Monday, October 29, 2012

The Playground Project

I have recently become aware of how much time my boys spend indoors. Not only that, but how much time they spend watching tv and movies and playing video games. For those who don't know or couldn't guess, based on what I've already said, they spend a lot of time indoors in front of the television.

How did this happen? I mean, I know that so much "tube time" isn't good for anyone, let alone young, growing children.  I know that they need to be playing, often outside, a lot! The truth is that I let my guard down and tv time snuck in. I often used it as a babysitter and allowed the boys almost unlimited access to its special brand of hypnosis. PBS, Netflix, and Wii games became as common as food around here, and I know that isn't a good thing.

In fact, according to this site, TV viewing can contribute to all kinds of problems from obesity, health problems, and sleep disturbances to violence, poor grades in school-aged children, and increased use of alcohol and drugs as children get older.

And according to this article, a lack of free play can contribute to anxiety, depression and short attention spans in children. In contrast, free play time helps children gain decision making, problem solving, and self-control skills. It helps them learn how to handle emotions and get along with others.

OK, I know my kids need less screen time and more play time and in an attempt to get just that I intend to start a 30 day experiment I am calling, "The Playground Project."  For 30 days I intend to
get my children playing for at least an hour a day. I'm not too particular on where they play, as long as it is not at home where TV will be a temptation. We will probably try some new places and rainy or particularly cold days may merit a trip to the mall's indoor play area or a fast food restaurant's play area, but I'm going to try to get us all outdoors if possible and practical each day. It helps that there is not one but TWO playgrounds right next door to our apartment!

I hope to blog about this expiriment at least weekly. Lets see how free play time changes our family over the next month! Please, any readers who have children, feel free to take the challenge also! It can mean only good things for you and your kids!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday- What we've been up to

I found my first ever four leaf clover- and within two weeks after that I have found 6 more four leaf clovers and a 7 leaf clover.
Playing at their favorite indoor play area... Chick-fil-a.
We dyed eggs for Easter.  It was interesting with a 2 and three year old and a table with wheels on it, but we didn't have any major disasters... and I learned a better way to hard boil an egg!  (More on that later!)
Playing at the playground!  The school next door has a playground that we usually only get access to in the evenings and in the summer, but last week was Spring Break so we spent a lot of time at the playground.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Coffee and Housework and Hopes and Dreams.

I haven't always been a regular coffee drinker.  I've liked coffee for as long as I can remember, but I preferred to drink it at night.  Recently I decided to try making coffee a part of my morning routine.  Boy has it made a difference!  I seem to stay focused and on task much easier, not to mention that I seem to feel generally happier.  I realized a couple of weeks into this routine that things were getting done that I had always wanted to get to.  Our little apartment is slowly being decluttered and various things are getting cleaned off and cleaned up and it's becoming a much easier place to live in.   Is the coffee the culprit?   I think so. 

But not only is the apartment coming together- I'm also spending more time with the kids.  Before, I would sit down to play with them or teach them something and I would find myself in another room doing something else and realize that I really hadn't spent any time with them.  So not only am I getting more accomplished, I'm spending more time with my family at the same time.  Who knew that was possible?

All because of what many would call an "unhealthy" habit.  Maybe it is unhealthy for some, but if it can increase my quality of life and that of my family's THIS much, I'll take the potential health risks!

Beyond that, I've also been buckling down financially.  I've been dreaming of what is to come for our family.  More than dreaming, actually.  I've been planning.  And paying. 

I finally signed up for the doula workshop that will be held in Nashville this June.  I'm so excited!  And a little nervous.  Who wouldn't be?  I imagine it as some grand weekend summit with a ton of information thrown at me... and then... then I need to attend three births (but I may have to attend as many as 12) in order to get certified.  I'm equally excited and nervous about this prospect. 

 Why excited?  Because this is my passion!  Because I love pregnancy, birth, and newborns!

Why nervous? First, it is a little intimidating to do much of anything the first time or 10 (depending on what it is). Second, every birth is different, so I necessarily go into it with only a vague sense of what to expect.  Third, I only have 2 years to attend the three births I need and there are rules on those 3 births that make them slightly difficult to get (this is the reason I say that I may have to attend as many as 12... the odds are that out of 12 births at least 3 will qualify).  Fourth, because there is that little part of me that dreads the potential day I'm supporting a family as it is discovered that their child has a serious birth defect.  And the potential day that I'm supporting a family as their child is stillborn.  Or that I'm supporting a family when serious complications threaten a mother's life. 

These things are rare.  I'm not overly concerned about them, but I am aware that these are potential things that I could witness and support families through... and they are things that I wish NO family (not few families) ever had to go through. 

I'm praying that this certification process goes smoothly and quickly, that I'm able to find plenty of clients both before and after certification and that I will be the best doula I can be!

Much thanks to friends and family who believe in me... even when I sometimes don't believe in myself.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Support a Musician!

Hey readers! Let me encourage you to go support my friend Seth on!

He is quite a musician and he is working on an album, but he needs the funds to be able to pull it off.  He's raised almost enough money to do it, but he could use some help, and, if there are extra funds collected I'm sure that it will be put to good use during production!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Something to ADD...

