Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Review Of the Book "The Miracle Morning"


I promised at the bottom of this post a review of the book  The Miracle Morning-The Not So Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life (Before 8 a.m.).

It's a super quick easy read-it took me one night and I read it fast and maybe skimmed some parts.

First off, I love the idea, and felt a difference in my days since I have started. I do think though it IS rather obvious in spite of the title, it's just more difficult to create a habit of it, especially through life transitions.  I'll get to that later.

Second, although I love the idea, it comes across as a really sales-pitchy type of book and maybe more for executives and sales people or those with huge aspirations that way.  Hal's story at the beginning is incredible-he came back from huge injuries after a terrible car accident.  He has a motivating voice, (again maybe for my old ears, a bit too motivating), and many, many good reminders, but I really had to get to the guts of the book and adapt the book's basic message to my life.

SO back to the idea in my own words-

S.A.V.E.R.S is the acronym Hal uses.
Wake up early.  Don't hit snooze (never have in my life, I HATE snooze, it just makes you more tired! I tell this to my older kids all the time and they don't listen.  I also don't ever need an alarm clock because I have one in my head, so who am I to talk.)  We need to carve out time to do this and it needs to be in the morning or something else will suck the time away.  This whole process starts the day out right, in a positive, calm, purposeful, grateful note. (Also if you have a baby that wakes up at the crack of dawn, or all night, just forget about it all until a tiny bit more of sleep is not the most essential thing in your life.)

S-Silence. Take some quiet time by yourself to pray and meditate and breathe or just to be grateful for all that you have.

A-Affirmations.  Remind yourself of who you want to be today to those around you.

V-Visualization. What does it look like to be that person you just affirmed?  It's a mental dress rehearsal.

E-Exercise.

R-Reading.  The Bible, an inspirational book, a self-help book that gives a new perspective. (I think listening can be substituted-a podcast, sermon, book...)

S-Scribing. Journaling-a gratitude journal.

That is super brief, but essentially what the message is.  He talks about the process ideally being an hour in length.

I kill all birds with one stone because I am a mom and that is what we train ourselves to do-be efficient and take what we can get. :)  I can walk in the morning and go through the steps at the same time I'm getting that exercise in.

I think what makes this really work is the time to myself, exercise to get energized and feel good (it's so much about those chemicals in the brain and body and that boost mood), and then being purposeful (reminding myself daily of my purpose!) before the day starts and the house is up and running 100 miles an hour.  It is calming, a ritual, and I feel like when I get that head start, I am more like who I want to be as a person and to my family. This is what I mean when I say it's all obvious, just so obvious we forget how important it can be when we are serving everyone else's needs-spending time being quiet, praying, reminding ourselves of our bigger purpose, exercising our bodies and our minds and being grateful.

As I wrote earlier, I think in the different season of our lives this whole process could look different. Maybe we can't leave the house so we just find a quiet place, and do some stretching.  Maybe we can take the whole hour, maybe we wait until the kid's are at school, and maybe it's a quick read of an inspiring quote and affirmation, or Bible verse, and a little list of gratitude.

Here is a more extensive review if anyone is interested.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Apple Fritter Bread


This is so delicious! I doubled the recipe because it looked so tasty and was glad I did so since it went fast.  Matthew requested his own loaf and then topped the slices with vanilla ice cream.  He knows how to do dessert.

Apple Fritter Bread

Heat oven to 350.  Coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Mix together in a bowl:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Set aside.

In a different bowl combine:
Two apples, peeled, cored, chopped.
2 TBS white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Set aside.

In a mixer bowl combine:
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
2 eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Pour half of the batter into loaf pan.  Add half of the apple mixture, and then half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Repeat.  Lightly press apples into the cinnamon mixture and swirl through batter gently with a knife (I just made a figure 8 with the knife through the whole loaf pan once).

Bake 55-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

To make glaze mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Wait for 15 minutes after bread comes out of oven and drizzle on top.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures. 

These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. 

They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by siblings. 

They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. 

Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. 

Homely gestures. 

Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work. "

-Pope Francis-

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reader Question-Our Tempers

I've been a long time reader of yours. I remember reading you when I had just one very young baby, and now I have four beautiful children! 

