How to Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last

I am finally writing this post (which has been on my agenda for some time) having just had a day that would not qualify as a good “last day” full of happiness. Life is like that though. Despite your best intentions, sometimes days are just tough.

However, I  am not losing heart. I am owning this day and chalking it up as a retry. Tomorrow will be better. I will be more pleasant, I will have a better attitude, and I will exercise more patience. Each of us only has the one life (you know the one) and for the most part, what we do and how we act is up to us. Happiness is a choice.

I feel like it is easy to put your life on hold. To always be waiting for something that will make you happy. I will be happy when I get married…I will be happy when I get pregnant…I will be happy when I land my dream job…etc. Why is it so hard for each of us to just be happy now?

I want you to take a second and imagine what you would do if you knew it was your last day to live (pause for think time.) Would you choose happiness on your last day? (If you are the type of person who would choose panic over happiness this is not the post for you.)

If you are anything like me, your day would be full of happiness. It would include things like time with family, good food, some bucket list items, and reflection.

With those things in mind, here are my six ways to live each day like it is your last, be a happier parent/person, and not go broke.

Spend Your Time and Attention Wisely

This first one is all about priorities. Unless Facebook is your one true love, it probably wouldn’t be high on the list of things to do on your last day on earth. Each day should be at least roughly prioritized in order of importance. Is it more important to visit a friend or do the laundry (the answer to this question may not be the same each day). Just make sure that you focus on the things that are the most important first.

Plan Something Into Your Day That Will Make You Happy

There are a lot of things that make me happy. I love to leave the house. Exercising makes me feel good. I love to create things, watch movies, read books, learn new things, spend time with people I love. . . There are a lot of options. If you make time for at least one thing that makes you happy each day then you will inevitably be happier and more pleasant to be around. Your children will thank you.

As a side note: plan for the big stuff (bucket list items) so that you can make those happen too. Save money for your trip to Italy. Pick a day to go skydiving. Etc.

Spend Time With Someone You Love

I would bet that earlier, (when I asked you to think about how you would spend your time if you knew you were living your last day) someone specific came to mind. Someone you love, someone you need to reconcile with, someone you have not seen for a long time…In order to live each day like it is our last, we need to include the people who matter on a day-to-day basis. You never know when someone will be gone (in one way or another) so it is important to take advantage of whatever time you do have.

Eat Something Delicious

I freakin love food. My waistline can testify to the fact. I think that there is a fine line between eating healthy and going crazy. Life is too short to not eat the food you love,  try new things, and eat decadent desserts. However, you don’t have to overeat. One or two bites of a really good dessert. A bacon cheeseburger once a month. A fruit you love. Just make sure that you include something delicious in your meal plan each day.

Do Something For Someone Else

Service is kind of magical. When you take a minute to help someone else you take a step outside of yourself and your own immediate needs. This grants you gratitude, clarity, understanding, and love for your fellow men. We truly end up loving those we serve. So, doing something for someone else each day not only makes us happier, it also brings more people into our lives to love.

Enjoy The Small Things

Take time each day to just enjoy the mundane. Look at the blessings you are surrounded by and be grateful for them. Enjoy the running water, playing with your baby, a machine that literally washes your clothes, the opportunity to read, multiple grocery stores to buy food from, a brain that works, a job, free time… Whatever your daily life brings you, take a minute to find the positive and enjoy it. Be happy for the now.

Make Peace With God

If I could pick my time of death, it would be during church. I am usually at my best when I am at church (not that I am not good the rest of the time, but when I am at church I am on my absolute best behavior). That is crazy. The odds that I will die at church are like one to 61. That being the case, it only makes sense for me to be on my best behavior all of the time. Pray regularly, study my scriptures, repent, be kind to others, etc.

I know I would prepare to meet God if I knew it was happening on a certain day but it should be enough to just know that it will happen eventually. Like I said last week. Preparation is our best protection.

Anyway, these are my six ways to live each day like it is your last. Most of them don’t cost a dime (unless you have super expensive hobbies and tastes) so completing them won’t mess with your budget. They will also make you a happier person and a better parent. Who doesn’t want that?

What would you add to this list? How do you live each day like it is your last?

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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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10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Mom

I have been a stay-at-home mom for about a year and a half now and I think I have learned more in the last 17 months than I did during four years of college. The trouble is, my new set of skills is a less appreciated, taken for granted, not noticed, and often mind numbing.

I know that sounds kind of harsh but I truly feel like mom skills are often disregarded completely. They are glue, they are necessary, they help everything function, but they are kind of invisible (unless they are not done).