Confession time: I've known for quite some time that I probably had a condition know as ADD  (Attention Deficit Disorder, also commonly called ADHD for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  I've never been formally diagnosed but I lived with symptoms all through my childhood.  It wasn't until my mom was reading a book on the topic (while trying to "diagnose" my brother) that she realized that I had symptoms of the disorder and had had them for a very long time.  I was a senior in high school at the time.

Fast Forward to today (nearly 11 years since I graduated high school):  I'm a wife, mother, and aspiring doula.  Until recently I never fully appreciated the effect that ADD had on my present day life.  Most people assume that ADD is something you grow out of... something that adults don't usually have to deal with.  I guess I assumed the same thing, but it simply isn't true.

And there's something to this disorder.  In school children the main goal of treatment is usually to get them through school.  Help them focus enough to keep grades up, not interrupt the teacher, stay in their seat, etc.  But what about adults?  I think the reason most of us assume that ADD something adults don't have to deal with is because it is often referred to as a learning disorder.  But it is so much more than that.

I often find myself trailing off in conversations and "come back" to them completely unaware of what was said.  For this reason I often miss out on important details.

I have trouble remembering to do things... sometimes important things.  And will forget until the day of that we're having dinner with someone that night.  Sometimes I don't remember until an hour or two before.  Sometimes not until I am reminded.

There's a lack of urgency on things that would otherwise be urgent.  I heard someone explain it like this:  It is a surprise every November when you start seeing Christmas items in stores and people start shopping for Christmas presents.  It may never occur to an ADD person that it is time to put up decorations or start buying Christmas presents because Christmas is still so far away.  There has to be something that triggers you to think that it is coming soon.  For some it may be the deadline for having Christmas presents shipped.  For others it may be a Christmas party.  But it takes that trigger to make you realize that it IS in fact Christmas time.  For me, it's things like needing to take items to a family dinner.  I don't think to ask ahead of time because it still seems so far away... it isn't until the day of that I think, "Oh, we're having dinner at ___'s house tonight!  Maybe I should ask if I should bring something."  I'm told that for many without ADD it is annoying to have someone wait until the last minute like that.  It is more than procrastination (something I also struggle with) but I'm not sure I have the capacity to explain it well.

I still find it difficult to complete tasks without getting sidetracked.  It goes like this: "I'm going to unload the dishwasher."  1 hour later after walking into the kitchen for a glass of water, "Oh, I only unloaded most of the top of the dishwasher."  What I did during that hour is anyone's guess.  Sometimes it's other housework bits and pieces.  On a really bad day I'll get the bed half made, the dishwasher half unloaded, the bathroom sink wiped off, and about 3 items of clean, dry clothing folded.  I never think to myself, "Oh, this is boring, I'm going to go do something else now."  It just happens.

And it affects my parenting skills.  I have a strong desire to spend time playing with my children, but when I get down in the floor with them with the best of intentions, I will find myself back at the computer, or working on housework, or reading a book, or snacking, or cutting coupons or doing headstands (not really).

I have a hard time following through and being consistent on things (as I discussed earlier) like discipline.  I'm normally a fairly patient person, but I can only put a child back to bed so many times before I kind of "flip out."  Time outs are as excruciating for me as they are for the kids.  Sometimes I'll forget we are in the middle of one.  Yes, I use a timer and yes they are relatively short time outs, but I still forget sometimes.

These are only a few examples.  But the question is what do I do about it?  My brain is obviously wired differently, and how do I cope.  Sure, I could put out the money and time to be formally diagnosed and then buy drugs in an attempt to control it, but I don't like that option.

Some things are easier for me to come up with creative solutions to than others.  When it comes to having dinners at someone else's house I have options.  I can ask the usual host to just tell me each week what to bring.  I could ask my husband to ask (if he remembers.  His excuse?  He's male.) ;-)  I could set a reminder on my phone each week to ask a few days in advance. 

But what do I do about spending time with my kids? What do I do about getting them to sleep in the same room without losing my (usually mild) temper?  What do I do about days when I just can't seem to get anything done that I need to get done?

It is frustrating.... and worrisome sometimes.  I don't want it to use this as an excuse, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason.  And the truth is, I'm honestly looking for solutions.  I'm looking for different ways to do things.  Ways that will work for me.

And I'm looking for natural "cures," like coffee.  I can't think of a yummier way to treat anything!  But sometimes I feel like the coffee really works, and sometimes I don't notice much difference.  Of course, I don't use the coffee daily and that may make a difference.

I wonder if any of this sounds familiar to any of my readers and if any of you have found non-drug ways to cope.  Speak up if you have! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Method to the Madness

I've never been very organized.  Don't get me wrong I can organize.  As a child I would occasionally organize books on my bookshelf.  As a teen I would occasionally organize my closet, or my dresser drawers, my room, etc..  The problem is staying organized.  And routine has never been a close friend of mine.  Obviously this shows in my home, my purse and my car most of the time.