I love my family dearly. I am so very grateful to be with my children day in and day out. I am constantly praying, reading, planning and pondering how to be the best mother I can be to them. I want to serve them well and do right by them. But man, oh man, do I struggle with my temper. 

I resolve over and over again not to lose my cool, but then one little thing pushes my buttons and oops! there I go again. This is not the mother I want to be. I want my children to only have positive associations when the think of their mother. I long to be calm, gentle, and patient. Always a safe place for my children to land.

How have you dealt with not losing your temper when tempted to do so? Do you have any thoughts? Maybe this has never been a hard struggle for you, and if that is the case, can I just ask you to pray that I would consistently be the mother I hope to be?

Dear Fellow Mother-
My first thoughts after reading your letter is that you are being too hard on yourself!  Four little children to raise and you are trying so hard to be calm and gentle and patient, but you are also human and you are doing BIG WORK every day and all night.

So let's clear this up-heck yes I lose my temper.  I have in the past and I won't guarantee that I'll never do it again-in fact I know I will-although with age and experience and prayer and some hard-earned wisdom and a wider lens on what really matters I do less.  

I sent my teenage daughter a quote the other day that I read in a book-"The only happy people I know are people I don't know very well."  I think this applies in this case because I "know of" mothers-legends-who have never raised their voice or lost their temper.  The funny thing is just that-they are legends-and I bet they would all say "Oh yes I have!" if asked personally about it.  

So every mother of many raises her voice, or gets angry, or slams a door-in fact I would say I think it's healthier than being in a calm cool controlled factory-like environment where any of our children's behaviors just warrant unemotional reactions.  That's not the real world.  It's good for them to know they might make someone who loves them deeply very emotional when they do things that aren't respectful or are just plain wrong, annoying, or dangerous to them or others. And it's good to know that their mother is human-she has feelings and headaches and good days and bad days, and makes mistakes, and sometimes even has to apologize.  We are living together and growing together just as we should be.

But it's never a good feeling when we lay in bed at night to feel guilty about something we know we could have done better that day.  And it's a better example to lose your temper very few times, but most other times to learn how to channel the frustration into something more productive-behavior changing-as we are the adults in the relationships.  As we are the model of behavior in our home, we create the environment-if it is one of short tempers, yelling and angry frustration or worse* we will see more of that behavior between our children.  

*I am an opponent of spanking or any other physical punishment. I've given a quick reactive spank three times in the 23 years of my mothering career when "losing it", and regretted it immediately as I know in my heart that it does NOT change their hearts or attitudes or behavior but has a tendency to make things worse and is the opposite of the example I want to set in my house.

So let's get to the good stuff-a little list of considerations and questions to ask:

-We can figure out our triggers-those "buttons"-maybe keep a little journal as the week goes on or maybe we can figure it out instantly: 

What time of day am I more prone to yell or be short-tempered or react angrily?  What is happening when I lose my patience? Rushing is a trigger for me-being too busy, doing too much in or out of the house, having too many places to be.  What can I take off my plate if this is the case?  What can I whittle down that's unnecessary at this season of our life? (Hint: Almost everything!)

Does it occur during the witching hours (before dinner)?  Maybe changing the routine would help-quiet time or calm TV time (PBS is my go to-not hyper shows!) for 30 minutes or sibling separation at a certain time of day would give a breather. Preparing dinner in the morning was a big one for me-I felt so much less frazzled and pulled while helping with homework and holding fussy babies. 

Is there a behavior or two that really triggers me in a child or children?  Be firm in changing behaviors that are triggers. That is a whole other post but coming up with a plan for changing that specific behavior, noting it and hanging it on the fridge to remind myself to correct it was a little something that worked for me in the earlier years-it is so much easier to tackle one little thing at a time and know that there is a loving corrective but firm plan instead of just getting mad at the child. 

Firmness, clear expectations, and consistency but also hugs, positive reinforcement, lots of noticing and complimenting the good (let them hear you say nice things about them to Dad or Grandma or a friend) and time with mom or dad (we are talking playing blocks on the floor or playing catch, nothing elaborate) does wonders for kids to change behavior.  

