Ready, Set, Go!

Race through Mundane Tasks

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock… No, that isn’t my biological clock ticking away, thank goodness!  My daughter’s birth, eighteen months ago, signaled the cessation of baby fever for me.

The clock I refer to is my favorite gadget – a humble kitchen timer! That in itself speaks volumes, since I am married to a techie. My husband gifts me at least a couple of thoughtful gizmos on every birthday and anniversary. I do not mean that sarcastically. I would literally be lost without the GPS system he proudly presented me with years ago.

But I digress. My simple analog timer inspires productivity and quashes procrastination. Perhaps it’s the ticking sound that serves as a physical reminder of time passing. Or, maybe, it is my inherent desire to compete and win.

Whatever it is, setting the timer at 15 minute intervals enables me to accomplish wonders. I find    myself whizzing through mundane chores like laundry, dishes and cleaning the bathrooms.  I should add that my bathrooms are pretty clean in spite of my hurrying through the job, lest people think that I sacrifice quality for racing the clock.

The timer also helps me with tasks I consider daunting, probably because psychologically 15 minutes is a small investment of time. The gadget especially comes in handy when Hurricane Toddler treats my living room as a dumping ground for all the fascinating objects she transports from all over our home. Dirty laundry, shoes, toys, crayons, books, make-up, and items from the pantry are quickly put back in place with the timer ticking in the background.

However, the lure of the timer is not just for grown-ups. My four-year-old succumbed to the power of the device as well. His dawdling at breakfast time would inevitably make us late for school. Not anymore!  Spurred into action by the timer, he downs his milk and whole grain waffle in less than fifteen minutes. We reach school five minutes before class begins!

How do you motivate yourself and the kids?

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‘Me’ Time for Mommy

Happy Moms Make Themselves a Priority

My son and daughter, soon after we returned from the hospital.

Like most moms, my life changed irrevocably the instant I held my son in my arms for the first time. Completely captivated, I happily immersed myself in caring for my son, who quickly became the center of our world. Nighttime feedings and sleep scheduling issues disappeared gradually and life began to function like clockwork.

But much as I cherished my time with my son, I felt our family would be more complete if I added a sibling to the mix. My daughter arrived practically effortlessly into the world. But transitioning my beautiful, low-maintenance baby into our family proved to be harder than I imagined.

For what seems like the longest time, I felt torn between my son, who struggled with his role as big brother, and my daughter, who depended on me for her sustenance. I figured if I gave up the things I loved doing, I would automatically have more time for the kids.

But I was so wrong. Neglecting myself paved the way for discontentment and stress.

Fortunately for me, just before I hit rock bottom, I realized that focusing solely on the kids wasn’t working.

Keeping that in mind, I began to make a conscious effort to make time for myself. Paradoxically, I could give more to my family after I began to look after myself.

Here are some of the things I do to nourish my body and soul:

  1. Curl up with a book. I’m actually convinced that my kids enjoy reading because they watch me read.
  2. Exercise on a regular basis. Weight training and yoga have done wonders for my strength, stamina and general well-being.
  3. Enjoy date night with my husband every Saturday after we put the kids to bed.
  4. Eat at regular intervals. I take the time to sit and eat rather than standing in the kitchen and gulping my meals down.
  5. Keep in touch with my friends and extended family.
  6. Shop and look after my appearance.
  7. I went back to writing, which used to be my first love.
  8. Volunteer to help the less fortunate.
  9. I hug and kiss my kids. There’s something about stopping everything and just holding them that makes all the stress melt away.

What are some of the things you do to feel refreshed and rejuvenated?

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Little Llama’s Pajama Drama

Of Preschool Angst, Pajama Parties and Meditation

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“Mama, Tina invited to her Pajama Party tomorrow. May I please go?” were the first words my little llama uttered when I picked him up from school.

“No,” I responded, thrown off balance. It was a question I wasn’t expecting to tackle for a long, long time.

“But why, mama?” he persisted.

“Well, for starters you are only four. How will you possibly sleep without me? Besides, her mother hasn’t called me,” I answered quickly.

“But if she calls will you let me go,” he asked at bedtime. “We’ll have to wait and see,” I said.

Of course, I had no intention of letting him go even if the mother of the girl had called and invited him. Fortunately for me, no such invitation was forthcoming.

The next morning brought about a torrent of tears and hurt feelings. “But she invited me, why do we have to wait for her mom to call? Please, please take me to her house,” he cried.

“I know you are sad and confused but mommies are in charge of handing out invitations. And little children do not have sleepovers at your age,” I replied.