I am the magic laundry washer, dish washer, dinner cooker, grocery buyer, and high-chair clean up patrol. These things get done every day, the house stays clean, my family stays happy and taken care of. It never ends. (Read 7 Tips Guaranteed to Make Your Home Feel Cleaner)

Before I became a mom, specifically a stay-at-home mom, I just had no idea what it entailed. My rosy vision of life after my baby came was far from reality. So, with that in mind, here are ten things that I wish I had known before becoming a mom.

It Is Hard

I gained a whole new level of appreciation for my mother after I became one myself. It really is a tireless job. I don’t think there is any other job that requires you to be on call every hour of every day. There is this tiny person who depends on you for everything. Then, if you breastfeed, that dependency seems even greater because that tiny person literally needs you near all of the time (Read 9 Reasons I Hated Breastfeeding and the Five Things that Helped Me Keep At It). Then there is a home to look after, and meals to cook, and a million things to do and remember each and every day. Motherhood is no walk in the park and is not for the faint of heart. This is hands down the hardest job I have ever had.

There Is Not More Time

I specifically remember a day when I was sitting at work rubbing my pregnant belly and thinking how nice it would be to not have to get up early and to sleep in and play with my baby. . .I know pretty bad. I was very naive. As a new mom, I did not have time for exercise, or leisure activities, or showering, or sleep.

There were many things that I thought I would suddenly have time for once I quit my nine-to-five and stayed home all day but I just didn’t. I was busy every minute of every day and I could never quite pinpoint what I had to show for it. Rather than having more time, I found I had less and that it was very precious. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Miss Going to Work

In the beginning, I was so jealous that my husband got to go to work each day. He got to go and use his brain, speak with other adults, contribute to society, get paid, and most importantly, leave the house.

Now, I am not saying that stay-at-home moms don’t use their brains or contribute to society (I think they probably contribute to society more than any other profession) but in the first few months it was hard to realize that. I had to tell myself each day that my baby was alive and well and that I had done a good job. I also had to reconcile myself to a new working standard and come up with ways to make motherhood a job that I wanted and could handle (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom).

You Will Feel Lonely

Going from a job where I was engaged with people all day long to hardly seeing anyone was tough. I had days and weeks where I just felt lonely and trapped. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my baby more than I thought possible but mentally and emotionally it was a huge adjustment.

You Will Feel Stagnant

Like I said earlier, I have learned tons of new skills as a mom. I can change a diaper anywhere, I can clean my house, I garden, I understand kids clothing, I can get stains out, I cook much better than I used to, and the list could keep on going.

Despite these new skills, I often used to feel stagnant. I wasn’t going to school, I wasn’t creating (much), I just didn’t feel like I was moving forward and learning (even though I was). Mom learning was just different than the academic learning that I craved. (Read Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms)

You Will Get Better at It

Time, practice, and necessity make motherhood easier. Eventually, you will be able to go to the grocery store without fear and sleep again and have a hobby. As hard as it is at first, it gets better and more enjoyable as time marches on. (Read 5 Secrets That Can Make You A Successful Stay At Home Mom or Easy 2-Step Time Management)

You Will Give Unconditional Love

I try to give and get unconditional love to and from my husband and I think we do a fairly good job. However, the love I give and get from my baby is a little bit different. Mostly, I think because it was so automatic. I knew as soon as he was in my arms that I would do whatever I could to keep him safe and make him happy and help him to be good. Before having my son, I had heard plenty of stories about instant unconditional love and for me, they were right. (Which surprised me since I am not really a baby person.)

You Will Get Unconditional Love

This is the one that surprised me. I knew (or at least really hoped) that I would love my baby but I didn’t expect or think about, the fact that he would love me too.

When he was little he was always happiest in my arms. Now that he is bigger, he gives me his biggest happiest smiles. He runs to my open arms, he hugs my legs, he calls my name when he is sick and sad and tired, he climbs into my lap, and he looks at me like I am the most important person in the world.

My husband is top notch and loves me with all his heart but there is something to be said for all of the love and trust that you get from a child who is completely dependent on you. It is humbling and makes me a better person daily.

 

You Will Have Magical Moments and Days

For ever monotonous, unappreciated moment there is one full of magic. Being home all of the time is often very dull but it is often wonderful. The law of opposition is definitely in full force for stay-at-home moms.

Keeping a home and raising a child requires that many of the exact same tasks be done over and over again. Laundry. Dishes. Cleaning the bathroom. Wiping down the dang highchair. However, being at home all of the time also allows you the opportunity to see many firsts and to know that you were a huge part of them.