-We must be really willing to make big changes in our homes, lifestyles and schedules and routines (which are SO SO important!).  A little example- I found myself really frustrated when it came to enforcing time limits with electronics a long time ago-I decided they weren't worth the confrontations in our home and were detracting from the parent I wanted to be (not to mention the kid's brain cells) and finally decided they weren't worth it-there was no benefit to any of us. I put them all in a bin up in the closet and they were rarely if at all saw the light of day again (they have been moved to the dark recesses of the attic).  You have a right as a mother to cut down or eliminate the things or activities or events that cause you stress-most likely the benefit of any of these things is not worth the angst and anger it causes. You have a right to make your life easier in this way if it makes you a more patient mother.  

Be careful of expectations-do we want the house to look perfect, are we attempting a hobby or obligation that will just not fit into our season of life right now?  Let it go and come back to it later when more time and your own energy opens up (I realize this is more difficult than ever today.)  This was so true for me-the times I felt frazzled and short-tempered were really the times I wasn't allowing myself to stay focused, settled and content with motherhood. This is the biggest disfavor to ourselves I believe.  Letting our souls just do the most important job on earth with our whole hearts and minds is the best feeling and really a wonderful gift.  Doing one thing and one thing well brings us so much more peace and satisfaction.  

-Tired or hungry or coming down with something?  That's what I would say about a toddler who is fussy or short-tempered.  That applies to us also.  Unfortunately, tired is part of lives as mothers.  But sleep has to be a priority and if it's just not happening because we have a newborn, or colicky baby we need to give ourselves a break and know our moods will get better as we either adjust or get a little more rest.  Also, certain times of the month can be really difficult.  Just an awareness of when that is going to be can be helpful.  (A magic elixir would also but so far I haven't heard it exists.:) 

-Exercise. I can't say enough about how just walking or any little exercise routine has magically made me calmer and more patient.  Also, I get how this seems impossible.  I've gone years without being able to find the time to do this.  A little alone time combined with exercise kills two birds with one stone and add fresh air it really hits the mark.  (Hauling everyone to a gym causes more stress and isn't worth it in my experience.)  A quiet fast walk outside is precious to me-it is actually what keeps me sane today with all these ages and stages and my own hormones.

-Channel someone.  Really!  My mom has this voice when speaking with students and young children-they fall under a spell and magically obey her every word.  Maybe someone you know personally is just one of those super patient calm people-probably a teacher, maybe a beloved aunt. Pretend you are them even if you are seething inside-on the outside you are calm, cool and collected looking at the situation from above.  On the same lines...

-...react the opposite of what you are feeling.  Get quieter, calmer, slower, deep breathe, step back.  Say nothing. That doesn't mean to constantly ignore bad behavior (no one should strive to be a parent that watches their children being naughty and does nothing especially when that is affecting others), but in your home sometimes no reaction is the best reaction you can give at the time-sometimes this helps break the habit and the negative attention cycle some children seek. 

-I read a quick excerpt of a book that sounds so interesting to me. It's called "The Miracle Morning".  It's about setting yourself up for the day by going through a few different steps.  Once I read it in it's entirety I will do a post on it-but the steps in the morning are quiet time, visualization, affirmation, reading, exercise, writing.  I know what you are thinking-YEAH RIGHT!  I did too.  Without having read the book, and with doing all those things in no way close to an hour (I think the amount of time you are supposed to spend) I have tried this and it is truly wonderful.  I really think one could condense all that into minutes. Visualization and affirmation are huge tools I think that could change our behaviors and remind us of the big picture-that mother that we want our children to remember. One little page of an encouraging mothering book (i.e. Sally Clarkson, Mac Blesdoe, or I am loving Meg Meeker podcasts on my walk or in car) and a quick journal note to self is inspirational. Again, I'll write more on this once I read the book and tell how I adapt it to fit into my life.  It's daily purposeful reminders in every way possible right when we wake up to set our day off straight that helps.

-Keep praying!  We are works in progress, doing the most important work on earth, and God gives us grace and forgiveness and love to start each new day fresh.

With Love and Understanding,
Sarah

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Favorite "Pull Myself Out Of A Rut" Books

Sometimes I have needed a pick me up-when I feel overwhelmed, or when I've let myself get in a negative thought pattern about mothering or marriage or housekeeping, or life in general-those are what I call "ruts".

