Friday Five: Blogs I Follow

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’m sharing five blogs I enjoy and read (somewhat) regularly.

I’ve tried to add some variety, which was pretty easy because I read a little bit of everything.

1) The Fashion Passionista. I know Kat in real life and think she’s the cat’s pajamas. She loves fashion – with a passion 😉 – but shares about real life, too. She a WAHM mama like me, and is a total #bossbabe.

2) The Frugal Girl. This is the first blog I ever read. It was several years ago and all I did was Google ‘sandwich bread recipe’ and Frugal Girl was one of the top results. I started following her that day, and it’s one of the few blogs I still read every day. Love her.

3) 100 Days of Real Food. My go-to for recipes! Lisa shares a lot about switching to a healthier way of eating, too, and has a whole series about doing so on a budget.

4) Live Simply. Another wealth of information on wellness and recipes – from hand soap to cinnamon rolls.

5) The Prairie Homestead. Because a little piece of me wants to be Ma Ingalls when I grow up.

Balancing Nurturing and Fulfillment

Did you see Glenn Close on the Golden Globes? I didn’t watch them or anything, but I saw a clip make its way around the Insta. She said something about women being nurturers – that it’s what is expected of us – but we have to seek fulfillment, too.

And that’s a hard thing. A thing I’ve been thinking about a lot of late.

Just a few months ago, I was in a really bitter place. I was feeling suffocated and tired, and like nobody in this house cared a bit about me. That’s not true, of course. And I could point out a million small reasons I felt that way, but they would just be excuses.

The real reason was me. My perception of my life. How well I was taking care of myself…which wasn’t well at all.

It was also my own inner struggle with who I’m going to be each day.

If I was a single, childless lady – or even just childless – my life would look very different. I could pee without Girlchild busting in on me, for one thing… But my life would be my own. I could write all day long if I wanted. Or eat chocolate cake for breakfast and not have to share.

There is a big part of me that desperately wants to be successful in my work. I want to write novels people love and that help them in some small way. Even if it’s just to make them cry and emotionally process the pain they connect to in the story. That can go a long way…

There’s an equal part of me that wants to devote every moment to my family. I feel like it’s what I’m called to do. My main job on this earth. These children have chosen/been given to me. I’m responsible for their childhood and their transition to adulthood.

That’s a big deal.

I’m not saying that motherhood leaves me entirely unfulfilled. That wouldn’t be true at all. Moms and dads alike know the feeling of seeing your kids succeed – their first steps, first time riding a bike with no training wheels, their first time handling a conflict on their own with grace. There’s a rush of joy every time our kids reach their own goals, and it brings a satisfaction that’s hard to get anywhere else.

But we can’t just live vicariously through our children. We need fulfillment of our own. This blog and writing are part of mine, but life really seems to get in the way of that sometimes. It feels like a struggle to find the peace and quiet to type a whole post in one sitting or edit more than a couple of pages at a time.

No matter what I do, one area of my life suffers. I can’t keep all of the balls in the air, so to speak.

How are we supposed to balance it all?

I literally have no idea.

Except… maybe we’re not supposed to keep it all going on our own. Ideally, we have a partner to help shoulder some of the parenting responsibilities. I know that doesn’t always happen – I was raised by a single mom.

I tend to feel bad if I lean on Lou to help more around the house. He’s the breadwinner, by far, and I know how hard he works to support us. If I ask him to make space for me to find my own fulfillment, it makes me feel guilty.

But he’s a parent, too. And I have to say, he does a wonderful job by most standards. He takes Girlchild with him to the grocery, takes the boys to work with him on the weekends when he can, and tries to make sure I get some solitude during the week because he knows how much I need it. It’s hard for me to even let him do that.

I guess the way to find balance is to let go of some things. Those things that don’t matter… And to understand that we are many things all in one. People in general, but especially women.

We are life-bearers.

We are the nurturers.

We are the glue of our families.

We are the spiritual watchdogs, so to speak.