I got to see my little boy roll over for the first time, take his first steps, say his first word, paint his first picture, smile for the first time. I get to see the look of pride and accomplishment on his face when he learns new things, I get to be here as his sense of humor develop, I’m the one who secretly watches him from the doorway when he pretends to read to his toys. So, as hard and sometimes slow-moving as motherhood is. I wouldn’t trade it for something else.

 

It is Worth It

Motherhood is hard, tiring, lonely, and busy. It requires more love, patience, and faith than anything else I have ever done. It takes all of your time and so much practice. But it is worth it. There is not a more fulfilling, life changing job out there and don’t let the world convince you that your time could be better spent. This is where it is at.

My question for you. If you could give your pre-mom self one piece of advice, what would it be?

 

10 Super Simple Ways to Improve Your Marriage

Giving marriage advice has been part of almost every wedding shower I have ever attended. Before I was married, I didn’t have a clue what to write on that cute wedding themed index card. After I was married, I had a lot of ideas but didn’t think that they were super valid because marriage was so new to me.

I have now been married for about six years and have successfully navigated school, student teaching, job changes, caring for a relative, moving, remodeling, and having a kid. And guess what, a lot of the stuff that I thought wasn’t valid in the beginning is exactly what has helped us through the more stressful parts of our marriage.

Marriage is tough but doing some very basic things can easily make it the most rewarding and cherished relationship in your life (as it should be).

 

 

Say “I Love You” Daily

I know that there are five love languages and that affirmation isn’t everyone’s thing. Despite that, saying “I love you” to each other on a regular basis is a good reminder to both you and your spouse. It also makes it harder to stay upset or frustrated. Take a look at the person you married remind yourself of the reasons you love them and tell them so.

Make Your Spouse a Priority

No one likes to feel like the last checkmark on a list. Least of all the person you promised to love and cherish forever. Let them know that they are important to you. Put your phone down when you are talking to them, plan a date, surprise them for lunch, actively listen to what they are saying, be interested in their interests. Just put them first. If both people do this, then both peoples needs are met.

Spend Time Together Each Day

I would recommend more than ten minutes, but even ten minutes can go a long way. Talk, cuddle, go on a date, go buy groceries…. Whatever you do though, be with them, put your phone down. There is nothing more annoying in these situations than playing second fiddle to a phone. Don’t be that spouse. There is no substitute for good, solid, uninterrupted time together.

Go on Weekly Dates

That sounds like a lot, especially with kids, but they can be easy. My husband and I generally plan two legitimate out of the house babysitter dates a month and two easy after the baby goes to bed date nights. Netflix and cuddling can be a great date as can cooking together, making something new, playing games, reading, or learning from each other.

Have Regular Open Conversations

Stop playing games. Don’t assume the other person knows what you are thinking or can read your mind. Skirting around a subject, holding grudges, having off-limits topics, the silent treatment, and contrived drama are useless and stupid. In my experience, marriage is better when both parties are open, honest, understanding, and kind and all kinds of conversations happen regularly.

Talk Kindly About Each Other

Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader. Don’t get caught up in other people’s conversations and start bad-mouthing them. Be the person that they can always count on to have their back. Praise them in public and in private and you will be quicker to remember their good qualities than their bad ones.

Trust and Be Trustworthy

This is clearly a two-way street. I was lucky and married someone I trust completely in every regard. In turn, he knows that he doesn’t need to worry about me because I have never given him a reason to mistrust either. If you are not at this point figure out what steps you need to take to get there.

Read Scriptures Together

I am LDS and this is something that we have made a habit of doing since our marriage started. Reading scriptures daily and inviting the Spirit into a home is a great way to lessen contention and fill it with peace. It is also a good way to reconnect with your spouse each day.

Pray Together

There isn’t anything quite like kneeling together and asking God to help you with and bless your marriage. Praying together gives us the opportunity to thank our Heavenly Father for each other and the many blessings we have been given. It brings us together, helps us to be grateful, and keeps us on track.

Be Intimate

Hug, kiss, whatever. Being physically close to your spouse does a lot for a marriage emotionally. When done kindly and sincerely physical touch and intimacy, in general, affirm love, bring couples closer, and heal.

My question for you is, what is the best marriage advice you have ever heard, gotten, or given? Respond in the comments!

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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.

Me-Time Hobbies for Brand New Moms: The First 4 Months

As a brand new mom, I didn’t have time for any of my former hobbies. I was too busy trying to decide whether I should sleep, eat, or shower because only one, or if I was lucky, one and a half of those things was going to get accomplished.

Going from a full-time job and enough free time to pursue the things that I enjoyed, to being barely able to shower was a something like a slap in the face. My hobby list pre-kid included things like painting and hiking and traveling. My hobby list with a newborn was sleeping, eating, and getting clothes on. Seriously, I didn’t even wear a shirt some days what with the never ending breastfeeding (see my post on that here).

