourself credit for all the stuff you do accomplish!

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How do you stay on top of your crazy busy life?

 

5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

My stay-at-home mom journey started about a year ago. It feels like yesterday that I left my empty end of year classroom for the last time. I had already packed everything up and hauled it out. My baby was 3 months old and I was just there to finish up the year and say my goodbyes. The summer loomed ahead of me and I was both dreading and excited for it.


 

The Transition

After having been a parent for three months I knew that parenting was harder than I had anticipated. I distinctly recall thinking that it would be so nice when I didn’t have to wake up at 7:00 and go to work. For some reason, I had it in my head that I would be able to sleep in and play with my cute baby at my leisure. . . I was clueless.

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After three months of maternity leave, I knew that being a parent was harder than being a teacher (and teaching is mentally and emotionally exhausting). In fact, being a full-time, stay-at-home mom was hands down the most difficult job that I had ever had. Breastfeeding was awful (see my story here), I was never off the clock, I hadn’t slept for more than four consecutive hours in months, I felt like nothing ever got accomplished anymore, my cute little baby wouldn’t play at all (let alone at my leisure), and I felt like I was disappearing.

Teaching included a lot of 10 hour days, extra meetings, planning, preparation, and pressure from everyone (students, parents, administration, legislature, etc.) . . . but it gave me sense of purpose. It was also easy to look at a day of teaching and see what had been accomplished. Furthermore, I got to sleep at night. For me, sleep seemed to be key to my well-being.

As I closed the door to my classroom that last time, I wondered if my new job was going to kill me. Going from full-time teacher to full-time mom permanently had suddenly become a very daunting task.

The Secrets to Success

Success is defined by many people in many ways. My definition of success coincides closely with my family’s health and happiness. That includes me. I have been home for over a year now and through a lot of trial and error (and exhaustion, and tears, and loneliness) I have figured out five things that keep me sane, make me happy, and leave me feeling successful.

1. Take Care of Yourself

This is a difficult task physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is often physically difficult to leave your baby if you are breastfeeding and most of your free-time tends to go towards things like sleeping, eating and showering. Mentally the days and nights blur together and it’s hard to think outside of the necessities. Emotionally, it’s easy to feel guilty for even thinking about putting something you want or need to do above something your baby or family needs.

It wasn’t until about four months in that I realized I needed to do something that was genuinely for me. Hiking was what I missed the most, so asked my mother-in-law to babysit so I could go to my mountains. IT WAS REJUVENATING. When I got back after the two or three hours, I was ready to be the mom again. I missed my baby, I suddenly had some energy to spare, and I was happy.

The saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, is so very true. It’s okay to leave your baby somewhere safe and take care of yourself sometimes. My mother-in-law graciously offered to watch my son at the same time every week. My husband agreed to go to work early every Thursday. Both, so that I could do what I needed to do for me (hike). I look forward to those four hours all week and boy can I tell if I don’t get them. I know that I am a better mom and wife when I take some time to do the things I love.

2. Create a Schedule (But be Ready to be Flexible)

The combination of not having to get up and be somewhere at a specific time every day and a tiny human who does whatever he wants whenever he wants can really throw a person off. A few weeks into Mommyhood, I sat down and wrote out a very ambitious weekly schedule for myself. It was a very teacher-y thing to do. I had my days planned down to the hour and more goals than I probably could have accomplished in a month at that stage. I realized fairly quickly that that wouldn’t work and came up with a simpler system. I have one BIG goal each day and two to-do lists.

My big goals repeat weekly so that we both have consistency. My first to-do list is full of things that I need to do each day.  The second to-do list is full of things I would like to do if I manage to find some time. I keep all three lists in the same app on my phone and check them off as I go.

I love a good checklist. Something about watching an item disappear when I check the box gives me a sense of accomplishment.  Some of the things I check off each day are fairly basic. BUT I STILL DID THEM.

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Some days are super successful and I make it several items into my second to-do list. Some days I throw everything to the wind and do something spontaneous (there are some perks to being a stay-at-home parent). Other days I can’t even accomplish my one big goal. Regardless of the daily success or lack thereof, the lists and basic schedule help me use the time I do have to do the things I want to do.

3. See Other People

After my husband went back to work, the loneliness set in quickly. It was just me and this tiny guy who didn’t do much of anything for hours and hours and hours. Most of my friends were at work and I felt really alone. I spent a lot of time waiting for five to roll around and my husband to be home.

Eventually, I decided that I needed to find ways to get out and find people to talk to. (so what if the people I was most comfortable with were still working a nine to five?) I started by visiting my parents and in-laws. Next, I planned play dates with my friends who did have kids. Then, I started going to library storytimes and group activities. Later, I started my own play group and found some community service to participate in. It has taken time and effort, but I have found that finding ways to be around people is super important for my mental health. 

4. Listen Politely to the (crazy) Advice that You Get . . . Then Decide What Works for Your Family

I have heard a lot of different advice. Some of it has kept me up nights because it made me feel like I was parenting wrong. Some of it was exactly what I needed to hear. People tend to mean well and assume that what worked for them will work for you. That may or may not be true. Only you can figure that out.

Remember that regardless of what your best friend’s sister or second cousin insists upon, you have to do what works for your family. That will probably take some guessing, research, and more than one attempt but you will figure it out. There is no perfect way to be a stay-at-home mom.

5. Don’t Ever Forget the Reason that You Decided to Stay Home in the First Place

It is terribly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day craziness that is the life of a stay-at-home parent. It is also easy to become disenchanted with the monotony of the everyday routine. Do yourself a favor and take time each day to remember why you are home.

For me, that reason was that I wanted the opportunity to be the one who raised my son. I wanted to be his teacher and his exploring partner and his soft place to land. When I take the time to think about my original goals, the hard parts of staying home suddenly seem worth it.

 

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What are your reasons for becoming a stay-at-home parent? Or, what is your best advice for a new stay-at-home mom?