I feel like nothing helps to lift me up and get me going more than a good book that offers a chance to change my attitude or brings me some new (trivial or not) wisdom or just a fresh perspective and a little encouragement and get-up-and-go (so much of caring for a house and little ones is the constant repetition which can wear on a spirit).  They bring me appreciation and remind me to be grateful too. Sometimes honestly it's just the little kick in the bee-hind that I have needed.

This is a short list that I can come up with off the top of the head of books that will always be "special" to me.

Some of these are old  (remember I've been doing this for 23 years) but they are still on my bookshelf and I am pretty sure always will be.


Mitten Strings For God by Katrina Kenison
Gentle, calming, reflective-this book always helps me remember the bigger things, and also sets me back on track of appreciating the slow long days of little ones.

Happy Housewives by Darla Shine
This book must have a preface with it, because it's definitely a kick-in-the-behind book.  Written by a feisty New Jersey mom who gave up a big career to stay home and had to make a big time attitude adjustment.  It's a light read, but a great story.  I read it long long ago and it is has always stayed with me.  (She also has some great recipes in the book that I still use.)

Parenting With Dignity by Mac Blesdoe
I've linked to this several times because I love it so much.  It has helped me step back and look at the big picture of the mothering work I am trying to do here every day and also motivates me to work hard to establish a close relationship with each child.  It's excellent.



The Happiness Project and Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin
I love Gretchen Rubin-I love the Type A way she writes, and her specific detailed thought processes. This book really really helps me remember what brings joy to my life and makes me happy and that it is so worth our time to stop and figure this out.  I adore both of these books.



Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley
And old book about housecleaning.  It is a little funny in that, forgive me, some people really need to start at rock bottom when it comes to cleaning and decluttering, but it is good motivation to get a system going and conquer little bits at a time.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Laura Schlessinger
Just a great book for getting out of negative cycles of nagging and criticizing.  And we've all been there, I'm sure (or at least all the friends I've had can relate.)  Another kick-in-the-butt straight talk sort of book.



The Five Love Languages and
The Five Love Languages for Children 
The Five Love Languages for Teenagers
by Gary Chapman
So sweet and attitude changing towards loving husband and children.  I'm so happy I read all of these and often pull them out for little reminders.


Happiness Is A Serious Problem by Dennis Prager
I just read this one and it will stay on my shelves.  Light read, quick but meaningful and thought provoking and for lack of a better word-forgiving.  Taught me about expectations and perfection in a different way that was eye-opening.


Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly
I don't have a copy on my book shelves because I lent it out but this book changed my spiritual life-it was really a switch for me to truly loving and understanding the depth of Catholicism-but it is a light read if that makes any sense.  I wish I would have read this in college.





Monday, September 11, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"Motherhood is worth every sacrifice of sleep, time, energy and everything else you think you are giving up now. 

As the survived mother of ten children, I tell you the joys outweigh the struggles and your children will honor you more than you can imagine. 

You are much better at what you do than you think you are. 
Keep on praying and believing that you are made for the job."

(A sweet reader left this comment on a post last week-it deserves to be "quoted".  Thank you to whoever wrote this!) 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

On "Clingy" Children

It's funny that the more I have written on raising babies and toddlers and little children, the more I realize the answer is "know thy child" and "trust your mother heart".  It's almost always the answer-which is such a blessing to realize because it means there is little use for experts in this equation-we are the experts in most cases, about our own children.  If I wracked my brain I could give 1,000 really good examples of me finding this out in real life through my own experiences.

Janey was the clingiest baby and toddler to me-one could say it was (is, because she still is sometimes) a part of her personality.  I could also contribute it to her birth order-being the last of six, and seeing everyone walk in and out of the door so many times a day, with friends visiting also, and then not understanding why some siblings were gone for weeks and months at college, and then came home only to leave again.  Imagine that in a little one's head!  Most likely it is a combination of both.

But it is what it is-she was velcro to me day and night.  I sometimes wondered if this was 'healthy', but I didn't wonder much-because of my experiences and also because I had bigger fish to fry, like laundry and meals, to "wonder" much about something so little.

Today there is SO much advice on this I feel-and pressure!  Preschools now offer programs that begin at 18 months, and I've been told by the young mom crowd that this can feel very competitive to them-what if all these kids have a head up on learning and their child "falls behind"?  (I felt the same as a new mom and when I look back I regret early preschool that I enrolled my oldest in so much-it was so traumatic for something so completely unnecessary, as few times as it happened.) Moms feel forced into it, and although some little ones are just fine, there is a lot of tears and fears in others that are just supposed to be ignored as the child "gets used to it".  Independence is stressed so much, along with socialization (for babies!?) and "getting used" to being away from mom.