We are creative in our own right.

We are uniquely gifted.

We are worthy.

We’re also the laundress, cook, chauffeur…and many other things. All of these hats we wear constantly compete with each other for the place of honor. They want all of our attention and focus, and we forget that above all:

We are individuals.

Our life has its own purpose, apart from the daily grind. We have a spirit that needs nourished, and we’re the only ones that can do it.

 

 

Wellness Wednesday: Dry Brushing

I’m bringing back Wellness Wednesday – I’ll share a post about a wellness tip that I actually implement in real life. It will be a) easy to do, b) inexpensive, and c) not take a ton of time. Because taking care of yourself really doesn’t have to be super complicated.

This week it’s dry brushing.

In an effort to keep this post short and sweet, I won’t go into all the details of dry brushing here. You can find a detailed article from Wellness Mama here. Make sure you follow her while you’re there. 😉

Dry brushing is basically sweeping the skin with a body brush. It can supposedly help lymphatic flow and makes my skin look and feel a lot better. It exfoliates and works really well for ‘chicken skin’ on the back of the arms. Some say it helps with cellulite, but the jury is out on that one – it’s also not definite if it can help with digestion from what I’ve read.

You start at your toes and work your way up, using a different brush for your face. I use this brush set. And here is a video of the process. It seriously only takes a few minutes. The video only shows arms and legs, but I do my whole body from bottom to top.

Then you hop in the shower and go about your day!

All I can say is, it takes only a few minutes before your shower and I think it’s great. I can actually feel my sinuses drain most days. It’s sort of a strange sensation… A brush can last indefinitely, if you take care of it, and isn’t overly expensive to begin with. This is a super easy way to start taking a little extra care of yourself.

Be well. ❤

 

 

 

It Isn’t Dirty

You guys… I was a sick puppy most of last week. I kept up with blogging and Instagram-ing, and we had a successful first week of homeschool preschool. But I was a mess beyond that.

Dishes went undone. The laundry is piled up. Every surface seems to be either dusty or sticky from little fingers. I’ve still got a lot to catch up on.

I wanted to write a quick post first, because I had a thought last week about my body.  And walking around in my  underwear in front of my kids.

(Let me explain…)

A few years ago, I read this book called ‘Preparing Him For The Other Woman’. I should preface this by saying I was in a very legalistic phase of Christianity at the time. I was determined to be the best, most holy church wife and mom in the world. I was going to be perfect.

Anyway, this book was all about preparing your sons for the ‘other woman’ in their life – their future wife. Meaning you are the original woman in their life as the mother. Which creeps me out in retrospect. At the time, it seemed legit.

In one particular chapter, the author talked about being modest in front of your kids. Especially your sons. (Daughters if you’re man, obviously.) She said they should never ever see you naked (okay, I agree with that) and not even in your underwear or scanty pajamas.

God forbid your sons be turned on by their mother, I guess?!?!

Last week, Lou was a huge help with getting the boys off to school. They get on the bus insanely early now, and I was not in any shape to get up and feed them and pack lunches like usual. One morning, I realized I forgot to make sure Jack got a snack to take to school, so I stumbled out into the kitchen in my usual pajamas – a t-shirt and undies.

I get crazy hot flashes at night, so even though I’m usually freezing cold all day, I dress super light for bed.

As I was washing up an apple for J and making sure they got bundled up for the bus, I remembered that damn book and started berating myself for walking around in my undies. In my own house. When I was barely conscious.

Did my kids bat an eye? Nope.

You know why? THEY DON’T LOOK AT MY BODY THAT WAY.

Plus, I’m a thirty-year-old mom and wife. My undies happen to reflect that, thankyouverymuch, and cover more than your typical swimming suit. I wasn’t walking around in butt floss, or anything.

My body is. not. dirty. It’s not a sexual instrument made for ogling. It’s just a body. Flesh carrying around a soul.