I have kids now.  Organization has started to become a necessity.  I find myself craving the sanity it can bring to my life, but it always seems so difficult to implement... and maintain.  I find myself doing the madwoman cleaning binge every now and again... usually when company is due, but recently I have discovered methods that are working for me.  Methods that are helping me keep my home more presentable, more sane, and more liveable.

I'm working in routines.  Sometimes they are tedious.  Sometimes they are just flat boring.  But I'm doing what any good adventurer does and persevering.  In books and movies you never see what the adventurers are doing probably most of the time.  For example, the best I can tell the Lord of the Rings trilogy shows us what happens over a period of 3 years (though I've seen argument that it spans more like 21 years:  Yet you can watch the entire trilogy in just under 11 and a half hours (according to wikipedia).  What don't you see?  Well sure, they have to cut out some of the adventure just to make it a reasonable watching length, but you also don't see a lot of boring stuff.  Routine.  Walking and walking and walking.  Sleeping.  Cooking. Eating.  Resting.  But you know all of that stuff had to happen to get them to all the big adventurous plot twists and turns.

So, for now, I'm working on all the boring stuff so that our adventures can be more fun!  An impromptu wrestling match in the living room floor is much more fun when there aren't toys scattered all over the living room, after all.  And it's fun to have friends over to play without having to do a mad dash through the apartment to clean it first.  And maybe it's not fun but it is certainly a lot easier to go check on your kids at night, or comfort a crying child, or even sleep on the floor of their room occasionally when you don't have to worry about stepping, sitting or laying on toys.  OUCH!

And that is kind of where it started to click for me.  There had to be a solution.  We don't have a room that can be used as a play room, so that wasn't an option.  We had already gotten tired of having all the toys in our living room, so that wasn't an option anymore.  So I got creative (we sorta).  I got three large bins with lids (that the boys have not yet figured out how to remove) and I organized.  I got rid of toys they didn't play with anymore.  I put all of the cars and trucks and other automobiles in a box.  I put all of the trains, train tracks, and train cars in another box.  I put all of the "other" toys that didn't belong in either category in the third box.  Now, when the boys get up in the morning I ask them which box they want to play with.  They get ONE box.  If they decide that want to play with different toys, that's fine!  They just have to put all the other toys away first.  Before naptime AND before bedtime we clean up the toys that are out (which is less of a big deal since only one type of toy is out in the first place) and put the lid on the box.  Voila!  One less bedtime struggle!  Since there are no toys out I don't have to worry about them playing with toys all through naptime/nighttime!  And if I need to go in there for some reason there are no toys in the floor to worry about. 

Now, every once in a while I let them have two boxes open at once.  Usually the cars and trains.  Then, when it's time to clean up we also get to work on sorting.  And you know what one really big bonus is?  Their Sunday School teachers are always bragging about how well my kids clean up when it's time.  Picture me, one beaming Mama!

Now it's finally starting to catch on in my brain.  I'm getting routines down in the rest of our place.  I'm getting dishes done on a daily basis (never before have I done this... yeah... I know).  I'm doing at least a load of laundry every day that I'm home.  I'm making my bed every day.  There just isn't a feeling quite like climbing into a made bed at the end of the day.  I'm even "cleaning" my bathroom daily.  And all of this doesn't take long at all.  It's all very simple and relatively quick, but it keeps me from having a chaotic and messy home. 

We'll get there.  And hopefully I'll be able to help my children learn to be a little more organized than their mother has historically been!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Laundry soap adventures

I've been intrigued for a while in making my own household cleaners.  For quite some time we've been using a spray bottle of vinegar as an all purpose cleaner and also using vinegar as fabric softener.  I'd finally heard so much on Pinterest about making your own laundry detergent that I decided to try it.  I read many, many, many recipes and found that they are all mostly the same with a few added ingredients in some of them.  After all of my reading I made a trip to the store and made my own.  I'm a week into using my own laundry detergent and I must say I am very pleased!  I've even used it on a particularly messy batch of cloth diapers and it works like a charm!  I'm hooked!  It's healthier for my family and the environment and cheaper (over the long haul) than store bought detergents also.  The ingredients cost me about $20 up front, but they will last me so long that I can't even imagine the cost savings!

Ok, enough about me, here is the recipe I used.  I will double it next time, but wanted to make a smaller batch to try it out first.

1/2 bar of ivory soap (everything I read says to use any soap you like.  Ivory is cheap so I bought it)
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup WASHING soda
1/2 cup BAKING soda

Step 1: Grate soap.
Step 2: Put all ingredients in blender and blend.  (be careful, I blended too fast for too long and it made the mixture get warm, which slightly melted the soap and made my powder lumpy)
Step 3: Use 1 Tablespoon per load of laundry.

That's it. Easy, right? You can apparently also make this a liquid by melting the soap in boiling water and adding all ingredients plus the melted soap water to a couple if gallins of water. Then you would use 1/2 to 1 whole cup of detergent to each load.
I've always used liquid detergent, but just didn't want the hassle of making it a liquid. And I'm actually a little surprised at how well this homemade detergent is working! I love it! You ought to try it!