I think though, security is the rock of real independence and babies and toddlers need that rock to come back to, some more often than others.  Trust is so important.  And most important all of these little people we are talking about are so different.  And rushing them and pushing them and wishing they were someone else (comparisons!) is not good for them or healthy for us. Sometimes it is just purely heartbreaking for all involved.  And yes, we all "get used" to things in life, but that does not mean these things are the right things to get used to, or don't create more problems that come out in other ways.  It is good and healthy for little ones to be home with mom-they aren't missing a thing that can't be replicated at home.

My friend told me a story about her sister's little girl who sounded so much like Janey, even more so! Never left her side well past preschool age, and was just always "right there" were ever the mom turned.  The term "velcro baby" would be used correctly here and it took her a long long time to grow out of it.  People would offer advice mainly about how to get her "away" and on her own as quickly as possible.  Her mother just let her be-let her be who she was and enjoyed the time she knew would end one day (as she is a mom of many and very wise).  And this velcro baby, toddler and child is now a young adult, living and traveling all over the WORLD on her own.  If that isn't true independence I don't know what is.

Janey has grown so much this past year-waiting a year for preschool after a rough start last year has worked so well for her-she is so confident and happy about it every day.  I can see her independence in all things grow as she makes sense of the world and what her siblings are doing and where everyone is and truly can now understand it all.  I see her trying new things, and sometimes deciding not to do so just yet, but just to hold back and observe.  As the youngest she gets the benefit of me knowing how fast these years go and that there should be NO RUSH in those years, but just deep appreciation for who she is and what stage of development she is as she becomes a lovely person-exactly who God meant her to be.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

The trick is to enjoy life.
Don't wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.

Marjorie Hinckley

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thinking, Playing, Reading

Thinking:
I love this article:Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation.  Not because the content doesn't make me very concerned, and honestly, pretty sad, but because SOMEONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT.   I hope it leads to change-delaying phones later and later, awareness that it is not good for little ones to be staring at screens and common rules and regulations (in school also!) that make our jobs as moms easier.  This article also gives me a little more "umphhh" to be stronger than ever-and gives me some back up evidence-when talking to my older kids about cell phone use.

Just a tiny excerpt-
"There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy."

Playing:
Janey had a birthday!  We have had quiet playful mornings (or grocery shops) and are getting into a really nice routine.  She loves school-so glad I waited a year-what a difference it has made!  

Two things that she received for her birthday that she loves (she is at the age where she loves pretty much everything under the sun-which makes me have to restrain myself):

There is one Dad and two boys and Janey in here-but usually Janey plays with it by herself. :)


I think she has her arm around her pretend husband.
So far, this will also serve as a Halloween costume (killing two birds with one stone.)

PS. I don't have a photo of these yet, but she also received these butterfly wings-she rides her bike with them to get the full effect.


Reading:
These are our favorites right now:
I know I've mentioned this one before, but it's such a cute story, I laugh every time I read it. Poor Pointsettia just wishes for some privacy and time alone and she gets it-but finds the trade off isn't worth it.


"general misbehavior" :)

Really cute short stories, poems and rhymes-this is our bedtime book right now.



I am reading this book and absolutely loving it:
It is very very thought provoking and inspirational, and honestly has helped me so much feel more content in life and well, happier.  This is one of those books I'd like to remember to reread every year.  Funny but with lots and lots of wisdom and very practical.

“Because gratitude is the key to happiness, anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. There is an inverse relationship between expectations and gratitude: The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Encouragement For The Week

"It seems to me that when we feel our most inadequate, we are presented with our greatest opportunity for self-revelation and growth.  We are presented with an opportunity to take a chance on ourselves and come out on top-to build a confidence reinforcing chain of success.  

So I do not, at bottom, believe that mothers are either "born' for the job or not.  We may be frightened of mothering. We may not feel up to it, we may run from its challenges, and we  may call our fear a simple inborn ineptitude for the job.  

But then we will never experience the seas, and we will never see the view from the mountaintop."

Linda Burton