Girls start getting this message so young… Cover up! Don’t be a slut… You look like you wanted it… We learn that modesty is akin to safety. Our bodies are this shameful temptation that men just can’t handle.

That’s not the message I want to send to my kids.

I want them to understand that our bodies are beautiful, not shameful. All shapes, sizes, whatever… Our bodies work hard every day to keep us going. And at the end of the day, being sexual is pretty low on the list for a body. They’ve got other things to worry about. Like breathing.

I tend to be a bit prudish, as much as I hate to admit it. I don’t like to watch  movies with a lot of sexual nudity, and refuse to watch any graphic assault scenes of that nature. The over-sexualization of our culture really troubles me.

But I’m not going to treat my body like something bad or dirty.

I’m going to cherish it. Care for it. Treat it well.

And I’m going to teach my kids to do the same.

Especially my daughter.

 

 

Thoughts On Homeschooling

I want to homeschool my  kids.

Before we go on, you should know that. I’ve wanted to homeschool since Jack was four. We ended up sending him to a Montessori preschool for a bit, and then another (less expensive) preschool the next year, then we homeschooled for a couple of years.

Jack has been in grades 1-4 in public school, and Middle Kid has been in K-2. (Fourth and second are their current grades.)

Lou does not want me to homeschool.

He think our kids will end up being weirdos, or that I might lose my mind. I’m not saying those aren’t valid points, but I think being aware of those possibilities makes a difference.

We know people who were homeschooled that don’t quite blend in – and some that are excelling in life far beyond us. We also know public schooled people that are struggling to integrate into society. I think education has very little to do with that, in comparison to things like home life and emotional support and nurturing. Know what I mean?

And yes, having all three kids home full time tests every tiny bit of patience I have. I don’t get my necessary recharging time, and I feel a little frayed. But my MIL will take the kids literally any second of any day – something I was too proud to accept when we homeschooled before. I didn’t want Lou to think I couldn’t handle it on my own.

The kids aren’t entirely happy in school this year. Jack is probably doing the best because he’s a social kid. How two extreme introverts ended up with two extroverted children is beyond me… Jack and Girlchild love people and enjoy being in large groups.

J complains that he’s bored a lot, and misses the fact that homeschooling is finished much faster than a typical school day. He can work very quickly and move on to things he wants to do. Middle Kid tells me almost every single day he hates school and begs me not to make him go every Monday. He has friends, he does well grade-wise, he’d just rather be at home – reading dinosaur books, if I had to guess. That kid loves him some dinos…

It’s not unusual for me to be attracted to things that are sort of on the fringe… but homeschooling isn’t really a fringe thing anymore. It’s gaining popularity all the time, and I think we really need to examine that. Not just my family, but society as a whole.

Is school really serving kids well anymore? Basic, public, one-size-fits-all school I mean.

I don’t think it does.

The kids have all had amazing teachers. I have absolutely no complaints there. Both boys had the same first grade teacher and still adore her. They wish they could have her every year! And we’re fortunate our kids learn very easily and don’t have extra hurdles to overcome (like dyslexia for instance). The boys are avid readers and actually enjoy learning. They’re like their mama that way. 😉

But… the TESTING. If there’s one thing that drives me crazy it’s the amount of standardized testing these kids go through. I  mean… our kids always score high and it doesn’t phase them too much because it’s all they know. What about the kids that struggle? Some of these tests they repeat a few times through the year and set goals and all these things… Do tests really reflect how much a kid is learning??

I had a friend in school that had horrible test anxiety. She was super smart, but when it came to tests she wouldn’t perform to her usual ability. She totally freaked out. This culture of testing kids to death would have been hell for her, and I know there are kids like that now.

Even Jack, who almost always scores above-average, gets test anxiety. He feels like these tests dictate if he’s smart or not, and have a lot of say in who he gets to be. I’m not just inferring this – he told me so himself. The possibility of not doing well really bothers him.

He’s not learning for the joy of it.

And that, my friends, is how we burn kids out on their basic love of exploring new concepts.