Then he went back into the whole bit where he had been invited. I explained, yet again, why he couldn’t go. After 30 minutes of us going back and forth about the same thing, there were two frustrated people instead of one!

And then it struck me! We had recently read a delightful book called Peaceful Piggy Meditations written by Kerry Lee MacLean.  The author states that meditation “makes it easier to accept things that happen” and makes us “stop wishing for things to be different.”

We followed the book’s directions for meditating. The kid sat cross-legged on a rug with a metal pot and a pencil that substituted for a gong. He hit the pencil against the pot and began to inhale and exhale. He continued to breathe deeply for the next few minutes. Finally, he hit the pencil against the pot to signify the end of the meditation session.

Although he insisted he had not forgotten about the Pajama Party, I could see that he had visibly calmed down.

Later, I took him for a bicycle ride followed by a family yoga class at the gym. By lunchtime, my happy, smiling child was back.  The fact that we also had a little Pajama Party at home was the icing on the cake.

Did I miss the Preschool Pajama Party Revolution? Would you send your kid to a friend’s for a sleepover? If so, what do you think is the appropriate age for kids to spend the night elsewhere?

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Stress-Free Discipline Part II

Offering Choices Leads to Cooperation

There are times when “I-messages” don’t always result in cooperation. But this doesn’t mean yelling or getting mad is inevitable. Giving choices is the next logical step to getting your child to listen.

When we come home from school, I expect my son to put his shoes and socks away, wash his hands and come to the dining table for lunch. But sometimes, he flings his shoes in different directions of the living room, his socks are astray and he begins to play.

After my “I-message” has fallen on deaf ears, or I hear a “mom, but I want to play with my trucks first,” I resort to giving him choices rather than losing my cool.

“Would you like to pick up your shoes and socks and go to the bathroom on your own, or would you like me to escort you to the restroom after I help you put your socks and shoes away,” always does the trick.

Giving choices is intrinsic to the Montessori Philosophy that focuses on raising responsible, independent children. Children tend to readily accept choices because they feel in control.

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However, it is essential to offer choices that are acceptable to you. “Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your yellow shirt today,” allows my son a certain degree of autonomy, while I get to ensure he doesn’t wear his ratty dinosaur shirt outside the house. It’s a win-win situation.

Authors of The Parents Handbook, Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Gary McKay, and Don Dinkmeyer Jr. consider giving choices a “democratic style of parenting.” Giving choices helps set limits for children and gives kids “choices within those limits.”

However, offering choices should be used for more than just discipline. When children are given choices about family decisions they feel like they are raised in an environment where their opinion counts. It could be as simple as “do you want to go to the library or the park today?”A child who feels he contributes to family-related decisions feels valued and cared for.

Adults respond well to choices,  too. “Honey, would you like to do the dishes or would you like to take the kids for a bath,” has never failed me! See what I mean when I say win-win situation?

 

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Stress-Free Discipline Part I

Effective, Gentle Discipline that Works

Do you ever find yourself repeatedly telling your child to stop doing something? Do you get tired of sounding like a broken record?

My husband and I faced this challenge until recently. Here’s what would happen:

Our dinner time, which I had always envisioned as a peaceful time where we would connect as a family had turned into a power struggle. My son would kick us incessently under the table.

And if he wasn’t kicking us under the table, he would lie down on his chair. How anyone can eat while lying down is a complete mystery to me.

Repeating the phrase “you need to stop” and other variations did not help.  If anything, it exacerbated the situation. We were at our wits end.

Until I discovered the use of the “I-message” in The Parents Handbook. Authors Don Dinkeyer, Sr, Gary D. Mckay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr. caution parents against using “you-messages” that “put down, blame or nag.”

Instead they focus on using “I-messages” that encourage cooperation. An “I-message” has three parts:

1. State what is happening.

2. State your feelings.

3. Give an explanation for why you feel that way.

We used the simpler route and calmly said: “I feel disrespected when you kick me under the table.” My son looked vaguely confused for a few seconds, muttered something about needing to support his feet and wonder of wonders, he stopped kicking!

Encouraged by our success, we tried the “I-message” when he began to slide off his chair. “Sid, I feel frustrated when you lie down on your chair instead of sitting on it.” “O.K. mama,” was what he said as he sat up straight. It was as simple as that.

It was absolutely surreal! Try it for yourself.  But don’t be surprised if your child uses “I-statements” to verbalize his or her feelings. Incidentally, “I messages” also work well in marital relationships.

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