The loss of freedom, me-time, and hobbies made the first three months of my son’s life some of the hardest of my life. Now, looking back, and reflecting on what I have learned about being a successful stay-at-home-parent, I know that it is important to take care of yourself.

That being said, my hobbies probably won’t be what they once were for many years. I can no longer leave my paint out for weeks at a time or hike whenever I feel like it or drive down south out of the blue. However, just because they won’t be the same as they were, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still important.

The list below comprises five hobbies that even brand new, sleep deprived, overloaded, parents can do to get some “me-time”.

Easy Brand New Parent Hobby Ideas

Read

I hadn’t ever used my tablet like a book until I was nursing. It was far easier to prop it up and turn the light down while I tried to learn how to breastfeed than an actual book would have been. I got reading material by installing the Kindle app on my device and signing up for Book Bub to get free and discounted books. The quality of what I read went down a bit because I wasn’t able to read anything very deep in my slightly comatose state. But, I was still able to live someone else’s life for small snippets of each day giving me some “me-time” even whilst a small human was attached to me.

Another way to get e-books is to look into what your library system offers. The Salt Lake County Library System uses an app called Overdrive that can be used in conjunction with your library card number to check out e-books. (Many libraries use this app.)

Walk

The first few months after baby are tough on your body. There is a lot of recovery happening as well as a lot of being a milk factory (if you choose to breastfeed) or turning off the milk factory (if you don’t choose to breastfeed). Walking, for, me, was an easy way to ease back into some kind of workout and routine. I use the word routine loosely because for us it just meant we walked in the morning after one of L’s feedings (roughly between 9 and 12).

I walked with him in the sling and in the car seat/stroller combo business. I started out going around the block, then two blocks, and so on until I could walk without hurting. I  stayed very close to my house at first in case we needed to head home for either of us.

I just walked by myself for the most part and sometimes that was great. Fresh air and peace are very rejuvenating. But, in retrospect, I wish I would have occasionally used the time to listen to talks or books or to call a friend. Walking with another actual person is great too, if that is an option for you, I highly recommend it.

Learn

If you are like me and always like to be learning something new, use the time you have nursing or pumping to learn an entirely new skill. I have found Lynda.com to be a great place to study new material. The site has courses available on many subjects and can help you continue to develop new skills in your sleep deprived state. The site does cost money but if you live in Salt Lake County, you can sign up for a library card through the Salt Lake City Library and get free access to the site. I suggest looking into the photography courses because you now have an excellent subject to work with.

Other learning options I have enjoyed are:

  • Free College Courses are offered at various places on the internet. They don’t give you college credit but they do give you college knowledge. Edex.org is a good place to start.
  • E-Courses. Pick a subject, google “subject” e-course and you will have plenty to choose from. Some are free some are not.
  • Informative Blogs (there is a blog for everything). If you like knitting find a knitting blog, if you want to be more fiscally responsible there is a blog for that. Find a good one and start learning.

Cook

When I got married I couldn’t cook a thing. Learning to make food was just not a high priority for me ever. I don’t know why . . . I love to eat. After I got married I mastered casseroles (which I later found out my husband just barely tolerated). I slowly got better over the next five years but have improved drastically since I had my baby. I figured I was home and making food anyway so I might as well make it good. I started using Pinterest like a recipe book and learned how to make a ton of new meals.

Experimenting and cooking more regularly has also come with the added benefit of making me more comfortable overall in the kitchen. I’m not scared of raw meat anymore and I can look at the food in the fridge and figure something out every time.

Watch TV

If your brain is too tired to learn something new, which makes a lot of sense, picking a tv show to help you through the hard months might be a viable option. I am not generally a big tv person. We have cable and it isn’t even hooked up. When I was nursing though, I watched a couple of different shows that helped me survive the transition to mommyhood. TV was another one of those things I could do that didn’t require much brain power or effort but still helped me get a little bit outside of myself. My personal favorites are Psych, White Collar, and Boy Meets World . . . for reals.

Please comment below about hobbies that you would recommend for brand new parents.

The links in this post are not affiliate links as of June 2017. They are links to products and services I used and enjoyed.

 

 

Dating “Green Lights” for Marriage Success

 

It is a good thing that a marriage success isn’t based on the ideas of an eleven-year-old. When I was about that age I wrote a list of all the characteristics I wanted my future spouse to possess. It was a nice introspective activity but my well thought out, rather extensive list of requirements was neither realistic or attainable. Holding any real person (especially a teenage boy who I watched grow up) to a list of standards that I myself was far from, would have been a sure-fire way to end up alone.