I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t like to learn stuff. It may not be algebra, but there is always something that just lights a kid up. For Jack it’s S.T.E.A.M – Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. He loves to paint and draw as much as he loves to learn coding and build stuff. Middle Kid loves history and science  – dinos and geology especially.  He knows more about dinos than is humanly possible. I think he might have a separate brain just for storing dino info.

Homeschooling allowed us a lot of flexibility when it came to their independent work. It took us 2-3 hours to do our required work, then they had the rest of the day to play or explore their own interests. We were also able to incorporate a lot of it into our school work.

I also think public school can perpetuate this idea of busy-ness in our lives. Kids have a more active social life than a lot of adults anymore. Clubs, sports, after school programs… These kids are running themselves (and their parents) ragged. Add in all of the screen time and we’re raising very different kids than I grew up with.

Some of that is what it is… Each generation is going to change. But I’m worried that some of these changes are to the detriment of our children.

I mentioned before the boys each got a Nintendo DS for Christmas, as a gift from their grandpa. Over Christmas break, they had unrestrained access. It was new, they were excited… Now that we’re back to our routine, they only get about an hour a day of allowed time. We also disabled any online access. It’s for games only.

Until this year, video games were a no-no in our house. We had a game that plugged into the TV (Ms Pac-Man), but it died a few months ago so we replaced it with an NES Classic this year (the cute mini version). Still, it usually only gets action on the weekend. It was never a daily thing before, and it’s not now.

I’m not saying this is the perfect solution, but our insistence on no video games forced our kids to get more creative. They would complain that so and so had this or that…and then we’d send them outside to roam the woods. They will spend hours outside and come in filthy and worn out… just like kids should.

They climb trees. Hike to the four corners of the woods. Find all kinds of weird things (like the skull of what we think was a raccoon…) and do other outdoorsy things.

That was another advantage of homeschooling – lots and lots of time outside. On nice days we’d take our work outside, too. They could get plenty of sunshine and fresh air and play.

Have you talked to a ten year old recently? They’re basically adults. They worry about politics and the economy and things I didn’t have the slightest idea about when I was ten. We’re raising kids that are already stressed out. Kids that are overweight. Kids that have a lower life expectancy than us!

Is school the only issue? Definitely not. But education is a good place to start… It’s our method of training our kids, after all. What kind of life are we setting them up for?

It’s been a hot debate in our house lately, and I’m pushing to bring the kids home next year. I’m actually intending to start in June and already have quite a bit of curriculum stockpiled… Even though Lou is still on the fence. (Okay, maybe he’s on the other side of the fence…all the way across the field…)

I feel like a year-round approach can be really helpful. I mean, one argument for public school (from Lou, anyway) is that it prepares kids for real life. Who gets a three month vacation every year?? Keeping a balanced schedule year-round is way more realistic.

My last argument for homeschooling is the lack of soul and spirit in public schools. That’s required by law, obviously, and makes it an even playing field for kids from all backgrounds… But I want more for my kids. I want a holistic education that nourishes their body, mind and spirit. Learning that combines all of these things (the Waldorf method really interests me).

Spiritual growth is one of my values, and I really hope the kids learn to make it a priority in their own life. When the majority of their time is spent in school, where it’s not allowed to factor in, how can they?? Yes, we have time with them at home, but I think you get my point. If school is the standard, it’s not setting the bar very high in that regard.

You guys… I could go on about this for hours. I’m already up to over 1500 words, so I guess I’d better stop myself.

My point is, we have to start looking at each kid individually. Even when we break kids into groups based on ability, we’re not really reaching each kid on a heart level. Kids are getting missed, believing they’re not good enough, when they just haven’t found the thing that makes them shine… This isn’t the fault of the teachers – it’s the standards they are held to.

Part of my calling on this earth is to raise my kids and prepare them for life, to the best of my ability. That means I have to do what I think is best for them. And it may not look like what everyone else is doing.

And that’s okay.