I have known my husband for over half of my life and I’m only 27. Our love story is a bit unusual for being a real story but it definitely isn’t unheard of.  We met, and I use the term loosely, on the first day of seventh grade. We were in band class together, I know romantic. I noticed him from across the room because he was being an obnoxious 12-year-old boy.

Anyhow, I was acquainted with him for a year. Casual friends with him for the next four. Seriously dating him for the following two. Not dating him at all for the two after that (he was on a mission, I didn’t wait). Then married to him.

Later this year (2017), we will have our sixth anniversary. So lately, I have been thinking about all the of the reasons that I chose him, even though he did not fit the cookie cutter dream boy I came up with as an eleven-year-old. I dated other people, but there were things about him that I just didn’t find in other men. . .

After some thought, I have decided that people are just not perfect and we all come with our own issues. Therefore, I don’t think a comprehensive list of standards is the answer to finding lasting love. However, I think there are many variables that can make all of the difference in a relationship and in both partners individual lives. I’m no expert, but I am very happily married.

That being said, the following items are my retrospective list of “green lights”  to look for in both a potential spouse and yourself.  Find someone who . . .

Makes You A Priority in Their Life

Even when we were dating, I always knew I was number one. My husband went out of his way to help me, and spend time with me, and talk to me. He used to ride the train to my dorm to help me carry my laundry home. I knew I was important.

You want someone who makes you feel loved and significant. Not someone who will make time for you if their favorite tv show gets canceled or if their best pal is busy. Conversely, you want to feel the same way about them. If you still prefer someone or something else to your significant other, there might be a problem.

Shows You Respect

In my experience, marriage works best if it is a partnership. My husband has always listened to what I have to say. He is willing to discuss anything with me and make compromises. Neither of us is always right, we listen, consider, and take turns.

You want to be with someone who respects you as a thinking individual and who values your input, not someone who wants to control every aspect of the relationship. If you find that either you or your partner is “in charge”, then something is probably off. Neither person should have all the power or hold all of the cards. Marriage is a two-way street and each person should have a healthy respect for the other.

Makes Trust Easy

One of the things I have always loved about my husband is that I have never had to worry about him. I know he is with me and he wouldn’t do anything to mess that up. We have a very open communication system. We both know where and how our money is used, we know each other’s daily schedules, we know who we spend our time with. We don’t keep secrets. We don’t do drama. This makes trusting each other easy and natural. It also makes jealousy a non-issue in our marriage.

Find someone you can openly communicate with and who makes you feel secure in the relationship. As a side-note, jealousy should not be used as a tool within healthy relationships. I would say if you or your significant other are using jealousy to manipulate then you have some things that need to be better discussed.

Makes You A Better Person

This one is tricky. I don’t think it is safe or fair to go into a relationship with the intent to change the other person. However, if you find yourself with someone who makes you want to be better I think that is a win.

For example, my husband is always encouraging me to try new things or follow my dreams or meet my goals. He supports me when I try to better myself or health, he helps me learn new skills, he studies the scriptures with me and tries to help me find time to develop my interests and talents. He does not tell me what to do or how to do it. He does not try to micromanage my schedule or the people I see. He just helps me by constantly encouraging my best habits and I try to do the same for him.

Is Secure Enough to Allow You To Be Yourself

This kind of goes with the last one. My husband has never asked me to give up friends or hobbies or family members. He has always let me be who I am. There are some bad habits I have given up but that is because he has been a good influence on me not because he insisted I do it. (I don’t think habits are what make you who you are anyway.)

If you find yourself in a relationship where you are constantly changing and making personality sacrifices and giving up things that you love while your partner remains unchanged . . . then there is clearly some unbalance. You want to find someone who is secure enough with himself and his relationship with you to let you be you.

I’m not saying that people don’t  or shouldn’t change after they are married. Change is healthy and expected. I’m saying that if you are with someone who expects you to change everything about yourself to fit their agenda then he or she may not be the person you want to end up with. Relationships require balance and give and take and complimentary personalities. Relationships should not be two people who think and act identically because one person wills it to be that way and the other has given up everything that made them who they were.

Happiness requires balance and give and take and complimentary personalities. Relationships should not be two people who think and act identically because one person wills it to be that way and the other has given up everything that made them who they were.

Puts Your Happiness and Well-Being Before Their Own

In a “me first” selfish world this one sounds novel and a little revolutionary. However, if each person puts the needs of his/her partner before his/her own then both partners needs get met and they develop a stronger love for each other because it’s easy to love those who you serve.

This is a hard, if not impossible, thing to do in a one-sided relationship. If you are giving and giving and meeting someone else’s needs without having your own needs met, burnout is imminent unless you are a saint.

Has Similar Priorities

There a lot of things on my eleven-year-old list that didn’t really matter. I didn’t really need someone who was 6′ 2” or who had big muscles or who could play the piano or speak Italian. However, there were a few things that mattered a lot. As a unit, I think it is important to have similar if not identical overall priorities. What those are, depend on the couple.

In my marriage, we both agree that church, family, education, and financial stability are high priorities. This makes it easy for us to make choices, spend money, and communicate. If my priorities were church, family, and financial stability and his were video games, friends, and going to the gym we would have a difficult time making big family decisions.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with video games, friends, and going to the gym I am just saying that it is important to be on the same page with when it comes to the big stuff.

In Conclusion

I am not a marriage expert. I have only been married for six years. This is not a comprehensive list of things to search for in a spouse. This is just the list I have come up with that details some of the big things that allow me to enjoy a happy, successful marriage. So, if you are wondering if you have found the one, go through the list and see how he stacks up. Then, and this is the important part, see how you stack up.

What have I missed? What are some other “green lights” to look for when neck deep in the dating pool?

 

 

Outdoor Activities for Indoor People

I love the outdoors but I know, hard as it may be to believe, that there are people out there who don’t. A few years ago I was teaching a youth group and we were setting goals. I remember being slightly shocked that one of the summer goals I saw was “go outside sometimes”.

Sometimes? I am outside as often as I can be. This business of having it be a goal sometimes was new territory. So, I started thinking, what are some of the things that keep people inside versus outside? Regulated air temperature? Entertainment? No decent ideas for outdoor activities? The fridge? General convenience?

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Okay, there is a lot to be said for just staying inside. But there are benefits of being outside as well. Exposure to sunlight. Fresh air. Time to think and disengage from all of the inside obligations. Enjoyable exercise (for those of us who struggle with the gym). Beauty . . .Well, hopefully. I admit I am spoiled when it comes to natural grandeur or even just grace. Utah is gorgeous.

Anyway, I have put together a list of activities that provide outdoor people and indoor people a chance to meet one another. (Since it is possible that they have only met in places like the grocery store where everyone must go to buy chocolate.)

Outdoor Movies

The Salt Lake area is especially good at outdoor movies. Individual cities and resorts show them throughout the Summer. Indoor people get their entertainment and their food and outdoor people get their fresh air and sunlight (if they go early enough for the sun to be out). See the list for Salt Lake area movies for 2017

See a list of outdoor movies for the Salt Lake area (2017) here.

Reading

Admittedly this isn’t a great way to meet people, but it is still a good indoor activity that can be done outside. It can be simple. Take your lemonade and book out on your deck or porch or into your backyard. It can be a little bit adventurous. Try a park bench or take a blanket with you and find a nice spot. It can be rejuvenating. Take your book and hammock and head for the mountains.

Games

If you are an indoor person, there is a good chance that the type of game you enjoy has something to do with an electronic device, so bear with me. Yard games can be just as fun and they allow you the opportunity to engage with other people (most of them are not as fun when played alone). Heck, they don’t even have to be yard games. You could take a deck of cards outside and call it a yard game. Either way, games outside equal entertainment, socializing, fresh air, and sunshine.

Barbeques

One of the first things we did when we got our house was put a fire pit in our backyard. It is one of my favorite parts of Summer. We love to invite old friends and potential new friends over to roast hot dogs, eat Dutch oven food, enjoy smores, and talk. Often, we do the same things up the canyon . And on those days when we don’t want to start a fire, we just use the regular old BBQ. Regardless of the food eaten or the method it is made, there is still food and fresh air and fun.

Swimming/Sunbathing

I am not really into tanning, I want my super paleness to stay cancer free. However, I still enjoy being in the sun in my SPF 50+. An outdoor pool or lake is a great place to get those rays. It also provides the opportunity for exercise, socializing, play, and fresh. . .ish air.

So this summer, make sure you get some green time into each day if you can. I firmly believe that being outside is good for the soul.

What are your favorite low-key outdoor activities during the hot summer months?

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A Beginners Guide to Sleep Training

Sleep training was and is one of the hardest things we have faced as parents. I often feel like being a parent comes with a lot of guilt. Guilt about stuff I never even thought about before I had a baby. There is just so much new territory to cover and it’s hard to know where to get directions from. Books? Websites? Friends? Family? I have spent a lot of time wondering whether I am doing what is best for L and whether or not I am messing him up. Sleep training was and still is one of those times.

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At about five months, our pediatrician told us that the cry it out method was what would be best in the long run. He assured us that L would suffer no psychological repercussions from being left in his crib alone sobbing. He also told us not to feed him every time he woke up at night because he should be able to make it 6-8 hours. According to him, feeding the baby teaches the baby to fall asleep to the bottle and makes it difficult for him or her to self-soothe. We were given a handout that explained that we should let him cry for 5 minutes, check on him, let him cry for seven minutes, check on him, etc.

A friend described her cry it out method which was basically put the child in his/her bed and don’t go in for any reason. She has extremely well-behaved, obedient children that don’t seem psychologically scarred.

My own mother and many other women I know told me that they just couldn’t or chose not to do the cry it out method. They favored cuddling, nursing, sleeping with the baby, or watching movies as an alternative. I turned out fine, I think, so that must work too.

The internet was full of variations of cry it out methods, no tears methods, shuffle methods, and just let your kid sleep in your bed until they are 10 methods.

It is hard to know what to do.

So, after much anguish and advice and study, we decided to try the doctor’s handout first. The first time we left L in his room sobbing I sat on my bed sobbing. Nick told me that he really couldn’t handle both of us crying at the same time. So, I went and got him and we both cried and I  thought about what I should do for a few more days. We decided to try it again but I had to leave.

For several days I hung out in the one room in the basement that is quiet regardless of what is going on the rest of the house. And guess what? L started going to sleep on his own. There was crying for a few days but then he started just going to sleep. And we had it made. . . .

Nope, then he learned to crawl and sleeping was no longer on his agenda. So, we did it again. For a while when he was learning to crawl I had to put pillows next to the bars in his crib so that he wouldn’t repeatedly ram his skull into the wood. Then I would watch him on the monitor until he stopped ramming and sneak in and move the pillows. (I am not advocating that, it is just what we did at the time.)

Eventually, he was retrained using a combination of cry it out and Shawn the Sheep (that is the highly sophisticated method of Daddy watching Shawn the Sheep on mute with him in his dark bedroom).

Then he got teeth, or learned to walk, or got sick . . . and everything fell apart again. But, we were able to fix it each time after a few days.

Solutions. . .

Now, I am not about to suggest that there is a right way or wrong way to sleep train. I know people in many camps who feel very strongly about their own methods. I think that the cry it out method can work. I don’t think it is inherently evil (I have heard that). I also don’t think that there is anything wrong with having a safe family bed. I have come across research backing up both methods (not to mention the five billion variations of each).

What I do want to say is that there are two questions you should ask yourself before you decide how you want to go about sleep training (or not training) your child. The first question is: What can I live with? The second is: What does my own child need?

 

What can I live with?

When I was studying methods and alternatives for the “cry it out” method. I came to the conclusion that I could not live with a perpetually screaming child. So we decided that ten minutes was our max time. If he made it crying for a whole ten minutes we would go in and check on him. We also decided that if he was sick or having a particularly tough time, that there was nothing wrong with extra loves and cuddles.

On the other hand, we decided that we could not handle being up with him late every night like we had been. We both needed some time at night to do our own things and regroup. I am also the type of person who needs a good chunk of sleep to function and be civil. I never got used to that newborn stage of no sleep and it was hands down the most difficult part of L’s life (for me). So, we needed our own time at night and more uninterrupted sleep.

 

What does my child need?

After some sleep training experimentation, we figured out that there were a few things L needed to have a successful nights sleep. Food was the first. So, having a bottle became part of his night time routine when we put him down at 8:00 pm. We didn’t put it in his bed or let him fall asleep with it. We just fed it to him while we read scriptures. Then, we figured out that if we woke him and fed him another bottle around 11:30, more often than not he could sleep until 8:00 am.

We also realized he slept better with the sound machine on. Then later he needed a nightlight and eventually a stuffed animal. As he has gotten bigger and we have gotten better at listening, we have also learned that he has different cries and can recognize them. He has tired cry and we are comfortable letting him cry longer than 10 minutes if it the tired cry. He also has a panicked cry and a sick cry and a pain cry. Those cries merit more immediate attention depending on the circumstances.

Our Solution

After a lot of trial and error and guilt, we finally have a system that works for us and L (it also changes slowly as he gets older). Figuring it took some time but it was worth it because it is a large part of what keeps us sane.  I need that three hours at night to have something akin to an adult life. I love playing with L all day, and keeping up with the house and yard aren’t bad, but it is so nice to have a few hours of time each night to spend with my husband or develop my own skills or work on projects. To me, those three hours were definitely worth training L to sleep at a specific time in his own bed. The sleep training also helps us get large chunks of undisturbed sleep. That is what we can live with.

That being said we are not super strict. We listen carefully. Sometimes he cries, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes we get him sometimes we don’t. Occasionally we watch Moana until ten or go on a walk if the night is really hard (see post here). We can all live with those choices and L goes to sleep without issues 6 out of 7 nights. Those odds work for me and my family.

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The Point

Do your research but don’t expect to find a magical correct way to sleep train. There isn’t a right way for everyone. Do what works for your family. Be prepared to be flexible if the need arises. Stop feeling so guilty, you are doing your best.

I am not a medical professional and don’t submit this post as medical advice. This is just what I have learned after 15 months with kid one.

Comment below with sleep training tips and methods that have worked for you.

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Five Ways to Get Exercise With a Toddler (Who Loves the Outdoors)

The other night, my son woke up screaming at about 10:30 pm. Now, sleep training and crying it out are a whole other matter that I will get into later. Suffice it to say we fall into an in-between camp and pay close attention to what his crying sounds like. We always go comfort him when it is his panic or pain cry. This was his panic cry, which we have come to guess coincides with nightmares (it is very distinct), so I went. He put his arms around my neck and sighed and started speaking rapid baby to me.

 

I wasn’t smart enough to teach him sign language early on, so our communication consists mostly of the word da (with various emphasis and intonations) and lots of pointing and hand gestures. This usually works well enough but exhausted charades in the dark was a bit too much for both of us. He was sobbing again before I realized that what he wanted was not his stuffed animal, or a story, or a bottle . . . he just wanted to go outside.

I tried to explain to him that it was dark and that it was night time but he just pointed at the window and cried. It was at that moment that his Daddy came in and realized what it was he wanted. Before I knew it, he was being wrapped in a big blanket and Nick was taking him out the door. The three of us ended up on a short walk around the block in our pajamas.

Being outdoors has long been a source of comfort for him and he calmed down significantly on our short nighttime adventure. When we got home, he gave us each a hug and went right back to sleep.

My point is, my toddler loves being outdoors. I am incredibly grateful that the thought of going outside brings him comfort and happiness because I am the same way. This being said, we have been experimenting with safe activities that allow us both to be outside to get exercise and fresh air.

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Hiking

I am blessed to live in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and we take advantage of that gift at every opportunity. I wrote a post about what I learned hiking with my baby and most of it still applies to a toddler. But let me tell you, hiking with a toddler is so much more fun. I love watching his eyes light up when he sees new places and things. He loves to throw rocks in the water, watch animals, collect sticks, and touch trees.

In order to help us both get our exercise and outside time, I hike for a mile or two then let him out of the carrier to explore.  The key to a successful toddler hike (in my mind) is three-fold. I get exercise, he gets exercise, we both have fun.

Notice, I didn’t say we make it a specific destination. Pinning your hopes of waterfall grandeur on a toddler is not wise. Hike for the journey, not the destination.

Biking

Before I got pregnant, I used to ride my bike all over. However, after months of puking and no exercise, I had to give it up for a bit. Then I had the baby and surprise . . . babies can’t ride bikes or even sit in bike trailers right away. Then it was winter. So, now that he is 14 months old we are starting our rides.

He loves feeling the breeze and watching the nature right outside of the trailer and he keeps himself busy eating snacks and reading books while I ride. Each time we go, I try to make the halfway point a park. That way he can get out and run around and play before heading back. Once again, we both get exercise and enjoy the outing.

Walking

I know, pretty basic, but sometimes it is all we have time for. Hiking and biking both require a certain amount of preparation and a larger time commitment. Walking just requires some tennis shoes and the stroller. We like to go early (by early I mean before noon) when it isn’t too hot. I try to walk all of the blocks near my house so that we are never too far from home should an emergency arise.

I let him get his exercise either at the park as our halfway point while I stretch. Or in our backyard when we get home.

 

Gardening

My son loves our yard and will run through our juniper trees with his rake for hours while I get everything weeded and cut. If you are thinking to yourself that gardening does not count as a workout, then you are not doing nearly as many squats as you could be while weeding. I just figure since I am already bending over to pull weeds, I might as well do squats and stretches. Gardening often leaves me more sore than any of the other activities.

Playing

Okay, here me out. This, like gardening, is not a workout in the traditional sense of the word. But it can definitely provide some exercise. When I stop worrying about being an adult and play with my son (be it at a park, in our yard, on the hike, in the garden, in the basement, whatever,) I find I am exhausted.

Playing with a one-year-old requires lots of running and crawling and lifting and stretching. A good half hour session of free play burns calories and builds relationships.

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How do you exercise with your toddler?